It is commonly thought that a happy workplace is a productive workplace, but is this really true? Emotions certainly affect how we approach our work and positive emotions are not problematic on their own. Yet, just like how negative emotions can stifle our motivation to approach problems, so can positive emotions stifle our willingness to see those problems in the first place, if we’re not careful.

 In her article in The Examiner, Jan Aylesworth outlines how being too happy when arriving to work can result in its own set of problems such as overconfidence, unwillingness to deal with problems that will lower your emotional state, and overestimate our own value. Being aware of the dangers helps to minimise them, but what should we expect from workplaces if not happiness? Perhaps the answer is to seek satisfaction instead: this would avoid the dangers while also meaning that dealing with problems results in satisfaction and ultimately, happiness.

Yes it’s true: looking at pictures of kittens improves productivity according to new research from Japan. Reporting in NECN, it was found that improving one’s emotional state and lowering stress levels resulted in increased productivity. Not into cats? Then having a chat with a co-worker or celebrating a co-worker’s birthday will have the same results. Keeping a positive outlook will help you meet your goals and improve your job satisfaction.

It’s all too easy to reach for a cup of coffee or a sugary snack to trick ourselves into feeling more awake, but these foods don’t really help us become more productive. Talking to CNN, David Solot suggests turning to a more-or-less permanently healthy diet to improve your productivity for when you need it. However, improving your diet just before you need to take that test, deliver a speech, or run a marathon will not help you. Instead, it’s far more effective to have healthy eating habits with junk foods such as snacks being an occasional indulgence. Still… why does an indulgence need to be regular or even unhealthy? What are your biggest indulgence foods, and how often do you have them?

Original article here -

With around one in ten people in the workplace liable to suffer from a mental or emotional disorder during their lifetimes, everyone needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms that someone may need some help. Managers and HR practitioners need to be confident in dealing with potential issues or at least have contacts they can call upon for such eventualities.

This article from Forbes raises two issues that warrant further comment. The first is the question of what should and does happen with workplace assessments or surveys that flag serious problems with an individual. In this case, the individual was highly stressed to the point of risking harm to themselves or others. Little was done. The writer took themselves to a counsellor for help. The second issue was that the counsellor was of little use for them. While we only have the writer’s assessment to go on, it shows that a person facing a serious problem with stress had little assistance from their workplace to help them deal with it. The writer finally sank into severe depression.

Research from Canada a couple of years ago suggested that people who are in an undesirable work position can manage two years before risking serious emotional difficulties as a result, and this was the case with this writer. The author also talked about how people who are having trouble coping with a mental health issue will attempt to hide it. This is supported by research from Australia’s National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) which concluded that students with mental health issues will raise it when they are near to losing their ability to cope with it.

Employers and HR practitioners need to be aware of the warning signs of mental or emotional problems in workers, and be prepared to assist quickly, decisively and confidently when problems are brought to their attention.

“Isn’t it time we kicked the perfectionism habit?” In this way, Leah Eichler raises an important question about how we have allowed the concept of perfectionism to become a pseudo-negative. The question is whether that perfectionism is adaptive, which serves as a motivator and is tempered by an awareness of the realities of the situation, and maladaptive, where unconstrained by considerations of the context, perfectionism serves to cause anxiety and negativity.

In recruitment, the old joke is that to the question about weaknesses you should say something that sounds like a negative while being positive. “I am a perfectionist. I drive myself too hard. I am far too punctual and love to work.” Yet in the contemporary business world, being a perfectionist means you are not able to move quickly, view something as a continuous work in progress, or collaborate to get something out to market before your competitors. Ironically, while perfectionism is rooted in a fear of failure, perfectionism in the contemporary business world can cause the very failure the perfectionist fears.

Skill sets—training in selected units for specific roles rather than whole qualifications—are a useful entry point for workers who may find undertaking a full qualification daunting, according to a new literature review by Australia’s National Centre for Vocational Education Research. Yet while their use has benefits in terms of ease and responsiveness to change, the review warns of their potential to lower worker mobility. The literature review is part of a larger ongoing project into workforce skills development to be released in 2013. Read more here

Making judgements about others’ personalities is something we all do regularly, and our accuracy is important for social cohesion and making good interpersonal decisions. The Realistic Accuracy Model describes how we can achieve this through the availability of information, and using that information correctly. Read the report here.

Reporting on a USA study by The Korn/Ferry Institute, Singapore-based AsiaOne news reports that working mothers have an edge at work due to skills they learn while bringing up children. The skills range from leadership in motivating and inspiring others to agility in translating past lessons to new situations. Including return-to-work parents in a diverse workforce is a common element of addressing skills shortages and the ageing workforce, and it appears that the skills brought by this group would make a valuable addition to any team.

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In a global survey of analysts, professional service firm Deloitte has found that market perceptions of leaders can move share prices. Deloitte’s new report, “The Leadership Premium” surveyed analysts from around the world including the United Kingdom, the United States, China, India, Japan, and Brazil.  It found that leadership qualities from core abilities to personality had an impact on how analysts viewed a firm’s ability to meet market expectations. According to the report, the analysts who said the quality of leadership affected their valuations awarded, on average, a premium of 15.7% for particularly effective leadership. In contrast, an average 19.8% discount is applied where there is ineffective leadership. Read the report from Deloitte here.

Teenagers’ mental health does best when they are earning similar incomes to their peers, according to a recent study. Research by the University of Southern California which collected data from 12,449 teen-parent pairs living in China found that those who thought they earned less than their peers experienced more stress or depression, but that the effect plateaued at parity and did not result in higher happiness with a higher income. The effects of income also correlated with health issues such as smoking. For HR practitioners, this research may suggest that consistency in pay scales is beneficial for junior or after-school staff. Source

Imagining an encounter with a warm, competent person of a stereotyped out-group can help to reduce hostility, according to research published in academic journal “Group Processes & Intergroup Relations” this month. The study found that the exercise improved perceptions of the out-group. This may be a useful exercise for preparing workers to deal with members of the diverse workforce and client bases. Read the abstract of the original journal article here.

With so much information around these days, it’s no longer enough to just pump out information and expect people to absorb it, according to Professor Kallol Das of the Mudra Institute of Communications. Instead of traditional learning formats such as talks and lectures, Professor Das suggests more active learning experiences such as photo essays, which encourage people to become active participants in their own education. Source

The more a business encourages people to look after themselves first, the greater the risk that managers and executives will massage the books, according to Dutch and Australian researchers. An anonymous survey of 550 Dutch managers found that businesses that encourage ‘me first’ thinking (such as through individual performance incentives) encouraged managers to hide problems by shifting budget lines and deferring payments. Read more here

Tailoring your messages to your audience is common sense, and examples are always helpful to show why this is so. Research published in Psychological Science used five different advertisements and surveyed 324 people on which advertisement they found most persuasive. The research found that the preferred advertisement cohered to respondents’ own personality and motives.

It has been nearly twenty years since Phillip Cousins and Diane Downs set out to quantify and define what we mean by ‘organisation’ and their model, the Spheres of Influence model (or SOFI for short) is the result of that. The model of eleven spheres lay down what are necessary for a sustainable organisation.

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A new paper in Organizational Psychology Review discusses the Ambidextrous Interpersonal Motives model of organisational culture and how it can be understood through a framework of motives such as cooperation, competition and autonomy. It discusses how culture is affected through its forms, consequences and subcultures.

The Regus Work-Life Balance Index, a 16000-person survey of work, has found that people are becoming better at balancing their work and life needs. In 2012, over 60 per cent of respondents felt that their work-life balance has improved. Interestingly, it is emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India and Mexico that are highest on the list of top-improvers, suggesting that contrary to ideas that work-life balance is counter to improving economic prosperity.

When employers want someone ambitious, they might want to look at more fundamental traits such as personality, according to an article at BPS Occupational Digest. Ambition itself is not a single trait but rather an overarching orientation that can be demonstrated through other behaviours and outcomes. For human resources, this suggests assessing ambition through outcomes rather than merely advertising for an “ambitious” worker.

Internships and other work experience placements are popular with many disciplines, including psychology. An article on PsychCentral explores internships and lays out eight simple tips to help interns to get the most out of their experience.

Violence in the workplace is a shocking and traumatic, but fortunately rare event that nevertheless has lasting implications for employees who experience or witness it. Whether an organisation has relevant insurance coverage or not, it is imperative that affected workers are provided with professional support so that the emotional, financial and psychological impact of the event is minimised. Writing for, Sheena Harrison discusses the steps that employers must take after an incident of workplace violence happens.

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Different people see themselves as the navigators of their success while others see themselves as subject to outside forces. Writing for the Examiner, Richard Paino discusses how our Locus of Control influences how we approach work, and ultimately how much we achieve.

From a report on new research from the University of Iowa, University of Illinois-Chicago and Arizona State University in the Wall Street Journal, people who undertake professional development will look for opportunities to advance. If they aren’t available within the company, people will look towards new horizons. Yet new responsibilities, projects or other such changes can be enough to take advantage of the new skills and lead to better retention.

Effective Professional development strategic programs produce organisational benefits including the ability to “adapt, compete, excel, innovate, produce, be safe, improve service and reach goals” according to a new report in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Yet despite the enormous sums invested in training—around $135 billion annually in the USA alone—training is approached in an ad-hoc manner with scant attention paid to transferring what’s learned into business improvements. The authors suggest a range of actions to address this including the analysis of roles and skill sets; motivating trainees to learn; providing structure and guidance; and providing a structure that encourages the application of new skills into the workplace.

‘Gossip’ is often seen as a negative term but it has strong social benefits when used effectively, according to a new article in the New York Times. Reporting on psychological studies, the article discussed how gossip provides benefits such as being able to provide important information on the habits and behaviours of third parties such as if they are selfish or prone to cheating, as well as providing people with an outlet to share such information with others in danger of being cheated upon. Gossip therefore acts as a barrier to behaving badly when people know their actions may become the subject of negative discussions.

Read the New York Times article
Too many employers don’t understand the importance of the job ad. More than just a way to advertise that you’re hiring, it also involves advertising what you’re hiring for while also enticing the best workers to apply—including those who don’t need to, and who will only apply if the job sounds better than the good job they already have. To work well, the job ad should closely and positively resemble the job, the team and the organisation. The more honest you are with yourself about your organisation and the role, the more likely it is that your job ad will appeal to the right people, while avoiding raising any expectations that won’t be met by the successful applicant. And don’t worry about an aspect of the position or organisation you think are negatives—some people enjoy the challenge of restructuring, or being somewhere slightly chaotic, or working within a start-up. Just make sure you use positive language to sell the challenge. Just remember that just like all ads, a job ad is selling your business: to potential great employees.

Read the article

A business-oriented, formal onboarding program delivers stronger retention and higher achievements of new hires but one third of businesses still fail to have their program formalized according to new research by Aberdeen Group. The new research found that strong formal onboarding programs began prior to a new hire’s first day and lasted three months or more. They were connected to higher retention rates, achievement of first year milestones and improvements in hiring manager satisfaction.

Visit Aberdeen’s website

A meta-analysis of psychological experiments published in “Perspectives on Psychological Science” has found that generally speaking, the world’s understanding of occupational psychology is solid. Analysing 82 previous meta-analyses that considered 217 lab-field experiments, Gregory Mitchell found that occupational psychology experiments showed a correlation with field observations of 0.82, which suggests we can be confident that occupational psychology is on solid ground.

Visit the Occupational Digest website
We are in an era when businesses must carefully consider how best to investment for maximum return, and with the workforce being the largest annual expense for many businesses, getting the best from workers is a strategic priority. Achieving this doesn’t happen by accident. It takes careful nurturing to create and sustain great workplace cultures that develop a stream of innovative ideas while retaining top talent. Are you providing the right structures and tools to nurture workforce productivity via strong trusting relationships with your organisation?

Perspective: Philosophy of Workplace Culture

‘Workplace culture’ is a term that has entered the popular lexicon as a way to describe the workforce of an organisation. But its increasing popularity has brought about a loosening of the term beyond its original meaning. It’s time to revisit what it means for contemporary Human Resources.

Incubation: Nurturing the Potential of Innovation

Innovation has become accepted as a way to address continuous technological and practical challenges. And now, some businesses are making it part of their core strategy by establishing business incubation hubs for new enterprises.

Relationships: Employee Retention Strategies

Retaining talented workers has become a major focus of Human Resources over the past decade, and the global downturn has limited the options available to do so. What how can you improve retention in ways that don’t involve costly salary increases?
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