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7 New Books to Read This Fall

Here’s a preview of the exciting new books on work and psychology. Instead of just spouting their opinions, these authors bring us real data:

1. Presence by Amy Cuddy (December 29)

Building on her wildly popular TED talk about power posing, Cuddy explains how we can achieve greater success and sincerity by changing the way we carry ourselves. It’s a captivating, charming read on harnessing confidence and poise.

2. Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter (September 29)

As the first woman to direct policy planning at the U.S. State Department, Slaughter ignited a national conversation with her Atlantic piece on why women still can’t have it all. Now, she boldly examines how individuals and policymakers can create equality for men and women—at work and at home.

3. Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner (September 29)

One of the giants of behavioral science reveals how to improve at predicting the future. Find out how a farmer does a better job anticipating major world events than political and intelligence experts, and how we can all become smarter and wiser.

4. Friend and Foe by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer(September 29)

A fascinating look at cooperation and...

Why Federal Agencies Should Buy Local

Local sourcing is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives, and it’s not just about the food we eat.  When it comes to professional services needed for delivery of government programs at the federal, state and local levels, buying local affords opportunities to improve agility, responsiveness, transparency and cost-effectiveness of service delivery.  By investing in businesses whose employees live and pay taxes in the communities served by an agency’s program, the government can see the impact of services firsthand.

Why Local Selection Matters

Depending on the procurement, a local firm may have better service capabilities based on ties to the community. Companies located near the site of a government program often have a better understanding of contract requirements because they have more insight into local needs and culture. In addition, a local provider may be more invested in the success of the program because of emotional ties to the job, while a company based outside the area may view the program as just another contract and revenue source. 

Let’s say the Environmental Protection Agency is looking for a firm to conduct a survey of public attitudes about water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. A company located in...

Beyond the Paycheck: One Psychologist's Dream of Meaningful Jobs for Everyone

There’s a belief that what gets some workers to keep coming into work every day is their “psychic wages”—the fulfillment that comes with doing meaningful work. That thinking is usually applied to authors, or doctors, or social workers, but the assumption for why a different class of workers—janitors, factory workers, call-center employees—keeps showing up every day is often simpler: They aren’t there for anything but money.

But Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, believes that jobs are about more than money, for both blue- and white-collar workers alike. When he was trained as a psychologist, decades ago, the thinking of B. F. Skinner—of Skinner Box fame—dominated the field. Skinner’s view of human nature was that every action can be explained through the lens of rewards and punishment: If someone wasn’t doing something, he or she simply wasn’t getting a sufficient reward for it. “And that always struck me as wrong—at least, as a description of human beings, as incomplete,” Schwartz told me.

Schwartz applies that long-held criticism of his to the world of work in his new book, Why We Work, in which he, a self-identified...

How to Quit Your Job and Keep Your Cool

Everyone loves a good quitting story. The time when an account manager at your old job who’d been passed over for a raise stormed out, shouting about the patriarchy. The time when your cousin smashed every dish she was carrying to the bus tub when a customer called her “sweetheart.” And of course, all of those times that you’ve rehearsed telling you manager right to his stupid face exactly where he can shove it.

You may fantasize about quitting in a dramatic fashion. But while zany antics may be cathartic, they won’t help you pay your rent.

In general, there are a few stock rules of politeness and professionalism that tend to go a very long way when it comes to leaving a position without getting blacklisted.

DO: Tell your boss in person, if possible. If you’re especially close with your direct supervisor or you work for a fairly small company, try to get some face time—a lunch works well—to tell her directly.

DO NOT: Worry if you have to do it over email or the phone. Look, not everyone can get a one-on-one with a manager, especially if you work at one of...

Agencies Should Celebrate Their Accomplishments

The reports of performance problems make the headlines but it’s rare to find success stories reported any place. It’s surprisingly difficult to find positive stories of government. There have been a couple of articles looking at the “greatest achievements” over the past half century but apparently nothing good has happened recently. It’s normally good to be humble, but the silence makes it much more difficult to rebut the “government is the problem” argument. The reticence has implications for public opinion as well as for staffing and the level of employee engagement.

In a related problem, the percentage of millennials in government has dropped to its lowest level in five years, according to a recent article in The Washington Post. The numbers are not just low, they are dangerously low — and dropping. Focusing on recent graduates (under age 25), the problem is even worse — those young workers account for 0.9 percent of the federal workforce. Those are the same individuals who reportedly want to give back to society, support causes that align with their personal beliefs, and help those in need. Their decision to bail out of government says a lot about their work experience and their...