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Got A Boss Who Denies Reality? A Behavioral Scientist’s Guide To Tactful Truth Telling

‘Tis the season for holiday parties at the office.

While they’re great for building workplace camaraderie and team spirit, when was the last time a colleague - perhaps fueled by too much alcohol - said something so ridiculous that it made your jaw drop? Perhaps a desk mate went into something political, claiming that George Bush is behind 9/11 or that Barack Obama is a Muslim from Kenya? Or maybe your boss voiced science denialism, arguing that the Earth is flat or the Apollo moon landing was faked?

Just as disconcerting as the conspiracy theorist in your midst is hearing a boss or colleague blatantly deny a business reality, such as evidence that a favored product flopped or a decision was absolutely the wrong one.

So what do you do when someone you work with – even the CEO of the company – tells you something that’s demonstrably false?

Dealing with truth denialism - in business, politics and other life areas - is one of my areas of research, and I recently published a book on the topic. Here are some tips to navigate that Christmas office party or one-on-one with a boss in denial.

To reality deniers, facts and photos won’t...

A Psychologist Explains The Best Ways To Cope With Conflict Over The Holidays

It’s the holiday season, time for family gatherings, happiness, and good cheer. It’s also the time for your smiling brother to sit across from you at the dinner table and comment on on how your favorite politician is corrupt and anyone who supports him is delusional.

At least 29 religious holidays will be celebrated across the world between November 1 and January 15. These holidays are fertile ground for clashes between conservative views and secular, agnostic, or more liberal perspectives. Many people struggle with these situations at the best of times, but in today’s polarized political and social environment, the holidays can be particularly difficult. This is amplified by the fact that holidays are full of expectations for closeness and reconnection.

As a psychologist, I have seen first-hand how these forces foster discomfort, if not outright avoidance of family get togethers. Even at the best of times, people experience strong emotions around the holidays, struggle with relationships, and behave in ways that are not necessarily in their long-term social interests. It may be impossible to make the holidays completely conflict-free, but we can use the principles of personality theory to understand the roots of that conflict, and...

The Best Time Of Day To Get Things Done, According To Data

If it’s true that we live in a workaholic culture, a new set of data would suggest that Mondays—the most consistently derided of days— are when we’re secretly happiest.

We reach our peak buzz of productivity on Monday mornings at 11 am, to be exact, and get the most done in October, compared to other months. That’s according to two years of data, from hundreds of thousands of employees, analyzed by Redbooth, a maker of workflow management software, and Priceonomics, a data-focused marketing studio.

Interestingly, charting typical productivity levels throughout the day—measured as the percentage of tasks completed in a given hour—does not produce a perfect bell curve.

Teams generally start getting things done at around 7 am, when about 2.5% of tasks are knocked off. By 9 am, that figure has stretched to 8%, and by 11 am, it maxes out at 9.7%. Then, following the post-lunch return to an 8% level, productivity plateaus, coasting along until 4 pm, when it drops of the proverbial cliff.

That 9 am-to-11 am window is also the best time to hold a meeting if you’re looking for peak wakefulness, according to June Pilcher...

8 Ways to Improve Communication In Your Office

Earlier in my management career, a few courageous employees approached my office with looks of determination and resolve on their faces and what seemed like linked arms blocking my exit from the door. (This was the year before my boss congratulated me for showing everyone I wasn’t just a robot. I think that was a backhanded compliment.)

Curious and maybe just a bit on edge, I asked them how I could help. The visibly nervous spokesperson cleared her throat and said, “We want to talk with you about communication. Specifically, how difficult you are to communicate with or even approach.”

While not certain, I believe I saw someone in the back row of this group with a pitchfork, and I could smell the odor of kerosene emanating from unlit torches the group members were holding. They had my attention. (OK, this last part was fictional—no pitchforks or torches, but this group meant business, and for once, I was all ears.)

It turns out; I had a few communication quirks that were adding stress and complexity to the working environment.

  • I was intense. (Guilty.)
  • I often cut people off once I gained the gist of their point. (Unfortunately, guilty...

The Government’s Failure to Keep Up With Technology Is Hurting All of Us

Technology is evolving at warp speed. The chips are faster, the gadgets are smaller and data circles the globe in an instant. We need a federal government that can keep pace.

Americans introduced the world to the Internet, microprocessors and the cell phone, but much of the federal government is at least a generation behind the private sector in harnessing the power of data and technology.  

At a recent event sponsored by the White House Office of American Innovation, Jared Kushner noted that the Defense Department still uses floppy disks on some of its legacy systems. In 2017. That’s unacceptable. And there’s recently been a push to train more computer coders in COBOL and Fortran given the large number of government systems still using those antiquated languages.

The slow adoption of new technology does not just add to bureaucratic backlogs. It restrains our economy and creates inefficiencies in companies regulated by the government. It’s not uncommon for businesses to have to report the same information to multiple agencies in different formats with slight variations—leading to increased costs and wasted hours. In many cases, the government still requires companies to file paper reports, making the information hard...