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How To Cry At Work Without The Social Cost

While I was working as an engineer at a large food company, I once became frustrated and upset when the meeting leader dismissed a concern I had expressed and, in my mind, put me down for voicing the concern at all.

I felt tears in my eyes, but decided to stay in the meeting and try to get my emotions under control. Afterwards, I heard through the grapevine that many people were talking about me. My colleagues were shocked that I would cry in a meeting. I also found that many of them treated me differently—as if I were fragile—after that instance. I now understand that they may have perceived me as weak and unprofessional because I cried.

Psychologists have shown that women are perceived more negatively than are men if they display emotions at work.  Observers are more likely to make dispositional attributions (i.e., attributions to a person’s innate characteristics) when women express emotions. By contrast, they are more likely to attribute male expressions of emotions to the situation (e.g., it was an unexpectedly demanding situation). Researchers have also found that the belief that “displaying emotion at work is dysfunctional” is more likely to...

Why Are People So Unproductive in Short Windows of Time?

Have you ever decided to take the next hour before you have to go to get something done, and then mysteriously failed to accomplish anything? If so, you're not alone. This phenomenon, when knowing that the available time has a limit keeps you from using it to its fullest, is the subject of a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Through a series of eight different experiments, performed not just in labs but also in an airport’s waiting areas, the researchers found that this is a fairly widespread and consistent behavior. On average, even when people know they have a full hour before they have to move onto something else, they’ll use five to 15 minutes less to work on something than if the hour has nothing scheduled after it.  

Gabriela Tonietto, a professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School, began the research while she was working on her Ph.D. “This is the second half of my dissertation,” she says, “which is somewhat inspired by me trying to work on the first half of my dissertation.” Surprised by how unproductive she could sometimes be, she noticed that the situations in which she took the...

The Challenge Effective Leaders Embrace Every Day

I tripped across a simple diagram depicting a continuous loop of learn, adapt, and influence, in a book on negotiation by Michael Wheeler of Harvard Business School, The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World. While his emphasis was on describing the continually shifting environment in any negotiation, this endless loop nicely illustrates the climate of every person involved in managing and guiding others.


The best leaders I’ve encountered are active learners. They listen more than they talk, and their curiosity is on display in every setting.

Great leaders go beyond the what to the why and how, whether the topic is understanding a competitor’s strategy or the dynamics of a struggling project team. One leader I worked for was welcomed at team meetings because her curiosity spurred great questions and allowed us to frame opportunities and problems in different ways, leading to superior solutions. Her approach helped all of us think and perform at a higher level.

Effective leaders are also relentless learners in the classic sense, striving to tune-in to the latest ideas from big thinkers as well as the ideas from past thinkers that changed the world.

And much like...

Government Already Has a Blueprint for Implementing Pay For Performance

Current plans to reorganize agencies and switch to pay for performance have a historical parallel: the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency instituted such a policy change two decades ago. The initiative was a solid success—a direct contrast to the failure to implement the National Security Personnel System under President George W. Bush. The key difference was the decision to rely on employee involvement throughout the transition.

The history goes back to 1996 when what is now NGA was created by merging four offices and parts of several others involved in imagery, mapping and associated intelligence operations (the NGA name wasn’t adopted until 2004). The offices had different cultures and management styles. As an HR manager stated at the time, “They weren’t even speaking the same language.”

In 2008, when the intelligence community announced its plan to transition to the National Intelligence Community Compensation Program (NICCP), it chose the NGA as it’s model for managing salaries for the staffs of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the 16 IC agencies. Around the same time, critics were being to question the implementation of the National Security Personnel System. It was terminated in 2011 (during the Obama administration...

For Many Students, Government Agencies Are the Most Attractive Employers. Really.

Corporations are spending time and money recruiting young, idealistic college students by showing they care about social responsibility as much as profit. They still can’t compete with organizations that don’t care about profit at all.

U.S. students across a wide swath of academic disciplines ranked governmental organizations like NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the United Nations as the most attractive employers, ahead of  corporate luminaries like Google, Apple, and Goldman Sachs. Other highly ranked organizations outside of business include the Mayo Clinic, the EPA, Doctors Without Borders, and the State Department.

Universum, a Swedish firm that helps companies improve their image among prospective employees, surveyed 62,366 students at 352 universities. In three of five broad areas of study—engineering, natural science, and the humanities—students ranked a non-business employer at the top. In the other two areas, business and computer science, students ranked Google number one.

The results shouldn’t be overly surprising. Study after study says millennials and their successors, Generation Z, are motivated by non-monetary rewards, and are looking for employers that can offer fulfilling work. In Universum’s survey, 48% said “serving the greater goal” was an important career goal, behind...