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Why Rudeness at Work is Contagious and Difficult to Stop

Most people can relate to the experience of having a colleague inexplicably treat them rudely at work. You’re not invited to attend a meeting. A co-worker gets coffee – for everyone but you. Your input is laughed at or ignored. You wonder: where did this come from? Did I do something? Why would he treat me that way? It can be very distressing because it comes out of nowhere and often we just don’t understand why it happened.

A large and growing body of research suggests that such incidents, termed workplace incivility or workplace rudeness, are not only very common, but also very harmful. Workplace rudeness is not limited to one industry, but has been observed in a wide variety of settings in a variety of countries with different cultures. Defined as low-intensity deviant behaviour with ambiguous intent to harm, these behaviours – small insults, ignoring someone, taking credit for someone’s work, or excluding someone from office camaraderie – seem to be everywhere in the workplace. The problem is that, despite their ‘low-intensity’ nature, the negative outcomes associated with workplace rudeness are anything but small or trivial.

It would be easy to believe that rudeness is ‘no big deal’ and...

Charisma is a Mysterious and Dangerous Gift

Charisma is easier to recognise than to define. Newspaper and magazine articles consistently identify charismatic leaders – such as John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, Barack Obama – but those same articles rarely describe exactly what charisma is. It is often debated whether charisma is necessary for a ‘transformational’ leader, while shelves of self-help books optimistically promise to impart the ‘secrets’ of charisma. Other people hold that charisma cannot be ‘unlocked’ or ‘discovered’ at all because it is innate and present only in the rarest of individuals. So, to ask anew, just what is charisma?

Charisma’s origins are found in the letters of Paul the Apostle, written from around 50 AD. This is the first written use of the word ‘charisma’, derived from the Greek ‘charis’ (grace). For Paul, charisma meant ‘the gift of God’s grace’ or ‘spiritual gift’. In Paul’s letters to the fledgling Christian communities spread around the Roman empire, he wrote of the ‘charismata’ or spiritual gifts available to each member of the community. He identified nine charismata, including prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues, interpreting that speech, teaching, and service – a range of gifts both supernatural and pragmatic.

For Paul, charisma was a mystical notion...

The Best Headspace for Making Decisions

Let’s say you’re making a hard choice, one that could impact your life significantly. Every time you think you've settled on something, the other option tugs you back to its side. You end up where you started: It's a draw.

Should you make ever-more-detailed lists of pros and cons and seek advice from even more trusted sources? Or should you go with your gut?

Many people would suggest the latter: Listen to your gut, or your heart, or some other part of your body that couldn’t possibly know what those stock options will be worth in five years. For the advice-giver, “Just do what feels right!” is safe guidance to offer, since if you nudged the decision-maker toward a huge mistake, at least they’d feel good making it.

But according to the research of Jennifer Lerner, a professor of public policy and management at Harvard, that might be the exact wrong way to go about it. In a series of studies she recently published with Christine Ma-Kellams at the University of La Verne in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, she found that, in a task where managers were trying to detect an...

The Psychological Origins of Procrastination – and How We Can Stop Putting Things Off

  • By Elliot Berkman and Jordan Miller-Ziegler
  • September 19, 2016
  • Leave a comment

"I love deadlines,” English author Douglas Adams once wrote. “I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

We’ve all had the experience of wanting to get a project done but putting it off for later. Sometimes we wait because we just don’t care enough about the project, but other times we care a lot – and still end up doing something else. I, for one, end up cleaning my house when I have a lot of papers to grade, even though I know I need to grade them.

So why do we procrastinate? Are we built to operate this way at some times? Or is there something wrong with the way we’re approaching work?

These questions are central to my research on goal pursuit, which could offer some clues from neuroscience about why we procrastinate – and how to overcome this tendency.

To do, or not to do

It all starts with a simple choice between working now on a given project and doing anything else: working on a different project, doing something fun or doing nothing at all.

The decision to work on something is driven by how much we value accomplishing the project in...

Leading a Network Doesn’t Have To Be Like Herding Cats

What does effective collaboration look like and does leadership matter? If leadership is important, what specific skills and qualities produce successful collaborative efforts?

A recent IBM Center report, Effective Leadership in Network Collaboration: Lessons Learned from Continuum of Care Homeless Programs, tackles these questions by examining collaboration within the context of homeless policy networks, a policy area receiving significant attention in recent years. While this report specifically investigates the role of leading in continuum of care (CoC) homeless programs and the leadership behaviors that matter in achieving successful collaborative outcomes, the lessons are broadly applicable to other networks involving multiple government and non-government players.

According to the U .S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a CoC homeless program is “a community plan to organize and deliver housing and services to meet the specific needs of people who are homeless as they move to stable housing and maximize self-sufficiency. It includes action steps to end homelessness and prevent a return to homelessness.” HUD identifies four necessary parts of a homeless continuum:

  • Outreach, intake, and assessment to identify service and housing needs and provide a link to the appropriate level of both
  • Emergency shelter to provide an immediate and safe alternative...

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