Intelligence Testing: Is It Always the Smartest Thing to Do?
Smart employees tend to be better at doing their jobs. This is considered one of the most important findings in the history of I-O research. Meta-analysis, which is a method of compiling results from many different researchers and studies, has shown that intelligence (or general mental ability) is associated with better job performance for basically any job. But there are other important components that make organizations successful besides narrowly-defined task performance (parts of a job that are in the job description). New research (Gonzalez-Mulé, Mount, & Oh, 2014) investigates whether intelligence can also predict other measures of workplace success.
OTHER WAYS OF MEASURING JOB SUCCESS
The authors conducted a meta-analysis to determine if intelligence is related to two major measures that are important to organizations: Counterproductive work behavior (CWB), and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). These terms sound fancy but they are actually quite simple. CWBs mean anything that employees do that breaks organizational norms or expectations. This behavior can be directed at a coworker (i.e. bullying or harassment) or at the organization (i.e. stealing from the employer, unnecessary absences). OCBs refer to anything that employees do that are not formally recognized in their job description, for example helping out a coworker or suggesting a new way of doing things that can help the organization save resources.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
The meta-analysis found that intelligence was associated with more OCBs, meaning that smarter employees also went beyond their job descriptions more frequently. The authors explain that smarter people are typically better at seeing the big picture, for example they may understand that helping a coworker has benefits for the organization in the long run. Also, smarter employees may sometimes have greater capacity to help out others. They may be the only ones who are capable of devising a solution to a problem that eventually helps out the organization.
However, when it came to CWBs, there was no real relationship with intelligence. The authors had predicted that smarter employees would engage in less bad behavior because they are more readily capable of seeing the dangerous outcomes, such as harming the company or harming themselves by getting caught. But the data didn’t support this conclusion.
WHAT ABOUT PERSONALITY TESTING?
The authors also compared intelligence testing with personality testing to see which was generally more useful for predicting success on the job. As predicted, intelligence testing predicted better than personality testing when the outcome was task performance, or the parts of a job that are listed in a job description. When using the other outcomes of job success (OCBs and CWBs), the authors found a different story. First, when it came to OCBs (going above and beyond job descriptions) intelligence and personality were about equally useful in predicting which employees will go above and beyond. When it came to CWBs (the bad behavior), personality was actually a better predictor than intelligence.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE ORGANIZATION
This study supports the idea that the best predictor of job success is general intelligence, specifically because it has the ability to predict good old fashioned task-performance. It pays to hire smart employees. But that’s not the entire story. The conclusions here also indicate that intelligence isn’t the be-all and end-all of how to hire employees. Organizations should also have the foresight to care about extra effort and misbehavior at work. If you want employees who strive to make the workplace better for everyone, intelligence testing may still help, but it is not any better than personality testing. But if you want employees who don’t misbehave, personality testing may be the way to go.
What Type of Happy Employees Can Benefit Organizations?
We tend to think that organizations with happy employees are more likely to be successful. Happier employees tend to have better performance and are less likely to leave their companies. However, when asked what happy employees are like or what it means to be a happy employee, chances are people would not give consistent answers. Are happy employees those who receive higher salaries or those who enjoy higher job and life satisfaction? If both types of employees are considered happy, which type is actually beneficial to organizations?
A recent review by Wright (2014) uses existing research to provide insight on the definition of happiness and on which type of happy employee benefits organizations. The article reviews four dimensions of happiness and suggests that the emotion-based dimension plays the most important role in predicting favorable organizational variables such as job performance and employee retention.
FOUR DIMENSIONS OF HAPPINESS
The author adopted the happiness model from Cropanzano and Wright (2014), which says that there are at least four dimensions of happiness. The first one is objective life conditions. This dimension suggests that happiness is based on objective facts regarding quality of life, including wealth, health, clean and safe living environment, and so on.
The second is called eudaimonic well-being. This dimension originates from Aristotle’s view of happiness and it suggests that happiness comes from whether a person sees meaning and a sense of purpose in life.
The third dimension is life satisfaction. Happiness of this dimension is based on a person’s overall satisfaction about life or satisfaction about a specific domain such as a job or relationship.
EFFECT OF HAPPINESS ON INDIVIDUAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL OUTCOMES
According to the author, despite the increasing interest in employees’ happiness, there has been limited research examining the effects of the first three dimensions of happiness on organizational outcomes. Therefore, the question of whether there are direct relationships between the first three categories of happiness and organizational outcomes such as performance and retention rates is still unclear.
However, the fourth dimension – emotion-based happiness – has been found by many studies to positively affect favorable individual and organizational outcomes. At the individual level, these outcomes include being more outgoing, having higher self-esteem, higher motivation, better job performance, less likely to be depressed or pessimistic, less likely to turnover, and less likely to suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. At the organizational level, these outcomes include higher performance and retention rate.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
So what type of happy employees benefit organizations? This article answers that employees who are emotionally happy or those with more positive than negative feelings are the ones who can benefit organizations. Because, as the author suggests, results from existing research have shown that emotionally happy employees have a direct positive effect on organizations, it is organizations’ best bet to focus on enhancing employees’ positive feelings and emotions and trying to lower their negative feelings and emotions. Possible ways to foster employees’ positive feelings and emotions at work include promoting smiling and praising, having regular happy hours, and encouraging managers to care about each employee on a personal level.
Employee Sleepiness is Harmful for the Workplace
Sleepiness is what happens when people feel a strong biological urge to sleep. Unlike fatigue, which usually occurs when becoming exhausted by hard work, sleepiness has several different causes. These causes include poor sleep quantity (not getting enough sleep), poor sleep quality (waking up often while trying to sleep or not achieving a deep level of sleep), a disruption to the circadian rhythm (a person’s natural sleep cycle), or through drugs or disorders that affect the central nervous system. A new review by Mullins, Cortina, Drake, and Dalal (2014) shows why organizations should care about employee sleepiness.
WHAT CAUSES SLEEPINESS?
The authors mention two major work-related factors that can eventually lead to sleepiness for employees. Job demands are elements of the job that require effort. When these job demands are excessively high, employees may experience reduced quality of sleep and reduced quantity of sleep. For example, employees may be under enormous pressure to make a deadline or to complete a project. This might lead employees to work later and have less time for sleep, or to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
The second major work-related factor that can lead to sleepiness is irregular work-schedules. We’d probably consider a normal work-schedule to be “nine-to-five” for five days a week, or something similar to that. But some employees work nights, weekends, or long shifts that may last 24 hours at a time. These schedules can wreak havoc on the body’s circadian rhythm, or natural sleep cycle. This can cause employees to receive an inadequate amount of sleep or an inadequate quality of sleep.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EMPLOYEES GET SLEEPY?
Employees who experience sleepiness experience two major physiological changes. They become worse at information processing, and their feelings are affected. Information processing is the “brain power” that employees need to get their jobs done. When sleepiness occurs, people can’t think as fast, can’t remember as well, can’t learn as effectively, and can’t pay attention as long. Concerning feelings, employees who are experiencing sleepiness will experience less positive emotion and more negative emotion. Additionally, they will have poor emotion recognition and processing, meaning they might incorrectly interpret the mood of a fellow employee or fail to handle an emotional situation sensitively and tactfully. It’s easy to see how these deficiencies can cause negative outcomes at work.
HOW DOES SLEEPINESS AFFECT THE WORKPLACE?
The authors note several examples of research supported outcomes of workplace sleepiness. First, sleepy workers are less productive. They react more slowly, make more mistakes, and forget to do things. Second, sleepy employees have worse adaptive performance. This means that they will not be able to figure out how to handle changing situations and novel challenges, things which are becoming increasingly common in the modern workplace. Additionally, they will have trouble multi-tasking or quickly switching between different tasks, also common elements of the modern workplace.
Next, sleepy workers have worse contextual performance. Contextual behavior is anything done to help improve the work environment, and can include praiseworthy interpersonal behavior or simply going above and beyond job requirements. When employees are suffering from sleepiness, they are more likely to mismanage or misinterpret an interpersonal exchange, which can lead to poor communication or arguments. Also, sleepy employees tend to experience a greater range of feelings, including exposure to more negative feelings. It’s easy to see why someone in that state will have trouble contributing to the work environment in a positive, healthy manner.
Finally, sleepy employees are more accident prone, engage in more deviant behavior such as absenteeism, and exhibit more withdrawal behavior, which is when employees try to avoid things that they consider unpleasant. These too have the potential to greatly impact workplaces and organizations in a negative way.
WHAT CAN ORGANIZATIONS DO?
Hopefully by now you are convinced that employee sleepiness is highly detrimental in the workplace. But how can you prevent it? One strength of this article is that they identified several things that can eventually lead to sleepiness, including job demands and irregular work schedules. Asking employees to do an increasingly heavier load of work may seem to have short-term benefits for the organization. However, if the employee experiences sleepiness as a result, the ultimate effect could be negative for the employee and the organization. Similarly, organizations who are forced to use shift work or other irregular schedules should seek out ways to ensure that scheduling allows employees to maximize their ability to get adequate sleep.
Back to the Drawing Board: Surviving Career Setbacks
Career setbacks can be pretty brutal. When everything seems to be going right, sometimes we are faced with unexpected challenges that change the course of our careers and our lives. So what do you do if you’re laid off, didn’t get promoted, or didn’t make the cut? A new article by Marks, Mirvis, and Ashkenas (2014) has highlighted three scientifically supported steps that you can take:
- Determine why you failed or lost.
- Identify new paths and goals.
- Be ready to seize the right opportunity.
DETERMINE WHY YOU FAILED
Unexpected changes are usually perceived as unfair and lead to a period of shock, denial, anger, and self-doubt. Research in psychology has shown that people, especially high achievers, tend to exhibit attribution bias. This is a method of protecting self-esteem by taking all the credit for success and none of the blame for failure. This bias stands in the way of your success by encouraging you to ignore your role in failure and by making it difficult for you to learn from your mistakes.
A change in behavior and mindset is one of the most important indicators of a successful turnaround. Communication and honest feedback from supervisors and colleagues can help you realize some specific behavior that may be holding you back. Changing your mindset and using coping strategies can help change that behavior. This will help you move forward and be prepared to meet your goals and the goals of your organization.
IDENTIFY NEW PATHS
It has been said that if one door closes, another door opens. A failed opportunity can sometimes be a wake-up call to change paths. Failures are learning experiences and can lead to new, better opportunities in the future. Sometimes the path deviates a little and sometimes it deviates a lot, whether it’s changing jobs within a company, changing careers, or even moving to a whole different state. Being open to change and actively thinking about possibilities will reveal many opportunities that may help things turn out even better than they were before. Studies show that people tend to avoid the problems that come from unexpected career changes instead of thinking of losses as new opportunities.
SEIZE THE MOMENT
Finally, once you have a course of action, go with it. Uncertainty is normal when trying new things, but if you accomplished and believed in the last two steps, you have nowhere to go but up and forward. Even though we cannot foresee unexpected failures, we can always be ready for unexpected opportunities for success.
ADVICE FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Organizations and their employees should be prepared for possible future failures, successes, and new opportunities. This will help them be better equipped to adapt to change. Employees can work on improving themselves by examining their role within the organization as well as the things that they can change or do better as preemptive measures for the unexpected. Organizations should always be thinking of new goals, so as to always be moving forward. Employees should be ready to change roles in response to the evolving goals of the organization. By following these steps, individuals and organizations should perform better, and be better equipped to handle failure.
Using Organizational Socialization Tactics to Help Newcomers Adjust
The process of socialization within organizations is designed to quickly help newcomers orient and familiarize themselves with company procedures. If you have ever been on the receiving end of an effective initiation program, then you know how helpful it can be in helping with early adjustment. The science shows that effective early socialization can affect long term organizational outcomes. Recent research investigated how organizations can use certain organizational socialization tactics to positively influence such outcomes.
ORGANIZATIONAL SOCIALIZATION TACTICS
There are three major domains that encompass socialization tactics within organizations. These include collective and formal tactics, which concern the context of newcomer socialization, sequential and fixed tactics, which deal with the content of information provided, and finally, investiture and serial tactics which concern social aspects of the process. These three domains should be designed to reduce the uncertainty of newcomers. The researchers hypothesized that these tactics are related to the extent to which newcomers will experience a clear sense of what is expected of them and what they should do on the job. In turn, they investigated whether giving employees clear expectations influences employees’ sense of competency at a later time.
TRUST AND RELATIONSHIPS
Trust forms an important element of organizational effectiveness. For example, when people trust supervisors and co-workers, they are more likely to feel comfortable and to fully engage at work. Entry periods into organizations are critical times for facilitating the formation of trusting relationships. There is a mental and emotional element to these relationships. Emotional trust is considered a more powerful form of trust, as it becomes more important in long term outcomes. The researchers sought to understand whether trust-building tactics also impact employees’ sense of commitment to the organization.
The researchers found that when newcomers had a clear sense of what was required of them in the organization, they later reported more competent performance on the job. They also found that emotional-based trust relationships with supervisors or co-workers improved the relationship between socialization tactics and organizational commitment. The implication here is that initial processes that help newcomers build trusting relationships can later go on to affect commitment to that organization.
TIPS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
The results highlight the necessity for organizations to ensure that they have a two-pronged approach to helping newcomers adjust to the work environment. This requires helping newcomers understand what is required of them and how to adopt effective strategies for dealing with work tasks. Also important is the need to give newcomers the opportunity to build significant relationships with organizational insiders. By realizing this, organizations can facilitate newcomer adjustment as well as foster greater organizational commitment.
Social Media at Work: Implications for Productivity
A pair of researchers recently set out to examine how certain people use social media at work, and how that impacted their performance.
Their survey of individuals across various industries and jobs revealed various ways that people believe social media at work helps and harms their performance. The researchers then conducted a series of studies in developing a questionnaire for measuring social media behaviors, only one of which will be the focus for this review.
This study ultimately showed that some of the factors that were perceived to be positive behaviors, such as crowd-sourcing a problem and new customer/client outreach, did not have any significant connection to increased performance.
POSITIVE & NEGATIVE BEHAVIORS ASSOCIATED WITH SOCIAL MEDIA AT WORK
There were eight dimensions of social media behaviors identified in the study that people thought would help improve their work performance. These included communicating with existing customers, new customer/client outreach, participating in an online work community, infra-office communication, reputation management, information gathering, crowd sourcing a problem, and using social media as technical solution to a problem. Later, four factors encompassing these original eight dimensions were identified.
There were also nine harmful dimensions that the people surveyed believed would negatively affect their work performance. These included representing the organization in an unbecoming manner, plagiarism, harmful behaviors that could adversely affect one’s reputation, offensive content, multitasking, time theft (such as using social media for personal use during office hours), former unprofessional relationships with co-workers and/or customers, making disparaging comments, and refusing a friend request from co-workers (which could lead to subsequent workplace tensions). These nine factors were also mapped into 4 higher order factors that encompassed all of these elements.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA & WORK PERFORMANCE
It’s not surprising to learn that the study showed harmful social media behaviors were directly related to decreased performance at work.
But what is interesting is the fact that the beneficial behaviors seemed to have no significant relationship to performance whatsoever, meaning that there may be little added value created by these actions.
The study does have its limitations. There are various industries that were not sampled that rely heavily on social media. There are also some elements of using social media at work that, while not directly responsible for increasing productivity, were tangentially related. For example, certain social media behaviors may provide stressed-out workers with a degree of relaxation, which can be related to increased performance.
THE STUDY’S BIG PICTURE TAKEAWAYS
This study fills the gap in the literature related to social media behaviors within the workplace.
The research in question can help employees realize the potential harm to their job performance that may be caused by certain behaviors they may have thought would prove beneficial. These findings could also inform social media training interventions in various work settings.
In short, some activities that may be permitted at work and are typically deemed beneficial by employers may in fact be superfluous.
Leading Virtual Teams: An Investigation of Leadership and Structural Supports
Due to increasingly sophisticated technologies, organizational globalization and flexible work structures, virtual teams are steadily growing in popularity.
By definition, virtual teams are those that work remotely or, even if in a similar vicinity, communicate via largely electronic means. These teams never, or very rarely, have face-to-face meetings.
There are varying degrees of virtuality, which can be increased by distance and culture differences. The researchers behind a new study on Leading Virtual Teams wanted to understand how leadership and structural factors lead to better performance as virtuality increases.
There are two prominent leadership theories in this context that have been shown to positively affect performance– Transformational Leadership and Leader Member Exchange. The researchers argued that Supervisor Career Mentoring also related to various positive outcomes. These three constructs comprised the hierarchal leadership model the researchers set out to investigate.
The study found that as virtuality increased, the impact of hierarchal leadership on team performance decreased, because practicing these forms of leadership proved harder in virtual formats. It was at this point that the researchers formulated their opinion that supplementing virtual team leadership with various structural supports could help enhance overall performance.
The researchers were interested in examining how shared leadership and structural supports might affect the overall performance of virtual teams when hierarchical leadership proved difficult.
Shared leadership is the idea that various members of the team engage in leadership-type behaviors. Although not necessarily the same as the supervisor’s actions, these team members promote behaviors that facilitate cohesion and team process, which are critical for high performance.
Shared leadership has been shown to enhance the cognitive, affective and behavioral functioning of teams. So when trust and cohesion are difficult due to the virtual nature of the team, such shared leadership behaviors can enhance positive team dynamics.
Structural supports are more indirect means of influencing a team. They deal with leadership substitutes through organizational and task structures, and can compensate for (or add value to) different leadership styles/models.
Due to the fact that working in virtual teams can be wrought with uncertainty and constant change, the researchers decided to explore the positive effect that structural support could have when hierarchical leadership falls short within a virtual context.
The structural supports of primary interest included proper rewards, communication and information management, each of which was found to help increase performance as virtuality increased.
TAKEAWAYS ON LEADING VIRTUAL TEAMS
The study found that, while leading virtual teams brings with it certain unique challenges, these challenges can be overcome by choosing alternative methods to traditional hierarchical leadership.
In short, management and leaders who want to mitigate their loss of positive influence due to the virtual nature of the team can supplement with various structural supports and encourage shared leadership for best results.
Employee Start Time: Does the Early Bird Get the Worm?
We have plenty of adages emphasizing the positive implications of starting the day early. Past research seems to suggest that elevated morning activity is seen as an indicator of being responsible, dutiful, and a hard worker.
In a series of three new studies, lead researcher Kai Chi Yam and his colleagues examine whether this pro-morning bias actually exists by examining how employee start time influences supervisor ratings of their job performance.
They also question how the supervisors’ own preference for morning or afternoon activity might play into that relationship.
EMPLOYEE START TIME AND JOB PERFORMANCE
Past empirical research found that employees’ level of morning activity is usually associated with positive traits such as being conscientious and having a solid work ethic.
Conscientious employees are typically rated as higher performers because they tend to display stronger work motivation when compared to employees who are low in conscientiousness.
Across two different samples, Kai Chi Yam and his colleagues found that employees who report later start times are perceived as less conscientious by their supervisors, and this negative stereotype ultimately results in lower performance ratings for those employees.
THE ROLE OF THE SUPERVISOR’S PREFERENCE
The authors found that the negative implications for employees who start the work day late largely depend on their supervisors’ own preference for morning or afternoon activity.
That is to say that late-starters are rated as low performers due to being perceived as less conscientious only among supervisors who prefer morning activity themselves.
For those supervisors who are more night owls than day larks, the morning bias doesn’t usually translate into negative repercussions.
IMPLICATIONS OF THESE FINDINGS
The current study highlights the potential consequences of using flexible work arrangements, such as starting the work day late.
Given that performance ratings may largely depend on the supervisors’ own chronotype, it is recommended that managers are reminded of potential negative consequences of morning bias, and encouraged to remain objective in their performance evaluations of employees.
Are You Managing and Keeping Your Star Performers?
Every organization wants to retain its best people, because star performers are essential to success. But this maxim has become even more prevalent in today’s business world.
The authors claim that the 20th century was about reforming the business world into factories that valued conformity and having everyone do their tasks in the same way. But the current business climate has people working to solve more problems in more unique ways. The projects that we work on involve quick turn-arounds and efficiency.
In short, the business world has moved away from the conformity of the 20th century and into the creativity of the 21st century. This change has made star performers even more valuable, according to the authors of the study.
THE VALUE OF STAR PERFORMERS
According to the researchers, the top 10% of a company’s employees account for close to 30% of overall performance, and the top 20% account for close to 50% of overall performance.
The study found that replacing a star with an even slightly inferior employee can result in dramatically lower output. The value of star performers are not only based on their performance, but how they act and react with other employees.
WHY STAR PERFORMERS OFTEN GROW DISGRUNTLED
The problem is that many organizations act as if the average employee is performing the majority of the work, and continue to use the normal distribution method when it comes to how they handle employees.
What can we do that has the greatest effect on the most people? They use this methodology for training, for determining strategic change initiatives, and for compensation.
The result is that they placate average employees and tend to alienate the star performer. Star performers feel as though they are either being talked down to, not given any attention at all, or are not valuable to the company. When that happens, they leave.
HOW COMPANIES CAN KEEP THEIR BEST PEOPLE
Management would be better served by focusing on their best people instead of focusing on the majority. The result is a more efficient increase in output, and fewer alienated star performers. A star performer in this job market still has options, and they take them when the work environment is not suitable for them.
So how can organizations keep their star performers?
- Allow star performers the flexibility to move in and out of teams to take full advantage of their knowledge transfer to rising stars.
- Use training interventions that improve star performers even marginally, because a slight increase in performance of stars can lead to greater production than a more significant increase of the average employee.
- Create a compensation system that conforms to the distribution of performance, which will help retain stars.
- Compensation systems that best retain stars provide considerably higher pay for elites.
- Investing more time into stars is likely to gain greater overall output and create positive gains.
- Management practices of limited flexibility and homogeneity of pay are not likely to motivate star performers.
Is More Status Inherently Better? Investigating Performance After Status Loss
Most of us want the respect and benefits that come with high status positions and professions. But we seldom think of the costs associated with this status.
A recent study investigates how losing that status can have detrimental effects, highlighting the implications that even a slight decline in performance can have.
This novel research aims to better understand how performance is affected, and who was most likely to be affected, by status loss.
STATUS LOSS & OUR SENSE OF SELF
Past I/O research has shown that our sense of self is deeply affected by things such as what we do and the groups we belong to. We tend to incorporate the things we do well and membership in groups where we have a higher status into our identity much more often than the things we don’t do well or groups in which we have a low status.
In short, our sense of self-worth is bolstered by a feeling of high status. Serious threats to our self-concept can occur when our positive view of ourselves is challenged, such as through a loss of that status.
The research showed that low-status individuals are less susceptible to having their sense of self-worth damaged by a further loss of status than those individuals who initially had higher status. The impact of status loss on the self- concept of higher status individuals ultimately contributes to a subsequent decrease in job performance.
In general, individuals with higher status perform better than those with lower status due to contributing factors such as having more resources at their disposal and having the luxury of choosing what projects they engage in. Previous researchers suggested that, when a person with high status lost their position, they would work harder to regain it.
But the results of this study showed that high-status individuals who lost their status displayed lower performance levels than their peers, experiencing a significant decrease in performance.
This is not necessarily a causal effect, as we cannot rule out the possibility that other underlying factors contributed to this performance decline. However, the study tried to control as many other mitigating factors as possible, meaning that there is a strong likelihood that loss of status plays a significant role.
IMPLICATIONS & APPLICATIONS OF THE STUDY
Many people unfortunately experience status loss at work, especially in the economic climate of the last few years.
The findings from this research challenged the notion that people will ultimately work harder after losing their initial status, showing that they actually won’t work as hard as they did before.
This study could have important implications regarding the way organizations structure hierarchies or assign status. It shows that performance at higher levels of an organization can be negatively impacted by status loss, which should encourage companies to plan interventions and make other contingencies when such changes are afoot.