Friday, February 27, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A recipe for culture change

If you could design your ideal workplace, what would it look like?  If you are reading this blog, chances are that your description includes more than a high salary and state of the art facilities and includes being valued for your ability and treated fairly and respectfully by others.

Recently I served on a visiting committee that privately interviewed every staff and faculty member of an academic department.  If I had to design my ideal workplace, I could not have come up with a more satisfied group.  Everyone loves their job and feels welcomed and respected.  Inclusion, diversity, and excellence are seamlessly interwoven.  My ideal workplace would look a lot like that.

During the past two years I was given the gift of time (about 18 months) to study my university in depth to make recommendations for advancing a respectful and caring community.  The result is a report currently under discussion by faculty, staff, postdocs, students and alumni.  Some of the recommendations, such as universal unconscious bias training, would, I believe, be quite impactful if they spread widely.  That particular recommendation is based on groundbreaking work done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Google.

Business guru Peter Drucker is said to have remarked, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."  What he meant is that the unwritten rules of how people interact and what they feel is normal for their organization will make it difficult to implement organizational change unless the tacit assumptions are spoken aloud.

Shifting a culture requires that it first be understood.  Efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion often are hindered by culture.  What if we made culture part of the solution instead of part of the problem?

That is the approach I followed in writing this report.  It's not the usual one.  But isn't that what researchers do?  We experiment and innovate.  When empathy is added to this equation, we have the ingredients for culture change.  Submit your recipes!  And let's use culture to our advantage.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Future Directions in the Work-Family Equation

An NPR blog by Maanvi Singh introduced me to an interesting article about gender equality in the workplace and home.  It is by David Pedulla and Sarah Th├ębaud, faculty members at UT Austin and UC Santa Barbara, respectively.  The article is titled "Can We Finish the Revolution?  Gender, Work-Family Ideals, and Institutional Constraint" and published this year in the American Sociological Review.

The authors performed a survey to address the question of how much gender-specific workplace cultures and policies determine the roles that men and women play in their households.  Even when couples have gender-equality ideals, workplace constraints may force them to adopt traditional roles of men as the earner and women as the caregiver.  The motivation for the study is to understand why the gender revolution has "stalled".  More women are in the workforce, but are still highly underrepresented tin top positions.   Examples given are that women make up only 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 3% of members of Congress.

The study was of young unmarried women and men aged 18 to 32.  The participants were asked their preference for traditional roles (man - primary earner, woman - primary caregiver) vs egalitarian roles.  They were asked to choose between these options under the two assumptions of unsupportive and supportive workplace policies for dual-earner, dual-caregiver arrangements.  One of the primary results is shown in the table here that I made from the data presented.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Leadership and the Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Women of different personality types
In the wake of Kelly Korrick’s post, Becoming a Leader, and my own interest, On Leadership, I took the Myers-Briggs personality test. I know several colleagues, family members, and supervisors who have taken the test as part of their management training. The test is available free on-line. I took this version, which is comprised of 60 yes/no questions. I’ve seen other variations, but they are all similar and take only a few minutes. The final results give you a series of letters indicating your personality types as well as the strength in each of the following categories:
•Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I),
•Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N),
•Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
•Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)
I don’t need a test to tell me that I am Introverted (I), but it also told me the strength of this characteristic. The Extravert-Introvert dimension is a continuum:

Extravert [100% - - - 0% - - - 100%] Introvert

I was reasonably, but not overwhelmingly, introverted.
Sensing-Intuition preference represents the method by which one perceives information: Sensing (S) means an individual mainly relies on concrete, actual information. Intuition (N) means a person relies upon their conception about things based on their understanding of the world.
Thinking-Feeling preference indicates the way an individual processes information. Thinking (T) preference means an individual makes decisions based on logical reasoning. Feeling (F) preference means that an individual's base for decisions is mainly feelings and emotions.
Judging-Perceiving preference in more complex and involves both incoming and outgoing information. It is important to understand that Judging (J) is not the same as “judgmental,” which was my own first (incorrect) impression of its meaning.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Choosing the Best

And so the committee met to choose between the two finalists.

“It's easy!” announced Professor Tist. “The letter from Dr. Darlon states plainly that she is the best exolonomist of her generation!”

“No, no!” rebutted Professor Tast. “You are not an expert in her subfield like me. Darlon doesn’t really think she is the best, he was just being supportive of a young scientist."

“He was?” asked Tist.