Monday, June 30, 2014

Are you seen as a jerk at work?

Credit: © diego cervo / Fotolia
New research shows that many people seen by others as under-
assertive or over-assertive think they're appropriately assertive.
 
New research shows that many people seen by others as under-assertive or over-assertive think they're appropriately assertive. The study also reveals that people seen as getting assertiveness right often mistakenly think they've gotten it wrong.
 
Jill Abramson was recently ousted from her position as the executive editor of The New York Times for being, among other things, too "pushy." But did Abramson -- who has also been described by the media as "polarizing" and "brusque" -- know during the course of her tenure that others viewed her as being overly assertive? A new study from the Columbia Business School suggests that there's a great chance she didn't.

"Finding the middle ground between being pushy and being a pushover is a basic challenge in social life and the workplace. We've now found that the challenge is compounded by the fact that people often don't know how others see their assertiveness," said Daniel Ames, professor of management at Columbia Business School and co-author of the new study. "In the language of Goldilocks, many people are serving up porridge that others see as too hot or too cold, but they mistakenly think the temperature comes across as just right -- that their assertiveness is seen as appropriate. To our surprise, we also found that many people whose porridge was actually seen as just right mistakenly thought their porridge came off as too hot. That is, they were asserting themselves appropriately in the eyes of others, but they incorrectly thought they were pushing too hard."

Based in part on research previously conducted by Ames and former Columbia Business School Professor Frank Flynn, the new study is called, "Pushing in the Dark: Causes and Consequences of Limited Self-Awareness for Interpersonal Assertiveness" and will be published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this month. In short, the research shows that many people seen by others as under-assertive or over-assertive think they're appropriately assertive. The study also reveals that people seen as getting assertiveness right often mistakenly think they've gotten it wrong.

The Research
Ames and fellow researcher Abbie Wazlawek -- a doctoral student at Columbia Business School -- conducted four studies to test their hypotheses about the connection between assertiveness and self-awareness. Three of the four studies involved participants who were MBA students enrolled in negotiation courses at Columbia Business School, and one study involved an online survey of 500 US adults.

The MBA student studies paired up developing professionals for mock negotiations over issues such as licensing rights. After the deal-making, each person answered questions about their own assertiveness and their counterpart's assertiveness. The negotiators were then asked to guess what their counterpart said about them. A key question for the researchers was whether people knew what their counterparts thought of them.

The studies found that, generally speaking, negotiators have a lot of work to do in the self-awareness department. For example, one study found that:
  • 57 percent of people actually seen by their counterpart as under-assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even over-assertive.
  • 56 percent of people actually seen by their counterpart as over-assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even under-assertive.
  • Together, these results suggest that people seen as getting assertiveness wrong in the eyes of others had about a coin-flip's chance of recognizing how they were seen.
"Most people can think of someone who is a jerk or a pushover and largely clueless about how they're seen," said Ames. "Sadly, our results suggest that, often enough, that clueless jerk or pushover is us."

The researchers were surprised to discover another pattern in their results. Ames and Wazlawek found that many people getting assertiveness right mistakenly thought they were seen as pushing too hard. In multiple studies, Ames and Wazlawek observed a good share of people displaying what they called the "line crossing illusion." These people believed that they came across as being too assertive -- or had crossed a line -- during negotiations, when in fact their counterparts saw them as being appropriately assertive.

While the "line crossing illusion" might seem like a harmless or even endearing mistake, Ames and Wazlawek showed that it can be costly. Those who mistakenly thought they had over-asserted themselves were more likely to try to repair relationships with their partners, sometimes agreeing to a less valuable subsequent deal just to smooth things over. As the researchers put it, these negotiators were attempting costly repairs for something that wasn't broken. The result was that both sides frequently lost out on what could have been a better deal.
*  *  *  *  *

Story Source: Materials provided by Columbia Business School. D. R. Ames, A. S. Wazlawek. Pushing in the Dark: Causes and Consequences of Limited Self-Awareness for Interpersonal Assertiveness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SALES TECHNIQUE: When to crowd - or not crowd - your prospect.

Photo: BodyLanguageProjectCom
Approach Avoidance: She subtly moves away from him as he leans 
toward her; she is following her natural instinct to move away.  
We probably all had the experience of having a sales person get right into our face as they try to pressure us into buying.  It's not comfortable, and now we know why.  It's called "Approach Avoidance."  This is something I learned long ago during on-the-job sales training from a wily old sales dog - and now I now what it's called, and why it works.

We, the human animal, learned over our millions of year of existence to fear something that was approaching.  As Chicago Booth School of Business professor Christopher K. Hsee, explains in his recent paper, "In our long struggle for survival, we humans learned that something approaching us is far more of a threat than something that is moving away. This makes sense, since a tiger bounding toward a person is certainly more of a threat than one that is walking away."

We still have negative feelings about things that approach us -- even if they objectively are not threatening. Though we modern humans don't really consider such fear, it turns out that it still plays a big part in our day-to-day lives.

Suggested reading
click on image
"In order to survive, humans have developed a tendency to guard against animals, people and objects that come near them," Hsee explains. "This is true for things that are physically coming closer, but also for events that are approaching in time or increasing in likelihood."

Hsee, along with Chicago Booth doctoral student Yanping Tu, and Zoe Y. Lu and Bowen Ruan of the University of Wisconsin, suggest that this fear, or as they call it "approach avoidance," is actually an innate tendency.  Even seemingly docile entities, such as deer, have a fear factor attached to them since there could be some uncertainty to a wild animal's behavior.

Innate?  Programmed into each of us, literally part of our DNA.

According to the researchers, these initial investigations into approach avoidance are of practical use in a number of areas.
  • Marketers, can use this information. to determine if they should gradually move a product closer to viewers in a television commercial, or whether that will actually harm the image of the product. Similarly, 
  • Speakers who tend to move closer and closer toward their audiences during their speeches should think twice, as doing so may cast an unfavorable impression on listeners.
  • Salespeople can be sensitive to visual cues from their prospect to maintain a non-threatening distance, a distance comfortable to the prospect.
"Approach avoidance is a general tendency, humans don't seem to adequately distinguish between times they should use it and when they should not," Hsee adds. "They tend to fear approaching things and looming events even if objectively they need not fear."

As Hsee says, there is a flip side to this, as anyone who has conducted a negotiation knows. Crowding the other party or parties in a negotiation is a of using their innate discomfort to get them to agree to something or to yield on a point of dispute.

The fact is, the personal space between us can be a tool to use when working with people, something to think about and to use as you go through your day.
*  *  *  *  *

Story Source:  Materials provided by University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Christopher K. Hsee, Yanping Tu, Zoe Y. Lu, Bowen Ruan. Approach aversion: Negative hedonic reactions toward approaching stimuli.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

A simple, inexpensive method for preventing computer fraud

Source: becauseirocklikehell.tumblr.com
Running a small business is time consuming.  There's so much to do and often so little time in which to do it.  Consider the possibility of your business experiencing computer fraud.  Suppose an employee either deliberately or accidently misusing the information on your computer system.  How much time would it take you to clean up the mess?  Could it even put you out of business?

Fortunately, Shalini Kesar, a computer scientist at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, has devised an anti-fraud strategy for business that is straight forward and effective.

Suggested reading
click on image
"Computer fraud can result from incompetence, ignorance, negligence in the use of Information Technology or deliberate misappropriation by individuals," says Kesar. This results in the destruction of not only the main information systems but also backup systems, causing damages up to hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Kesar points out that reported cases of computer fraud only represent a tip of a potentially large iceberg. Anecdotal evidence suggests that employees pose one of the greatest threats because they are in a better position than "outsiders" to engage in computer fraud, Kesar adds.

Opportunistic computer fraud could be minimized, however, he says simply by raising managers' awareness and knowledge.

"Lack of awareness of social and technical issues among managers largely manifest themselves in a failure to implement even the most basic safeguards and controls," the researchers conclude, "Concomitantly, if management ignores wider organizational structural issues then this too increases the likelihood of a potential offender committing computer fraud."

These two main insights point to Kesar's seemingly obvious solution, which simply involves teaching management about computer security and then subtly communicating management's new-found knowledge to employees.

Spend some time learning about computer security then let your employees know - subtly - that you have done this.  Which takes less time and costs less money?  Educating yourself?  Or suffering a fraud that can cost you and your customers money?
*  *  *  *  *

Story Source: Materials provided by Interscience Publishers. "Educating Managers On Computer Fraud Could Cut Crime." ScienceDaily.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Thumbtack.com & Kauffman rate the best states in which to start a business

Thumbtack.com, in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, today released the third annual Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey showing that small business owners in Utah, Idaho, Texas, Virginia and Louisiana gave their states the highest rating for friendliness to small business. Small businesses in Colorado Springs, Boise and Houston gave their cities the highest ratings.

In contrast, small business owners gave California, Rhode Island and Illinois an "F," while Connecticut and New Jersey both earned a "D" grade. Sacramento, Providence and Buffalo were the survey’s worst-performing cities as rated by their small business owners.

Thumbtack.com surveyed 12,632 small businesses across the United States. The survey asked questions about the friendliness of states and cities toward small business, such as:
  • "In general, how would you rate your state's support of small business owners?"
  • "Would you discourage or encourage someone from starting a new business where you live?" and
  • "Do you think you pay your fair share of taxes?"
The Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey is the largest survey of its kind and is the only survey to obtain data from an extensive, nationwide sample of small business owners to determine the most business-friendly locations. The survey ranked 82 cities and most states on what makes a positive environment for small businesses.

“Creating a business climate that is welcoming to small, dynamic businesses is more important than ever, but rarely does anyone ask small business owners themselves about what makes for a pro-entrepreneur environment,” says Jon Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack.com. “Thousands of small business owners across the country told us that the keys to a pro-growth environment are ease of compliance with tax and regulatory systems and helpful training programs.”

Some of the survey's key findings include:
  • Small businesses in Texas, Utah and Idaho have rated their states in the top five every year this survey has run, while 
    • California and Rhode Island have been rated in the bottom five every year.
  • The friendliness of professional licensing requirements was the most important regulatory issue in determining a state’s overall friendliness to small businesses. Closely following licensing requirements was the ease of filing taxes.
  • Once again, tax rates were a less important factor than the ease of regulatory compliance in determining the overall friendliness score of a jurisdiction. 
    • Two-thirds of respondents said they paid their “fair share” of taxes – that is, they felt like they were neither under-paying nor over-paying.
  • Small business owners who were aware of training programs offered by their government were significantly more likely to say their government was friendly to small business than those who weren’t. 
    • Awareness of training programs raised overall scores by 10 percent, while 
    • 76 percent of those who said they were aware of government-sponsored training programs for business owners ranked their local government as “somewhat” or “very supportive,” and 
    • only 8 percent of these said local government was unsupportive.
  • Only 19 percent of respondents said they were prepared to implement the Affordable Care Act.
  • Female entrepreneurs were more likely than male entrepreneurs to say that their state government was friendly to small business, while male entrepreneurs were more likely than female entrepreneurs to have a positive view on the outlook of their state economy.
  • Kentucky’s grade was this year’s most improved, jumping from a B- to an A.
“It is critical to the economic health of every city and state to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment,” said Dane Stangler, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “Policymakers put themselves in the best position to encourage sustainable growth and long-term prosperity by listening to the voices of small business owners themselves.”

Complete results can be accessed below, including full sets of rankings and dozens of easily searchable quotes from small businesses nationwide. Each state and city also has its own data visualization showing its detailed survey results.


*  *  *  *  *
Sources:
  1. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that aims to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success. 
  2. Headquartered in San Francisco, Thumbtack is a consumer service that helps millions of people accomplish the personal projects that are central to their lives. Whether looking for a painter for their home, a math tutor for their child, or a DJ for their wedding, Thumbtack provides anyone in the U.S. with an easy and dependable way to get started, compare options, and hire with confidence.