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A collection of engaging and thought-provoking essays looking at the world of business and management during a recession. Furnham takes a sideways look at some business issues that are often brushed under the carpet and examines recent academic contributions to business literature in an amusing and jargon-free style.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

The most frequently asked management question from nearly all supervisors and managers (and teachers and trainers) to CEOs, certainly in developed Western countries, is how to increase the work motivation of their staff. What they all want is to have employees with the work ethic: conscientious, dedicated, dependable, dutiful, reliable, responsible and responsive. They want them to be good at, and enjoy, their jobs like they (supposedly) do and, it has to be admitted, not to have to pay them “top dollar” for the privilege — in short, to be strongly intrinsically motivated.

Adrian Furnham

1. Ability, aspiration, attitude

Essentially, you need three things to be (really) successful at work: ability, aspiration and attitude. Ability refers to intellect, talent, particular gifts. It’s the size of the engine in the car. You also need to have real aspirations to succeed: to be driven, hungry and seriously motivated. This explains the direction of the car. And, you need the right attitude: these are traits and values such as perseverance, integrity and curiosity. This is the make or brand of the car.

Adrian Furnham

2. The abnormal boss

How abnormal is your boss? Sick, perverted, mean, bullying? A psychopathic, narcissistic bully? Or unusually charming, empathic and supportive?

Adrian Furnham

3. Achieving staff engagement

Once it was called “work satisfaction,” then “job commitment” and now “engagement.” Its opposite is called “alienation:” estranged, from all that happens in the workplace.

Adrian Furnham

4. The annual company conference

Many organizations have an annual conference, though they take rather different forms and happen for different reasons. They can cost a great deal: but what is their function and what are the alternatives? Would a works-outing be a more useful replacement? Who should be involved? How do you measure the success of these occasions?

Adrian Furnham

5. Anti-management ideas on management apologetics

There is a branch of theology called “Apologetics.” It not about being contrite, guilty and chanting eternally “mea culpa.” It is about providing a systematically reasoned argument in defense and vindication of (Christian) beliefs. An apologist is, therefore, one who speaks and writes in defense of a belief system, specific cause or institution.

Adrian Furnham

6. Blind dates and speed dating

It has been suggested that speed dating was invented by an American Rabbi interested in helping Los Angeles Jews meet each other. “Customers” had 10–25 four-minute dates, after which they had a binary question: yes or no. Two yeses meant a date and a more traditional meeting was arranged.

Adrian Furnham

7. Bridge employment

Remember the 1980s? Greed is good! Make your (serious) pile by 40, then retire. An endless life of golf tournaments, Caribbean holidays, shopping trips to warm countries with weak currencies A vision of heaven … or hell?

Adrian Furnham

8. Business and the media

It is remarkable how quickly people and their companies rise and fall in popularity. One day a wunderkind, a hero, a chosen one and the next, a shallow, dubious, charlatan. Is it a northern hemisphere manifestation of the tall poppy syndrome? Is it poor judgment, or the demands of the modern public that we place artistic, business and potential leaders on a pedestal then tear them down.

Adrian Furnham

9. Changeability, malleability and adaptability

One of the most contended and politically hot questions at the centre of people management is the issue of change and development. This is a left-right, sociological-biological, optimist-pessimist debate. It is one that raises much passion, because it touches fundamental values and beliefs, and also because it has wide-ranging implications in business.

Adrian Furnham

10. City survivor’s guilt

War scars the living and the dead. It is often amazing to see tough old survivors of battles long ago, chokingly and tearfully recounting their story. Even more poignant is to watch them kneel before graves or stroke a memorial with the names of their fallen comrades.

Adrian Furnham

11. Cock-ups and cover-ups at work

We all make them: the cock-up at work. The un- or poorly proof-read report, full of errors; the clumsy, embarrassing presentation; the appraisal that leads to serious litigation; the insulted and pissed-off (very important) client. You get asked fundamental questions and you don’t know the answer. Your facts are out-of-date, or wrong. You deliver late without warning, and not what you promised. Like death and taxes and all that, these things happen; they are clearly inevitable at some time.

Adrian Furnham

12. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Now more than ever, in these bear-market, double-dip, depression days, people want to hear from their boss, the CEO, the chairman of the board. They are worried, anxious and bewildered. Where will the axe fall? What is the future of the company? Will I still have a job by the end of the year? Now is the time for talking. More than that, it is the time for serious speech-making, to people who need reassurance, a direction, hope for the future. So, what should be the message? Get the image right.

Adrian Furnham

13. Conspiracy at work

Over 90 percent of employee’s think that their bosses know important things about the future of their job that they have not, and will not, talk about. Some believe that their emails are read and their presence recorded on camera. Some believe that members on the board work for the CIA and/or MI5. Some are paranoid; others are, indeed, right.

Adrian Furnham

14. Dark triads and toxic triangles

You don’t have to be a numerologist to know of the power of three. All great orators know of the rhythm and the effect of the triple. We rejoice in 3D images, but struggle to be co-operatively coordinated in three-legged races. Politicians respond to the three-line whip. Most national flags seem to have three colours. Bureaucrats want everything in triplicate. Triplanes give extra maneuverability and tripods extra stability. Mysteries come in threes, such as the Holy Trinity. Psychoanalysts have noticed that sexual reproductive organs come in threes. Pornography often portrays wicked threesomes.

Adrian Furnham

15. Dealing with opponents

Orthodoxy in business is rarer than in politics and religion, but no less interesting. The idea that there is one — and only one — efficient, good and proper way to do things can be found in accountants, engineers and IT people. It can even be found in management.

Adrian Furnham

16. Defending the self

Ever seen a CEO in distress? Of course. What is really interesting is how they cope. We do many things when stressed: phone a friend or pour a stiff G&T; go for a jog or pray; have a nap or go to bed. Some are healthier than others; some work better than others. And, over time, we tend to develop a preferred coping strategy, a subject that fascinated Anna Freud, daughter of the great Sigmund.

Adrian Furnham

17. The disaffected worker

We all recognize them in the workplace: the passed over and pissed-off; those in the departure lounge; the bitter, passive-aggressive, “nyet-oriented” types. The individual who astutely removes both brain and heart before crossing the threshold of work.

Adrian Furnham

18. Divergent thinking

Would you prefer your CEO to be an arts or science graduate? Does it matter? What if they had a first degree in French or history or philosophy, as opposed to mathematics or physics or zoology? What about media studies or sociology or women’s studies? And what if they had higher degrees in these subjects, indicating a real passion? Or perhaps an attempt to defer adulthood and getting a job.

Adrian Furnham

19. Does coaching work?

It is easy to be skeptical — indeed, cynical — about executive coaches. The sacked, sour and screwed-up executive one day: the executive coach the next. But this is clearly more than a fad or fashion that disappears by the end of the fiscal year. It is a massive growth industry, even if supply seems to have exceeded demand.

Adrian Furnham

20. Dysfunctional credentialism

What do you do or say when an old (bald as a coot) friend suddenly pitches up in a wig? The follicly challenged are quite naturally tempted to “recapture” their youthfulness, good looks and “pull-ability” by investing often-extensive sums in a wig or hair piece. Do you pretend not to notice; comment on their fitness; or tease them gently or even unmercifully for their vanity or stupidity? A matter of taste, an indicator of friendship or a function of your emotional intelligence? What precisely is good form?

Adrian Furnham

21. Elite performers

Most of us would love to be thought as elite performers; top-of-the-class, really talented. They surely are most sought-after at work. The simply gifted: those who, apparently effortlessly, bring home the golden prizes. Top of the tree … and all that.

Adrian Furnham

22. Employ-worthiness

The headlines at times of depression, double-dip and bear markets are all rather depressing. More and more (bright, young, qualified) people chasing fewer and fewer jobs; graduates having to do menial, sometimes even unpaid, work; middle-aged, middle-brow, middle-managers thrown on the dust heap … forever. Pipe and slippers, whether you like it or not.

Adrian Furnham

23. Engagement isn’t enough

As all consultants know, you have to re-package and re-label old ideas or concepts to make them more marketable. So, we used to have “job satisfaction,” which then became “job involvement,” which later changed into “organizational commitment.”

Adrian Furnham

24. The entrepreneurial spirit

It is very difficult indeed to get into the top consultancy firms these days: but then, it always was. Bright-eyed, multi-lingual, MBA after “An A-starred-first-class degree,” young people fight hard to join the ranks of mostly American-owned and based consultancies.

Adrian Furnham

25. Executive derailment

It is said that a psychologist going through a famous university library in the late 1980s found 400 books on depression and only two on happiness, provoking him to try to fill the gap. Psychologists seemed to assume that, if you did not have depression, you were happy and that this seemingly trivial subject did not merit research time and effort.

Adrian Furnham

26. Four legs good; two legs bad

Management writers and gurus seem to favor the old “compare and contrast” school of examining issues. One favorite is the “old world-new world” distinction. The old world we look back on is a sad place of inefficiency, bureaucracy and technological naïvety. But we are now in a fluid, electronic age of many possibilities.

Adrian Furnham

27. The gaff-prone CEO

Everyone makes the occasional gaff. We make mistakes; say something we don’t mean, muddle up the names, forget crucial facts, and have funny slips of the tongue. But most of us aren’t in the spotlight — we’re not being continually recorded in the media by cameras, microphones and observant journalists. Those that are have to endure years of humiliation as cheap-and-cheerful programs are replayed with their slips-of-the-tongue or tired-and-emotional outbursts captured on tape.

Adrian Furnham

28. Good advice

The Last Lecture (Pausch, 2007) by an American academic who died aged 47 was an Internet sensation watched by millions. It was a televised lecture given by an engineering academic after he was diagnosed with inoperable, certainly fatal, pancreatic cancer.

Adrian Furnham

29. Half a mo: thin slices of behavior

Do first impressions count? Of course they do. The beautifully-cut Italian suit, the unkempt hair, the limp handshake. We prepare ourselves for job interviews to impress. Dress, grooming and non-verbals carry weight.

Adrian Furnham

30. Hire positive people

The advent of positive psychology and the shocking realization by economists that money is only weakly related to well-being has lead to a flurry of books on happiness.

Adrian Furnham

31. How management style leads directly to profit and loss

The service-profit chain “theory” first published as a Harvard Business School Review paper, and later as a successful book, was based on a causal chain model that led from customer satisfaction to profit.

Adrian Furnham

32. How to be happy

It pays to be happy. Happy people live longer and, by definition, happier lives. They make better decisions and have more fulfilling relationships. They also make more money, being as much a consequence of happiness as a cause.

Adrian Furnham

33. The identification of high-flyers

What happened to the hype about talent management? The recruitment, selection, development and deployment of high-flyers was, supposedly, the most important thing companies could do to thrive and survive … or so we were told by the gurus. The issue was finding the elusive Wunderkind.

Adrian Furnham

34. Implicit assumptions

A high-flyer — anointed, fast-tracked and well-thought-of — suddenly derails. A “steady hand” from middle management loses the plot. Along-term employee, often thought of as a plodder and a dullard, pulls off yet another sales job. Why?

Adrian Furnham

35. Incentivizing presentism

Public health professionals, politicians and the general public have taken a great deal of interest in the result of medical research into financially incentivizing people to change their health-related behavior. Pay people to stop smoking, lose weight, visit their doctor, take some exercise.

Adrian Furnham

36. IQ testing at work

Most people on training courses experience personality tests of various sorts. Some rather enjoy them; others are skeptical about their usefulness. Old hands have been MBTI-ed to death, whilst some trainers favor more fashionable measures such as emotional intelligence. They are meant to help self-awareness and give psychological insights into “personality clashes.” Bit of harmless fun, perhaps?

Adrian Furnham

37. Is management getting harder?

Every generation seems to believe that it is uniquely stressed or pressured at work. Everyone appears to argue that things are much tougher for them than they were for their parents or grandparents. This, despite the data showing that we work fewer hours, for much better pay, under much safer conditions and with innumerable fringe benefits.

Adrian Furnham

38. Life after lay-off

Counselors used to remind people that it’s jobs, not people, that are made redundant. “Surplus to requirements, let go, early retirement, right-sizing”: all euphemisms for “involuntary unemployment.”

Adrian Furnham

39. Managerial educability

Management education is big business. Organizations need business-educated and business-savvy people. Managers expected to be trained, educated and up-skilled for senior jobs. Many seek out education (rather than training). The sexy letters “MBA” mean better chances of promotion and more cash.

Adrian Furnham

40. Managerial in-experience

Here’s a hypothetical question: you are asked to vote for a new CEO. There are two final candidates and they are surprisingly similar. They have near identical educational qualifications, personality traits and values. They seem equally bright. But one is aged 35 and the other is 63. Who would you choose: the dynamism and energy of youth, or the understanding and wisdom of maturity?

Adrian Furnham

41. Neuro-everything

Gurus are quick to detect the flavor of the month; the business fad that solves all problems. It is, after all, their lifeline. They find it first; and pass it on to consultants who make their middle-man killing before discarding it to poor trainers. And then it slowly dies. A shelf-life of a decade, perhaps.

Adrian Furnham

42. Nice guys come second

Personality researchers have identified a dimension of personality called agreeableness. Agreeable people are forgiving, trusting and straightforward. They are also generous, tolerant, altruistic and warm-hearted. Modest and tender-minded, they also make loyal friends and good neighbors. To be labeled “an agreeable sort of person” is a compliment.

Adrian Furnham

43. The normality of silos

What have management gurus got against grain farmers? They complain of the evils of silo thinking and silo mentality, and want silo destruction. Silos are bad, matrices are good!

Adrian Furnham

44. The off-site strategy meeting

It is not uncommon for the “grown-ups” in the organization to have a “jolly” in a fine country hotel. These arrangements are more likely to be described as “the off-site board meeting,” the “annual strategy weekend” or the “director’s workshop.”

Adrian Furnham

45. On the other hand

Most of us need to assess and describe, evaluate and profile other people as part of our daily jobs. It means writing references and making people judgments. Over the years, people develop idiosyncratic theories based on their experience: that temper is associated with redheads; lack of integrity of those with beards; carelessness (or worse, wickedness) with left-handedness and narcissism with the wearing of bling. Some have a rich vocabulary with which to describe the personality and motivation of others; in some, this is surprisingly poor. Some appear insightful, psychologically-minded, astute; others, perhaps because of their interest in things rather than people, are unable to give a good “pen picture” of individuals, even those they know well. The question for psychologists, for at least the last hundred years, is how most parsimoniously and accurately to describe an individual’s personality.

Adrian Furnham

46. A paradox resolved

In 1973, an economist called Easterlin published a paper that has worried economists ever since. He showed, as have others, that wealth is, in effect, unrelated to happiness. Now very famous, a graph from that work has been reproduced many times. It shows, using American data, two lines over a 50-year period: the one wealth and the other happiness. Wealth goes up steadily, happiness remains flat.

Adrian Furnham

47. The personality of interviewers

To what extent does the personality of the interviewer play a significant role in the whole interview process? Do different types make different decisions on the same people given the same criteria? This phenomenon is observable in group interviews, where members of a panel together interview a candidate.

Adrian Furnham

48. Political skills

Forget all that competency nonsense about “helicopter-view” and team work, emotional intelligence and integrity. The greatest asset you have in business is political skill: discuss.

Adrian Furnham

49. Process, profit and people

Go through a good MBA class and ask people about their background. Yes, there will be a number of oddballs: priests and doctors, actors and architects; but these classes are usually dominated by two groups of people — engineers and accountants.

Adrian Furnham

50. Reassuringly expensive

What is the relationship between the price of a business coach and the outcome of the coaching? Why do the prices of coaches differ so dramatically? What factors come into play when coaches decide how much to charge a potential client?

Adrian Furnham

51. The requirements of good managers

Every organization understands that it needs to recruit and retain talented leaders for the future.

Adrian Furnham

52. Restorative justice at work

Every so often, we read about new ways to rehabilitate prisoners by making them face their victims. There are also various calls for victims to be more involved in setting punishments, rather than leaving it up to the law enforcers. Few crimes are victimless. Whilst at work, most people would argue it’s much more acceptable (and common) to steal from one’s employer than a colleague — liberating stationery is quite different from dipping into the till or another person’s wallet. And then there is stealing from the customer by over-charging or under-delivering.

Adrian Furnham

53. Sack ’em all

Which three departments or sections of your organization do you loathe the most? Do others share your view? Would you happily see the whole section sacked, removed entirely or out-sourced? And, more importantly, if given the push, is it possible that nobody would notice?

Adrian Furnham

54. Segmenting the sat nav market

Sat nav is a must have: A sexy, “flash in the pan” toy, or a serious bit of business kit one can’t do without? Clearly, the latter — and, dare one say it, perhaps particularly useful for the fairer sex, who have demonstrably shown themselves to be less good on a range of spatial tasks like map reading!? Or maybe the traveling rep who can’t drive and map-read simultaneously?

Adrian Furnham

55. Selecting a prime minister or president

What characteristics do we want in our next prime minister or President? Below is a good shortlist of competencies to put the fear into any challengers. Three select-ins and three select-outs. Insufficient evidence of the former and too much of the latter means NO.

Adrian Furnham

56. Servant leadership

There have been at least four historical themes in the way people have thought and written about leadership. The first, which still pervades, is the “great man” trait theories, which argue that leaders have particular qualities or attributes that enable them to do the job. The next phase concentrated on the leader’s style of leading. It was called the “behavioral approach” and looked at how, for instance, democratic and authoritarian and laissez-faire leaders went about the job. You choose your style.

Adrian Furnham

57. Seven steps to happiness

What do business gurus, psychiatrists, theologians and economists have in common? One thing is that they are all expected to provide the answer to the question: “What makes people really happy?” How to achieve maximal well-being, fulfillment, authenticity and even joyfulness in life?

Adrian Furnham

58. Sex at work

Perhaps the oddest thing about sex is that we can now all talk about it a great deal, but still “do it” under very restricted circumstances. Serious newspapers have therapists telling it to us straight. Sex education is mandatory in schools. But sex at work — talk or action — is a serious no-no. We can talk about, and are encouraged to accept, numerous variants of sexual preferences, but sexual jokes or conversations remain something you can’t discuss or practice in the office. And the act of “fun and frolics” in the office is really very, very unacceptable … even at the Christmas party in the stationary cupboard.

Adrian Furnham

59. Shapers of destiny

All successful leaders provide much the same narrative of the factors that influenced them the most. Studies across organizations in different sectors, as well as those within big corporations, and across different corporate and national cultures, even different historical time zones, reveal the same story. This is now so clear that academics, somewhat uncharacteristically, call for no further work to be done on this area.

Adrian Furnham

60. So, what is potential?

Sadly, “talent management” in many organizations is based on people not always with much salient knowledge making highly dubious ratings on others’ performance and potential. Talent management, it is said, is all about four things: how to attract, develop, deploy and retain talented people. Indeed, but hardest of all is to identify the talent in the first place. How do you know talent when you see it? And what happened to all those talented classmates at school and university: where are they now?

Adrian Furnham

61. Strong situations

People behave much the same in “strong situations”, a lecture, a religious service, a military parade. Strong situations provide unambiguous clues about what is required. As a result, you don’t observe many individual differences.

Adrian Furnham

62. Superego vs. super ego

The Freudian word for conscience is superego. Sigmund’s theory involved three characters: the selfish, primitive, gratification-demanding id; the reality-aware ego; and the still voice-of-conscience; the superego.

Adrian Furnham

63. Taking an HR exam

The University of Everyman has recently noticed the trend for middle-aged, under-qualified HR-people, scared of losing their jobs, to do a part-time degree in HR studies. This has been very popular and the course was oversubscribed. To get some idea of its contents, one can look at either the syllabus or the first exam paper.

Adrian Furnham

64. Three journeys

There are only three kinds of jobs: technical, supervisory and strategic. Most people are selected on the basis of their technical knowledge and skills. These may be either relatively easy or difficult to acquire. They may require years of training, or be mastered in a matter of weeks. A brain surgeon and a fighter pilot, just as much as a tree surgeon and a bus driver, all have technical a job.

Adrian Furnham

65. Time at work

There will be fewer full-time and more part-time jobs — so we are reliably informed. There will be fewer core and more contingent workers. More people will work from home. Work will be a thing you do, not a place you go to. Certainly, the old 9-to-5, tea boy to managing director, pipe and slippers at 65 concept of work has gone.

Adrian Furnham

66. Time perspectives

You are working in a team on a very important project. You are dependent on others delivering on time. Your career future depends on a successful outcome of the task.

Adrian Furnham

67. Time-watching

Imagine a smallish city garden that was well-designed and planned by the previous owner of the house. It contains many beautiful flowering shrubs and has clearly been color coordinated. In the summer, it is colorful, beautifully scented and discrete: ideal for drinks parties.

Adrian Furnham

68. The unethical manager

Management integrity is really important. Not just to please politically correct business ethics gurus, and not just because integrity is associated with theft and fraud — an increasingly common problem in (very) senior managers. Rather, it is because dishonest, low integrity, unethical managers lead to staff mistrust, which directly influences all staff attitudes and performance.

Adrian Furnham

69. Value clashes

A clash of cultures is often really a disagreement about values. It can be profoundly shocking to have to live and work with people who differ fundamentally in their values about little (tidiness) as well as big things (honesty).

Adrian Furnham

70. The valuelessness of knowledge

One university lecturer recently told her students their task was to “absorb the canon.” By this, she meant they had to steep themselves in the acknowledged great works by extensive reading, re-reading and memorization. Those who absorbed the canon turned information into knowledge and thence wisdom.

Adrian Furnham

71. What’s the point of theory?

One criticism of many management training courses is that they are far too “theoretical.” There appears to be, and often is, a serious gap between the expectations of the trainer and the trainee. It’s worse if the trainer is a business school teacher and the trainee a high-powered, frenetic, no-nonsense, “practical” manager.

Adrian Furnham

72. Who wants to be an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur is sexy. The Dragons’ Den (a TV program where budding inventors and entrepreneurs present their idea live in front of four people who compete to question and back them) has turned half a dozen people into media stars. Governments, even of a pinkish hue, recognize the advantages of having wealth-creators in their midst. We have initiatives to encourage, nurture and promote entrepreneurship among the young.

Adrian Furnham

73. Working abroad

It takes a lot of money to send an employee abroad: travel, accommodation, family resettlement costs. And an embarrassingly large number “don’t work out.” They don’t function very well. Some “go troppo.” Others have to be repatriated. A great adventure and a golden opportunity turn into a nightmare. Divorce, drink problems, depression … a pretty grim legacy from what was meant to be a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Adrian Furnham

74. The young CEO

Is it true that policemen and prime ministers are getting younger? Would you be troubled or delighted to find your accountant, dentist or lawyer was 29 years old? Or would you prefer them to be 49 or 59 … or would you not really care? How about an 82-year-old baby boomer who refused to give up work — happy with them as your eye surgeon or tax accountant? Feel uncomfortable if your 747 flight desk crew were pushing 70? Quite different from a 76-year-old barrister? Or headmaster?

Adrian Furnham

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