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Über dieses Buch

It is often said that business is people. The bestselling author, Adrian Furnham, draws upon psychological reflections to present a critical and challenging account of perceived wisdom and management fads. In this book he scrutinises such subjects and themes as Anxiety Management, Authenticity, the Dark Side of Gift-Giving, Modern Management Styles, Performance Appraisal Systems and Work Life Balance

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

The image of the psychologist as noted in the foreword remains in most people’s view locked in Dr Freud’s Vienna consulting rooms. Psychologists are seen to be prurient “mittle Europeans” trying to explore your repressed unconscious. Psychology is seen as a one-to-one, largely therapeutic business. And psychologists are often thought of as a bit weird.

Adrian Furnham

The aging workforce

Age shall not wither them; nor the years condemn! In 2006, UK legislation will prevent employers letting go “people of mature years”who do not wish to retire. A nightmare or a blessed relief?

Adrian Furnham

Anxiety management or skills training

Modern management is about presentations. Thus there remains a thirst for presentation skills courses. These come in various guises from the rather mundane, how and when to use the overhead projector, to the superstar television studio model.

Adrian Furnham

Asking for a raise

It is easy to be outraged when politicians, civil servants, and other public sector employees call for a massive increase in salaries. We have lost trust and faith in so many of our institutions and officials and can be astonished by their gall when they do special pleading. Worse, they often seem like the UK post office directors demanding more money at the same time as presiding over declining standards.

Adrian Furnham

Atmospherics

How do you design shops and arrange products to maximize sales? Supermarkets know the importance of layout. Shoppers are confronted first by fresh produce to convince them that they need a cart rather than a basket. Then the staples — bread and milk — are often furthest away from the entrance, and each other, to make customers walk the aisles.

Adrian Furnham

Authenticity at work

Every so often the highly fashion conscious business world needs a new idea or word to focus on. It comes in two forms: economic or psychological. The business gurus like Porter and Peters, and more minor celebrities, come up with a concept that is the economic silver bullet to success: “balanced score cards”, “process reengineering”, “quality circles” and the like.

Adrian Furnham

The basic requirements of a business meeting

It’s a popular sport, deriding work meetings. They “take minutes and waste hours”; they are “decision-procrastination-events”; they “diffuse responsibility”; they are “pointlessly self-perpetuating” and so on.

Adrian Furnham

Business presents

Never underestimate the importance of gift-giving in contemporary society. It plays a big part in business. Ask any professional. The economics, the language, the psychology, and the sociology of gift-giving are all the more manifest and important at the peak time of gift-giving, namely Christmas. Indeed, due to the successful commercialization of gift-giving, marketing experts are the new sociologists. Never underestimate the importance of business present-giving in certain countries, particularly Japan. One can be seriously embarrassed if one does not know when, how, and what to give. It could threaten the whole deal!

Adrian Furnham

The C-word

Senior executives now show their success by having a trophy coach. Some still have a personal consultant who may perform duties somewhere between a PA, a trainer or a strict schoolmarm. The more adventurous, or perhaps disturbed, have a therapist — often called a counselor to avoid embarrassment. And only the poshest, or perhaps the most sinful, have a confessor.

Adrian Furnham

Canteen capers

Do, to use an old concept, the “association areas” at work make a substantial contribution to satisfaction and/or productivity? Is there any psychological or, better still, productivity consequence to the nature of the canteen, the common room, the coffee area?

Adrian Furnham

Charismatic leadership

Two famous “mittel Europeans”, much at the same time, defined the essential features of leadership in terms of charisma. The respective fathers of psychoanalysis and bureaucracy, Sigmund Freud and Max Weber, thought of great leaders as having unusual interpersonal appeal and the ability to rally others by the sheer force of their “magnetic” personality, vision, and eloquence. Through a combination of theatrical charm, believability, and conviction, such leaders inspire their followers to adopt a vision that is more than simple self-interest.

Adrian Furnham

Cheerfulness

Both school reports and obituaries frequently use the word “cheerful” to describe individuals. Bringers of good cheer, optimistic, spirit enhancing, good to be with cheerfulness is, rightly, always used positively.

Adrian Furnham

Choosing a futurologist

As astrologers and tea-leaf readers know well, there is little as enthralling as being able to foretell, or peer into, the future. We all want to live in a stable, predictable, and orderly world. To know “what is coming down the line” is deeply attractive as well as reassuring.

Adrian Furnham

Client gifts and what they imply

Christmas is not the only season of gift-giving. And nor is the activity restricted to other festivals or rites-de-passage. Indeed some cultures operate with constant gift-giving, as any embarrassed novice business person in Japan soon finds out.

Adrian Furnham

Conscientiousness

Personality psychologists have identified five distinct personality traits, all independent of one another, that help explain (non-tautologically) work, social, and health behaviors. Some of these traits are used extensively in everyday language — like extraversion — and used descriptively accurately although few people understand the biological basis of traits. Some traits, like neuroticism, are powerfully associated with a very specific range of behaviors like health and help-seeking.

Adrian Furnham

Critical periods

For psychologists the words “critical period” have a precise and technical meaning. The critical period is a window of time, often specified quite tightly, in which something must occur if it is to have a long-term impact.

Adrian Furnham

Cultivating creativity

For management consultants the stress industry is a nice little earner. Everyone likes to believe that they are acutely, chronically, unfairly, and uniquely stressed at work. Further, they are certain that all stress “comes from the outside”: that it is caused by others, usually control-freak, demanding and unreasonable bosses.

Adrian Furnham

The dark side of self-esteem

Anyone who works with young people will tell you that “self-esteem training” certainly works. Young people, it seems, have complete confidence in their own abilities and charm but more particularly in their rights. They can be very difficult to manage. Like moody teenagers, they lurch between arrogant hubris and self-conscious humility. They often behave differently with “members of the public”, being low on charm.

Adrian Furnham

Downshifting

There is a wide range of euphemisms for reducing the workforce: downsizing, right-sizing, restructuring, delayering. In essence they mean for many people: getting the flick, being given your cards or, more accurately, axed and sacked.

Adrian Furnham

Education for life

“Education”, said the famous American behaviorist B F Skinner, “is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten”.

Adrian Furnham

Engaging with staff

Good leaders have a clear and accurate sense of their own and their followers’ needs. They know that all those mission statement wish lists about commitment, involvement, and passion can only be achieved if the organizational ambience is right. This ambience or climate must inspire people to give their best. That is the job of the leader.

Adrian Furnham

Exiting well

It is the sacking season it seems. But someone has to deliver the bad news personally to the chosen individuals.

Adrian Furnham

Faking it

One standard argument against the use of personality tests is that they are fakeable and therefore worthless. The objection, however, is never made of the interview: do people never fake in interviews? And if they do, can (all) interviewers detect the deceit?

Adrian Furnham

Family business

In many parts of Asia (India, China) there is a long tradition of the family business. All members of the family are expected to work in the business which they know, one day, will become theirs. They are very common. Perhaps 80% of the world’s businesses are family firms. Certainly only just under half of the Fortune 500 companies are family owned and controlled.

Adrian Furnham

Freudian vocational guidance

The concept of vocational guidance seems so old-fashioned these days. Was it ever taken very seriously, even in the past? Many can remember a rather ineffectual schoolteacher who took pupils through some opaque test or simple-minded interview, narrowing their choices/preferences to something speedily suited to their abilities, temperament, and interests.

Adrian Furnham

Gained in translation

The impressive skills of the simultaneous translator are ever in demand; partly as a function of the remorseless growth of the EC and world trade in general. So we need people to translate Czech into Dutch, Finnish into Portuguese, and Polish into Greek. How long will we have to wait before there are demands for Catalan into Welsh, or Irish into the musical language of the Laps (Sami)?

Adrian Furnham

Gap years for grown-ups

Young people in many countries have a socially acceptable and sanctioned period in which they are allowed and encouraged to “find themselves”, “grow up”, and “experience life”. It is a sort of psychological moratorium in which the responsibilities and drudgeries of adulthood are postponed.

Adrian Furnham

Going open plan

How do you try to persuade people at work to do something they clearly don’t want or probably really need … like sacrifice their office for an open-plan environment? You could try a rational crypto-economic argument with a hint of threat. The “survive-or-die”; “outsourcing-to-india”; “relo-cation-to-Iowa” arguments may work.

Adrian Furnham

Growing pains

Even swashbuckling, entrepreneurial Wunderkind consultancies enter into periods of maturity. It is not as if they run out of energy or become more reflective; rather they just become larger.

Adrian Furnham

Happy holidays

The television nowadays appears to portray holidays in one of two very different guises: holidays in paradise and holidays from hell. This may be because there are a surprising number of people who do not like, or perhaps do not dare, to take their annual holiday entitlement. Holidays for them are punishment not reward, frustrating not fun, exhausting not refreshing.

Adrian Furnham

Implicit learning and tacit knowledge

Can you learn a foreign language while asleep? Alas not. Is the best way to learn by being taught using traditional methods? Probably. But can you acquire knowledge and skills nonconsciously and be unaware of what actual knowledge has been acquired? Well, it seems so.

Adrian Furnham

Leadership fundamentals

The fundamental characteristics of the human species have powerful implications for the nature of leadership at work. And you don’t have to be a pseudo or crypto sociobiologist (from Venus or Mars) to accept the points.

Adrian Furnham

Leading from the heights

In that memorable and very British television sketch of the early 1960s, Cleese, Barker, and Corbett explained and portrayed the British class system. Tall, ectomorphic, Cambridge graduate John Cleese looks down his nose at respectable, bespectacled, endomorphic Ronnie Barker. Both look down on the chirpy, vertically challenged, but perfectly formed Ronnie Corbett who “knows his place”.

Adrian Furnham

Learning from mistakes

We all make serious selection mistakes. The divorce statistics alone are testimony to the fact that despite the investment of considerable time, effort, and money, we get it wrong. We select where we should reject and vice versa. Of course we know only about the former and not the latter.

Adrian Furnham

The lessons of experience

How do you make young people appreciate how the world works? Despite, or perhaps as a result of, their education they can be at once arrogant and ignorant, demanding and complying, dependent and independent. What’s the best introduction to reality for a 20 year old?

Adrian Furnham

Lies, self-love, and paranoia

Recent research compared the personalities of inmates of a maximum security prison and successful CEOs of quoted companies. The game, of course, was to find similarities rather than differences. And this is indeed what was found. The groups are most similar on three personality disorders: antisocial, narcissistic, and paranoid.

Adrian Furnham

Living on: letting go

Retirement: a golden period of life as a rich reward for hard graft? Or a slow decline into obscurity before the grim reaper strikes? Is it eternal senior citizen holidays for (eternally) fit fifty-somethings, or gaga oblivion in circumstances of deteriorating health, wealth, and stealth?

Adrian Furnham

Looking the part

Is it true that in these politically correct, litigiously obsessed, but spin-doctor, image-conscious times, physical appearance as much as ability and experience determines who is appointed? Is it survival of the handsomest? Surely no one dares differentiate between candidates on how they look — except of course in the theater, movies, and fashion where it is all important.

Adrian Furnham

A matter of confidence

Imagine that there is a very good (reliable, robust, sensitive, valid) test of a person’s real ability: the ability to learn a language or play a musical instrument, or learn a new complex computer program ’ or whatever. Then consider giving the test to many thousands of people from all backgrounds.

Adrian Furnham

Modern management styles

What happened to MBWA (Management by Walking Around) or the “One-minute manager”? Perhaps the managers who spent all their time walking around lost their way, forgot to do some planning, or did not notice the need for marketing.

Adrian Furnham

Motivating blue-collar workers

The blue/white collar distinction concept appears to have escaped the political correctness police. Thankfully it was not black/white collar, otherwise it would only be the brave, the naive, or the unwise who would still use the term.

Adrian Furnham

The N-word

We have known for twenty years the three best predictors of success at work. But if you read popular books about, or attend advanced courses on, recruitment and selection you would never guess what they are. And, paradoxically, they are almost never measured or fully enquired into at interviews or even at assessment centres.

Adrian Furnham

The narcissism business

Vanity is a great motivator. In the UK, the honors system of patronage may have innumerable detractors, but it certainly motivates a good deal of charity work, not to mention party donations.

Adrian Furnham

Pep up your creativity

People in the public sector are not thought of as creative. But most people like to think they are — or at least could be. Hence the popularity of courses and programs.

Adrian Furnham

Performance appraisal systems

Performance appraisal systems: pointless paper chase or powerful motivational tool? Most people in the public sector, and many in the private, are deeply skeptical and cynical about performance appraisal. They have seen HR departments chop and change “the form” endlessly, been on various workshops, filled in staff surveys — and still receive perfunctory appraisals and an apology for performance-related pay.

Adrian Furnham

Personal development

Investment in people; development plans; executive training: a waste of time and money or an essential activity? Discuss.

Adrian Furnham

The personality of interviewers

Even the most structured competency-based interviews are aimed at collecting data about the personality of interviewees. There are countless books for interviewing professionals on what traits to look for, what questions to ask, and how to interpret the answers to those tricky, perspicacious questions. But there is no explicit recognition that the personality of the interviewer may play a very significant role in the whole interview process. So do different types/personalities make different decisions on the same people given the same criteria? Presumably they know what they are looking for and have agreed specific criteria in terms of a candidate’s abilities, attitudes, experiences, personality, and values. So why is there ever any disagreement? Were the criteria not clear? Did the questions not elicit data to satisfy the criteria? Often both of these are true. But there remains one other factor — differences in the personalities of the interviewers which have to be factored into this equation.

Adrian Furnham

Pouring money down the drain

The outcome of the UK’s next election may well be determined by debates about the efficiency of the public sector, especially in education and health. Labour’s traditional tax and spend policies appear to have failed yet again. Despite dramatic increases in public spending there appears to be no corresponding increase in output and efficiency. Why? The first reason relates to the simple idea that there is a clear correspondence between pay and performance. This is not, nor has it ever been, true. Perceived low pay can and does lead to considerable dissatisfaction and demotivation but not vice versa.

Adrian Furnham

Projective techniques

Ever wondered why psychologists use inkblots? Would chicken entrails do as well? Or the tea leaves so rarely seen in our tea-bagged society? What’s the theory?

Adrian Furnham

Protecting your legacy

Powerful people of a certain age and stage often ponder their legacy. What will they leave behind? How will history remember them? And, indeed, what can they do now to ensure a favorable mark in posterity?

Adrian Furnham

The psychology of color

Virgin has a bright saturated red; Barclays a distinctive turquoise; Lufthansa a goldy-yellow and BP a range of greeny yellows. Aer Lingus’s green has changed over the years as did Air Canada’s red.

Adrian Furnham

The psychology of promotional products

Promotional products: Kitsch “n” tat or cost-effective marketing? Glance at your desk, your briefcase, or your closet and there is a good chance you are a proud possessor of a promotional product.

Adrian Furnham

The public sector

Compare and contrast people who work in the public and private sectors. An old chestnut? An opportunity only for creating stereotypes, straw men and bogus distinctions? Or a useful HR exercise in deciding why individuals choose certain jobs, the effect those jobs have on them, and whether, indeed, they are in the right sector for them?

Adrian Furnham

Redundancy and layoffs

The British Chancellor (Finance Minister) announced in 2004 that 100,000 civil service jobs were to be cut. So much for job security in the public sector. For those who like neither big government nor bureaucratic processes this may even be welcome news. A good example of schadenfreude.

Adrian Furnham

Research and policy

For some, no doubt, the dreary world of research and the near obsessive activity of drawing up public policy are equally boring. The image of those engaged in these two different worlds is equally unappealing: the inadequate, otherworldly scientist and the pedestrian, inflexible bureaucrat.

Adrian Furnham

Six of the best

There is no shortage of advice on what qualities to look for when selecting or promoting (but interestingly not when sacking) individuals. Books, newspapers, and magazine writers dispense recommendations and wisdom. So do consultants, but people seem more and more weary and wary of those spoiled brats of the business world.

Adrian Furnham

Space exploration

It has become fashionable to explain much of human behavior, even at work, in terms of sociobiology. We are indeed naked apes, whose apparent sophistication and development are paper thin. So much of what we do is governed by cave men needs and concerns.

Adrian Furnham

Succession management

What would happen if the company grown-ups (CEO and the board) were all lethally poisoned at one of their many “awayday” jaunts at a nice hotel? Would the share price rise or fall? Would there be rejoicing in the canteen and on the shop floor? Would anyone notice?

Adrian Furnham

Suing screeners and selectors

Compensation claims and “ambulance chasing” lawyers have made the business of selection a nightmare. In America, the bottom has fallen out of the intelligence-testing market as a result of actual or threatened lawsuits, because the tests apparently discriminate against blacks.

Adrian Furnham

Troubadours, minstrels, and gurus

Politicians, CEOs, and academics often have a better life after they have been “let go” than at the helm. The unreelected politician, the dismissed CEO, and the retired don, if wise, lucky, and with a sufficiently high profile, can easily enter the lecture circuit.

Adrian Furnham

The value of experience

Those who can do; those who can’t teach; those who can’t teach, teach teachers; and those who can’t teach teachers become educational psychologists.

Adrian Furnham

Victims of the future

Some politically correct people have banished the word “victim”. We are not allowed to say victims of Aids or victims of alcoholism anymore although we may be able to whisper “sotto voce” that some are victims of a train crash.

Adrian Furnham

What to do when the axeman cometh

Downsizing, right sizing, capsizing are, alas, all the rage. Consultants advise it; shareholders welcome it; managers do it. They lay off staff. With all the heroic talk of being lean and mean, the occasional headcount cull is thought of as a highly desirable survival strategy.

Adrian Furnham

Whistle-blowers

Whistle-blowers: courageous guardians of truth and freedom, or spiteful and vengeful squealers with their own agenda?

Adrian Furnham

Who is your tribe?

Anthropologists call them tribes; epidemiologists cohorts; and educationalists the Class of … We are all Children of our Time: shaped by the prevailing values and conditions of our early formative years.

Adrian Furnham

Why do an attitude survey?

Climate indicators, morale audits, satisfaction surveys: they have always been popular with HR professionals and consultants. They purport to assess crucial employee attitudes and how employees are thinking and feeling. They are, it is asserted, a critical management tool: a dipstick, a feedback mechanism and, more importantly, a diagnostic of what should be done and when.

Adrian Furnham

Work-life balance is for wimps

Work-life balance (WLB) is a big issue. Woe (and that may mean litigation) betide the senior manager who does not pay at least lip service to this idea.

Adrian Furnham

Working from home

Work is not a place you go to: it is something you do. But you don’t have to be a self-interested architect, designer or office furniture manufacturer to realize that where you work is really important to your health, happiness, and productivity.

Adrian Furnham

Workplace romantic relationships

How should the corporation cope with corporate cupid? Is sex at work (attraction in organizations, office romances, intimacy at work, co-worker affairs) a matter for HR policy? Can, or indeed should, one try to legislate matters of the heart or hormones? Should romance or affairs be dealt with in an open, adult way or made taboo?

Adrian Furnham

Conclusion

Is it more difficult managing today compared with say 50 years ago? Nearly everyone believes that business life has become more complex, more risky, more stressful. The past looks so safe, so secure, so simple.

Adrian Furnham
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