The “new normal” changes everything in traditional personality assessment – and more.

Human life in the "new normal" of social distancing. Is psychology keeping up?

Who’s the extravert now, in our "new normal"? The individual making 100 phone calls a day (including to their mother) but works and mostly stays in their relatively isolated space in compliance with CDC guidance during this pandemic? Or the people protesting for social justice -- most peacefully, some not – with or without masks, but definitely “out” in physically social groups?

{Note: It’s regrettable that we’ve somehow confused “social” with “proximal” in coining and using the term, “social distancing.” Uncertainty is largely managed by being social but being social isn’t necessarily about “huddling” or “cuddling” – important, though they may be. “Physical spacing” would be a more appropriate term to reflect how this virus operates without implying that it should cause us to be “farther” apart in social vs. physical ways.}

Similarly, is a prolific online social media user an extravert, or something else? Does being “agreeable” (or perhaps more evidentially, “disagreeable”) in person look the same online as in a room with others? One thing’s for sure: The “new normal” in which we live in (hi Paul, if you’re reading) changes everything in traditional personality assessment.

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Why picky selection is even more important when pickins are slim

Duck, duck, goose: be careful with selection

We’ve been here before. In the late 90s the demand for technical talent was so great that organizations engaged in bidding wars simply to stay in business. Dubbed the War for Talent, management experts warned about the perils of relaxing standards for the selection of talent at such time as when organizations were in the most need. For most, it was too late.

Fierce negotiations and skyrocketing compensation packages were the talent-based equivalent of surging petrol prices during the great oil embargo of the 70s. For some, no amount of money could buy the talent so desperately needed. They were stuck with what they had - and what they didn’t.

Here we go again.

With unemployment rates at historic lows, organizations once again find themselves confronted by the fool’s choice: bad (or, expensive) talent or no talent? (Ironic, isn’t it, that the same organization that matches employees’ contributions to retirement plans and maintains a succession plan for top executives with two “ready” candidates, finds itself overspent and understaffed on talent?)

From a safe distance we can see the folly of hiring at a time of dire need, just like we can see the wisdom of contributing to a compounding savings fund for future financial needs. Nevertheless, the firestorm of desperation hiring burns the fuel for future growth. I see it all the time: buying at the peak of the market and selling at the first sign of a lull.

Regardless of how we got here, we must face reality. Hires must be made. Sticking with reality, that hire is going to cost you more, now that you need them, than they would’ve when you didn’t {seem to} need them so desperately. You have a choice, pay big bucks for some body or paying big bucks for the right body. The difference between the two hangs on the rigor of your hiring practice. Do you have the skill to assess talent well? Do you have the discipline to select only the well qualified?

Selection using proper psychological assessment is like pan-seared salmon; it’s both rare and well done.

Some will claim that I’m out of touch with what really happens on the streets of Poughkeepsie. After all, I am at that “safe distance” from the action. Don’t I know about fundamental economic principles of supply and demand? Don’t I understand the lunacy of forgoing business for lack of workers?

Actually, I do. And it’s still wrong to relax hiring practices or standards – especially when desperate for employees.

Desperation is a symptom, not the cause. When an organization finds itself desperate for employees, for any reason, whether surging sales or shrinking productivity, it’s the result of poor talent management and planning. The organization isn’t ready. And when an organization isn’t ready, it’s missing out on profits. Economics 101.

You don’t have time for bad firemen when Rome is burning.

But here’s why a bad hire in bad markets (sales or labor) is worse than the same hire in kinder markets. You don’t have time for bad firemen when Rome is burning. Moreover, the damage of retaining a bad hire can be seemingly apocalyptic.

Hiring talent is like a setting fishhook; it’s easy to put in but difficult to yank out.

I’ve made my case for “front end” selection, but dealing with the “back end” of desperation hiring is worse. Hiring talent is like a setting fishhook; it’s easy to put in but difficult to yank out. And it creates considerable collateral damage. A bad hire is lame at best; lethal at worst. And that doesn’t include the joys of their removal.

Two large-scale studies I did in an organization comprised of multi-unit restaurants revealed convergent results. The first found that 50% of all employees that quit did so due to their "brow beating, denigrating, micro-managing boss." {My words to approximate the emotional translation} Even if this number is inflated by sore quitters taking a free jab at their boss, it still dwarfs any other reason given for quitting, including pay and promotion opportunity. The second study found that using a validated personality test successfully predicted which new hire restaurant managers became high producers (i.e., greater sales) and better leaders (i.e., well run, low employee turnover).

But there is a limitation in my research. While the results suggest that good leaders get good results and have low team defection, the story may be more truthful centering on bad leaders that get bad results and have high team defection. Either way you look at it the results are in the same ballpark. It is possible that the bad managers pull the lion's share of the results of this study, thus lending stronger support to my argument against hiring questionable talent.

At the end of the day, you have a decision to make. It would be a mistake not to have good selection.

Psychways is owned and produced by Talentlift, LLC.

A good mood is better than being happy

Cheerleader jumping high in the air to raise crowd's mood

Whether you’re at work designing plastic wrap that never wrinkles or at home washing dishes after the family reunion, your mood matters. I’m not talking about the obvious pleasure of a “good mood.” Your mood is WAY more powerful, more than you think.*

You probably know this. “I’m not in the mood right now.” Sound familiar? Sure it does. But I bet you’ve never heard it at work. Telling your boss that you can’t send out that customer email because you’re “not in the mood,” wouldn’t go over very well, would it?

Maybe it should.

Inspiration is more important than direction.

Creating a positive mood for your employees actually WOULD make them “work smarter, not harder.”

Inspiration is more important than direction. But which do you think there’s more of in the average workplace? Which do you do more? (If you answer, “inspiration,” ask one of your co-workers to tell you the truth.)

Excitement (i.e., inspiration) is magic. It stimulates creativity. Individuals are more than twice as innovative when they receive a good report (vs. a bad report) prior to a test of creativity. It even makes people smarter. Another study showed that by inducing excitement prior to a difficult math test, scores increased 8%. (If that sounds trivial to you, I’ll be happy to manage your money.)

Home teams have an advantage in sports. Gaming apps sell more than productivity apps. Advertisements feature smiling models and red sports-cars on the open road. (Ever wonder why there’s NEVER any traffic? It makes you anxious.)

Work.

Just the word makes you sigh. Know why? Because work causes anxiety, “I’ve got no time…” and sacks excitement, “I get to do it again?”

Warning: The following content contains explicit language and adult content. (Now I know you’ll keep reading.)

Sex sells. Need I say more?

You can open your eyes now. No joke. Open your eyes to see why approximately 87% of employees are less than engaged. (If you’re reading this while you’re at work, count yourself among the 87/100.)

Work isn’t exciting – at least not for 87% of all workers surveyed by Gallup. As a result, the biggest waste in any organization is what people don’t do that they could.

If excitement is magic, fear is poison.

Want to see someone work hard but get nothing done? (No, but I’m making a point here.) Make them scared. A study showed that by inducing fear, activity that was once fun and frequent, stops.

Fear, stress, anxiety, burnout, frustration, etc. They’re all bad and all related to lost productivity, a lack of creativity, unethical behavior and even physiological health.

Once again, you probably aren’t surprised.

So why do you over-instruct, or worse, take over when someone isn’t doing their job perfectly? (i.e., micro-manage) Why do you keep others working even when they’re on vacation? (“Smart” phones? Give me a break — literally.) These well-intended, but imposing behaviors are so prevalent they’re probably an instinct. (BTW: Telling someone to “calm down” actually makes them MORE anxious.)

If excitement is magic, fear is poison. It stifles good behavior, stimulates bad behavior and absolutely crushes creativity to dust.

Piling on the facts, the flames of fear can be lit in an instant but can take forever to put out.

In summary:

  1. Excitement improves productivity, intellect and innovation.
  2. Fear extinguishes productivity, intellect and innovation.
  3. The benefit/detriment of excitement vs. fear WILL transform an organization.

Key question:

What do you do to stimulate people’s excitement at work?

If you don’t see this as your job, it very well could mean your job. (Hope I didn’t scare you.)

Note: In a related post, I describe a simple task to create positive moods.

Psychways is owned and produced by Talentlift, LLC.