The relationship between language and the way we think and behave



Hey everyone,

While browsing the Internet the other day, I came across this really interesting article on TEDtalk about how our language shapes the way we think and behave.

There a five examples that show us how our language can have an effect on how we think and behave:

The first example is about an Australian Aboriginal community. Here, the people do not differentiate between left or right as we (German or English speakers) do but they refer to objects as being north, south, east or west. What is remarkable is that researchers found that these people have a much better sense of direction and instinctively know in which direction they are facing compared to English or German speakers. The second example is about how we refer to certain incidents. In English, you would often say that someone broke something even if it happened by accident. In Japanese, however, you would indicate that it was an accident by pointing out that the object broke itself. The implication of this is that for example, in English speaking countries, the judicial system is focused more on punishing offenders rather than helping victims. The third example is related to the description of colors. In Russia, people have a much better sense for varying shades of a color than in English speaking countries. This is due to the fact that in the Russian language, there are more distinct words for these shades such as light blue or dark blue, whereas in English, there is only the word: blue. The fourth example revolves around languages that denote gender and those that do not. Finnish does not mark gender at all whereas Hebrew does in all cases. Researchers found that children growing up surrounded by Hebrew were aware of their own gender one year earlier than their cohort growing up in an English-speaking environment. The last example might have more economical implications and is related to future-oriented and present-oriented languages such as English (the first) and Chinese (the latter). As Chinese do not use different phrasing to refer to something that happens today or tomorrow as opposed to English speakers, Chinese are more likely to save money for the future. People prefer consumption now rather than later in the future but for Chinese speakers this future feels closer due to how they refer to it. Therefore, they are more likely to save. (TED Blog, 2013).

As we see here, the language we speak and grow up in has a substantial impact on our thinking patterns and the way we behave. I can imagine that these effects can be extended to organizational behavior as well. Last session we talked about resilience and how it can be fostered and how an individual or group can bounce back from traumatic events such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I think that the language we speak can also have an impact to what extend people are resilient and how they deal with difficult situations. For example, in class we found that in order to improve resilience, people should allow the expression of feelings. If language already incorporates such expressions of feelings through certain adaptations of verbs or prepositions for example, people that speak this language might be able to bounce back from traumatic events more easily. Another link that could be drawn to organizational behavior is through motivation. I can imagine that languages also have an impact on the way people can be motivated. Due to their native language they might perceive incentives, feedback and rewards differently. Managers, aware of these differences in perceptions, can tap on these. Thereby, motivation can be custom-fit to match exactly the respective employee’s desires/hopes/expectations etc. (in general, the things that motivate them).

These are just a few ideas from my part. I would like to know what you think about this topic and what other connecting points you might see 🙂

See you in class!


P.S.: Here’s a video of Keith Chen talking about how our language affects our saving behavior. Enjoy!




TED Blog, 2013:




Can leaders be trained to become transformational leaders?

Can transformational leadership be trained?

Can leaders be taught and if so, can people also be trained to become transformational leaders?

Our discussion in class about the question if leadership originates from inborn traits or learnt behaviors triggered my interest.

Of course, there are great examples out there of natural leaders that did not pursue a business degree for example, even dropped out of college and where able to build up great businesses, such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates for example. Nevertheless, I firmly do believe that leadership can be learned and that we are able to acquire leadership skills in the course of our lives.

I stumbled upon a blog by Bill Cushard (CLO from Knowland group) about leadership and the question whether it can be learned.  He argues and I agree that people can be trained in leadership, but that there is a big difference between people that have the longing to be a good leader and would go to great length to seize every opportunity to learn and improve their skills and others that don’t ( Maybe the example might seem farfetched, but he compares learning leadership with learning to play an instrument. Some children have the craving to be good and practice voluntarily to improve their skills, while others are forced by their parents, just like managers that are compelled by their company to pursue training in how to lead people. Maybe companies really have to pay more attention to develop those that have an inner desire to be a good leader? But then again company policy might impede this approach. But let’s not go into this.

What I was really interested in was if even transformational leadership skills can be acquired and how. Kelloway and Barling (200) affirm this question and present a field experiment that involved 20 bank managers. The branch managers were allotted to either to experimental or control groups. The first group received a workshop about transformational leadership that was 1 day long, followed by feedback sessions, the second group received only a half-hour counseling, the third group a combination of both and the control group did not receive any advice. Kelloway and Barling found out that managers that took part in either the training session or the short counseling session were perceived as more positive and consequently transformational leaders by their employees (employees were asked after 3-4 months). Managers that were provided with the workshop, as well as the counseling did not differ from groups 1 and 2 and the managers in the control group received much lower scores from their subordinates. Kelloway and Barling argued that there was no difference between receiving training or short counseling, because the process involved leaders formulating goals for themselves and then applying them. The goals were smart (specific, measurable, etc.) and what is more important the goals aimed at changing a behavior gradually and practices that could be maintained (exercised every day for a longer period of time) (Kelloway and Barling, 2000, p.359). That is why managers were encouraged to only pursue up to 5 goals at the same time. Consecutive feedback months after the training and the counseling proved to be very valuable to the managers. So how did managers change their behaviour? Examples were for example, reserving time in their agendas to wander around and engage in conversations with their subordinates in order to provoke individualized consideration. Intellectual stimulation could be enhanced by involving the employee in decision-making and asking for his opinion or approach to problems, etc. (Kelloway and Barlin, p.359). What was striking to me was that managers that were perceived to be natural transformational leaders and interviewed about their leadership style, apparently learned how to handle people by observing their parents in raising and guiding them through adolescence (Kelloway and Barlin, p. 360). This finding confirms the contention that leadership skills are not necessarily innate, but can be acquired through intentional training or observation of others.

Another more recent study that confirms that transformational leadership can be learned is the one by Parry and Sinha (2005). Parry and Sinha argue that training improved the perception of leaders exhibiting transformational leadership features, as well as an associated increase of subordinates efforts, but that the key to changing ones leadership style were the draft of an action plan with realistic targets, repeated practice, as well as feedback session in form of 360 degree analyses previous to, as well as after the instruction itself (Parry and Sinha, 2005, p. 179).

As both articles show, transformational leadership can be learned and those managers that are committed and willing to practice regularly can achieve changes in their current behaviour, as well as induce a more engaged workforce.

Kelloway K., and Barling J. (2000). What we have learned about developing transformational leaders. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 21 (7), p. 355-362.

Parry, K. and Sinha, P. (2005). Researching the Trainability of Transformational Organizational Leadership. Human Resource Development International, 8 (2), p. 165-183.

The Lack of Female Leadership: A Question of Ability?

Women currently hold less than 5% of CEO positions in companies which appear on the Fortune 1000 lists (Catalyst, 2014). Women chair just 12% of all UK higher-education governing bodies and lead 17% of UK institutions as vice-chancellors, says a study (Jarboe, 2013). Of the 100 FTSE companies, only two are led by women (Cooper, 2012).  In a more local context, women in Singapore make up just 3.5% of chair positions, with the construction industry having the highest level of female representation at 10% (Zolkifi, 2012). The dearth of females in leadership position is as real as it is puzzling.

This leads to the question of whether women are less likely to be effective leaders  than men. Could leadership theories explain this disparity? Here, I examine Trait leadership models, which seem to imply that leadership effectiveness is inherently decided (and thus explain if women or men are ‘naturally’ better leaders), as well as Contingency and Behavioural Theories, which support the idea that it is the leadership style and the circumstances which matter (and therefore imply that for some reason, men are better trained/adapted to be leaders).

This disparity between female and male representation in leadership positions could perhaps be explained by leadership trait theories. Some of the Big Five personality traits do have links with how likely potential leaders emerge and are recognized (Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002). More specifically, extraversion helps because leaders generally like being around people and are assertive; conscientiousness allows them to be disciplined and keep to commitments; openness implies that they are creative and flexible. Somewhat surprisingly, there is no clear relationship between gender and extraversion (Rubinstein, 2004), or between gender and openness (Feingold, 1994). Similarly, Men and women appear to differ little on either specific aspects of Conscientiousness (encompassing such qualities as diligence, self-discipline, orderliness, and goal-orientation) or the sub-dimensions it comprises (Costa, Terracciano, & McCrae, 2001). On the other hand, higher levels of emotional intelligence have also been linked with better leaders because it implies that emotionally intelligent leaders can better sense others’ needs and listen to what followers say (or don’t say) (Robbins & Judge, 2012). It is in this aspect that women generally score higher than men (Fernández-Berrocal, Cabello, Castillo, & Extremera, 2012), which makes it all the more confusing because trait theories indicate that women could possibly make better leaders.

Behavioural theories suggest that the effectiveness of leaders depends on their behaviour, implying that good leaders can be trained. Prominent behavioral theories include those espoused by the Ohio State University (Initiating structure vs Consideration) and the University of Michigan (employee/relationship-oriented vs production/task-oriented).  The question is thus: Do men and women exhibit different leadership behaviour?  It would seem as if women are more likely to be democratic and participative than their male counterparts, while male leaders tend to be more top-down and authoritative (Eagly & Johnson, 1990). Women are thus more likely to be employee or relationship-oriented, displaying more consideration towards employees.

Whether these differing leadership styles actually make a impact on the effectiveness of leaders would depend on the situation, as espoused by Contingency theories. Contingency theories such as the Situational Leadership Theory, the Path-Goal theory, and the Leader-Participation Model have received little empirical support (Robbins & Judge, 2012) ,  while the logic behind Fiedler’s Least Preferred Co-worker model is not well-understood. In any case, evidence does not point to men or women being generally better leaders based on their leadership styles (democratic vs top-down) (Foels, Driskell, Mullen, & Salas, 2009), and depending on the circumstances, a middle-ground approach between these two are likely to be the most effective (Ames & Flynn, 2007).

In light of the above discussion, it would seem as if there is little evidence that men are better leaders than women – if anything, the opposite seems to be true. Some evidence has pointed to the idea that women are better transformational leaders (Eagly & Johnson, 1990), and this is an important and interesting topic I could not look into given the length constraint of this blog post. The answer to why there are more male leaders than women in various industries, then, has to lie in other factors besides a question of ability. In this video, Sheryl Sandberg, then COO of Facebook, gives her own take on this issue.


Works cited:

Ames, D., & Flynn, F. (2007). What Breaks a Leader: The Curvilinear Relation Between Assertiveness and Leadership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 307-324.

Catalyst. (2014, January 15). Women CEOs of the Fortune 1000. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from

Cooper, R. (2012, October 26). The two women left running FTSE 100 companies. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from The Telegraph:

Costa, P., Terracciano, A., & McCrae, R. (2001). Gender Differences in Personality Traits Across Cultures: Robust and Surprising Findings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 322-331.

Eagly, A., & Johnson, B. (1990). Gender and Leadership Style: A Meta-Analysis. Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention.

Feingold, A. (1994). Gender Differences in Personality: A Meta-Analysis. American Psychological Association.

Fernández-Berrocal, P., Cabello, R., Castillo, R., & Extremera, N. (2012). Gender differences in emotional intelligence: The mediating effect of age. Malaga: University of Malaga.

Foels, R., Driskell, J., Mullen, B., & Salas, E. (2009). The Effects of Democratic Leadership on Group Member Satisfaction: An Integration. New York: SAGE Publications.

Jarboe, N. (2013). Lack of female leaders. Nature , 473.

Judge, T., Bono, J., Ilies, R., & Gerhardt, M. (2002). Personality and Leadership: A Qualitative and Quantitative Review. American Psychological Association, Inc.

Robbins, S., & Judge, T. (2012). Organizational Behavior (15th Edition). Prentice Hall.

Rubinstein, G. (2004). The big five among male and female students of different faculties. Tel-Aviv: School of Behavioral Sciences, Netanya Academic College.

Zolkifi, S. (2012). Singapore’s Women Pick Up The Pace. Human Resources Online.

Stress and performance!


As students, we are already affected by stress: during the exam period, before a presentation or in a rush for writing papers. This kind of situations also occurs in work life. Does this stress generally increase or decrease our performances? According to me, the answer depends on the task, the person and the level of stress. In this article, I will give you my analysis according to my personal experiences, some research and also the class discussion we had after the “expert of the day” presentation.


The task :


From my point of view, the task has an impact on this phenomenon. For some tasks, the stress will definitely increase our performances, but for other tasks, it is not the case at all. To illustrate my point of view, I will give you two examples in sports. Let us compare the situation in rugby and in rifle shooting.

  • During a rugby game, the stress (limited of course) will generally give you an advantage by accelerating your heart beat, providing you with adrenaline and allowing you to have a stronger physical impact on your opponent.


  • During a rifle shooting competition, you definitely have to avoid stress as much as possible. This sport requires precision and an increased heart beat definitely has a bad impact on your performance because you normally have to shoot between two beats.



These simple examples show that the effect of stress on our performances is directly linked to the task that we have to achieve.

The person

Everybody is different, that’s why human behavior is not an exact science. Keeping that in mind, it is impossible to speak about the effect of stress without speaking about the differences between people.

It is clear that stress has a different impact on different people. We all know people who are not stress-resistant at all, or others who work better under pressure. At work, at university or in sports, to manage your stress and be able to use it as a strength is definitely one of the most useful things you can do. Some research show that this ability can

be genetic, but it is still possible to improve your stress resistance. A simple example is how some people under perform or over perform during an exam only because of the stress.


The level of stress

It is obvious that stress can have a positive effect only when it is limited.  Beyond a certain level of stress, the effect is definitely bad (health problems, burnout…).  A lot of studies are done to define what the limit of positive stress is.

As we can see on the graph below, we can divide stress in tw

o different kinds: good stress and distress. We can also see that, even if we are not in our comfort zone, stress can have a positive impact; it means that being out of our comfort zone can help us to over perform. But the limit between this zone and the distress zone is hard to find.






To conclude, I would say the effect of stress on performance is not easy to quantify and is undetermined. From an organizational point of view, managing stress can be useful for the manager in different ways:

  • By pushing your employees just beyond their comfort zone, you can improve their performance.
  • By being aware that this theory cannot be used in the same way for all kinds of jobs
  • By keeping in mind during the recruitment process that stress resistance is a really important parameter for increasing employees’ performance.

Sources :

Leader-Member Exchange (LMX)

Theory Leader-Member Exchange Theory, as we have discussed in class, proposes the benefits of leader categorizing the members into the in-groups and the out-groups. The advantages suggested include “higher performance ratings, less turnover, and greater job satisfaction” and even the display of organizational citizenship behavior by the in-groups. However, such categorization does not come without cost, and little is discussed on the drawbacks of this theory. Hence, I shall attempt to discuss more of the disadvantages which leader should be aware of so that the theory may be applied with greater cautions.


From what we have learnt, it is not clear how categorization is done. However, it is noted that the leader and in-group members have similar “demographic, attitude, and personality characteristics” and the in-group members is more competent than the out-group members.

While the way in which the leader categorized the members seems to be as inevitable and instinctive as how one would befriend and trust another with a common background, and seems necessary due to “time pressures”, it can also be irrational and stereotypical to consciously or subconsciously exclude members who are demographically different. From Chapter 2 of the textbook, we have learnt that surface-level diversity can be outweighed by the deep-level similarities and surface-level similarities can also be outweighed by deep-level differences. Hence, those whom the leader quickly categorized into the out-groups may actually be a better working partners or be more trustworthy than their counterparts.

How about deep-level differences like “personality characteristics”, “attitude” and “level of competence”? The categorization of members according to such factors is less superficial and seems to be more reasonable. This is because leader now looks beyond the surfaces but takes the effort and time to observe the deeper characteristics of the members before they are being categorized accordingly. Besides, such factors seem to have a greater impact as well as correlation to their reliability as well as job productivity in a team. However, certain differences may be valued as a complement. For example, members who are highly agreeable may be preferred by a leader who is not as such personality characteristics of the members may allow leader to facilitate changes in the team more efficiently.

Therefore, similarities between leader and members does not necessarily translate to team effectiveness. In fact, team effectiveness is dependent on other factors such as specific goals, allocation of roles, and performance evaluation and reward systems. Moreover, diversity is one of the factors that decide the success of a team.


On top of the problem with how the members are categorized, the differences in treatment by the leader or rather the inferior treatment towards the out-group members may have an effect that neutralize the positive ones displayed by the in-group members. Because of the uneven or discriminatory treatment, the out-group members would react according to the equity theory. From a more pessimistic perspective, the out-group members could simply put in less effort into their work in an attempt to establish equity. And, this could be the reason for the undesirable work attitude of the out-group members as seen from a study in Turkey.


Despite the benefit LMX theory may offer, it is necessary for the leader to be more conscious and objective about how categorization is made such that it suits the needs of the team and scarce resources may be more efficiently allocated to the right members. With regard to the issue of equity, leader may need to be more subtle about the difference in his or her interaction with the members so that the out-group members may not feel discriminated. Furthermore, leader may even consider renewing his or her ties with the out-group member and offer training to the out-group members as suggested here. As a result, the negative impacts as mentioned earlier may be mitigated or even avoided while the leader attempts to reap the benefits of the application of the LMX theory.

Handling Office Politics Effectively

Organizational politics – the term alone has negative connotations, and it is essentially the focus on the use of power to affect decision making in an organization or on self-serving behaviours. However, in today’s workplace, it is impossible to avoid office politics entirely. Politics means humans and humans means politics. Therefore, it is important to understand how to maneuver the complicated webs of professional relationships and power distances in the workplace.

1. Understand Decision Making in the Workplace

It has been proven that political relationships are moderated by an individual’s understanding of the decision making and organizational structure within the workplace. An individual who has  a clear understanding of who is responsible for making decisions and why they were selected to be the decision makers would have a better understanding of how and why things happen they way they do better than someone who does not understand the decision making process in the organization. When both politics and understanding are high, one’s job performance is likely to increase.

Therefore, it is important to examine and come up with your own organizational chart of political power by asking yourself questions such as – Who are the real influencers? Are there groups or cliques that have formed? and then subsequently study the work culture and determine the atmosphere at work. It is found that organizations with high uncertainty, such as having unclear objectives, vague performance measures and ambiguity, such as unclear hierarchical communication flows or lines of authority, would have employees which are more likely to engage in organizational politics, since a fraudulent claim can be less easily challenged.

Hence, one would need to determine the work culture, favoured behaviours and status symbols which are valued in the workplace in order to manage organizational politics effectively.

2. Build Relationships and Allies

Subsequently, it is necessary to build relationships that cross the hierarchical structure in all directions, such as networking between peers, bosses and executives below you. By being part of multiple networks but yet remaining neutral, one would be able to keep one’s finger on the pulse and insider news within the organization.

One can also practice ingratiation, which is a psychological technique in which an individual tries to become more likeable to their target. One can engage in genuine flattery through expressing admiration and respect for one’s superiors, self-conformity by agreeing with the opinions of one’s colleagues and showing that one shares similar beliefs and values, self-presentation in which the one emphasizes their own attributes in order to be seen positively in the eyes of others, and finally and favour doing, by providing support and help when needed to others. Favor doing may also help to generate reciprocity in the future.

All these techniques will ultimately help an individual in gaining likeability between his colleagues and superiors, thereby building more allies.

3. Neutralize Negative Behaviors and Understand “Difficult” People

Finally, it is necessary to get to know people whom you may dislike and maintain a professional relationship with them. One can be courteous to these people, and at the same time understand their motivations and goals, so that one would be able to effectively avoid or counter the impact of negative policking behavior engaged by some of these people.

Therefore, it is important to know how to manage office politics as a means to maximize job gains in the workplace and also to prevent those who are less capable than you in managing you. This will also  increase job satisfaction by decreasing the job anxiety and stress associated typically in trying to manage office politics.


Office Politics: Must you play? A handbook for success. Connor, Cheryl, 2013. Last accessed 30 March.

Organizational Behaviour, Ronnis, Stephen and Judge, Timothy.

Dealing with Office Politics, Anon, 2013. Last accessed 2 April.

Manager’s guide to company culture

What is company culture and what is the purpose of it? Is it beneficial or malign and can it actively be altered? Prior to my studies I worked at a large corporation in Sweden, but I was a substitute visiting numerous different offices. Even though all offices were a part of the same company, the way work was done was different due to the local culture at the different offices. Some local leaders had managed to create a fun and caring culture that raised work morale and made everyone more productive. As I have experienced how great the influence of company culture is for the motivation and productiveness of the individual worker, this post will explore company culture and how to use it to improve your business.

The definition of company culture is ”the shared values and practices of the company’s employees”(F. John Reh, n.d.). Top management often tries to steer the direction of the company culture by creating a vision, core values or a set of principles often called a code of conduct. Even though these measures are enacted, actievly managing the culture is very difficult from the perspective of the top management. If we look at a local office seperated from the head quarters, a new subculture often emerges in the particular office. One way to look at it would be to say that the code of conducts and company values constitute the ”offical” company culture whereas the ”inofficial” culture is made up of how individuals and leaders behave at the that specific workplace.

As mentioned before, the culture at your workplace is vital for the satisfaction and the effectiveness of the individual worker. If you as an individual do not feel in tune with the values and practices of your colleagues, you will certaintly feel alienated and be less productive. In addition, having a company culture that fosters innovation and communication as google (Google about us, n.d.) can be very beneficial for the company. In fact, the company culture is vital for google, as they use it as a tool to attract new talents and create new ideas, which lie at the heart of the company.

So how does one create a company culture that will suit the needs of the company? A vision, core company values and a code of conduct should be established. If properly advertised internally in the firm, they could act as an invisible hand guiding all work done. This was the case at my former employer. For example, workers often critizied decisions that they were not happy with by arguing that the decisions did not adhere with the core values of the firm.

However, to effectively penetrate all levels of the company with the desired culture is very difficult with only these value schemes carried out by the top management. To the penetrate all local levels with a coherent culture, the manager has to hire the right type of people. In many ways it is the values and attitudes of the employees that make up the company culture. Usually, attitudes and values can only be altered slightly, thus the manager has to hire workers that already possess the desired values and attitudes. For instance, if the company seeks an innovative culture, they should hire people that are risk takers and open minded. In addition, it is especially critical to pay attention to the qualities of your leaders, as leaders act as role model for all other other employees.

The question that naturally follows from the above discussion is how to attract the employees with the right values that will create the desired company culture. One solution is to use employer branding, communicating to the job market that the firm has some set of values. As result, workers that possess those values will naturally apply for positions at the firm.

In conclusion, company culture is vital for the motivation and productiveness of the individual worker as well as for the management and the firm to navigate in its environment. When forming the firm culture, management should carry out measures top down such as creating a vision or a set of company core values. In addition, managers should also pay attention to hiring the right type of employees in regards to attitudes and values. If you have any opinions on the text or any more ideas about how to form and create company culture, feel free to comment below!

Best regards, Alexander Zorn


F. John Reh, (n.d.). Company culture. What is it and how to change it. Retrieved from:

Google, (n.d.). About us, company culture. Retrieved from:

Corporate Social Responsibility: Is it really what it claims to be?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. It is a corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare. It is a term that applies to company efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups to promote positive social and environmental change.

CSR is being used today as a “tool” to recruit, retain, and engage employees. Increasing numbers of young people worldwide aspire for “something more” from a job. People want to work for an organization that “cares about how it impacts and contributes to society” and whose social/environmental activities make them feel loyal to their organization.

CSR and Employee Engagement

There are three different approaches organizations make use of to engage their employees through CSR and each of these three approaches is grounded in a “psychological contract” between a firm and its employees.

1. a transactional approach (versus relational), where programs are undertaken to meet the needs and interests of those employees who want to take part in the socially responsible efforts of a company

2. a relational approach, where an organization and its employees together make a commitment to social responsibility, ceating a socially responsible culture + Improved Organizational Image/Identity

3. a developmental approach, where a company aims to more fully activate and develop its employees and the firm to produce greater value for business and society creating socio-commercial Innovation + Enhanced Impact on Business & Society

Several studies aimed directly on the linkage between CSR and employee engagement have found a strong correlation between employee’s commitment to their organization and how they rate its social responsibility. Employees who approved of their company’s commitments to social responsibility, compared to those who did not approve, were found to be far more engaged on their jobs and more apt to believe that their employers were interested in their well-being. They also had more favorable perceptions of their management’s integrity and rated their companies as more competitive.

While giving back to society through CSR, organizations gain employees’ loyalty at the same time. Win-win situation, it seems. What then contribute to critics’ cynicism towards CSR?

The flip-side: Is CSR really about CSR?

It has been critiqued that CSR is a game that big businesses play. A game by which they talk a great deal about the desires and ambitions to act ethically and responsibly, where they introduce policies and practices for presentation purposes, but in effect, they change little and continue to maximize profit regardless of whether this is at the expense of society and the environment or not.

Do you think that there are any businesses out there that would claim to take social, environmental or ethical issues seriously but, in a stark reversal of what they say they are doing, are actually seeking only to extend their hegemony and self-interest?

I do. And I am not alone.

It was found in a research testing public attitudes to business and business responsibility that there are dramatic increases in cynicism and scepticism towards businesses and the claims they make about their social, environmental or ethical practices.

The problem with teasing these organizations apart is that nearly all the biggest companies in the world now do CSR. And as with all marketing and communications we encounter everyday, it is often impossible to determine where the fact ends and the fantasy begins. It could even be that organizations are implementing CSR only because of the fear of lagging behind their competitors and losing out on possible indirect gains from CSR e.g. employee engagement without actually believing in its purpose.

CSR vs Social enterprises

Social enterprises depend on communicating how they do things differently, how their social purpose is as important as their commercial success. Having a social purpose, having their stakeholders understand and buy in to their social purpose, is what gives social enterprises their competitive edge over mainstream businesses.

Now that the big businesses are increasingly investing in CSR, beneficiaries gain something positive from these efforts, and this is almost in line with goals that social enterprises set out to achieve. Will a company that says it does CSR simply be regarded similarly as a company that says it is a social enterprise? Will that then make life unsustainable for social entrepreneurs and genuine innovators for public good?

CSR and Employee Engagement: Revisited

On one hand, there is a strong correlation between employee’s commitment to their organization and how they rate its social responsibility (depending on their approval of their company’s commitments to social responsibility). On the other, cynicism and scepticism towards businesses and their claims on their practices are increasing.

Even though subjects from these studies do not coincide (at all), there are some questions we can all think through given the results of these studies.

  • Are employees who approve of their company’s commitments fully convinced that their efforts are generating positive gains for beneficiaries or could these employees be supporting these efforts in search of the sense of personal fulfillment they get whenever they do CSR?
  • Could it be that the cynicism people face regarding a company’s practices is secondary to their regard for job prospects at the same company? (Such that they do not mind working for a company that introduces and implements policies and practices for presentation purposes)
  • What about you?

Cheers, Mel





The Art of Resilience

We had a class on resilience a few weeks earlier and that really struck my interest. Hence, I’d like to dig deeper to try to better understand this topic. Wikipedia states psychological resilience as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity [and that] stress and adversity can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial stressors, among others[1]. Trying to better understand resilience in the workplace, I came across an interesting article on Forbes that I’d like to illustrate with my own personal life experience.


Here’s are the big lines of the article[2] with my comments:

1. Get connected

According to the author, Kerry Hannon, it’s very important to develop a strong network of positive relationships. Basically, this network will be there to help you and provide you support when things aren’t going for the best. This point makes a lot of sense to me. In fact, not only making new friends will create a future source of support, but you can also learn the hardships they went through, which will help you put your problems in better perspective.


2. Choose optimism

Needless to say, I think it’s quite obvious that optimism is a better remedy than pessimism against adversity. However, as I personally lived through that, it’s actually quite tough sometime to shift from pessimism to optimism, maybe because of the simple fact that it’s less obvious to think about optimistic things when all the bad things are fresh in your memory. However, I also found that with time, everything becomes neutral. The author suggests keeping a journal to record your feelings and good things. Putting your thoughts into writing will undoubtedly give you a more objective view on your emotions.


3. Learn something new

The author states that the process of learning will change your viewpoint and will make you spot connections you’ve never seen before. Not only do I think it changes my viewpoint, I think that the amazement I get when learning something new also fill myself with positive feelings that might help building resilience.


4. Think like an entrepreneur

Basically, this point is about running your career as a one-person business. The way I see this point is that when you see your job as a business where you’re the sole owner and where your bosses are your clients, this adds a extra sense of responsibility to you. This might also changes an external locus of control to an internal one, where instead of saying “it’s not my problem”, you will say “this IS my problem and I’m going to do everything to make my customers satisfied”.


5. Look at the big picture

This is about looking your career from a long-time perspective (5 year in the case of the article). Also, laying down your vision statement, your values and the key parts of your life is a way to keep your perspective regarding your career crisis, according to the author. From my point of view, no matter what happens, keeping an eye on your final destination will help you keep your focus on the end as much as the means by which you want to achieve your goals.


6. Get in shape

Ms. Hannon states that your career is influenced by everything you do to stay in shape – physically, emotionally and spiritually. However, to be more scientifically accurate, we should recall that regular exercise (which releases endorphins) contributes to:

  • Reduce stress;
  • Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression;
  • Boost of self-esteem;
  • Improve sleep.[3]


I have to admit that it truly feels good after a session of exercise. So, not only does exercise helps fighting adversity but it also helps to prevent against it. My final say: if there’s one thing to keep in mind when facing adversity, it’s the fact that the universe is so huge, no matter how big our problem is, it really isn’t that significant.




The Right Person for the Right Job

A simple Google search tells me everything i need to know to bring to a job interview, the questions I need to ask, the proper etiquette and way to dress.. these things are all about making the right first impression. So does this mean that the better actor usually gets the job?

Looking back, one of the more memorable cases that we did in OB was about the Heroes of the Taj. In particular, how its recruitment process of their service staff looked for 3 main criteria: Respect for Elders (how a person treats another, especially those with seniority), Cheerfulness (how positive a person is), and Neediness (how badly does his family need the income). In this day and age, where we strive to get our degrees, sometimes its so easy to forget about the more important things when hiring people. We assess qualifications, competency, leadership potential, cognitive ability but overlook the fundamental qualities that make a person pleasant to work with – after all, you’re basically choosing somebody to join your “family” and be a representation of it. In other words, the things you look out for in an employee, are the things customers are going to see in your employee.

I think the most impressive criteria of the 3 is actually the job candidate’s “neediness”. This goes beyond a logical understanding of “how can this employee benefit my company” to “how can my company benefit this employee”, and it really fosters a culture of gratefulness, which is why many of the employees have worked there for several decades, because to them the Taj really rescued them from the slums of poverty.

Another equally compelling school of thought is to hire people based on who you want them to be, not who they are right now. While this is generally difficult to look out for, we can learn from Spitfire Group’s approach to hiring people. After working with the Army’s Special Forces, they were really impressed and decided they wanted people like that on their team. So they started hiring people the same way the Army’s Special Forces recruits. As a technology solutions team, they wanted their people to exhibit the same qualities these men had, so they looked out specifically for people with courage, perseverance, and service over self – in an industry that does not exactly require such traits.

Spitfire’s Unique Hiring Criteria

At the avant-garde of unique hiring processes, Google has been known to look for people who are creative, excitable, radical yet different from each other. This way they are able to obtain a diverse workforce who offer different approaches to solving a particular puzzle. At the end of the day, you don’t want everyone to be too alike or else innovation may be stifled.

Skeptics may say its easy to fake these things in a job interview if you manage to find out what they want, but with sufficient experience of actively looking for the key qualities that matter, managers can begin to be a better judge of a person’s character. So perhaps little by little, if every manager starts adopting their own radical hiring criterion of what matters in their industry, then maybe we can finally start fitting the right people to the right jobs. Maybe society would start placing less emphasis on education level and job experience, and start looking more at a person’s character development. So, you want to be a doctor? Here sign up for some Compassion1001. You want to be a Lawyer? Try out that module on Lying3301 Persuasion3301. After all, who really remembers what we learn in school, eh?