Motivation depends on financial stability…

Organizations have always been interested in finding what motivates employees, in particular money as a motivator. In one of the sessions, the class mentioned the fact that money is not as good a motivator as appreciation. The videos of the talks by Pink and Ariely re-emphasized the fact that money does not motivate employees, but things such as mastery and meaning are better to motivate them. Additionally, it was mentioned that people are more motivated to work hard if their work is acknowledged and appreciated by others. I had to ask myself if money was a motivator for me. To my dismay, the answer was yes. The reason for this might be the fact that I am still a student, and after spending 4 years on a budget, I would want to earn as much as possible. Another reason could be that I have never had such a job where money could be used as a motivator; all my previous work experiences were motivated by the fact that it would make my Curriculum Vitae look better – but then I thought to myself, I wanted a better Curriculum Vita to be able to get a well paying job. Does this not mean that I was, indirectly, motivated by money? I guess I will not be able to find an answer to this question until I start working. I do, however, try to imagine a situation where I am working for a firm where my work is not being appreciated at all. In that scenario, I think I would not be motivated to perform better even if I got paid more. Of course, I could always leave the job and start to search for a better one, but what about an employee who would starve if he or she stops working?

 

All the research and study in the field of motivation is focused on the managerial level, but no one thinks about the lowest level of employees in an organization. Those who work hard to keep the corridors and bathrooms clean. Just think about how many times you actually told a janitor that he or she did a good job and the bathroom was really clean? No one actually appreciates their work at all, even so, that we do not even acknowledge it; we take it for granted, and only think about it when the place is filthy. The only motivation for such employees is money! They work hard day and night so that they can feed their families. They do not think about mastery or meaning, acknowledgement or appreciation, job satisfaction or career progression; all they think about is how can they earn more money. Thus, I argue that motivation is dependent of financial stability. We forget to include them in the “organization” when we study employee behaviour, but the truth is that they are the ones who clean up all the mess we create. They are the ones we tend to ignore, yet they are the ones who provide us with the right conditions to do our job effectively each and every day.

Hop and hop and hop. Job-hopping…

Before you start reading this blog post, could I request everyone to ask themselves these questions:

  • How long do you foresee yourselves to stay with one company?
  • Do you think job-hopping is crucial for career progression?
  • What do you perceive the company you are working (or going to work) at as?

Before reading the case of “The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj” (or rather even before I read this module), my answer to the question above may be very similar to most of the Millennials out there. I didn’t foresee myself to serve a company for more than five years and I did think that job-hopping somewhat leads to career progress (as one would only choose to change to a job with a better prospect). I thought that I might feel attached to my colleagues but not so much to the company.

Most of my friends as well as most of the Millennials share the same view. According to “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers conducted by the Future Workplace, 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. I think this phenomenon is very real. Unlike our parent generation (Gen X) which most of them stay loyal with their company for more than twenty years, we (the Millennials) are constantly changing our jobs. For instance, whenever my friends and I are discussing about our future career path, many think that it would be hard to imagine and almost impossible for them to stay at the same job for more than five years. They explained that the job might become like a routine which is no longer challenging and interesting. They would also wish to explore different jobs when they are young to widen their horizon.

Undeniably, I guess being too realistic also explains why the Millennials choose to change job. Once I heard a story from my friend. She has a friend (A) who was interning at a company during one of the semester break. A was in a dilemma of whether to quit the internship 1 month early, reasoning being A felt that he/she had already learnt everything from the boss and he/she would not learn any new things if he/she continues to stay till the end of the internship. I was rather shocked upon hearing this story. This made me think and wonder, what does the work place mean to that friend A? Is it a place to nurture learning and gain experiment and friendship? Or is it just merely a platform for one to extract knowledge and go? I wonder where that friend A places loyalty and commitment at.

I have no idea of what was A’s final decision. However, if you were A, what will you do?

While job-hopping essentially is not incorrect and is not unethical, it still poses a large challenge to the management of the company. What can company do to retain the talents? I think most importantly the company should build a strong organizational culture. Even though most, if not all companies have their own mission and vision statement, employees are often unable to relate or align their own vision with the company’s vision. Or employees are unable to feel a sense of identity in the company. To solve the first situation, company could hire employees with matching values. For the second situation, it is more complicated and requires the company to organize more company-wide bonding events and to keep reiterating its vision and mission. Vision and mission of the company should be effectively inculcated in every day’s work or interactions.

 

Reference:

Future Workplace LLC (2012). Multiple Generations @ Work. http://futureworkplace.com/wp-content/uploads/MultipleGenAtWork_infographic.pdf. Last accessed on 28 March 2015

Jeanne Merister (2012). Job Hopping Is the ‘New Normal’ for Millennials: Three Ways to Prevent a Human Resource Nightmare. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials-three-ways-to-prevent-a-human-resource-nightmare/. Last accessed on 28 March 2015.


Culture in a flat organization

Organisational culture is a well-researched topic in the field of organisational behaviour and it has been an increasingly growing emphasis on attracting and retaining talents – especially when the company relies heavily on fresh talents to sustain. Typically, there are a number of factors that contribute to company culture and the list usually includes company vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, languages, assumptions beliefs, habits and so on.

Admittedly, not every business is blessed to be able to define a culture right at the start. Many times, the company’s culture ended up being crafted by people at the middle management and make predominant by the people at the executive level. This resulted in a culture that may be toxic with varying experiences across departments set out by the middle management. Over time, the situation is made worse when the self-defined culture become the de facto culture without senior management’s intervention.

However, in a flat organization with no properly laid out structure or hierarchy, it is even more important to enforce the desired culture before it all goes haywire. For example, in a semi hierarchical company, the responsibility almost lies on the middle management if culture is not defined, heavily enforced or influenced by the top management. But for a flat organization with employees working in an open desk with plenty of freedom, it is more likely to see a clash in culture. Naturally the struggle for cultural dominance in a certain business function or department will cause uneasiness amongst the employees.

To set the record straight and to highlight the importance of workplace culture, I strong believe that the following must be written and exhibited by everyone in the company:

Understanding the purpose
Although this can be deceptively simple, it is not enough to simply know the purpose of the company but also understand and prescribe into the purpose of the company. On top of this, it must also be displayed by everyone within the company and align from time to time. Employees should also be empowered to question management’s decision if it does not conform to the purpose of the company – giving them authority to point out any misalignment.

An environment of trust
This can be contradicting when it comes to hiring. For example, management can hire people who are trustworthy but later micro-manage them and roll their eyes whenever they step out to take personal calls. Similarly, I once heard someone defined culture as the amount of scolding you get when you do something wrong. In my opinion, there’s some form of truth to this especially when your direct supervisor do not trust that you are making the right decision even when it means trying out new ideas or experimenting when innovative methods. Similarly, I have also observed that trust is the single most important element in a flat organization since employees usually enjoy more freedom than in a hierarchical structure and would have to account for their own output and contribution as shown in the Netflix culture report. The report highlighted the term “highly aligned, loosely coupled” and emphasised that trust between groups on tactics without previewing or approving each one is the element for groups to move fast and constantly innovate.

Model the behaviour you seek
Nothing says more than showing and doing it in action. If a corporation seeks to shape a culture they sought for, it is best to have the top management demonstrate what is acceptable and at the same time point out the limits and boundaries. For example, if an organization wants to cultivate work-life balance, top management must be able to knock off on time and have policies in place to encourage that behaviour. I personally have seen companies that would turn off their air-conditioning after 7pm to discourage employees from staying in the office. This kind of policy is a good example of soft nudges that can serve as a reminder to comply with the culture code.

Other than the top down approach mentioned above, a way to sustain the culture is to hire the correct people. For example, Zappos, a ecommerce company selling shoes, pride themselves as the happiest company to work for and embrace a flat organization structure where the founder sits at an open desk with the other workers. To ensure that the company attracts the right kind of people, the founder (Tony Hsieh) inserted a question to ask candidates to rank themselves on how weird they are and only hire those who rate themselves more than 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Other than strategically asking questions to determine if the candidates would fit well, Tony also set out a policy to pay employees to quit if they didn’t think they suit the company. All these initiatives are in place to sieve out those who attempt to join the company for the wrong reason and only retain those who truly embrace and manifest the company’s culture.

Lastly, not all cultures are created equally. Although there is definitely no one-size-fit-all template to follow, the above pointers should serve as a guideline for everyone to ponder upon the next time they feel uneasy in a certain situation. That said, I think the best culture should never be forced upon but inspired in every individual within the organisation.

Transformational Leadership – Example of Nelson Mandela

Lately, we have been talking a lot about leadership and which kind of leadership style is the best and most efficient way of leading a company. Since my team and I also prepared the expert of the day session regarding this topic, I want to further elaborate on this topic.

The term “transformational leadership” is often described as the 4 “I’s”. These characteristics are individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation and idealised attributes & behaviours. Describing each term it becomes clear which kind of characteristics a manager should possess. Individual consideration describes managers who act as coaches and advisors to their employees and try to encourage them to reach their goal. Through intellectual stimulation, managers want to animate their employees to be innovative and creative. This is often achieved by the manager challenging the general belief or view of the group. They want to achieve critical thinking. The term inspirational motivation describes managers who motivate their employees to commit to the company’s vision. Last but not least, idealised attributes and behaviours describe managers who act as role models to their employees. Hence, they are trusted and respected as they act in the company’s best interest.

Furthermore, there are five personality traits, which contribute to the likelihood that an individual has the potential to become a transformational leader. These are extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Managers who score high on extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness and low on neuroticism have good chances to become a transformational leader.

 Since all of these descriptions of transformational leadership characteristics are rather theoretic, I want to give a real life example of a transformational leader. I found an interesting article about Nelson Mandela by Paul Schoemaker, which points out why Nelson Mandela definitely was a transformational leader. Thereby, one can see that transformational leaders are not just around in the business world but for example also in politics.

Nelson Mandela’s leading style was characterized through earned authority, authenticity, commitment, mastery of communication and consistency of message. I want to give a few examples of his leadership style to emphasize his outstanding achievements and to show that he possessed character traits of a transformational leader.

For example, he really appreciated the power of symbols. This is illustrated by the fact that he directly visited Betsie Verwoerd, the wife of the “architect of Apartheid”, after he was released from prison. Nelson Mandela was generally known for his brave words, there he said: “I am working now with the same people who threw me into jail, persecuted my wife, hounded my children from one school to the other… and I am one of those who are saying: Let us forget the past, and think of the present.” This shows that he scores high on agreeableness, inspirational motivation and idealised attributes and behaviours.

Another example really emphasizes that Mandela scores high on idealised attributes and behaviours. After 1994 when Mandela became president he already knew a lot of high profile business leaders personally. He often tried to win them to financially support his social projects. A well known example is when he convinced one important manager with a lot of financial resources to donate money for one of his projects. The manager was asked to accompany Mandela to the Eastern Cape. First he tried to cancel the meeting but Mandela insisted on it. Then the manager talked to his financial director to set up a limit of 500,000 Rand, which he would donate for the project. When he arrived at a football stadium in an area which had been completely flooded, 80,000 school children simultaneously bowed to welcome the manager. He probably would not have expected such a welcome and in the end he doubled his donation to 1,000,000 Rand.

These example show that good leadership such as a transformational leader is needed everywhere in the world. With his highly earned authority and respect, Mandela could positively influence other people, such as the business manger, to do good things and to set an example of making the world a better place.

References:
Article by Paul Schoemaker
http://www.inc.com/paul-schoemaker/what-made-mandela-a-transformational-leader.html

Organizational culture and the Taj

In this blog, I want to reflect upon organizational culture with the specific case of the Taj (hotel) in mind. The focus is on the culture within an organization. An organizational culture is the combination of many factors. For example songs, dress code, how people behave and interact with each other, language and so on. Everything in an organization affects and is affected by organizational culture.

One definition of organizational culture is “the set of value, norms, guiding beliefs and understandings that is shared by members of an organization, and is taught to new members.” In my opinion, this definition is quite vague and broad, but the truth is that there is no clear definition of what organizational culture is. The importance of organizational culture, however, is not to be underestimated, although the importance can vary from organization to organization.

The Taj is for me a good example of an organization with a strong culture and a clear ideology. Happiness, grand, iconic and quality is typical associations with the Taj. One of the key values is that they shall be open to all. They recruit people from the lower range of the community in India that really need the job. I think this is amazing and it really contributes to a better society. The best part is that it is not charity. They do not hire these people just because it is a good thing to do, they do it because it is a good business strategy. By hiring these people and training them thoroughly for a long period, they get extremely loyal and dedicated employees. In just about every business course that I have had, I hear the following sentence; “Employees can never be a competitive advantage”. Their argument is that employees are unpredictable and they can leave at any time to work for someone else. I agree with them in most cases, but not all. In the case of the Taj, I am so blunt to say that I completely disagree. What I have learned by analyzing Taj’s culture is that it is so strong that it is in fact a competitive advantage. Their employees is a competitive advantage.

The terrorist attack at the Taj was horrible and extreme, but also the perfect way to find out how loyal and dedicated the employees at the Taj are. No humans can really know how they will act in such a situation before they are actually in one. The employees were not prepared for such a situation and yet they did an amazing job. They risked their lives for their guests and remained calm and professional under extreme pressure. They did not have to do it, but they did. I believe Taj is one of very few organizations in the world where the employees would do such a good job, and risk their lives for their guests. They proved their utmost loyalty and extreme dedication in the ultimate test. The value of such employees is exceptional and hard to put a number on.

I believe that organizations can learn a lot from the Taj. By creating such a strong organizational culture, organizations could evolve to become much greater than they are today. Investing much resources in their employees, like the Taj have done, and creating a strong loyalty bond between employer and employees can be of much value. An employee at the Taj would probably not accept another job with a higher salary. In todays business environment it is in general not much loyalty between employer and employee. Employers typically downsize and fire employees for almost no reason at all and employees quit their job when they get a better offer somewhere else without a minute’s hesitation. The loyalty bond is almost nonexistent, and I believe it is a problem. In order to get world class employees, organizations need to invest much resources, time and effort. This is not profitable if the employees are not loyal and leave after a short amount of time. To implement long-term strategies and get great employers, organizations need a strong and functional organizational culture. The Taj is a good example. Other organizations should strive to get it as well.

 

Links

Multimedia: Terror at the Taj

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/23/144184623/mumbai-terror-attacks-the-heroes-of-the-taj-hotel (Interesting about the Employees at the Taj)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQGz1YRqBPw(TedX, Rohit Deshpande. Talking about the Heroes of the Taj in the terrorist-attack. Amazing video, but devastating)

 

 

Cross-Country Cultural Differences: Why Our Current Beliefs are Problematic and What it Means for Organizational Culture

Over the weekend, I was watching an NUScast[1] featuring Jack Sim at a U@live event right here on our campus. Jack Sim is the founder of the World Toilet Organization (WTO) and is hailed as one of our local heroes for his global work on sanitation issues.  During the event, he mentioned something that struck a chord with me. He stated that cultural differences are exaggerated and in his work that spans the globe, he noticed that people were similar in many ways. When I was in the United States for my exchange program, I had arrived at a similar conclusion. I did have some reservations about being able to adapt and felt intimidated by so-called cultural barriers but they proved to be completely unfounded. I was able to connect well with locals and still keep in touch with some of them. Fellow exchange buddies and many other NUS students who have gone on exchange programmes seem not to be able to share in my sentiment. Perhaps Jack and I saw more similarities than differences because we were somehow able to adapt and fit-in.

It is not surprising that I was unable to reconcile my own feelings with that of my fellow exchange buddies and other NUS students. Many that I know still harbour the sentiment that in many ways, we are different from people in other countries. They remain adamant that it is the reason why they were unable to adapt to other cultural contexts. Yet, in a plural society like Singapore, we meet people from a variety of cultural backgrounds all the time. Why do we seem more comfortable interacting with others here? Hofstede’s highly acclaimed work on cross-cultural dimensions seems to offer the answer. It is fallacious in two respects: the assumption of homogeneity within each country and the simplicity in its methodology of using one company.  Unfortunately, our exposure to Hofstede’s work has caused us to overlook the complex construct of culture. We are encouraged to paint an entire country’s culture with a single brush and we have ignored the very fact that in our own plural society, we might arguably have developed the skills to interact with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

As such, it is particularly disturbing whenever I hear students invoke Hofstede’s work when describing a culture from another country. Indeed, there are certain beliefs and customs that are practiced by a large number of individuals from another country but we know better than to view culture as two-toned black and white. I certainly do not belief that a country’s culture is monolithic. The view that within a country, people all share the same culture is an impediment to our ability to adapt to different cultural contexts. As such, I do not think that initiatives by organizations to hold classes on teaching employees about another country’s culture would help increase one’s cultural intelligence.

What then should companies do?  There is no formulaic way to develop cultural intelligence. An article by the Harvard Business Review[2] helps to shed light on how we can be culturally intelligent individuals:

  1. Use your head and observe. We have the cognitive ability to analyse, make observations and come to our own conclusions. We can spot consistencies and inconsistencies between each person’s behaviour. Realise that culture is arguably unique to individuals and do not depend on certain stereotypes or prejudices about a certain culture.
  2. Behave the way others around you behave. You have to learn how to reciprocate gestures. For example, I have met individuals in the United States who do not give firm handshakes which is certainly contrary to popular belief. As such, observe and reciprocate behaviour. You will need the “physical poise” to pull it off though.
  3. Finally, be confident about your own ability to adapt. The lack of confidence will show and will compromise your ability to “fit-in”.

As such, organizations should cultivate the flourishing of a culturally intelligent workforce. In light of the global nature of business today, organizational culture needs to be geared towards encouraging genuine understanding and appreciation of diversity.  It should promote open-mindedness and  prize inclusiveness. The culture in companies like Google serve as a model for the 21st century global corporation – the promotion of diversity in its workforce, treating individuals as unique and allowing them the space to express their identity, allowing employees to commit to their own meaningful causes. A strong organizational culture is therefore one that genuinely allows diversity to thrive.

[1] 2015 Feb U@Live Featuring Mr Jack Sim https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf2SK2v1qEM

[2] Early, C.P & Mosakowski, E. Cultural Intelligence. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2004/10/cultural-intelligence

Why I changed my mind about nudges

I used to be very skeptical when it came to the use of nudges. I felt that they were a form of paternalism which told people what to do and how to do it. To me people were grown-ups who should have a responsible behavior and know what they should do without having to be guided by some kind of Big Brother. This opinion was reinforced when I first arrived in Singapore. Nudges were everywhere telling people to smile, be nice, give their seat on the mrt, eat healthy and so on.

But then I came upon a company whose mission is to promote inclusiveness through nudges: Move the Elephant for Inclusiveness is a non-profit organization that promotes Inclusion Nudges in organizations and institutions. They define Inclusiveness as “inclusion of diverse perspectives of people in task-solving, decision-making, organizational development, and mitigate all unconscious biases and excluding mechanisms from processes, practices, and cultures”. They believe that the 21st century has seen many technological and demographic changes and that to be successful in this environment, companies and individuals need to seek diversity and to promote inclusiveness. But they show that the problem is that although the world around us has changed, our brain has not and 80% of our behavior is still controlled by the unconscious part of our brain. Studies by psychologist Jonathan Haidt have shown that this leads to a tendency for conformism, segregation which excludes people as well as information, thus leading to a loss of opportunity. That’s why he compares the unconscious part of the brain to an elephant which is difficult to motivate as opposed to the rational part of the brain which he associates with the elephant rider. Move the Elephant was inspired by Jonathan Haidt’s studies and has come up with techniques to motivate and push our unconscious mind to change our behavior. These methods have shown to lead to more inclusiveness, better decisions, leadership and recruiting for instance.

I found this all very interesting but I still felt that nudges infantilized people. Then I discovered the techniques used by Move the Elephant to promoted inclusiveness and that changed my mind. The first technique is to make people feel the need for change rather than to make them understand it rationally, thus communicating to the unconscious part of our brain. For example, one company submitted identical job applications to leader, just changing the name or the gender for instance and the results made leaders feel that they needed to be more objective in their recruiting. Another method tries to change organizational processes to help people make better decisions. For instance, when they realized that they were almost exclusively composed of white men, American orchestras decided to change the auditioning method by putting a screen between the candidate and the jury so that they would not be influenced by the candidate’s physical characteristics.

Reading about this company really changed my mind about nudges. I began to see that maybe nudges did not curb people’s freedom and remove all sense of responsibility. Indeed, sometimes the rational part of our brain understands the need for change but it is unable to implement this change of behavior because the unconscious part has not found the motivation to do so. So I realized that nudges actually gave us more freedom, the freedom to do what we consciously and rationally want to do rather than being led by our unconsciousness.

How to break the glass ceiling?


I encountered an interesting article about satisfaction at work, which relates closely to the motivation talk we had a while ago in class. The article by Andrew E. Clark (1997) focused on job satisfaction and the differences between the two genders.

It is a sad and well-known fact that women get paid less than men. For the last decade women’s pay has been 77 % of men’s earnings in the US. Women also have to fight more battles in working life because for women likeability and success are negatively associated whereas for men it is positively associated. Women also have a difficulty to balance between work and family. 2/3 of the men leaders have a child but only 1/3 of the female leaders have a child. So it seems that in order to become successful in their careers women often have to give up on their dreams about family. But what stunned me was the fact that women were actually found to be more satisfied with their jobs compared to men. Also when they examined men and women with the same jobs and same work values they landed in the same results.

The reason for women’s higher satisfactory at work is their lower expectations in work life, which stems from the past when women had worse jobs. I get mixed feelings when I think about the results. On one hand I think it is great that women feel satisfied with their jobs and seem to have a more positive way of looking at their jobs than men. Women are motivated to go to work and perform well in their organizations and it is of course important that employees feel valued by their employers.

But on the other hand the reason behind the results also worries me. Women are happy because their initial expectations about their jobs are low. They are comparing their situation to how it used to be instead of how it could be. How could these women, who are just happy that they have achieved more than the previous generations, ever increase the percentage of women CEOs and leaders? As Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO of Facebook, notes in her TEDtalk speech, women systematically underestimate their own abilities. It got me thinking that maybe in certain situations a negative feeling like the lack of satisfaction towards your position could lead to better job performance in the same way that guilt proneness does (Flynn, Francis J., and Rebecca L. Schaumberg. “When feeling bad leads to feeling good: Guilt-proneness and affective organizational commitment.”) I have noticed it myself at least that when I am not satisfied with my job I try to work as hard as I can to have something to show when the managers are thinking about who to promote. When I am not satisfied with my job I also have a bigger incentive for finding a new, more inspiring job. I started to think that maybe this is the key to men’s better success in working life. Of course a constant lack of satisfaction is never good but maybe in some situations it can make you pursue your goals more actively.

There has been a lot of discussion about the inequality of the two sexes and I think it is important to keep people aware of the problem that is still very present. Still I would argue that also women are to blame for this problem. Until we start to compare our situation to how it could be instead of how it used to be, we can’t reach equality.

 

Sources:

Clark, Andrew E. “Job satisfaction and gender: why are women so happy at work?.” Labour economics 4.4 (1997): 341-372.

https://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders

http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeswomanfiles/2014/04/07/the-awful-truth-of-the-gender-pay-gap-it-gets-worse-as-women-age/

How to Balance your Work and Life?

Before I left to Singapore for my exchange, I quit my job as Student Tutor. I was working for a small company who is helping high school children to prepare for their exams and their homework. After one year working as student tutor, I got promoted to the ‘head of the tutors’. My responsibility was to manage, support and guide all the other student tutors. In order to improve the communication with my team, I created a WhatsApp-Group. Recently, I quit this group chat because my colleagues, who also became good friends, kept asking me questions about how to solve problems at work. Even though I had quit my job and did not have always time to react, I always tried to provide them with my solutions.

This example shows a problem which a lot of people are facing. Due to the technological innovations as smart phones, the balance between work and private life becomes disrupted. According to the Business Dictionary, the work-life balance is:

 “A comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee’s primary priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle”

My problem of this work-life balance phenomenon is relative small, but a lot of adults are making too many hours at work even though they do not have to, or they do not have time/do not make time for their families anymore. Nigel Marsh provides us in his famous TedTalk with a fresh look on this phenomenon. He shows us a couple of general observations of this problem and finally provides us with an easy solution to this.

His first observation is that we have to face the fact that certain jobs or career choices are incompatible with being engaged with your young family on a day-to-day basis. Besides that, we have to acknowledge the situation that many people are working too many hard hours in order to earn a lot of money, which they use in order to impress people they do not like.

Secondly, after having this situation clear, we need to understand that we have to take the control and responsibility for the lives we want to have, otherwise someone else will fill it in for you. Governments or companies are not going to solve this problem for us. Hence, commercial companies are not there to provide you with the perfect work-life balance, but they are trying to get the most out of you. To illustrate this, take the example of childcare facilities on the workplace. The idea sounds really nice, but in in the end it just means that you are spending more time in the office.

Lastly, we have to make clear what being in balance actually means. Some people believe they can balance their life by going to the gym after their tiring working day. Actually, there are more aspects to take into consideration: your intellectual side, emotional side and spiritual side have to be attended in order to become in totally balance.

After all these observations, Marsh provide us with one important solution, which is also easy to apply. You do not have to abruptly change your life in order to balance your work and life, the small things in life do matter. By making small investments in the right place, for instance having a fun day with your children, your quality of life and relationships will significantly improve.

A happy life will automatically increase people’s motivation and looking from a company’s perspective, this will increase also their productivity. Therefore, I agree with Mash and I believe that in this fast changing materialistic world it is important for people (who cannot find their right balance) to focus on the smaller things of life which makes us really happy.

The Big Five Personality Traits

With this second blog entry I am building on my first, which was about Person-Organization or Person-Job Fit. To best align your values with the organization’s vision, mission and culture, it is important for yourself and the organisation to know who you really are. Personality- assessment instruments like the Big Five Model help in describing a prospective employee’s character. The model hypothesises that five basic dimensions, namely extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness to experience
, underlie all others and encompass most of the significant variation in human personality. Test scores of these traits do a very good job of predicting how people behave in a variety of real-life situations and thus, can say something about how well an employee fits into a certain job, industry and organisation. The question is whether these traits are innate or whether they can actively be trained and reinforced. As a matter of fact, most successful managers score rather high in the five different traits and therefore, it should be beneficial to be able to „acquire“ these characteristics.

Personally, I believe that some of these traits are more innate or trainable respectively than others. For instance, openness to experience describes a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, open to emotion, sensitive to beauty and willing to try new things. I think this is a trait that you are not necessarily born with but that can be taught by yourself, your parents and social environment. Creating interest for art or adventure is primarily something that you grow up with when your parents take you to museums or you travel a lot with your friends. From being able to see a great variety of many unknown things a person creates his or her own curiosity and broadens his/her horizon, which in turn can lead to a better imagination also of unusual ideas. In contrast, I think that Extraversion is a trait that most people are born with. Extraverts enjoy interacting with people, and are often perceived as full of energy. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented individuals. They possess high group visibility, like to talk, and assert themselves. Whilst one can certainly learn to become more extraverted, too, I reckon training this particular nature is extremely difficult since it is in my opinion innate whether people like to talk a lot or to be the centre of attention. Of course being an extravert is not a prerequisite for every job. For example being a computer programmer working for an IT company without subordinates does not have to be an extravert. Nevertheless, I would hardly describe any big company’s CEO as an introvert or even less as not being conscientious.

I believe that agreeableness and conscientiousness are also traits, that can be amplified more easily, whereas emotional stability is more genetically predetermined.

To sum up, the extent to which the distinct big five personality traits are acquirable and trainable or inborn differs. Some people are more lucky with what kind of character they are born with and how they are raised by their parents and social environment, whilst others have a harder time taking the plunch to become more extroverted and conscientious e.g.. I can understand opinions that think that companies hiring more extraverted people e.g. is unfair but unfortunately it is reality – just like more attractive outer appearance and physical height have a positive effect on workplace success and income.