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avoid generational stereotypesWe’ve written about this a lot both here on the blog and over at The Jury Expert. So it isn’t news to us, but evidently it continues to surprise experts in other fields. Business journals are still urging differing management strategies for members of different generations in the workplace. But, as in other research, today’s authors find their data does not support this popular recommendation. So we offer this research review in the hope that someone will bring it with them to work. Here we go again…

Researchers wanted to test three generational stereotypes in the workplace to see if data would support common assumptions. Specifically, they examined:

Whether Baby Boomers change jobs less often than Gen X or Millennials (“job mobility”);

Whether Baby Boomers comply more with workplace rules than do Gen X or Millennials (“compliance with work rules”), and

Whether Gen X members are either less motivated or lazy, thus less likely to work overtime than either Baby Boomers or Millennials (“willingness to work overtime”).

These are all common stereotypes (i.e., younger employees job hop, they do not comply with rules, and are unwilling to pull their weight if it’s inconvenient) and, stereotypes often exist for a reason. Sometimes it is due to facts. Other times it is due to the holder of the viewpoint being kinda grumpy and annoyed with the subgroup in question. But, other times, stereotypes simply do not accurately describe the nuances, or even the reality of situations.

The researchers used a huge sample of 8,128 people who applied for jobs at two different hospitals located in the southeastern United States. The sample was composed of Baby Boomers (N = 1,641, 20.2%), GenXers (4,972, 61.2%), and Millennials (1,515, 18.6%). On average, Boomers were 48.5 years old, GenXers were 30.8 years old and the Millennials were 21.5 years old (these are tilted toward the younger end in all 3 groups). The group was racially heterogeneous with 301 Native Americans (3.7%), 116 Asian/Pacific Islanders (1.4%), 237 Hispanics (2.9%), 3,955 African-Americans (48.7%) and 3,211 Caucasians (39.5%). A total of 308 (3.8%) did not disclose race. The sample was 83.2% female, 15.8% male and 1% did not disclose their gender. So, although each of these demographic cells is large enough for meaningful interpretation, the profile doesn’t perfectly match the national profile or the workforce. Asian and Hispanic participants are under-represented, African-Americans are over-represented, and it is a much more a female sample than a male sample. But with that said, a study this big allows for skewing like that without sacrificing validity.

As part of their application process, participants were required to complete a questionnaire on their historical workplace behaviors, and researchers used this data to identify their findings.

This research, unlike most prior research on generations at work, focused on historical job behaviors self-reported by the applicants (as opposed to a self-report of individual attitudes and values). While there were differences in the three areas assessed, the differences were small. The authors caution readers to understand that the typical recommendation to apply different management strategies to each separate generation in your workplace is likely not a good use of funds for improving your particular workplace. In other words, this study (of more than 8,000 people) did not support the idea that you should practice different management strategies for employees from different generations–the differences found were just too small statistically.

Here is what the researchers found about the common generalizations held about the various generations in the workplace.

Job mobility: Boomers actually do stay in jobs longer than GenXers and Millennials and it isn’t just that they are older and no longer moving about for their careers. On average, Boomers stayed at a job a bit more than 2 years longer than GenXers, and 4 years longer than Millennials.

Compliance with workplace rules: Older employees do have a slight tendency to adhere more to workplace rules concerning attendance and appearance. They also have less experience with having been fired (or quitting in lieu of being fired). However, this difference was not so much about generation per se as it was about age since individuals in all generations tended to comply more with workplace rules as they get older (and presumably matured).

GenXers will work less overtime: This one is also actually true (and we’ve written about how GenXers are actually living out their values). GenXers were less likely to work overtime than Boomers and Millennials. (There was no difference between the Boomers and Millennials in terms of a history of working overtime hours.)

The researchers emphasize that the differences in the target workplace behaviors don’t warrant different management strategies for different age groups. The differences are simply too small statistically. Instead, the researchers recommend that HR representatives build in flexibility to HR practices and strategies to address the needs of all employees rather than a single generational group. It’s what consultants often say when they are training managers about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Good management is good management. You don’t tailor based on generation. You manage based on the individual and the demands of the job.

It bears repeating: Good management is good management. Stereotypes are not good management, even when well-intentioned.

Becton, J., Walker, H., & Jones-Farmer, A. (2014). Generational differences in workplace behavior Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 44 (3), 175-189 DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12208

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Gender and Leadership: When Do Women Excel?

Monday, December 30, 2013
posted by Rita Handrich

gender-leadershipWe’ve written a lot here about the lack of parity for women in income, career mobility, and leadership. Recently, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University published a special issue of KelloggInsight on Gender and Leadership. Rather than highlighting a specific article, we are going to tell you (briefly) about all of them with the individual URLs so you can go directly to any of particular interest to you. It’s a really nice line-up of work where you are sure to find something new even if you follow the gender and leadership literature closely. 

Braggarts become leaders: Women don’t become leaders because they don’t speak up about their abilities, talents, and accomplishments. Men, on the other hand, do. Men become leaders. This article summarizes the research on tooting your own horn and how organizations need to understand that men are more likely to over-state their past accomplishments.

Queen Bees? Not so much: Women who rise to top positions (against the odds) are very likely to help other women gain promotions as well. For example, a woman’s presence on the Board of Directors not only increases the number of female executives but increased salaries for women, as well.

There really is a female leadership style: Comparing companies in both Norway and the United States, the authors find that companies with female CEOs tend to have fewer reductions in force (i.e., layoffs) in difficult economic times.

Woman in charge and economic growth: Countries with high levels of economic diversity often have slower economic growth. That changes when there is a woman in charge.

A discussion of the latest in gender research and equality: Alice Eagly (a well-known researcher) discusses the latest research findings and advises managers who want to promote gender equality in their organizations.

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The Autocrat and the Role of Presiding Juror

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
posted by Douglas Keene

autocratic leaderRecently, in a multi-panel mock trial, we held our breaths as a 60-something white male business man volunteered to be the presiding juror since he had a lot of experience leading groups. We had purposely loaded the group with only a single strong Plaintiff juror (and a second moderate Plaintiff supporter), knew the new presiding juror was a strong Defense supporter, and wondered if he would attempt to silence the Plaintiff jurors.

We knew we would have to interrupt deliberations if he did so despite very clear guidance (pre-deliberation) to allow everyone to be heard. We were heartened when the initial poll showed a 10-2 split and everyone summarized their thoughts. But, then the presiding juror said, “I’d like to roll back a bit and hear more from our Plaintiff jurors since that opinion is so different. We can learn from them and maybe they can learn from us.”

It was unexpected given the demographics and work history of the presiding juror. Looking closer, there was a clue in his background questionnaire. This was a man with three children, the eldest were in their late 30s and the third was 16. He had commented that it was a whole different world to raise the 16-year-old in than he experienced with the older siblings. That awareness of the importance of change and diversity of opinion in the world around him may have led to one of the most respectful and thoughtful deliberations we have seen, with a majority opinion listening carefully to the (clear and calm) opposing voice. It isn’t what we often see.

New research underscores the idea that the autocratic leader will dampen group collaboration IF the autocrat has a leadership role. If their role is not a formal one, however, the group will not allow the autocrat to take over and group discussion remains healthy and diverse. Researchers completed three separate studies with a total of 402 participants to arrive at these conclusions.

In the first experiment, they put participants into groups but secretly had one group member write (prior to the actual experiment) about a situation in which they had felt powerful. These are the instructions the secret writer was given:

“Please think about a time when you had power over someone. By power, we mean a situation in which you controlled the ability of another person or persons to get something they wanted, or were in a position to evaluate those individuals. Please write 4-5 sentences describing this situation in which you had power.”

This is a well-known way to induce feelings of power. Those who would be assigned as formal leaders were also asked to write about “how the experiences they wrote about could help inform the strategies they would use in team interactions the next day”. The next day, those “formal-leader writers” were given name tags that said “Leader” and in other cases, there was no formal leader assigned despite one member of the group being secretly “primed” (through the prior writing task) for feelings of power.

In the groups where the writer had a tag saying “Leader”, other group members experienced them as talking too much and reported a sense that group discussions were less respectful than in those groups without formal leaders. Team performance was diminished in these groups.

The writers that were not given a name tag saying “leader” were still vocal, but they did not drive the discussion in a negative way, and team performance was higher in these groups without the formal leaders.

The second and third studies replicated the key findings in Study 1 but Study 3 contains an important finding for litigation advocacy. In study 3, some of the formal leaders were given some additional information:

“Each member in the team is representing a different role. So, everyone has something unique to contribute to this task. Given every team member’s unique perspective, obtaining everyone’s views of the situation can be critical in reaching a good decision.”

You will likely not be shocked to learn that those leaders given the specific information on the value of each team member performed much more effectively. Specifically, they were not talking too much, not directing conversation excessively, and not disrespecting members of the group. The researchers conclude that when given formal positions of leaderships, leaders who feel powerful can lead to diminished team performance. When they are in formal positions of leadership, group members are more likely to defer to the leader. This dampening effect of a powerful or autocratic leader can effectively be diminished however, by simply instructing the leader on the value of every individual in the group.

We have advocated teaching jurors how to deliberate for a long time now, but in recent years have begun to specifically add the directive to let everyone speak and to interact respectfully so that the wisdom of the group can emerge. It has made a real difference in the quality of the information we obtain from our pretrial research, and, we believe, is directly transferable to the closing statement and teaching jurors how to deliberate effectively. The presiding juror we described at the beginning of this post took that directive to heart and acted in precisely the way this research would predict. That’s a good thing.

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For the fourth year in a row we have been honored with recognition from the ABA via inclusion in their 2013 list of the Top 100 legal blogs in the country. We work hard to blog consistently even when inundated with work and would appreciate your vote for us at the Blawg 100 site under the LITIGATION category. You will have to register your email just so you can’t vote 47 times. There are many worthwhile law blogs on this list so take some time to peruse. Thanks! Doug and Rita

Tost, LP, Gino, F, & Larrick, RP (2013). When power makes others speechless: The negative impact of leader power on team performance. Academy of Management Journal, 56 (5) DOI: 10.5465/amj.2011.0180

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smartphoneIf you are reading this blog post while in a meeting, please know it’s twice as likely women will be offended by your behavior than will men. That’s the finding of a new research study from Howard University and the USC Marshall School of Business Center for Management Communication. The study looks at perceptions of the person who uses a smart phone during either formal or informal meetings and their findings are intriguingly varied by gender, age, geographical location, income level, and even the number of people attending the meeting.

The research samples 554 full-time working professionals (204 employees at an East Coast beverage distributor and a nation-wide, random sample survey of 350 business professionals in the United States who earned more than $30K in income and were employed by companies with at least 50 employees). They asked survey participants for their reactions to the following smart phone use behaviors in both formal and informal meetings: making or answering calls, writing and sending texts or emails, checking text messages or emails, browsing the internet, checking time with the phone, checking incoming calls, bringing a phone to a meeting, and excusing oneself to answer calls.

Here are highlights of their findings:

The majority of Americans still consider it unacceptable to use smart phones during meetings. “In particular, making or taking calls, writing and sending texts or emails, checking text messages or emails, and browsing the internet are considered strongly inappropriate during formal business meetings.” While these actions are slightly more accepted during informal meetings, the majority still consider them unacceptable.

Younger professionals (age 21-30 years) consider checking texts and emails appropriate during formal meetings. “They are 3x more likely to consider this appropriate than professionals above 40 years of age.” In informal meetings, younger professionals think checking email and text, answering calls and even writing texts and emails appropriate–while those above 41 years of age beg to differ.

Men are twice as accepting as women of checking texts, sending texts, and answering calls during informal meetings.

Along the Western coast, professionals were least accepting of smart phone use during formal meetings. In the Southwest, professionals were least accepting of smart phone use during informal meetings.

Professionals with higher incomes are less accepting of mobile phone use in meetings. The researchers suspect that those with higher incomes are typically high-status and do not like subordinates whose attention strays during meetings.

Just setting your phone on the table at a working lunch with five other people is seen as rude by 20% of the survey responders. And your use of “Excuse me” prior to taking that call is not cutting it. More than 30% of the survey respondents think it is “rarely or never” appropriate “during informal/offsite lunch meetings”.

Overall, the researchers say these findings communicate the importance of using smartphones respectfully in meetings and recommend organizations use the data provided in their report to illustrate the “dramatic generational and gender differences” in perceptions of smart phone use during workplace gatherings.

While these results are striking, we would point out that the researchers asked survey participants for what they consider rude in others and not what they themselves do behaviorally. The findings are therefore subject to the fundamental attribution error since the observer often attributes behavior to character traits (like being rude and disrespectful to others in general), while the actor attributes their behavior to situational demands (like needing to respond quickly or awaiting a return call from a difficult to reach client). In essence, these are ‘leading questions’, which by their nature heighten awareness and sensitivity to the subject under examination. If they had asked us, we could have edited the questions to minimize this effect and avoided this weakness in the study.

As professionals who rely on smartphones to stay in touch with clients, keep projects in motion, field questions from outside the room about aspects of our work on the case at hand, et cetera, it is very tempting to rationalize checking messages constantly, and I confess my guilt at doing it when this research (and common courtesy) would suggest I’d be better served to wait. So here are a couple of suggestions for how to handle it.

Get over the need to be constantly wired. Know in advance whether something is so hot it requires immediate attention, and if nothing is that pressing, put your silenced phone somewhere that you can’t reach until after the meeting is recessed.

If there is something that must be dealt with during a meeting time or luncheon, anticipate to the others at the meeting the possibility of an interruption, apologize in advance, and if possible, explain to them why it is so urgent that it justifies your being distracted and your wasting their time.

If you are not entirely familiar with the organizational culture of the group you are meeting with (for instance, you are meeting with clients you are not entirely familiar with), don’t look to the young men in the room for cues about what is and is not acceptable. You are likely to turn off some of the group even if several don’t mind at all. Do you really want to risk insulting half of your client group? The safe bet is to keep your phone set on ‘chill’, and ignore it until you are by yourself.

Pretend that your clients or customers ‘know’ whether or not your smart phone use is truly urgent, and resist any compulsive but non-urgent usage. I have been in meetings (and even in trial) where attorneys or staff are checking sports scores, stock quotes, and playing solitaire. In one case, jurors noticed that a lawyer– sitting at counsel table– was playing online poker. If he doesn’t care about the testimony, why should the jury?

As professionals who rely on smartphones to maintain contact with busy attorney clients and who need to talk to our support team at somewhat unpredictable times, we chafe a bit over these findings, while admitting that we knew it all along. There is a reason that our parents wouldn’t let us answer the phone during dinner. And we know smartphone users can be obnoxious and annoying. These results are useful information to consider when it comes to workplace relationships and the maintenance of respect for those around us.

Washington, MC, Okoro, EA, & Cardon, PW (2013). Perceptions of Civility for Mobile Phone Use in Formal and Informal Meetings. Business Communication Quarterly.

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A new issue of The Jury Expert has just uploaded and you will want to see the work collected there.

Pretrial Publicity and Courtroom Umami 

Two trial consultants tell you how to throw a ‘spice bomb’ at negative pretrial publicity.

As Voir Dire Becomes Voir Google, Where Are the Ethical Lines Drawn? 

What is your obligation when it comes to social media research of prospective jurors or witnesses? What do you need to avoid in the process?

Do You See What I See? How a Lack of Cultural Competency May Be Affecting Your Bottom Line 

Used to be that we thought of ‘cultural competency’ as a “nice and politically correct thing”. Not any more. Now being culturally competent is essential to your financial bottom line.

Hackers, Hosts & Help Requests 

The Jury Expert is increasingly popular–with hackers as well as bona fide readers. And that is expensive. Help us out?

The Scared Witness: A Chapter from “Can This Witness Be Saved”

Ever had a witness who was not just scared but rather was truly terrified? Here’s what you need to do.

Why Telling a Witness That It’s OK to Say They Don’t Know Is Good for Justice 

Directly telling a witness they can say they don’t know if the suspect is in the lineup improves their accuracy in identification.

The Interview-Identification-Eyewitness Factor (I-I-Eye) Method for Analyzing Eyewitness Testimony

Here’s a three-step teachable model for assessing the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. For law enforcement, attorneys and jurors. One of the trial consultant responses on this piece is from Rita Handrich of Keene Trial.

80 iPad Apps Attorneys Love, 8 Days a Week: An App Strategy for Work, the Courtroom, and Your Personal Life 

Love your iPad? You’ll love it a lot more when you’ve read through these strategies for improving your work and personal lives. There’s an app for that!

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