Archive for the ‘Self Presentation’ Category
Hmmm. Here’s research that says the appearance of managing partners’ faces at America’s 100 top law firms is tied to firm “profit margin, profitability index, and profits per equity partner”. You may want to look at managing partners’ faces before making a decision about that job offer!
We’ve written about first impressions before but this one is a little surprising. Apparently, to predict how successful someone’s firm is (or will be), all you have to do is briefly examine their face. These researchers call it “the look of leadership” and say that “look” may be innate, acquired [through repetitive facial expressions that become permanent], or some combination of the two. Researchers had “naive undergraduates” (an amusing oxymoron) rate faces for both power-related traits (e.g., competence, dominance, and facial maturity) and warmth-related traits (e.g., likability and trustworthiness).
Participants (36 in all, 11 males and 25 females) looked at headshot photographs of Managing Partners from each of the firms in the American Lawyer’s top 100 firms for 2007. The photographs were cropped so they displayed faces only and no clothes were visible. After cropping, all photos were converted to gray scale and standardized in size. Information on financial success of the firm was taken from the AmLaw 100 listing for 2007.
Five traits were being assessed (competence, dominance, facial maturity, likability, trustworthiness) and so each participant saw each face five separate times and rated the face for a single trait at a time. Each trait was rated on a 7-point scale (ranging from 1 “Not at all” to 7 “Very Much”). The researchers hypothesized the power-related traits would be related to firm financial success and warmth-related traits would not.
You likely have surmised their hypotheses were supported. They were.
The research participants ratings of managing partners’ faces assigned more “power” to the faces of managing partners at more financially successful firms. Managing partners who “looked” powerful, were at more financially successful firms.
But, ratings of warmth (i.e., likability and trustworthiness) had no relationship to law firm financial success. Managing partners who looked “warm” were at both successful and unsuccessful firms but there was no relationship between a “warm” managing partner and how successful financially the law firm was.
So, is it that managing partners with powerful faces lead firms to financial success or that financially successful firms hire managing partners with powerful faces? It’s one of those chicken and the egg questions but if you are looking for a job, it’s a question that really doesn’t matter to you. [Although you probably do want to take into consideration the small sample size--just 36 rater-participants--in this study!]
The headshots used in the experiment were downloaded from firm websites and so would be readily accessible to anyone. You may think your own assessment of the “power traits” in someone’s face could be in error, but we hear our mock jurors make surprisingly accurate inferences over and over about witnesses and parties based on a few minutes of videotaped deposition excerpts. If you don’t want to rely only on your own assessment, ask a few friends, family members, colleagues, or head to a college campus and look for some “naive undergraduates”.
The inference is, of course, that if you want financial stability and success, you do not choose someone who looks likable and trustworthy (at least, based on this research). And that those rule-outs of the likable and trustworthy (looking) managing partner will probably have implications for the “feel” of the work environment you choose, so make sure you do not choose “power” and then resent the fact there is little “warmth” directed at you.
Rule, NO, & Ambady, N. (2011). Face and fortune: Inferences of personality from managing partners’ faces predict their law firms’ financial success. The Leadership Quarterly, 22, 690-696 DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.05.009
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
If 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.
Some believe society has evolved to the point that beautiful people are no longer penalized for being beautiful. Others think “What? Beautiful people are penalized for being beautiful? Oh, please.” Thankfully, academics in search of tenure continue to do their research exploring dynamics we did not even know existed.
This post will be a little different from what we typically do here. Instead of looking at a single study, we’re going to give you a summation of what researchers have recently found with regard to the “beauty is beastly” effect. You are likely familiar with the “what is beautiful is good” effect. This is the idea that we assume positive things about people who are attractive. We’ve written about it here, in fact and, more than once. There is also, however, the “beauty is beastly” effect. The idea was originally proposed in 1979 as a way to explain how attractive women were not likely to be considered for masculine-stereotyped positions in the workplace. More than 30 years ago, those authors concluded:
“As predicted, attractiveness consistently proved to be an advantage for men but was an advantage for women only when seeking a non-managerial position.”
In essence, it seems that hiring decisions (generally made by men) result in attractive women being welcome in the workplace, but not as peers of the managers. Has the way we perceive women changed in the past three decades? There are some indications that it has since researchers have had difficulty replicating the “beauty is beastly” effect in workplace studies. But, there is also evidence of a disparate effect of attractiveness for male and female job applicants.
And while “what is beautiful is good” is believed to continue to be a factor in multiple lawsuit outcomes, beauty is not always a positive thing in the minds of jurors. In domestic violence litigation, for example, if you are an attractive woman charged with an assault on your spouse, you are more likely to be found guilty. So we thought we’d take a look at some of the studies in search of the “beauty is beastly” effect and see what they say.
Braun, Peus & Frey (2012) looked at women and men and their leadership styles. Specifically, they examined both transactional and transformational leadership styles. (As defined by these researchers, transactional leadership focuses on task completion [including rewards and punishments for meeting goals]. Transformational leadership focuses more on stimulating critical thinking, motivating people, supporting the personal growth of followers, and being a role model. Currently, the transformational approach is most dominant in the leadership literature.) The researchers examined how the attractiveness of male and female leaders interacted with their leadership style.
When leaders were transactional, there was no difference in the loyalty of followers regardless of whether the leader was attractive or not attractive. This was true for both female and male leaders. It is a performance-measured management style, and appearances were not influential.
However, when leaders were transformational, followers “showed lower levels of trust and loyalty toward attractive than unattractive female leaders”. In other words, for female transactional leaders, beauty is beastly even in 2012.
You may wonder how followers react differently to attractive and unattractive male transformational leaders. They don’t. It doesn’t make a difference if your male transformational leader is attractive or unattractive. It’s only women who are vulnerable to stereotypical evaluations based on their appearance.
Another study by Johnson, Podratz, Dipboye & Gibbons (2010) examined hiring biases based on the applicant’s attractiveness. They asked study participants to match photos of men and women (both attractive and unattractive) with job descriptions for which they thought the pictured applicant would be a good fit. In this study too, attractive men got all sorts of job matches. But, if the job was one seen as male-dominated and where appearance was deemed unimportant, attractive women simply were not seen as suitable for the position. This was for job titles like manager of research and development, director of finance, mechanical engineer, director of security, hardware salesperson, prison guard, truck driver, or construction supervisor.
If you were an attractive woman, you tended to be sorted into jobs like receptionist or secretary. (Yes, this research was done just a few years ago.)
Another study published on SSRN (Ruffle & Shtudiner, 2010) examined call-back rates from CVs with photos of attractive or plain male and female candidates, or with no photo at all. What they found was unexpected: attractive male candidates got lots of callbacks.
But, female applicants with no photo at all got the most callbacks among the women!
So you may be thinking, this is all research based on undergraduate students perceptions. Surely, adults with work experience have more sense than to stereotype solely based on appearance. Take a look at the results of a 2010 Newsweek survey of “202 hiring managers and 964 members of the public”. The survey participants say looks matter at work and looks matter more for women.
In fact, survey participants (which included those 202 hiring managers) said your looks rank above education and your sense of humor when it comes to being hired.
So, have things changed in the last 30 years? Of course they have. But in some ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Stereotypes about women are deeply ingrained in our society. Attractive women are apparently seen as decorative and thus most suited for jobs like receptionist and secretary.
So to our female attorney clients who continue to struggle with how to dress for court appearances, your sense of the fact you will be judged is accurate. We are working on some general principles about attire to consider as you present yourself in the courtroom as a female professional in a male-dominated profession. Until then, is beauty beastly? It certainly can be. Even in 2013. But, apparently, only for women.
Braun, S, Peus, C, & Frey D (2012). Is beauty beastly? Gender-specific effects of leader attractiveness and leadership style on followers’ trust and loyalty. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 220 (2), 98-108 DOI: 10.1027/2151-2604/a000101
Johnson SK, Podratz KE, Dipboye RL, & Gibbons E (2010). Physical attractiveness biases in ratings of employment suitability: tracking down the “beauty is beastly” effect. The Journal of Social Psychology, 150 (3), 301-18 PMID: 20575336
Ruffle, Bradley J., & Shtudiner, Ze’ev (2010). Are Good-Looking People More Employable? SSRN.
“When you are representing a client in court, don’t wear bright red lipstick. Don’t wear colorful clothes. Don’t try to be fashionable. Don’t wear too much makeup. Don’t wear colorful nail polish–actually, don’t even wear nail polish. Judges don’t like it.”
This was the advice Peggy Li received from a female attorney during her first year of law school. We’ve seen variations on this theme before in exhortations of proper attire for women in court. It remains a troubling question for many female attorneys who do not want something like their appearance to harm their client in court.
Is it fair? No. Is it a real concern? Unfortunately, yes. You may think these questions are old-school but they are as real today as they were ten years ago.
Should I wear a suit with a skirt or are pants okay?
Can I wear a dress with a jacket or is that too casual?
Should I dress colorfully or should I be plain and blend in?
What about fingernail polish?
Should I wear my hair up or is it okay to leave it down?
Can I wear my bracelet with religious symbolism since I wear it daily anyway?
This article by Peggy Li (available for download on the SSRN network) talks frankly about how the physical attractiveness and femininity of women attorneys relates to how your competence, skills and abilities are assessed by others. She covers both the “beauty is good” and the “beauty is beastly” stereotypes (the latter is believed to be applied to women in male-dominated professions such as the law).
Of particular interest is the section on female attorneys who are “perceived as sexy”. “Sexy” is in the eye of the beholder, and can be particularly difficult for the female attorney choosing attire for the courtroom. Li poses the dilemma this way: Does a tasteful skirt-suit convey conservatism and deference to the court or does the exposure of skin mean it is sexual? It’s a provocative question and while Li poses it, she does not answer it.
It is reminiscent of a mock trial we moderated where a female attorney was presenting against “good old boy” attorneys who joked with (and bonded with) mock jurors. When the highly skilled female attorney cracked a joke and then winked at jurors (as the men had done), she was rewarded with comments sexualizing her behavior from the mock jurors.
“She needs to stop flirting with us (winking and batting her eyes) and focus on improving her presentation.”
“I don’t want to hear what roads she drives on locally. She just needs to present the facts.”
“Her skirt was too short.”
It was simply a different unit of measure the jurors expected. The male attorneys could guffaw and grin and wink and it was all fine. But, not the female attorney. No matter how good she was. The jurors didn’t want her to be flirtatious, attractive, or disclosing. They didn’t want her to be sexy. In truth, she wasn’t being sexy and she wasn’t trying to be flirtatious. But that’s how she was seen.
Li describes a number of cases within law firms where women attorneys have been targets for discrimination. Li recommends training women in male-dominated professions such as the legal profession in how implicit bias works so they can see situations or variables that might elicit those biases against them. She does casually mention she has developed her own style that feels comfortable for her in court but she does not discuss the factors she considered as she developed that style. She says women attorneys should be both smart and likable and recommends Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book. These ideas are theoretical and “interesting” but they lack substance and specific responses to the question of how to dress in court so you are seen as credible and competent. Nonetheless, Li’s article is a good overview of the research on “why” this happens to women. Now all we need is someone to tell us what to do in response to the why.
It’s a question we get routinely from our women clients. Those who read our blog (especially the category on how hard it is to be a woman) know this is not a simple question. Nor does it have a blanket answer. This complex dynamic (far more complicated than it is for men) involves physical appearance, personal authority, and style. Our recommendations vary depending on the person and the context. Sometimes it is about speech patterns. Sometimes it’s about how to tell a story. Sometimes it’s about something as superficial as wearing eyeglasses. More often though, it’s about building confidence and preparedness for battle without apology and without rancor.
Li, Peggy (2013). Physical attractiveness and femininity: Helpful or hurtful for female attorneys? Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN).
We’ve written before about salary negotiations in general, the difference in what men and women are paid, and salary negotiations for women only. So here’s another new study that says, whether you are male or female, going in with a specific number (like $5,015 rather than $5,000) gives you an edge in negotiations.
Researchers examined the use of round numbers in negotiations (in both the classroom and on Zillow–a real estate website). They found round numbers were much more often the initial offer on the table. For example, when looking at Zillow in four American cities, 73% of homes in the $10K to $99.9K range and 71% of homes in the $100K to $999K range “ended with at least three trailing zeros”. 98% of homes in the $1M to $10M range had listing prices that contained at “least three trailing zeros”.
So, the researchers wondered what would happen if you gave a more precise number rather than one with multiple zeros at the end. After multiple experiments, the researchers concluded that precise initial offers (that is, specific numbers not ended with trailing zeros) acted as “more potent anchors” than did round numbers (with trailing zeros). Round numbers have appeal, say the researchers, because they are easier to remember, fairly noncommittal, and “imprecision is a form of prudence”. (We are not sure exactly what that means but it’s an evocative phrase.)
The researchers believe that when you lead with a precise number, in any sort of negotiation, you send the message that you are prepared, informed, and knowledgeable about the value of either the item for which you are offering money or for salaries in your field. This precise offer leads the recipient of your opening bid to offer a returning number that is higher (when negotiating salaries or bartering on CraigsList items) than you might get if you offer a round initial request.
It’s an interesting piece of work, with applications to salary, mediation offers, jury charge “asks”, auto purchases, and even bartering at the farmer’s market. The researchers recommend bumping a $50 item to $49.75 (if you are the seller) or offering $50.25 if you are the buyer. They also comment that the research “highlight[s] how a lack of awareness about the power of precision may put the recipient of a precise offer at a disadvantage”. It’s intriguing research to experiment with in your day-to-day life–whether for mediation or that nice bunch of carrots next to the bright red radishes.
Mason, MF, Lee, AJ, Wiley, EA, & Ames, DR (2013). Precise offers are potent anchors: Conciliatory counter-offers and attributions of knowledge in negotiations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 759-763