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We know you will be shocked by this but we are featuring two articles with opposite perspectives on Millennials as managers. One article offers support to the Millennial new to managing those who are (in some cases) the age of their parents. The second says Millennial managers cause “negative emotions” in the workplace (spurred on by the anger of their older subordinates).

It’s like the two positions we often hear on the internet—either a positive perspective advocating education and support for Millennials or a negative perspective that we don’t think really makes sense (and that is certainly not consistent with the empirical data). In the event you have not read our extensive writing on generations—here are links to our blog posts and here are links to full length articles that summarize the data rather than repeating anecdotes.

This is the new normal: Get used to it

The first article is published over at the Money CNN page and is a guide to helping the Millennial manager be successful. This younger boss/older employee is the new normal say the authors and they offer the following statistic to support their claim.

By 2020, Millennials will make up 35% of the global workforce, according to ManpowerGroup, a consulting firm.

Then they move on to saying the whole thing is a little awkward for both sides of the relationship at first but you just need to get over it (again, on both sides). Here are some of their hints for these “new normal” Millennial managers.

Focus on the unique experience each of you bring to the table and not on your generational differences.

Give flexibility to both younger and older employees so that if something happens in their personal lives, they can take care of it. (This gives the benefit of work/life balance to all employees.)

They also address the dynamic between Millennials and their younger supervisees (Generation Z for lack of a better label yet). They note the ability of younger employees to multitask but also point out the possibility of a lack of attention to detail and responsibility. All in all, the purpose of this article is to educate and help the Millennial manager succeed.

Millennial managers result in angry, fearful, and disgusted subordinates

The second article is based on research done in Germany (61 separate companies, mostly in the service industry, but also finance, manufacturing and trade) showing that roughly ¼ of the managers were Millennials. Their finding was that the larger the age gap between the young manager and the older subordinate—the more the subordinates reported negative emotions (like anger, fear, and even disgust) over the last six months. So are Millennial managers working in ways that promote “anger, fright and disgust” in their older subordinates?

The researchers call the age gap between younger manager and older subordinate a “status incongruence” and a “violation of career norms” with one summarizing blogger saying it is “like being lectured on your dress sense by your precocious 8-year-old nephew”. The researchers also report that companies whose employees experienced more negative emotions were also measurably less productive on all counts. They conclude that when you have younger managers with older subordinates you are going to have worse performance because younger managers result in older subordinates being resentful and frustrated due to the status incongruence and the violation of career norms.

The researchers found that if older subordinates “suppressed their emotions” when interacting with younger supervisors there was less negativity than in those workplaces where employees “expressed their emotions more freely”. The researchers note that these negative attitudes may be contributed to, at least in part, by the change to merit-based promotions rather than seniority-based promotions. In other words, older subordinates who have “put in their time” resent the younger managers who have received promotion based on merit.

From an office management perspective, this is not the fault of the Millennial manager but rather the problem of the resentful (“fearful, angry and disgusted”) older supervisee, and the problem expected in an evolving workforce and culture. Both sides will have to accommodate these workplace changes. In truth, this is similar to the kinds of disruption and resentment that rising status of women and minority managers face, as well. More entrenched workers who are used to a now out-of-date corporate culture are going to feel marginalized. Benefiting from their experience and ability will require building a bridge to them, and encouraging them to cross over. Training and education in the workplace on the reasons for the change to a merit-based promotional system as well as training on how to work together regardless of your age and “time put in” can help older subordinates who are resentful about being passed over for promotional opportunities.

The sort of advice in the first article lifts up the Millennial manager rather than blaming them for the “fear, anger and disgust” the older subordinate may struggle with due to their own sense (according to these authors anyway) of having fallen behind as the workplace rules changed. Consulting with Millennial managers on ways they can sensitively broach this topic and use the skills and experiences brought to the table by their older subordinates while still pressing forward to new programs and projects would likely be beneficial to the entire enterprise.

Kunze, F Menges, JI 2017. Younger supervisors, older subordinates: An organizational-level study of age differences, emotions and performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior, Volume 38, Issue 4, Pages: 461–486.

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Time for an update on who lies, why they lie, and how you can spot them. We’ve written a lot about deception in the past but there’s always more to say (believe it or not). We’re going to cover several articles in this post and discuss each of them briefly so you can explore the items in greater depth if they strike a chord of interest.

60% of us lie in everyday conversation 

When we think of liars, we often think of “them”. But new research out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst says it is more common than not to lie routinely and often. The study used 121 pairs of undergraduates who were told the purpose of the study was to examine how people interact when they meet someone new. They all had ten minutes to converse but some were told to make themselves seem likable, some were told to make themselves appear competent, and others (the control group) were not told to present themselves in any specific way. After the interaction, the research participants were shown videotapes of the interaction and asked to point out any lies they had told.

The researchers found that, in their research sample, “60% lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two or three lies”.

It’s hard to say if this rate of lying would occur in interactions where no one is told to behave or present themselves in a certain way. But it makes it clear that if you are trying to make a good impression, you may lie more often than not. And if you are talking with someone who is likely attempting to impress you, take their claims with a grain of salt.

Spotting a liar

We routinely see how-to articles on spotting a liar but it is easier said than done. Here’s one from NBC News that tries to summarize the research on deception but ends up sensationalizing the results a bit (aka perhaps lying). They say that if you say you never lie, you are a liar and they comment on how poorly people fare when they attempt to detect deception. And then they give you “five steps to becoming a human lie detector” and give glossy explanations of how to understand the research. We think this one is worth your time if you want a quick overview of the research and want to see how people learn their information and misinformation on spotting deception.

Are scheming and dishonesty just part of being human?

Finally here’s an article from National Geographic on “why” we lie. This is a really wide-ranging article that shares a lot of information on various types of lies and liars as well as the motivations for lying by various people. It will teach you a lot about hoaxers, con artists, and visual artists that try to fool you, and enlighten you on things that are, in fact, lies—but also very cool and funny. It’s a weirdly wonderful journey through the neuroscience of lying and all the motivations behind various kinds of lies. They even get to fake news and its proliferation as well as the advantages to us of all the technology available to us—and the reality that technology has opened up “a new frontier for deceit”.  And if you want even more, there is a good writeup in The Guardian of a pathological liar who was also very bright and a medical researcher. Despite his accomplishments, he just couldn’t stop lying.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, these are important areas on which to keep informed. It is important to maintain an awareness of what jurors see as “indicators” of deception—whether those indicators are truly indicative of deception or not. The more you know about what people assume, the better you can prepare witnesses and the better you can monitor your own distracting non-verbal behaviors that might just make some juror solemnly declare to others in the deliberation room that you were obviously lying in your closing statement.

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We’d really rather call this the “34 reasons you should get up and talk face-to-face rather than emailing or texting effect” but that’s probably why we’re not academics. It’s become habitual to email or text even when it is faster and perhaps easier to walk across the hall, over to another cubicle, or even take a quick ride up the elevator to speak to a colleague in person. But once you read the results of this study you may start moving around—especially when you really want someone you do not know to do something for you.

Today’s study is from researchers in Canada and the US and it’s all about our unreliable estimate of compliance by others when we make direct requests. The researchers call it the “underestimation of compliance effect” which we must admit is not particularly catchy. But the takeaway is pretty catchy for sure. Here it is:

Despite your belief that you are persuasive in emails to those you have not met, you are 34 times more persuasive in face-to-face communication.

34x you say? How can that be true? And how can they say that precise number (34x)? Apparently most of us overestimate our powers of persuasion in text and underestimate our powers of persuasion in person. The second author of this paper wrote up a plain language version of the paper for Harvard Business Review (and oddly, the summary is as long as the article itself). In the HBR piece, she offers a brief comment that explains the takeaway:

Imagine you need people to donate to a cause you care about. How do you get as many people as possible to donate? You could send an email to 200 of your friends, family members, and acquaintances. Or you could ask a few of the people you encounter in a typical day—face-to-face—to donate. Which method would mobilize more people for your cause?

Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast. Still, most people tend to think the email ask will be more effective.

So why does this happen? The researchers say that people you do not know are suspicious of links in emails (they were being asked to have strangers complete a survey which was housed online) and think you are untrustworthy. Conversely, the sender (that would be you) knew they were not trying to trick the recipient and that the URL was trustworthy. The sender simply failed to consider the recipients perspective (i.e., someone I don’t know wants me to click on an untrustworthy link).

The researchers did a second study where they found that “nonverbal cues requesters conveyed during a face-to-face interaction” made the difference in how legitimate the recipient thought they were—yet, the requester was oblivious to these cues.

From an office management (not to mention effectiveness) perspective, you may want to encourage communications between co-workers—even if they don’t know each other—to occur in a face-to-face interaction rather than in a text-based communication. When the person you are encouraging to discuss the issue in person rolls their eyes and considers you hopelessly “old school”, you can just whip out this study (or the article in Harvard Business Review) and let them know you are on top of new knowledge. They can get up and move and talk face-to-face—not because it’s “nice”, but because it works 34x better.

Roghanizad, MM Bohns, VK 2017 Ask in person: You’re less persuasive than you think over email. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 223-226.

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Every once in a while we run across a tip in the social sciences research that is just begging to be used in litigation advocacy. A while back we found a UK researcher named Tim Perfect who told us a very simple thing: “When you want to increase both volume and accuracy in witness recall, don’t have them tell a story backwards. Just have them close their eyes! It really does increase the number of accurate observations recalled.” We liked his work so much we asked him to write up his research for publication in The Jury Expert (where many others have liked it as well!).

And today, we have another wonderful tidbit of the same sort for you. Anyone who has prepared witnesses for courtroom testimony or deposition knows it can be an anxiety-provoking experience. Witnesses who are anxious will fidget, squint, lick their lips, contort their bodies, rock back and forth in their chairs, or stick their fist in their mouths as we saw in one very unfortunate mock trial example. Jurors take note of these things and, often, come to the conclusion that the witness is lying as opposed to showing anxiety. So for all those who have tried to calm an anxious witness down, here’s an easy (and free) strategy that requires no specialized fMRI equipment or high-tech accoutrements.

Just use pronouns.

How? It is a simple strategy and (in truth) one both of us have used in previous professional lives helping psychotherapy clients manage their own anxieties in stressful situations. What you want is to help the person see themselves testifying as though they were watching a movie of themselves and not projecting their anxieties as they imagine themselves testifying.

The research on which we base this recommendation was summarized at ScienceDaily where the authors said this:

Before any potentially stressful event, people often engage in self-talk, an internal dialogue meant to moderate anxiety.

This kind of self-reflection is common, according to Mark Seery, a University at Buffalo psychologist whose new study, which applied cardiovascular measures to test participants’ reactions while giving a speech, suggests that taking a “distanced perspective,” or seeing ourselves as though we were an outside observer, leads to a more confident and positive response to upcoming stressors than seeing the experience through our own eyes. The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology [snip] illustrate how the strategic use of language in the face of tension helps people feel more confident.

It’s something sports psychologists do routinely—they help athletes visualize themselves executing an action successfully. When we did this with psychotherapy clients, we often asked them to observe themselves from a perspective well above the situation in which they found themselves. They could be like a fly on the wall (or see themselves sitting in a chair oddly positioned up by the ceiling) and describe what was happening to “that person” (who was actually them) in the interaction. Then they could play out (like in a movie) how they wanted “that person” to behave and practice doing it that way.

This is a strategy easily generalizable for use in the preparation of witnesses for courtroom or deposition testimony. For example, you might ask the person what they imagine as they consider testifying in court (or deposition) and (if they are anxious about it) they will probably say something like this:

The idea of all those people staring at me makes me short of breath and sweaty feeling. It just really scares me.

You want them to change that self-talk using pronouns to something like this:

When Doug thinks about testifying, Doug is anxious about all the people watching him.

And then, over time and witness preparation, to something like this:

When Doug testifies, the goal he focuses on is being calm, listening carefully, and accurately telling his truth. Doug understands the importance of communicating clearly to the jury and believes he can do that effectively while still being truthful.

You may be concerned that this sort of “self-distancing” strategy would lead to a witness who seems disconnected from their testimony. According to the researchers, you needn’t be concerned. Again, here is an excerpt from the summary over at ScienceDaily:

“We found that self-distancing did not lead to lower task engagement, which means there was no evidence that they cared less about giving a good speech. Instead, self-distancing led to greater challenge than self-immersion, which suggests people felt more confident after self-distancing.”

Seery points out that some of the most important moments in life involve goal pursuit, but these situations can be anxiety provoking or even overwhelming. “Self-distancing may promote approaching them with confidence and experiencing them with challenge rather than threat.”

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is exactly where you want a witness to be as they consider testifying. You want them to see it as a challenge rather than a threat. Using pronouns to help them distance from the anxiety while rising to the challenge of testifying may help the anxious witness bridge that transition.

Streamer, L Seery, MD Kondrak, CL Lamarche, VM Salesman, TL 2017. Not I, but she: The beneficial effects of self-distancing on challenge/threat cardiovascular responses. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 70, 235-241.

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The problem with female attorney retention has been discussed at some length in blogs, in reports sponsored by the American Bar Association, in professional association publications, in academic journals, and likely—everywhere female attorneys gather. Female attorneys leave BigLaw for many reasons but here’s a bit of research that may give insight into helping law firms retain female attorneys following childbirth or adoption.

It has long been noted that women bear the brunt of the financial/career impact related to childbirth and/or motherhood. And if you are a woman of color, the damage to income is even worse. While the research cited in this post was completed at the University of Kent, in the United Kingdom—it offers an interesting idea for law firms in the US to explore. The study results revolve around the use of flextime (which makes sense) but with an interesting twist worth investigating.

Here are the main findings:

More than half of the women in the study sample reduced their working hours after a child was born—but less than a quarter who were able to use flextime reduced their hours.

Women who were able to use flextime were only half as likely to reduce their hours after the birth of a child.

And here is the twist:

The issue was not whether new moms perceived they had access to flextime. The most important factor was the use of flextime by the woman before giving birth.

In other words, those women who had actually used flextime prior to giving birth were more likely to think they could juggle the work-life balance demands with which they were faced after giving birth. It raises the question of how ‘real’ the flextime is. If it isn’t used prior to birth, there might be cultural norms not to use it, even if it is nominally accepted. If it is seen (overtly or unconsciously) as a sign that someone is distracted, not dedicated, worn out, or otherwise not a ‘team player’–there will be a reluctance to use it, even if the alternative is to quit.

The researchers think this finding could have implications for the gender pay gap since women would not necessarily have to give up their work in order to have children. They also note it would help companies retain female employees who often tend to either leave or reduce working hours following childbirth.

From a law office management perspective, it makes sense to encourage both male and female attorneys to use flextime routinely so they can become more attuned to how flextime use can help them to balance work-life demands. For women who give birth or adopt, according to today’s highlighted research, having used flextime prior to having children may well help them juggle the challenges of having children while also retaining a rewarding and demanding career. That ‘work-life balance’ stuff is actually pretty important.

Chung, H. van der Horst, M. 2017. Women’s employment patterns after childbirth and the perceived access to and use of flextime and teleworking. Human Relations.

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