Workplace Wellness 6

Women gain weight when job demands are high

January 25, 2019

Science Daily/University of Gothenburg

Heavy pressures at work seem to predispose women to weight gain, irrespective of whether they have received an academic education. This is shown in a study of more than 3,800 people in Sweden.

 

"We were able to see that high job demands played a part in women's weight gain, while for men there was no association between high demands and weight gain," says Sofia Klingberg, a researcher in community medicine and public health at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, and the study's lead author.

 

The basis for the article, published in the journal International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, was the Västerbotten Intervention Program, a Swedish population-based study. Klingberg's study included 3,872 participants in this program.

 

The women and men in the study were investigated on three occasions over a 20-year period with respect to such variables as body weight and demands and control at work. They were followed either from age 30 to 50 or from 40 to 60.

 

To estimate the level of job demands, the respondents were asked about their work pace, psychological pressures, whether there was enough time for their duties and how often the demands made were contradictory.

 

The questions about control at work covered such matters as how often they learned something new; whether the job called for imagination or advanced skills; and whether the respondent was personally able to choose what to do and how to do it.

 

The results show that the respondents with a low degree of control in their work more frequently gained considerable weight, defined as a weight gain of 10 percent or more, in the course of the study. This applied to women and men alike.

 

On the other hand, long-term exposure to high job demands played a part only for women. In just over half of the women who had been subjected to high demands, a major increase in weight took place over the 20 years. This gain in weight was some 20 percent higher than in women subject to low job demands.

 

"When it came to the level of demands at work, only the women were affected. We haven't investigated the underlying causes, but it may conceivably be about a combination of job demands and the greater responsibility for the home that women often assume. This may make it difficult to find time to exercise and live a healthy life," Klingberg says.

 

Having had or not had an academic education does not explain the associations in the study. Neither do quality of diet or other lifestyle factors. However, the information about dietary intake comes from the respondents themselves, with a certain risk of incorrect reporting.

 

At the same time, given the problems associated with work-related stress, the study is relevant in terms of public health. The researchers think identification of groups who are susceptible to stress and efforts to reduce work-related stress would likely achieve a decrease not only in weight gain but also in the incidence of ill health, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190125172950.htm

Men are still more likely than women to be perceived as leaders

Despite progress, gender gap in leadership persists

August 9, 2018

Science Daily/University at Buffalo

Women hold just 26 percent of executive-level positions in S&P 500 companies -- and sadly that is no accident, according to a new study.

 

The study, which was made available online in March ahead of publication in the August print edition of Personnel Psychology, found that, on average, men are more likely than women to emerge as leaders.

 

The research team -- led by doctoral student Katie Badura and Emily Grijalva, PhD, assistant professor of organization and human resources in the UB School of Management -- aggregated 59 years of research, encompassing more than 19,000 participants and 136 studies from lab, business and classroom settings.

 

They discovered that although the gender gap has narrowed in recent decades, it still persists.

 

"As a society, we've made progress toward gender equality, but clearly we're not quite there," Badura says. "Our results are consistent with the struggle many organizations face today to increase diversity in their leadership teams."

 

The researchers primarily attribute the gender gap to societal pressures that contribute to gender differences in personality traits. For example, men tend to be more assertive and dominant, whereas women tend to be more communal, cooperative and nurturing. As a result, men are more likely to participate and voice their opinions during group discussions, and be perceived by others as leaderlike.

 

"We found showing sensitivity and concern for others -- stereotypically feminine traits -- made someone less likely to be seen as a leader," Grijalva says. "However, it's those same characteristics that make leaders effective. Thus, because of this unconscious bias against communal traits, organizations may unintentionally select the wrong people for leadership roles, choosing individuals who are loud and confident but lack the ability to support their followers' development and success."

 

While group size and participants' ages did not affect the gender gap, the study found the length of time participants spent together was an important factor in whether men or women emerged as leaders. The longer a group spent together, the less gender influenced who emerged as the group's leader.

 

"The gender gap was strongest during the first 20 minutes people were together, similar to an initial job interview, but weakened after more than one interaction," Grijalva says. "During the hiring process, organizations should conduct multiple interviews to reduce gender bias and ensure they're hiring the best applicant."

 

For managers, the researchers suggest promoting the value of communal behaviors in performance evaluations, prompting quieter individuals to share their ideas and being mindful of any unconscious biases you or your staff may have.

 

"In the Obama White House, female staffers adopted a strategy of amplifying one another's comments during meetings and giving credit to the individual who said it first, to ensure that women's voices were being heard," Badura says. "Tactics like this help the most qualified individuals stand out and emerge into leadership roles -- regardless of gender."

 

The project was partially supported through a grant from the University at Buffalo Gender Institute.

 

Badura and Grijalva conducted the study with Daniel A. Newman, professor of psychology and labor and employment relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Thomas Taiyi Yan, PhD student, University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business; and Gahyun Jeon, postdoctoral research associate, Northwestern University.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180809144524.htm

 

PTSD rate among prison employees equals that of war veterans

July 16, 2018

Science Daily/Washington State University

Prison employees experience PTSD on par with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, a new study from a Washington State University College of Nursing researcher found.

 

Working conditions in a prison can include regular exposure to violence and trauma, and threats of harm to the workers and their families. Previous studies have shown that prison workers have some of the highest rates of mental illness, sleep disorders and physical health issues of all U.S. workers. But the rate of PTSD among prison workers isn't well understood.

 

The new study, "Prison employment and post-traumatic stress disorder: Risk and protective factors," was conducted by lead investigator Lois James, Ph.D., assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing, and co-investigator Natalie Todak, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

 

It recently was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine and excerpted in Force Science News.

 

"Prison employees can face some of the toughest working conditions of U.S. workers," said James, "yet limited evidence exists on the specific risk and protective factors to inform targeted interventions."

 

Among the study's findings:

 

·     Prison employees work under an almost constant state of threat to their personal safety, and about a quarter of them routinely experience serious threats to themselves or their families.

·     Almost half have witnessed co-workers being seriously injured by inmates.

·     More than half have seen an inmate die or have encountered an inmate who recently died.

·     The vast majority have dealt with inmates who were recently beaten and/or sexually assaulted.

 

PTSD rates were higher among women, black employees, and employees with more than 10 years of experience. PTSD scores, using criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, didn't differ based on where the employee worked, such as a minimum versus maximum security facility.

 

James and Todak note that the research included a small sample of 355 employees of one labor union at the Washington State Department of Corrections, and recommended further study of the issue.

 

Still, they said their findings suggest the corrections profession could benefit from specific training to promote resilience. They also said issues common to nearly every workplace also can protect prison employees from PTSD, such as having good relationships with supervisors and coworkers, and liking their work assignments.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180716091509.htm

It's about time: Immediate rewards boost workplace motivation

June 6, 2018

Science Daily/Cornell University

New research shows that immediate rewards increase enjoyment and interest in tasks more compared to rewards at the end of a task.

 

Struggling to finish that report for your boss? One way to increase your interest in a task is to add immediate rewards, rather than wait until the end to reward yourself, according to new Cornell research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled "It's About Time: Earlier Rewards Increase Intrinsic Motivation."

 

Kaitlin Woolley assistant professor of marketing at Cornell University, found that giving people an immediate bonus for working on a task, rather than waiting until the end of the task, increased their interest and enjoyment in the task. People who got an earlier bonus were more motivated to pursue the activity for its own sake and even continued with the activity after the reward was removed.

 

In a series of five experiments, Woolley analyzed how reward proximity influenced intrinsic motivation -- the positive feeling that comes from the process of an activity -- and people's desire to persist in the task after the reward was removed.

 

"The idea that immediate rewards could increase intrinsic motivation sounds counterintuitive, as people often think about rewards as undermining interest in a task," Woolley said. "But for activities like work, where people are already getting paid, immediate rewards can actually increase intrinsic motivation, compared with delayed or no rewards."

 

"If you have a hobby -- say you like to knit or quilt -- the process itself is enjoyable, it's intrinsically motivated. You're doing it just for the sake of doing it, rather than for the outcome," Woolley said. Adding immediate rewards does something similar: It increases the positive experience of the task, with important outcomes for motivation and persistence.

 

In one study, people completed a task in which they spotted the difference in two images. Some people expected to receive an immediate bonus after they finished the task, whereas others expected to receive the same bonus in a month. An immediate bonus led to an almost 20 percent increase in the percent of people sticking with the task after the reward was removed compared with a delayed reward.

 

In another study, the researchers compared the timing of a reward with the size of the reward. They found that an immediate (versus delayed) bonus for reading led to a 35 percent increase in the number of people continuing to read after the reward was removed, whereas a larger (versus smaller) reward only led to a 19 percent increase. This suggests the timing of a reward may matter more for intrinsic motivation than the size of the reward, Woolley said.

 

The work has important implications for motivating employees. For example, a series of smaller, more frequent bonuses throughout the year could motivate employees more than a larger end-of-the year bonus. Similarly, this finding could inform loyalty programs for marketers trying to incentive customers to make more purchases.

 

Ironically, people balk at providing bonuses too soon, and think early rewards might have a negative consequences. "More evidence suggests immediate rewards are beneficial," said Woolley. "They're a useful tool for increasing interest in an activity."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180606143709.htm

Stressful jobs are associated with a higher risk of heart rhythm disorders

The most stressful jobs are psychologically demanding but give employees little control

June 4, 2018

Science Daily/European Society of Cardiology

Having a stressful job is associated with a higher risk of a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, according to new research.

 

The most stressful jobs are psychologically demanding but give employees little control over the work situation -- for example, assembly line workers, bus drivers, secretaries, and nurses.

 

The study found that being stressed at work was associated with a 48% higher risk of atrial fibrillation, after adjustment for age, sex, and education.

 

Dr Eleonor Fransson, study author and associate professor of epidemiology, School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University, Sweden, said: "We need people to do these jobs but employers can help by making sure staff have the resources required to complete the assigned tasks. Bosses should schedule breaks and listen to employees' ideas on how the work itself and the work environment can be improved."

 

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia). Symptoms include palpitations, weakness, fatigue, feeling light headed, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

 

Atrial fibrillation causes 20-30% of all strokes and increases the risk of dying prematurely.2 One in four middle-aged adults in Europe and the US will develop atrial fibrillation. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 14-17 million patients with atrial fibrillation in the European Union, with 120,000-215,000 new diagnoses each year.

 

Dr Fransson said: "Atrial fibrillation is a common condition with serious consequences and therefore it is of major public health importance to find ways of preventing it. Little is known about risk factors for the disease and especially the role of the work environment."

 

This study assessed the link between work stress and atrial fibrillation. The study included 13,200 participants enrolled into the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH) in 2006, 2008, or 2010. Participants were employed and had no history of atrial fibrillation, heart attack, or heart failure. At study inclusion, participants completed postal surveys on sociodemographics, lifestyle, health, and work-related factors.

 

Work stress was defined as job strain, which refers to jobs with high psychological demands combined with low control over the work situation. The survey included five questions on job demands and six on control -- for example: Do you have to work very hard or very fast? Are there conflicting demands in your work? Do you have enough time to complete your work tasks? Does your work include a lot of repetition? Can you decide how and what to do at work?

 

During a median follow-up of 5.7 years, 145 cases of atrial fibrillation were identified from national registers.

 

Dr Fransson said: "In the general working population in Sweden, employees with stressful jobs were almost 50% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. The estimated risk remained even after we took into account other factors such as smoking, leisure time physical activity, body mass index, and hypertension."

 

The authors then pooled their results with two other studies on the same topic, and found that job strain was associated with a 37% increased risk of atrial fibrillation. "Across studies there was a consistent pattern of work stress being a risk factor for atrial fibrillation," said Dr Fransson.

 

She concluded: "Work stress has previously been linked with coronary heart disease. Work stress should be considered a modifiable risk factor for preventing atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease. People who feel stressed at work and have palpitations or other symptoms of atrial fibrillation should see their doctor and speak to their employer about improving the situation at work."

 

European guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease state that stress at work contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and having a worse prognosis.3 Assessment of psychosocial risk factors is recommended in people who have, or are at risk of developing, cardiovascular disease.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180604172750.htm

Why older workers might be more stressed than younger ones

May 14, 2018

Science Daily/Portland State University

Older workers tend to feel more stress than younger workers when their employers don't provide them with the support and resources needed to do their jobs well, according to a new study.

 

The study, published online in April in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, is part of a larger project aimed at improving employee health, safety, work-life balance and well-being.

 

The research team -- made up of Lale Yaldiz, a Ph.D. candidate in industrial-organizational psychology, and PSU psychology professors Donald Truxillo, Leslie Hammer and Todd Bodner -- surveyed 243 municipal public works employees between the ages of 24 and 64 over the course of a year.

 

The study found that both younger and older workers had lower levels of overall stress when they were given more autonomy on the job, had good relationships with their bosses and felt they were respected and treated fairly at work. But when such resources were lacking, older workers reported significantly higher stress levels a year later than their younger colleagues.

 

"These are things that employers should provide to all employees, but may be especially important for older employees," Truxillo said. "You don't want to have a company policy that says, 'We treat young people this way and old people that way,' but it does show you that age-sensitive human resource systems should be in place where you maybe train managers on how to be aware of the needs of their different workers."

 

Yaldiz said the findings suggest that older workers place a greater value on having autonomy and a supportive work environment than younger workers because those resources allow them to adapt to the psychological and physical changes that come with aging. For example, older workers tend to prioritize emotional needs and care more about having socially meaningful interactions and mentoring their colleagues than younger workers whose focus tends to be on gaining the skills they need to advance in their careers.

 

The authors say the findings are especially important as the number of workers who are 55 and older continues to grow. The U.S. Labor Bureau estimates that older workers will account for nearly a quarter of the workforce by 2020.

 

"With the workforce becoming more age-diverse and older at the same time, it is important to understand the differences between younger and older workers to help them cope with the demands of their work lives more effectively," Yaldiz said.

 

Among the study's recommendations:

 

-Rather than require that employees complete tasks a certain way, employers should, when possible, give workers the flexibility to bring their different skill sets, strengths and years of accumulated job experience to the table

 

-Training for supervisors should emphasize leadership skills about how to build strong relationships with workers of all ages so they feel like trusted and valued members of their team

 

-Since older workers appear to be more susceptible to stress in the face of unfairness, organizations can help workers by being transparent about how decisions are made and implemented, not discriminating, valuing employee input when making key decisions and providing channels for employees to voice concerns

 

Bodner said that in many ways, it's common sense.

 

"When you come down to it, focusing on bottom lines and ignoring these human resource factors have really bad results and can be more expensive down the road," he said. "By not focusing on the human side, it's a short-term gain but a long-term loss."

 

The researchers suggest that future studies should look at diverse worker groups across industries, jobs, gender and ethnicities to generalize the study findings, and explore the types of resources that are important to younger employees' well-being.

 

The study was supported by grants from the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180514091512.htm

Aggression at work can lead to 'vicious circle' of misconduct

May 10, 2018

Science Daily/University of East Anglia

New research reveals that frequently being the target of workplace aggression not only affects the victim's health but can also cause them to behave badly towards others. Workplace aggression is a significant issue particularly in the healthcare sector, where nurses can be targeted by both their colleagues and co-workers through bullying, and by patients and their relatives through 'third-party' aggression

 

Workplace aggression is a significant issue particularly in the healthcare sector, where nurses can be targeted by both their colleagues and co-workers through bullying, and by patients and their relatives through 'third-party' aggression.

 

While workplace aggression has been examined in relation to the health-related consequences for victims, less is known about the possible negative impact it may have on their own behaviour at work.

 

The findings of this study suggest that the experience of anger and fear associated with being the target of aggression at work could lead some nurses to translate the emotions that are triggered into misconduct, possibly disregarding professional and ethical codes.

 

Published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, the study was led by Dr Roberta Fida from UEA, working with colleagues from Coventry University, and universities in Italy and the US.

 

It involved 855 nurses, who were asked about their experiences of aggression, negative emotions and health symptoms. They were also asked how often they engaged in a range of counterproductive work behaviours, from insulting a colleague and stealing something belonging to an employer, to clinical misbehaviour related to restraining patients and modifying prescriptions without consulting doctors.

 

The results have implications for designing programmes aimed at increasing employees' well-being, the quality of the interactions with patients and staff, and the quality of care.

 

Dr Fida, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at UEA's Norwich Business School, said: "Our findings provide further evidence that being a target of aggression represents a frustrating situation in which victims experience anger that may prompt a 'hot' and impulsive aggressive response, with likely impact on the quality of care provided to patients.

 

"Little research has been conducted in the healthcare sector on this type of behaviour, despite the potential importance of the issue in this setting. There are consequences, not only for the direct victim, but also for the entire organizational system, in which it is possible to envision the trigger of vicious circles leading to broader and more diffuse forms of workplace aggression."

 

This is the first study to examine the specific role of frequent mistreatments at work in triggering misconduct and the emotions of anger, fear, and sadness separately. These emotions were studied because they are those most regularly experienced by targets of aggression, but are different in terms of mechanisms, consequences and strategies for managing them.

 

The authors also investigated the role of moral disengagement, namely a set of cognitive mechanisms that temporarily silence people's moral standards, allowing them to freely engage in conduct they would generally consider wrong.

 

Dr Fida said: "This research provides the first evidence of fear being an important discrete emotion associated with misconduct through moral disengagement. Since individuals experiencing fear are more alert and attentive to picking up potential external threats, and tend to perceive the environment as highly dangerous and threatening, they are more likely to engage in any form of behaviour, including aggression, which may potentially help them to defend themselves and comply with their need for protection."

 

The findings confirm that sadness is not associated with engaging in misconduct but is exclusively associated with health symptoms. Fear and anger are also associated with health symptoms, with the authors concluding that the emotional experience associated with being target of aggression, be it bullying or third party aggression, is associated with a range of health symptoms affecting nurses' well-being and their behaviour at work.

 

The authors suggest that training should focus on emotions and in particular on the specificity of the emotional experience. For example, it should help employees to gain awareness about the different possible emotional responses associated with the experience of aggression at work that may potentially lead to different dysfunctional paths for themselves and others.

 

In relation to the relevance of moral disengagement, it is also important to design and implement interventions aimed at promoting an ethical culture and providing examples of strategies to deal with threatening and hostile interactions.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180510203749.htm

Mindfulness at work: Study first to uncover positive benefits for teams

May 3, 2018

Science Daily/University of British Columbia

Challenges and differences in opinion are inevitable when working in a team. But new research suggests some of these conflicts can be reduced, or even avoided, through team mindfulness

 

Team mindfulness refers to a shared belief within a team of focusing on the present moment and ensuring team members interact with one another without judgment. While individual mindfulness has gained traction around the world, research has yet to properly delve into the benefits of mindfulness in a group setting, which the researchers say could be achieved through activities such as meditation or yoga practiced as a team.

 

The study is the first to challenge the common belief that mindfulness is a solitary activity, and explores how team mindfulness can be beneficial to teams.

 

"Mindfulness has been proven to increase job satisfaction and psychological well-being and decrease stress in employees, so we wondered how these benefits may or may not transfer to a team environment," said Lingtao Yu, the study's lead author and assistant professor at Sauder. "We found that when teams are more mindful, this reduces interpersonal conflicts and helps teams better focus on the task at hand."

 

For the study, the researchers conducted two field studies with a total of 394 students in Masters of Business Administration programs in the United States to develop a scale of team mindfulness and to test the benefits of team mindfulness in reducing conflict. A third field study tested the benefits of team mindfulness within a different work culture using 292 health care workers in China.

 

The researchers found that, when teams are more mindful, the degree of interpersonal conflict decreased. Team members were also less likely to transform their frustration with a particular task into a personal conflict with their colleagues. This helped the team members detach from the task and eliminated strong emotions and feelings of prejudgment.

 

"Our research shows that interpersonal conflict can further spill over into interpersonal social undermining behaviours, harming teamwork as a whole," said study co-author Mary Zellmer-Bruhn of the University of Minnesota. "Team mindfulness can act as a safeguard against this and ensures that the task, rather than the person, remains the focus of reactions. It can also limit the intensity of one's opposition and negative emotions, thereby limiting escalation."

 

The researchers argue that more companies should consider making a concerted effort to be mindful -- not only for individual employees, but as a team. Organizations such as Google, Target, General Mills and UBC have been early adopters of individual mindfulness practices and recognize the benefits of it. For example, companies could benefit from bringing a meditation expert to carry out meditation sessions for teams.

 

"Given that more companies are employing a team-based organizational structure, where team interactions are critical and stress levels are high, we hope to design an evidence-based team mindfulness program that organizations can offer," said Yu. "We believe teams may benefit from doing meditation or yoga together, and setting aside time to share experiences so that team as a whole becomes more mindful."

 

The study was recently published in the Academy of Management Journal.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180503142625.htm

Workplace flexibility bias not just a mother's problem

April 30, 2018

Science Daily/University of Michigan

Work-life balance is not an issue exclusive to women, particularly mothers -- even men and those without children can suffer when they feel that their workplace culture is not family friendly, according to a new study.

 

When employees think their careers will suffer if they take time away from work for family or personal reasons, they have lower work satisfaction and experience more work-life spillover. In addition, they are more likely to intend to leave their jobs, say researchers at the University of Michigan and California State University Channel Islands.

 

Study co-author Erin Cech, U-M assistant professor of sociology, say these negative impacts of this kind of workplace culture have the potential to affect all workers. This underscores the need to overhaul work structures that threaten to penalize all workers for attempting to balance their work and home lives -- whether or not those lives include children, she said.

 

The study focused on understanding the "ideal worker norm" -- a belief many employers have that individuals should be single-mindedly devoted to them, available to work full-time until retirement and have few interruptions from family.

 

Researchers tested workplace flexibility bias using a nationally representative sample of more than 2,700 employed people (half were men). They answered questions about job satisfaction, engagement, job-to-home spillover, home-to-job spillover and turnover intentions.

 

Respondents reported their beliefs about their workplace environment, specifically whether they felt they could ask for time off for personal or family reasons and still get ahead in their jobs or careers.

 

Nearly 40 percent felt that workers at their jobs are unlikely to get ahead at work when they ask for time off. Many respondents were caregivers or used a flexible work schedule.

 

People typically think only women and moms experience work-family issues, and need flexible work arrangements, like telecommuting, part-time work or job sharing. Society believes it's women who bear the brunt of unfriendly work cultures, when it actually impacts all genders, says Lindsey Trimble O'Connor, lead author and assistant professor of sociology at California State University Channel Islands.

 

This flexibility bias, the researchers say, leaves workers with little control over their schedule, feeling unsupported by their companies or unhappy knowing that their company might be discriminating against those balancing work with personal responsibilities.

 

What can organizations do? It's not enough for them to have work-life policies on the books. They need to promote a culture where workers feel like they can use those policies without their careers being penalized, the researchers say.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180430131439.htm

More than 9 in 10 elementary school teachers feel highly stressed

April 27, 2018

Science Daily/University of Missouri

One of the most important factors in ensuring student success is quality instruction by teachers. However, quality instruction can be a difficult goal if teachers do not have the resources to improve their skills and if rising levels of teacher stress go unchecked. Now, researchers have found that high levels of job-related stress affect 93 percent of teachers, a greater percentage than previously thought. Classrooms with highly stressed teachers tend to have the poorest student outcomes, such as lower grades and frequent behavior problems.

 

"It's no secret that teaching is a stressful profession," said Keith Herman, professor in the MU College of Education. "However, when stress interferes with personal and emotional well-being at such a severe level, the relationships teachers have with students are likely to suffer, much like any relationship would in a high stress environment."

 

Aside from training and general competence, one factor that can influence successful behavior interventions and classroom management is teacher stress and coping. Herman analyzed teacher profiles by level of stress, level of coping ability and the level of burnout the teacher felt. He found that teachers with low levels of stress and high coping ability are few and far between.

 

"It's troubling that only 7 percent of teachers experience low stress and feel they are getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job," Herman said. "Even more concerning is that these patterns of teacher stress are related to students' success in school, both academically and behaviorally. For example, classrooms with highly stressed teachers have more instances of disruptive behaviors and lower levels of prosocial behaviors."

 

The researchers outline a few methods that might better support highly stressed teachers. Herman suggests that teachers have access to screening processes that can identify a need for more support to avoid further stress and burnout. Building initiatives and programs that promote mental health practices and overall health can be extremely beneficial for teachers. However, Herman says that focusing on individual coping strategies is just a start to fighting the broader social contexts that influence teacher stress.

 

"We as a society need to consider methods that create nurturing school environments not just for students, but for the adults who work there," Herman said. "This could mean finding ways for administrators, peers and parents to have positive interactions with teachers, giving teachers the time and training to perform their jobs, and creating social networks of support so that teachers do not feel isolated."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180427105203.htm

Let it go: Mental breaks after work improve sleep

Repetitive thoughts on rude behavior at work results in insomnia

April 23, 2018

Science Daily/American Psychological Association

If you've had a bad day at work thanks to rude colleagues, doing something fun and relaxing after you punch out could net you a better night's sleep.

 

That was the key finding of research that appears in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.

 

"Sleep quality is crucial because sleep plays a major role in how employees perform and behave at work," said lead author Caitlin Demsky, PhD, of Oakland University. "In our fast-paced, competitive professional world, it is more important than ever that workers are in the best condition to succeed, and getting a good night's sleep is key to that."

 

Demsky and her co-authors surveyed 699 employees of the U.S. Forest Service. Participants were asked to rate the level of rude behavior they experienced in the workplace, how often they had negative thoughts about work, whether they have insomnia symptoms and how much they were able to detach from work and relax. Researchers also asked about the number of children under 18 living at home, hours worked per week, and frequency of alcoholic drinks as these have previously been linked with sleep issues.

 

Experiencing rude or negative behavior at work, such as being judged or verbally abused, was linked with more symptoms of insomnia, including waking up multiple times during the night. But people who were able to detach and do something relaxing to recover after work -- such as yoga, listening to music or going for a walk -- slept better.

 

"Incivility in the workplace takes a toll on sleep quality," said Demsky. "It does so in part by making people repeatedly think about their negative work experiences. Those who can take mental breaks from this fare better and do not lose as much sleep as those who are less capable of letting go."

 

Repeated negative thoughts about work may also be linked to several health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, increased blood pressure and fatigue, according to the authors.

 

Demsky suggests that managers can be role models for employees after work by not sending work-related messages outside of business hours, for example.

 

The authors also suggested that employers encourage programs aimed at reducing workplace incivility, such as "Civility, Respect, Engagement in the Workforce," launched by the Veterans Health Administration to promote positive and respectful communication among co-workers. The program seeks to change work cultures with resources that focus on the benefits of civility at the office.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423110828.htm

Workplace anxiety isn't always a bad thing: It can boost performance

April 17, 2018

Science Daily/University of Toronto

Researchers have developed a new comprehensive model of workplace anxiety. It includes triggers for anxiety in the workplace and its effect on employee performance.

 

"There are a lot of theories and models of anxiety that exist, but this is the first model situated in the workplace focusing on employees," says co-author Julie McCarthy from the Department of Management at U of T Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management.

 

McCarthy, along with her former grad student and lead author Bonnie Hayden Cheng, now an assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, looked at both the triggers of workplace anxiety and also its relationship to employee performance.

 

"If you have too much anxiety, and you're completely consumed by it, then it's going to derail your performance," says McCarthy, who is an expert on organizational behaviour.

 

"On the other hand, moderate levels of anxiety can facilitate and drive performance."

 

If employees are constantly distracted or thinking about things that are causing them anxiety, it will prevent them from completing tasks at work and that can eventually lead to exhaustion and burnout, says Cheng.

 

But in certain situations anxiety can boost performance by helping employees focus and self-regulate their behaviour. She compares it to athletes who are trained to harness anxiety in order to remain motivated and stay on task. Likewise, if employees engage in something called self-regulatory processing, that is monitoring their progress on a task and focusing their efforts toward performing that task, it can help boost their performance.

 

"After all, if we have no anxiety and we just don't care about performance, then we are not going to be motivated to do the job," says Cheng.

 

She says that work-anxious employees who are motivated are more likely to harness anxiety in order to help them focus on their tasks. Those who are emotionally intelligent, can recognize their feelings of anxiety and use it to regulate their performance, as well as those who are experienced and skilled at their job, are also less likely to have anxiety affect their performance.

 

The model of workplace anxiety Cheng and McCarthy developed is broken into two categories.

 

One covers dispositional aspects, that is those that align with individual character traits. If someone already experiences high levels of general anxiety for example, their experiences with workplace anxiety will be different from those who don't.

 

The other covers situational aspects, those that arise in specific job tasks. Some employees may be more affected by job appraisals, public speaking or other tasks that can distract them and lead to poor performance.

 

The study, which is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, also outlines many of the triggers for workplace anxiety. The most prominent include jobs that require constant expression or suppression of emotion -- think "service with a smile" -- as well as jobs with constant looming deadlines or frequent organizational change.

 

Office politics and control over work are other important factors. Employee characteristics including age, gender and job tenure can also affect the experience of workplace anxiety.

 

The authors note that anxiety is a growing issue for workplaces. Recent research has found that 72 per cent of Americans experiencing daily anxiety say it interferes with their work and personal lives.

 

While the authors do not condone inducing anxiety in employees to foster high performance, the good news for employees who chronically experience anxiety at work, or who experience it from time to time, is that it can help performance if they can self-regulate their behaviour.

 

"Managing anxiety can be done by recognizing and addressing triggers of workplace anxiety, but also being aware of how to leverage it in order to drive performance," says Cheng.

 

She says there are many strategies organizations can use to help employees. Some of these include training to help boost self-confidence, offering tools and resources to perform tasks at work, and equipping employees with strategies to recognize, use, and manage feelings of anxiety through emotional intelligence development.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180417130111.htm

Men willing to punish more than women to get ahead

New research evaluates gender differences in cooperation

April 16, 2018

Science Daily/Chapman University

Researchers have measured gender differences in cooperation and punishment behavior. Results showed that men punish more than women, men obtain higher rank, and punishment by males decreases payoffs for both sexes. Furthermore, men are willing to punish people who have done nothing wrong, except cooperate to the fullest extent possible.

 

Results suggest that status-seeking men are willing to impose enormous costs on others and destroy their group to move up in the hierarchy. According to the study, men may punish more than women for two reasons: First, punishment is often viewed as similar to physical conflict. Men are known to favor physical punishment of unfair behavior. Men are also less cooperative and less generous compared with their female counterparts.

 

Second, status affects cooperative behavior and women may feel differently about status and rank. If so, punishment may be a tool used by certain individuals to advance in rank. For example, explicit rank-based incentives caused men to punish at roughly twice the rate of women.

 

"Outside the laboratory, high-powered punishment and rank-based reward may be the norm," said Terence Burnham, Ph.D, associate professor in Chapman University's Argyros School of Business and Economics, and sole author of this study. "This study connects academic research to current headlines including the #metoo movement."

 

Mixed-gender situations with the ability to punish others occur daily in the workplace. These types of punishments can range from reputational harm to more direct financial impacts such as being terminated from your position. Studies of gender and costly cooperation are relatively rare, and existing studies reveal no clear relationship between gender and certain cooperative behaviors.

 

Dr. Burnham conducted a public goods game with 96 undergraduate students from Chapman University. Four experimental sessions with 24 subjects each had equal numbers of men and women. During this game, subjects secretly chose how many of their private tokens to place into a public pot, with each participant keeping the tokens they did not contribute. The tokens in this pot were multiplied by 1.6 and divided equally among four players in a group. All decisions were made via independent computers, while subjects were instructed not to look at anyone's screen or speak to one another. Participants in each session played this game with and without rank-based payoffs.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180416124310.htm

Considering an employee for an overseas assignment?

Study says personality has a big impact on how well they adjust

April 3, 2018

Science Daily/Florida Atlantic University

A new study shows that expatriates' personality characteristics have a lot to do with how well they adjust and whether they succeed and provide a return on a company's considerable investment in an individual.

 

More globalization means more multinational corporations are increasingly sending their employees overseas, swelling the ranks of expatriates in foreign locales where they are strangers to the language, the culture and ways of doing business.

 

A new study from Florida Atlantic University shows that expatriates' personality characteristics have a lot to do with how well they adjust and whether they succeed and provide a return on a company's considerable investment in an individual.

 

"Oftentimes, expatriates have difficulty adjusting to this new environment. They can suffer poor well-being, experience conflict between their work life and family life, perform poorly and turnover," said Michael Harari, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Management Programs in FAU's College of Business, co-author of the study. "All expatriates are different. Maybe some are more adept to adjusting effectively where others aren't. We wanted to understand what characteristics of expatriates make them more or less likely to adjust effectively."

 

The study is published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.

 

Harari and his fellow researchers from Florida International University and Citi carried out a meta-analysis of personality-expatriate adjustment correlations, organized around the framework of the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality, which includes broad factors for emotional stability, openness, extraversion, conscientiousness and agreeableness.

 

When it comes to expatriate adjustment, three of those personality traits seem to play a more important role, according to Harari. Expatriates who tended to do well with foreign assignments tended to be extraverts who were both emotionally stable and open to new experiences, the research found. Harari believes that extraverts are much better at forming larger and denser social networks, which helps them with the emotional and informational support that is key to succeeding on an expatriate assignment.

 

"Extraverts are more adept at building these support networks, and we believe that's why extraversion was so important," he added.

 

Emotional stability also plays a key role. Relocating to a different country and being embedded in a new culture where everything is different can be very stressful.

 

"Having strong emotional reactions to these types of stimuli acts as a barrier to effective adjustment," Harari said. "People who are very emotionally stable, they're not as affected by the culture shock and the various stressors that are faced on assignment; they are much more even-tempered and this helps them to adjust better in the face of these various stressors."

 

When you're interacting with someone in a foreign culture, you don't always understand how to interpret different behaviors. People who exhibit openness to experience tend to enjoy the novelty of living in a new culture, Harari explained, and they're much more tolerant of ambiguity.

 

Sending someone overseas is a considerable investment, Harari noted. Corporations should choose individuals who not only can perform their job but also have the ability to do it in the context of a foreign environment. According to Harari, individuals who may be interested in foreign assignments should consider evaluating their own personalities to determine how well they are likely to adjust to the various challenges faced. Further, corporations may want to use personality assessments as part of their career development and expatriate selection systems to cut down on employee turnover.

 

"The stakes are very high, and that's why we think it was so important to go beyond the existing research and look at the dispositions of people on foreign assignment," Harari said. "Expatriates have their own characteristics that they bring with them, and these characteristics impact how they react to the various stressors faced on assignment and the behaviors they engage in overseas that have implications for adjustments."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180403140357.htm

Incivility at work: Is 'queen bee syndrome' getting worse?

March 1, 2018

Science Daily/University of Arizona

Women report more incivility at work than men, and according to new research, it's other women who are responsible for it.

 

The phenomenon of women discriminating against other women in the workplace -- particularly as they rise in seniority -- has long been documented as the "queen bee syndrome." As women have increased their ranks in the workplace, most will admit to experiencing rude behavior and incivility.

 

Who is at fault for dishing out these mildly deviant behaviors? Has the syndrome grown more pervasive?

 

"Studies show women report more incivility experiences overall than men, but we wanted to find out who was targeting women with rude remarks," said Allison Gabriel, assistant professor of management and organizations in the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management.

 

Gabriel and her co-authors set out to answer that question across three studies. Men and women who were employed full time answered questions about the incivility they experienced at work during the last month. The questions were about co-workers who put them down or were condescending, made demeaning or derogatory remarks, ignored them in a meeting or addressed them in unprofessional terms. Each set of questions was answered twice, once for male co-workers and once for female co-workers.

 

"Across the three studies, we found consistent evidence that women reported higher levels of incivility from other women than their male counterparts," Gabriel said. "In other words, women are ruder to each other than they are to men, or than men are to women.

 

"This isn't to say men were off the hook or they weren't engaging in these behaviors," she noted. "But when we compared the average levels of incivility reported, female-instigated incivility was reported more often than male-instigated incivility by women in our three studies."

 

Participants also were asked to complete trait inventories of their personalities and behaviors to determine if there were any factors that contributed to women being treated uncivilly. The research showed that women who defied gender norms by being more assertive and dominant at work were more likely to be targeted by their female counterparts, compared to women who exhibited fewer of those traits.

 

The researchers also found that when men acted assertive and warm -- in general, not considered the norm for male behavior -- they reported lower incivility from their male counterparts. This suggests men actually get a social credit for partially deviating from their gender stereotypes, a benefit that women are not afforded.

 

Gabriel, whose co-authors are Marcus Butts from Southern Methodist University, Zhenyu Yuan of the University of Iowa, Rebecca Rosen of Indiana University and Michael Sliter of First Person Consulting, said the research is important not only from the standpoint of individual employee health but also in terms of organizational management.

 

Evidence emerged in the three studies that companies may face a greater risk of losing female employees who experience female-instigated incivility, as they reported less satisfaction at work and increased intentions to quit their current jobs in response to these unpleasant experiences. Paired with estimates that incivility can cost organizations an estimated $14,000 per employee, this presents a problem for organizations.

 

Gabriel noted that the findings are an opportunity for companies to re-evaluate their cultures and how they address this issue.

 

"Companies should be asking, 'What kinds of interventions can be put in place to really shift the narrative and reframe it?'" Gabriel said. "Making workplace interactions more positive and supportive for employees can go a long way toward creating a more positive, healthier environment that helps sustain the company in the long run. Organizations should make sure they also send signals that the ideas and opinions of all employees are valued, and that supporting others is crucial for business success -- that is, acting assertively should not be viewed negatively, but as a positive way for employees to voice concerns and speak up."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180301164811.htm

Hitting rock bottom after job loss can be beneficial

February 20, 2018

Science Daily/University of Notre Dame

Bottoming out as a result of job loss can be necessary before finding the radical solution that will lead to a new work identity, according to new research.

 

We've all heard it said, "When you hit rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up." This can prove especially true in business, where bottoming out as a result of job loss can be necessary before finding the radical solution that will lead to a new work identity, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame.

 

"Hitting Rock Bottom After Job Loss: Bouncing Back to Create a New Positive Work Identity," was published this month in Academy of Management Review by lead author Dean Shepherd, the Siegfried Professor of Entrepreneurship in Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, and Trenton Williams of Indiana University.

 

"On the way down, we frantically do all sorts of things to try and repair the situation, and suffer as they fail," Shepherd says. "Bottoming out frees us from the misconception that the problems can be fixed, and in the process, frees us from other constraints and negative emotions and provides the conditions necessary to find a viable solution."

 

Individuals who eventually hit rock bottom come to realize their identity has been lost, and that realization can lead to one of two paths: toward recovery or toward dysfunction.

 

"Using 'identity play' provides a safe environment to escape the situation and try new things, discarding bad ideas or finding and refining a new identity and returning stronger than before."

 

Play provides an opportunity to both withdraw from the mental anguish and to be creative in generating alternative new work identities and then trying them out to see how they feel without having to commit to them, which can be fun.

 

Once the individual finds a potential identity that feels right, they then begin to refine the job to make sure it's a good fit for both their needs and the reality of the situation. Without hitting rock bottom, the individual would not have been freed from the past to enable them to creatively explore different alternatives for the future.

 

"A failed corporate executive might consider a variety of other potential roles," Shepherd says, "For example, sitting on the board of a nonprofit organization that is desperate for experienced managerial guidance, exploring government positions or running for office, working with startups, and so forth. Similarly, a failed entrepreneur might explore how skills learned in starting a business could be applied in a corporate setting, take standardized exams to be considered for law school or engage in other low risk exploration activities. In these cases, hitting rock bottom opens up myriad new opportunities."

 

Former NFL players Jermichael Finley, Mike Utley and Tony Boselli all suffered career ending injuries and have refocused on other business ventures. Finley, in his 20s suffered a spinal cord injury while playing as a tight end for the Green Bay Packers. He is now coaching and invested in a gym. Utley played guard for the Detroit Lions when a game injury left him paralyzed. He started the Mike Utley Foundation. Boselli was a defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars who retired early due to a nagging shoulder injury. He's now 45 and admits he still suffers from an "identity crisis" but continues working with the Jaguars on their Sunday radio show as well as other radio shows including Westwood One. He also coaches high school football and started a small healthcare company.

 

The less desirable path involves using fantasy as a means of escape and can include alcohol and drug use.

 

Along this less desirable path, "people will oscillate between no emotion and severe negative emotion and make no progress toward building a new identity, which can eventually lead to even worse outcomes like suicide," Shepherd says.

 

Recent studies have explored the impact of career-ending injuries for musicians and soldiers -- injuries that generated intense negative emotions as they approached rock bottom. In both studies, some of these individuals were fixated on the loss of a former identity, paralyzed by the realization that they could no longer perform or continue in an established role. Some sought escape through cognitive deconstruction, including the use of drugs.

 

"A failed executive might resort to a numb state that involves abusing alcohol, engaging in menial tasks at home or becoming a couch potato," Shepherd says. "However, when friends offer job suggestions or ask why the executive has yet to land a new position, it could launch the individual from the numb state into extreme negative emotions leading to destructive behavior."

 

A deeper understanding of why some recover and others languish provides an opportunity to develop interventions that facilitate recovery from work identity loss.

 

Shepherd hopes the research helps people realize that hitting rock bottom can be an opportunity to let go of a broken and unrepairable life and begin anew to develop a new life, as well as avoid the negative path of fantasy that obstructs recovery.

 

A research leader in the field of entrepreneurship, Shepherd specializes in entrepreneurial cognitions, new venture strategy, opportunity recognition and learning from failure.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180220095011.htm

Standing room only at work

February 12, 2018

Science Daily/Inderscience

The promotion of active work stations, such as standing desks and even treadmills in the office has been promoted by manufacturers recently with claims of better physical health, improved posture, even reduced mental stress, and a general boost to wellbeing. A new study suggests that many of the proposed benefits and claims are little more than marketing hyperbole.

 

Markus Makkonen, Minna Silvennoinen, Tuula Nousiainen, Arto Pesola, and Mikko Vesisenaho of the University of Jyvaskyla, explain that several studies in recent years have added to warnings about the perils of prolonged sedentary behaviour on our health and wellbeing. These studies have ultimately led to a new sector of ergonomics and thence products aimed at improving work posture and other factors. The team points out that one particular field of work seems more stereotypically prone to issues associated with being sedentary in the workplace and that is the software industry. As such, the team has investigated a small cohort of individuals in this sector to see whether or not there are benefits to standing workstations.

 

The team has investigated the physical activity, mental alertness, stress, and musculoskeletal strain in employees of a large software company in Finland. The employees completed a questionnaire and participated in the Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment service.

 

The team found that the benefits of standing at work over sitting for workers in this industry were not at all as clear-cut as the marketing hype for standing workstations might suggest. "the findings of this study suggest that the usage of standing instead of sitting workstations results in only modest promotions of physical activity," the team reports. Moreover, the change "does not have an effect on mental alertness." Indeed, standing to work seems to shift the stress-recovery balance more towards stress than recovery. They did see a decrease in musculoskeletal strain in the user's neck and shoulders, although stress and strain was raised in the legs and feet. Interestingly, the use of standing workstations did not have an impact on work posture comfort or workstation satisfaction, the team found.

 

The modest physical improvements to health -- heart rate increased by 4.2 beats per minute on average, a rise in VO2 of 0.3 ml per kg body mass per minute, and in an extra 6.1 kilocalories burned per hour and marginally reduced upper body tension -- would have to be offset against the increased risk of varicose veins, common in those who stand for long periods, and perhaps lower back problem exacerbated by always being upright.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180212085425.htm

Workplace stress can take a toll on your brain surgeon, too

February 9, 2018

Science Daily/University of Southern California - Health Sciences

When it comes to workplace stress, even doctors aren't immune to its effects. For doctors training to become neurosurgeons, burnout is common, and certain workplace stressors -- like unrewarding mentor relationships, difficult coworkers and not getting enough exposure to the operating room -- can lead to it, according to a new study from the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

 

Building the skills needed to treat complex neurological conditions like stroke, brain tumors or spinal cord injuries requires a highly demanding, seven-year training program. The pressure of that training can sometimes lead to emotional exhaustion, an inability to connect with others or feeling unaccomplished, which are components of burnout. Understanding what factors influence burnout can be a powerful catalyst for change.

 

"As a patient, you don't want your doctor to be depressed or demoralized when they're working on you, because they're not their best self," says the study's lead author Frank Attenello, MD, MS, assistant professor of clinical neurological surgery at the Keck School. "And as a society, we don't want to discourage people from becoming neurosurgeons, because we have a rapidly aging population in need of neurosurgeons' skills."

 

While research on burnout is gaining steam in many fields, not much attention has been paid to it in neurosurgery until now, Attenello explains.

 

To better understand it, Attenello and his colleagues surveyed 346 neurosurgery residents across the United States. Using an 86-item questionnaire, the team explored everything from whether residents felt satisfied with different aspects of their training to whether they were considering quitting training or leaving medicine entirely. Burnout was assessed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a validated tool that has been used to measure burnout both in health care and other professions.

 

The study, published today in the Journal of Neurosurgery, found that 81 percent of residents were satisfied with their career, but 41 percent had given serious thought to quitting neurosurgery at some point. The overall burnout rate was 67 percent -- more than double the estimated rate of burnout among American workers overall. Predictors of burnout included inadequate exposure to the operating room, hostile faculty, unsatisfactory relationships with mentors and social stressors outside of work.

 

"Some of the most impressive and energetic medical students enter neurosurgery," Attenello says. "When they encounter burnout, it limits their considerable potential, both with their patient care and possibly in their academic and research achievements for the field as a whole."

 

To help reduce the risk of burnout, Attenello and others at the Keck School have already implemented a new model for mentorship. This year, new residents in the Department of Neurological Surgery will choose their mentors, and the school will assign a backup mentor for additional support.

 

"Our study provided some valuable insights to the prevalence of burnout and some of the pain points in training neurosurgeons," says study co-author Steven L. Giannotta, MD, chair and professor of neurological surgery at the Keck School. "Recognizing that burnout exists and finding ways to address it are important steps educational institutions can take to mitigate it."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180209100655.htm

Does dim light make us dumber?

February 5, 2018

Science Daily/Michigan State University

Spending too much time in dimly lit rooms and offices may actually change the brain's structure and hurt one's ability to remember and learn, indicates groundbreaking research by neuroscientists.

 

The researchers studied the brains of Nile grass rats (which, like humans, are diurnal and sleep at night) after exposing them to dim and bright light for four weeks. The rodents exposed to dim light lost about 30 percent of capacity in the hippocampus, a critical brain region for learning and memory, and performed poorly on a spatial task they had trained on previously.

 

The rats exposed to bright light, on the other hand, showed significant improvement on the spatial task. Further, when the rodents that had been exposed to dim light were then exposed to bright light for four weeks (after a month-long break), their brain capacity -- and performance on the task -- recovered fully.

 

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the first to show that changes in environmental light, in a range normally experienced by humans, leads to structural changes in the brain. Americans, on average, spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

"When we exposed the rats to dim light, mimicking the cloudy days of Midwestern winters or typical indoor lighting, the animals showed impairments in spatial learning," said Antonio "Tony" Nunez, psychology professor and co-investigator on the study. "This is similar to when people can't find their way back to their cars in a busy parking lot after spending a few hours in a shopping mall or movie theater."

 

Nunez collaborated with Lily Yan, associate professor of psychology and principal investigator on the project, and Joel Soler, a doctoral graduate student in psychology. Soler is also lead author of a paper on the findings published in the journal Hippocampus.

 

Soler said sustained exposure to dim light led to significant reductions in a substance called brain derived neurotrophic factor -- a peptide that helps maintain healthy connections and neurons in the hippocampus -- and in dendritic spines, or the connections that allow neurons to "talk" to one another.

 

"Since there are fewer connections being made, this results in diminished learning and memory performance that is dependent upon the hippocampus," Soler said. "In other words, dim lights are producing dimwits."

 

Interestingly, light does not directly affect the hippocampus, meaning it acts first other sites within the brain after passing through the eyes. Yan said the research team is investigating one potential site in the rodents' brains -- a group of neurons in the hypothalamus that produce a peptide called orexin that's known to influence a variety of brain functions. One of their major research questions: If orexin is given to the rats that are exposed to dim light, will their brains recover without being re-exposed to bright light?

 

The project could have implications for the elderly and people with glaucoma, retinal degeneration or cognitive impairments.

 

"For people with eye disease who don't receive much light, can we directly manipulate this group of neurons in the brain, bypassing the eye, and provide them with the same benefits of bright light exposure?" Yan said. "Another possibility is improving the cognitive function in the aging population and those with neurological disorders. Can we help them recover from the impairment or prevent further decline?"

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180205134251.htm

Flourishing under an abusive boss? You may be a psychopath

January 23, 2018

Science Daily/University of Notre Dame

According to new research certain types of 'psychopaths' actually benefit and flourish under abusive bosses.

 

When you hear the term "psychopath," you probably picture Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer. Psychologists, however, define it as a personality trait, and we all fall somewhere along a scale from low to high levels of psychopathy.

 

In the workplace, employees respond differently to abusive management styles, in part due to their varying levels of psychopathy, according to a new study from the University of Notre Dame.

 

Certain types of "psychopaths" actually benefit and flourish under abusive bosses, according to "Are 'Bad' Employees Happier Under Bad Bosses? Differing Effects of Abusive Supervision on Low and High Primary Psychopathy Employees." The study is forthcoming in the Journal of Business Ethics by Charlice Hurst, assistant professor of management in Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.

 

"There are primary and secondary dimensions of psychopathy," Hurst explains. "Both consist of high levels of antisocial behavior; however, people who score high in primary psychopathy lack empathy and are cool-headed and fearless. They don't react to things that cause other people to feel stressed, fearful or angry. Secondary psychopaths are more hot-headed and impulsive.

 

"We found that primary psychopaths benefit under abusive supervisors. Relative to their peers low in primary psychopathy, they felt less anger and more engagement and positive emotions under abusive supervisors."

 

Hurst, along with Lauren Simon (University of Arkansas), Yongsuhk Jung (Korea Air Force Academy) and Dante Pirouz (Western University), conducted two studies with 419 working adults. In one study, participants were asked to react to profiles of managers depicted as constructive or abusive. In that study, there were no differences in anger between high and low primary psychopathy participants, but the participants high in primary psychopathy reported feeling happier after imagining themselves working for an abusive manager.

 

In a second study, participants rated how abusive their own supervisors were. They were asked about behaviors such as rudeness, gossip about employees, not giving proper credit for work, invasion of privacy and breaking promises. Those high in primary psychopathy reported feeling less angry, more positive and engaged.

 

Hurst says the research underscores the many ways that enabling managers to abuse employees can be harmful.

 

"It may reward and retain exactly the kind of people who are likely to perpetuate abusive cultures," she says. "Psychopaths thriving under abusive supervisors would be better positioned to get ahead of their peers."

 

Companies use engagement as a measure of organizational health, but Hurst's research shows the importance of delving deeper.

 

"If they have a problem of endemic abuse," Hurst says, "like Wells Fargo -- where former employees have reported that managers used tactics designed to induce fear and shame in order to achieve unrealistic sales goals -- and upper-level managers are either unaware of it or are not taking action, they might notice increasing levels of engagement due to turnover among employees low in primary psychopathy and retention of those high in primary psychopathy. At the extreme, they could end up with a highly engaged workforce of psychopaths."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180123171433.htm

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