Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Is There a Disadvantage To Always Cooperating At Work?

Chapter 4: Who To Trust At Work Part 5

Vijay is a “mench” – (a Yiddish word that means “a good person)” who was not supported for doing the right thing. Is Vijay’s story the exception or the rule?  In my opinion the exception, but common enough that most people can relate.

I came across a fascinating study by Dr. Craig Parks which indicated that selfless people at work may be disliked by their colleagues almost as much as the slackers[i]. Why would this be the case?  Research Fellow Paul Nunes explains the result on the Harvard Business Review blog as follows: people at work dislike people who deviate from “normal motivations.”[ii]

“One can’t offer a bonus for harder work, because money doesn’t seem to matter. Can’t punish with extra or unpleasant tasks because this person takes those on willingly for no apparent reasons. A bit of chaos ensues, with this person being considered complicated–or complicating–at best. I think employees most resent having to come up with new ways of influencing these workers because the traditional ones don’t work.”

The discussion on the HBR blog is fascinating, with strong resonance from several posters, who felt this finding “explain[s] perfectly” the resentment they feel from coworkers.  The mismatch in motivations comes from a mismatch in the underlying values, between an individual’s “personal principles” and the culture and values of the corporation.

I found another study that suggested that people who follow the Golden Rule at work may be at a disadvantage. Men who are less agreeable earn 18.3% more than men who are more agreeable, with disagreeable women earning 5.4% more than agreeable women.[iii]  Vijay’s story is certainly consistent with this finding – the less trustworthy person continued to earn a salary, while the person who was helpful was out of a job.

Next week: using fables to identify the trustworthy

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[i] The Desire to Expel Unselfish Members From the Group.  Craig D. Parks, Asako B. Stone. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Volume 99, Issue 2, August 2010, Pages 303-310

[ii] Quote from Paul Nunes, an Executive Research Fellow at the Accenture Institute for High Performance, commenting on the article Your Most Helpful Colleague (Don’t You Hate Him?) by Craig Parks cited October 25, 2011

[iii] Do Nice Guys and Gals Really Finish Last?  The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness on Income.  Timothy Judge, Beth Livingston, Charlice Hurst.  Journal of Personal and Social Psychology In Press–JPSPInPress.pdf; October 24, 2011.  Note: agreeableness is a term in social psychology that refers to “trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness.”


Chick-Fil-A’s “Golden Rule Approach To Business”

Chapter 3: The Corporation, The Real American Idol Part 9

In the previous post, I argued that companies that incorporate elements of people-first values into their culture have a competitive advantage.  In his book The Loyalty Effect, Frederick Reichheld, head of Bain Consulting’s loyalty practice, and inventor of the Net Promoter Score, has built a career showing that businesses that put people first have better financial returns, at least in certain industries.  Reishheld argues that often a loyalty culture, i.e. one that values long term relationships with employees, customers, and investors is a productive business strategy.  For example, he shows that State Farm Insurance has an advantage over its competitors because it has found ways to retain agents longer, and these older agents bring in more business[i].

Ironically (given the current controversy), The Loyalty Effect paints a very favorable view of Chick-Fil-A for its people-first values, especially with regard to the way it compensates managers and employees in a way that encourages low-turnover.  He goes so far as to say that Chick-Fil-A’s takes a “Golden Rule approach to business.” He calls the founding CEO Truett Cathy (father of current CEO Dan Cathy) “so earnest a Christian that all Chick Fil A stores are closed on Sundays which makes their financial success all the more impressive.[ii]”  I agree with Reishheld’s further observation, that being closed may be an advantage for attracting talent that doesn’t want to work 7 days a week.  I would add that because the Sunday closure is a global company rule, no one person can gain competitive advantage for putting in the extra hours on a Sunday.

Reishheld argues that the financial advantages of a loyalty culture are not universal – it depends very much on the type of industry.  “Commodity suppliers like oil companies and certain high-tech businesses where technological breakthroughs can overwhelm customer relationships are examples of companies were loyalty economics can make a difference, but probably not a decisive difference.[iii]

This resonates with me big time.  In the genomics industry, where I worked, the dollars followed the latest technology, and seemed to be largely independent of how well those companies treated either their customers or employees.  In fact, I think the technology superiority bred a certain arrogance, which came back to haunt the companies when the next technology came down the road.

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[i] The Loyalty Effect:  the Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits, and Lasting Value. By Frederick Reichheld.  Harvard business School Press (1996) p. 127-128.

[ii] The Loyalty Effect:  the Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits, and Lasting Value. By Frederick Reichheld.  Harvard business School Press (1996) p. 111  It is unfortunate that Cathy’s people-first values have a common shortcoming.  In his mind, they seem to apply only to certain people.

[iii] The Loyalty Effect:  the Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits, and Lasting Value. By Frederick Reichheld.  Harvard business School Press (1996) p. 306

Protect Yourself From a Sociopath in the Office

Chapter 2: Idolatry Then & Now Part 6

In the last post, I argued that The Golden Rule, which states that we should consider and incorporate the needs of other people before we take action, is a universal value.  But in my opinion, the Golden Rule is not sufficient as a guideline.  If we only consider the needs of other people, we risk losing sight of the needs of the most important person, oneself.  What is more, not everyone follows the Golden Rule, which can be a surprise to those who do.  “Simon,” a director at a mid-sized corporation in the Midwest, shared his experience with me.

“I was at a management offsite, a touchy feely thing.  I brought up the Golden Rule, [as a model for how to interact with others.] One guy said ‘that doesn’t work for me, because I don’t care how I am treated.’ He was almost sociopathic about it.  He would do what it took to get ahead. It wasn’t like he was even trying to hide it. That just amazed me that there were people out there like that.”   Simon discovered that he had been operating according to a different set of values than some of his coworkers.  Could the person he was referring to actually have been a sociopath?

A sociopath is someone who does not have a conscience, and according to Dr. Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, up to 4% the population could fit the clinical definition of a sociopath.  And treating a sociopath “as you would like to be treated” is a recipe to be taken advantage of at best, and inviting disaster at worst.

Ok, maybe talking about sociopaths is a bit extreme, but I am trying to illustrate a point: while The Golden Rule is a universal value, it is not sufficient to cover every circumstance.  So I have another rule I live by – the “Don’t Be a Doormat Rule.”  I also call it the Rule of Self-Preservation.  Simply put, it says that you have a duty to look out for your own welfare, because if you don’t, who will?  In the next chapter, we will begin to examine corporations and company-first values.  And sometimes, putting the company first runs counter to the Rule of Self-Preservation.

What do you think of the Rule of Self-Preservation?  Here is a table of quotes that support the position.

Quotes that support The Rule of Self Preservation

Natural law includes our right to self-preservation and forbids humans from taking actions destructive to their own lives. Thomas HobbesLeviathan
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Declaration of Independence
Chi pensa per se, pensa per tre.Anyone who thinks for himself things for three. Italian proverb, similar to He who looks after himself will be able to look after his/her family.
Put on your [oxygen] mask before assisting others Airline safety instruction
If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun. Not at the head, where a fatal wound might result. But at some other body part, such as a leg.[i] The Dali Lama, answering a question about self defense.
“Pray for what you want, but work for the things you need.”“What is done for you – allow it to be done.
What you must do yourself – make sure you do it.”
Essential Sufism retrieved 3/21/2012
Keep five yards from a carriage, ten yards from a horse, and a hundred yards from an elephant; but the distance one should keep from a wicked man cannot be measured. Indian Proverb

[i] Bernton, Hal (15 May 2001). “Dalai Lama urges students to shape the world”. Retrieved 29 Feb 2012.

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The Search For Universal Values II: The Golden Rule.

Chapter 2: Idolatry Then & Now Part 5

In the last few posts, I have been contrasting idolatry as a system of relative values with a set of universal values that do not change with circumstance. And what are those universal values? I argued that the Ten Commandments are a good place to start, but are insufficient in part because ten is too many values to keep track of.  Then, I discovered The Golden Rule – found in over 15 religions and philosophies worldwide.

In 1993, 300 representatives of the world’s religions met in Chicago in an attempt to define a Global Ethic – a set of universal ethical principles.[i]  The cornerstone of this Global ethic was determined to be the Ethic of Reciprocity, aka the Golden Rule, because it is found in so many different religions and philosophies worldwide.

The Golden Rule In World Religions

Religion Statement
Old Testament Love thy neighbor as thyself

Leviticus 19:18[39]

Judaism That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation.  Talmud
Christianity Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Luke 6:31
Buddhism Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.    Udana-Varga 5,1
Islam No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.   Sunnah
Hinduism This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.  Mahabharata 5,1517
Confucianism Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself. Analects 12:2
Jainism Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality, treat the other with compassion.
Taoism Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
Humanism Ethic of reciprocity: people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.
Pima Indians (Arizona) Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong but yourself.
The Yoruba people of Nigeria One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.
The Ba-Congo people of Angola O Man, O woman, what you do not like, do not do to your fellows. 
The Platinum Rule Treat others the way they want to be treated

Amazingly, babies as young as six months show a strong preference for puppets who shared with other puppets over puppets who did not.  [ii] Yale professor Paul Bloom, discusses his resultsWhen looking across the versions of the Golden rule in the table, the bottom line seems to be: consider the needs of other people before you take an action.  Language is imperfect and I am convinced that these versions of the Golden Rule are all expressing the same core idea that is a fundamental part of human nature.

These findings constitute evidence that preverbal infants assess individuals on the basis of their behavior towards others. This capacity may serve as the foundation for moral thought and action, and its early developmental emergence supports the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation.[iii]

In summary, the first universal value is The Golden Rule, because it is found in numerous cultures and religions world wide, and it seems to be build on an innate human ability to assess how individuals treat one another. But as we shall see in the next post, following The Golden Rule is not sufficient, because in the real world there are people who will take advantage of those who are too giving.

[i] Scarboro Missions Golden Rule and Golden Ethic – retrieved July 5, 2012

[ii] The Moral Life of Babies Paul Bloom May 5, 2010 New York Times

[iii] Social evaluation by preverbal infants. Hamlin JK, Wynn K, Bloom P. Nature. 2007 Nov 22;450(7169):557-9.

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