Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Supreme Court Ruling in Ricci v. Destefano

On June 29, 2009 the Supreme Court ruled 4-5 in favor of the New Haven’s Fire Department’s decision to toss out promotional tests because of possible disparate treatment. Sixteen white and one Hispanic firefighter took the New Haven Service Board (CSB) to court for reverse discrimination. The 17 plaintiffs had taken and successfully passed the departments promotional assessment but were later told that the test was no longer going to be considered a factor for promotion because none of the black applicants passed the assessment.

The CSB needed to illustrate that there was legal motive for discarding the exam. I will not go into the details concerning adverse impact cases at this point but you can consult Gaurdians of New York v. Civel Service Commissions, 1980; Gillespis v. Wisconsin, 1985 or US v. City of New York, 2009 for several examples of such cases.
After reversing the lower court ruling Justice Kennedy ruled that the CSB took appropriate action.

This case has been all over the news because of the possible changes from its outcome. As IO psychologists the major take away we should examine is the importance of the validation process in measurement development (Police Officer v. City of Columbus, 1990) and being aware of potential reverse discrimination cases and/or disparate treatment cases in the future.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Career Counseling Youth

I spent the weekend interviewing high school seniors for full ride scholarships to a medium sized private university. Interviewing these students was like a flash back in time; a time when you think you know what you want, where you are going, and that you are awesome. I consistently hear students state they wanted to go into a certain field while describing the contents of another field completely. For example, “I want to go pre-med because I shadowed a doctor in my town and truly enjoyed helping them with the personal aspects of their recovery including their moods, emotions and family life.”

It made me think about pre-college career counseling. Could you imagine if you had someone or a group of people sit down and give you honest feedback about the discrepancy between what you thought you wanted to do and what was sparking your interest in possibly a different area? From our example, it was clear throughout the interview that this student was truly interested in clinical psychology and/or social work but was going to work through medicine to achieve those paths.

I have assisted with several career appraisals for college graduates and executives switching fields but it made me think more and more about the younger generations that we aren’t tapping into. Although I believe assessments may help guild this process, I think a more clinical approach may better identify younger individual’s true interests.

What do you think? Would you have appreciated career feedback in high school? In hindsight would you have gone a different path than you did in college?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reflections on McCall, M.W. (2010). Recasting Leadership Development. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice

Literature in the area of leadership development is consistently illustrated the benefits of experiential learning verse standard HR systems (McCall, 2010). The authors suggest that true leadership development starts with selection. If leaders are selected who 1) believe leadership is critical to the business, 2) accept that individuals can be taught to lead, 3) believe individuals learn through hands on experience and 4) that they can have a futuristic perspective of the benefits of modeling leadership behavior.

The major factors that may be holding business and executives back from implementing experiential leadership development include possible failures, bottom line focus, and the preserved value of PEOPLE. McCall (2010) plays devil’s advocate for the reader in identifying the counter arguments and suggesting potential solutions. For example, many executives have seem unprepared individuals get tossed into a project only to fail. McCall’s potential solution includes having leadership that identify learning differences in subordinates and cater to their learning needs. Some subordinates many need more modeling than others.

Furthermore, we can see similar suggestions reflected in the popular business literature including Outliers and Good to Great. Good to Great by Jim Collins emphasizes that success full organizations work to get the right people on the bus so together they can move in the right direction. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell stress the importance of practice. The authors illustrate that he most successful individuals have over 10, 000 hours of practice in their area. Imagine what an individual with over 10,000 hours of hands on experience could do by the time they are in a TRUE leadership experience.

The take away:

1) Individuals should be selected from the start that illustrate the potential and motivation to learn to lead and lead others.

2) Organizations should hold current managers accountable for creating experiential leadership development for their high potential employees.

3) EXPERIENCE = Success

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Conscious Competence Ladder

The Conscious Competence Ladder is a learning model used to identify what an individual’s competence level is on a learning scale. The Conscious Competence Ladder of learning infers that an individual will climb the ladder as they acquire and build expertise in a new area.

Level 1 – Unconscious Incompetence
At this level the individual does not understand or realize that they are lacking in a competence area.

Level 2 – Conscious Incompetence
At this level the individual realizes that there are skills and knowledge that they need to acquire and that there are others that are competent in this skill.

Level 3 – Conscious Competence
At this level the individual has acquired new skills and knowledge, is putting it into practice and is consciously refining this skill/knowledge.

Level 4 – Unconscious Competence
At this level the individual has become unaware of their skill because it is performed in an automatic way.

Attempts have been made to add a Level 5 to the Conscious Competence Ladder. Level 5 has been described in several different ways. One way is as “conscious competence of unconscious competence”, which describes a person’s ability to recognize and develop unconscious incompetence in others. Nonaka (1994) indirectly describes a possible Level 5 as “reflective competence”, which is the appraisal of one’s own skills and knowledge. Within “reflective competence” an individual searchers for a depth of information that builds off their existing competency base.

If you were to imagine a Level 5 what would it be?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Individual Differences In Negative Tolerance

I had an interesting thing happen to me today…My husband asked how a recent meeting with my boss had gone? My initial reply was "we don't have time now to get into it." (it was 8:10am and I had to get to work) but he insisted that I tell him. So, being the chatty women I am I started telling him about the words that were said and the meaning I inferred. The promises I was told that I know in my heart will not come true. After approximately one and a half minutes my husband (still lying in bed) picked up his blackberry and started reading his email. I stopped, looked at him and asked "why did you stop listening to me?" His response really got me thinking "because you are being negative!"

Wow…I walked out (not mad) and thought I am being negative but what surprised me more was his lack of tolerance for my negativity. In general I am a very optimistic and positive person. My psychological assessments usually read that my biggest downfall is that I think positively about too many people and should try to balance out my optimism. But lately I have realized that my own tolerance for negativity is low (or high). There are several people in my workplace that complain about everything. After approximately 7 months I realize that it is affecting my attitude. I feel guilty even saying this because it insinuates that I only want to surround myself with positive people. Well...When I think about it I do.

As a research I started contemplating "what are the individual levels of tolerance for affect?" Research indicates that people have individual dispositions toward positive and negative affect (they aren't mutually exclusive). Individuals with high positive affect are more creative, social and optimistic. Individuals with high negative affect are more logical, and systematic. But what is the tolerance level for these differences.

Going back to my own test dummies (my husband and I) it is interesting. Myself for example…I have high positive affect and have been tolerating others negativity for several months without it effecting me. After 7 months it has built up and is starting to but I am constantly coming up with solutions to create a more positive environment even if it involves talking to the negative individual less and/or changing my psychological perception of how my day will go.

My husband on the other hand has high negative affect (he is extremely logical and a little pessimistic). I would count on the fact that he has a much lower tolerance for negativity than I do because I bring him down quicker. I wouldn’t be surprised if he liked me because I am positive and that this morning’s events were his lack of tolerance of negativity.

Just think about it. In general do you have high positive/negative affect? What is your tolerance for negativity at home/work?

To test you positive/negative affect click here. On the 4th page of this document is the PANAS, a well known and respected measure of positive and negative affect. The scoring for this measure is on page 5.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dissertation Process

I have finalized my idea which I may share later....Wrote up my proposal...and now going through the dreadful process of dealing with a professor that has too many other priorities. Ahhhhh! Who out there shares my frustrations? When I have a client at work or a project at work it never takes this long to get feedback (more like 5 minutes instead of 2 months). I just can't wait to have that PhD and be done with this silly journey.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dogs in the Board Room

I have been researching the psychological and organizational benefits of pets in the workplace. It is incredible how pets can lower your blood pressure, help reduce stress, increase social interaction and increase task performance. Seriously, you look at your dog feel love but never really think of him/her as a health-emotion-work improver.

Now, that said I think I might need to start forcing my company to let me bring my dog into work just so I can get over this hump of a month I have been having.

I know that there are a few challenging to having pets in the workplace (i.e., allergies) but just being able to take a 10 min walk (instead of the smoke breaks so many take) or have him/her sit on my lap for a minute really would make my smile more, take on more challenging projects and just feel better about my day.

Get your office to let the dog in the boards room. For great companies that do check out Nestle Purina, and Dominos.