Posts

Progress in assumptions about motivation: from agency theory to self-determination theory

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Management practices are based on fundamental assumptions about what motivates people. In a recent article , Marylène Gagné and Rebecca Hewett set out two contrasting views on this: agency theory and self-determination theory. Agency theory assumes that people are primarily motivated by external incentives and control, while self-determination theory states that people are driven by the satisfaction of basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Although self-determination theory is supported by decades of research demonstrating the added value of autonomous motivation, agency theory is still the dominant assumption in management practices.

Asking for Feedback as a Manager

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A manager in our training said that he was going to ask employees for feedback. It was about the following topic. Research by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer shows that a positive inner work experience has to do with how positively you feel about your work, how good you feel at work, and that you have the feeling that your work matters. This work experience largely determines how well you function, also as managers. We gave our managers a checklist with examples of actions they could take to increase the positive inner work experience of their employees. We also gave the checklist examples of actions that undermine employees’ inner work experience and that they should therefore avoid.

How do you deal with someone who is very negative?

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During a recent training that we gave to managers, we discussed research by Teresa Amabile on inner work experience. One of the implications of Amabile's research is that, as a manager, it is wise to try to limit negativity in your own communications. When we addressed this, one participant asked, “But how do you deal with someone else who is very negative?” This question is understandable and provides a valuable opportunity to reflect on the topic of negativity.

Survey: nutrition and arguments for veganism

Survey: nutrition and arguments for veganism

Parental autonomy support, basic needs, and self-esteem

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Understanding the dynamics between parenting styles and children's psychological development is important. A new study by Chen et al. (2024) examines the relationship between parental autonomy support, basic psychological needs, and the self-esteem of Chinese primary school students. Through an extensive cross-sectional analysis, the study examines how autonomy support influences children's self-image.

Asking for meaningful progress in job interviews

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Last week I met Dick Wever in a session on progress-focused working. He is a team leader at an educational institution, and he said he recently interviewed applicants for his school. He was not completely satisfied with the approach to the job interviews as they were conducted at school. That is why he tried out a new, progress-focused question in the interviews: the question of what meaningful progress the applicant had recently made. I didn't have much time to ask more about his experiences, but I found it so interesting that I kept thinking about it.

Enabling learning from mistakes

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During a recent training, in which we covered the topic of mindset, a participant came up to me afterwards. He said: “You just talked about 'learning from mistakes' but can we really learn from mistakes?”. He referred to a book that stated that it is difficult to learn from mistakes (that was this book ). Coincidentally, a n ew article has just been published by the same author, Ayelet Fishbach, together with Ryan Carlson. In this article, the authors explore the psychology behind failure and learning from it. The article offers interesting insights for anyone interested in personal development, education, or management. Below I will discuss the main themes of the article.

Progress contexts as a basis for performance, well-being and growth

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When I was trained as a psychologist in the 1980s, the dominant way of thinking about intelligence and personality tended towards what we now call a fixed mindset . Broadly speaking, we were taught that both intelligence and personality can hardly be developed after a certain age (say, 18). Personality was broadly defined as the set of stable behavioral tendencies of individuals. Individual differences in personality were thought to be relatively unchangeable and also meaningful for how we should organize our lives (think of career choices, for example). The word 'stable' meant two things. First, personality traits were thought to be stable across situations. In other words, we behave in approximately the same way in different types of situations because of our personality traits. Second, personality traits were thought to be stable over time. This meant that personality traits do not (or cannot) change much over the course of a person's life.

Theory X in practice: distrustful manager demotivates employees

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During an informal occasion, I met Mats. At one point during our conversation, he told me that he really enjoyed his work but that his manager's attitude frustrated him. What he told me reminded me of Douglas McGregor's influential insights that he described in his book The Human Side of Enterprise.

Cultures of growth: the many benefits of growth mindset cultures

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Mary Murphy , professor of psychology at Indiana University, has published the book Cultures of Growth . In 2006, she was a student of Carol Dweck , the founder of mindset theory. Dweck's previous work showed that people with a growth mindset are more likely to take on challenges, learn from mistakes, and achieve more in the long run than people with a fixed mindset. Murphy suggested that not only individuals but also environments embody a mindset. Nearly two decades later, Murphy and her colleagues have conducted extensive research in numerous organizations. Cultures of Growth reports on this.

How the bottom line mentality fails in companies

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CEOs regularly emphasize the importance of achieving profits, shareholder value, market share and other results. Wu and Shen (2024) conducted a study to identify the detrimental influence of executives' bottom-line mentality (BLM) on employee creativity.

Ending global hunger and protecting the world’s wildlife

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In a new article , Max Roser of Our World in Data argues that it is possible to end global hunger and protect the world's wildlife. He suggests that by increasing agricultural productivity and consuming strategically, we can combat hunger and restore natural habitats without causing further damage to nature.

To involve or not to involve employees in leadership choice

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Peter, a reader, responded to my article on workplace democracy. He informed me that there was unrest within his department after the previous manager, who was not functioning well, had to leave quickly. The management started a recruitment procedure, and Peter and his colleagues noticed that they were not involved.

Workplace democracy: no good reasons not to start

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Antoinette Weibel has sparked an interesting discussion on LinkedIn about the feasibility and utility of workplace democracy. In her post, she refers to an article by Roberto Frega and colleagues, in which the pros and cons of this concept are discussed.

The Inherence Bias in Preschoolers: How Do They Explain Performance Differences?

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  A recent study by Renoux et al. (2024) sheds interesting light on how preschoolers think about differences in school performance. This study, conducted among 610 French preschoolers, reveals that children tend to pointed to inherent factors (such as intelligence) rather than extrinsic factors (such as access to educational resources) as explanations for why some children perform better at school than others. Read more about what this inherence bias means and what its consequences are.

Gradeless Learning: Better Learning, Less Performance Pressure

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In the current education system, where grades often dominate, concerns about the mental health of students are growing. The emphasis on performance has led to an increase in stress and a competitive atmosphere that can undermine students' intrinsic motivation and well-being. Gradeless learning , an approach that focuses on the learning process rather than numerical assessments, may provide a solution to these problems.

The Benjamin Franklin Effect: The Psychology of Favors

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Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was not only a scientist and politician, but also an observer of human nature. One of his insights concerns the psychology of doing favors, a phenomenon known as the Benjamin Franklin effect . In this article I discuss the Benjamin Franklin effect, the phenomenon that people like others more after they have done them a favor.

The Continuing Decline of American Democracy

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In October 2020, I wrote Save American Democracy , in which I said that American democracy has been in decline for decades, with Trump accelerating this process. The gap between citizens and politicians is significant, with citizens having little influence on policy. Causes include the electoral system, the Senate, money in politics, the Electoral College, and gerrymandering, making the U.S. vulnerable to tyranny. Has it gotten better or worse? 

The Cell Phone Ban in Schools: Two Teachers, Two Approaches

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From 2024, cell phones, tablets and smartwatches are be banned in Dutch classrooms due to distraction and negative impact on learning performance; schools develop their own policy with exceptions. Of course, both students and teachers have to get used to this new situation. I heard about a conversation between two high school teachers, Ashley and Emily.

Dominance vs. Prestige in Leadership: Ethics and Risk

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Leadership in organizations is important. But not all leadership styles have the same impact. Two prominent styles, dominance-based leadership and prestige-based leadership, have recently been examined to understand their effects on ethics and behavior within organizations. These studies shed new light on how different approaches to leadership not only shape the culture within a company, but also how they can influence the moral behavior of both leaders and their subordinates. The results of these studies provide valuable insights for organizations that strive for a healthy and ethical work environment.

The 3xA approach: Agree, Ask, Answer (or: Agree, Challenge, Explain)

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Having conversations about sensitive topics can be challenging. Emotions run high, and disagreements can escalate quickly. I came across an approach with the YouTuber Debug Your Brain that he calls: Agree-Ask-Answer. You could also call it the 3xA approach.

The Misplaced Trust in the Compliment Sandwich

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Many people understand that giving feedback can be useful and necessary. But they often struggle with how to provide feedback effectively.  A popular way of giving feedback is called the compliment sandwich. In this conversational approach, you start with a sincere compliment, then provide constructive criticism, and end the conversation with a heartfelt compliment again. Does that sound good and logical? In a new article , psychologist Adam Grant explains why this approach doesn’t work.

Social Progress Index 2024: Global Social Progress Recession

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The Social Progress Index is an important tool, providing a lucid picture of global social progress and highlighting areas where nations need to improve. This year’s index, a prodigious collection of social and environmental data, offers a unique lens to evaluate the non-economic dimensions of social performance across the globe. We look at the key findings of the 2024 Social Progress Index, with a special focus on the United Kingdom and the United States.

You Know What You Lose, But Not What You Find

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The New Year's Eve comedy show on Dutch national television was performed by Micha Wertheim . True to his style, it was complex, confusing, and surprising. At the end, he sang the song "You Know What You Lose, But Not What You Find." This song resonates with the times we live in, a period of increasing change and uncertainty.