Desire to Hire Employees with an Internal Locus of Control

“Behavior does not occur in a vacuum. A person is continuously reacting to aspects of external and internal environments”  Julian Rotter

While conducting research, Julian Rotter was supervising the clinical training of E. Jerry Phares, a psychotherapist. Phares told Rotter about his patient who complained about his poor social life. Phares encouraged the man to attend a college dance. Although several women danced with him, that success did not change the man’s dismal outlook about his social skills. The patient said that it was just lucky and it would never happen again. After hearing about Phares’ patient, Rotter realized that some people’s expectations never go up even after success. He then hypothesized that some people feel what happens to them is governed by external forces: other people, fate or luck (external locus of control), while others feel what happens to them is governed largely by their own efforts and skills (internal locus of control) (Theories of Personality).

Locus of control is a personality trait that affects how a person views life. People who have an internal locus of control believe that the reinforcements (rewards and punishments) they receive are because of the choices they make. On the other hand, people who have an external locus of control believe that reinforcements they receive are because of outside forces (other people, fate or luck). Those with an external locus of control think that their behaviors and abilities do not affect the rewards and punishments they receive. People with an internal locus of control are less susceptible to attempts to influence them, place a higher value on their skills, are more alert to environmental cues, report lower anxiety and higher self-esteem, are more responsible for their actions, and enjoy greater mental and physical health (Theories of Personality).

According to Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America, the most predictive trait of successful teachers is perseverance, also called internal locus of control. She says “People who in the context of a challenge — you can’t see it unless you’re in the context of a challenge — have the instinct to figure out what they can control, and to own it, rather than to blame everyone else in the system.” Kopp wants to hire people who have the “mind-set and the instinct to remain optimistic in the face of a challenge” (Charisma? To Her, It’s Overrated).

CEO Compensation

Since CEOs perform a vital role in influencing profitability, firms put significant thought into their compensation. Total CEO compensation generally consists of 18% salary, 24% bonuses and 58% long-term incentives. Long-term incentives are used to motivate and reward CEOs for long-term corporate growth and shareholder value (Dessler).

For instance, Mark Fetting, CEO and Chairman of Legg Mason, earned $5.9 million during the past year. The 5.9 million consists of $500,000 salary (8.4%), $2.9 million bonus (48.7%), $1.9 million stock awards (32%), $625,000 stock options (10.5%), and $21,272 other compensation (.4%). In summary, Fetting earned a salary of 8.4% of total compensation, bonuses of 48.7%, and long-term incentives of 42.9%.

To read more about Fetting’s 2010 compensation, read Hanah Cho’s article in the Baltimore Sun called “Legg CEO receives 28 percent pay raise” http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-06-01/business/bs-bz-legg-executive-compensation-20110601_1_legg-ceo-legg-shares-equity-awards

Online Customization Limits Diversity

Netflix, Pandora, Facebook, and Google are some examples of websites that use algorithms to personalize their site to predict our likes and dislikes on the internet. For instance, Netflix recommends movies based on a combination of the member’s movie history, previous favorites, current picks, and specified preferred genres.

According to Eli Pariser, the author of “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You,” the personalization on the internet takes away the views and voices that challenge our own thinking and instead sorts people into categories that may limit their options. Consequently, tailored recommendations reduce the internet user’s exposure to diversity. Not only do personalization algorithms limit diversity, but many customers may not understand nor are they even aware of the filtering method.

To read more, check out the New York Times article called “The Trouble With the Echo Chamber Online” by Natasha Singer. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/technology/29stream.html

Forever 21’s Controversial Magnet

I was shocked to discover that Forever 21 was selling a magnet that said “I’m too pretty to do math.” The magnet portrays a stereotype to the effect that girls are not proficient at math. It also insinuates that ugly people study math, and it teaches girls that being attractive will get you out of doing jobs that are hard or unpleasant. I find this magnet particularly insulting because I am a woman — and I am getting a graduate degree in accounting. This magnet discourages women from entering math intensive fields.

Forever 21 has taken this magnet off their website. Hopefully, they have also removed the magnets from their stores. Although many people may think the magnet is a harmless joke, stereotypes can alter people’s image of themselves and do significant harm. People come to define themselves by that stereotype, which, of course, is not beneficial to society. We should encourage girls to study math, not laugh at their perceived inability to excel. This magnet definitely sends the wrong message to women and should not be sold.

Words of Wisdom from Warren Buffett

Below is an excerpt from the novel Wit and Wisdom from the World’s Greatest Investor, written by Janet Lowe. Warren Buffett discusses a person’s ability to cultivate good character.

“Imagine, Buffet says, that you are a student, and you may choose one other student in your class, and thereafter be entitled to 10 percent of that student’s earnings for life. But there’s a catch. You also have to choose a student to whom you will pay 10 percent of your earnings for life:

“The interesting thing is, when you think about what’s going through your mind, you’re not thinking about things that are impossible for you to achieve yourself. You’re not thinking about who can jump 7 feet, who can throw a football 65 feet, who can recite pi to 300 digits, or whatever it might be. You’re thinking about a whole lot of qualities of character. The truth is, that every one of those qualities is obtainable. They are largely a matter of habit. My old boss, Ben Graham, when he was 12 years old, wrote down all of the qualities that he admired in other people and all the qualities he found objectionable. And he looked at that list and there wasn’t anything about being able to run the 100 yard dash in 9.6 or jumping 7 feet. They were all things that were simply a matter of deciding whether you were going to be that kind of person or not.”

This idea of being able to develop good character is very important. If one is able to cultivate good character, then that person will proactively help oneself become a better person. This also would be useful in cultivating good employee character.

Increase in Male Sexual Harassment Claims

Typically, when you think of sexual harassment in the workplace, you probably think of women being harassed by men. Although women still file the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment claims, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has noticed an increase in complaints by men. According to the EEOC, from 1990 to 2009, the percentage of sexual harassment claims filed by men has doubled from 8% to 16% of all claims. In 2009, men filed over 2,000 complaints out of approximately 12,700 claims. Although the overall number of sexual harassment complaints has declined, the male claims continue to rise. Most claims filed by males involve men harassing other men.

Reasons for the increase in male claims are uncertain. However, Ernest Haffner, an EEOC attorney, thinks that either male sexual harassment cases are increasing in numbers or men are more willing to speak out about the harassment. Another EEOC attorney, Mary Jo O’Neill, believes that many victims are hesitant to voice a complaint because they are afraid of being considered unmanly or being ridiculed by co-workers. O’Neill also states that society expects for men to be able to handle sexual harassment situations and to be able to resolve it themselves. However, when victims feel humiliated and lack control and power, it is very difficult to resolve the conflict and punish the perpetrator.

Employers should take steps to ensure harassment does not take place. But, if harassment occurs, employers should take immediate corrective action. Managers must also insure that the organization’s climate, such as management’s real willingness to eliminate harassment, supports employees who feel harassed.

For more information on this subject, read Sam Hananel’s article called “Male-on-male sexual harassment rising” in the Baltimore Sun.  http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/men/sns-health-male-on-male-sexual-harrassment,0,4271876.story

Think Twice About Hiring a Narcissist

A narcissist is an arrogant person who has a grandiose sense of self-importance, a sense of entitlement and requires excessive admiration. Narcissistic people are self-absorbed and are usually unable to reflect on personal behavior. They often compete with fellow employees, are intolerant of criticism, and lack empathy or the ability to understand other points of view (Robbins & Judge).

Jeff Simpson, director-psychometrician at Ethos Consulting Group, has spent six years researching narcissism in the workplace for his PhD. Simpson concludes that organizations are better off not hiring narcissistic people. Simpson’s research found that people with narcissistic traits were the lowest performing group and they were overrated the most within six months of employment. Simpson claims that not only does their performance and productivity fall short of their assertions, but their inability to integrate socially can affect workplace morale.

Since narcissists usually are very impressive during interviews, Simpson advices interviewers to create pressure and see how the person will react to the pressure. Typically, narcissists do not show defensive behavior, such as narcissistic rage, unless he/she is under pressure. Interviewers can create pressure by asking questions that probe beyond the usual questions into areas they are unlikely to have prepared for. For example – “Why would I not like working with you?” Or “Why would I not agree with the solution you proposed” – would likely elicit an unexpectedly irritated response.

To read more on this topic, check out: Helen Frances’ article “Beware Narcissists in Workplace” in the New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10727767