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Don’t talk it out

Venting about the boss is a thorny issue. Terry College researchers found that when workers complained to each other about unfair treatment, they walked away feeling angry and hopeless. As a result, the complainers became less helpful at work. Luckily, the negatives can be mitigated if listeners provide alternative perspectives and reframe the situation. Instead of indulging colleagues who are “blowing off steam,” workers who suggest other ways to view unfair behavior can help their peers feel and work better. Research was led by management professors Jessica Rodell and Jason Colquitt, and PhD candidates Kate Zipay and Rachel Burgess.

 

Executive sexism

Female CEOs may break the glass ceiling, but they still get put in a box. Terry PhD candidate Abbie Griffith Oliver found benevolent sexism subtly pervades the C-suite. By reviewing SEC filings from more than 500 firms over 10 years, she discovered female CEOs are 50 percent more likely to have a collaborative relationship with their boards of directors than their male peers, who typically have an employee-manager relationship. While neither relationship is necessarily better or worse, the lopsided statistics point to something beyond a personal preference or managerial style.

 

Life, interrupted

While technology increasingly tethers American workers to the office at all hours, not all after-work intrusions are created equal. MIS professor Elena Karahanna discovered that the way off-the-clock workers communicate with their employers has a substantial effect on their lives. Conversations over email, which allow flexibility on when and how to respond, cause workers less psychological strain than do more-immediate media like phone calls and text messages. When workers have to quickly shift mental states from leisure to work modes, they drain their mental energy reserves, leading to burnout. Understanding how work-related interruptions affect us can help workers make informed decisions on when and how to deal with interruptions.

 

Marvelous mistakes

What’s wrong with a product is with what makes it right for consumers. Marketing professor Rosanna Smith discovered that products made on accident hold extra value in the minds of shoppers. Chance creations, like a chocolate cake baked by a chef who spilled cinnamon in the batter, feel unique and are therefore more valuable than their purposely made peers. While the findings don’t hold for utilitarian products like refrigerators, the concept of positively publicizing mistakes holds implications for brand managers and marketers competing for differentiation in many markets.

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