Oct 19

The Art of Meetings

How Effective Communication and Time Management Contributes to Employee Satisfaction


Within an organization, time is money. Literally. The time that we spend, working effectively and efficiently, contributes to the earnings of the organizations we work for. That’s why they hired us. Yet, there is one thing standing in the way of effective time management throughout the workday: Meetings. Rarely will you encounter an organization that does not utilize meetings, even if it’s only occasionally. While the purpose, length, and size of meetings will vary based on where you work and what you do, we can make a sweeping generalization about most meetings; They suck.

But do they have to?

            According to Rogelberg et al. (2011), meetings are not meant to be an exercise in futility but an irreplaceable venue for teams to exercise “group decision making, problem solving, sense making, and communication.”. They are also a financial investment. So, we ask the age-old question, why should we be having meetings? Anthropologist Helen Schwartzman provides a shockingly sensible solution, “instead of having the meeting as a place to solve problems, we need to have problems and crises and decisions to produce meetings.” (Dubner, 2019).

So, we have a why. We meet because we have to solve a problem. Say a problem has arisen and we are in charge of planning this meeting, our next logical question is going to be ‘How long should this meeting last?’. This is where Parkinson’s Law comes into play. Parkinson’s Law was first coined by C. Northcote Parkinson who wrote “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” (Shantz, 2008). This means that if we create a two-hour meeting, we will find an excuse to make the meeting last for two hours. Conversely, this can also be applied to setting time-limits. By making shorter meetings that directly address a current problem, we are able to give attendees a sense of purpose, motivation, and show them that we value their time. Naturally, this approach also saves the organization money.

The last basic question when creating a meeting is who should attend? We can find the answer to this question by going full circle and looking back at why we are meeting in the first place. We meet to solve problems. A problem or a situation has produced the opportunity for a meeting, so the only people that should be present are those that the problem pertains to. The decision makers, those that can provide insightful input, there is no need to send a blanket invite to the entire office. While it may be easier to simply mark everyone’s schedule on google calendar, or send an email to everyone, the goal is to show employees that their time matters. Valuing employees, effective time management, and purposeful, pertinent communication all lead to more satisfactory meetings. Which increase employee satisfaction. Which saves time. Which saves money.



Dubner, S. J. (2019, September 18). How to Make Meetings Less Terrible. Retrieved October  13, 2019, from http://freakonomics.com/podcast/meetings/.

Rogelberg, S. G., Rhoades Shanock, L., & Scott, C. W. (2011). Wasted Time and Money in  Meetings: Increasing Return on Investment. Small Group Research43(2), 236–245. Retrieved from https://journals-            sagepubcom.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/doi/full/10.1177/1046496411429170?utm_source =summon&utm_medium=discovery-provider.

Shantz J. A. (2008). Battling Parkinson’s Law. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne179(9), 968. doi:10.1503/cmaj.081266.

Oct 19

All Work is an Act of Philosophy

“All Work is an Act of Philosophy.”

~ Ayn Rand

In the modern Western, Capitalist Society, the businessperson has perhaps lost sight of these important words of wisdom. The discipline of philosophy is under attack and no longer holds the stature or respect it once did in Academia, to the detriment of the economy.

Instead of learning the principles of morals and ethics, so that business can be conducted to the mutual benefit of both parties, the doctrine of greed has become the norm. Psychologically speaking, the ramifications of this glut in philosophical thinking are society shattering. Evidence is rampant, from the careless energy consortium living by the creed of “Drill, baby, drill” to the nefarious practices of Big Banks and Wall Street, who raced to the bottom of economic growth by introducing sub-prime lending and derivative investments.

Exacerbating this frenzy to garner as much money as possible is the duplicitous and dishonest behavior of the “talking heads” of mainstream media. After all, what gets published today is whatever sells the most copy, collects the most “likes” or produces the most shares. Gone are the days of an equal exchange of labor for value. Instead, for-profit businesses work to lower costs by paying lower wages, while hoisting up the false premise that Officers of the firm are acting to maximize the value to shareholders. When the reality could be nothing further from the truth.

Where the Wild Things Are

Examples of bad behavior in the business world run wide and deep. From agriculture to energy and finance to pharmaceuticals. Unethical behavior is rampant as long as there is an unquenchable thirst for irrational greediness. This is not to be conflated with rational self interest. No person should ever sacrifice his or her own self interests for the benefit of another. This is not how the philosophy of Capitalism works.

Instead of focusing on creating the best product, for the least amount of cost, business becomes consumed with political posturing, litigation, cumbersome HR policies that choke productivity and a myopic focus on the bottom line.

Returning to Ethics

The answer is not to abandon Capitalism in favor of a deeply flawed and failing socialist economic system. Instead, the path to a better economy can only be found by re-instating the discipline of Philosophy to its former status. Post Secondary institutions that require the basics of rhetoric and critical thinking as part of a well-rounded University education will find their students are better enabled to be productive, responsible citizens in this Brave New World.

The error being committed even as we speak is that the skills required to be successful in business must be taught and ingrained in the student before they even enter the working world. It is fatal for a business owner or Officers of a Corporation to think that they can teach these fundamental skills after the fact. Excessive time and energy are spent in error attempting to teach to the unteachable.

Start Early. Finish Hard.

Even before students enter University or College, their training in ethics and logic ought to begin at earlier stages of their development. Governments concerned about creating curriculum that focuses on the mechanics of sexual intercourse between same sex couples or that sacrifices the much needed skill of reading and writing in cursive would be doing a better service to young students, as early as elementary school, to focus on logic skills, such as learning how to file a tax return.

For-profit businesses attempt to fill this educational void with imaginative concepts such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which translates into “soft skill” activities that actually do little to increase the value of the firm for shareholders and serve to waste the time of the employees – instead of spending more time at work, organizing a worker-led organic garden, employees would probably prefer to spend any free time with their family and friends.

The Real Swamp to Be Drained

For the exceptionally greedy and unethical, there is an entirely different world of greed to explore. In this sphere of business, the names are made up, the points don’t matter and the better you can lie, the more money you will make. Deceptive marketing practices are ubiquitous, and every dollar garnered comes from pulling on the heart strings of the empathetic.

This is the world of Non-profit business. Some of the largest sums of money are collected and due to this unique status under the law, these organizations pay little to no money in taxes. Consider the National Football League. Annual revenue for the 2018 season hit the $25 Billion mark, making it the undisputed leader of professional sports in terms of profitability. NFL CEO Roger Goodell has just renewed his contract, earning $200 million over the course of the next five years. Of course, this doesn’t include the bonuses he’ll also earn.

Not Your Daddy’s NFL

Professional sports have always been big business. There is no surprise there and the numbers quoted above probably shouldn’t be surprising. Here is where the unethical shock sets in. Until 2015 the NFL enjoyed Federal tax exemption due to their Non-profit status. So, for the billions the NFL received in revenue, not one cent was paid back to the taxpayer.

You might think that this act of benevolence is a good thing, that it is altruistic for the NFL to inject an additional $10 million per year into the government coffers. However, this is not the case. The cost-benefit analysis was conducted and the number crunchers working at head office learned that accepting a $10 million tax bill every year is preferable to incurring the costs of remaining Non-profit and having to be transparent. Transparency, after all, requires costs through public scrutiny. Becoming For-profit allows the league to increase the opacity of its operations. Now unethical practices, such as covering up concussion injuries in players, can be swept under the proverbial rug with little public exposure.

Closer to Home

For more common abuses of the Non-profit business class, simply look to websites like KickStarter and GoFundMe. These forums allow the greediest of the greedy to take advantage of the good nature of everyday people. Yes, they both promote a vigorous vetting process and scammers are thought to be booted almost at once yet for the truly determined, it remains a safe haven for lies and deceit to collect ill gotten gains.

At a local level, you may find a group running as a Non-profit to “save the Oregon Giant Earthworm (Driloleirus macelfreshi)”. This sounds wonderful – saving an endangered species, what could be more altruistic? Until you dig a little deeper and you find out the following:

  1. The organization plans to purchase a “reserve” for the earthworms to live in as a sanctuary.
  2. They need to buy special types of dirt in order to create the best environment for the earthworm to flourish.
  3. The sanctuary is to be built in the middle of North America.

This sounds okay but fact checking uncovers the following:

  1. The “reserve” is actually a giant section of swamp land in Florida, unable to support the earthworm.
  2. The special dirt required isn’t conducive to helping the earthworm thrive but instead will create a sturdy foundation on which can be built new housing developments.
  3. This specific earthworm only exists in Australia and wouldn’t survive in North America.

There is nothing illegal being done here. Under the guise of being Non-profit, this group can raise as much money as they want, tax free and once they’ve achieved their goal, give up the tax exemption, become a For-profit business and re-brand into “Florida Swamp Home Development Corporation.”

This Deserves Repeating

Just as a fundamental understanding of Philosophy is required to bring sanity back to the For-profit business world, it is also Philosophy that will save the integrity of the Non-profit organizations with truly noble causes.

The ability to think critically, risk asking the offensive questions and uncovering the truth is a more valuable skill today than it ever has been in the past. Emotional sentiments of being good to each other and loving one another will never be enough on its own to mitigate the ability of the charlatans and scammers to take advantage of the gullible. The only way to truly weed out the unsavory element in either type of organization is to confront them with the truth through rational, objectively determined facts and evidence. The best way to do this is to study Philosophy.


Feb 19

What constitutes a “jerk”?

“It’s happening at 8:30 tomorrow morning” my husband told me without preamble when we called me on his way home from work last night. He did not even have to explain the “it” he was referring to; I knew immediately that the “jerk” he works with was finally being fired. I felt a sense of relief that my husband would no longer have to deal with this person who had made his work so much more frustrating, but I also felt sad. Sad for the individual being let go as well as the person tasked with doing the firing. It was a difficult situation.

As I lay in bed last night wishing I could just fall asleep instead of dreading what was going to happen in the morning I found dozens of question swirling around my head. There was one in particular that I kept coming back to. Does behaving like a jerk translate into someone actually being a jerk? No, I concluded. Just because someone acts like a jerk it does not automatically make them a jerk. But then how do you decide when you need to separate yourself from someone versus try to help them deal with a difficult situation in a better way?

When I listened to the interview of Dr. Bob Sutton at Stanford University, I was absolutely in agreement with his ideas of dealing with and reducing our contact with “jerks” in the workplace. This morning though, I find myself still wondering how we get to the point of slapping the label of “jerk” on someone.

It seems like a prime example of the fundamental attribution error to label someone as a “jerk” instead of attempting to understand what caused them to react in a negative way. But perhaps it’s not that simple either; I do believe that some people are predisposed to be mean no matter the situation they find themselves in.

To gain better clarity I took a deeper look at the attribution process and in particular at Kelley’s (1973) covariation model. According to Kelley, we can estimate whether the root cause for someone’s behavior is internal or external by determining levels of the following (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012):

  • Distinctiveness – Is this behavior unique to this situation?
  • Consensus – Are others behaving in this same way in this situation?
  • Consistency – Is this typical behavior for this situation and person?

This method can help us determine if the behavior stems from an out-of-character reaction to an external situation or if the behavior should be attributed to internal personality/character factors.

So then, should we default to labeling someone a jerk if it turns out that the behavior stems from internal factors? I think not, and I think it can even be detrimental to the individual being labeled. I believe that the average person who is labeled a jerk is aware of the stigma they carry. They usually know that they rub people the wrong way and that others don’t like them. While some may seem to be jerks down to their souls, could this be a self-fulfilling prophecy in others? The jerk knows they are disliked but perhaps they don’t think they have the power to change who they are. As a result, they don’t attempt to better themselves and instead write off their membership in the jerk club to innate and unchangeable personality deficits; the “jerk” lives up to the label.

Instead of labeling people we should focus on describing their behavior. Rather than calling someone a jerk, we could say that they responded inappropriately. Thus, it would be easier to detach the behavior from the character of the person. It would allow the person to still see themselves as “good” and choose to view their bad behavior as an exception rather than defining them.

In the workplace, perhaps we could identify the behaviors that we are wishing to encourage instead of focusing on the behaviors that we want to abolish. Instead of saying “no jerks allowed” we could institute a mandate that requires that employees always respond with kindness. The emphasis would be on promoting positive behaviors instead of labeling people by their behaviors, good or bad. I propose that by discouraging bad behaviors, instead of condemning individuals, we could have success changing the way people handle difficult situations.



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Bob Sutton (Stanford University) – The No Jerk Rule | Stanford eCorner. (2007). Retrieved from https://ecorner.stanford.edu/podcast/the-no-jerk-rule/

Oct 18

Good Morale Goes A Long Way

Organizations are in need off great workers, the saying “It is hard to find good help” could not be further from the truth. Being a manager, I have experience with having to run a business and dealing with employees. I can honestly say that managing my staff is one of the most difficult parts of my job. Many businesses just focus on making a profit which is very important but what I have come to learn is that if you want great employees we need to keep them happy.

The number one element every organization needs, is good employee morale. Employee morale can be the difference between a successful business or a struggling one. There is proof that is an employee feels they have a positive work life they are more productive and dedicated by 21 percent compared to those who do not. (Craig, W. 2017, August 29) I have personally seen what low moral can do to a company, and a lot of the times bad management may be the main cause. Working for the same company for 11 years I have seen 2 managers run the office. When I first started my office ran smoothly and everyone worked well with each other. The manager at the time hired people that had similar interest and personalities. She treated everyone equally and she would let staff members know when they did a great job.  As soon as she left the employee who had been there the longest got promoted and turned the office upside down. She showed preference to certain employees and for 5 years we had many great employees leave because of the way she managed the staff.

Stress is another big factor in keeping morale up. Statistics show “occupational pressures and fears are the are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults.” (Workplace Stress. 2018, January 12) This has contributed to having 51 percent of American workers to be disengaged and not committed to work. (Robaton, A. 2017, March 31) What I have come to notice is that there needs to be give and take between both parties. Power is dangerous when the wrong person has it. Individual can feel superior to other and may result to unwanted changes in an organization, resulting in low morale. (Nelson, A. 2018)

Craig, W. (2017, August 29). How Positive Employee Morale Benefits Your Business. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2017/08/29/how-positive-employee-morale-benefits-your-business/#165677f02549

Nelson, A. (2018). Penn State World Campus. PSYCH 424 Applied Social Psychology. Lesson 7: Organizational Life AND Teams. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1942493/modules/items/25002516

Robaton, A. (2017, March 31). Why so many Americans hate their jobs. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-so-many-americans-hate-their-jobs/

Workplace Stress. (2018, January 12). Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/

Oct 17

Team Dynamics in Survivor

While scrolling through channels on the TV one evening this week, I stumbled across one of my favorite shows, Survivor.  As I settled into watch, I realized how perfectly Survivor illustrates many of the concepts of teams and organizations.  We can see how the producers manipulate the group development process, how the fundamental attribution error influences players, and how group decision-making concepts effect how the game plays out.

I think one of the things that makes Survivor so interesting and drama-filled is the fact that, especially in the beginning, they force the tribes, or teams as I will call them here, to stay in the forming and storming stages of Tuckman’s developmental stages of groups.  According to Pennsylvania State University (2017), these are the stages where the teams get together and get to know one another politely and then begin to attempt to sort out their roles with much intragroup conflict, respectively.  As soon as the teams begin to enter the “norming” stage, where roles are figured out and groups are beginning to operate more efficiently, the producers of the show randomly switch up the groups and force the contestants to start all over.  I think the prevention of moving onward into the performing stage of Tuckman’s stages is part of what makes Survivor so interesting.  As viewers, we never get to see teams work seamlessly together, but we do get to see the repeated formation and conflicts that come with the initial stages of team development.  While not ideal for creating effective teams, this makes for wonderfully drama-filled team dynamics for us as viewers.

We also see a lot of examples of the fundamental attribution error in Survivor.  As the contestants on the show get to know one another and figure out who they want to form alliances with or work against, there are many instances where constants will attribute another person’s actions or attitudes to that person’s personal disposition.  Later, we viewers often see interviews with that person, who will explain their actions or attitudes as responses to a situation.  We often hear comments along the lines of “I’ve never been outside of my city before, so this is really different” or “I just lashed out because I’m so tired/hungry/stressed”.  As Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts (2012) note, the fundamental attribution error involves people attributing another’s behavior or attitudes to their personal demeanor, rather than taking situational factors into account.  As we see in the case of Survivor, these fundamental attribution errors play a major role in how contestants view one another and select alliance members.  If contestants attributed behaviors appropriately, it is possible that alliances could be different and the entire game could proceed in an entirely new way.

Finally, viewers can definitely see both normative and informational influences at play in decision making in Survivor.  For example, alliances are an important part of the game of Survivor, with members of groups banding together to ensure their “survival” in the game.  Often, a majority of a group will decide to work against a certain individual and, even if others disagree, they do not want to go against this majority group and make themselves a future enemy.  This, according to Schneider et al. (2012), is an example of the pressure to conform influencing decision making, or the normative influence.  On the other hand, situations in Survivor often occur where an individual is certain they will vote a certain way but then discover information from other group members that changes their perception of the situation, often leading to a change in their vote.  This is a perfect example of informational influence, where information from others provides a person more information about a social situation (Schneider et al., 2012).  The work of both of these group decision-making factors makes for interesting dynamics in this game, as we watch contestants grapple with both informational and normative pressures.

It is fascinating to me to see how so many aspects of group and organizational social psychology can be seen in something as mindless as a reality TV gameshow.  After realizing this about Survivor, there are so many more identifiable layers to the game.  I thought I enjoyed watching it before, but after having a more complete understanding of social psychology, it makes watching it even more interesting!



Pennsylvania State University. (2017).  Organizational Life AND Teams. [Online Lecture].  Retrieved from http://cms.psu.edu.


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understand and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Feb 16

Social Media in Organizational Psychology

According to the American Psychological Association (2016), Industrial and Organizational psychology studies human behavior in relation to the work place. This branch of psychology seeks to understand and gain information from individual and group behaviors in order to make organizations more efficient and solve problems. One important concept in the realm of organizational psychology is analyzing development in the work place. Organizational psychology studies trend changes in the work place, and aids companies with successful adaptations to these developmental changes. Many of these modern day developments have to do with the ever-expanding technology at our fingertips.

Social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like are finding new and innovative ways to reach consumers, convey information and open up a new field of marketing expertise. In 2012, 73% of Fortune 500 companies were on Twitter, and 80% of executives promoted social media as a way to increase sales (Holmes, 2013). In the field of organizational psychology, understanding these developmental trends surrounding social media holds the key to expanding company communication and profit across the technological field. Social media participation for organizations is said to offer many great advantages: “better insight into customer behavior, improved office productivity with internal networks and, of course, significant, measurable ROI [return on investment]” (Holmes, 2013). Understanding this information provides many open doors for organizations to expand into the technological field seeking new opportunities.

Organization participation in social media can impact companies in several ways. Firstly, social media is opening doors for communication. Many companies are now utilizing social media technology as a productively tool in order to create company-wide communication and collaboration, thus replacing email. HR departments are using social media such as Career Finder, Facebook and Linkdin to screen employees for employment, thus replacing the traditional paper resumes. Social media gives organizations more accurate marketing pathways and access to “real-time” consumer activity monitoring (Holmes, 2013).

It is important to understand the strengths that social media and technology provides so that companies can adapt to the changing times and expand business. However, these strengths do not come without challenges. The challenges associated with the use of social media include problems with posted content online by employers/employees, ethical breeches of internet privacy for consumers, training employees on internet policies, training marketing on new technological advances, it is a time intensive business that requires constant monitoring, lacks feedback control, and can be a difficult integration from small and local businesses (Abrons, 2014). These social media challenges really show the importance of organizational psychology and the need for developmental analysis in the work place.


Abrons, R. (2014). The Disadvantages of Using Social Networks as Marketing Tools. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/disadvantages-using-social-networks-marketing-tools-20861.html

APA. (2016). Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/industrial.aspx

Holmes, R. (2012, December 6). 5 Ways Social Media Will Change The Way You Work in 2013. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/12/11/5-ways-social-media-will-change-the-way-you-work-in-2013/#3d002e1219d9

Oct 15

Penn State’s THON

I have been a part of several different organizations in my life: youth groups, a sorority, volunteer organizations, but none have had as positive an impact on my life as being a member of Penn State’s IFC/PHC Dance MaraTHON (THON) and the Dancer Relations committee. This group operated more like the team dynamic discussed in our textbook rather than the organization dynamic. The committees are assembled and operate under the four basic aspects of teams: cohesion, team confidence, communication patterns, and group goal setting (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, p. 115). The designated purpose of the Dancer Relations committee is to be educated on both psychological aspects and first aid aspects to aid a dancer through 46 hours of no sitting or sleeping. Committees are selected after rounds of interviews and discussions by overall captains. When teams are properly assembled and multiple aspects are taken into account to form the teams, they will work seamlessly together and the positive outcomes will be overwhelming.

Cohesion is an extremely important part of these committees and the success of THON weekend depends on each and every committee member. Cohesion is the first focus once the committees are selected; members are encouraged to go out to lunch, dinner, coffee, etc. to get to know each other as soon as possible. In fact, the night that we find out our committees group chats, Facebook groups, and Google docs of questions and answers are formed to get the ball rolling on getting to know each other. Cohesion is defined by the ability of a team to be united towards the objectives and/or satisfaction of member effective needs (Schneider et al., p. 116). Committees are especially designed for cohesion by picking and choosing which individuals are placed with which captain based on their personalities and the other selected committee members. The captain holds a democratic leadership in most aspects, asking for everyone’s opinions for decision-making. The affectivity (emotional state) of the group is beyond positive, as well as instrumental nature of cohesion (goals and objectives) that results in strong social and task cohesion (p. 117). We became an extremely close group of friends and some of my best friends now, I met through that committee, my attitudes show that the group had strong integration-social and integration-task.

Team confidence is the next important aspect of a successful team. Every member of my committee was bursting with their own self-confidence, which meant that our talents and efforts were pushed to the maximum. Because of this our self-efficacy was strong, and we know that we could do our duties under pressure come THON weekend. As a mail call committee we had the special task of handing out mail two times during the weekend, including letters and packages. This was a large task but we had collective efficacy, the belief that we could organize and execute the mail calls (p. 121-122).

Of course, communication is vital for a group of 38 people who are trying to have weekly meetings. Like I mentioned before, we had immediate communication when we found out what committee we were a part of. Today, social networks and technology play a large role in group communication, making it easier than ever to know about events and plan in advance. Our communication is mainly to relay orientation messages for planning strategy and technique and stimulation messages that motivate and energize the team (p. 126). Our emails would be used to communicate meeting times, meeting minutes, events, GoogleDocs, and motivational quotes and cartoons. Our group chats were to plan to hang out, quick (and immediate) reminders for meetings, and just to talk throughout the day. For THON weekend we made a phone tree for shifts so that we could insure that everybody was awake and ready to leave 45 minutes prior to the shift.

Finally, group goal setting was an extremely important aspect of our philanthropic committee. We outcome goals, in relation to teams is competitive in nature, was not only beating the grand total of money raised the previous year but also each Dancer Relations committee is assigned to one of four colors. These colors denote another “team” atmosphere. The teams competed in competitions leading up to THON weekend and at THON there were mini-competitions that committee members could participate in with their dancers. This encourages us to remain active and involved in not only our peers but also by helping the dancers during their sleepless and sit-less weekend. Our process goals are worked towards all year leading up to the event, we are given multiple first aid training workshops as well as tests to insure that all volunteers are prepared. We are also given psychological advice and training on how to deal with an individual who is severely sleep deprived and physically and emotionally weak. Performance goals aren’t really a factor in this setting (p. 128-129).

Our committee did follow Tuckman’s developmental stages of a group. There is very little forming state because, although we do not know each other, we are instantly drawn to each other and trust each other. This is most likely due to the nature of our volunteering. In the storming stage, strong personalities are identified and group rules and expectations are communicated at the first official meeting. Eventually we are all given our own leadership positions, personally I was named social chair during the norming state. Our performing stage was THON weekend, and the success of guiding our dancers through the tough but exciting weekend (Tuckman, 1965). Unfortunately, we did have to adjourn when THON weekend was over (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977), but these people have become my best friends. I still talk to a lot of them every week. By coming together because of passion, dedication, and desire to help others and the fight against pediatric cancer, Penn State’s THON community is able to build successful teams that operate positively and cohesively. These attributes insured that THON weekend would be pulled off without a hitch.




Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381

Tuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63 (6). 384–399. doi:10.1037/h0022100

Tuckman, B. & Jensen, M.A. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group Organization Management, 2. 419-427.

Oct 14

A Team in Need

Sisters-arguing cropped

I am a volleyball coach for a club team on the central coast of California. The season is about to start and I am always looking for ways to improve my coaching. As I read the chapters on teams and organizations I realized that are solutions to some problems I have had with teams in the past. One such problem is cohesion. Cohesion is defined as the tendency for a group to stick together (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 116). There have been two types of cohesion identified, task and social cohesion (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 117). Task cohesion is the ability for a group to want to reach a goal and social cohesion is friendships (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012, pg 116).
It has been my experience that not all high-school aged girls get along. When those girls end up on the same sports teams, bad things can happen, such as very low social cohesion. One thing I see a lot of when this happens is relational aggression. Relational aggression includes social exclusion, friendship withdrawal threats (e.g., “I won’t be your friend unless…”), giving the silent treatment and spreading malicious secrets, lies or gossip (Ostrov, 2013). As one can imagine, this can be particularly harmful to the team’s social cohesion. I was also not very knowledgeable about how to fix these problems until recently.
From the reading, I know understand that the antecedents of cohesion must be present in order create unity. These include role clarity, role acceptance, and role performance. Role clarity is the extent ones role is clearly defined (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 119). Role acceptance is the degree to which the person agrees to comply with their role (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 119). While role performance is how well the person actually fulfills their role (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 119). These increase task unity and social cohesion (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 119) and were something I have not always done. With this in mind, I tried to make my team better.
So now, at the beginning of each week I sit down with each of the girls and have a conversation. I ask them questions about their role to make sure they understand what it is they are supposed to do (role clarity). We then move on to role acceptance. I ask them if they accept the role I have given them. We talk about how happy the girl is with their role. If they are not happy, I give them a list of things they need to do in order to gain the role they want. For example, if a girl wants to be hitter and her current role is defensive in nature, I could tell her she needs to perfect her hitting approach before she gains the role she wants. Next, we would move on to role performance. This is a discussion about why each girl is (or is not) playing. If they are not playing, I give them the statistics they need to improve on to play. Last, I ask the girls if they need to speak to me about any of the other girls. I let them know that any social problems cannot affect the team and must be dealt with through me. Any violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action.
I, as the coach, also set the social norms for the team. My job is to coach and critique, the player’s jobs are to be positive no matter what, especially to eachother. I strictly uphold these rules and reinforce them daily. These weekly talks have curtailed the major problems with social cohesion.
I was a little surprised how well they have worked, although I shouldn’t be. These things have been researched and my opinion or intuition is secondary. It makes me excited to try and incorporate more research into my coaching. I want to continue to use science to solve problems. This is being an applied social psychologist. I eagerly read sports psychology articles and social psychology texts.


Ostrov, J. (2013). The development of relational aggression. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from:

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Jun 14

Technology in the Workplace

The use of computers and other technology has become so common in the workplace that people fail to realize that these devices can sometimes actually hinder one’s intellectual abilities and competence, as well as deskilling users. In the modern world of technology, computers are heavily relied on day in and day out. Technological devices are used in jobs such as retail, healthcare, construction, and financial services to name a few. Despite these technologies being used to enhance job performance and efficiency, they are actually making society dumber and may be harming businesses.

For example, users have developed a huge dependence on these devices. Technology may be used for research, production, transportation, etc. (PSU WC, 2014). Users who depend on technology to complete work-related tasks lack certain skills that people generations ago would have been better-equipped with, including writing skills. In today’s society computers encourage the use of programs such as Microsoft Word and Email. Not only are humans relying on Microsoft Word for formatting their writing, they also rely on this program’s ability to detect spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors for them (PSU WC, 2014).

The use of Email not only reduces users’ writing and social skills by discouraging face-to-face contact between individuals or groups of people, the common technology also leads to miscommunication between users (Kruger et al., 2005). Email may be a fast way to communicate, however, that does not mean it may be used to communicate effectively. Businesses who rely heavily on Email communications may experience problems regarding encoding and decoding messages (Kruger et al., 2005). This in turn creates havoc. When messages are misconstrued, businesses may experience several problems (i.e. unhealthy work relationships, financial problems, etc.).

In one of my classes that I took last semester, we discussed how technology is taking over the business world. Workers used to be skilled and masters at what they did. Now, however, workers are being replaced by machines and as a result, workers are becoming incompetent and deskilled (PSU WC., 2014). In some cases, technology is even taking worker’s jobs away from them. In factories, for instance, heavy machinery is used to produce products that would have taken several workers to make. Unfortunately, these factors decrease job satisfaction and work motivation in workers (Schneider et al., 2012). Employers may also place blame on workers for errors that were beyond their control, such as problems with machinery (i.e. fundamental attribution error) (Schneider et al., 2012).

Overall, technologies used in the workplace decrease thinking for oneself and discourages problem-solving abilities. It is clear that businesses rely very heavily on these technologies which is in turn weakening the skills and abilities of the individual. Unfortunately, these problems come at a major cost to businesses. Do you think that businesses should rely so heavily on technology? Should technology use be limited in certain workplaces?



Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J., & Ng, Z. (2005). Egocentrism over e-mail: Can we communicate as well as we think? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 925-925-936. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.925

PSU WC. (2014). PSYCH424: Lesson 6, Intergroup Relations. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/su14/psych424/001/content/07_lesson/01_page.html

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381

Feb 14

Organization + Intergroup Relations | For better or worse.

Organizations can range from a little as two people to millions as seen in the Department of Defense however, regardless of size there are key components any successful organization must have (The Economist, 2011). Marriage, for example, is a simple organization of two individuals that engage in many of the same behaviors that a major organization engages in such as communication and group decision making (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). Just as communication is key to the success of a large organization so too is communication’s role in marriage. Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2012) define communication as a social behavior of at least two people interacting and providing one another with information (p. 233). Furthermore, Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2012) go on to discuss the actual model of communication which includes conveying a message by means of a medium (“channel”) that must be encoded, decoded and received by another individual (p. 233). Within a marriage, the same process takes place. For instance, take the simple chore of washing dishes – a wife (or husband) may verbally or nonverbally convey to their significant other that they would like help washing the dishes. In order to do this, the wife must form her thoughts into a message to communicate to her husband. Typically this message, once formed, is likely to be conveyed through a face-to-face medium. Once the wife has transmitted her message the husband then receives and decodes the message (and hopefully agrees to help do the dishes!). This process can go back and forth and can be very clear or can result in a disagreement due to lack of clarity.

Penley, Alexander, Jernigan and Henwood (1991) uncovered that managers of corporations with effective communication skills outperform others and this is also the case for effective communicators within a marriage. In order for managers to be effective and efficient communicators they must be able to provide clear objectives and accurate feedback (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). In order for a married couple to communicate efficiently they too must be clear and accurate in their requests, concerns, desires etc. Now this does not always occur within organizations nor does it always occur within a marriage and when it does not follow this communication model, problems may arise whether it be the wrong person getting laid off or a big argument over who left the toilet seat up.

Krone, Jablin and Putnam (1987) described that within the psychological perspective a major influencing factor of how something is received or communicated is an individual’s “conceptual filter” (p. 234). A conceptual filter incorporates an individual’s cognitions, attitudes and perceptions (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). Therefore, it is essential to take into consideration in an organization when communicating with another individual as they will have a different conceptual filter. This is the same in a marriage, just because two people fall in love and have many of the same attitudes and opinions does not mean that their conceptual filter is the same. In order to be an effective communicator in both an organization and a marriage, one must consider how their message may be influenced by another’s conceptual filter.

Modern organizations have begun to place more emphasis on teams in order to divide up and assign specific tasks to specialized individuals (Pennsylvania State University, 2014). A team, or group, can be defined as “two or more persons who are interacting with one another in such a manner that each person influences and is influenced by each other person” (Pennsylvania State University, 2014; Shaw, 1981). A marriage then, can also be seen as a team of two individuals who influence and are influenced by one another. Additionally, teams are divided up based on specialization and within a marriage this can be seen by having the husband and wife both take on different roles. Perhaps the husband takes on the “team role” of investing in the stock market and mowing the lawn while the wife assumes the role of providing a nice dinner and paying the bills. Whatever the roles may be, it often takes a team effort to achieve and maintain a functioning household.

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Rizzo, J.R., House, R.J., & Lirtzman, S.I. (1970). Role conflict and ambiguity in complex organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 15. 150-163. doi: 10.2307/2391486.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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The Economist. (2011). Who are the world’s biggest employers? Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/09/employment?fsrc=scn/tw/te/dc/defending.

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