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What kind of manager is your culture creating?


It’s pretty clear to see that for social business to thrive, our organizations need a certain type of manager.  That manager needs to be conscientious.  They need to be the kind of manager that focuses on doing the right thing and on having a learning mentality, both for themselves and for those under their charge.  It’s this kind of manager that will promote the kind of collaboration, openness and innovation that will underpin the shift towards social business.

A fascinating study conducted by Robert Wood and Albert Bandura underlines the knife edge upon which your managers sit however.  It highlights how easy it is for those managers to drift into the narcissistic and bullying mindset that we’ve seen down the years in organizations such as Enron.

The study saw participants divided into two groups and asked to complete a relatively challenging task (this is important – more on this later).  The difference between the two groups was how they were each primed to think.  One group for instance were told that the task was designed to test their basic capability.  The smarter they were, the higher they’d score, which you may think is the standard approach to most tests.

The second group however were told that the test was not designed to measure their abilities, but rather as part of their development as a manager.  They were told that it was all part of a wider process by which their skills and talents would be cultivated and improved.

Now, the difficulty of the task is key here because it was designed specifically so that a good many of the people taking it would fail, especially in their initial attempts at completing it.  It’s at this point that the two groups began to diverge.

The first group, who were told that the test was designed to gauge their ability, floundered after failing their initial attempts.  Of course, what they were really failing at was not the test itself, but in their ability to learn from the mistakes they were making.  They had been primed to think in a rather fixed mindset and as a result, they did not develop over the course of the experiment.

The second group however learned steadily throughout the experiment.  They had been primed not to think of the test as a means of measurement, but as a tool they could use to improve, and that is exactly what they did.  This group were not afraid to confront their mistakes and take on the feedback they received.  It was this group that modified their approaches and became better as a result.

By the end of the experiment, the second group had soared ahead of the first, both in their individual productivity, but also in their ability to inspire and motivate their peers.

It’s a fascinating example of how relatively simple triggers in our environment can prompt wildly divergent outcomes.  Which kind of person is your workplace encouraging?

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