January 21, 2011 11:31 am

Something for the weekend

By mid to late January many people will be struggling with their New Year’s resolutions and may even have abandoned them all together, having become demotivated. But according to research from the US, how you frame your resolutions will have an impact on whether or not you keep them.

Co-authors Baba Shiv a professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Himanshu Mishra and Arul Mishra, both assistant professors of marketing at the David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah suggest that by keeping resolutions vague, individuals are more likely to remain motivated.

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Setting goals in stone, which are then not achieved can lead to disillusionment they say. “For one to be successful, one needs to be motivated,” says Prof Shiv. “When it comes to motivation,” he adds, “negative information outweighs positive”.

The academics say that for example, rather than setting a weight loss goal of a stone, individuals should instead set themselves a vague target of losing anything between five and 15 pounds over the coming year. Keeping the goals vague allows an individual to cherry pick and select those parts which are achievable and also helps to prevent an individual from becoming demotivated..

The paper; “In praise of vagueness; malleability of vague information as a performance booster” will be published shortly in the journal Psychological Science.

A diverse workforce - for example created through age or through nationality - is not the basic formula for fermenting disagreements as is the popular assumption, in fact the opposite could well be true.

In a paper also to be published in the journal Psychological Science, two academics at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto say that a recognition of diversity and differences can encourage people to co-operate.

Geoffrey Leonardelli, a professor of management and psychology and Soo Min Toh, also a management professor have found that group-based differences “can help to identify groups in need, from groups that can give aid”.

The researchers looked at a workforces comprising local and foreign workers. They discovered that local employees were more likely to co-operate and share information with foreign workers when they recognised that these workers were expatriates and would benefit from knowledge on local culture that they, the local workers, possessed and which their foreign co-workers needed.

But say the academics, for such a scenario to thrive employees must first feel secure within their workplace and believe that their employers are treating them fairly.

“Group-based differences often create an ‘us versus them’ mentality,” says Prof Toh. “However, we found that when employees felt that they were treated fairly by their employers, group-based differences were more likely to manifest as an ‘us and them’ mentality.”

The writers suggest that expatriates, instead of trying to merge with the community and keep their differences in check, should instead let their foreign origins be known. This in turn could lead to a greater understanding within the local community.

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