Maybe it is because I turned 78 last week, but it seems that every day I read something or see something on TV that drives me crazy. Even though by the usual standards, I am at the age where people mostly chill out, I seem to be going down a different path.
Today’s path to driving me crazy was a link sent to me by a friend, Drone pilot burnout triggers call for recruiting overhaul. The article starts with “Driving a war drone is a stressful business. Shifts up to 12 hours are stretches of dullness, watching and waiting, interrupted by flashes of intense activity in which pilots must make life-or-death decisions.”
What boils my blood is that when performance or morale issues become uneven or lagging, the first assumption that is usually made by management is that “we have hired the wrong people.” Not that that can sometimes be the problem but that is the first conclusion from these problems. Is it just possible that it could be management or the job design?
I would highly suggest that before the Air Force spends millions of dollars figuring out who to hire, they should look first at day to day supervision, policies and job design. Burnout is caused when the job requires more behaviors than are supported by the available reinforcers required to sustain the desirable performance. Long periods of looking for something and not finding it causes something known as extinction. Staying alert in such conditions may be considered to be quite stressful. These conditions can be modified quite easily with modern technology by programing more things to find. These things can then be an occasion for either built in reinforcement or social reinforcers delivered by peers or managers.
It is my belief that every organization should use the best ways available to find employees who are likely to be successful. However, when positive reinforcement is not produced by the job and the people one works for and with, even the best candidate will not perform to his or her potential. Were I to be asked for my two cents worth of advice, I would suggest that the Air Force look first at the frequency of reinforcers produced by the job itself and then from supervisors and peers. Changing that will certainly be more cost effective for the tax payers and the Air Force than trying to find people who can tolerate “stretches of dullness, watching and waiting.”
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After more than 200 episodes, the oddly quirky and debatably successful sitcom “The Office” came to an end last week. Even for those who didn’t watch, it was clear that the premise of the show was to unearth the totally inappropriate goings-on in the workplace, leaving viewers gasping, “Did that just happen?” Read entire post including tips for effectively managing others and avoiding mistakes common to television bosses at Talent Management Magazine.
Well, it had to happen. I received an email advertising a series of papers, HR Lessons from Angry Birds. It seems that what or whoever becomes famous will sooner become the subject of a leadership book. In this case I wonder if reading such makes the fans of Angry Birds feel less guilt from spending hours playing a game of “see how many things you can knock down with a slingshot.” Now don’t get me wrong, I have played Angry Birds. My seven year old grandson put it on my phone. However, after playing it several times, I did not feel like a better leader, nor did I extrapolate any leadership lessons from my poor play.
One of the things written in the email that caught my attention was the statement, “A great manager needs the skills to manage ‘combinations’ more than ‘people’, and the skills to plan for the short term and long term development of these combinations.” If this is true I guess the next book will be from Billy, the goat herder, called Leadership lessons learned from herding the smelly creatures.
Managers manage the behaviors of individuals as a means of accomplishing some worthy business outcome. I don’t know how you manage a “combination.” If you understand the science of behavior you know how to manage one or ten thousands of individuals, and at the same time. If you have free time, spend it on learning the science.
I will not bore you with the other nine lessons. They are no more or less profound. My conclusion is that you will learn as much about leadership watching birds on a power line as you will from reading these papers.
Here is a lesson that will serve you well at work and at play: When you finish your work, or tasks at home, then and only then play Angry Birds, if it suits your taste. If not follow the accomplishment with something you do enjoy. You will get more done, play more and feel better about both.
Stay Connected Ask Aubrey
Kicking, hitting, pushing, calling names — no, it’s not a 4-year-old kindergartner run amok, it’s the behavior of 44-year-old, (now former) Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice. Apparently Rice has been positively reinforced and rewarded for this type of behavior since preschool because people don’t develop lifestyle strategies overnight. In early April of this year, Rice was fired by the university after (and only after) ESPN aired footage of his form of inspiring performance: nothing like the coach bashing your head with a basketball at close range to make you a better player, right? Read the entire post on Performance Reset at Talent Management Magazine.
As so many of us take pause after hearing the news of the Boston tragedy, we look for ways to process the events, for the right way to talk with our children, and ways to keep ourselves calm and courageous at a time when it’s easy to be fearful.
For me, I thought back to something I wrote in Other Peoples Habits, “…be the person who begins a chain reaction of change in your environment.” This quote is in reference to the power of learning and applying the laws of human behavior and bringing it and the appropriate use of positive reinforcement into your environment. Skinner also summarizes the benefits such a strategy would have if practiced on a global scale in his book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity:
It’s hard to imagine a world in which people live together without quarreling, maintain themselves by producing the food, shelter and clothing they need, enjoy themselves and contribute to the enjoyment of others in art, music, literature and games, consume only a reasonable part of the resources of the world and add as little as possible to its pollution, bear no more children than can be raised decently, continue to explore the world around them and discover better ways to deal with it, and come to know themselves accurately and therefore manage themselves effectively. Yet all this is possible.
I agree with Skinner. I believe that most of the world’s problems, from crime and drugs to ineffective education and the threats to world peace, result from a lack of understanding of how consequences change behavior. We can find hope in a science that has enormous power and I hope we all can begin our own positive chain of change in our own worlds.
We are up with the times! We have added a new feature, Google Translate, to our blog. While this proves to be a great tool for our global audience I must warn you of one thing. Because our work is based on science, terms that have a special meaning in our work are often mistranslated as most translations use the more common definitions. A translation in Japanese for negative reinforcement came out “positive-negative reinforcement.” And some languages don’t have some of our technical words. For example, Italian’s don’t have a word for pinpoint. In spite some translation problems, Google Translate does facilitate an understanding of behavior analysis as applied to the workplace in places and for people who would otherwise not have access to this wonderful science of human behavior.
Remember, the laws of behavior are universal. So they apply to people who speak any language that you see in the translate list (and more). Culture is basically about how we typically treat each other. Of course when we speak of culture we talk most often about a country or a region of a country. However, it applies equally to any group that has frequent contact. Even friendships have a culture. We often have a characteristic way of interacting with different friends. Jokes that are told to one friend would never be told to others. Some friendships are more formal than others; some are very casual. However, in spite of the almost infinite number of different cultures that we can encounter in the world, the laws of behavior are exactly the same. ADI has done work in over 25 countries and our work has always been understood and embraced. Reinforcement works exactly the same in all of them.
We are happy to be able to translate information for those interested in our work to non-English speaking people in a large part of the world. We hope you find this new tool beneficial in your journey to learn about behavior analysis.
I have written on this and will probably do so again but an email advertisement for a book, Wars at Work, caught my attention recently. The author, Kaveh Mir, believes that psychometric tests provide the information necessary to solve differences at work that waste time, effort and have a negative impact on profits. While I don’t argue with the fact that most disagreements at work have negative consequences to the company as well as the combatants, I do not believe that psychometric tests provide the answer. I say that, coming from training and practice in those tests. As a practicing clinical psychologist for many years, I gave more tests than I care to remember. While there are many arguments to be made about their use, the foremost criticism is that it is very presumptuous to assume that from a paper/pencil test that it is possible to capture the essence of a person. This is certainly a sampling error of the worst kind. The second problem I have is while they are touted as producing valid and reliable measures of one’s behavior, they all have to be interpreted! The interpretation depends on the training and experience of the interpreter.
I could go on and on but I believe that assessing an employees’ ability to get along at work, facilitated by personality tests, is another case of wasting time and money. Categorizing people in any way violates their uniqueness. Most people spend many years trying to rid themselves of prejudices based on treating people on the basis of particular group identification rather than by who they are as individuals. In the modern workplace, employees are placed in an environment where the widest range of personalities (however that may be assessed) exists and where they must learn to work cooperatively and effectively with them. Changing behaviors related to increasing work efficiency, effectiveness and enjoying doing it with many different people starts with accepting them as they are, not due to any group affiliation they may have. While grouping defines one’s heritage, it shouldn’t define how they behave toward others.
A reader recently asked me to comment on Best Buy’s latest management announcement. You see, Best Buy has joined Yahoo in ending work at home as an effort to improve performance. (Read Yahoo! Wrong Problem; Wrong Solution.) Both companies would benefit from treating work at home, even when the job will permit it, as a privilege, not a right. Read the entire post at Talent Management/Performance Reset.
Guest post by Tom Spencer
However inconvenient it might be sometimes, emptying your bladder is inevitable. You might want to do it at the time, especially if the time is the middle of a long road trip, but it’s not something that most people look forward to otherwise. It’s a negative reinforcement activity (escaping the feeling of having to go or avoiding having to go later when it’s less convenient). People even say, “I have to go to the restroom.”
As reported by NBC News, this is changing for men as the gamification craze brings the urinal into the 21st century. This new gaming system was designed to draw attention to health messages on urinal video screens. The health video plays until someone walks up to the urinal, which terminates the video and starts a downhill snowmobile game. The man maneuvers the snowmobile with his urine flow, and tries to score points by running over penguins.
Sounds like fun, but probably not so much for the person who has to clean the floor. The game reinforces behavior directly incompatible with the straight-and-steady aim that parents commonly instill in young boys. The system doesn’t claim to teach toileting etiquette, so it’s difficult to criticize it too much for the unfortunate side effect it might cause at home. This is after all supposed to be a way to get men’s attention to the health information on the screen. The problem is that it switches to game mode when the man walks up to the urinal. If health education is a primary goal of the gaming system, it’s a bust.
The video in the article highlights the use of the system in a bar in the U.K. and gives a clue to a likely underlying goal of the system—an increase in beer sales! You can’t play without having to go. Although the educational benefit of this system is more than a little suspect, they’ve effectively turned a have to behavior into a want to behavior and brought joy to a routine behavior.
See also: Positive Reinforcement Can Kill
Whether implementing change or improving performance, leaders constantly juggle decisions and issues that impact organizational success. At the core of most of these business issues are people. Human capital is one of an organization’s most valuable assets. In this issue, gain strategies for effectively tackling change and learn why creating a positive, happy culture can benefit your workforce and the bottom-line.
Read more in the latest issue of the ADI Newsfeed.