Tag Archives: Interview

Workplace Initiations: Six Ways to Build a More Loyal Team

I was meeting with a few colleagues last week discussing our companys’ onboarding practices. It was interesting to hear how they welcomed newcomers. Most had a formal one-day orientation followed up by job specific training and departmental hospitality. Then there was Chuck.

Chuck did some variation of what everyone else was doing but he incorporated six months of “hazing.” Hazing is probably too strong a term, but they certainly made new hires earn their place on the team. It sounded harsh until Chuck mentioned his company’s incredibility high retention rate, employee engagement scores, and seven-year streak of being a Best Place to Work. Now I’m questioning whether unconditional acceptance is the best way to initiate a newbie.

According to anthropologist Aldo Cimino, “hazing” is the ritualized humiliation of newcomers to a group, often through initiation challenges. This is not a new concept, nor is it relegated to one culture or social class—hazing occurs in upper-class schools, street gangs, sports teams, indigenous tribes, and any other segment of the society where a person joins new groups.

While this may sound barbaric or immature, it can be effective. Cimino’s research found that the groups with higher status and more resources had more rigorous initiations. Another study found that participants who experienced severe embarrassment and discomfort to gain access reported a much higher level of satisfaction with the group. And studies by Brock Bastian concluded that individuals who collectively experienced painful events display stronger bonds and greater generosity to group members.

So why do people (subconsciously) want to go through an initiation? As explained by cognitive anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse, the laborious experiences create a powerful shared memory that serves as social glue, thereby bonding members together. It could also serve to demonstrate an individual’s personal strengths, as well as the qualities of the people who can motivate such acts.

If it’s too easy to get into your organization and you’d like to incorporate an initiation, consider a few of these practices:

Start at the interview. Involve a few steps with a few people. Don’t hesitate from asking difficult questions and setting clear expectations.

Better orientation. The intricacies of your company cannot be taught in one day. Spread it out and, like the interview, involve many people from many departments.

Pubic displays. As they study the company, they need to share what they’re learning. Maybe include a few presentations to the department.

Group project. Get all the new hires together for a hands-on group project. This should be meaningful (no busy work) and inclusive of the team.

No bullying. This is about people being initiated, not threatened, coerced, or emotionally scarred.

Big ending. You’ve tested them, they’ve passed, it is time to celebrate. Make this a big deal. Involve the whole department and formally welcome them.

You take hiring seriously. You take performance seriously. You need to take your onboarding seriously. The way someone is welcomed sets the groundwork for their success. If you include an initiation passage, new hires can earn their way into your company through challenging tasks that expedite their learning curve and engrain them into the culture. Continue to be supportive, but they need to work for it. After all, your company is worth the effort.

To Minimize Biases, We Might Need to Minimize People Input

cognitive-biasWere you surprised by the election results? If not, you were in the minority. Most professional pollsters had Clinton winning by anywhere from 3% to 11%. We can chastise their incorrect results, but first we need to consider the accuracy of our own decision making and what we can do to increase precision in the future.

When Trump won the election, I immediately bashed the forecasters; they were all so certain of a Clinton win and had been for weeks—on the night of the election, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight predicted a 71% probability of Clinton winning, and out of 21 possible scenarios, Election Analytics had only one where Trump could prevail. Then I read an article on Defense One and it began to make sense.

The output of polling results is only as good as the data put into the model. And unfortunately, this data is manipulated by people. According to Kalev Leetaru, a big data specialist who discovered the location of Osama Bin Laden through a statistical analysis of news articles, the problem with the election polling was tied to flawed judgment about which data was relevant.

When it comes to the kinds of questions that intelligence personnel actually want forecasting engines to answer, such as ‘Will Brexit happen’ or ‘Will Trump win,’ those are the cases where the current approaches fail miserably. It’s not because the data isn’t there. It is. Is because we use our flawed human judgment to decide how to feed that data into our models and therein project our biases into the model’s outcomes.—Kalev Leetaru

For the most accurate election predictions, the best indicator was from the artificial intelligence system, MogIA. Through it’s 20 million data points pulled from online platforms (Google, YouTube, Twitter, etc), MogIA has successfully predicted the last four presidential elections. Why? Because as per its developer,

While most algorithms suffer from programmers/developer’s biases, MoglA aims at learning from her environment, developing her own rules at the policy layer and develop expert systems without discarding any data.—Sanjiv Rai, founder of Genic.ai

People are chalk-full of biases that distort how information is absorbed and comprehended. One of the more common biases is motivated reasoning, where we interpret observations to fit a particular pre-conceived idea. Psychologists have shown that much of what we consider to be reasoning is actually rationalization. We have already made the decision about how to react, so our reasoning is really cherry-picking data to justify what we already wanted to do.

All leaders (and people) are susceptible to these types of biases. How many times have you hired someone only to find that they are not the same person you interviewed? Sure, they look the same, but the intelligent, driven professional you met is starkly different from the person you are know working with. Somehow your intuition led you down a wrong path. Rationalize it as the result of outside forces, but you decided who they were within five minutes of interviewing and then looked for proof to support your gut.

To remove some of the bias, aptitude tests have been found to be highly predictive of performance, as have general intelligence tests and behavioral assessments. Interviews, however, are far less likely to foretell who will succeed. Research from Society for Judgment and Decision Making found that people make better predictions about performance if they are given access to objective background information and prevented from conducting interviews entirely.

If we want to make the best decisions for our organizations, we cannot rely solely on intuition, nor can we dismiss our instincts. There must be a balance between logic and perception. This begins with collecting and analyzing data is the most objective manner possible. Once we understand the facts, we can consider the less tangible factoids before coming to a final decision.

If this past election teaches anything, it’s that we cannot fall victim to our cognitive biases. Something feeling correct does not make it correct. Find ways to avoid being emotionally or intellectually invested in the findings; that’s the best way to keep an open mind. Include others who will challenge your biases and have no preconceived notions, like an independent contractor. Or maybe we should try to concern ourselves more the actualities and lean away from trying to predict outcomes. I’ll try to remember that in the mid-terms.

Humblebragging Your Way to the Top?

HumblebragI was in an interview recently when one of the managers asked the dreaded “What’s your biggest weakness” question. I do not like this question. There is no way to answer it in a way that is both satisfactory and honest. It is obviously disingenuous when you say, “I work too hard” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” These humblebrags are prominent in the ways we communicate and, whether or not you realize it, they are damaging your credibility.

The term humblebrag is relatively new. Defined as a “self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud,” this word was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2014. Where people use to all-out boast, humblebragging became an attempt to display humility though a veiled complaint while also mentioning how rich/attractive/creative/successful they are. Check out some of the tweets below that try to appear humble amidst a brag:




The general intent of the humblebrag is to soften the message. However, research shows that it may not be as affective as you were hoping. A Harvard Business School study found that when given the choice between bragging, complaining, and humblebragging, it’s better to (honestly) brag than to (deceptively) humblebrag. According to the findings,

Humblebraggers experience the positive effect from bragging and the positive feeling that they are not actually bragging, while recipients react negatively to both the self-promotion and the attempt to mask it.

To test this idea, participants in the study rated one of three statements on likeability and sincerity:

  1. “I am so bored of people mistaking me for a model.” – a humblebrag
  2. “People mistake me for a model.” – a brag
  3. “I am so bored.” – a complaint

The results showed that the complaints received the highest likability scores and the highest ratings for perceived sincerity, while the humblebrags received the lowest scores in both categories. So, complainers are preferred over braggers and everyone is preferred over humblebraggers. And if you aren’t concerned with being seen as likeable or sincere, the research also found that braggers earn more money than humblebraggers.

The next time something great happens, don’t undermine it with fake humility. Own the win and be proud that you achieved it. If that feels uncomfortable either 1) it’s not something to be proud of, or 2) you are being too humble. Either way, don’t dress it up with what you consider to be a more socially acceptable way to boast. It’s not sincere and everyone knows it, including you. Now if you’ll excuse me, responding to all of my reader’s comments has forced me to take a much needed siesta.