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June 10, 2010


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Strunk & White

Two thoughts.

1. More likely than the author's thesis is that groups are positive because they are successful, and not the other way around. Sure, "dysfunctional people in the workplace typically have an asymmetrical effect on group morale and job performance," but that's because group performance sets the stage for morale!

2. Advance apologies for being a bad apple, but please:

". . . a group *composed* of positive . . . " or ". . .a group *comprising* positive . . ."

I don't think it's too much to ask.

Ralph D. Clifford

Positive people might produce a more creative group, but that doesn't mean a more effective one. Early in my career, I worked in a start-up software development company composed of positive programmers (myself included) all of whom were creatively marching the company off of the cliff (no one wanted to limit the creativity to see if there was a market for the results). One naysayer might have saved the investors and venture capitalists millions.

Jacqueline Lipton

In response to Ralph's comment (and admitting upfront that I'm not an expert in org behavior), the materials I've been reading do not seem to equate "naysayers" with dysfunctionally negative people. The kinds of "negative" people I think I'm referring to are those that act as bullies and make personal attacks on others, rather than those who constructively engage in debates with others about work-related issues. So, for example, Sutton very clearly advocates productive conflict in the workplace focused on ideas, but is concerned about negativity directed at individuals, rather than ideas. I guess I should have made that clearer in my original post. Sorry.

Eugene Pekar

But at hiring the information is likely an incomplete first impression.

What about at the P&T vote?

Jacqui Lipton

Eugene: Good point re hiring versus P&T vote. Two quick thoughts. One is that your comment obviously only applies to tenure-track and not-tenure position hiring. With tenured laterals, I guess you take your chances. The other point (and this is again from Sutton's book) is that some firms are now saying that they focus much of their pre-interview hiring work on assessing whether the candidate has the technical skills for the job so they can focus the interview process much more on the candidate's personality and the extent to which (s)he fits into the organization as a person. I wonder if this would be a useful approach with respect at least to the most promising-on-paper candidates at the entry level recruitment conference. One could do a lot of background work on their scholarship and references, and focus the 25 minutes (and then the callback time) on personality issues.

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