Does a positive mindset really make a difference to our success?

positive mindset

Do you have a more positive mindset and orientation to life or do things get you down easily?

How quickly do you bounce back?

Do you believe that being more positive means you are more likely to achieve your goals?


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Some fascinating new research has been looking at these questions and in particular if having a positive mindset makes a difference to whether entrepreneurs are successful or not.


Looking at the most successful entrepreneurs of the modern day, a number of stereotypes emerge about their character and the acclaimed role of positive thinking. The late Steve Jobs of Apple was a driven man always seeking to break new ground and then dominate it. He drove his staff just as hard as he did himself and expected nothing short of perfection from himself and his core team. His relentlessly positive outlook (or so the story goes) took his business through some huge highs and lows. This in turn led Apple from his parents’ garage in California to being one of the biggest companies in the world today.


The question is does having a positive mindset and orientation lead to success and does the opposite, i.e. having a negative or pessimistic orientation, lead to more failures? This is a common belief and the core of thousands of books, but is it true?


Positive mindset


Research just published in the journal Applied Psychology looked at how a positive or negative orientation impacted 246 entrepreneurs (143 women) who had been running their businesses for at least two years and were either married or in a stable relationship. The researchers from Poland and Italy were testing the hypothesis that, “more positive entrepreneurs may engage more strongly in personal goal realisation thanks to higher resistance to stress and a greater availability of personal resources.”




The first thing the researchers discovered was that people who are more optimistic also tend to feel better about their goals than those with a more negative outlook.


The next thing they found was that achievement has a direction. This is a significant and important finding.

The researchers discovered that having a positive orientation on its own does not necessarily and automatically lead to success and achievement. However, when looking at the entrepreneurs that do tend to achieve their goals, they found that they have a positive outlook (measured in terms of self-esteem, life satisfaction and optimism) and they have positive personal and family goals first. This is important. The people whose goals were mainly business success orientated, even if they were positive, were significantly less likely to achieve their goals than those who had goals around being a better person, having better relationships and providing for their family and as a consequence saw the fulfilment of these goals as being through their business goals.


In effect the achievers tend to strive to accomplish positive personal goals focused around making themselves better and making things better for their family first.  As a result the researchers found the entrepreneurs also tend to have positive work goals such as to make a difference or build something.


Entrepreneurs with a more negative outlook (lower levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction and optimism) tend to either lack personal development goals or frame them in the negative, for example ‘not make mistakes’ or ‘I just need to survive this’. These entrepreneurs were significantly less likely to achieve their goals than either the positively orientated primary focus on business goals group and the higher achieving positively orientated primary focus on self and family development with a secondary focus on business success.


The researchers also found that that these two outlooks tended to either develop greater resilience (in the optimistic group) or reduce resilience (in the pessimistic group). Further these orientations also had an effect on their family life satisfaction and the realisation and achievement of their personal goals.


A positive mind-set isn’t enough


Achievement has a direction which is only partially accounted for by having a positive orientation (self-esteem, life satisfaction and optimism). People who focus on their own and their family’s development tend to be more resilient and therefore better at achieving their business/work goals compared to those who focused on their work goals first and the family and their own development as a second regardless of how positive the individual is.


So if you want to achieve your life goals this is what we have learned:


positive orientation





Focus on your own development and that of your family first. Set positive goals here and then use work or your business to help to secure that. A positive mind-set does make a difference if you get it in the right order.



Laguna, M., Alessandri, G., & Caprara, G. V. (2016). Personal Goal Realisation in Entrepreneurs: A Multilevel Analysis of the Role of Affect and Positive Orientation. Applied Psychology

New study finds the difference between successful and less successful entrepreneurs…

The devastating effects of opinion-based decisions

opinion-based decisions

There are two types of decisions made in organisations on a daily basis. The vast majority of decisions are opinion-based decisions even though most people think they are making evidence-based decisions.

A paper I was reading yesterday as part of some research I am conducting on learned helpless for my next book, showed a heartbreaking example of opinion-based decisions and the effects it can have.

The paper is a case study of learned helplessness in school children and cites the case of LuAnn. LuAnn was a 13 year old student in North Carolina who was displaying extreme learned helplessness in that she would not take part in sports and games as she expected not to be able to either do the sport very well or expected that her peers would deride her efforts. She was also pessimistic about her chances of success in her school work, forming relationships and just about every other area of her life.

She would give up easily often saying “I can’t do this”. Additionally LuAnn was still bedwetting and was also not ‘dry’ during the daytime, necessitating special pants… at school, which really didn’t help things.

When the researchers investigated her background and home-life found a number of issue which appeared to lead to this state. The first of which was that from an early age, if she wet the bed her mother would punish her by spanking her. Her mother believed that the bed wetting behaviour was actually attention seeking behaviour and needed to be punished in order to stop it.

From the mother’s point of view this all made sense and led to the decision to spank LuAnn for wetting the bed from an early age. In fact this decision only made the situation worse.

This is how a world view or set of beliefs lead to actions which appear to be very logical from that system of thinking. This is an example of opinion-based decision-making.

Having our own opinion and decision making…

Our opinions are based on our beliefs or perceptions of what we think is happening. How many times in your life have you suspected that someone is up to something and pretty soon the evidence starts to stack up to prove that your suspicions are right only to find later, that you were wrong? This is confirmation bias.


Our opinions are based on our beliefs or perceptions of what we think is happening


Confirmation bias


Once we have a belief about something our brains starts to actively filter for evidence that our belief is correct. A simple example of this is when we are looking to buy a car, say a Ford. We work out what model we might be interested in and start to do some research. Pretty soon you are noticing Fords of the model you are interested in almost everywhere you go! The universe hasn’t conspired to put all these Fords around you. You are now filtering for them, where you never noticed them before.

This is the issue with opinion-based decisions. The moment we make up our mind that something is a certain way our brains start to look for the evidence to confirm it. The problem is at the same time it also neatly discards any evidence to the contrary. In effect, a belief quickly becomes reality as we gather more and more evidence that the belief is true. This is the basis of prejudices like racism and sexism for example. Once the belief is in there, from our parents, peers etc. we quickly start to see the evidence to support the belief and the belief quickly becomes a reality.


Once we have a belief about something our brains starts to actively filter for evidence that our belief is correct


decision-making opinion

Opinionsdecision-making opinion


Opinion-based decisions


Opinion-based decisions are actually the majority of decisions made in organisations. They are based on the beliefs of the individuals concerned and they are based on a process that self-confirms those beliefs. Even if we are using data to back up or decisions, this is a confirmatory process. If you hear something like “The data is telling us x” then you have to wonder if this is just confirmatory bias (opinion-based decisions) or real evidence of a trend..


Evidence-based decisions


Evidence-based decisions however are of an entirely different nature. They are based on a research foundation. This is to say that they are based on testing not confirming evidence. What this means is that evidence based decisions takes the belief and then tests the opposite of the belief. So if I was to say that crime is increasing I would actually look for the evidence that crime isn’t increasing. In an organisation if I was to form the belief (based on the data) that sales are increasing I would actually turn that around and test the belief or hypothesis that sales aren’t increasing. I would look for evidence that refutes the original belief.

Research from peer reviewed sources will (should) have been put through this process. The underlying beliefs will have been tested.

…evidence-based decisions …are based on testing not confirming evidence

decision-making opinion
Why opinion-based decisions are also known as power-based decisions 


Opinion-based decisions are based on the conformation of someones beliefs. In an organisation you can probably guess who’s beliefs win. Yes the managers or the boss’s beliefs. They have the power and it carries through into which evidence is used to confirm which decisions. Opinion based decision making in organisations is frequently based on the logic and belief system of the most powerful people in the system. The managers and leaders. And it is based on their ability to back up their decisions. Rarely do these decisions come as a result of proper research. These opinion-based decisions are in effect a process of filtering for and confirming the beliefs of the most powerful in the organisation.




A 2005 study found that many leadership strategic decisions are based on, and I quote, “evidence that is ill-informed, outdated, and incorrect”.


Decision-making Hacks and Shortcuts


You could of course do your own research on everything you need to make decisions about however that is both time consuming and really slows the decision making process down.

There is a really neat shortcut though. Approximately 99% of decisions people make in organisation have been made by others in other organisations before. For example, ‘What is the best way to communicate change to people’, or ‘How should I manage someone who is constantly late’ or, ‘How do I deal with conflict the best way’, or ‘How do I get my organisation to change it’s culture?’.

Of course you could get other people’s opinion, the problem with that is that what you are likely to get is just that, an untested opinion. They might say “well this worked for me”, but did it? Have you ever noticed how almost every evaluation of a new initiative is positive, how every project is a success or the get very quietly ditched? No fanfare, no learning.

Alternatively you could search the internet. The problem there is it’s a bit like the newspapers. Almost everything you read is just someones opinion with the same problems of bias and and filtered selection of evidence to support the opinion. The internet is crammed full of rubbish and I would seriously think twice about making that the basis of any decision in my organisation.


Shortcut and hacks


Proper research


No. You need proper research. Research that has been properly tested and is not merely something that is confirming someones beliefs. You and your organisation needs to get proper research evidence and use evidence-based decision making.

However there is a problem. The biggest problem is that there billions of research papers in thousands of research journals all written in academic. In fact there are over 78,000 new research papers published around the world every month. Searching through the jungle of research papers and journals is a nightmare.

Then you have to decode the scientific language much of the academic research is written in just to work out if it is practical and useful research for your purpose and then turn it into something that is actually practical and useful.


The easy way


There is a lot of very very useful research out there that can already make many of your decisions for you, for example:

Did you know that: researchers have tracked and worked out exactly what stages of development almost every organisation and business go through (or are stuck in?). There are 6 levels of organisational development. This means we can predict with relative certainty where your organisation is right now and where it is heading… or should be. This makes change a whole lot easier.

Did you know that researchers have worked out the perfect balance for innovating in an organisation and how to manage that whilst keeping business as normal?

Did you know researchers have worked out exactly what the five types of organisational conflict are and how to manage conflict successfully in organisations?

Did you know that research just published this year has found out exactly how to succeed in getting competing and conflicting groups to cooperate? It worked with conflicting Arab and Israeli groups and it is now working in organisations.

Did you know that only 30% of new employees will increase their commitment to the organisation over the first 3 years and that the remaining 70% on average will see a significant decrease in commitment? Did you also know that the study that discovered this also found there are just 4 characteristics that make the difference between being one of the 70% whose commitment reduces and one of the 30% whose commitment increases. Not only that but the 4 factors are really easy to spot.

There is a lot of very useful research out there that can already make many of your decisions for you…

As I was saying, whilst there is all this wonderful research out there, finding it, getting access to it and then decoding it is both time consuming and takes dedication and expertise.


What if


What is there was a system that just brought the research to you with no effort on your behalf? What if it that evidence was already decoded and turned into understandable human? And what if it already filtered out the rubbish and you got only the useful, mercifully short and practical ‘how to’ briefings so that you and your organisation can just focus on making amazing decisions based on great evidence? And what if those briefings also came in the form of infographics, audio and video briefings to make sure that you are right up-to-date with the very latest evidence?

This kind of service can (and does) seriously improve decision-making and turn the success rate of projects, ideas and programmes into the region of the stratospheric.

You need the Oxford Review and now. We give you the research evidence so you can make amazing evidence-based decisions, quickly, easily and with full confidence. Join The Oxford Review and be amazed at the proper evidence there is about the daily decisions being made in your organisation. CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED for free.



The 7 forms of organisational learning and why getting leaders onboard is important

7 forms of Organisational learning

Why getting leaders up to speed with the 7 forms of organisational learning will help your organisation.

Organisational learning as a concept is the process of creating, retaining and transferring knowledge within the organisation. In this article I look at a new study about the effects of training leaders in the 7 forms of organisational learning.

The primary purpose of organisational learning being to prevent organisations from losing what they learn from experience over time.

There are 4 levels of organisational learning or knowledge creation within organisations:

  1. Individual,
  2. Group or team,
  3. Organisational, and
  4. Inter-organisational levels

In the modern knowledge based economy, organisational learning can create a real competitive advantage for almost all organisations. In essence it is the cumulation of the knowledge generated within the organisation and is vital know-how for any organisation. Often however this organisational learning is not given the primacy it’s importance deserves.

An interesting piece of research has just been published that shows how leadership training can influence the 7 forms of organisational learning and provide big gains for any organisation:

The 7 forms of organisational learning

  1. Individual learning – this is the learning everyone undergoes, either through experience or through formal training etc.
  2. Dialogue and inquiry learning. This can either be formally set up as a series of inquiry learning tasks or the learning that occurs through normal dialogue and conversations.
  3. Team learning – this is both the formal or informal learning that teams undergo as a team.
  4. Continuous learning – this refers to the programmes and development opportunities the organisation provides .
  5. Learning through empowerment – this refers to the learning people and teams accrue when they are given more authority and responsibility.
  6. Embedded Systems learning that promote learning and the capture of organisational learning – this refers to the learning gained directly from organisational systems. These can include Management information systems, Learning Management Systems, operational and process systems, work flow systems etc.
  7. Learning from the leadership both directly and indirectly from their behaviours and actions. Leaders and managers as role models.

The study

The researchers provided a development programme for leaders, which helped the leaders to understand the 7 forms of organisational learning and facilitated them to find ways to improve the organisational learning using this knowledge.

The researchers then collected stories from across the organisations both before the event and afterwards to try to discern what changes had occurred in organisational learning as a result of the programme with the leaders.


It was found that three of the seven types of organisational learning were positively impacted by leadership development programme.

  1. The researchers found that Continuous Learning improved significantly after the training in that the organisations had a wider range of learning opportunities and many in the organisations felt they were better. This may well have been because the leaders were now more cognisant of learning as function of the organisation.
  2. Interestingly, the leaders themselves didn’t think that there was any development or improvement in Empowerment based or Embedded Systems learning. However the employees did believe that these had got much better and that they were learning more from these sources after the leaders had completed the development programme.

However, in terms of the team and individual forms of learning, neither the employees nor the leaders thought there had been any improvements as a result of the programme.

The researchers suggest that “evaluations of leadership training programs should examine changes in organizational learning from several stakeholders.” Where perceptions differ as to the outcomes of a programme focused on changing the organisation as a whole, samples of all stakeholders should be consulted to assess whether there have been changes at all.

Additionally where any leadership or management development work is ongoing, their staff should be consulted as to the effects of this development.


Editor’s Comment

Whilst the study itself is interesting, efforts to increase organisational learning across the 7 forms are comparatively rare. Often  ‘Organisational Learning’ falls into the gaps between the leadership, management, HR and L&D/OD functions and rarely does anyone have direct responsibility for organisational learning as a strategy for developing a competitive advantage, Further  developing a systemic and strategic approach to the accumulation, retention and access to and deliverance of learning and experience across an organisation is often either assigned to a system/IT services or is an afterthought. Additionally, it is important that organisations go further than folders full of Standard operating procedures. Stories for example are a vital source of learning.

The 7 Dimensions of Organisational Learning on their own are a useful starting point.

Reference – available to members – If you would like to get hold of the full research briefing including references and useful resources CLICK HERE – it’s free!

Why you really need to align your learning and knowledge management

2 things predict if you will get work burnout: your personality isn’t one of them

work burnout

How likely are you to suffer from work burnout? A series of new studies looking at what predicts work burnout in staff have just been published and they all point to just two things that makes all the difference.

One study just published in the International Journal of Stress Management looked at a range of factors thought to be involved in work burnout.


What is work burnout?

Work or organisational burnout is considered to be a form of stress that is characterised by feelings of:

  1. Exhaustion,
  2. A lack of enthusiasm,
  3. Reduced motivation and
  4. Reduced effectiveness.

Burnout is also often accompanied by

  1. Cynicism,
  2. Frustration,
  3. Avoidance,
  4. Being easily distracted and
  5. disengagement.

Burnout is considered to be the complete opposite of engagement.

The researchers in this study looked at a range of potential factors that have been thought to be contributors to burnout. In particular, they looked at job characteristics such as tenure, position, the type of role or job, the educational level of the individual as well as their personality type, previous experience of stress and their level of emotional intelligence.

The study was split into two phases each looking at 1,230 and 2,209 employees.

Conducting a SEM analysis, which is a form of factor analysis, the researchers found that only two factors were significant predictors of burnout.

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The two reliable predictors of work burnout

  1. The first, unsurprisingly, is that the level and duration of stress an individual experiences is an accurate predictor of burnout. The higher the level of stress experienced and the longer they are stressed, the more likely an individual is to burnout.
  2. Secondly, the higher the level of emotional intelligence, coupled with the ability to regulate their emotions (emotional resilience), the less likely an individual is to experience burnout.

All of the studies published this year have all come to very similar conclusions.

Other factors like personality, educational level, type of job, previous experience of stress etc. do not reliably predict whether someone will burnout.

Burnout: Are you at risk?


The role of emotional intelligence and emotional resilience (regulation)

This research together with a number of other recent studies is that emotional intelligence and emotion regulation (emotional resilience or the ability to be able to change your emotions at will) appears to be the only reliable antidote to burnout and to offsetting the effects of stress.

However all the studies concluded that the best antidote was to identify as early as possible and prevent the causes of stress as well as developing greater levels of emotional intelligence and emotion regulation/resilience skills across the organisation.

The Development of Unethical Behaviour in the Workplace

References -to get hold of all the references and a pdf copy of the full research briefing fill in the form and we will send it to you right now

How to manage people with a boring job – 4 key strategies

How to manage someone with a boring job

How to manage people with a boring job

How many times have you heard someone say “I hate my job”? When you look at it this is often down to the fact that they have one of the increasing numbers of boring jobs. In this article, which follows on from my last post How to manage people who do boring repetitive jobs  I look at what the research says about the 4 big things you can do to mange people better who have boring jobs.

Job rotation

In the university catering services studied in this research looking at how to manage people with a boring job, there were a large number of semi-skilled repetitive roles in places like coffee shops and restaurants. All the employees tend to be rotated through the different roles every day. One day a person may be working on the till in the coffee shop – the next they may be at the washing machine. Indeed, the researchers found that often workers had to move from one role to another as their shift progressed to match need. This variety it appears to contribute to the motivation and lack of boredom among the staff.

However, the story doesn’t end there. What the researchers found was that staff are constantly having to make decisions about where the need is at any particular moment.

Management involvement

Another thing that helped motivate the staff was that management in these settings are usually operational, in that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty when the staff are under pressure and they usually show willing to lend a hand. It was found that all of the staff observed their managers working at whatever station required them, due to a backlog for example. This operational ‘hands on’ management approach served to motivate the staff, and reduce any perceptions of ‘us and them’ between the staff and the managers.

This effect doesn’t occur where managers won’t / don’t get involved operationally. Additionally it was found that this approach to management gave the managers a much better appreciation of the issues staff face, which in turn enabled them to manage better.

The researchers found that in these types of environment the managers tend to be less distanced from the work and as a result were almost always more positive with their staff, offering encouragement on a daily basis for example. This close connection of the managers to the work has a significantly positive psychological impact on the workers.

Professional development

Additionally, the researchers found that where there is a continual involvement in often small professional development processes for the staff, this significantly correlated with higher levels of motivation.

Customer contact

One of the big differences between catering and factory work is that catering staff have a lot of contact with the customers. In effect they could see the immediate effect of their actions on the customers  and this has been found to further increase the level of staff motivation and develop a service attitude.

Conclusions – How to manage people with a boring job

This study provides a number of useful conclusions about the environmental aspects of good job design and management practice. Things like:

  • Having direct contact with the customers with a problem solving orientation
  • Job rotation based on needs and the ability to decide where the need lies
  • Having a positive management team who are close to the work and are prepared to roll their sleeves up and help when necessary
  • Continual professional development, even small things like ‘show and tell’ or 10 minute briefings or discussions

all contribute to getting rid of the boredom factor altogether and to motivate people even in more repetitive roles.


Reference – available to members

How to manage people who do boring repetitive jobs

boring job

Managing people who have a boring job

There has been a lot of previous research into how boredom impacts productivity in a wide range of settings. Virtually all the studies found, as you would probably expect, that when someone is bored they tend to make more mistakes and become increasingly inattentive to their work. As jobs often become increasingly formulaic, what is considered to be a boring job, particularly (but not exclusively) at the lower end of the job market, having what is considered to be a boring job is the norm for large swathes of the population. Other than mistakes, studies have also found, somewhat counter-intuitively that repetitive work and doing a boring job frequently results in slower output over time.


Click meHow professionals at the top of their game stay impressively up-to-date without information overload 


Research just published in the journal, Human Resource Development Quarterly looked at boredom in a university catering setting and found, unexpectedly, that though many of the task routines matched that of factories in terms of speed per cycle and repetitiveness for example, the staff didn’t tend to get bored or suffer from the resultant level of mistakes and slowing output over time. So why?


Job cycles


The first thing the research looked at with boring jobs was what is known as job cycles. Previous research has suggested that between 20 – 50% of factory workers get bored at work and think they have a boring job. This is linked to the routines that they do, with routine cycles taking as little as 7 seconds. A 7 second cycle can be repeated 2057 times during a four-hour stint between breaks on a shift, and this has an (often negative) impact on the worker.

In a university catering service, job routines could take between 7-18 seconds depending on the job – for example, clearing the waste food off a plate and putting it onto the washing machine conveyor belt etc.


boring job



However, during the study, even though they have what is usually considered to be a boring job and certainly a repetitive job none of the employees reported being bored on the job, with one even saying “I haven’t heard of a single person who has complained about the boredom.” Despite the similarities on the surface between the catering job and the factory job, the staff aren’t bored and they infrequently suffer the problems of other low-skilled workers in repetitive roles.



The question is why? What is the difference between a catering setting and other repetitive settings? The answer to this question, it turns out, is the key to how to manage people who do boring repetitive jobs.


4 things you can do now to manage people who do boring repetitive jobs

In next weeks post I will look at what the research found out about the 4 things that make all the difference when managing people who do boring repetitive jobs.


information overload

How professionals at the top of their game stay impressively up-to-date without information overload


What’s your excuse?

Staying up-to-date

There is nothing more powerful or impactful than when you go to the doctors for example, and she or he says something like “The latest research on this says that….”.

Professionals at the top of their game and who can talk with ease about the latest research findings or some new thinking about a topic being discussed are deeply impressive. It is often these moments that stick in peoples minds. What isn’t impressive is when someone says “well I did a degree or a course on this five years ago but I don’t really know if there is anything new on this” or even worse giving an opinion about something and then when asked what the evidence is for that opinion mumbling something about “Oh it’s just my experience”.

Can you image your response if a doctor said that to you? That you got the feeling that they didn’t really know what the latest thinking and research was and that they weren’t up-to-date?


Being professional

Professionals take a pride in their craft. One of the distinctions between someone who just turns up at work everyday and a professional is that the professional takes their own professional knowledge seriously. Professionals never think they know it all.




Someone who thinks they know all there is to know about their area is someone who has stopped learning.

Professionals are always open to learning. Indeed true professionals are always on the quest to know and understand more, to continue to hone and master their craft. They take a pride in being right up-to-date and relevant.

Being knowledgeable and up-to-date with the latest thinking and research is one of the things that separates the true professional from the average employee.


true professionals … continue to hone and master their craft



Did you know that over 78,000 new research studies are published every month, month in month out all year round. 78,000! Thats approximately 2,600 new research papers published every day…. and that number is increasing at a rate of 9% every year. That’s a 9% increase of research findings over and above the 9% increase from last year and the year before and so on.

There isn’t one area of human endeavour that stays still, that there aren’t new findings and realisations going on all the time. New and proper research papers are being published daily about leadership, management, HR, L&D, coaching and just about every topic to do with organisational development you can think of, every day.

And when I say proper research I don’t mean a blog or article on LinkedIn about a bright new idea someone had as they got out of the shower this morning. These aren’t opinion pieces. These 2,600 papers published every day or 78,000 new research papers published every month are peer reviewed studies conducted by full-time researchers based in some of the best universities around the world. Places like my own university at Oxford or Harvard or Stanford, or Cambridge, MIT etc.


 Approx 2,600 new research papers are published every day


I can’t keep up – excuses for not keeping up-to-date

Of course with the sheer quantity of research being carried out and the amount of new knowledge and understanding being generated it would be easy to think – there is no way I can keep up with that. So what many people do is …. well nothing. They don’t even bother and as a consequence they fall behind and quickly get out of touch. It is this ability to systematically stay up-to-date with the latest thinking and research that distinguishes a true professional from someone who is an employee who is just coming to work doing what they are told and going home again.

The average employee makes excuses like “I’m too busy”, or “I pick enough up from LinkedIn or the internet” or “I know all there is to know about my area” or “I pick up what I need to know as I go along” or “They will train me if I need to know” and this is my favourite excuse for not keeping up-to-date “I’m intelligent, I can work most things out, I don’t need to be told, you just need to use logic”.




And to be fair, this “I don’t take my development seriously enough to keep up-to-date” mind-set (because that in effect is what they are saying) ‘I don’t need to or I’m not professional enough to stay up-to-date’, is really easy.

It’s really easy for these people because what they can’t see, they don’t know about and what they don’t know about, in their own minds at least doesn’t exist… and if it doesn’t exist (in their world) there isn’t anything new to have to bother about.

With a mind-set like this the world becomes a nice predictable and comfortable place where nothing new challenges them… and the important point here is that not knowing about the latest thinking and research means that their existing knowledge and understanding doesn’t get to be challenged. This makes everything is all nice and comfortable and predictable.


… what they can’t see, they don’t know about and what they don’t know about, in their own minds at least doesn’t exist…


Wilful blindness

It’s a form of wilful blindness of course that keeps people in their comfort zone and keeps them stuck in old habits, old knowledge, old paradigms, old ways of thinking and old solutions. But at least it doesn’t challenge them or their thinking. It’s what the scientists call ‘ego defence’. This way they don’t need to change. And it is amazing how far people will go to construct a world around themselves that stays the same, where there is no change or challenge to their knowledge or thinking.

Denial is a very powerful way of remaining the expert. Only of course it isn’t. Just because someone has constructed a world (by being too busy, or too senior, or or or you get the picture) where little changes, where there is little to challenge their thinking, doesn’t mean that there aren’t new things, new findings, new research, new knowledge, new ways to see or think about things or new solutions out there. It just means we are protecting ourselves from change by not staying up today and making excuses about why we don’t stay up-to-date.

All these excuses are just ways of staying comfortable and if you are thinking about now – yes but I am too busy to keep up-to-date or I don’t have the time, then stop reading/listening to this right now because you really aren’t going to like what I am about to say.


It’s a form of wilful blindness of course that keeps people in their comfort zone and keeps them stuck in old habits, old knowledge, old paradigms, old ways of thinking and old solutions…



Ok that’s probably got rid of the change deniers! The very fact that you have read/listened this far and the fact that that you are still here at all, strongly suggests that you are a seeker. That you want to be challenged, that you are viewing things professionally. You know that change is happening continually and that you want to be at the front of that change, not lagging months or even years behind the curve. You are probably the kind of person who always wants to know what is new and what the latest thinking and research is. You actively want and like the current thinking and practice to be challenged. You actually want to be up-to-date and most probably like thinking and like being at the forefront of change.



However there is a reality here, like most professionals you will be busy and don’t have a whole lot of time to trawl through all the research just to find the useful and relevant stuff. Can you image how long it would take to trawl through all the latest research every day all 2,600 studies that are published daily? Well let me tell you as someone who does this for a full time job – it is a full time job and actually it takes an entire team of people to view, read and find the latest relevant and practical thinking and research as it is published. Then there is the small problem of understanding and deciphering the papers and turning them into something digestible and useful.


Having a system

One of the things about the professionals who are at the forefront of their area is that they have a system that keeps them up-to-date and well-informed with the minimum of effort. Kind of personal a continual professional development automation system that brings the right knowledge to them in bite sized chunks so they don’t get overwhelmed and that provides a library function so they can get back to things quickly and easily when they need to.

These professionals, just like the doctor who impressed us with their knowledge of the latest research, have a system that filters out the rubbish and noise and just provides pertinent, useful, practical and up-to-date thinking and research in their area as it is published, not months or years later.


Having a system

Having a system behind you


Their system keeps them right up to date with almost no effort, it’s a system after all and it runs on automatic. They don’t need to think about it, it just keeps them up-to-date with a slow continual drip of information and thinking that is manageable and deeply impressive.

Having a system like that enables these true professionals to remain powerfully well-informed and current whilst still being able to focus on their job and their lives. Their system just works automatically in the background. It filters out the opinion, the unfounded ideas and ‘noise’, and brings them (without any effort) just the very latest research, evidence based thinking and findings in a way that is easily digestible and acts like a fast reference library so that they can get on and be at the forefront of their profession. They don’t need to do anything. It just happens.


…professionals who are at the forefront of their area is that they have a system that keeps them up-to-date and well-informed with the minimum of effort…


The Oxford Review is that system for 1,000’s of professional leaders, managers, HR, L&D, executive coaching and organisational development professionals around the world. Be impressively up-to-date with the Oxford Review and get the system that will just work in the background to push to you a slow steady and manageable drip of the very latest thinking and research to keep you right at the forefront of your area.


Start today and get the system behind you right now.
You can then get straight back to work and leave the rest up to us. We will then drip feed you the very latest research briefings, video research briefings, infographics, tools, thinking in the areas of leadership, management, HR, Learning, coaching and organisational development so that you can focus on being the at the forefront of your profession.






The Development of Unethical Behaviour in the Workplace

unethical behaviour in the workplace

The Step-by-Step Guide to How Unethical Behaviour in the Workplace Develops

In the the last of my three part series on how to predict unethical behaviour in the workplace develops.

Part One – How to predict unethical behaviour

Part Two – Moral disengagement: How it predicts unethical behaviour

To wrap up this research briefing today I will look at the role situation or the context plays in promoting unethical behaviour in the workplace and the stages people undergo.

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Situational Strength

The researchers also found that what is known as ‘situational strength’ or the cues provided by the environment or context (other people, the culture, observed behaviours, actions and inaction, rewards and punishments etc.) regarding the desirability of potential behaviours, has a significant impact on whether an individual or indeed a team or group of people will engage in unethical behaviour.

Situational strength is a measure of the ability of a situation or set of circumstances to create psychological pressure on the individual to engage in and/or refrain from particular behaviours.

How unethical behaviour in the workplace develops

So the pattern for the development of unethical behaviour in the workplace appears to be:

  1. Firstly the level of authenticity an individual has, predicts how likely they are to morally disengage in the first place. Authenticity largely appears to be an antidote to the chances of moral disengagement and consequently unethical behaviour.
  2. Therefore, when a manager or leader with lower levels of authenticity finds themselves in a environment or situation (Situational Strength) that suggests:
    1. The primacy of the task or goal above all else (task focused) and
    2. The situation promotes or doesn’t actively disapprove of or takes action against moral disengagement, and
    3. The individual morally disengages by:
      1. Creating a narrative or story about why the action is necessary and/or not unethical or out of the ordinary
      2. Reducing their own sense of involvement or importance in the decision or actions
      3. Failing to see or being wilfully blind to the consequences, and
      4. Reducing the impact their actions will have on/or blaming the victims

Then the chances are very high that they will engage in unethical behaviour in the workplace.

This is just one of the many research reviews you should be getting every week to keep you up-to-date with the very latest research, ideas and thinking around the world. Try the Oxford Review free for 7 days

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Moral disengagement: How it predicts unethical behaviour

Moral Disengagement

Moral disengagement: How it predicts unethical behaviour

In my last article How to predict unethical behaviour I looked at research that showed:

  • The 2 primary predictors of unethical behaviour, and
  • The 3 precursors of moral disengagement

Today we are going to have a look at what the research says about the actual process people have to undergo to morally detach themselves from their decisions in order to act unethically.

No O.R.? No View 


If you recall from my last article we talked about the process of moral disengagement that has to occur before most people (psychopaths excluded) can engage in unethical behaviour. This means that they have to detach or separate themselves from the decisions they are about to make. In order to do this the research has found that a number of conditions need to be present.

In effect the conditions have to be right inside the person and they are likely to have:

  1. Lower level of self-awareness and reflection.
  2. Lower levels of what is known as self-organisation or congruency.
  3. Lastly that the individual has reduced levels of ability to regulate their own emotions and behaviour.

(See the previous article for an explanation of these)

Moral Disengagement

It has been found that in order for people to engage in unethical behaviours such as unfair practices, cheating, manipulating data, bullying etc. they first have to rationalise or disengage from their own moral compass or standards and those of society in general in a process known as moral disengagement.

Moral disengagement predicts unethical behaviour

The process of moral disengagement

The process by which people become morally disengaged is fairly well understood these days. Moral disengagement is usually a four stage process whereby the individual:

  1. Firstly has to mentally reconstruct or tell themselves a story or context where the action or actions being or about to be taken cannot be viewed as being immoral or unethical. This can include recourse to devices like ‘others are doing it’, or ‘it’s not against the law’ for example.
  2. Secondly they will usually reduce their own sense of importance or agency in the actions. This is usually done by blaming others, the organisation, situation or context as the driver or originator of the actions.
  3. Next they will fail to see or deny the consequences of the actions being undertaken or their inaction
  4. Lastly they will need to change how they perceive and regard the victim(s) by either downgrading their status, importance or the effect and impact on them.

This research reports on 2 separate studies conducted by the researchers on 213 and 231 participants in Germany last year.

The first finding

Their first finding was that general moral disengagement is a very strong predictor of unethical behaviour.


In my next article in this series I will look at:

  1. The role and power of a situation to set off the process of moral disengagement,
  2. The actual process people have to undergo to start to act unethically, and
  3. The effect authenticity has on this whole process of moral disengagement and the development of unethical behaviour and thinking.
This is just one of the many research reviews you should be getting every week to keep you up-to-date with the very latest research, ideas and thinking around the world. Try the Oxford Review free for 7 days

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The very latest research briefings this month from The Oxford Review

The very latest research briefings

The very latest research briefings February 2017

The very latest research briefings:

1. The changing face of the organisation

This briefing looks at study that assesses the latest changes in organisational development and what organisational and work psychology research has to do to catch up with these changes. This is an important study for anyone interested in organisational development, Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology and organisational change in general as it shows a broad category of change that is starting to occur in the workplace.

2. Why organisational learning fails – a lesson from NASA

This is an interesting briefing that looks at research conducted with NASA about problem types from the perspective of risk and risk management. The important part of this study it shows how to balance the opposing needs of risk and safety

3. Strengths and weaknesses of the western human resources system – a Chinese perspective – and a warning

This study looks at general trends in HR in the west from a Chinese perspective. However the really shocking thing about this study is why it was carried out. I have included a full Post-Script to the study about what this means for organisations in the west… and it’s big!

4. Strategic silence – why organisations don’t publicise positive news

This briefing looks at an fascinating study that shows that many organisations don’t publicise certifications, endorements and warrants. We are talking the likes of Ikea and many other organisations who are not exactly publicity shy. This research unravels the psychology behind what many companies don’t publicise positive news and looks at what strategic silence is and why it happens.

5. Reputation management in management consultancies

This is a fascinating study that looked at a management consultancy and lays out exactly the strategy they used to repair a rather battered reputation following a series of embarrassing and financially harmful incidents. This consultancy was able to bounce right back stronger and in a better condition that before using this strategy. I have to say there are some very useful takeaways in this briefing for any consultancy.

6. How to predict the economy

How do you predict what’s about to happen next? This research briefing examine a really interesting study that shows how to do just that with a fair degree of accuracy. We took the methods used in this research and used them inside an organisation and found it also helps to predict the health of the organisation almost day-by-day. Really useful.

7. The conundrum of collective intelligence

This research briefing looks at a research study that explores collective intelligence and find out what predicts it in teams. Not only that it has some very useful conclusions about how to develop it and use it in teams and work groups. Some of which are completely counter-intuitive.

8. What really motivates people in organisations?

This fascinating study from Germany has discovered an extremely useful set of factors which can keep people engaged in an organisation and decrease turnover rates. Not only that but they found that one factor, which is relatively simple to put into place in any organisation can make all the difference. This study is also a real boost in the arm for the RoI of L&D, if handled correctly.

9. Ambivalence and work

There are areas of all of our work that we are probably ambivalent about. This research briefing looks at a very useful study about the impact of ambivalence on organisational identity. This study has some important findings leaders, managers, HR and OD professionals will be able to put into practice with great effect.

10. Is it better to integrate or segment work and family life?

This research briefing looks at an really useful study about whether it is best to integrate or segment work and family life. It comes up with some surprising findings that anyone struggling with this issue either from a personal or organisational perspective with find most useful.

11. Good leaders and over-qualified employees…

This is an interesting little study that looks at the effects good managers and leaders have on over-qualified employees. It’s kind of good and bad news. Like all of our research briefings, this one shows you the findings quickly and simply to make you the most knowledgeable professional around.

12. The ideal employee according to managers – and it’s not good

This is a block-buster of a study. It really unpacks what lies behind unintentional sexism how, what most leaders and managers look for and expect in employees accidentally creates a very unloved paying field in just about every organisation around. I have to say I found this study as shocking as it was helpful. I have shown it to a few HR and leadership colleagues and they have made immediate changes in their organisations as a direct result of this research briefing. This is a must read research briefing is you are a leader, manager or in HR, or you are a leadership, management or organisational development coach or in any diversity related role.

The very latest research briefings

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