Featured in today's newsletter:
- Training workers to avoid the cognitive bias that exacerbates conflict.
- Research on how parental leave changes fathers’ brains.
- How to build a more effective professional network.
AI and Work Radar
- An AI-powered weather-forecasting program can now outperform traditional models in both accuracy and speed, including in its ability to predict extreme weather events, according to a new study.
- Some investors are deploying AI audio-analysis tools—which pick up otherwise imperceptible changes to a person’s pitch and talking speed, as well as pauses and filler words—to glean signals from executives’ speech on earnings-call recordings. The investors’ goal is to gain a new level of insight into executives’ true emotions—such as underlying anxiety—when discussing topics that could impact a stock’s performance .
- A Jobs for the Future analysis of the most commonly held jobs in the US found that 78% of those jobs rely heavily on human skills that will increase in importance with the widespread adoption of AI, such as relationship-building and leading teams.
- Microsoft’s help desk for users with disabilities will soon use an AI-powered tool called Be My AI, which uses natural-language processing to translate images into verbal descriptions for vision-impaired callers.
Focus on Using Conflict-Resolution Training to Navigate Current Workplace Tensions
As the Israel-Hamas war continues to escalate, so too do workplace tensions over the conflict, as workers on all sides of the issue feel unsupported, censored, targeted, or abandoned by their colleagues and leaders. To understand how organizations can address this internal conflict, we spoke with Nour Kteily, a professor of management and organizations at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business and the co-director of the university’s Dispute Resolution Research Center. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, edited for length and clarity:
Are there any principles or best practices organizations can use to set up ground rules for discussing the current conflict—or other politically charged topics at work—in a healthy, or at least not harmful, way?
I’ve written about a company called Harmon Brothers, whose CEO did not want to stifle conversation of politics. But he did set up a rule that if you're going to post a link to any political content that you want other people to read, instead of just being able to post a link, you would also have to film a short video that summarized what the content was about and explained why it was worth the attention of other people in the company. And if you wanted to respond to a video like that, you had to film a video yourself. This does two things: One, it adds some friction, so it makes it a little bit more costly to people. If you're going to engage, you're going to have to do a little bit more work than just put up a link and let that be the end of it. But for the people that actually want to engage, it potentially elevates the level of discourse because it's forcing people to convey more about what it is about the content they're sharing that they think is valuable, and engage in potentially more meaningful conversation.
One of the things that I've advocated for is helping people to understand some of what we know about the psychological biases that cause us to struggle to understand the perspective of others. One famously is called naive realism, which is basically the bias to believe, ‘I'm not biased. I believe that my view on the world is the correct view on the world, and anyone who disagrees with me isn't just a reasonable person who happened to see the world differently. It must be that they're cognitively biased, lazy, or just wrong.’
So it's actually quite important for companies to give their employees some training early on about, where do disagreements arise from? How might all of us sometimes be talking past one another and drawing assumptions and conclusions about the underlying intentions of other people? Then actually help people think through effective conflict-resolution mechanisms that the company has set in place when there are disagreements. How do we actually express this agreement effectively? What are the appropriate channels by which to do so? All of those are things that companies ought to be intentional about, so that you're not on the back foot, you're not just having to react when something occurs like this, whether it be a political dispute or other form of dispute at work. There is a process, a playbook that people know and have learned and expect.
Charter Pro members can read a full transcript of our conversation, including how managers can encourage greater empathy and the role of interfaith employee-resource groups.
What Else You Need to Know
Parental leave provides brain training for new fathers. New research on fathers with young children suggests that quality one-on-one time, or “engaged experience,” is essential to wiring men’s brains for fatherhood. During this time, the brain undergoes neural changes that help fathers connect, communicate, and care for their child.
- These neurobiological changes are similar to those that occur in the maternal brain, which have been well documented. Only recently have more researchers dedicated time to understanding these changes in fathers.
- Offering adequate parental leave—and encouraging fathers to take their full allotted time—is an important way to encourage these kinds of brain-training experiences, researchers argue. For more on designing and administering equitable parental leave policies, read Charter’s playbook for policies that support caregivers in the workplace.
Job listings mentioning generative AI grew 20-fold over the course of this year. A new report from job-search site Indeed noted that 0.6% of its postings cited the technology in October, compared to 0.03% in January.
- The report identified several key trends needed to maintain overall economic health and stave off a recession in 2024, including continued low quit levels, increased labor-force participation among workers aged 25-54, and moderate nominal wage growth to combat inflation.
A majority of US workers think their manager is doing a good job, according to Pew Research. Some 55% of survey respondents said their direct supervisor is an “excellent” or “very good” person to work for, while more than half agreed that their boss is capable (69%), caring (58%), supports work-life balance (63%), and recognizes workers appropriately (56%).
- It’s hard to overstate the importance of workers having a positive relationship with their manager: Gallup research has found that up to 70% of a team’s engagement level can be attributed to the manager, while a 2022 survey from UKG’s Workforce Institute found that managers have the same impact on workers’ mental health as a partner or spouse.
Workers with student loan debt are more likely to be looking for new roles. With federal student-loan repayments unpaused as of last month, a new analysis from the ADP Research Institute found that more than half of workers with student debt up to $50,000 are currently trying to leave their organization.
- Among workers with debt of at least $150,000, that number rises to nearly two-thirds.
- However, perception of debt matters more overall than the actual number: Workers who considered their debt a “heavy burden” are 2.4 times more likely to be job-hunting than those that don’t, ADP found.
- After the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s student-loan forgiveness plan earlier this year, the Society for Human Resource Management issued a statement calling for greater tax breaks for employers’ loan-repayment support programs and other education benefits.
Spotlight: How managers can help Gen Z workers feel understood.
- Harvard University sociology professor Michèle Lamont, author of the recently published Seeing Others: How Recognition Works—And How It Can Heal a Divided World, recently spoke to us about key insights from her research on younger workers. To better understand and connect with Gen Z workers, she recommends managers start with one question: “What is it that you want to get from your life in the workplace?” Lamont notes that it’s an opportunity to start a conversation about not just career ambitions and compensation, but also belonging and connection in the workplace.
- For more on promoting intergenerational understanding and collaboration, download Charter’s guide, Intergenerational Fluency 101.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Create team norms for AI assistants in meetings. New features from video-conferencing platforms allow AI bots to take notes, summarize meetings, and generate reports based on the discussion. While these tools can free up attendees from responsibilities like note-taking and fill in absent team members on what was discussed, leaders should set up guidelines to ensure that necessary attendees don’t skip out on meetings that require their input or collaboration.
- Disagree in detail. One tactic for productive disagreement is to present your position with as much detail about the facts, values, and research that have informed your opinion, as well as outlining any doubts or uncertainties that you still hold. The added context can demonstrate to your conversational partner that you have carefully considered the issue rather than reflexively dismissing their point of view.
- Make sure important senders stand out in your inbox. Outlook users can take advantage of its customization features to make sure emails from certain senders, like your manager, always stand out with a different font color, size, or style. Customize your settings on the mobile or PC version of Outlook by going to the conditional formatting menu under view settings in the “view” tab in the toolbar. Then, create a new rule to display different formatting based on a specific sender.
- Build networks around your weaknesses, not your strengths. When considering how to nurture professional connections that will help boost your performance, prioritize building relationships with people who can support you in areas where you lack expertise or skills rather than those who share the same strengths.
A dulling effect of Zoom calls. A new study found that looking at another person on a video screen sparks less brain activity than seeing a person face to face.
- The study also found that we spend more time looking at our conversation partner during in-person interactions than when videoconferencing with them. The researchers don’t specify why. But could it be that, given the option, our own faces or our email inbox are more interesting to look at?
The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together.
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Best wishes for a great week!
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