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The Water Cooler

A blog of fresh ideas and findings from organizational leaders and researchers on how they’re making work better, shared regularly.

Segmentors vs Integrators: Google’s work-life-balance research

Google research shows that those who rigidly separate their personal and work lives are significantly happier about their well-being than those who tend to blur the lines between the two.

Should you hire for cultural fit or adaptability?

Companies increasingly view their cultures as a source of competitive advantage and hire employees on the basis of cultural compatibility. But is it better to hire someone who “fits” initially or someone who could be able to adapt quickly?

Bringing civility back to the workplace

Respect and incivility are each contagious as people reflect the treatment they receive. Research shows that individuals and organizations can influence workplace behavior in ways big and small by modeling and rewarding doing the right thing.

Are we as ethical as we think we are? Probably not, but we should embrace that.

We all like to think that we’re ethical people most of the time. But the reality is our behavior is changeable and cyclical. Research suggests that by giving up on the idea of perfect ethicality, we can learn from our mistakes and improve our behavior.

Worried you’re an impostor? You’re not alone!

Have you ever been congratulated at work but felt you didn't deserve it? Do you worry that you got hired accidentally and will be fired if discovered? You may be experiencing “impostor syndrome,” but don’t worry, you’re not alone.

A bit of self-reflection can help us become our best selves

To become our better selves it helps to visualize our best selves. Research shows that by reflecting on the type of people we want to be, we wind up feeling more psychological safety and elevating not only our own performance, but that of our entire team.

Bringing behavioral science to the White House

The idea of using behavioral science to help government agencies more effectively serve their constituents sounds great. But how do you build a high-impact, science-based organization within the government when you have no budget and no formal authority?

Let’s use People Analytics to change how we teach HR

The way MBAs learn HR management hasn’t changed in decades. Whether it’s lectures, case discussions, or sophisticated simulations, students make a recommendation based on intuition, not data. Business schools need a different script to teach HR.

Going above and beyond: Fostering citizenship in the workplace

Mentoring a colleague who needs help. Doing an extra candidate interview. Celebrating a coworker’s birthday. Some call these things "going above and beyond," others think they’re simply the right things to do. Academic researchers call them "organizational citizenship behaviors."

Are your best behaved employees also your worst behaved?

Who are the best citizens in your organization and who are the most toxic? Research shows that they might actually be the very same people, like workplace Jekylls and Hydes. And the cause is likely not schizophrenic employees but perhaps the perception of abusive supervision.

How incivility shuts down our brains at work

Incivility is like being trapped inside a fog. Even if we're just witnesses, it can put us in a cloud of negativity and have profound effects on our mindset, attentiveness, and performance.

Teaching improv to scientists to help them storytell with data

All the data in the world won’t help you make decisions if you can’t use it to influence decision makers. Whether you’re a scientist or an HR analyst, knowing how to communicate and tell stories using data is key.

How the Saturday Night Live team keeps it safe (and funny)

The personalities on Saturday Night Live’s first season seem like they could have been a disastrous team. But SNL not only had a great first season, it’s also become a successful institution despite constant cast changes. So how did they do it?

New guide and tools to understand team effectiveness

When Google set out to understand what makes for an effective team, the researchers thought team composition would be most important. But it turned out that how a team interacts is far more important than who is on the team.

Why psychological safety matters and what to do about it

Speaking up at work can be difficult. People worry that their boss or colleagues won’t like what they have to say. As a result, people hold back on everything from good ideas to great questions. But by fostering psychological safety, all employees can feel safe to speak up.

What makes one team smarter than another?

From Olympic hockey teams to presidential cabinets, we tend to focus on the individuals when trying to predict team performance. But research shows that measuring collective intelligence is a far better indicator of success than any individual's performance.

What this Empire writer learned from Tim Burton about creativity

When trying to get creative with a team of creatives, how does Hollywood brainstorm? Wendy Calhoun, who has written for Empire, Justified, Nashville, and more, explains the creative process that happens in writers’ rooms.

Why the best people don’t mean the best teams

The Justice League has it wrong. The best teams aren’t necessarily all the superstar (or superhero) performers. They are the ones with the most diversity, research shows.

Teams in space!

Think your office is crowded? Imagine being locked in a four-bedroom house with six of your colleagues for TWO AND A HALF years. That’s what getting to Mars will take and it will require a lot of teamwork.

Nudge people to encourage ethical behavior

Is it possible to make people act more ethically? Dr. Sreedhari Desai, assistant professor at UNC, has been researching how small behavioral nudges can increase ethical behavior in the workplace, from auto shops to office spaces.