Matching Cognition to Job Demands Seen As Vital for Older Workers

Experienced older workers whose reasoning skills can no longer meet the demands of their jobs may be more likely to develop chronic health conditions and retire early, which may not be ideal for the employee or employer, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

Reasoning abilities decline with age, so organizations must be aware of how employee health can be negatively affected by the demands placed upon an employee, said Margaret Beier, Ph.D., of Rice University and lead author of the study.

Older workers can handle highly complex jobs as long as they have the mental resources to match the job demands.

“When their reasoning abilities matched the demands of their job, older adults experienced fewer health issues and worked longer than adults who did not have the necessary reasoning abilities to perform their job,” said Beier.

“Experienced workers offer much in terms of knowing the company culture and being able to mentor younger employees, so it is vital that we look into the best ways to extend their careers and improve their health outcomes.”

With a growing number of older adults in the workforce, the researchers wanted to learn about the factors involved in maintaining health and determining when people choose to retire.

The team analyzed a subset of data from the Cognition and Aging in the USA survey, gathered between 2007 and 2014 from 383 participants who remained in the study for the full seven years.

The survey looked at a variety of factors, but the authors used the data collected on participants’ abilities, health and retirement status over the course of the survey for this study. At the start of the survey, participants were all at least 51 years old (average age was 61).

The researchers gauged cognitive ability using a combination of 13 different measures, including verbal analogies (e.g., participants were given three words of an analogy and must name the fourth), number series (e.g., participants look at a number series and find the one missing) and calculations.

The team also measured demands from jobs using the O*NET database, which reports the knowledge, skills, abilities and other attributes needed for many jobs in the United States.

Participants were also asked to report if they had any of nine health conditions, including high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes and lung disease.

“Mathematical reasoning may be important for both a middle school math teacher and a calculus professor, but the level of ability demanded for the calculus professor is higher than for the teacher,” said Beier.

“To measure health conditions, we summed up the number of chronic health conditions participants reported in the Cognition and Aging in the USA study. Retirement status was measured simply by asking the participants about their current employment situation.”

The researchers found that having reasoning abilities that matched the demands of the job was important to the positive experience of work in older age.

When reasoning abilities required by a job exceeded a worker’s abilities, workers reported more health conditions and were more likely to be retired, said Beier. When workers’ reasoning abilities met or exceeded a job’s demands, they also reported fewer chronic health conditions.

“We found that a poor fit between reasoning abilities and job demands might cause older workers to experience stress and strain that serves to push them out of the workforce,” said Beier.

The new findings could inform decisions on how jobs for older employees should be designed to reduce the potential for negative health outcomes and retain these veteran employees as long as possible before retirement, according to Beier.

“With the average age of retirement increasing across the country and the older population itself becoming a larger portion of the population, it is important that we study how the demands placed on older workers in the workforce should match their abilities,” said Beier.

“Older workers have such valuable experience that it is vital we look into the best ways to extend their careers and improve their health outcomes.”

The study is published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Source: American Psychological Association



Both Sides Agree: Takes Hard Work to Succeed

New research discovers an area that conservatives and liberals agree on is the importance of working hard in order to succeed. Although researchers found a divide among political parties on what could be considered a fair starting point, the idea that it takes hard work to succeed permeates American society.

Specifically, liberals and Democrats are far more inclined than conservatives and Republicans to believe in the importance of equity; the notion that some groups may need different opportunities to succeed based on their starting point, so that all groups have the same levels of success.

But when it comes to proportionality — the idea that effort determines success — the researchers found a much smaller political divide.

The paper appears in Social Psychological and Personality Sciences. The paper’s senior author, Dr. Jeff Niederdeppe, is an associate professor of communication at Cornell University.

“This speaks to why we see so much value in American society placed on picking yourself up by your bootstraps to overcome any obstacle,” said first author Dr. Christofer Skurka.

“Notions of meritocracy and what is sometimes called the ‘Protestant work ethic’ are really interwoven into the American fabric, almost regardless of a person’s political orientation.”

In the study, around 3,000 participants from the United States filled out a 42-item questionnaire.

The survey was designed to rate the extent to which a participant believed different circumstances impact moral judgments. For example, “Whether or not someone showed a lack of respect for authority.” The form also ranked how individuals responded to statements such as, “Respect for authority is something all children need to learn.”

Participants reported their political views and party affiliations, as well as their gender, age, education, race and ethnicity.

The investigators found that people on the political left care much more about equity than those on the right. This finding may explain why liberals are more likely to support policies such as affirmative action and public assistance, which aim to correct imbalances.

The study also found that while conservatives generally care more about proportionality than liberals do, liberals also value it highly.

Understanding what contributes to concepts of fairness can help policymakers frame conversations in terms that will resonate across different groups.

“There’s quite a bit of political polarization that we see around public policy, and we often see political partisans talking past each other,” Skurka said.

“So, by understanding the different moral foundations on which these partisans base their moral judgments, we can better understand why they support certain kinds of initiatives and not others, and how we might be able to rally support for different initiatives.”

Source: Cornell University

Restful Sleep May Be Vital for Entrepreneurs

The secret ingredient for coming up with great business ideas may be something we can all tap into — a good night’s sleep.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Central Florida discovered that sleep plays an especially important role in not only producing a good business idea, but in evaluating it and believing it is viable.

The findings are published in the Journal of Business Venturing.

“Entrepreneurs who consistently choose hustle over sleep, thinking that sleep comes after success, may be subverting their efforts to succeed,” said lead author Dr. Jeff Gish, an assistant business professor at the University of Central Florida.

“Everyone needs a good night of sleep, but it is especially important for entrepreneurs.”

While several studies have shown an association between sleep and job performance, the new study went further by identifying a link between sleep and the cognitive skills needed to identify and evaluate an idea.

The team surveyed more than 700 entrepreneurs from around the world. The surveys asked about sleep patterns, hours of sleep and types of sleep.

Business pitches were drafted and an independent panel of business experts reviewed and ranked the pitches as having the most potential, medium potential and least potential for success. Then the participants in the study reviewed the three pitches in the same day. Those leaders who had less sleep did not consistently pick the best pitches.

In the second part of the study, a smaller group of participants evaluated the pitches over several weeks while charting their sleep patterns. Those participants who had at least seven hours of sleep each night consistently selected the best pitches identified by the expert panel. Those who had less sleep or restless sleep did not consistently pick the best pitches.

“The evidence suggests that less sleep leads to less accurate beliefs about the commercial potential of a new venture idea,” Gish said.

“Since we compared individual performance over multiple days, we can say that these results are consistent even for entrepreneurs who don’t sleep as much on average as the general population.”

The study was completed at the University of Oregon, where Gish earned a doctorate in philosophy of management. Gish also holds a master’s degree in engineering and technology management. Other collaborators on the study include: David T. Wagner from the University of Oregon, Denis A. Grégoire from HEC Montreal business school in Canada, and Christopher M. Barnes from the University of Washington.

Source: University of Central Florida


Cheating in Marriage May Mean Cheating at Work

A new study has found that people who cheat on their spouses are significantly more likely to engage in misconduct in the workplace.

For the study, researchers at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin looked at the records of police officers, financial advisers, white collar criminals, and senior executives who used the Ashley Madison marital infidelity website. Operating under the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair,” Ashley Madison advertises itself as a dating service for married people to have “discreet encounters.”

Despite promises of discreetness, the data were put in the public domain through a hack in 2015 that included 36 million user accounts, including 1 million paid users in the United States.

Researchers discovered that Ashley Madison users were more than twice as likely to engage in corporate misconduct.

“This is the first study that’s been able to look at whether there is a correlation between personal infidelity and professional conduct,” said Dr. Samuel Kruger, a finance faculty member who conducted the study with another finance faculty member, Dr. John Griffin, and Dr. Gonzalo Maturana of Emory University. “We find a strong correlation, which tells us that infidelity is informative about expected professional conduct.”

The researchers investigated four study groups totaling 11,235 individuals using data on police officers from the Citizens Police Data Project, data on financial advisers from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority BrokerCheck database, data on defendants in SEC cases from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s litigation release archives, and data on CEOs and CFOs from Execucomp.

Even after matching professionals who engaged in corporate misconduct to professionals of similar ages, genders and experiences who did not engage in corporate misconduct, the researchers found that people with histories of misconduct were significantly more likely to use the Ashley Madison website.

The findings suggest a strong connection between people’s actions in their personal and professional lives and provide support for the idea that eliminating workplace sexual misconduct may also reduce fraudulent activity, the researchers report.

“Our results show that personal sexual conduct is correlated with professional conduct,” Kruger said. “Eliminating sexual misconduct in the workplace could have the extra benefit of contributing to more ethical corporate cultures in general.”

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Source: The University of Texas at Austin

The Bottom Line May Backfire on Bosses

Supervisors who are only driven by profits could actually be hurting their bottom lines by losing the respect of their employees, who counter by withholding performance, according to a new study.

“Supervisors who focus only on profits to the exclusion of caring about other important outcomes, such as employee well-being or environmental or ethical concerns, turn out to be detrimental to employees,” said lead researcher Matthew Quade, Ph.D., assistant professor of management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business in Waco, Texas.

“This results in relationships that are marked by distrust, dissatisfaction, and lack of affection for the supervisor. And ultimately, that leads to employees who are less likely to complete tasks at a high level and less likely to go above and beyond the call of duty.”

For the study, researchers surveyed 866 people. Half were supervisors, the other half were their employees. Data was collected from those who work in a range of jobs and industries, including financial services, health care, sales, legal, and education, the researchers report.

Researchers measured supervisor bottom-line mentality (BLM), employee BLM, task performance, and leader-member exchange, the rating employees gave of their relationships with their supervisors.

Employees rated their supervisors’ BLM by scoring on a scale statements like: “My supervisor treats the bottom line as more important than anything else” and “My supervisor cares more about profits than his/her employees’ well-being.”

They rated leader-member exchange via statements such as “I like my supervisor very much as a person” and “My relationship with my supervisor is composed of comparable exchanges of giving and taking.”

Supervisors rated their employees by scoring statements such as “This employee meets or exceeds his/her productivity requirements,” “This employee searches for ways to be more productive,” and “This employee demonstrates commitment to producing quality work.”

The researchers discovered:

  • high-BLM supervisors create low-quality relationships with their employees;
  • in turn, employees perceive low-quality leader-member exchange relationships, so they reciprocate by withholding performance;
  • when supervisor BLM is high and employee BLM is low, the damaging effects are strengthened;
  • when both supervisor and employee BLM are high, the negative performance is still evident.

According to Quade, the last finding was particularly significant because it contradicts a common belief that when two parties think alike and have similar values, there will be a positive outcome. Not so in the case of BLM, according to the study’s findings.

“When supervisor and employee BLM is similarly high, our research demonstrates the negative effect on performance is only buffered, not mitigated, indicating no degree of supervisor BLM seems to be particularly beneficial,” the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in the journal Human Relations.

“It seems even if employees maintain a BLM, they would prefer for their managers to focus on interpersonal aspects of the job that foster healthier social exchange relationships with their employees in addition to the bottom line.”

If bosses believe a negative dynamic regarding BLM exists in their organization, the researchers suggest a few steps:

  • be cautious of a BLM approach or emphasizing bottom-line outcomes that could neglect other organizational concerns, such as employee well-being and ethical standards;
  • managers should be aware of the message they pass along to employees (and the possible performance repercussions) when they tout bottom-line profits as the most important consideration;
  • 0rganizations that need to emphasize bottom-line outcomes should consider pairing the BLM management style with other management approaches known to produce positive results, such as practicing ethical leadership.

“Supervisors undoubtedly face heavy scrutiny for the performance levels of their employees, and as such they may tend to emphasize the need for employees to pursue bottom-line outcomes at the exclusion of other competing priorities, such as ethical practices, personal development, or building social connections in the workplace,” the researchers said in the study.

“However, in doing so they may have to suffer the consequence of reduced employee respect, loyalty, and even liking.”

Source: Baylor University

Photo: Matthew Quade, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business. Credit: Robert Rogers, Baylor University Marketing & Communications.

Severe Workplace Injuries Tied to Greater Risk of Suicide, Overdose Deaths

Sustaining a work-related injury severe enough to result in at least a week off of work almost triples the combined risk of suicide and overdose deaths among women, and increases the risk by 50 percent among men, according to a new study by a research team from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).

The researchers say that offering better treatment options for pain and substance use disorders as well as treatments for post-injury depression may dramatically improve the quality of life and reduce death risk among workers with severe injuries.

According to the National Safety Council, approximately 12,600 American workers are injured on the job each day. In 2017, an estimated 104,000,000 production days were lost due to workplace injuries. The most common types of injuries that lead to missed work are overexertion, contact with objects or equipment (struck, caught or crushed in equipment or structure) and falls/slips.

To estimate the link between workplace injury and death, the research team looked at the data of 100,806 workers in New Mexico, 36,034 of whom had lost work time after sustaining an injury between 1994 and 2000.

The researchers looked at workers’ compensation data for that period, Social Security Administration earnings and mortality data through 2013, and National Death Index cause of death data through 2017.

Their findings reveal that men who had had a lost-time injury were 72 percent more likely to die from suicide and 29 percent more likely to die from drug-related causes. These men also had greater rates of death from cardiovascular diseases. Women with lost-time injuries were 92 percent more likely to die from suicide and 193 percent more likely to die from drug-related causes.

Prior research conducted by the authors showed that women and men who had needed to take at least a week off after a workplace injury were more than 20 percent more likely to die from any cause. They write that this new study highlights the roles of suicide and opioids as major causes of those deaths.

“These findings suggest that work-related injuries contribute to the rapid increase in deaths from both opioids and suicides,” said study senior author Dr. Leslie Boden, professor of environmental health at BUSPH.

“Improved pain treatment, better treatment of substance use disorders, and treatment of post-injury depression may substantially improve quality of life and reduce mortality from workplace injuries.”

The study findings are published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Source: Boston University School of Medicine