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Love and fear of the Modern Boss

The article poses the age old question as to which is a more apt leadership style: autocratic or a more benevolent and democratic approach. Snook demonstrates the different leadership styles from a historical perspective. He states that in the 1950s the leadership style was more autocratic with reward and punishment being the major tools for leaders. But with the advent of the information economy the softer side of leadership has assumed predominance. Snook argues that in a factory environment the criteria of reward or punishment are very simple and clearly defined. But in case of knowledge workers this rigid system will not be acceptable or service workers won’t be able to put up a smiling face if the boss was just rude to him/her. Further with emerging new fields like advertising, a rigid and autocratic system will stifle creativity and commitment of the employees. But even today, Snook believes, autocratic style is still a preferred leadership style by many. The reasoning that are usually given to support this are the usual “just the way things are done around here” (p. 17), another reason being some leaders feel a sense of pride in being tough and bullying the subordinates, whereas others just prefer the autocratic style to an empowering style. Even some subordinates believe that they would prefer an autocratic leader for he will push them to give in their best. What Snook concludes from the article is that leadership styles, whether tough or soft, has to be authentic. He cites examples of successful baseball coaches who have been extremely popular and successful even after being absolutely tough. But he doesn’t even forget Machiavelli, who said that a tough leader always faces the problem of “derailment”. So Snook concludes that there is no best on-way style of leadership. It is upon the leader to read the signs and act accordingly.

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The article is useful to understand the present paradigm of the leadership styles that may be employed today. It gives useful insights and the pros and cons of the either form of styles viz. autocratic and empowerment. But the author does not consider the current concept of boss-less organizations and handling of team environment. For leadership styles are definitely affected by the structure and culture of the organization.

Attrition and retention of employees has become a predominant problem today. The problem is more in service sector organizations and the authors try to evaluate the reasons behind this attrition and analyze how mentoring may help in retention of talent. The authors believe that mentoring need to be for all employees in the organization and not only the top 20 percent of the top young associates.

With increasing globalization, firms are growing rapidly and their employee strength too is increasing simultaneously. Further, the authors argue, that with increasing responsibility it is not possible for the top management to act as mentors. But the young talents hired want someone to guide, encourage and give them space to grow. So in organizations like P&G and GE the role of a mentor is being doled out to the managers. But the problem that arises in this case is the managers are seldom willing to manage people. Numbers show that top 20 US law firms are hiring HR specialists to teach mentoring to its managers. The authors then trace a model for developing a mentoring relationship. The ways of mentoring are: putting in a personal element in mentoring and not just manipulating people, mentoring should be provided to both A and B grade employees in the organizations, as in many organizations the B grade employees are found to be more stable and consistent than the ace performers, projects that are given out must consider the career development path of the associate along with the client’s requirements, and making a two way mentoring process. The authors conclude by saying that in an environment which is extremely competitive, the young associates need to be proactive and seek mentoring from their bosses and among peers and colleagues. Further the organizations need to develop an environment where easy mentoring is possible so that talent can be retained.

This article is extremely important in today’s context when it is becoming difficult for organizations to retain their most valued assets – their human capital. So this article gives a direction as to how a simple and tried method of mentoring can reduce this attrition in firms to develop fresh talent and retain them.

The article deals with the emerging trend of stress interviews and their effectiveness. Candidates are subjected to “unanswerable” questions and brainteasers to identify the ones who are motivated, logical and innovative thinkers. As a recent trend puzzles are gaining predominance in interviews and the underlying presumption to this trend is that people who are capable of solving puzzles make better employees. But the question that is posed by psychologists and cognitive scientists is that how do we prove the efficacy of such interviews? Mainly because the people who fail the puzzle test are not hired and there is no way that it can ascertained that they would have made better or worse employees than those who passed the test. But the author believes that such stress interviews are the best way to spot talent. The reason behind this reasoning is that today interviewee is aware of the tradition conversational interview pattern and conventional questions like “what are your worst faults?” and they are prepared for it. So interviewers have to be more innovative to spot the talent in the first five minutes of the interview. The author believes that situational interviews can be a simple method to understand the candidate’s capability. The author then presents a few thumb rules to illicit the true talented candidate. The interviewer must not ask unnecessary questions, so the interview has to well thought and framed. She must ask questions which would challenge her first impression about the candidate. The author strongly suggests no to adopt stress interviews as they area not validated. Puzzle questions show the candidate’s problem solving and logical ability, but they need to be used with caution. For instance the author says that puzzle questions are not to be used for senior management candidates.

The author has successfully shown the type of interview that should be used for fresh talent being taken in the organization. But interviews in different hierarchal levels are framed in different manner. The article does not discuss the technique to be used vis-à-vis the level of the position for which the interview is being conducted. Though the rules of thumb that the author gives are useful but they are not exhaustive. Moreover, behavioral interviews are also an important part to assess the candidate’s fitment in the organization and the task. The article does not dwell into that area.

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Training practitioners, whether in-house or outsourced consultants, usually face a stereotypical problem all across the corporate arena – their clients do not realize the importance of do training need identification. So the author sees a dilemma in what the training people must deliver – training that their client wants or the training that will enhance performance. And he believes that when the tradeoff is between goodwill and performance it is better to choose performance. So he provides a few ways in which the trainers may convince the clients to adopt the training that is actually required rather then conduct one that they perceive is required. The first way he says, is to “just do it”. He feels that once the training is completed and the result shows increased performance the clients will be convinced. Critics believe that negotiating terms in the beginning is a better option, but the author feels that though this method may seem politically impossible, it is a possible way. The second option that the author gives is called “foot in the door” approach wherein the practitioner buys time to investigate the situation herself before conducting the workshop. This method is more effective when the practitioner lacks credibility or lacks resource to act. Though it may be categorized as manipulation of the client but he purpose, according to the author, is to build rapport with the client. The third approach that the author recommends is “what’s in a name?” Here the author advises to name the intervention whatever the client requested for and loosely design the program in the manner that would improve performance. Then the author gives a few practical tips to get the client change his attitude toward the intervention he requested for. First option will be to build a rapport with the client rather than getting into an initial confrontation. Second will be just do what you feel is right. Third is kitchen sink approach wherein the consultants provide that intervention requested for by the client along with the intervention she feels is apt. Another method that is widely recommended is conversational method. This becomes successful when the consultant has the client’s trust and credibility as well as all the required information. The author advises the consultant to raise the target of the intervention and shift the focus to performance rather than the intervention. The second option will be create the client’s curiosity. The third option is to paraphrase the need and symptoms of the problem to show that you really understand the problem.

This article provides insightful tactics for consultants, be it in training or OD. The main problem as identified is the client’s focus on the solution (i.e. the intervention) and no the symptoms when engaging a consultant. So following these practical insights will help consultants to actually deliver performance when they insist on one type of intervention.

Businesses’ going global has posed many policy issues for human resource management. A problem that is imminent is mismatch of the company code of conduct or policy with that of the law of the land. The author exemplifies this with an example of Germany and Italy where sexual harassment is not a reason enough to terminate an employment. In such an instance the company may have to pay indemnities to the terminated person. So it is of utmost importance to align company policies with the law and culture of the land to avoid clashes. Taking up the case of sexual harassment the author says that companies may employ the US anti-discriminatory policy in other countries too and impose its employees to abide by it. But the validity of this action is not tested. The author then says that HR has to align the companies’ policies with the host country as well as the domestic country’s laws while framing the company policy for that particular country. He then goes onto describe the three kinds of anti-discrimination laws available: statutory prohibition and individual remedies model, criminal law model, and termination indemnity model based an employee’s right to quit his/her employment due to harassment. Countries like Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom follow the first model. Here the laws specify the prohibited conducts and allows employees to seek individual remedies. The second model is found in Italy, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Venezuela. Here sexual harassment is defined as a criminal offence. The third model is followed in countries like Germany, Spain and Thailand, where employers have to pay termination indemnity to the terminated employee due to a termination of job because of sexual harassment charges. But things are changing in countries like European Union, and Japan where new laws are being adopted that defines workplace behavior more clearly. In conclusion the author advices corporate to think twice before entering in countries where termination indemnities are prevalent for this may create a lot of liability for the company. The author says that a sound policy, recruitment and retention policy will help companies to counter international sexual harassment laws.

Outsourcing has become an emerging trend. Human resource outsourcing has evolved rapidly in the United States. This has emerged as a cost saving tool for organizations. But the authors advices not to outsource HR functions to only reduce cost. Some other reason must be there. They show that outsourcing initially started for benefit pension management and health benefits functions. But now other crucial HR functions such as training, recruitment, payroll, administration, etc are being outsourced. One reason that the authors feel is a reason for outsourcing of HR functions is the growing importance of HRIS (human resource information system) which involves heavy investment. But it is fine with the outsourced firm to employ it as the cost is then shared by multiple firms. While outsourcing any function corporate considers their nature. Transactional and procedural operations are usually outsourced. Further, they also see the strategic importance and the risk associated while outsourcing an operation. The authors recommend that before a particular operation is outsourced, an outsourcing team should evaluate which are the key areas that can be outsourced. Further companies should analyze how a function is working so that they do not outsource a poorly performing function. Then the authors advise the companies to design the outsourcing activities so that they can ascertain why and how they should outsource those functions. Companies should identify the opportunities of outsourcing a priory. Then they should evaluate the opportunities that the outsourced process will provide to the company and conduct a thorough financial analysis. Then prepare the case for outsourcing. So the authors advise companies to take the above mentioned step-by-step approach to develop their case for outsourcing.

This article aims to evaluate effective and ineffective appraisal schemes especially for managers. First the author describes the characteristics of an effective appraisal scheme. He believes that appraisal schemes should have a clear objective. The clear definitions of objectives will make the managers believe that these schemes are there to benefit their objectives and so they will be more willing to participate in it. so it requires to show how it will help the firm attain its goal. Further these stated objectives must be realistic and attainable. Moreover, there should be a positive interview climate fro the mangers and their immediate superior.

During these interviews the manager and his boss evaluate his/her performance in the previous year and the interviewer must be able to change and handle the situation as is the demand. Researchers suggest that the managers must be specific, realistic, psychological and unpredictable to ensure a positive climate during the interview. Further the managers must be involved in designing the schemes. Then decisions regarding the evaluation of the scheme have to be made. The schemes have to be modified to suit one’s own requirements. The managers must make valid judgments to ensure the appraisal scheme’s proper functioning. Further interviews should focus on the appraisee’s performance and self appraisal rather than the manager’s perceptions. Further the proposed scheme must be easy to adopt. The author claims that the factors identified in the article will improve the performance of many appraisal schemes if carefully adopted.

The main potent of the present day compensation plan is to develop a pay plan that will reduce wage cost as well as increase productivity. Earning-at-risk (EAR) incentive plan is a way of achieving these goals. This article presents a study of an EAR plan on effect on pay satisfaction, performance and turnover of a sales and customer service employees in hospitality industry. It also studies the employees’ reactions to switching from an EAR plan to a merit based compensation plan.

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In an EAR plan the base wage is set below the market rates and a bonus pool rewards employees for achieving performance targets. In EAR plan a portion of the employees’ pay, i.e. the difference between the base pay and the conventional pay, at risk. The underlying presumption is that this will motivate the employees to attain personal as well as organizational goals. But research has shown that EAR produces a base pay dissatisfaction among employees. Companies assume that the base wage dissatisfaction will be reduced when the employees will see the benefits of performance attached to their bonus, which will induce them to work harder to get a bigger bonus. The authors feel that this may motivate some employees but most of them prefer to switch to another employee whose base wage is higher than the market rate. This increases attrition. Further, literature review shows that traditional pay plans are easier for employees to understand so their acceptance levels are higher.

The authors conducted their study in a hospitality industry. The questionnaires they set measured the employees’ pay satisfaction, turnover intention and the effect of the EAR plan on performance. Their study showed that employees who were dissatisfied with their base wage plan will work harder in an EAR plan to earn more bonuses. Bet the study also found the employees dissatisfied with their base wage had higher intentions to leave. When comparing the traditional and EAR plan on employee performance it was found that EAR plan produced increased sales performance, base wage dissatisfaction was higher for traditional pay plan than for an EAR plan, there existed no difference in pay administration and the level of dissatisfaction in both the plans, and turnover intentions were higher in case of an EAR plan than in a traditional plan. The implications that can be drawn from the studies are that an EAR plan creates greater base wage dissatisfaction, higher performance levels, higher turnover and recruiting difficulties. But high turnover may not be a problem for managers if it is the poor performer who leaves due to EAR plans.

With increasing workforce, companies are facing increased health care costs. But one cost that is invisible to the companies but costs millions is related to presenteeism. This is actually the common ailments, like headache that affect performance. The author defines presenteeism as “productivity loss resulting from real health problems.” These health problems are usually the ones which the employees carry to office. This concept takes an assumption that employees do not want to take their job lightly and that most of them want to continue work. The research on presenteeism focuses on simple ailments like migraine, headache, backache, seasonal allergies, etc. research shows that due to the illness people take to work, a greater amount of indirect cost in terms of productivity has to be paid by the company. Such illness causes both the quality and the quantity of work. Research has shown that less loss occurs for people who stay at home due to illness than those who come to work with illness. Studies also show that presenteeism cost employees two three times more than direct medical costs through employees claims and medical benefits. Researchers have tried to study the effect of presenteeism on productivity and different models have been developed. One of the models tries to study how different ways an illness may affect an employees’ ability to function in different job environments. Another study shows its effect on overall performance. The article then suggests ways to reduce presenteeism. First, there has to be awareness of the problem. Second, is to identify the health issues that lead to presenteeism. Third, the employees have to be educated as to how they can manage their illness. And then companies need to increase their medical sending and provide medical counseling for employees which will ultimately reduce loss of productivity. Thus the article discusses a looming problem fro HR and then presents ways it may be avoided.

Research has shown that racial diversity in workforce makes business more innovative and successful business. Study has shown that the race of organizational representatives may be more important to minority applicants than to White applicants. Consequently, this study empirically examines the impact of race in recruitment advertising on applicant attraction. The first contact that a potential applicant has with any prospective employer is via organizational recruitment advertisements. The theoretical argument presented by the authors to support the study says that ethnic similarity attracts one individual to another, known as similarity-attraction paradigm. Further the research also relies on market signaling which explains applicant cognition. This research puts together the similarity-attraction hypothesis and signaling to further explicate applicant behavior.

The hypotheses that are taken on the basis of the literature reviewed are black applicants will be most attracted to an organization when the organizational representative is black, Hispanic applicants will be most attracted to an organization when the organizational representative is Hispanic, white applicant attraction to an organization will be unaffected by the race of the organizational representative, perceived participant–representative similarity will mediate the relationship between representative race and organizational attractiveness, and perceived organizational value of diversity will mediate the relationship between representative race and organizational attractiveness.

194 participants (104 male, 90 female) voluntarily took part in this study. Participants were a racially diverse group: 30.4% Black (28 male, 31 female), 26.8% Hispanic (31 male, 21 female), and 42.8% White (45 male, 38 female). This study was a 3 3 (Representative Race: Black, Hispanic, or White Applicant Race: Black, Hispanic, or White) between-subjects experimental design. Each participant was shown a recruitment brochure of a firm, with same description only the race of the representative varying. 12 recruitment advertisements were developed. The stimulus material varied by the race of the representatives pictured. For all of these items, participants responded on 7-point Likert-type scales ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The dependent variables that were measured were organizational attractiveness, perceived organizational value of diversity, and demographic variables. The results showed that minorities appear to place greater emphasis on the race of the representative in recruitment literature than do White applicants when evaluating potential employers. Black and Hispanic applicants preferred organizations with minority recruiters because they perceived a greater degree of similarity with these representatives.

Clearly the implication of the study is that to attract minority races in organizations, the representation in the recruitment advertisements have to be from minority background.


Avery, Derek R. Hernandez, Morela and Hebl, Michelle R. “Who’s Watching the Race? Racial Salience in Recruitment Advertising” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34, 1, 2004, pp. 146-161

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Hemp, Paul “Presenteeism: At Work – But Out of It” Harvard Business Review, 2004, pp. 47-55.

Renn, Robert W. Barksdale, W. Kevin and Scotter, James R. Von. “Earning-at-Risk Incentive Plans: A Performance, Satisfaction and Turnover Dilemma” Compensation and Benefits Review, 2001, pp. 68-73.

Orpen, Christopher “Making Appraisal Schemes even more Effective” Professional Manger, 1995.

Flannery, Thomas P. and Heckathorn, Larry “How to Build Your Business case for Outsourcing” Benefits Quarterly, First Quarter 2003.

Maatman, Gerald L. Jr. “A Global View of Sexual Harassment” HR Magazine 2000, pp. 151-158.

Willmore, Joe. “How to Give’em Performance When They Insist on Training”, Training and Development 2002, pp. 52-59.

Poundstone, William. “Beware the Interview Question” Harvard Business Review 2003, pp. 13-15.

Delong, Thomas, J. Gabarro, John J. and Lees, Robert J. “Why Mentoring Matters in a Hypercompetitive World” Harvard Business Review, 2008, pp. 115-121.

Snook, Scott A. “Love and fear of the Modern Boss” Harvard Business Review, 2008: pp. 16-17.

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