Should You Fit In Or Stand Out At The Workplace?

be different at work

Should you stand out or fit in at work?

The short answer to this question, according to Stanford Professor Amir Goldberg and Berkeley Professor Sameer Srivastava, is that it depends:

  • If you are different culturally, such as wearing clothes that are different from the norm at your workplace, then you should try and fit in structurally (by having a close set of colleagues at work).
  • And if you don’t fit in structurally and are not part of any cliques at the office, but instead have a broad network throughout the firm, then you should aim to fit in culturally.

The modern workplace, especially tech companies, rewards people who stand out from the pack. Creativity, diversity and innovation are valued.

However, at the same time, fitting into the organisation and having a common sense of identity is also important.

This creates conflicting demands on employees.

According to the researchers there are 4 possible approaches to handle this conflict:

  1. Be high on culture fit and low on structure fit.
  2. Be low on culture fit and high on structure fit.
  3. Be high on culture fit and high on structure fit.
  4. Be low on culture fit and low on structure fit.

fit in or stand out at work

Assimilated Brokers are most likely to do well and Disembedded Actors are the most likely to be fired.

Assimilated Brokers are great networkers and are well connected with various people across departments. They are not part of any particular clique and don’t limit themselves to only knowing people in their department well. However, they do blend in culturally.

Disembedded Actors are not part of a dense clique and interact with people outside their department. At the same time, they don’t fit in culturally as well. So while they interact with people in the organisation, they aren’t able to relate well to them and cannot make a connection.

In the end, you need to find the right balance for yourself.

Either maintain your place as part of a tight-knit group but stand out by behaving a little weirdly, or be the smooth networker who knows what’s going on across the organization but also knows how to blend in culturally. You want to distinguish yourself from the pack without making anyone in the pack uncomfortable.” says Goldberg.

Disagreeing With Your Boss The Right Way

disagree with boss

You’re in a meeting with your supervisor and he suggests something you know is infeasible.

Or perhaps your department head sends instructions for performing a task you’ve already scouted out and know there’s a more efficient way to accomplish things and still stay on budget.

Whatever the situation may be, at some point or another in your career, you’re going to disagree with someone more powerful than you. So what do you do when this situation comes?

It might be logical to toss your ideas aside, get in line and do what your superior believes needs to be done. That may not be the best idea.

There are certain circumstances where you must put your fears aside and speak up. What happens if the issue is going to cause problems by going significantly over budget? What if the project will obviously blow up in your team’s face at some point during the process, or worse, after delivery to the customer?

However, before you go charging into your manager’s office, take some time to evaluate your argument and consider these practical tips from Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review and author of HBR Guide to Managing Conflict at Work.

Contemplate Your Opinion and Approach

So, you know how to do something better than your boss does. Great!

Don’t assume that your insight into the issue is more valuable than your superior’s insight, and don’t automatically write off their approach.

When you have an opportunity to speak to your supervisor, carefully lay out your disagreement and alternative approach.

Use figures, examples or hypothetical scenarios that support your argument.

Frame the Conversation

Don’t get cocky about your argument and believe in your idea alone.

Often, disagreements are a great inroad to compromises that work better than any one idea alone would.

Before you even open your mouth, ask some probing questions about the issue at hand and listen to your superior’s perspective.

Then, before you insert your differing viewpoint, ask whether it’s okay for you to share an idea that contradicts the one to which your boss adheres. Getting his or her verbal buy-in will help the ensuing conversation to go much more smoothly.

Body Language and Speech

Your body language speaks volumes before you even finish crossing the threshold to your boss’s office.

Don’t walk in with your arms crossed and appear unwilling to listen. Nor should you walk in like you own the place.

Conversely, if you’re nervous, fake confidence in your stride and posture to let your boss know you mean business and believe in the proposal you’re about to put forth.

It can be intimidating to have a disagreement with a superior, but you don’t want to erode your position before you even open your mouth. Don’t tap your feet or physically shrink away from the conflict.

The way you speak, too, can belie your confidence. Focus on speaking in measured tones, placing enough emphasis on your words and keeping your volume level in check. People tend to raise the pitch of their voice and speak too quickly when they’re nervous, so try your best to control these tendencies.

Again, if you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum and feeling particularly angry or agitated about the situation, take care to control the tone of your voice. Measure your words and keep your voice down. Raising your voice and using poor word choices can escalate the situation, and that may have many negative effects on your conversation.

Think Through the Consequences

Think through the ways that the conversation could go, and try to come up with a defense for the best parts of your argument.

Similarly, think about what might happen if you don’t address the issue. Will your boss’s method of handling the situation cause your team to implode? Is the company’s reputation at stake? Are there significant financial ramifications to doing it your boss’s way, rather than another way?

There may be conversations that you can sit out of because not all disagreements need to be voiced. Learn to pick your battles carefully.

However, if you see that you have a solution that could save your team or your company from running into a serious problem down the road, you need to address it. Most reasonable managers will see the logic behind a better solution and shouldn’t let their pride get in the way of considering a new approach.

The Email Closing You Need to Get Replies

best closing for emails

Whether you’re reaching out for help at work or need to change an online order you placed before it ships, you need to send email messages that get a response.

While writing the body of the email may seem like the tough part, signing off is probably not really on your radar.

However, your closing is just as important as anything else in the email, according to new research. Does your “Regards,” “Thanks,” or “Just Keep Swimming” really make much of a difference? If so, what kind of a difference? Is “Best” really best?

An evaluation of 350,000 email closings revealed that the type of closing you use really does impact the response rates to those emails. For the study, researchers at Boomerang evaluated messages from the archives of 20 online communities and found a large base of messages with a wide variety of subject matter, response rates and closing types.

Often, people determine their closing based on the content or setting of the email that they’re sending. While “Love” might be appropriate for a message to your spouse, it’s likely not the closing of choice for emails sent in the professional environment.

The most popular closings in the sample taken were:

  1. Thanks,
  2. Regards,
  3. Cheers,
  4. Best regards,
  5. Thanks in advance,
  6. Thank you,
  7. Best,
  8. Kind regards,

So, which one corresponds with the best response rate?

Overwhelmingly, closings that indicate thanks, including “Thanks in advance,” “Thanks,” or “Thank you,” received the most responses and highest response rates over any other closings. In fact, emails with thankful closings saw response rates of 62 percent. An expression of gratitude in an email’s closing resulted in a 36 percent relative increase in the response rate.

These results echo the results from a 2010 study entitled “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way.” This study found that cover letter editing requests were more likely to receive attention when the request email included the line “Thank you so much!” This indicates that recipients who feel that their response is valuable and appreciated are more likely to respond to emails that demonstrate as much.

So the next time you sign off on an email, think about the message that you’re sending. While “Thanks in advance” may seem a bit forward or presumptive, it’s likely to get some attention and a response from the recipient.

A Selection Of 6 Books To Help You Build Great Teams

team building books

Team building can be a tough task for leaders at any level.

Whether you’re starting a business or working to complete a project, getting everyone’s personalities, work habits and mindsets on the same page can be a significant barrier to reaching the ultimate team goal: cohesion as a means to an end.

Many times, the problem lies in the fact that each person approaches the task at hand differently and with varying levels of ego and ambition. Unfortunately, you, as the leader, are the one left asking yourself how to help your team.

  • How can I account for each person’s attitude and motivation?
  • How can I encourage and push the team to work together?
  • How can I foster an environment of support and respect?

All of these are important principles behind team building. The skill pulls in psychology, sociology, anthropology and other practices that study the behavior of individuals and groups.

Luckily, you don’t have to go back to school for an advanced degree to work well with your team. Here is a selection of good books to help build your team.

A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results, by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff

Looking for a book for the entire team?

This is your pick.

It’s written to help team members identify their effectiveness on a scale of one to five.

This book gives them practical steps to achieve greater results.

Debugging Teams: Better Productivity through Collaboration, by Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman

As you know, there’s more to a job than the job description.

The emotional and human side can take much longer to learn.

This book shows you how to work with and around this side, to create a collaborative environment.

Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances, by J. Richard Hackman

A classic in the team-building book category, this tome is grounded in a deeper look at practical results.

Hackman makes this masterpiece funny and witty at the same time.

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, by Amy C. Edmondson

While many of Edmondson’s ideas are ones that will come naturally, once you learn and put them in practice you can account for the personality differences among team members.

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Cris Yeh

With the experience of an entrepreneurial team and a LinkedIn co-founder, this book examines the leader/team member relationship and helps to build that experience into a greater connected-ness.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick Lencioni

In an easy-to-read, entertaining story about a new CEO who has to create a team, Lencioni looks at the five main reasons for team failure and organizational politics.

Does Power Change People And Make Them Bad Or Corrupt?

powerful people bad corrupt

When you look at the halls of power, what kind of people do you see?

Do you picture philanthropists with hearts as big as their heads?

Do you envision vicious, power-hungry megalomaniacs who only want more of everything?

Odds are you leaned towards the latter. After all, you only need to look to the corporate world to find plenty of corruption and abuse of power.

What goes on behind the scenes? Are powerful people really so bad?

Does having power make you more likely to be corrupt and uncaring?

Although it would be so much easier to believe that is the case, the truth is more nuanced and gray rather than black and white.

To better understand the science of power and its effect on people, we examined a couple of research studies conducted recently. One was by Yale Professor Michael W. Krauss and the other by a researcher named Geoff Durso.

Does Power Change People?

At first glance, it would appear that having a small modicum of power changes a person.

However, it turns out that that change is not so radical as it first seems.

According to Krauss (and other studies), having power doesn’t make you a different person, it simply makes you more of yourself.

So what does this mean, exactly?

It means that people in power feel much more confident in themselves, which means that they feel like they can be more open and honest about who they really are. They express their true selves more freely.

When you think about it, it makes sense.

We might not speak up at work because we don’t want to upset our boss or coworkers, and we might stay quiet in public because we don’t want to embarrass ourselves.

For powerful people, however, they aren’t inhibited by such societal restraints. Thus, they are more prone to be outgoing and vocal, regardless of the setting.

How Power Amplifies Your Personality

So if power makes you feel more confident, does that affect who you are as a person?

Apparently, it doesn’t.

In fact, what power does do is amplify your personality exponentially as you get more of it.

Thus, for example, a kind person will be extra kind when given power, and a mean person will be downright awful when put in a higher position.

Therefore, when you see signs of corporate corruption or terrible actions done by those in power, it’s a safe bet that they were like that all along.

It wasn’t until they got their power that they decided to act on it more. For most of us, we keep our “crazy” inside and bottled up. For powerful people, they let it out.

Some good points to keep in mind as a leader, or when interacting with powerful people.

Scientific Ways To Hold A Good Conversation

how to make and hold a great conversation

You want to make conversation with someone at your office or at an event, but you always feel like a conversationalist dud. So, what do you do?

You follow these conversation tactics to embrace a more social you.

Ask for Advice

Asking a person for advice is a great way to keep a conversation going, influence people and make them warm up to you.

Also, people like getting the chance to feel as though their advice is important.

This has been proven to work well numerous times and in a variety of business/social situations. Some examples of research in the area include work done by Robert Cialdini (Professor at Arizona State University) and Adam Grant (Professor at Wharton).

Gossip Correctly

People enjoy a good time gossiping, but getting involved with negative gossip can reflect badly upon you.

Gossip can color the way people view you. Research has shown that people unconsciously associate you the traits you are describing. So if you are saying good things about another person, you are seen in a positive light and if you are saying negative things, then those characteristics are applied to you.

This could also lead them to be turned off by what you’re saying or even make them wonder what you may say about them behind their backs. A surefire way to stop a conversation cold.

Become a Listener

People love being able to talk about themselves and their lives.

Researchers have even found that it is as pleasurable and triggers the same feelings as money or food.

Therefore, by encouraging a person to talk about themselves, you’re putting them in a good mood and making them enjoy the conversation.

Use Feedback and Questions

As per the NeuroLeadership Institute, not only should you be a listener, but you should be an active listener that uses feedback and questions to dig deeper into the conversation.

If the other person seeks out your help about something, or if you want to provide feedback, or point out a correction, asking questions can help them to come up a potential solution, or see a flaw in their thinking, on their own.

This is a positive and non-threatening approach.

Ask Two-Questions

The two-questions method is also meant to help put the person, with whom you want to converse, in a good mood.

As per Daniel Kahneman, Professor at Princeton and Nobel Laureate, this method can turn your normal small talk game upside down, but it works.

The first question you should ask the other person is about something positive in his or her life. Then, after you’ve heard about this positive thing, you should then inquire about the person’s life overall.

After the first question, the other person should be in a more positive frame of mind and they will answer the follow-up question(s) enthusiastically.

Conversations will come so much easier to you when you start employing these tactics. You may find what works for one person may not work with another, so vary your conversation game. You’ll be able to make and hold great conversations with just a bit of practice.

Helping Others At Work Might Not Help You

teamwork help others at work

You need to know the difference between being a team player and helping co-workers too much.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that helping co-workers as much as possible could lead to emotional drain, mental exhaustion, poor productivity and bad job performance. This is most often the case for workers who care deeply about the happiness of others.

The study, led by Michigan State University associate professor of management Russell Johnson, examined people from various industries. Workers from the fields of engineering, health care and finance completed surveys for 15 days in a row. Each person had one survey to complete in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The survey attempted to measure depletion using a scientifically established scale. Researchers also asked targeted questions about helping co-workers. One such question asked if the subject went out of his or her way to help a co-worker.

The results might put a damper on the “no ‘I’ in team” concept. Helping another person can leave someone drained and unable to perform his or her own tasks. This is especially true for employees who help others a lot.

Researchers recommend that when people need to help others too much, they should try to rebuild their energy levels by taking breaks during the workday. Healthy snacks and even caffeine can also help boost energy for the rest of the day.

The study also states that people who keep asking for assistance, especially from the same person, may unwittingly place a burden on those who are helping them. Perhaps they should ask another person for help the next time, as opposed to asking the same person repeatedly.

Another insight was that a simple “thank you” or acknowledgement of the assistance goes a long way to alleviating the negative effects on the helper. Thanking a co-worker might reverse any mental depletion a person has at the office, simply because a word of thanks is a mental pick-me-up.

Supervisors and managers should take these results to light and develop ways to mitigate any lost production. Supervisors should recognize that it’s okay to ask for help, but everyone at the office should use common sense when it comes to seeking assistance. Team leaders must also realize that simple kindness goes a long way.

If you feel that demands from other people in the office are putting too much of a strain on you and getting in the way of your own work, then you might just need to learn how to say no in a better way and without seeming lazy.

How To Get People To Read Your Emails

read email better subject line

Every day you face the same dilemma of trying to figure out which emails to read and which ones to delete without a second thought. This is no small task since the average person receives over 120 emails per day. You have to draw the line somewhere to manage the sheer volume, and usually that line is drawn at the email’s subject line.

Studies done by Yesware, an email platform, found that people usually make snap decisions about subject lines. Email open rates correlate with these choices. On average, emails with good subject lines have an open rate of 51.9 percent, and the average response rate is 29.8 percent.

This means you should take into account some key strategies for creating highly readable email subject lines.

Count on Numbers

Use numbers in your subject lines to make them stand out.

Numbers are often used in connection with hard data and statistics, which give readers fact-based information. The Yesware study discovered that adding numbers increased open rates significantly – up to 53.2 percent.

Numbers make subject lines appear more credible and useful. Therefore, they seem worth spending the time to open.

Title Case Stands Tall

Another sure-fire way to inspire higher open rates is to use title case in email subject lines. This involves capitalizing every word in the title. For instance, instead of writing “open me now,” go with “Open Me Now.”

The latter looks a lot more authoritative than the former, which helps your email win credibility.

Testing showed that title case emails were opened by 54.3 percent of recipients, over the lower case rate of 47.6 percent. Replies to title case subject lines were an impressive 32.3 percent.

Don’t Use Personal Greetings

Saying “hello” to someone in an email subject line may seem like a great idea, but it’s actually a terrible one for open rates.

This kind of friendly familiarity was once a good tactic for making recipients think emails are coming from someone they know and trust. However, overuse of this strategy has caused it to lose effectiveness.

Personal greetings significantly lower open and reply rates.

Ditch the Questions

Another popular subject line tactic is using a question to draw attention.

Questions and question marks rated poorly in the study.

This method makes recipients feel like they need to answer, do, or think about something – which most won’t bother with.

Keep It Short

Keep your subject line short and sweet. A few words is all you need. In fact the study found that just around 3 words worked best.

How To Deliver Bad News To Employees, In A Good Way

how to deliver bad news to employee layoff

Regardless of if you are the person receiving or giving bad news, no one likes to be a part of the conversation if bad news is going to be involved.

However, when the situation calls for it, there are ways to make hard conversations go a little smoother.

While the words you use have value to the person you are talking to, the tone of your voice and the way you go about the situation has a bigger impact on the conversation, according to recent studies by Saarland University in Germany.

The researchers behind the study, looked specifically the situation where a manager needed to convey the news of an employee being fired. They conducted a series of experiments which involved role playing, in order to reach their conclusion.

Training was received by one group of managers, on the methods of using language that centered on fairness and the facts of the termination, while another group did not receive any training.

Staff reacted much better and were more accepting to information/news that was given by managers who went through the training.

They were less likely to be confrontational when their manager took the time to explain the underlying causes of the situation, instead of being aggressive and demonstrating their authority through their tone of voice.

Then the researchers looked into the importance of fairness versus fact-giving, when delivering bad news to an employee. One group of managers was given training geared towards fairness and factual correctness, and the second group was trained on being strictly factual.

The supervisors who received training only on delivering facts concerning the bad news, did not fare better with employees, as compared to managers who did not receive any training at all.

Through this, the research was able to demonstrate that characteristic of fairness was most important in the conversation concerning a layoff.

According to Professors Manuela Richter and Cornelius Konig, who led the studies, when it comes to fairness, both respect and transparency are involved. A good example of this is when a manager took the time to discuss with the employee that the layoff wasn’t happening because of his/her behavior or performance, but rather the layoff was taking place due to economic situations and difficulties which resulted in the company cutting back.

To give bad news with fairness and empathy, here are some quick tips:

  1. Tell it like it is: Employees stated that they would rather be told the truth, without any toning down, and simply be given the facts of the matter, over a manager trying to say what they believe the employee wants to hear.
  2. Be considerate and prepared: It is best to prepare and practice what you are going to say in advance. Also think about the best time and place to give the bad news, taking into account the employee’s convenience, privacy, dignity and feelings.
  3. Don’t rush things: Don’t try and make the meeting as short as possible. The employee can sense when you’re just trying to get over with it. Keep sufficient time for the employee to process the information, understand it, discuss it, share concerns and ask questions.

Scientific Ways To Be More Likeable At Work

how to be more likeable at work

As hard as you might try, being likeable isn’t always easy.

But improving how much people like you and enjoy interacting with you, can have many benefits for your career prospects and relationships.

So here are a few science-backed suggestions to help improve your interactions with others:

  • Let the other person talk about themselves – We all derive pleasure from talking about ourselves. In fact, the pleasurable feeling we gain is strong enough to act as a mood enhancer.
  • Draw on their knowledge – No one likes a know-it-all. When you ask for advice, you allow the other person to be the expert. It makes them feel good and also makes you more likeable/persuasive.
  • Don’t be gloomy all the time – Sure, we all have down days. However, moods can be contagious.  If your moods are upbeat, you’ll discover that the moods of others will be more positive around you as well.
  • Be inquisitive about his/her life – Two questions can show an interest in another’s life. Ask about a positive experience they’ve recently experienced.  Once that question is answered, ask about their everyday life.  A happy topic, brought on by your inquiry, will help another to associate you with that positive feeling. It will also make the subsequent discussion more positive and enjoyable.
  • Show admiration – When you voice your appreciation for a person’s actions, they eventually begin to notice the same traits in you. The scientific term is, “Spontaneous trait transference.”
  • Let it be your fault once in a while – By showing simple human traits such as the ability to make a mistake, you become more likeable. There’s nothing wrong with being human.
  • Show an honest appreciation for others – When talking with someone, making positive comments about other people shows your ability to see the good traits in people. Appreciation always looks better than negative comments and gossip. According to Professor Richard Wiseman, if you say positive and pleasant things about people, you are seen as a nice person (and vice versa).
  • Establish a physical connection – A light/casual touch that comes about during interaction with others, shows a comfort level and familiarity that makes you more likeable.

These scientifically derived ideas are just the tip of the iceberg on the ocean of personal interaction and likeability.  What method(s) do you employ to make yourself more likeable?

We all have a habit that’s holding our career back

change habits behaviour succeed

Imagine for a moment that you are the ideal manager/employee. You are a well-liked and successful professional, with a reputation for being consistently fair-minded and hardworking. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, you are a human being who will make mistakes, have bad days, and who may even have a few career-limiting personal habits.

What do you do when you realize that some of your habits are holding your career back?

According to a study by VitalSmarts, you may need to reflect and make some changes, since 97 percent of employees have at least one habit that is limiting their careers.

The following are the career-crushing habits that the study found to be most prevalent, as well as some helpful hints from Joseph Grenny (Co-founder of VItalSmarts) on breaking those bad habits.


Reliability is a key trait hiring managers look for in employees. Those who keep their commitments without fail, allow their managers to mentally dismiss delegated tasks as already done. Managers love such employees.

However, many employees do not follow through on commitments 100% of the time. For such employees, managers continue to carry ownership of the assignments even after the person in question has committed to completing them.


The issue of unreliability is often a problem of communication.

People who have trouble keeping promises also struggle with maintaining boundaries to avoid conflict. Instead of saying “no,” they’d rather give a “yes” now – even if it means dealing with disapproval later.


Learning how to say “no” is vital to improving your reliability. Here are some helpful points to ponder:

  • Eye Contact –.When you are in a situation involving someone pressuring you to take on a commitment, hit the brakes by breaking eye contact, and take a deep breath.
  • Press Pause – If you can’t weigh the pros and cons of a commitment in the moment, keep a script in your head that you can use to delay your response. For example: “I would like to help out. Let me look at what’s already on my agenda, and I’ll get back by the end of today. Does that work for you?”
  • Count, Then Speak – Lastly, think about all of the commitments that you have already made. Saying “no” is much easier when you think about all the commitments you have on your plate. Telling people “no” does not always mean that you are letting them down, but instead keeping promises you have already made.


Procrastination is the most seductive of all the common flaws. All our smartphones and various other modes of communication make it all too easy to do immediate, unimportant tasks, rather than the actually important ones.


Procrastination is purely driven by fear of punishment, pain or failure. Putting off tasks that might cause some form of unpleasantness, is much easier than actually working to accomplish them.

No matter what the task at hand is, there are always unexplored and oftentimes exaggerated expectations associated with our tendency to procrastinate.


Start by expressing empathy and accommodation for your personal fears and concerns. Find and invest in your motivation, and explore different ways that increase your motivation. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Chunk your tasks- Breaking up an undesirable task into little parts allow you to celebrate each completed step.
  • Try the social approach – Bringing colleagues on board can alter your experience. If you have a presentation to compose, practice your delivery with a trusted co-worker. Their enthusiasm and feedback can help encourage you to finish the task. 
  • Quit early, finish later – Your feelings when you complete a task are like a tide that carries you forward into your next experience. Grinding away until you stumble over the finish line is the perfect recipe for misery. It is better to stop while you are still feeling engaged, thereby increasing your motivation to finish.


We all have tendency at times to be selfish, or to focus too closely on our own goals and position. Others often see that as selfishness. This does not make us jerks or unreasonable people. It simply means that we do not have a sufficient level of concern for others.


Most likely, you are missing a lot of the nonverbal signals others send, to express their wants and needs. Where things fall apart is when you become too invested in your own goals and opinions, and ignore or neglect the opinions and goals of others.


The littlest things yield the greatest results.

If you find empathy challenging, watch your body language in tense or conflicting situations. People who are only concerned with their own agendas shut down physically before they close off emotionally. They turn aside, fail to maintain eye contact, or give other physical signs that they have stopped listening. Here’s how to be more empathetic and improve your listening skills:

  • Maintain eye contact – Remain in the conversation by maintaining eye contact with others. Look them directly in the eye. Watch for expressions that show emotions. Be conscious of the emotions of others is the primary step toward becoming empathetic.
  • Curiosity – Working with others is all about cooperation and mutual interest. You need to develop questions from sincere curiosity that help you understand the thoughts and motivations of others. You may find more common ground than you might expect.

In addition to the most common habits mentioned above, other career limiting habits include passive aggressiveness, negative attitude, short-term focus and disrespect.

As per managers who VitalSmarts surveyed, addressing your main bad habit is 3 times more important that improving technical skills. So clearly it is something to spend some time and effort on.

The difference between the job and life you have and the ones you want can be simply a few bad habits. When you learn to be mindful about what causes your behavior and motivates you, you will be far more effective at changing your life and your career for the better.

But changing your behavior can often be hard. So here are some tips for achieving sustainable and measurable behavior change, from Al Switzler, one of the Co-founders of VitalSmarts.

6 Principles To Sharpen Your Persuasion Skills

persuasion skills

Have you ever pondered on why you buy the useless odds and ends sitting in your junk drawer?

Why did you purchase the treadmill that collects dust in the corner of your living room?

Why did you get the Instyler when you’re straightening or curling iron works just as well?

Why do you acquire the name brand cereal instead of the cheaper alternative?

Dr. Robert Cialdini (Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University) provides some answers, through the principles of persuasion, which can be very useful in the workplace and outside of it as well.

To sharpen your persuasion skills, Professor Cialdini lists six important influences to keep in mind, using the acronym C.L.A.S.S.-R.

C-Commitment and Consistency

The first letter refers to commitment and consistency in actions and behavior. The desire to remain stable is rooted in our evolutionary psychology.

Dr. Cialdini performed a study, which found that when asked to place a large billboard advertising road safety in their backyard, people were reluctant. However, when people were first asked to place a small sign on their window, many of them agreed. When these people were later asked about placing the larger billboard, 76% of them agreed.

It goes to show that when asking someone to make a large commitment, ask them first to make a small one.

You can probably think about several ways in which this principle can be advantageous in your business endeavors.

For example. instead of asking customers to make large decisions right at the start, ask them to make smaller and insignificant choices first, until it would appear inconsistent for them not to proceed with the larger decision. Most of the time, people prefer to be consistent with previous behavior.


Likability and attractiveness are important aspects of persuasion.

It is no coincidence that actors and actresses are often attractive people; it makes you want to see their work. The same applies to Sales Reps, who are often attractive and friendly people.

This phenomena is known as the “Halo Effect,” which refers to the idea that attractiveness and likability enhances our perception of a person’s expertise/talent.

We have less control over our looks, so Cialdini suggests a few techniques to become more likable:

  • Listening – When dealing with people, call them by their name, be interested in what they have to say, and ask questions. People love hearing their own name and voice.
  • Praise – Complimenting people is a good way to increase your likability and make that person’s day at the same time. Try to be as sincere as you can and compliment something you actually like about that person.
  • Positive Association – Positive association can be a powerful ally. Provide signals to associate yourself, or your product/service/idea, with something positive. For example, car showrooms often have well dressed and sophisticated looking people standing next to the vehicles, to associate the car with luxury and lifestyle.
  • Contrast – Compare what you have on offer, with something that is relatively less desirable.


Following and believing in an authority figure is a natural response.

The Principle of Authority is the driving force behind some of the greatest crimes in history. Cults exist when a charming and charismatic figure enacts laws and patterns for people to follow.

If you are knowledgeable, well trained, and have the degrees to show it, don’t be afraid to flaunt it. Such things can make you more seem more trustworthy and believable.

S-Social Proof

When people do not have enough information, they often look to others to help them make a decision.

They believe that other people are rational.

One of the best examples of this phenomena is the laugh track in sitcoms. They tell you when it is time to laugh, by providing the social proof of other people laughing.

You can use various forms of social proof to be more persuasive, such as numbers/benchmarks, testimonials and name-dropping.


Exclusivity and scarcity are very useful influences.

If diamonds or other rare gems lay on the ground for anyone to find, they would not be such a hot commodity.

Scarcity is a helpful motivator in the decision-making process: it forces a choice without leaving adequate time to deliberate further.


People do not like being in someone’s debt.  If they receive a present or favor, they have a need to pay that action back.

Researchers have hypothesized that this evolutionary value comes from tribal societies that thrive on cooperation and reciprocity. If one member fails to do so, then they are kicked out of the tribe and less likely to survive.

An excellent example of such an idea is that of the Hare Krishnas and how they first give their congregates a small gift (like a flower) before asking for donations.

If you want people to give you something, give them something first: free samples, coupons, promotions, tips, excellent service, etc.

Here’s Cialdini, with some more information on persuasion: