Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Don’t you have the summer off?

June 28th, 2017 · Comments Off on Don’t you have the summer off? · Uncategorized

Summer is here!  And no, I do not have the summer off.  Teaching is only a part of what I do.  In fact, it is supposed to represent just over 1/3 of my commitment to the university.  When I am not teaching, I am either conducting research or supporting the functioning of the university by serving on committees and in administrative positions.  That said, the summer schedule is a little more flexible than at other times of year.  I try to get as much done on my research as possible.  It is easier to write when I have large blocks of uninterrupted time.  This summer, I plan on finalizing two manuscripts on reserch regarding job search among recent university graduates and one piece on modesty and gender.  Admittedly, some of this will be written on docks in Prince Edward County, Bancroft, and Prince Edward Island.

When I am not writing, I will be reading.  I have assembled my reading list for the summer and I am anxious to dig in.  A few of the books I intend to get through are on my e-reader but I also have a number of good old fashioned paper copies (see image).  Yes, there are four cookbooks in this list.  I love to work my way through cookbooks as if they are novels.  I find them inspiring.  Having to cook for a young family is tedious unless I find ways to renew my connection with the craft.  Beyond the cookbooks, there are fiction and non-fiction selections.  Some of the fiction is relevant to my research – written by academics for the general public – and other works are far outside of my area of expertise.

Of all of the books on my list, I am especially looking forward to reading Just Like Family by Kate Hilton.  Kate is a dear friend of mine who’s first book The Whole in the Middle spent some time on the Globe and Mail best seller list.  I hate to brag but I have some pretty awesome friends.

Best wishes to you for both a productive and restful summer.  I’ll plan to drop a line from some Canadian lakeside retreat.

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Your best asset in today’s job market: Resilience

March 15th, 2017 · Comments Off on Your best asset in today’s job market: Resilience · Uncategorized

Last year my former graduate student and current research colleague Jennifer Harrison and I followed a group of new graduates during the early phases of their job search. We collected a set of measures at planned intervals to capture their progress and experience during the process.  In particular, we were interested in what personal characteristics provided support over what was certain to be a lengthy and challenging search.  I am currently organizing our findings in preparation for a paper.

As this generation emerges in to the job market, they face a particular challenge.  First, the labour market has changed.  There has been movement away from full-time, permanent employment to contingent work arrangements.  Second, the relationship between the individual and work has changed.  Studies have demonstrated that emergent workers are searching for meaningful work rather than simply looking for an entry level position from which they can grow a career.  In other words, expectations for a first job have changed relative to earlier generations who searched for an organization where they could spend a career.    Third, the education level of the population has increased.  More people are graduating with Bachelor’s degrees increasing the competition for jobs among this population.  The result is that emergent workers are facing the most competitive job market for young people that we have seen in generations.

In our study, we looked at whether factors such as hope, optimism, resilience, and self-efficacy would support emergent workers as they faced the challenge of today’s job market.  These are all related yet distinct constructs. Each has enjoyed some popular appeal lately.  With the rise of “positivity,” many articles and books have been written on the benefits of each of these variables.  Yet, to date, research has not distinguished among them and determined their utility in specific contexts.

The research tells us quite clearly that there are times when positive thinking is counterproductive.  For instance, when faced with adversity, people who had a positive outlook are less likely to overcome the challenge when compared to those who view the upcoming event as a challenge to be overcome.  These studies have led us to predict that factors such as optimism and hope would be less helpful on a prolonged job search.  We predicted that resilience, bouncing back when faced with failure, and self-efficacy, confidence in one’s ability to complete a task, would be the best predictors of success.  The early data is supporting our hypothesis regarding resilience, but the same is not true for self-efficacy.

The early results indicate that resiliency will buoy a job searcher over the long haul.  So when preparing for a job search, update your resume, plan your networking and actively work on improving your response to failure.  Rising to the challenge and responding to adversity are key to success in today’s job market.

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Thinking about the past, present, and future

March 6th, 2017 · Comments Off on Thinking about the past, present, and future · Uncategorized

I read somewhere that there is no past, present, and future only memory, perception, and anticipation.  Despite my best efforts to track down this quote, I cannot find the source.  However, I find the message quite powerful all the same.  There has been no other time when this idea has been more obvious to me than today, in our “post-factual” world.

In reading today’s headlines there are two possible extreme outlooks that one can take – either everyone is lying or no one is.  A pretty solid middle-ground would be that everyone is telling their own truth(ish).

The brain is a complex thing and the memory systems within it, even more so.  We put a lot of stock in our brain’s ability to accurately  observe the world, encode that information, and then retrieve it at will.   Memory scientists will caution that errors can be made at any point in this system.  We do not play back a videotape of events, rather we pull up a rough image of our experiences where the very act of recalling the event can alter how it is encoded.  My favourite example of the fragility of recall is exemplified in a study by Elizabeth Loftus and her colleague John Palmer.  In this study, participants watched a video of an automobile accident and were subsequently asked to recall details.  The question used to prompt recall varied from “About how fast were the cars going when they hit” to “About how fast were the cars going when they smashed?”.  Individuals in the ‘smashed’ conditions reported that the cars were travelling significantly faster than in the ‘hit’ condition and were more likely to report that there was glass on the ground around the automobile – when there was in fact none.

Our memory of yesterday, perception of today, and anticipation of what will happen tomorrow is coloured by a wide range of contextual factors, including our beliefs and values.  In that way, ‘truth’ is a moving target altered by the lens through which one views the world.

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Moral licensing and the state of America

February 16th, 2017 · Comments Off on Moral licensing and the state of America · Uncategorized

A phenomenon has been observed in the social sciences whereby people who initially behave in a moral way subsequently exhibit behaviors that are immoral, unethical, or otherwise problematic.  The tendency has been demonstrated in a range of important contexts such as hiring, charitable donations, and consumer behaviour.  For example, if Tom donates to charity today, he might find it less problematic to ‘forget’ to claim some of his income on a tax submission tomorrow.  While this might be an intuitive finding, it is surprising to social science researchers who have largely found that people want to behave in ways that are consistent with their values and with their past behaviours.  Yet, we still see this exception across a range of domains.

In an incredibly interesting study, Daniel Effron of the London School of Business demonstrated that people were more likely to favour White job applicants over Black job applicants after having had the opportunity to endorse Barack Obama as president.  In other words, supporting Obama gave these individuals moral credit that they could then use to justify future prejudiced behaviour.

I have been thinking about this study and the general idea of psychological licensing broadly, and moral licensing in particular, as I have been watching what has gone on in the United States.  The politics of conservatism and liberalism aside, there has been a heightening and highlighting of ‘us versus them’ tensions.  The current US government ran on a platform of and has introduced policy to ‘build walls’ and ‘ban’ entire groups of people from the country in the name of nationalism and security.    This is such an incredible shift from the previous administration that it has left me searching for answers.  I don’t believe there is one single answer.

Moral licensing is an individual level phenomenon.  It cannot be used to explain a nation’s political shift.  Nor would I categorize an entire government as the ‘moral choice.’  Yet, I do believe there is something compelling here.  Could we have had Trump without Obama?  Could Trump have followed McCain?  Doubtful.

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Migrant workers in Canada

May 11th, 2016 · Comments Off on Migrant workers in Canada · Uncategorized

I have been working on a series of studies with my co-author, Dr. Sara Mann from the University of Guelph.  Together we have had some really interesting experiences looking at migrant workers on farms in Ontario.

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program gets a lot of bad press.  I will not review the criticisms here as I am certain you are either aware of them or a quick google search will get you up to speed.  In our relationship with the program, we are not focussed on it from a policy angle or from a immigration standpoint.  Nor are we looking at single cases where it is easy to find some pretty difficult stories.  We are hoping to look at the program more broadly in order to gain an understanding of what this type of work arrangement means for foreign workers, their families at home, and the communities wherein those families reside.  On the flip side, we are also interested in looking at the individual farmers and the communities within Ontario (where this project is based) in order to understand the impact of the work arrangement on the work and home lives of the employers.

So far, as part of this project, Sara and I have had a chance to spend time with farmers in Ontario who hire Foreign Workers, and sit through a series of meetings with Caribbean governments around the details of the program.  The experience has been nothing short of fascinating.  There are so many issues to explore – immigration versus migration, secondary economies, quality of life.  We are at the very early stages of our work so I am reluctant to share any ‘findings.’  I can say that there are many people who feel very strongly about this program and Canada’s role in supporting the movement of labour in this way.  When I tell people we are working on this project, they almost immediately reflect on the stories they have heard from the media.  These stories are certainly important, however, I am not convinced they represent a complete picture.  In today’s global marketplace, there are many models for employment and all need to be examined from many perspectives in a balanced and careful manner.  I will keep you posted on our work!

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The Art of Doodling

May 11th, 2016 · Comments Off on The Art of Doodling · Uncategorized

me!_1I did a doodling workshop last Friday. It was offered by Carolyn Ellis of Brilliance Mastery.  It was creative and fun and engaging; a great way to spend a Friday.  I took the workshop largely because I enjoy being creative and wanted to find ways to inject some creativity into my work life.  I have read the books on this topic by Sunni Brown and Dan Roam.  They have done some interesting work on injecting creativity into team collaboration and leadership skill development.  It is intriguing.  There is a literature on arts based leadership development.  My colleague Soosan Latham has contributed to this research.  The thing with doodling in the style of Ellis, Brown and Roam is that it is a bit playful.  The techniques do not take themselves terribly seriously.  This makes is accessible to a wide audience.

So now I need to figure out how I will use doodling.  At a minimum, I will enhance my classroom presentations.  I am hoping I can use some ‘live doodling’ to make classroom discussions more engaging.  There is a science to support the use of blackboards and whiteboards in learning.

I will let you know how it goes!

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Feminine Modesty

February 16th, 2016 · Comments Off on Feminine Modesty · Uncategorized

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Last night the Grammy’s were awarded in Los Angeles.  Taylor Swift won for album of the year, for a second time.  Her acceptance speech was all over social media this morning.  Most reviewers called it a rebuff to Kanye West, who famously jumped on stage after her win at the VMAs to announce to the audience that Beyonce “had one of the best videos of all time.” Understandably, Swift did not know how to respond then, but she sure handled herself with confidence last night.  And today, she is a social media darling.

CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 23:  Honoree Shonda Rhimes accepts the Norman Lear Achievement Award onstage at the 27th Annual Producers Guild Of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 23, 2016 in Century City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Contrast Taylor Swift’s speech with the acceptance speech given by Shonda Rhimes after receiving the Producers Guild’s Norman Lear Award for Achievement in Television. “I’m going to be totally honest with you, I completely deserve this.”  And she does!  The speech was tongue and cheek.  She goes on to explain that she was not blazing trails but simply representing the world as it actually is.  When you really listen to the content of the speech, it is incredibly modest, almost self-deprecating.

Both speeches were given by incredibly successful women, leaders in their fields.  Taylor Swift accepts that she is the master of her own success while Rhimes argues that she was doing ‘nothing special.’  Both have a clear message for other women, be strong and show your stuff.  I found these both to be interesting examples because one is clearly confident and the other clearly modest.

There is a phenomenon is social science that I have written about before, the feminine modesty effect.  Typically women underrepresent their accomplishments relative to men.  Similarly, women who self-promote often experience backlash, suffering social consequences.  From these two isolated cases, Swift has managed to take full responsibility for her success and still maintain her image as a likeable celebrity.  How did she do that?  Could Shonda Rhimes have succeeded with the same strategy?

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Fresh start

February 16th, 2016 · Comments Off on Fresh start · Uncategorized

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This Blog has really been a learning experience for me. I used to believe that there was time for everything; that if you were motivated enough, you could fit anything in. Well, that has been truly tested over the last several years.

Since 2008, I have been working in significant administrative roles at the University. Since 2011, I have been dealing with the illness of more than one family member. Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to keep up with my writing as much as I would have hoped. And this is not isolated to the Blog. I have other projects that I feel have taken me longer than planned. For a while, I blamed my age, believing that engagement in my work was more difficult beyond my 20s. I was tired.

In recent months, as things have not improved, but become less taxing and as I look toward the end of my term as Director of the School of HRM, I feel my voice returning. I have something to say again and I am glad to have this platform to try out my ideas.

Stay tuned to this Blog for my half-baked ideas, thoughts, and general musings on things I observe everyday. And don’t forget to comment! Thanks for sticking around.

mh

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Unconscious goals

November 20th, 2014 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

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My mentor and former doctoral supervisor, Gary Latham, visited the School of HRM last week and gave a talk to the MHRM alumni group where he reviewed his recent research on unconscious goals.  As always, it was an insightful, and entertaining, presentation.

Gary’s work on unconscious goal setting is an extension of research in social psychology where John Bargh, Peter Gollwitzer and colleagues examined how people can be ‘primed’ using signals in the environment.  In a classic study within this paradigm, study participants solved anagrams for words that either focussed on the elderly (e.g., grey hair, senior citizen) or were neutral in content.  Participants who solved the anagrams that primed for ‘elderly’ walked out of the experiment room more slowly than those in the control condition.

Gary and Amanda Shantz, his doctoral student at the time, asked the question: can we prime people for achievement?  Amanda went down to union station in Toronto and asked people to perform a classic innovation task (i.e., come up with as many uses as you can for this object).  Superimposed on the question sheet, she had an athlete, a runner crossing the finish line.  When people completed the task on the page with the runner in the background, they performed better than those who did not have the image on their paper.  The take away from this study was that it is possible to ‘prime’ people for high performance by showing them an image of someone performing at a high level.  Gary has gone on to conduct more studies in this area.  For example, a similar study demonstrated that an image can motivate call centre employees to raise funds.  He also found that we can prime achievement goals as well as learning goals (e.g., come up with 3 new ways to solve this problem).

In practice, these are interesting findings in that they provide some insight into how people can be motivated.  There are still many questions left unanswered – how long does the prime last?  if the prime is left in the environment does it inevitably stop working?  Can it be used to motivate people on complex tasks?

I am also struck by the possible subversive side of this line of study.  While Latham and Shantz are focussed on helping people improve their performance, does priming have a ‘dark side’?

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Using Big Data to predict well-being

November 18th, 2014 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Achievement concept in tag cloud

I recently had the privilege of attending a lecture by Dr. Marty Seligman where he was awarded the inaugural Tang Foundation prize.  Dr. Seligman is a prominent psychology, past president of the American Psychological Association, creator of the modern day field of Positive Psychology.  In his lecture, he talked about where we have been as a field, where we are today, and where we are going.  I was particularly struck by his ideas around future research methods.

To date, the field of psychology has relied heavily on self-report measures.  In fact, a large part of the advancement of psychology as a science has been around rigorous measurement and assessment using paper and pencil measures.  Dr. Seligman argues that the days of self-report a numbered!  A bold statement when one considers the prominence of this method across the field.

A recent series of studies by Seligman and colleagues has found that Big Data might be a way forward in terms of deepening our understanding of psychological processes, particularly at the community or population level.  In his recent work, mined Twitter and Facebook posts for 45,000+ words used in updates.  The words that were searched focussed on affective states, positive and negative.  Specifically, he and his colleagues looked for well-being words and found that he could use the word clouds created by these feeds to predict heart disease within communities.  In sum, when words associated with well-being were used at a higher level within a community, that community suffered less heart disease relative to commutes where these words were used less frequently.  The interesting thing about this finding is that young people were the ones tweeting and updating their Facebook status while older people were the ones suffering from heart disease!  The wellness of the young people predicted heart disease among older individuals?!

In Dr. Seligman’s words, we are moving toward being able to predict well-being at the community, and eventually country level, by looking at data available through social media.

There are clear applications of Big Data for organizational behaviour and HRM.  What are the factors that drive innovation and creativity?  What are the features of an organizations culture?  This information can be gather by the way in which we communicate – the language used in emails, intranet posts, speeches, publications.  What other questions can be answered by Big Data within organizations?

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