How to Give an Employee Feedback About Their Appearance

Whether we like it or not, a person’s appearance affects their success at work. When an employee looks unkempt or wears revealing clothing, they may have a harder time gaining their colleagues’ or customers’ respect. But how do you broach what feels like a sensitive topic? And how can you frame the feedback as trying to help them — not make them feel self-conscious? What the Experts Say It would be nice if looks didn’t matter at all, but that’s rarely the case. “How we show up and deliver our work is as important as the content,” says Amy Jen Su, cofounder of Paravis Partners, an executive training and coaching firm, and author of Own the Room. “It can be heartbreaking to see a person who does good work not succeed because of how they appear.” But navigating this kind of convers....
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Why More Hospitals Should Prioritize Cultural Competency

“Janice,” a hypothetical patient, is female, 46 years old, African-American, and a convenience store clerk living below the poverty level. These traits, particularly her gender, race, and socioeconomic status, immediately elevate her risk of cardiovascular disease. These are important indicators her doctor, who would probably be male, white, and affluent, needs to keep in mind as he treats her. Several studies have shown that a patient such as Janice might be less likely to have insurance, less likely to have a regular physician, less likely to report symptoms, less likely to seek preventive care, and less informed about the lifestyle changes she should make to improve her health. These combined factors mean Janice is both more likely to have cardiovascular disease and more likely to die from it. Based on my scholar....
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To Guard Against Cybercrime, Follow the Money

Email attacks are cheap, easy, low risk, and high reward. No wonder a “malicious email is the cyber spy’s favored way in.” An email security breach could impact your organization’s revenue and reputation. Protecting yourself from a breach can be daunting, given how many emails pass through your organization each week. But if you think of cybercriminals as a business, you can keep up with them more effectively. After all, most want to make a profit. They work in a well-oiled, thriving criminal industry. Their operations involve partnerships, specializations, and supply chains. These criminal enterprises often share information with each other when it is mutually beneficial, but at other times compete to attack the most profitable targets. Rather than thinking of a clandestine hacker working out of a basem....
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Work Friends Make Us More Productive (Except When They Stress Us Out)

Since almost the beginning of management research, we’ve known that social dynamics affect workplace performance. Indeed, one of the pivotal questions of Gallup’s famous employee engagement survey asks whether respondents “have a best friend at work.” But while friendship at work always being a good thing is a strong assumption, recent research suggests that having a close friend in the workplace might be more nuanced than we assume. There are definitely benefits, but there are also costs. The research comes from a group of professors led by Jessica Methot of Rutgers University. Methot, along with colleagues Jeffery Lepine, Nathan Podsakoff, and Jessica Siegel Christian, studied the development of multiplex relationships inside companies to determine whether they were helpful or harmful to performance. Multip....
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Study: Employers Are Less Likely to Hire a Woman Who Wears a Headscarf

Jennifer Maravillas for HBR Earlier this year the European Union’s highest court ruled that employers could prohibit employees from wearing visible religious symbols at work, as long as they banned all religious wear, and did not single out a particular religion. However, the case centered on two Muslim women who had been fired for refusing to remove their headscarves while on the job, and the ruling was seized on by politicians in Germany, France, and the Netherlands as a “headscarf ban.” It’s the latest event in Europe’s long-simmering tensions over the various forms of Muslim veiling. A recent discussion paper by Doris Weichselbaumer, a professor at Johannes Kepler University Linz, in Linz, Austria, sheds light on some of the issues that women....
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How to Rebrand Yourself as Creative When You’re Not Perceived That Way

The contemporary business world lauds those who are seen as creative. Innovators such as Elon Musk and Jony Ive have become household names. Yet, for many of us, despite our best efforts to be recognized as creative thinkers, our suggestions in meetings are ignored and our pitches to bosses get rebuffed. If your colleagues have already formed an opinion of you as technically competent but a little staid, it’s going to take a lot to change their minds and get them to listen — a situation that’s especially true for women, who, research suggests, are often unfairly viewed as less creative than men. Before you can change anyone’s opinion of you, you need to ensure they start taking notice. You won’t get anywhere with subtlety; a few creative flourishes will be easily overlooked if people aren’t p....
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4 Behaviors of Top-Performing CEOs

Elena Botelho, partner at leadership advisory firm ghSmart, talks about the disconnect between the stereotype of the CEO and what research shows actually leads to high performance at that level. She says the image of the charismatic, tall male with a top university degree who’s a strategic visionary and makes great decisions under pressure is a pervasive one. However, research shows that four behaviors more consistently lead to high performance in the corner office: 1) deciding with speed and conviction 2) engaging for impact 3) adapting proactively 4) delivering reliably. Botelho is the co-author of the article “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart” in the May-June 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review. Download this podcast
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3 Health Care Trends That Don’t Hinge on the ACA

Laura Schneider for HBR In early May 2017 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare). Subsequently, Republicans in the U.S. Senate began working on their version of a law to do the same. The House bill is flawed, leaving many uncertainties that the Senate has promised to address. While the fate of the bill is in flux, there are three immutable trends in the U.S. health care system that won’t change. As a result, regardless of how the law evolves, tremendous opportunities will remain for consumers, medical providers, health care payers, and investors to shape and improve the health care system. The first trend is demographic: The U.S. population is continuing to age. In 1960 the median age for men and women in the U.S. was 29.5; it is now 37.9, and in the ....
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Should a CEO’s Bonus Be Based on Financial Performance Alone?

On November 9, 2016, the shareholders of Australia’s largest company, and the world’s tenth-largest bank, revolted. The Commonwealth Bank’s shareholders were reacting to the board’s annual Remuneration Report, which contained a recommendation that the CEO be granted a bonus based on what critics saw as “soft” measures. Other firms have ventured down this path, including the conglomerate Wesfarmers, with its 200,000-plus staff, and the global hospital operator Ramsay Health Care. Should CEO performance be assessed only on “hard” measures? Should soft measures be part of a CEO’s scorecard? Is there a framework that might assist you to tackle the CEO appraisal task? CEO incentives have traditionally been evaluated against objective data — also labelled “hard.” Take....
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How an Airplane Laptop Ban Would Expose Company Data to Espionage

To ban or not to ban laptops? Millions of global travelers are anxiously awaiting the answer to this question. Since the U.S. government received credible intelligence that ISIS had developed the capability to conceal explosive devices within laptops, tablets, and other large electronic devices, these devices have been banned, as of late March, from the airline cabins of U.S.-bound flights originating from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. However, within the last week the Trump administration has been hinting that the ban could be extended to European airports. This prospect has led many journalists, security experts, and travel writers to speculate on the repercussions of such an act, such as lost airline revenue (business travelers may opt to fly less if they cannot catch up on work while in the air), ine....
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How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict

Avoiding or delaying a difficult conversation can hurt your relationships and create other negative outcomes. It may not feel natural at first, especially if you dread discord, but you can learn to dive into these tough talks by reframing your thoughts. Begin from a place of curiosity and respect, and stop worrying about being liked. Conflict avoiders are often worried about their likability. While it’s natural to want to be liked, that’s not always the most important thing. Lean into the conversation with an open attitude and a genuine desire to learn. Start from a place of curiosity and respect — for both yourself and the other person. Genuine respect and vulnerability typically produce more of the same: mutual respect and shared vulnerability. Even when the subject matter is difficult, conversations can remain mutual....
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Why Companies Shouldn’t Try to Hack Their Hackers

During a recent cybersecurity competition, teams of students conducting a mock exercise unintentionally caused the U.S. to start a (fake) war. The students were given a variety of options, including diplomatic ones, for responding to a cyberattack by China. The majority of them took an aggressive approach, known as “hack back,” with disastrous consequences. The mock exercise shows how tempting it is to launch a counterstrike in response to a cyberattack — and the potential for significant unintended consequences. As the CEO of a publicly traded security company, I would like to urge businesses and individuals to beware those very same dangers. In the United States, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) prohibits private parties from accessing or damaging computer systems, even if they’re being use....
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Health Care Providers Must Stop Wasting Patients’ Time

In 2014 Jess Jacobs, a director in an innovation lab, started blogging about her experience as she received treatment for two rare diseases. Jess was trained as a Six Sigma Green Belt. So unlike your average patient, she described one 12-hour wait in the ER as having a “7% process cycle efficiency.” Likewise, she determined that just 29% of her 56 outpatient doctor visits were useful. She made 20 visits to the emergency room and spent 54 days in the hospital across nine admissions, but her calculations showed that just 0.08% of that time was spent treating her conditions. “Stop wasting my time,” Jess wrote in one blog entry. “Stop wasting my life.” Jess’s writing was unique, but her attitude wasn’t. Like many patients, Jess felt her providers were delivering very little quality of care when....
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What If Companies Managed People as Carefully as They Manage Money?

Vincent Tsui for HBR Today’s executives spend a lot of time managing the balance sheet, despite the fact that it doesn’t represent their company’s scarcest resource. Financial capital is relatively abundant and cheap. According to Bain’s Macro Trends Group, the global supply of capital stands at nearly 10 times global GDP. As a result of capital superabundancy, global quantitative easing and relatively low demand for investments in R&D and capital projects, the after-tax cost of borrowing for many companies is at or near inflation, making the real cost of borrowing close to zero. In contrast, today’s scarcest resource is your human capital, as measured by the time, talent and energy of your workforce. Time, whether measured by hours in a day or days in a career, is finite. Difference-making tal....
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Having Too Many Options Can Make You a Worse Negotiator

The conventional wisdom about negotiating — whether for a job salary or the price of a house — is that you’re better positioned to get what you want when you have more offers to leverage. For example, the more job offers an MBA graduate has, the better positioned they are to get a good deal with a recruiter. If you’re considering multiple options, your counterpart may feel pressured to make a better offer to keep you at the negotiation table. As our research shows, however, having alternative offers does not always help you. In a series of experiments, we found that walking into a negotiation with multiple offers, rather than a single one, can bias your decisions and lead you to make a lower first offer, hurting your ability to negotiate for the outcome you want. We conducted five studies,....
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How Multinationals Can Adapt to a Political Mood That Doesn’t Care for Them at All

The fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, ushered in a new era of globalization. People, capital, goods, and ideas moved around the world with a freedom not seen since the late 19th century. The economic gains for developing countries have been extraordinary. The percentage of the world’s population living in absolute poverty has fallen from 40% in 1980 to 10% today. China and India now have middle classes numbering in the hundreds of millions. Multinational corporations have been instrumental in this process. To reduce costs, they have shifted production to countries with low-paid workers, thereby increasing demand for their labor and increasing their wages. This has spread advanced production techniques and management practices around the world, dramatically improving productivity. And they have sold their products in countries ....
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Do Doctors Get Worse as They Get Older?

A debate has erupted within medicine over how to ensure that physicians maintain their clinical skills throughout their careers. The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) has long required internists to pass Maintenance of Certification exams every 10 years to keep their board-certified status. However, this policy has recently come under scrutiny due to its high burden to doctors and the lack of sound evidence that recertification processes improve doctors’ quality of care. In response, the ABIM announced it would offer a new assessment option starting in January 2018, allowing doctors to be recertified through shorter, but more frequent, assessments. But it’s not clear that this will make much difference. In fact, it raises a couple of important questions: Are assessments even the most effective way to incentivize doct....
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Giving Seriously Ill Patients More Choices About Their Care

Nearly everyone in health care wants to cut waste and reduce unnecessary costs — until the conversation turns to advanced chronic illness and end-of-life care. Fears about “pulling the plug on granny,” no matter how ill she may be, have slowed progress toward value-based care. As Atul Gawande notes in Being Mortal, “Such talk, however carefully framed, raises the specter of a society readying itself to sacrifice its sick and aged.” A new clinical model based on an advanced illness-management program one of us (Brad) developed at Sutter Health, an integrated system in Northern California, demonstrates how to increase quality while dramatically reducing costs. The solution: Help seriously ill people choose exactly what kind of care they want — and want to avoid. This model doesn’t leave p....
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What I Learned from Transforming the U.S. Military’s Approach to Talent

When Army 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Riley was a senior at the University of Virginia, he ranked 10th out of 5,579 in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) National Order of Merit List. Upon graduation, he was proudly commissioned an Army officer and selected as a Rhodes Scholar to study at Oxford, where he pursued a master’s degree in international relations. That was where the trouble began. In 2015 the Army informed Riley that, because of his time away, he was not being promoted alongside 90% of his peers to the rank of 1st lieutenant and he would soon be facing a board to determine whether he should be separated from the Army altogether. It took the intervention of Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley to save Riley. Today he continues to wear the uniform. 2nd Lieutenant Riley’s background is any employer....
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The Essential To-Do List for New Leaders - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM KELLOGG EXECUTIVE EDUCATION

By Karen Cates, Adjunct Professor at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University If stepping into a new leadership role has you feeling a little nervous, multiply that feeling by ten to estimate the apprehension rippling through your new team. While you may be wondering whether you are up for the challenge, the people anticipating your arrival are wondering, “What’s going to happen to me?” Read more from Kellogg Executive Education: How “Brainwriting” Can Get Better Ideas Out of Your Team What to Do When You Have a Dysfunctional Team Member As you manage first impressions, existential anxiety can be paralyzing to the workforce. So to look like you know what you are doing and to maintain morale and performance as you settle into the big chair, here are three things you should consider doing....
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Before You Agree to Take on New Work, Ask 3 Questions

During the 2009 recession, I took a high-profile job with a marketing agency. On the surface, it looked like a dream opportunity. The clients were big, the pay was excellent, and given the economic climate at the time, I considered myself lucky. No, the work didn’t excite me, but what would people think if I turned it down? I started on a Monday, and every morning that week I felt myself growing more and more uncomfortable. On Friday, while I was sitting in on a four-hour conference call in a windowless meeting room, I couldn’t pretend that I wasn’t miserable. I ended up quitting that day, just 4.25 days after I started and without a plan B — yet I felt instant relief. You should take that job. You should join that board. You should take on that new client. “Shoulds” are the things we do out of obliga....
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How Leaders Can Push Employees Without Stressing Them Out

One of the most interesting findings of a recent HBR article on team chemistry is that the types of people who become leaders within organizations are about 30% less likely than their coworkers to feel stressed out. As the CEO of a small investment firm, I was surprised by the finding, but as I considered my own leadership style and intraoffice relationships, I concluded that the authors were onto something. Plus, a finding from a 20,000-person survey is probably worth paying attention to. First, let me explain why I was skeptical. I do sometimes feel enormous pressure, generally about our firm’s investment performance. Do I really feel calmer than my colleagues? Both my husband and my second-in-command at the office would suggest, only half-jokingly, that I am miraculously unencumbered because I am so skilled at off....
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How to Improve Your Sales Skills, Even If You’re Not a Salesperson

At some point in your career, even if you’re not a salesperson, you’re going to have to sell something — whether it’s your idea, your team, or yourself. So how can you improve your sales skills, especially if you don’t pitch people often? What should you focus on first? And what should you do if you lose a sale? What the Experts Say Selling has a bad rap, says Thomas Steenburgh, professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. “Very few parents say they want their kids to grow up to be a salesperson,” he says. His MBA students are no different. “Many of them tell me that sales is something they never want to do in their careers.” And yet, he says, “Sales is the most fundamental skill.” Scott Edinger, the founder of Edinger Consulting Group and the au....
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Why Is Cybersecurity So Hard?

After nearly 20 years of trying and billions of dollars in investment, why are organizations are still struggling with cybersecurity? In fact, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better. Answering this question requires moving beyond a purely technical examination of cybersecurity. It’s true that the technical challenges are very real; we don’t know how to write bug-free code, for example. But if you look at the challenge more broadly, even if we resolved the technical issues, cybersecurity would remain a hard problem for three reasons: It’s not just a technical problem The rules of cyberspace are different from the physical world’s Cybersecurity law, policy, and practice are not yet fully developed The first reason — that cybersecurity is more than just a technical problem, incorporating ....
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8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track

Despite our best intentions, conversations can frequently veer into difficult territory, producing frustration, resentment, and wasted time and effort. Take David, one of my coaching clients. Recently appointed to a business school leadership role, he was eager to advance his strategic agenda. Doing so required building his team members’ commitment to and sense of ownership over the proposed changes. When people were slow to step up and take on key tasks and roles, David felt frustrated by what he saw as their unwillingness to assume responsibility. For example, when he spoke with Leela, the head of the school’s specialized online master’s degree programs, he shared his plan to increase enrollment in these programs to boost revenue. He believed that the programs could accommodate 20% more students at the same staff....
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