Feb 21, 2013

Men And Women Interview Differently

Published on January 9, 2013

Link to 'The Hindu - Opportunities' -

Hiring managers conduct interviews in the same manner across the board so as to effectively assess candidates and find the best man or woman for the job. But relying on the same criteria turns out quite skewed as what interviewers fail to realise is that men and women tend to interview quite differently. Considering that organisations today genuinely want a diverse workplace and strive to hire more women who still form a minority in the workforce, they need to urgently recognise the gender differences in interviewing behaviour. Apart from variations in men and women in terms of self-projection, hiring managers should also overcome their own subconscious gender biases. Only then can they have truly diverse teams that amalgamate the varied strengths and viewpoints of both the sexes.
Where the differences lie
Men generally tend to play up their strengths and proficiencies, placing the accent on what they can do! They are supremely confident of their achievements and may even oversell themselves in a bid to engender a positive view in the minds of the interviewers. They are more likely to make assertive statements to impress and almost feel entitled to the job they are interviewing for. On the other hand, anything that is negative or even skills that a male interviewee may lack are casually pushed under the carpet. Sometimes even to the extent of making them seem insignificant to the job in question!
In sharp contrast, women job applicants are more modest and tend to downplay their capabilities and skills. Many are even embarrassed to talk about their accomplishments. In addition to the reticence, they also undervalue what they have done and undersell what they can do! It’s not to say that women are shrinking violets, just more inhibited and cautious.
What is most unfortunate is that many women are more inclined to focus on their weaknesses or the skills that they lack for the job which gravely influences their image. They easily get defensive and take pains to justify the negatives. And all the explanations only further multiply their deficiencies in the eyes of the interviewers.
Stereotyping at play
Another angle enters the fray. Women interviewees are often expected to be bashful and circumspect. Therefore, confident women who unhesitatingly portray themselves as assertive, capable and ambitious have to bear the brunt of this subconscious gender bias. They are unfairly marked as over-aggressive, belligerent and ruthless.
Conducting fair interviews
Hiring managers should realise that men are naturally good at self-promotion which may make them appear as a better job candidate vis-à-vis a female one. Conversely, just because a woman may hesitate to boast about her skills and achievements do not necessarily mean that she is not good for the job.
In order to establish more women-friendly and fair hiring practices, interviewers need to encourage female candidates to speak about themselves and their accomplishments. They should try to draw them out and persuade them to openly express what they can do. Only then will the final employment decisions be fair and just.
Then again, interviewers must also recognise the inherent stereotypes that subconsciously influence how they analyse the responses of male and female job candidates. They have to make conscious attempts to recognise the differences in acceptable behaviour based on gender. Overcoming these social biases will lead to non-discriminatory evaluations during employment interviews and ultimately better employee selection decisions.
Hiring managers may genuinely believe that they are being fair in their analysis and evaluations. But the best way to ensure that things are going right is to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Feedback surveys will help fill this gap and implementing the responses will stimulate judicious hiring decisions.
Payal Chanania

Equip Students with Emotional Intelligence

Published on August 22, 2012

Most educational institutions excel at developing the intellectual skills of students and prepare them for academic success. Teachers too concentrate on nurturing the young minds in the best way possible – but what about their heart, spirit and emotions?
Pause and think – isn’t today’s generation marked by strong feelings of anger, frustration, agony, confusion and distress? Aren’t respect, compassion, patience, perseverance, hard work and sincerity conspicuous by their absence?
Ms. Amritha V, Faculty in Soft Skills, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, Kerala substantiates, “The intolerance of students towards failure and rejection owes its origin to fast paced technology, momentary excitement from social networking sites and high demand from peers and family to be successful. The emotions are channelised only into the path of success, without any expectations of fallbacks.
We are moulding a generation of impatient student community. They don’t know what to do with their emotions and feelings, whether to express them or to bury them or just how to manage them.”
The impulsive emotions themselves make them feel threatened and overwhelmed and they manifest these by yelling, bullying, inability to accept rejection or failure, unwillingness to take risks and a predilection for safe ways of doing things. As a result, they are ill-equipped to face future challenges. All this is because they lack control on their feelings or what is known as Emotional Intelligence. As Dr. G. Srilatha, Senior English lecturer, P. B. Siddhartha College, Vijayawada opines, “Today, our youngsters lack emotional intelligence balance as they are carried away by whims and fancies wherein they give more importance to pleasure than values”.
Mrs. Neha Singhal, teacher, DLF School agrees, “70% of the students are not emotionally intelligent these days as they get upset with small things very soon, they are falling short of this maybe because they are running after money more than their dreams of becoming something. They just need easy money.”
Needless to say, students today face undue stress which can wreak permanent damage as well as fuel a self-destructive system of human society. So, can we still afford to ignore the importance of cultivating emotional intelligence in the children?
And there lies the difference!
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognise one’s own moods and behaviours, control them and as a social being, be attuned to others’ feelings as well.
Having control on one’s emotions helps in more ways than we can imagine. It improves brain functioning with better concentration, attention span and ability to learn that translates into higher scores and thus academic achievement.
More importantly, it inculcates character building – confidence, responsibility, self-control, resilience, dedication, determination, tolerance, flexibility, honesty, positive attitude, sense of purpose, dealing with stress and so on.
As Mrs. Meenal Arora, Executive Director, Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools points out, “Emotional intelligence affects a student’s ability to perform under pressure and also affects the achievement rate. It instils good values, positive attitudes and the ability to judge between right and wrong. It also enables a student to have a clear aim and goal which makes it possible to choose the right career.”
The emotional wherewithal also forms the building blocks of social competence that not just helps in making friends but also reduces aggression and violence and inculcates cooperation and communication skills, thus enabling them to skilfully navigate the interpersonal relationship waters. Obviously, this enhances career prospects and prepares students for the workplace.
The overall development translates into a happy, fulfilling and successful life with strong physical health in tow as they are well-equipped to effectively deal with the demands and pressures of daily living.
As acclaimed psychologist and researcher John Gottman sums up, “Once they master this important life skill, emotionally intelligent children will enjoy increased self-confidence, greater physical health, better performance in school and healthier social relationships!”
The what and how of emotional learning
After parents, teachers are in an unenviable position to positively affect the development of a generation of emotionally healthy adults. Yet, emotional learning is not happening consistently as both parents and schools concentrate solely on academic results, totally ignoring the vital social-emotional quotient.
Little wonder that today’s students are overstimulated and lack the crucial inner balance. They are at a loss as to how to express themselves, let alone control the overpowering emotions or even empathise with others.
At this critical juncture, schools should broaden their narrow vision of education by integrating emotional competencies as a fundamental component of their culture, pedagogy and curriculums. Educators too need to learn to value the emotional well-being of their students and incorporate emotional learning in the classroom.
This is not as easy as saying, ‘Be kind’ or ‘Be respectful’. Teachers have to first be aware of the students’ emotions and help them understand what they are feeling. Always try to calm them down first and encourage them to talk through the emotions.
Listen empathetically and validate the intense feelings by labelling them as love, fear, anger, disappointment, excitement, humiliation, etc. so that they feel supported and comfortable.
For this, teachers have to be understanding, patient, empathetic and able to guide them in right direction. Mrs. Meenal Arora concurs, “A teacher should work on the emotional intelligence of their students by being sympathetic, kind and firm but not strict. Teachers should exhibit emotional intelligence in themselves and develop an empathetic attitude to analyse and assess the Emotional Quotient of their students.”
Once the self-awareness and acceptance sets in, use the emotional expressions as opportunities to teach them to control their impulses and react properly.
Merely saying that their reactions are inappropriate or excessive will only make them feel as if they should suppress them. Instead, model more constructive ways to express their feelings.
You may help them to come up with appropriate ways to solve a problem or deal with an upsetting issue.
Use stories, role plays and audio-visuals, practice techniques to relax, pay attention and incorporate moments of reflection.
Even Dr. G. Srilatha offers, “Emotional intelligence of a student can be improved by creating healthy learning environment, constructive thinking and by providing an opportunity to solve problems and foster leadership qualities.”
This will enable students to rise above self-doubt or impulsiveness and take responsibility for their emotions. Self-discipline and motivation to control emotions, responding not reacting, making responsible decisions and developing positive behaviour set in slowly.
In respectful, safe and challenging climate, teach students to tune into others feelings and accept them. As Mr. R Sreenivasan, Director, IWSB points out, “We need to find ways of making the learning process interactive and collaborative.
The dialogues and arguments that would emerge out of such a process will lay emphasis on every learner to prepare more thoroughly, take stance, hear others’ viewpoints, and appreciate and accept counter-arguments, be more open to accommodating and learning. Exposing children right from the school age onwards to things beyond the books, encouraging them to take interest and participate in activities beyond, is the key.”
Group discussions and team work can be helpful. This will teach them how to manage relationships, negotiate, solve problems and resolve conflicts peacefully.
Ms. Amritha goes a step further and says, “Every educational institution should have counsellors and soft skill trainers who can help students to mend their minds to respond and not to react.”
This kind of holistic development is needed for harnessing and controlling reactions to situations and developing caring, trusting and respectful relationships.
Payal Chanania

The Power Of Doing The Right Thing

Published on August 22, 2012

Everyone makes mistakes – but what happens when the blunder is committed by a big organisation? An advertisement that hurts the sentiments of a section of people or worse, a serious product defect, major manufacturing problem, health hazard or lethal defect discovered after a product is launched in the market.
A wave of panic is bound to ensue, aided many a time by unyielding and adverse media coverage. And how does the organisation react in the eye of the storm? Some run for cover, others stay mum while most of the others persistently absolve themselves of all responsibility.
The guilty organisation may present an obstinate front – spin stories, make excuses, deny all allegations, make counter-allegations to cover the bad news, downplay the severity, unflinchingly withstand public wrath – but reputation and credibility are definitely at stake as public rancour will not let them live it down.
Amidst this frenzy, how many organisations actually take the tough road and accept responsibility for their fault without bothering about the dire consequences? How many would do the right thing and undertake corrective measures despite financial repercussions? In other words, how many would uphold personal integrity over and above common expediency?
Johnson and Johnson took the ethical route in 1982 after a batch of its top-selling product Tylenol was tampered with and turned lethal.
The instant responsible behaviour of recalling $100 million worth of products, launching public awareness campaigns and complete transparency with the public is considered the gold standard of the right thing to do!
Owning up faults may seem like a no-brainer that will only make matters worse by damaging reputation and eroding profits. However, the initial denials and cover ups followed by forced acknowledgment of the error only cements the view that the organisational priority is to cover its back and not safeguard people.
Step in the right direction
The alternative to this narrow-minded, short-term view is abiding by ethical standards and doing the right thing. This is definitely tough, challenging, complicated and very expensive as well. It may involve decisions like recalling products, revamping production lines or even simply taking responsibility. It may seem better to cover up and fool people to ride out the wave. In contrast, it takes a lot of courage to make the right decision and face the odds.
So, when things go wrong and there is a looming crisis, ask yourself, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and follow the gut feel booming in your heart. Or, simply put, when in doubt, just do the right thing!
There isn’t much choice either. As Bob Grupp, President of the Institute for Public Relations, an industry-funded think tank points out, “These are uncomfortable situations to be in. But in today’s 24/7 society, you have to step up and acknowledge your reality very quickly!”
You should move quickly to act responsibly, acknowledge the fault and prepare to bear the brunt - the sooner the better - even while you go about investigating the problem and setting things right. Make all attempts to allay the fears of customers and employees as well. Ben Allen, CEO, Kroll Inc., the world's biggest risk-consulting firm always advises clients, “Be clear, be honest and say what you don't know.”
Taking the issue head-on will definitely pay off in the future. Once the furore dies down, the public and workforce will – albeit slowly – be quite forgiving as they start appreciating the quick action, candour, sincere intent and transparency. The organisation will soon bounce back with not just restored but markedly improved company image, goodwill, trust and confidence.
For instance, a top confectionery brand put up a brave front and decided to do the right thing when worms were discovered in its chocolate bars, and it lived to tell the tale with sustained value and customer trust in its pocket.
After all, doing the right thing everywhere, every time reflects an increasingly rare integrity and strength of character. Modelling ethical behaviour also builds integrity into the DNA of the organisation with employees inherently wanting to just ‘do right’.
The organisation can take pride in always putting consumers/employees first and thus build great companies the ‘right way’!
To sum up in Peter Drucker’s words, “You can make many mistakes which will be forgiven by others inside and customers and the government outside of your organisation - but not a lack of integrity!”