Ok, so you are like 100% of the Talent professionals in the word meaning that at some point this week a ‘performance’ problem hit your desk. Someone is not getting the job done, someone is failing to communicate, someone can’t play nicely with others, pick your poison. And despite your desire and efforts to spend this Friday concentrating on your Fantasy Football lineup, you are once again on the line to figure out how to get people, ostensibly rational adults to simply do better.
Well, I am not sure I know how to help you with all that, but in case you feel like you are out of ideas and are willing to try just about anything to get better performance out of your team members I can offer to you this:
Catch this scientific-sounding conclusion from a recent article on the possibly-shady-I-won’t-vouch-for-it-and-I-am-really-not-sure-how-I-stumbled-upon-it site Livescience.com titled ‘Guys Get Performance Boost From Sexist Stereotype’, (and no, it isn’t the kind of performance boost you are thinking of, get your mind out of the gutter) -
Reminding a guy of the stereotype that men are better at navigating than women can boost his course-plotting skills, according to new research that suggests even when a stereotype has no basis in truth, it can still influence performance.
Studies have found that while men are better than women, on average, at using geometric cues to navigate, the genders are equally good wayfinders when using landmarks. The “men are better navigators” stereotype made men better at both.
“Even when no actual gender differences exist (landmark task), this general stereotype can improve performance,” study researcher Harriet Rosenthal of Durham University in England told LiveScience in an email.
Wait, what? Simply reminding people of the existence of a performance related stereotype, even if the stereotype is not even true, will lead to better actual demonstrated performance, or the so-termed ‘stereotype lift?’ That’s awesome, even if it is simultaneously a little off-putting.
How might you be able to leverage this new, ahem, scientific information to solve some of your team’s pesky performance problems?
Here are just a few examples:
1. All nerdy-looking guys are good with
computers.A no-brainer. Nerds are easy to spot and you always are having some problems with technology. Remind the resident nerd needing a boost of their status as a tech wizard, and you should have all your issues with their performance (and your PC) resolved in no time.
2. All recent college grads can work the social media channels. Millennials = social media savvy = win for you. Need some help on the social channels? Get one of the kids on it. You are too important to be futzing about on Twitter anyway. Yep, a simple reminder of how sharp and with it your latest new hire is with the interwebz and the next thing you know your next recruiting video will be as hot as Gangnam Style.
3. Tall, athletic-looking guys are into sports. Need a ringer for the office softball team? Have to fill out that fantasy football league that you know you are worried about? Simple – find the tallest, good-lookingest dude nearby and remind him how fantastic he would be in right field, since you know, all you guys like sports.
The opportunities are limitless. All you really need to remember is whenever you encounter a situation where someone is not living up to their gender, body size, ethnic, racial, educational, age or other assumed and stereotypical performance standards, just reminding them of the existence of those stereotypes should fix your problems.
Of course this angle can’t be all roses and pie, there can be a downside to playing off the stereotype game, again from the Livescience piece:
However, being reminded of a negative stereotype — say, girls are bad at math — can make the stereotyped group choke under pressure, a process called stereotype threat.
Well, that’s a bummer, I guess you have to take the good with the bad. But really the better point to take from all this I think is that sometimes people just need a little reminder, not about the existence of a given stereotype, but rather that they usually possess the necessary qualities to succeed, and that you have confidence and can provide support to get them back on track, particularly if they have been successful in the past.
Now excuse me, I need to take off. I have to remind a certain older relative of mine that everyone like her is a great cook and all they truly live for is to see their families overeat delicious home-cooked meals.