When is “I disagree” helpful?

It’s an interesting time to be talking about the role of dissent in group decision making. After all, how would you feel if one of your fellow group members had denounced your idea(s) as crazy – and in a national newspaper no less, as happened to the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, recently. It’s also interesting given that a number of organisations are looking to improve group decision making through the introduction of tools such as Devil’s Advocacy- the act of having someone in the group deliberately disagree with and challenge the direction of travel, the proposal or the group’s [pending] decision.

There is no doubt that dissent has a vital role to play in group decision making. Research has shown that dissent can trigger the sharing of key information in the group, which might otherwise not emerge (Brodbeck et al., 2002; Schulz-Hardt et al., 2006). This can prompt greater information exchange and processing in the group, and better group decision outcomes. These are all things that sit at the heart of improving group decision making.

But intragroup dissent, that is, dissent within the group, has a cost. Such dissent can trigger what is known as “Affective Conflict”.

Affective Conflict is indicative of personal friction and personality clashes within the group. It’s dysfunctional and focused on personal incompatibilities and disputes (Amason, 1996). And it’s damaging. It has a negative effect on group harmony, so even if the group manages to come together to back one decision, Affective Conflict makes it unlikely the group will work together to support and implement the decision they have – supposedly collectively – taken. It may impact adversely on how – or even if – the group works effectively together in the future. The damage wrought by “Affective Conflict” is iterative and can lead to a downward spiral within the group. This can severely undermine group effectiveness – a costly price to pay for contrived (or even real) dissent.

The question arises how best to balance this. On the one hand, we want dissent within the group – for all the positive reasons cited – but not with all of the negative outcomes. My research is empirically testing an intervention that induces dissent, but engenders a cooperative environment within the group, rather than a competitive – or even – combative one. Group members motivated by competition are more likely to withhold information and even lie about it or distort it (Toma & Butera, 2009). We don’t want that. Conversely, research shows us that when group members are motivated by cooperation, they are more likely to manage and apply information in a way that serves the group’s collective interest, rather than the individual group members’ interests. That includes achieving the group’s overall goal of making the best decision (De Dreu et al., 2008). That is the outcome we do want.

So, “I disagree” can be helpful. Our group decisions are best served by the presence of some dissent, triggering discussion and debate within the group, but that dissent needs to be positive, to achieve “dissent within cooperation” if you like (Toma et al., 2013). The intervention I am developing and testing in my PhD research offers a way to achieve this.

We are living in a world of tough decisions. The toughest decisions require groups to be working at the top of their game to achieve the best outcomes. If you are interested in hearing more about my work, then please contact me at dhn5@kent.ac.uk or via LinkedIn.

By Dawn Nicholson

References

Amason, A. C. (1996). Distinguishing the effects of functional and dysfunctional conflict on strategic decision making: Resolving a paradox for top management teams. Academy Of Management Journal, 39(1), 123-148. doi:10.2307/256633

Brodbeck, F. C., Kerschreiter, R., Mojzisch, A., Frey, D., & Schulz-Hardt, S. (2002). The dissemination of critical, unshared information in decision-making groups: The effects of pre-discussion dissent. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 32(1), 35-56. doi:10.1002/ejsp.74

De Dreu, C. W., Nijstad, B. A., & van Knippenberg, D. (2008). Motivated information processing in group judgment and decision making. Personality And Social Psychology Review, 12(1), 22-49. doi:10.1177/1088868307304092

Schulz-Hardt, S., Brodbeck, F. C., Mojzisch, A., Kerschreiter, R., & Frey, D. (2006). Group decision making in hidden profile situations: Dissent as a facilitator for decision quality. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 91(6), 1080-1093. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.91.6.1080

Toma, C., & Butera, F. (2009). Hidden profiles and concealed information: Strategic information sharing and use in group decision making. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(6), 793-806. doi:10.1177/0146167209333176

Toma, C., Gilles, I., & Butera, F. (2013). Strategic use of preference confirmation in group decision making: The role of competition and dissent. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 52(1), 44-63. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.2011.02037.x

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The Middle: Progressing Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic Talent in the Workplace through Collaborative Action

TheMiddle

Report Launch: Bloomberg, 19th September 2017.  The BBBA research team on stage with Rob Friend, Bloomberg, and David Tyler, Sainsbury’s.

By Fatima Tresh

Group Lab member and PhD student Fatima Tresh works for the Black British Business Awards as a research assistant and has played a key part in producing a new report dedicated to supporting talented ethnic minorities in business.

The Research Team

The report was commissioned by co-founders of the Black British Business Awards Sophie Chandauka and Melanie Eusebe to highlight and addresses the barriers that inhibit the recognition and development of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) middle managers’ potential.  The research lead for the report, Dr Doyin Atewologun, is a lecturer in the School of Business and Management at Queen Mary University of London.  Doyin and Fatima share research interests in leadership, diversity and identity and have provided complementary academic perspectives towards the research and research report.  The research benefitted from a team of academics and practitioners, for maximum impact and practical relevance to industry.  Diane Greenidge, founder and chair of the Network of Networks and Sheekha Rajani, independent diversity and inclusion consultant and senior manager for D&I at PwC, supported the research and report writing process providing advice on how to make the report accessible and user friendly to maximise its use in organisations.

The Research & Report

It was important that this research did not produce another report that was simply acknowledged, read and shelved with delayed intention to act.  For the BBBAs, this research needed to go a step further, it needed to speak to the individuals in business who can turn the dial and make real change in real time.  It also needed to engage the ecosystem, with so many positive contributions, efforts and initiatives, it was imperative that this action research would stimulate a collaborative and cohesive effort towards acknowledging, celebrating and progressing BAME talent on a national level.  As a result, the data collection process was designed to target and reach the key groups of stakeholders in the BAME agenda, from the leaders of the BAME and multicultural networks, heads of Human Resources, diversity and inclusion practitioners and executive sponsors of the networks.  Each stakeholder group plays a key role in moving the agenda forward, and delving into their perceptions and attitudes around ethnic minority talent was key to identifying the issues and how to resolve them.

Participants from 30 significant corporate companies and regulators operating in the UK engaged their employees in our research.  The research team designed a tailored survey for each of the stakeholder groups based on their specific positioning within their organisation.  A focus group with each stakeholder group was run post-survey and cue cards followed the focus group.  The survey set out to collect demographic information and understand the practices, attitudes and positions of the organisations represented in the research in relation to the BAME agenda.  The focus groups were conducted to allow for frank, open and engaged conversations from the specific perspective of each stakeholder role.  In these focus groups, participants discussed the reasons why progress has not been faster, what they see as their role in progressing the agenda and their views of the other stakeholders.  Cue cards allowed for participants to disclose further thoughts anonymously.

One of the most powerful findings was the degree to which these stakeholders, albeit having the same aspirations, were largely disconnected.  While network leads were frustrated that data was not shared with them, D&I practitioners do not want to share data that will not show their organisation in a positive light.  Executive sponsors support setting targets to drive change while HR directors are reluctant to set targets without first changing attitudes.  It was evident that the lack of cohesion, and to some extent conflict, between these influential groups was contributing to the slow progress in advancing BAME talent.

The report highlights the disconnect, but also the harmony, between stakeholder groups in driving the BAME agenda forward.  It provides an insight into the lived experiences of BAME employees and those with the right intentions but are hindered by their lack of control.  What the report does is systematically dissect the issues to report why greater progress has not been made, what the levers for change are and the key responsibilities of stakeholders in implementing these changes.  The report has been commended for being both practically relevant and academically impactful.

The Report Launch

The launch of the report, which was hosted by Bloomberg on 19th September 2017, had 250 delegates in attendance.  David Tyler, chairman of Sainsbury’s, gave a keynote at the event in which he highlighted Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity and the impact of the report in bringing to light the issues and the practical guidelines that it has provided.  Fatima was on the panel for the Q&A session, and members of the audience were invited to ask questions relating to the research.  The research team were asked how to implement the changes they recommended, what advice they would give to a young ethnic minority starting out in their career, why the research focuses on middle management specifically, and whether the emphasis on numbers and statistics was complicating the issues for ethnic minorities.  The session stimulated some interesting discussions that continued into the networking session.

What next?

Fatima, who is supervised by Professor Georgina Randsley de Moura, Dr Madeleine Wyatt and Dr Ana Leite, will continue to work with the Black British Business Awards whose values align with her PhD research exploring and challenging the barriers that prevent fulfilment of minority employees’ leadership potential.  Based on the findings and expertise from her PhD research and the BBBA’s ‘The Middle’ report, Fatima will continue with the BBBA’s research team to support businesses who want to make a positive change towards progressing diverse talent.

The report is available for download via the link: http://www.thebbbawards.com/middle-research/

To follow the conversation on the report launch, use the hashtag #themiddleresearch

To discuss the report or any of the research findings please email Fatima Tresh (ft88@kent.ac.uk)

Posted in Equality, Leadership, Prejudice, Research, Uncategorized, Workplace | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

TURNING THE TIDE – LEADING PEOPLE THROUGH CHANGE

By Georgina Randsley de Moura @GeorginaRdeM

This post is based on a talk I gave on 7th July 2017 at the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (@LF4HE) Leading Change Network

Leadership does not just happen, it develops. To some extent the same is true with change. Both are examples of transition and transformation. The processes underpinning leadership and change are many and detailed but for the purposes of this blog post I focus on three main areas of importance: scope of change, social influence, and seeking critical feedback.

Scope of Change

Leaders must be representative of the group but at the same time there is a clear expectation of improvement and change. My own research considers this juxtaposition that leaders are often in. Leaders are required to represent the group but also to move it on into new and improved positions. We found that future leaders are generally granted more licence by group members to change things and to innovate, and are remunerate more for doing so – an innovation credit (see, Abrams et al. 2008; Randsley de Moura et al. 2010).  Importantly for new leaders this creates a platform to implement change, linked to the initial so called honeymoon period (e.g. Gabarro, 2007).

An “agenda for change”, even demonstrated in recruitment or election processes, can lead to an overambitious sense of the scope of change; there is lots to do, it all needs to get done, and as quickly as possible. However, it is critical to manage the agenda and the scope carefully. Have a clear sense of priorities about what can be dealt with first and quickly; and what needs more data, information, and resources. Doing this successfully is probably one of the most powerful tools in implementing new effective leadership and achieving change.

Social Influence  

 Effective leadership is really the influence of others to achieve a shared vision, goal, or purpose and it is not a singular authority over others (see e.g. Haslam & Platow, 2001; Hogg, 2001; Hogg, van Knippenberg, & Rast, 2012). The key difference between management and leadership is social influence (e.g. Turner, 1991). Social influence can be achieved through being perceived as one of the group – “one of us” (Haslam, Reicher, & Platow, 2010). This is very tricky for leaders who will have many often conflicting or competing demands of management (e.g. direct reports, resources etc.) and leadership – where direct supervision is not required and all are working towards a shared vision or purpose.

To achieve the most efficient balance of management and leadership, it is vital to create a situation where colleagues feel invested, inspired, and do not need to be closely monitored (Reicher, Haslam, & Hopkins, 2005). For example, by making the direction of group clear (e.g. a brief position paper might help), keeping members informed (a good communication strategy is essential), and most decisively – enabling and empowering members to be part of the change (see e.g. Kotter, 1998) and creating a network of influence – i.e. turning the tide.

Seeking Critical Feedback

Once a leadership position is occupied group members behave and interact differently towards the leader. There is a good sense that excellent leadership values the provision of feedback to others. But it is also the case that excellent leaders seek feedback from others. The difficutly is that this feedback can often be inaccurately positive and distorted (Tourish & Robson, 2004). Group members might feel they are not in a position to provide their bosses or leaders feedback, to challenge or to support. Therefore, to facilitate positive change it is critical to upskill and empower colleagues to manage upwards.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ for leading for change. Each leader needs to approach the challenge based on their own limitations and strengths, whilst being mindful of the diversity of others and the broader context in which change occurs. These 3 components are core to me in considering my research on effective leadership, and based on my own reflections on leading for change.

Acknowledgements:

Cindy Vallance for inviting me to talk for the Leadership Foundation, and other delegates at the event for insightful questions, discussions, and talks or presentations.

Abigail Player for assisting in developing this shortened version of some scribbled notes.

References:

Abrams, D., Randsley de Moura, G., Marques, J. M., & Hutchison, P. (2008). Innovation credit: When can leaders oppose their group’s norms? Social Psychology, 95(3), 662-678 http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.95.3.662

Gabarro, J. J. (2007). When a new manager makes charge (HBR classic). Harvard Business Review, 85(1), 1-17.

Haslam, S. A., & Platow, M. J. (2001). The link between leadership and followership: How affirming social identity translates vision into action. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(11), 1469-1479 https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672012711008

Haslam, S. A., Reicher, S. D., & Platow, M. J. (2010). The new psychology of leadership: Identity, influence and power. London & New York: Psychology Press.

Hogg, M. A. (2001). A social identity theory of leadership. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(3), 184-200 https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327957PSPR0503_1

Hogg, M. A., van Knippenberg, D., & Rast III, D. E. (2012) The social identity theory of leadership: Theoretical origins, research findings, and conceptual developments, European Review of Social Psychology, 23(1), 258-304 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10463283.2012.741134

Kotter, J. P. (1998), Winning at change. Leader to Leader, 10, 27–33 https://doi.org/10.1002/ltl.40619981009

Tourish, D. & Robson, P. (2004). Critical upward feedback in organisations: Processes, problems and implications for communication management. Journal of Communication Management, 8(2), 150-167 https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540410807628

Randsley de Moura, G., Abrams, D., Marques, J., & Hutchison, P. (2010). Innovation Credit: When and why do group members give their leaders license to deviate from group norms? In J. Jetten & Hornsey, M. J. (Eds.), Rebels in Groups: Dissent, Deviance, Difference and Defiance. Oxford: Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444390841.ch13

Reicher, S. D., Haslam, S. A., & Hopkins, N. (2005) Social identity and the dynamics of leadership: Leaders and followers as collaborative agents in the transformation of social reality. The Leadership Quarterly, 16, 547-568 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.06.007

Turner, J. C. (1991). Social influence. Michigan: Open University Press.

 

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WOW – Women of the World Festival

 

On Friday 10th March, Group Lab members Abigail Player and Ana Leite attended the Women of World festival in London. This festival takes place every year and “champions gender equality, celebrating the achievements of women and girls everywhere and examining the obstacles that keep them from fulfilling their potential”. Throughout the week a variety of talks took place and leaders from a broad range of fields chaired and participated in panels that led to interesting and dynamic discussions.

One of the panels we attended (“The Great Imposter”) led a very topical discussion on the imposter syndrome. This session was absolutely packed and the general feeling was that everyone in the audience could relate to the topic. The speakers included Jess Philips, MP; Shona Baijal, Managing Director of UBS Wealth Management (UK Domestic); and Vanessa Valley, founder of WeAreTheCity. The discussions focused on how being categorised as a member of particular social groups (based on gender, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, etc.) might increase the chances to experience impostor syndrome. Members of the panel and the audience shared their experiences that often also reflected an aspect that is relatively neglected in explaining the impostor syndrome – the role of context. Particularly, working in an environment that is dominated by some groups (i.e. a woman working in a typically male context) can foster environments in which diversity is still relatively unwelcomed, which can lead to comments that might increase the likelihood of members of some social groups to experience impostor syndrome  (e.g., “you don’t belong here”). For us working from a social identity perspective, this can be taken as more than an intergroup problem, if social categorisation is (at least) somewhat responsible for increasing imposter syndrome that might give us hope for reducing the chances that members from particular groups experience this. Could this mean that strategies such as creating a sense of common identity (see Gaertner, Dovidio, Anastasio, Bachman, & Rust, 1993), strengthening the identification with the organisation, or exposure to counter-stereotypic role models (Leicht, Randsley de Moura, & Crisp, 2014) can help in combating such syndrome? These were our thoughts during the session. Mentorship was a strategy advanced by the members of the panel as likely to break this negative cycle, which leads us to what we thought was the highlight of the afternoon – the speed mentoring session.

Around 300 mentees joined the speed mentoring session. Each of the mentees were asked to prepare for the conversations in advance by thinking of the problems/ challenges/ issues that we would like to discuss with the mentors and of the options that we were considering to tackle these. We were randomly paired with the mentors and had 15 minutes to discuss anything we would like with them. Mentors had many different backgrounds and ranged from journalists, to publishers, to coaches. The experience was definitely unique and we were impressed with how much we gained from these interactions. The idea that role modelling should be understood as “one size fits all” was subject to recent empirical research (Morgenroth, Ryan, & Peters, 2015) but these sessions made the importance of finding role models with whom we can identify with all the more salient. Above all it was a unique opportunity to network with powerful and inspiring women and learn something from each of them.

As for our general impression of the festival, we were really impressed and cannot wait for the next edition!

By Dr Ana Leite (@anacastroleite) and Dr Abigail Player (@AbiPlayer)

References

Gaertner, S. L., Dovidio, J. F., Anastasio, P. A., Bachman, B. A., & Rust, M. C. (1993). The common ingroup identity model: Recategorization and the reduction of intergroup bias. European Review of Social Psychology, 4, 1-26. doi: 10.1080/14792779343000004

Leicht, C., Randsley de Moura, G., & Crisp, R. J. (2014). Contesting gender stereotypes stimulates generalized fairness in the selection of leaders. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(5), 1025–1039. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2014.05.001

Morgenroth T., Ryan, M. K., & Peters, K. (2015). The motivational theory of role modeling: How role models influence role aspirants’ goals. Review of General Psychology, 19(4), 465-483. doi: 10.1037/gpr0000059

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Gender Equality: What difficulties do fathers face when they take parental leave?

By Christie Marsh

In April 2015, David Cameron introduced the shared parental leave legislation (Campbell-Barr, 2015) which was designed to increase fathers’ participation in the household and enable women to continue to work after the birth of a child (Department for Business Innovation & Skills, 2013). This policy enables couples to distribute their parental leave between themselves, and gives fathers more opportunity to take longer paternity leave. This policy is similar to the legislation that was already being used in other EU countries, however, these countries have not been experiencing equal distribution of parental leave between the mother and the father (Duvander & Johansson, 2012). Why is this? Do fathers just not want to take equal leave or are societal expectations of fathers playing a role? To understand this further, I have run some studies to understand whether fathers were choosing not to take longer parental leave due to the constraints of societal expectations and whether fathers do actually face social and organizational constraints if they decide to take longer parental leave.

Gender equality is an important topic in the current decade, whether you are a man or woman our behavior, and expectations upon it, does seem to be constrained by gender. Research in organizational psychology has shown that women face poorer promotional opportunities compared to men (e.g. Eagly & Karau, 2002; Phelan, Moss-Racusin & Rudman, 2008;Rudman & Glick, 2001), and when women do achieve leadership roles they are more likely to be put in precarious leadership positions (Ryan & Haslam, 2005). In comparison, there is not a lot of research on when men may face poorer organizational opportunities as a result of their caring responsibilities. Some research has shown that fathers face discrimination and feminisation due to adoption of flexible working schedules to accommodate the care of their children (e.g. Berdahl & Moon, 2013; Vandello, Hettinger, Bosson & Siddiqi, 2013). That work suggests that it is equally important to investigate how and when fathers experience workplace penalties and poorer promotional opportunities.

Over the summer, I worked with Dr Georgina Randsley de Moura and Dr Carola Leicht as part of the BPS undergraduate research assistantship scheme on a funded project investigating workplace opportunities of male parental leave users. We were interested in investigating whether length of parental leave affects perceptions and promotional opportunities of male job candidates. Therefore, we conducted a study where we asked participants to rate three candidates on a number of traits and behaviours before asking them to choose one of the candidates for a promotion. The only difference between the candidates was the length of parental leave they had taken previously, one candidate took 4 months, another candidate took 4 weeks and the last candidate took no parental leave. Our results suggest that fathers who took longer parental leave of 4 months were perceived as being less committed to their work and they also had a significantly lower chance of being chosen for the promotion. I am now following this up in my final year project research.

The implications of these results are that men face poorer organisational opportunities when they adopt the counter-stereotypic role of father. This suggests that when men do make use of their new rights to take longer leave, they may then face the problem of being less likely to be chosen for a promotion when they return to work. Therefore, would the new shared parental leave policy achieve the ideal of increasing men’s involvement in the household and women’s involvement in the workplace? Or will men be more likely to avoid taking the longer parental leave because they don’t want to be considered less committed to work? This is something that needs to be further investigated but the results of this study are an important starting point because we have shown that when males adopt a caregiving role then they are likely to suffer from violating societal expectations. Additionally, this research project highlights that both men and women are constrained by societal expectations in terms of the roles that are deemed appropriate for both genders to hold. A few weeks ago, Alice Eagly visited us to give a research talk, and Role Congruity Theory (Eagly & Karau, 2002) clearly has a role to play in these issues. In addition, exposure to counterstereotypes can lead to flexible thinking about groups and leaders (e.g. Crisp & Turner, 2011; Leicht, Randsley de Moura & Crisp, 2014). Taken together, I feel sure that this shows that in order to further gender equality we should enable women and men to “break the gender rules”.

  

References

Berdahl, J. L., & Moon, S. H. (2013). Workplace mistreatment of middle class workers based on sex, parenthood, and caregiving. Journal Of Social Issues, 69(2), 341-366. doi:10.1111/josi.12018

Campbell-Barr, E. (2015, April 11). Shared parental leave: ‘nightmare’ new rules, or the first baby steps to equality. The Guardian. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/apr/11/shared-parental-leave-rules-equality

Crisp, R. J., & Turner, R. N. (2011). Cognitive Adaptation to the Experience of Social and Cultural Diversity. Psychological Bulletin, 137(2), 242-266. doi:10.1037/a0021840

Department for Business Innovation & Skills., (2013). Modern Workplaces: Shared Parental Leave and Pay Administration Consultation – Impact Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/110692/13-651-modern-workplaces-shared-parental-leave-and-pay-impact-assessment2.pdf

Duvander, A., & Johansson, M. (2012). What are the effects of reforms promoting fathers’ parental leave use?. Journal Of European Social Policy, 22(3), 319-330. doi:10.1177/0958928712440201

Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. J. (2002). Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders. Psychological Review, 109(3), 573. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.109.3.573

Leicht, C., Randsley de Moura, G., & Crisp, R. (2014). Contesting gender stereotypes stimulates generalized fairness in the selection of leaders. Leadership Quarterly, 25, 1025-1039. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2014.05.001

Phelan, J. E., Moss-Racusin, C. A., & Rudman, L. A. (2008). Competent yet out in the cold: Shifting criteria for hiring reflect backlash toward agentic women. Psychology Of Women Quarterly, 32(4), 406-413. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00454.x

Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2001). Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes and Backlash Toward Agentic Women. Journal Of Social Issues, 57(4), 743. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/ehost/detail/detail?vid=51&sid=0f480486-25d2-4a71-aa56-f235273b89e7%40sessionmgr4004&hid=4207&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=5487088&db=a9h

Ryan, M. K., & Haslam, S. A. (2005). The glass cliff: Evidence that women are over‐represented in precarious leadership positions. British Journal of management, 16(2), 81-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2005.00433.x

Vandello, J. A., Hettinger, V. E., Bosson, J. K., & Siddiqi, J. (2013). When equal isn’t really equal: The masculine dilemma of seeking work flexibility. Journal Of Social Issues, 69(2), 303-321. doi:10.1111/josi.12016

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Ageism contributes to the ‘failing’ of the UK’s ageing population in health and social care, Dr. Hannah Swift @hanaswift

Current and former Group Lab researchers, Dr. Hannah Swift, Professor Dominic Abrams, Dr. Ruth Lamont and Lisbeth Drury contribute to a report published by the BMA entitled “Growing older in the UK”, which highlights the ways in which the UK’s health and social care system is failing older patients.

The report which comprises of six briefing papers authored by external experts from a range of disciplines calls for more to be done to support and improve people’s health and wellbeing as they grow older in the UK, including action to tackle the social isolation and maximise the participation of older people.

Group Lab’s contribution explores the implications of (negative) perceptions of age and age discrimination for health and social care. Unfortunately, many age stereotypes are synonymous with ideas of declining health, wellbeing and cognitive abilities. The brief reviews a growing body of literature that reveals that people with more negative perceptions of ageing tend to engage less in preventative health behaviours such as eating a balanced diet, are less physically active, are less likely to abstain from use of substances such as alcohol and tobacco, and are less likely to seek medical advice or health care. They also have worse functional health in later years, are slower to recover from diseases (e.g. heart attack) and ultimately more likely die younger.

The brief also explores the ways in which ageism manifests in healthcare settings, such as via the denial of treatment, dehumanizing attitudes and behaviours (i.e. denial of humanness traits to others) and in the patronizing language and interactions between care providers and service users.

The brief outlines 3 important key messages:

  1. Perceptions of ageing can subject older people to patronising forms of prejudice, which may be expressed in the language and tone used to communicate with older patients, the settings in which they are placed and the framing of treatment options.
  2. Health care professionals and organisations should be aware that older individuals are potentially vulnerable to age prejudice and stereotyping processes.
  3. Healthcare could benefit from much more deliberative questioning of age-based assumptions and of how attitudes interact with policies, structures and practice.

The authors will be attending a parliamentary meeting on 2nd November to discuss the implication of the reports’ findings for the future of health and social care in the UK.

Posted in Ageism, Prejudice, Research, Social Psychology | Leave a comment

University of Kent Research Shows UK Evidence Still Lacking on How Prejudice Links to Discrimination.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently published a major new evidence review undertaken by GroupLab’s, Prof. Dominic Abrams, Dr Hannah Swift and Lynsey Mahmood on Prejudice and Unlawful Behaviour. The evidence review revealed that there are important limits and gaps in UK evidence about how prejudiced attitudes lead to unlawful and discriminatory behaviours, and interventions to tackle these problems1.

The EHRC was established under the Equality Act 2006 to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination, to promote equality and to protect human rights. Under this remit the research was commissioned to better understand the connection between prejudice and different types of unlawful, discriminatory or inappropriate behaviour, across nine legally ‘protected characteristics’ (gender, age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy & maternity, marriage & civil partnership). The 214 page report reviewed 228 pieces of evidence from the UK, published between 2005-2015. The review revealed three key insights and identified significant limitations on what the evidence tells us about the link between prejudice and discrimination, these are:

  • The volume of evidence varied substantially across protected characteristics
  • The type, quality and consistency of measurement of prejudice and discrimination has been very variable both between studies and over time.
  • There are only a few well evidenced and evaluated interventions that have demonstrable impact on prejudice and discrimination.

The other key findings can be found in the 8 page executive summary here.

Scope and Volume of Evidence

Strikingly little robust evidence directly explored how prejudiced attitudes can lead to discriminatory or unlawful behaviours. Most of the research either captured people’s attitudes or their experiences separately, explored the link indirectly, using proxy measures for behaviour (e.g. measuring behavioural intentions as opposed to direct measures of actual behaviour) or inferred the link, for example by assuming that the presence of discrimination implied an underlying prejudice.

The volume of evidence also varied widely for different protected characteristics. The figure below shows the number of evidence items for each protected characteristic. There is also substantial variation in both the volume of research and the balance of where research was reported. For example, evidence for age was predominantly to be found in the grey literature rather than academic papers, suggesting a lack of alignment between academic and policy/government focus in this area. Much more evidence was available for sexual orientation than for other protected characteristics.

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Figure 1. The volume of literature across protected characteristics in GB published between 2005 and 2015

Evidence from surveys was similarly uneven on the prevalence of people’s personal experiences of discrimination against themselves. Fifty two surveys had investigated people’s experiences of sexual orientation discrimination, however, only 4 specifically focused on pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

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Figure 2. Number of surveys in which experiences of discrimination for each protected characteristic are covered by at least one item in GB published between 2005 and 2015

Measurement

The review highlights that the extent and prevalence of discrimination could be established more clearly if there was greater consistency between measures, especially in large national surveys. Different approaches are used by one-off studies, regular national surveys, and data routinely collected by the police. Consequently, it is difficult to directly compare differences or trends in prejudiced attitudes and experiences of discrimination. The figure below shows the number of data sources which used any of five different types of measurement to capture discrimination and hate crime across England/Wales, and Scotland. Most surveys use binary (e.g. yes/no) measures, which are not sensitive to more nuanced information about different attitudes and experiences.

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Figure 3. Types of measures exploring discrimination per protected characteristic

The way in which questions are asked produces great variability in the estimates of prejudice and discrimination captured. For example, some surveys first ask participants whether they have experienced discrimination, then ask which protected characteristic it was based on and (sometimes) why. This is problematic since it requires participants to first identify a non-specific instance of discrimination (which may be difficult in the abstract) and then to consider a particular identity that it can be attributed to (which may be a post-hoc rationalisation).

Interventions

Although there are a great many schemes and projects to tackle prejudice, the review revealed only a small number of interventions that had been comprehensively tested and evaluated. More research needs to be done to fully understand ‘what works’ to reduce prejudice and discrimination across the protected characteristics. However, some promising approaches did emerge from the evidence, including Kiva’s work on tackling bullying in schools, Time for Change’s work to address stigma around mental health, educating on diversity and difference, and encouraging contact between different groups in society. These initiatives often address a particular problem or target a particular group, but may have the potential for application across a variety of situations and with different groups. For example, transferring what we know about interventions in schools to the workplace or other institutions. Other very promising interventions adopt a more general approach, such as the work of the Anne Frank Trust on building adolescents’ understanding of the nature of prejudice, or People United’s work on strengthening cross-group prosociality.

Recommendations

Because of the complexities in understanding, measuring and tackling prejudice, discrimination and hate crime, it is important to devote time to developing, testing and establishing effective and robust measurement and evaluation. This will help to ensure that research evidence is comparable over time and that policy makers and practitioners have access to effective tools.

The review identifies a series of new challenges for the research community and policy makers who wish to better understand change in prejudice and discrimination over time, and the connections between prejudiced attitudes and unlawful behaviours. Four central recommendations are:

  • There is a need for sustained, high quality measurement in surveys that allows changes to be tracked over time and across protected characteristics, and to better inform policy strategies.
  • Expressions of prejudice and experiences of discrimination need to be measured across the population to allow comparisons between protected characteristics and across Great Britain. A greater focus on perpetrator perspectives and whether/how these align with victim experiences would also shed more light on the link between attitudes and behaviours.
  • To yield better evidence for understanding and preventing prejudice and discrimination there is need for a framework that allows systematic assessment of evidence across different interventions. This should incorporate: a quality threshold to improve the robustness of evaluations assessing interventions; consideration of whether interventions should be focussed on perpetrators, victims or both; and rigorous assessment of interventions in one setting before applying them to others to allow for scalable interventions to be developed.
  • Insight to whether particular interventions are context specific or whether interventions that take a more general approach could be applied across protected characteristics. There is good evidence that a general approach applied in educational settings to challenge prejudice could be effective but such approaches should be tested further.

The main report and executive summary can be found here.

The hate crime report can be accessed here.

More information about:

Anne Frank Trust

KiVa

People United

Time To Change

  1. To accompany this work Dr Mark Walters and Prof. Rupert Brown at the University of Sussex, were asked to write a report on the causes and motivations specifically associated with hate crime. Their report extends the discussion around hate crimes towards people who share the protected characteristics that fall under current legislation, and is designed to inform criminal justice agencies in their approach and use of preventative measures.
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