First Look

First Look summarizes new working papers, case studies, and publications produced by Harvard Business School faculty. Readers receive early knowledge of cutting-edge ideas before they enter the mainstream of business practice. For complete details on faculty research, see our Working Papers section.

September 18

Power posing to get a job

Previous research by Amy Cuddy and colleagues introduced the concept of "power posing," the idea that certain expansive poses trigger changes in body chemistry that boost confidence and increase willingness to take risks. In a new paper, The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation," Cuddy, Caroline A. Wilmuth, and Dana R. Carney test to see if practicing power posing can lead to better performance in a job interview. The short answer: "You're hired!"

Improving new-employee orientation

At many firms, a new employee's orientation activities are largely monopolized by opportunities to listen and learn about the company's policies, practices, and values. But new research suggests that employers should spend more time encouraging the new hires to talk about themselves—their "best selves"—by asking questions such as, What three words best describe you as an individual? "Organizations that successfully channel this desire before employees become calcified by traditional socialization assumptions should realize greater commitment and higher quality work," write coauthors Dan M. Cable, Francesca Gino, and Brad Staats. Read the working paper, Breaking Them In or Revealing Their Best? Reframing Socialization Around Newcomer Self-Expression.

Local governments accelerate use of environmental standards

Surprisingly little research has been conducted on how government procurement requirements do or don't spur adoption of new technologies in the private sector. According to Timothy Simcoe and Michael W. Toffel, municipal policies requiring private-sector developers to use green LEED energy and design standards have had a spillover effect. "We find that the LEED standard diffuses nearly twice as quickly among private-sector developers in municipalities that adopt government-oriented green building procurement policies, when compared to a matched control sample of cities of similar size, demographics, and environmental preferences…. We also show that the impact of these green building procurement policies does not stop at the city line." See their paper, Public Procurement and the Private Supply of Green Buildings.

 

Publications

Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed and How We Can Stick to the Plan

Abstract

You may not realize it but simple, irrelevant factors can have profound consequences on your decisions and behavior, often diverting you from your original plans and desires. Sidetracked will help you identify and avoid these influences so the decisions you make do stick-and you finally reach your intended goals. In this book, I explore inconsistent decisions played out in a wide range of circumstances-from our roles as consumers and employees (what we buy, how we manage others) to the choices that we make more broadly as human beings (who we date, how we deal with friendships). From my research, we see when a mismatch is most likely to occur between what we want and what we end up doing. What factors are likely to sway our decisions in directions we did not initially consider? And what can we do to correct for the subtle influences that derail our decisions? The answers to these and similar questions will help you negotiate similar factors when faced with them in the real world.

 

Working Papers

Breaking Them In or Revealing Their Best? Reframing Socialization Around Newcomer Self-Expression

Abstract

Socialization theory has focused on enculturating new employees such that they develop pride in their new organization and internalize its values. Drawing on authenticity research, we propose that the initial stage of socialization leads to more effective employment relationships when it starts with newcomers expressing their personal identities. In a field experiment carried out in a large business process outsourcing company, we found that initial socialization focused on personal identity (emphasizing newcomers' authentic best selves) led to greater customer satisfaction and employee retention after six months, compared to (a) socialization that focused on organizational identity (emphasizing pride from organizational affiliation) and (b) the organization's traditional approach, which focused primarily on skills training. To confirm causation and explore the mechanisms underlying the effects, we replicated the results in a laboratory experiment. We found that individuals working temporarily as part of a research team were more engaged and satisfied with their work, performed their tasks more effectively, and were also more likely to return to work when initial socialization focused on personal rather than either organizational identity or a control condition. In addition, authentic self-expression mediated these relationships. We call for a new direction in socialization theory examining how both organizations and employees benefit by emphasizing newcomers' authentic best selves.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/12-067.pdf

The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation

Abstract

The current experiment tested whether changing one's nonverbal behavior prior to a high-stakes social evaluation could improve performance in the evaluated task. Participants adopted expansive, open (high-power) poses, or contractive, closed (low-power) poses, and then prepared and delivered a speech to two evaluators as part of a mock job interview, a prototypical social evaluation. All speeches were videotaped and coded for overall performance, hireability, and the potential mediators of speech quality (e.g., content, structure) and presentation quality (e.g., captivating, confident). As predicted, high-power posers performed better and were more likely to be chosen for hire, and this relationship was mediated only by presentation quality, not speech quality. Power-pose condition had no effect on body posture during the social evaluation, thus highlighting the relationship between preparatory nonverbal behavior and subsequent performance.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/13-027.pdf

Self-Serving Altruism? When Unethical Actions That Benefit Others Do Not Trigger Guilt

Abstract

In three experiments, we examine whether individuals cheat more when other individuals can benefit from their cheating (they do) and when the number of beneficiaries of wrongdoing is larger (they do). Our results indicate that people use moral flexibility in justifying their self-interested actions when such actions benefit others in addition to the self. Namely, our findings suggest that when others can benefit from one's dishonesty, people consider larger dishonesty as morally acceptable and thus can benefit from their cheating and simultaneously feel less guilty about it. We discuss the implications of these results for collaborations in the social realm.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/13-028.pdf

License to Cheat: Voluntary Regulation and Ethical Behavior

Abstract

While monitoring and regulation can be used to combat socially costly unethical conduct, their intended targets are often able to avoid regulation or hide their behavior. This surrenders at least part of the effectiveness of regulatory policies to firms' and individuals' decisions to voluntarily submit to regulation. We study individuals' decisions to avoid monitoring or regulation and thus enhance their ability to engage in unethical conduct. We conduct a laboratory experiment in which participants engage in a competitive task and can decide between having the opportunity to misreport their performance or having their performance verified by an external monitor. To study the effect of social factors on the willingness to be subject to monitoring, we vary whether participants make this decision simultaneously with others or sequentially as well as whether the decision is private or public. Our results show that the opportunity to avoid being submitted to regulation produces more unethical conduct than situations in which regulation is either exogenously imposed or entirely absent.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/13-029.pdf

Public Procurement and the Private Supply of Green Buildings

Abstract

We measure the impact of municipal policies requiring governments to construct green buildings on private-sector adoption of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard. Using matching methods, panel data, and instrumental variables, we find that government procurement rules produce spillover effects that stimulate both private-sector adoption of the LEED standard and supplier investments in green building expertise. Our findings suggest that government procurement policies can accelerate the diffusion of new environmental standards that require coordinated complementary investments by various types of private adopters.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/13-030.pdf

The Political Economy of Bilateral Foreign Aid

Abstract

Despite its developmental justification, aid is deeply political. This paper examines the political economy of aid allocation first from the perspective of the donor country, and then the political economy of aid receipt and implementation from the perspective of the recipient country. When helpful, it draws from studies of multilateral aid. Following those discussions, the paper explores solutions, employed by the development community, to the distortions brought about by the political economy of bilateral aid-distortions that steer aid away from achieving economic development in the recipient country. As it turns out, none of these solutions can shield foreign aid from the heavy hand of politics. Developing countries heavily influenced by foreign aid end up with a different, and novel, governing apparatus.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/13-026.pdf