Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

Tag Archives: Psychology

Special Feature: Advanced Tactics for Highly Collaborative, Remote Teams by Breanden Beneschott – Co-founder / COO at TOPTAL

In a time where ideas and statements are often repeated over and over again, even as they relate to innovative ideas like remote work, I’m delighted to present Breanden Beneschott’s surprising and refreshing psychological insights on improving remote teams members’ communication. This exciting article will help you see obstacles and solutions differently as well as how possible remote work arrangements really are.

At Toptal, nothing about remote work is controversial. Over the last four years, we’ve lived and worked remotely in more than 30 countries. We’ve been running a 100% remote, 90-person strong, venture-funded company that grows hundreds of percent year over year—almost entirely from our laptops, phones, and tablets. Working remotely is a productive and efficient reality that we evangelize to our clients, while practicing what we preach. Hiring remotely removes the constraints of geolimiting and makes it possible to build the best team, regardless of whether members are across the Bay or around the world.

But it turns out some very smart people don’t agree with me. Recently, a post by Paul Graham and a subsequent response by Automattic’s Matt Mullenweg sparked a huge debate about remote work. I circulated Matt’s post to my team, because I think it simply and concisely says what we’ve been broadcasting for years: hire the world’s best talent, regardless of where they live, and everyone wins.

You’re probably already familiar with the textbook cases of successful remote teams such as 37Signals, Automattic, GitHub, and many more, but consider some not-so-obvious examples of times when office-dwellers work from afar:

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Announcement: Due to great alignment in interests, Irene Papuc from Toptal has been invited to feature articles on remote work, business, and other related topics on my blog. So I’d like to introduce her to my readers now and welcome her. By the way, I’ll be posting more in the near future as well. More on this later!

Political Discussions in Work Settings – My Pilot Study: Thoughts on Design & Results

I’ve returned with a couple of surprise posts for today. I’ve been tinkering with a survey I designed, and it turns out I’m insane enough to fund my own pilot study. Not cheap! I took a chance on myself though, to see if I’d asked interesting new questions as I can’t find my main question of interest, or related discussions, represented anywhere on the Internet. These questions relate to what OTHER social interaction patterns might coincide with increasing political polarization and Balkanization that’s reportedly been happening.

Political discussions in work settings can pose problems because participants are obligated to continue interacting unless someone is transferred to another position, finds another job, just quits, or is laid off. It’s more difficult to walk away from others than it is in the purely social realm. Thus, people are generally expected to exercise more restraint over potentially touchy subjects and avoid disruptive, emotional outbursts that impact others. Read more of this post

Psychology of the Office Space [Infographic]

A look at the history of the office reveals that office space configurations have changed considerably over time. Naturally, different space configurations impact workers differently (and of course, at the individual level, the manner in which physical space impacts people depends on the individual’s personality, job, and tasks the individual performs). More specifically, environmental space can positively or negatively impact attention spans, productivity, creativity, job satisfaction, and stress level.

University of Southern California, Dornsife, designed an infographic that expands upon this subject. Personally, I find myself agreeing with this assessment of the complete open office plan. However, I doubt that this phenomena, along with cubicles and private offices, will become extinct. A reduction? Yes. However, the complete absence of such configurations? No.

Not only do companies and work cultures vary, but there’s also great heterogeneity when it comes to people, the roles they play at work, and the types of tasks they perform. So, I think that there will always be a need for a variety of office configurations even if some configurations are more prevalent than others. For example, those who deal with sensitive information and interactions (like lawyers, doctors, and therapists) will continue to need a private office. This infographic is surely thought-provoking. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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What You Need to Know About Psychological Manipulation [Infographic]

This post accompanies my previous post on manipulators. One particular piece of information that I find valuable here is a guideline for distinguishing social influence from manipulation. In my view, what qualifies as manipulation is an attempt to restrict another’s sense of free will. Furthermore, as I am a “no means no” kind of person, my interpretation of “[social influence] does not threaten anyone’s health or well-being” extends to influencers’ being able to accept “no” for an answer. Continuing to persist violates the time and psychological space of the one who refused. Finally, to clarify, the “emotional hot buttons” section lists characteristics of individuals who are easier targets for manipulators. I welcome your thoughts on the information presented here. Read more of this post

Why I’m Not on Facebook and Other Musings by a “Non-Joiner”

Young people without Facebook accounts are regarded as suspicious by a number of employers, their human resources departments, and some psychologists. Might this group of resisters have something sinister to hide, and even be psychopathic? This issue has been reported on herehere, and here (from 2012). The fact that it’s taken me so long to notice that non-joiners are regarded as strange in a negative way shows my limited interest in Facebook. Now that I’ve received the memo though, I’ll say I’m not surprised that people are wondering, “What’s different about the non-joiners?” and then coming up with hunches that have a negative spin.

Life has dealt me a strange hand such that I find myself (1) a non-participant when it comes to a number of activities that most enjoy and (2) having to vociferously defend my preferences. As a result, I’ve come to notice how consistently people assume non-joiners to have character flaws. Observe: Read more of this post

Team Nature or Team Nurture? Disillusionment with the Great Debate

Many of you have no doubt experienced times where you’ve reevaluated educational or career decisions and reconsidered what you hoped to have gained through your devotion to a particular field in hindsight. For me, this time came – a principle reason why I’ve slowed down on the blogging and why this post will be a bit different. Having spent time thinking about my own decisions and what I’d hoped to gain by acquiring a professional degree and training in psychology, I’ll address the problems with the “specialist” model of work, team vs. team mentality, and professional culture-fit in this field. Hence, what I have to share may especially be of value to those who’re considering the field of psychology. I hope that aspiring professionals can help change the troubling trends I’ll describe. Read more of this post

Gender Representation Disparities in Various Career Fields

Why is Human Resources (HR) dominated by women? It’s been difficult to ignore how frequently this topic has been tackled in the past few years. After considering a number of articles (listed below), I’ve decided to add my voice to the discussion on internal drivers behind career decisions while considering the role of brain development. Indeed, when considering why there are vastly different proportions of men and women in various fields, more insight can be gained by looking beyond physical differences and paying attention to internal predispositions instead.

Ideal Traits of Global, Cross-Cultural Virtual Team Members

Information about selecting virtual team members with focus on the need to function globally and cross-culturally is scarce. As luck would have it, I came across some recommendations derived from Dr. Joel Paul Ginsburg’s work – available in dissertation form here. The following is a representation Global Symfony’s recommendations which I’ve modified for simplicity (see their website for details): Read more of this post

This INTJ’s Take on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator


My Typealyzer result: NT for “Rationals” and INTJ specifically.

Having written on the subject of surveillance, I’ve been exploring how much insight others can possibly acquire about you just based on your writing. From here, it didn’t take long to discover various text analyzers developed through (most of which seem crudely put together), but I’m pretty sure more sophisticated, and less readily accessible, text analyzers exist elsewhere. Of those that are available to the public, Typealyzer (which gives you a Myers Briggs type based on your writing) has been most frequently discussed by bloggers. Did the Typealyzer accurately classify me? Although there are infrequent variations on individual posts, for the most part, it has classified me as INTJ and this is consistent with how I score on self-reported assessments across time and situations as well as others’ evaluation of me.

Yes, much uproar has been made about MBTI’s reliability (or rather lack thereof) in recent years. In this post, I will delve deeper into problems encountered in the use of the MBTI. After some thought, I believe I can reconcile claims of unreliability with claims of reliability (and meaningfulness for some test-takers). To begin with, a better question than “Does MBTI have good/poor reliability?” is “For whom does MBTI have good/poor reliability?” See the discussion (pages 290-292) in Capraro, R. M. & Capraro, M. M. (2010) about why it may be incorrect, in this case, to speak of reliability for a tool or instrument. Rather, it may be more accurate to talk about reliability for a particular evaluation or the interaction of evaluation and assessment tool. This article is available here and here. Read more of this post

Surviving and Thriving as a Disagreeable Woman

rebellion of an urban contrarian <r>

rebellion of an urban contrarian (Photo credit: <rs> snaps)

Recent experiences in my professional life have prompted me to write on behalf of cantankerous women everywhere. Having a disagreeable personality (opposite of agreeable) is unconventional and is something that is generally more unexpected or disapproved of when you are female. Does social disapproval impact your tendencies or, dare I say, preferences? Those of you who share this trait along with me know the answer to that question. We’re a stubborn, strong-willed lot.

What does all this mean? Here’s how I would expand on the trait of disagreeableness: Read more of this post

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