Too much, too little, just right: Stress at work, and the Goldilocks Principle — Andrew Yap

Asst. Prof. at INSEAD and former MIT Sloan Lecturer Andy Yap

From WBUR Cognoscenti

Stress used to be a dirty word. Study after study has shown that stress makes workers less productiveless satisfiedless healthy — and, therefore, more likely to call in sick. For many years, the message to managers was simple: Stress causes burnout; avoid it for yourself and for those who work under you at all costs.

Nowadays, however, the message is more complex. A growing body of research indicates that some stress is good for workers. Perhaps more important, studies have found that too little stress can be bad. Stress related to boredom leads employees to engage in counterproductive work behavior, such as spending aimless time on the Internet for non-work reasons, gossiping about colleagues, and taking way too much time completing work assignments.

So: Excessive stress leads to mental exhaustion and poor health, but not enough stress results in boredom and demotivation. What’s a manager to do? The answer lies in the Goldilocks Principle. The optimal level of stress is not too much, not too little, but an amount that’s just right.

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Big chairs create big cheats — Andy Yap

MIT Sloan Lecturer Andy Yap

MIT Sloan Lecturer Andy Yap

From Harvard Business Review

The research: In a series of experiments, Andy Yap and his colleagues examined the impact that people’s ergonomic environments had on their ethics. The studies tested whether being put into an expansive or a contracted posture would affect people’s honesty. The results showed that subjects in larger workspaces and seats, which encouraged expansive postures, were more likely than other subjects to pocket, rather than return, an overpayment for participating in the study, to cheat on a test, and to break the rules in a driving simulation game.

The challenge: Is the boss a jerk because of the size of his chair? Is that guy running a red light because he’s in a giant SUV? Professor Yap, defend your research.

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