The Washington Post

On resumes, quiet hours and why your male boss is more likely to think you work overtime

(illustration by Alla Dreyvister for The Washington Post)

Why quiet hours don’t always work: Trying to be more productive before or after your summer vacation? You shouldn’t necessarily shut the door and try to institute an hour or two of quiet time, points out psychologist Christian Jarrett at the site 99u.

As contrarian as it might seem, researchers from Germany and Switzerland report in a new study in the journal Applied Psychology that interruption-free “quiet hours”(a productivity tactic adopted by some companies and time-management thinkers, especially for organizations that have open office spaces) can actually hurt performance.

In laboratory studies, the researchers paired up students so that one was interrupting the other to ask for help on a test the two were taking. The studies found that when the “helpers” were allowed to institute a short period of interruption-free time, their performance on the test was not higher than when they could be interrupted at any time. As a result, the performance of both people in the pair suffered. The researchers’ suggestion: short periods of forced quiet time do little good. You’d be much better off blocking off a half or full day to work alone.

A preference for potential: When most of us put together our resumes, we emphasize our accomplishments, rather than our potential. But according to a new paper in the Journal of personality and social psychology, in many scenarios we “actually prefer people with the potential to achieve over those who already have,” notes the British Psychological Society’s Occupational Digest.

Over the course of eight studies, the authors found that the ambiguity and mystery that come with someone of untapped potential can be enticing for the mind. In one experiment, for example, 84 participants considered job candidates, one of whom had two years of experience and good results on a “leadership achievement” test, while the other was just starting out and had good results on a “leadership potential” test. The study participants favored the latter, surprisingly. I don’t know that this means we should all run out and rewrite our resumes. But bringing up potential as well as accomplishments might not be a bad idea to remember.

After-hours gender gap: Male bosses are more likely to think their staffers work after hours. That’s one of the unpublished findings from a June survey of 1,000 employees and employers done by the online backup service Mozy. The survey looked at the impact of mobile and cloud technology (related to Mozy’s business, natch) on attitudes toward working nine to five. It had some interesting findings about how late you can arrive at work before your boss considers you so (U.K. bosses were the most strict, while U.S. managers were most lax) and how late your boss feels comfortable calling you after hours (in France it’s a few minutes before 7 p.m.; in Ireland it’s nearly 7:40 p.m.).

Yet more recently, Mozy released data that says male bosses think their staffers work more after hours than female bosses think they do. For instance, while 39 percent of female managers think their employees are putting in no work away from the office, just 24 percent of men think the same. Meanwhile, only 2 percent of the female leaders thought their employees were putting in more than four hours a day outside of work, while 13 percent of men thought so.

What’s your experience at work: Have your male or female bosses given you more credit for working outside the office?

More from On Leadership:

How Olympic medals go to your head

It ain’t heavy, it’s my email

How to completely destroy an employee’s work life

Like On Leadership? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter:

@post_lead | @jenamcgregor | @lily_cunningham

Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.



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