Why mindfulness at work matters

Mindfulness is linked to motivation and can help your productivity //

We’re often overwhelmed at work, which can actually reduce our efficacy. This is where mindfulness comes in. So, what exactly is mindfulness? It’s the ability to remain focused on the task at hand while, importantly, also remaining flexible. Essentially, it helps to think in a way that means less stress, ultimately promoting a healthier way of life. If we’re stressed at work, mindfulness could be the key. This is because it can help in numerous ways, including things like:

• Improving task engagement
• Promoting efficacy in the workplace
• Increasing your achievement rates
• Reducing stress

Short exercises to improve your mindfulness. While the idea behind mindfulness is a great one, one may be wondering how to actually employ this in a hectic workday. There are easy steps one can take to begin the mindfulness process. For instance, short daily exercises can help to train the brain to be mindful. What this entails is spending a short period of time – even a single minute counts – concentrating on connecting with one of our senses. We don’t even need to close our eyes or sit down to perform these rebalancing tasks. The important part here though is to make sure that one performs these exercises every day. Essentially, we make it into a habit. The longer the period of mindfulness exercise can fit in, the better it will be for the mental health and workflow in the long run. Doing these types of exercises every day, even though they are short, will help to improve our mindfulness so that when it comes to decision making, we are in a better position to make a reasoned choice.

Many of us claim to be multi-taskers, but in reality, there’s no such thing.

Be in the moment, one task at a time. Following on from this, these exercises help to make us aware of our surroundings rather than operating on autopilot, something we’re all guilty of – especially when performing regular tasks. To be mindful at work, one needs to take a step back and actually consider carefully what it is one is doing, at the moment one is doing it. If our mind wanders, acknowledge the wandering thought, then carefully bring the focus back to the task at hand. Of course, this is hard at first, which is where those short exercises help. In a similar vein, one should also aim to focus on one task at a time. Many of us claim to be multi-taskers, but in reality, there’s no such thing. When we multi-task, our brain is jumping from one problem to another, never fully focusing or giving full attention to any one task. In fact, we can lose information performing in this way. To track whether we’re multitasking, we may try keeping a time journal to see what we achieve within a specific period of time and the level of mindfulness achieved.

Emotions, mindfulness and resilience. As a final thought on mindfulness, we should consider our emotions and how we convey them to those around us. For instance, cultivating humility can help us be more approachable and colleagues will likely enjoy our company more. Accepting ourselves as we are with all our shortcomings and strengths is the key to this. In conjunction with this, being modest and grateful for what we have is a positive state of mind we should cultivate. Consider all the positives of our jobs, and being mindful of this will help our resilience when we have rough patches or a complex task.

The use of leader humor in the East and West

When and how to use humor in East Asia and North America //

Research on humor generally tends to assume that the use of humor by a leader towards his or her subordinates has positive effects and is widely regarded as an indicator of the leader having likable characteristics. This is likely untrue for other places than the North American region. Despite the popularity of this assumption in North America, it is largely unknow whether those positive effects are universal, i.e. whether they hold true in other parts of the world. Since leaders are today more than ever before globally travelling leaders, working with people who draw on different ideals, tastes, social norm and value systems, there is a need to understand the effectiveness of leader humor better. Today, global leaders want to establish rapport and trust quickly.

“Contrary to the United States, in East Asia leader humor is not effective in early-phase leader–member interactions”

Research has paid less attention so far to aspects of the cultural context of leader humor, particularly in regard to time by exploring questions of when humor is appropriate and when it is not. With regard to the world’s largest economic region, we argue that leader humor is not so effective in East Asia because of different preferences in relation to communication style and divergent expectations and value sets during early-phase leader–member interactions. In that regard, the role of context is central. In East Asia the dominance of the formal context in the early stage of the relationship will make a leader’s humor less effective. On the other hand, however, the growing significance and role of the informal context in a mature relationship makes the leader’s humor more effective. Hence, we argue that leader humor may become equally if not more effective in the mature phase of leader–member interactions.

While cultural differences, including the usage of humor at work are much more apparent at the early stage of a relationship, our exploration uncovers areas that are important for effective cross-cultural communication training and the development of managers for global assignments.

More here:

Yang, I.; Horak, S. & Chi, S.-C. & (2020). Leader humor effectiveness – The divergent dynamics of leader humor over time in East Asia and North America. Thunderbird International Business Review, forthcoming.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/tie.22180

Photo credit: “Aptenodytes patagonicus (king penguin)” is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.


非正式网络被视为一种有益于个体、公司以及整个社会的积极活动,但非正式网络也可能导致共谋、拉帮结派、任人唯亲以及其他形式的不道德或腐败行为——这主要与新兴市场的研究有关。迄今为止,非正式网络的建设、文化交融以及发展并没有成为国际管理和组织研究的焦点,这是本期特刊试图解决的一个问题。这期特刊有助于更好地理解非正式网络的动态性与矛盾性,即同一网络存在不同的运作模式,且间歇或同时存在正反两面。我们论证了非正式网络运行的背景,强调了其复杂性,并鼓励来自不同国家的非正式网络学者展开对话。采用基于环境和比较的视角,我们以更加整合和平衡的方式将非正式网络概念化。在特定文化背景下,以西方价值观、社会结构和行为理念为视角,理解被熟知的 guanxi, yongo, jentinho, wasta 和blat这类非正式网络的运作方式,并检验西方中心的假定、叙述和理论。正如本期特刊所描述的,由于非正式网络是众多国家进行业务往来的传统方式,因此界定非正式网络光明面(积极面)与黑暗面(消极面)对跨国公司的负责任的管理和商业成功至关重要。

More here:
Horak, S., Afiouni, F., Bian, Y., Ledeneva, A., Muratbekova-Touron, M., & Fey, C. F. (2020). Informal Networks: Dark Sides, Bright Sides, and Unexplored Dimensions. Management and Organization Review, 16(3), 511-542. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/mor.2020.28

Informal networks in international business

The dark and bright sides of informal networks //

While the coordination of business activities through interpersonal ties and networks has been researched in the management and organization studies, using informal networks for managing and organizing in an international context is a rather new research field. Informal networks, known variously as guanxi (China), old boy network (United States), jinmyaku (Japan), yongo (South Korea), jentinho (Brazil), wasta (Middle East), or blat/svyazi (Russia), amongst others, are rather new to management and organization research and regarded an undeveloped research area. While we find them in every culture at different levels of importance, they are quite distinct and yet not fully captured by conventional theories on interpersonal ties in management. The importance of informal networks for the coordination of business-related activities in the largest markets in the world, such as China, Russia and Brazil make informal network knowledge on when and how they take effect an essential factor to understand thoroughly for international managers.

“Informal networking can be seen as a positive activity with beneficial outcomes for individuals, firms, and society as a whole”

The recently published issue on Informal Networks: Dark Sides, Bright Sides, and Unexplored Dimensions in Management and Organization Review (Cambridge) adds to our knowledge on informal networks in several ways, taking their dark and bright sides into account. The research papers published in this issue cover a range of informal network ties and types and offer new insights on informal aspects of management in China, with a focus on guanxi as well as the functioning of the less studied network types, such as elite networks in Malaysia, wasta in Arab countries, and bazaaries in Iran. 

Informal networking can be seen as a positive activity with beneficial outcomes for individuals, firms, and society as a whole, but informal networking can also lead to collusion, cliques, nepotism, and other forms of unethical or corrupt conduct. To date, the construction of informal networks and their cultural intertwinement and development have not been a focus of global management and organization studies yet. This can be seen as a knowledge gap that future research needs to address.

“Informal networking can also lead to collusion, cliques, nepotism, and other forms of unethical or corrupt conduct”

The dynamics of informal networks and their ambivalence can be understood in a way that the same networks have different modes of operation and have positive and negative sides intermittently or simultaneously. Using a context-based and comparative perspective allows us to conceptualize informal networks in a more integrated and balanced way. Understanding the workings of informal networking in culturally specific settings, places values, social structures, and ideals of behavior in perspective and tests Western-centered assumptions, narratives, and theories. Because informal networking is a conventional way of conducting business in many countries, defining the bright (positive) and the dark (negative) sides of informal networks is critical for responsible management and business success and therefor of special interest for leaders in multinational corporations.

More here:
Horak, S., Afiouni, F., Bian, Y., Ledeneva, A., Muratbekova-Touron, M., & Fey, C. F. (2020). Informal Networks: Dark Sides, Bright Sides, and Unexplored Dimensions. Management and Organization Review, 16(3), 511-542. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/mor.2020.28

Collaboration yin-yang style: Six management paradigms to increase organizational performance

How the yin-yang perspective dissolves the power and trust paradox and leads to collaborative business relationships //

It becomes increasingly visible that to a lesser extend single companies but international supply networks, or meta-organizations, will increasingly compete with each other in the future. The governance of these networks poses new challenges to focal firms as well as surrounding organizations in terms of collaboration and management. Hence, the quality of collaboration can become a source of differentiation in competition to gain or maintain a competitive advantage through cooperation. Whereas contracting is usually applied to enter a collaborative relationship, the existing literature points out that relational or interpersonal factors are especially important factors for successful collaboration in business. Herein, power and trust play a pivotal role and are often seen as orthogonal components in a business relationship. The latter is either determined by power differentials or by deep trust. Both can hardly merge. While buyers or suppliers commonly show their power through contracts to motivate particular actions with their exchange partners, doing so can compromise a sense of trust within the relationship. This happens because organizations and managers over whom power is being exerted may feel that their autonomy and overall self-determination are being threatened, a perception which often leads these partners to feel that their values and motives are incongruent, which can compromise their mutual sense of trust and cooperation.

“Contrary to the conventional antagonistic view of power and trust, we find a different relationship between both, namely a rather natural, mutually integrative and dependent one”

By challenging the typical antagonistic view of power and trust, we have explored in our study the interrelatedness of the two by applying the yin-yang lens. We find a different relationship between power and trust, namely a rather natural, mutually integrative and dependent one. We assume that Taoist ideals, in particular the forces of yin-yang, explain this apparent contradiction. Guided by the yin-yang perspective on power and trust balancing, we identify six management paradigms regarding how power and trust relationships can be developed and managed to increase collaboration performance.

“We identify six management paradigms regarding how power and trust relationships can be developed and managed to increase collaboration performance”

In a nutshell, the six management paradigms contain the following. The focal firms shall maintain (1) a relationship and competence focus. It should (2) proactively delegate tasks to a trustworthy and competent tier 1 supplier. Further, the focal firm needs to engage in (3) setting up and organizing ‘formally informal’ private events to increase the community spirit and (4) establish a spirit of paternalistic benevolence across the network, in which the hierarchy is considered to be natural, comforting, and reliable. Next, (5) a spirit of open information sharing, collaboration, and unconditional passionate commitment on business-level and private-level needs to be developed. This may be the hardest part, especially for firms drawing on Western ideals of corporate governance. Finally, (6) great emphasis should be placed on personal interaction, as being committed to developing and maintaining human relationships is fundamental to a business relationship.

We believe that utilizing the yin-yang perspective can enable a new view on relationships that may help to increase network cohesion as well as organizational performance within a business ecosystem.

More here:

Horak, S. & Long, C. 2018. Dissolving the Paradox: Toward a Yin–Yang Perspective on the Power and Trust Antagonism in Collaborative Business Relationships. Supply Chain Management, 23(6), 573-590.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/SCM-01-2018-0013

* Photo credit: Micro Ecosystem by Pierre Pocs is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Access denied – When informal networks limit expatriate effectiveness

The inability to integrate into informal networks when doing business abroad can become a risk for the organization //

Owing to increased business activities by multinational corporations (MNCs) as well as to the further opening of new and large overseas markets (e.g., China, India, Brazil), the use of the expatriate manager has steadily increased within recent decades. International assignments represent a significant cost factor for a firm. Considering an assignees fringe benefits and the potential cost attached to the relocation of the expatriate’s family, expatriates are significantly more expensive for a firm than local employees are. Moreover, the success and failure of the expatriate has a direct impact on the performance of the MNC’s investment abroad. Hence, the effectiveness of an expatriate in the respective host country is important and a key concern for MNCs.

“Becoming a part of local informal networks is essential for an expatriate manager to do business abroad”

Research has so far rarely taken into account the influence of informal networks that local managers maintain and cultivate on expatriate effectiveness, i.e. on expatriate performance and adjustment. We have explored this knowledge gap recently by choosing East Asia as an environment to explore, a region where large numbers of expatriate mangers are sent to these days and this trend is increasing. By interviewing foreign top managers in South Korea, the study discovered seven antecedents critical to expatriate effectiveness. Most antecedents hinder expatriate effectiveness due to the expatriates’ inability to become a part of local informal networks, as they are to a great extent ascribed or difficult to penetrate as a foreigner on a time-wise limited stay. Often the managers have difficulties to identify and understand the workings of informal networks, which can expose the organization to risks.

“None of the mangers we talked to regard themselves as fully accepted and integrated members of the local informal networks”

Whereas some of the managers we talked to, especially the ones with ca. 10–20 years of experience in Korea, mention having good or close relationships even friendships with local stakeholders, none of them regard themselves as fully accepted and integrated members of the distinct local informal networks. This has a negative influence on the task fulfillment of the manager. Before being expatriated, most managers we talked to thought their managerial influence and scope of actions would have had a higher impact on the local organization. After one or two years, they realized that what they can achieve compared to what the position actually requires is very limited. Some expatriates appeared to be frustrated that their job role overly developed towards firm inward-oriented tasks such as trying to make their headquarters’ policies and guidelines work locally. Furthermore, firm-external tasks such as conducting contract negotiations are difficult to perform for most expatriates, as they require informal preparation before and after the actual negotiation date so that on that date no ‘surprises’ appear. As informal preparation is done via informal networks that the expatriate hardly possesses, their influence is limited.

Insights gained from the field work points towards the need for a better understanding and control of informal networks in global management. So far, however, many international firms have not made this a central task in preparing their managers for assignments abroad. The lack of local networking competence can get managers into inconvenient situations as a managing director report: “Personally speaking, I can confess that I am unable to establish with company x and company y [names anonymized] these informal relationships. I always have to have a Korean partner who has these relationships or who at least knows how to establish these informal ties. That makes me dependent, but that’s the only way to go”.

We believe that due to the importance of establishing informal network ties locally, more knowledge needs to be generated about their antecedents and distinctive nature. Informal networks are known in Korea under the term yongo or inmaek, guanxi in China, blat and svyazi in Russia or wasta in the Middle East. This knowledge would help expatriates to manage successfully and it would help firms to stay competitive and become an integrated player in the respective local market.

More here:
Horak, S. & Yang, I. 2016. Affective networks, informal ties, and the limits of expatriate effectiveness. International Business Review, 25(5), 1030-1042.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2016.01.006

* Photo credit: “King Penguins” by D-Stanley is licensed with CC BY 2.0.