A Dream of Business & A Culture of Purpose
TIVC Founder, Jean Kay Ibañez-Payne on a Dream of Business and a Culture of Purpose.
Often times, clients use the terms: study, culture assessment and evaluation interchangeably. It’s accurate that there is overlap between some or all of them, but there are important distinctions which should be highlighted to communicate clearly, avoid confusion and manage expectations.
To begin, the goal of a research study is to create new, generalizable knowledge that is reproducible and applicable elsewhere in similar contexts. Studies are typically conducted within the realm of higher education or specialized fields. Some studies involve the use of the scientific method, namely, testing a hypothesis by manipulation of variables called an intervention, and others are focused on developing a theory supported by scientific evidence.
One simple example would be if a research team at a university would like to identify the top five indicators for employee burnout in the tech industry. The research team would have to collect data from numerous tech companies and have a sample size that is large enough and representative of the general population of the location they are targeting (city, county, state, region, country). This enables their findings to be applicable to and reproducible within other companies in the tech field (not included in their sample) with probable similar findings.
Research studies are meant to be peer reviewed by other academics and then published. This type of review holds the study, particularly the methodology, to a very high degree of scrutiny. In this context, reliability, validity and statistical significance is very important. If the study involves human subjects, even though low-risk activities like interviews or observations, then there are strict rules which need to be adhered to and usually require Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. This is different from an assessment or evaluation.
The goal of a culture assessment is to gather information from one particular group, organization or company to better understand the collective opinions, beliefs, views, feelings and behaviors regarding the norms, rules, regulations, policies and processes of the group. The collected aggregation of this information is utilized to identify gaps, better understand workforce perceptions and ultimately identify ways to optimize culture.
Culture assessments and research studies are both learning processes, but they are not held to the same academic level of scrutiny and serve distinct purposes. In a culture assessment the focus is not only statistical significance but also the practical significance of the findings.
Another important consideration is that culture assessments, even when they follow the exact same methodology rarely yield the same results from one organization to the next, even if they are in the same industry. This is due to variations such as demographic distribution, geographic location and different customs. The findings from a cultural assessment are designed to identify areas the need for course correction and to gather additional information to optimize culture. Culture assessments are diagnostic in nature and can lead to further formulation or refinement of research study questions or areas of improvement for later evaluation.
In addition, some organizations conduct evaluations. Evaluations are judgmental in nature. They involve the comparison of data against a standard for the purpose of determining the value, utility or extent to which objectives are met. Evaluations are summative conclusions of a product, project or program based on evidence collected. Whereas cultural assessments are diagnostic, evaluations are prescriptive. Evaluations will determine how well, or if, certain criteria meet standards and what improvements need to be made. Evaluations are done so that the person or organization being evaluated can understand how they measure up.
In our tech example, an evaluation would be the comparison of the percentage of employees who are burned out in one company to other companies in the same industry. This gives the evaluated company the metrics of whether they are performing better, worse or about the same as others. Evaluations can also be used to formulate or refine research study questions and conduct further assessments.
TIVC provides expertise in conducting cultural assessments, which aim to determine what’s working, what’s not working and what’s missing in an organizational environment. The tools used to collect data for research studies, assessments and evaluations can have considerable overlap, but it’s important to remember that it is the purpose for which the data is collected that is a primary distinction.
At TIVC, surveys, focus groups and interviews are some of the strategies used to collect insights into the inner nature of an organization. These methodologies provide a window into the attitudes and behavior of an organization, which can then be evaluated against existing organizational policies to determine if there is alignment between policies and practice.
TIVC’s mission is to help people work better together, and we are a proven leader in Human Enterprise Optimization recognizing that people are an organization’s greatest assets. TIVC was founded by Jean Payne in 2014. It is a CVE-certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business headquartered in Charles Town, W.Va. We have current and former contracts with government and commercial customers across the nation.
Huitt, W., Hummel, J., & Kaeck, D. (2001). Assessment, measurement, evaluation, and research. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/intro/sciknow.html
Levy, J. (2017). How to Differentiate Assessment, Evaluation, and Research. Presence: A Modern Campus Company. Retrieved from: https://www.presence.io/blog/how-to-differentiate-assessment-evaluation-research/
McGillin, V. (2003). Research versus assessment: What’s the difference? Academic Advising Today, 26(4). Retrieved from: https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Research-versus-Assessment-Whats-the-Difference.aspx#:~:text=While%20research%20focuses%20on%20the,or%20decision%2Dmaking%20and%20budgeting
Surbhi, S. (2017). Difference Between Assessment and Evaluation. Key Differences. Retrieved from: https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-assessment-and-evaluation.html
Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and regulate one’s own emotions, as well as those of others, to guide one’s thinking and actions (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). It is often referred to as Emotional Quotient or EQ, and has been increasing in public and professional spheres since the 1990s. It was introduced by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer and further researched by numerous other psychologists, including Daniel Goleman. These researchers attest that all individuals possess the capacity to harness their emotional states to improve thinking, judgement and behavior (Brackett, Delaney & Salovey, 2022). This would be great, but does EQ matter in the workplace?
EQ in the Workplace
We are human, we have emotions. We sometimes experience a myriad of emotions in one day or even in one hour. Emotions are the bedrock of relationships, personal and professional; performance; health; and potentially, the impetus for decision-making. If emotions are a fundamental part of who we are, how can we use them to facilitate logical thought processes and behaviors?
Imagine you arrive to work. Everything is as usual, and you place your things down on your desk. You sit down and take a sip of coffee. In the quiet hours of the morning, you’re ready to turn on your computer and respond to emails. You have about 30 minutes of peace, and then your co-workers filter in. They seem a bit excited this morning, as it’s Friday and they’re ready for weekend festivities. They are conversing about plans for the weekend while putting their things down, turning on their computers, making coffee, putting their lunch in the community refrigerator; and the buzz of the office begins. One co-worker, whom you work closely with, seems a bit frantic and more hurried than usual. He comes over to your desk to give you some files to revise for a project that is due by the end of the day. He knocks over your coffee. It spills over your keyboard and onto your lap. What are your immediate thoughts? Chances are, they’re probably not positive. Would you share those thoughts out loud in the moment?
Emotional intelligence would dictate that even though you feel angry, frustrated, annoyed or any other combination of sentiments, you don’t have to act upon them immediately. By acting immediately, you would be reacting to the emotions and lacking in a rational thought process. Looking back at the example above, if you chose to say your thoughts out loud, you may regret being so harsh when you find that your co-worker needed to leave immediately because of a family emergency. It could potentially damage the relationship and the dynamic within the team and hinder progress on projects. In one study, “Emotional Intelligence was associated with enhanced performance indicators such as company rank, percent merit increase, ratings of interpersonal facilitation and affect and attitudes at work” (Lopes, Grewal, Kadis, Gall & Salovey, 2006). It’s evident that efforts to increase EQ in the workplace lead to better overall performance.
High emotional intelligence is also correlated to the social interactions of transformational leadership, where “leaders are able to motivate, influence, guide and empower followers to achieve organizational goals” (Bass & Riggio, 2006). By identifying and managing your emotions to facilitate logical thinking, you are harnessing your EQ. You are choosing to foster a more positive relationship with your co-worker, hence building trust, empathy, patience and kindness. It is also important to note that emotional intelligence includes the identification and management of others’ emotions. This is done through reading body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. Is your co-worker remorseful and apologetic? Is the apology authentic? What does their body language say? Use those cues to produce an appropriate response. After all, would anger, frustration and annoyance toward your colleague serve you and your team best?
How can you improve your EQ?
Having high emotional intelligence is a key indicator for success individually as well as for organizations. Think about which organization might perform better—one whose employees and leaders shout and blame or one whose employees and leaders stay in control of their emotions and respond calmly. Cultivation of EQ leads to more productive, supportive and healthy experiences, but it takes time, mindfulness and, above all, practice. Fortunately, there are some steps we can follow:
- Practice self-awareness. Try to notice what you are feeling, when and why. When you experience a strong emotion, slow down and take a deep breath. Assess why you are feeling that way.
- Practice self-regulation. Think about a response that would be most advantageous in that situation. Is expressing anger going to get the result you want? If not, which expression of sentiment should you demonstrate to achieve the best possible outcome?
- Practice empathy. Put yourself in someone else’s position, pay attention to body language and respond to their feelings. If you hear disappointment in someone’s voice, acknowledge it. This is vital to gain trust and respect from others. It is also more likely that this will be reciprocated for you in the future, thereby improving the relationship.
- Communicate respectfully. Think about the end goal or resolution to a situation. How can you most effectively get there? Make sure to choose words that do not blame or condescend. Also be mindful of your tone because delivery is just as important as the message.
Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.) Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Brackett, M., Delaney, S., & Salovey, P. (2022). Emotional intelligence. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. Retrieved from http://noba.to/xzvpfun7
Lopes, P. N., Grewal, D., Kadis, J., Gall, M., & Salovey, P. (2006). Evidence that emotional intelligence is related to job performance and affect and attitudes at work. Psicothema, 18(Suppl.), 132–138
Psychology Today. (2022). Sussex Publishers, LLC. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/emotional-intelligence
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J.D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.
A culture assessment is the examination of shared beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in the workplace. It is how a group of individuals view the application of policies, process, procedures, treatment from leadership and workplace interactions. Culture assessments use a qualitative and quantitative approach to find what is working, what is not working and what is missing. At TIVC, our cultural assessments follow a very specific methodology that begins with a survey.
What is the purpose of a survey?
Surveys should be used as “a check engine light.” In a car, the check engine light advises the driver there is an issue and that further investigation is warranted. Similarly, preliminary survey results do not tell us what root causes may exist but that further investigation may be needed. Surveys are not tools to determine that a culture or an individual is toxic.
How organizations sometimes use surveys and how surveys should be used
A common trend we see is the use of survey, generic climate assessment or initial culture assessment results being used in lieu of investigating workplace misconduct. Assessment results used in this way are, at best, a blunt instrument because results are an unfinished work. Experts in this field know that surveys and initial assessment results tell an incomplete story. The surveys and initial assessment results might tell us the “what,” but they do not tell us the “why.” Surveys should be used to point experts in the right direction to begin to get to the “why.” Understanding the “why” requires an investigatory process that includes focus groups, interviews, observations and a review of records, policies, procedures and reports. This process is required to evaluate the alignment between, people, policies and procedures and gain a complete understanding of organizational culture. Getting to the “why” ultimately leads to positive culture sustainability.
When organizations confuse survey results with performance related outcomes
What happens when surveys and initial assessment results are misused to explain an employee dismissal? This misuse creates association bias, where organizations and individuals associate the tool with real issues within the organization. The use of the right language to explain the reason for workplace dismissal should not include survey results, poor climate or bad culture.
Surveys and initial assessment results alone should not result in employee dismissal. However, unprincipled leadership, lack of accountability and irredeemable bias, prejudice and discrimination should.
A hostile work environment, a demonstrated lack of leadership and accountability issues are examples of appropriate terms to use for discipline or termination. Because when an organization uses the surveys and initial assessment results as a reason for dismissal, the organization becomes victim-focused, tying the survey to the reason for termination. The cause of an employee dismissal should be focused on the employee’s actions and not the culture as it was revealed in the survey.
Organizations that address performance issues early in their occurrence and provide opportunities for deficient employees to learn and grow do not fire employees, but eventually the employees may fire themselves by persisting in toxic behavior detrimental to the culture of the organization. Surveys and initial assessment results are merely the toxic behavior’s effect and should not be the cause of dismissal.
Daniel, T. A., & Metcalf, G. S. (2015). Crossing the line: An examination of toxic leadership in the US Army. The Leadership Quarterly, 32(1), 118-227.
Davis Winkie and Meghann Myers, 2021, Top Army Spokesperson suspended after abysmal climate survey. https://www.armytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2021/09/22/top-army-spokesperson-suspended-after-abysmal-climate-survey/.
Erickson, A., Shaw, B., Murray, J., & Branch, S. (2015). Destructive leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 4(44), 266-272.
Jared Serbu, 2020, Army fires, disciplines 14 leaders for failed command climate at Fort Hood. https://federalnewsnetwork.com/army/2020/12/army-fires-disciplines-14-leaders-for-failed-command-climate-at-fort-hood/.
Reed, G. E. (2015). Tarnished: Toxic leadership in the US military. U of Nebraska Press.