1. Do ‘nice guys’ usually finish first or last at work?

First, but only in the long game. Researchers have shown that, on average, jerks do well in the short-term. But because they are selfish takers rather than givers, the word gets around and they lose the advantage of being part of a supportive team.

At the top of most organisations are the givers, but here’s the complication. Some givers are near the bottom of the success rankings. The difference? Givers at the top rate their trust in others about eight out of ten. Those givers near the bottom are too trusting and others are more likely to take advantage of them.

The least succesful people? Those who trust others the least. 

2. What’s the best way to build a successful relationship?

Emotional warmth.  Being friendly, supportive, genuinely listening, doing favours unasked and trusting each other all come under the umbrella of emotional warmth. The extensive research supporting emotional warmth is largely based on married couples, but why shouldn’t the same apply at work?

3. What’s the most reliable way to predict that a relationship will fall apart?

Look out for contempt – sarcasm, eye-rolling, sneering. Arguing doesn’t count. It’s how we argue. 

4. In the early 90s people 65 years and over made up one per cent of the workforce in New Zealand. Guess the figure now.

Statistics New Zealand reports that it’s six per cent and growing. It's a recent and dramatic change. By the early noughties even people in their 40s were struggling to find work.

Around that time the old Department of Labour commissioned us to produce a video to persuade employers that it makes good sense to employ people middle-aged and older. It does.

One of our team with the energy and motivation to equal a 30 year-old retired last year at the age of 83. She left for Europe two days later. Now she’s planning her next overseas trip.

5. Your team wants to do some creative problem-solving. Which room should you choose?   (A) A sparsely furnished and decorated room to avoid distractions   (B) A room with familiar furniture and decorations to make everyone feel at home   (C) Who cares? It wouldn’t make any difference

B. A room with familiar furniture and decorations to make everyone feel at home. A recently published study shows teams will achieve more in a room that reflects who they are than in a lean, neutral space.

6. Which of these would tell you that you are probably talking to a psychopath?   (A) Irresponsibility   (B) Criminal behaviour   (C) Callousness

(C) Callousness. To be clear, it’s the callousness that comes with a lack of empathy, so it's indifference, not our interpretation of inconsiderate behaviour. Callousness is a key characteristic of psychopathy. Criminality raises a red flag, but isn't enough. A couple of recent studies suggest that between 20 and 30 per cent of prisoners are psychopaths, but many psychopaths are law-abiding citizens with responsible jobs. Irresponsibility is a characteristic of many psychopaths, but you’d need to know much more before deciding that your dinner guest is one of them.

7. Open plan or separate offices? Which is more likely to make a team more productive?

Separate offices. One team of researchers put it this way, “The open plan proponents’ argument that open plan improves morale and productivity appears to have no basis in the research literature.” The answer? Maybe open plan if it’s necessary to keep costs down, but find ways to reduce noise and improve privacy. They are the main reasons the same researchers cite to explain why open plan reduces productivity.

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