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Controlling for CIP in the Social Sciences

E. Forrest Christian Theory 7 Comments

I’ve been thinking lately about the role of “time span of discretion” findings of Elliott Jaques and his colleagues in the results of social science. For example, Nancy M. Schullery reviews some of the literature about success and argumentativeness in “Argumentative Men: Expectations of Success” (The Journal of Business Communication, October 1999):

Individuals with the personality predisposition of high argumentativeness are more inclined to argue and believe themselves skilled at making arguments. The predisposition has been linked with positive outcomes in the workplace for several years. For example, argumentative persons are reported to be more effective upward communicators (Infante & Gorden, 1985b, 1987), more decisive (Infante, 1989), and more often chosen as group leaders (Schultz, 1982). However, there is little evidence from objective criteria that benefits accrue to argumentative individuals in the workplace, and some evidence to the contrary has recently been reported for women (Schullery, 1998).

I really would love to see if these results still work after controlling for level of complexity of information processing (CIP). The results in this case are indeterminate anyway — the gist of the article is a mixed message for argumentativeness in managers — but I would still like to see what controlling for CIP does. Are subordinates who code as “argumentative” also having higher CIP (on average)? Because management track employees code as substantially argumentative but managers code as very moderated, I’m wondering if some of this isn’t explained by differences between stratum of individual and stratum of role occupied.

Just thinking. I wonder about this with a great deal of the research I see. If CIP has validity, then using college students as test subjects really gives you almost useless results.

Image Credit: “Bild Publikum” Photograph by Roger & Renate Rössing , 1954 (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE). Deutsche Fotothek?. Via Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps individuals and companies find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants, both as individuals and as leaders of organizations at least as diverse. [contact]

Comments 7

  1. I wonder if there is some link between temperament and mode. Our company uses the Predictive Index to measure the four classic temperament components. It also gives a value for stamina in maintaining a different public than private face. Anyway, I wonder if Dominant/Choleric is the same as argumentative and follows higher modes.

    At the same time I wonder if the quantum changes of CIP strata show up as changes in results of temperament exams.

  2. Herein lies the problem with 360 degree feedback – an assessment format where one person receives performance feedback not only from his manager but also from his peers and direct reports. This data is to be used for personal development planning.

    How you feel about your manager (and your direct reports, and peers) depends highly upon your relative relationship to them stratum wise. i.e. if they are one stratum above, you will more than likely appreciate your manager in terms of giving challenging but not impossible assignments as well as providing context that is not too ambiguous but not overly simplistic.

    However, if you’re at the same level as your manager, you may not feel like you are getting the leadership you need. You will probably feel micromanaged.

    If you are two levels below your boss, you might complain that s/he is too vague, too impatient with you to give you the direction you need.

    Now, lets say this is the case with three employees reporting to Manager A. One employee is at the same level, one is spaced appropriately (one level below) and one is two levels below.

    When the feedback data on that Manager A comes in (which will not identify the direct reports by name), one will say he is a micromanager, one will say he is too distant, and one will say he is fabulous.

    What is the manager’s manager supposed to do with this feedback which comes back in? Should he tell Manager A that his personal development planning should include: trying to give less direction to direct reports, give more direction to direct reports, and keep doing the same with direct reports?

    I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while too.

  3. Post

    I heard Ed Schein give what can only be called a strong condemnation of 360 degree performance evaluations. His main beef was that we put people into these situations, asking them to say where their boss isn’t performing up to snuff. Unfortunately, it often gets employees thinking about criticisms of the boss where there were none before.

    Both comments bring home the need to control for CIP before running these tests. I wonder what the results would be. Of course, this would also necessitate using people other than college students, making most research almost impossible.

  4. Having “lived” in an organization with a 360 degree review process, I found them to be a very good source of feed back. The trick is to make them real avenues for feedback. Most subordinates are too fearful to say what they really think. Where I worked then, there were lots of people and hence the reviews could be managed so they were fairly anonymous. Where I work now, there’s too few people and I haven’t tried to institute them, because there’s just no way to ensure anonymity. The other requirement is that the “boss” needs to be mature enough to accept constructive criticism. Surprisingly, I have found this to be most lacking in my civilian work experience vs my time in the Army.

  5. The obvious point much to the contrary is if you have an accountable organization where one’s immediate manager provides coaching and personal effectiveness feedback there is no requirement for a 360 degree review. It is the accountability of the immediate manager to ensure that each subordinate is fully applying his or her current capability.

    It is also the accountability of the immediate manager and his or her subordinates to engage in two-way teamwork that creates and sustains a trust enhancing environment, enabling the effectiveness of the organization in solving problems and delivering its objectives. There is absolutely nothing “new” about a work environment where the subordinates are too fearful to say what they really think. Is this not part of the basic problem? And, it is difficult to conceive that the creation of a forum which promotes an avenue for discrete and anonomous “feedback” does anything significant to enhance trust.

    We need to consider that because someone, or some group, has offered something “new”, in this reference the 360 degree review (which has been around for a number of years now) that the newness does not define the legitimacy of what is being offered. There are plenty of snake oil salesmen out there peddling virtually anything to anyone who is willing to buy it. This is alchemy at its very best.

    In the final assessment we can only conclude that those managers who are pointing at 360 degree reviews, emotional quotient, leadership attributes, and other newly developed “tools” really don’t understand the significance of a managerial system which builds social capital, trust, and real accountability within an organization. Unfortunately, we need to fully consider that the managers that are promoting these 360 degree reviews don’t get it, nor will they deliver anything significant. Much to the contrary of what is being asserted there is little question that, these whom are promoting the 360s, are not the right people to manage the company.

    At the risk of sounding a bit confrontational and provocative consider that the bald assertion “If you can’t try something new like 360 degree reviews without undermining accountability, you have the wrong people running your company” is a 3rd order of symbolic complexity declarative argument (Stratum I argument). I really would appreciate hearing, and engaging in, an expansion of the argument to evaluate the points further.

  6. “At the risk of sounding a bit confrontational and provocative consider that the bald assertion “If you can’t try something new like 360 degree reviews without undermining accountability, you have the wrong people running your company” is a 3rd order of symbolic complexity declarative argument (Stratum I argument). I really would appreciate hearing, and engaging in, an expansion of the argument to evaluate the points further.” – APFG

    Which exactly highlights some big concerns about this stuff: intellectual arrogance.

    It’s a truism (though perhaps only a level 1 1st order one) that absolute power corrupts absolutely. So, once we arrive at the conclusion that we are a level B and those that work for us are a level A, we don’t really have to listen to them do we? Anytime they bring up a point that challenges our own, we can just dismiss them because they just don’t get it, because they can’t process that level of information.

    Thus, when we’ve been a level 3 manager for umpteen years, we don’t really need to know what those below us think, because we’ve been doing this level of work forever and its our level and we know what’s going on.

    Of course, the fact that one of the people below us is a level 25 at the start of their career means nothing.

    Surely you’ve had superiors that could use a little grounding in the “real world?” Timely, professional, 360 degree reviews allow that sort of grounding.

    As I have mentioned before, getting them set up correctly is extremely important and can be quite difficult and they won’t work in many small work places or ones that have a high percentage of immature employees.

    And besides, I’ve seen them work and surely that counts for something, even if I’m only a level 1 3rd order or whatever? It may not “work” in the Jacqsian Utopia, but since he’s only proposed a model to describe the real world, I’m not really too concerned about that.

    I’m not really trying to pick a fight with you, just find this to be an interesting intellectual diversion from time to time, and I really have seen 360 evaluations work.

    Incidentally, it may interest you to know, I’ve distributed many of our ramblings here to half of my staff and discussed it with them. I think Jacques’ model is inherently sound and so do they. Why didn’t I share with the other half? . . . . Because they just wouldn’t “get it.”

  7. Again, quite the contrary. Any manager worth his or her salt consults with his or her subordinates. Recognizing that the immediate manager is accountable for the subordinates’ outputs he or she then takes this into consideration and makes a decision. The key is to create a trust enhancing environment where the feedback is willfully and freely offered and then considered. The feedback that you are proposing is available via the 360 degree appraisal is offered face to face where the trust exists. Where is does not exist it all becomes suspect anyway.

    It would appear that we will need to agree to disagree regarding this topic. Incidentally, if you read the response again it may be clear that it is the argument that was judged as a stratum I argument which does not necessarily reflect the CIP of the individual making it. We all make bald assertions and then either continue to support the assertion with a logic sequence, or not.

    Your response leaves me wondering whether half your staff is feeling dismissed. If you are inclined to use the 360 degree review you may want to target it to that half that appear not to be “getting it”.

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