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Schedule of OrgVitality Presentations for Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology Annual Conference

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OrgVitality is very pleased to have a number of presentations accepted for the annual conference of Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology being held Wednesday, April 13th through Saturday, April 16th at the Hilton Chicago. We invite you to join us at these presentations, if you will be in attendance. If a topic is of interest, and you cannot make the conference, please do not hesitate to contact OrgVitality for further information.

The OrgVitality Team


Schedule of OrgVitality Presentations for Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology Annual Conference:

David Bracken, Ph.D., Vice President (
Pre-Conference Workshop, “Coming Full Circle with 360 Feedback” (with Carol Jenkins)
Wednesday April 13th: Morning/Afternoon Sessions
Has 360-Feedback Evolved over the Last 10 Years?
Thursday, April 14: 12:00pm -1:50pm
Northwest 5
Panel discussion with Allan Church (PepsiCo), Carol Timmreck (The Timmreck Group), Janine Waclawski (Pepsi-Cola), Bob Jako (Kaiser Permanente), David Peterson (Google), James Farr (Penn State), Manny London (SUNY Stony Brook)
New Avenues in 360’s: Implicit Leadership Theories and Fit
Friday, April 15: 12:00pm-1:20pm
Continental B

Scott Brooks, Ph.D., Partner and VP (
Coaching the Dinosaur: I-O Influence in 100 Year Old Organizations
Thursday, April 14th: 10:30am-11:50am
Continental C
Panel discussion with Michael Bazigos (IBM), Steven Katzman (KPMG), Matthew Kleinman (New York Life), Corbin Wong (Hofstra University & Deutsche Bank)

People Strategies that Support and Shape Organizational Strategy: Science and Art
Saturday April 16: 9:00am-9:50am
Williford C
Saturday Theme Track presentation with Richard Vosburgh (ArchPoint Consulting/HRPS)

Walter Reichman, Ed.D., Partner and VP (
Humanitarian Work Psychology (HWP): Achievements, Applications, and Controversies
Saturday April 16th: 1:00pm-2:50pm

Operating Sustainably: People, Planet & Profit ©2011 OrgVitality, All rights reserved.


Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

March 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm

A Moose in the Distance

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What do organizations want? The answer is nothing. Organizations are nothing more than an abstraction. Organizations are virtual, they do not exist. You can’t talk to an organization. You can’t touch an organization. You can’t expect an organization to operate in one fashion or another.

An organization is an amalgamation, a sum of its people. You can talk to an organization’s people. You can shake hands with its people and you can expect its people to behave in a certain fashion.

So what do organizations want? The answer is they want whatever it is the people within the organization want. If the people in the organization desire to behave in a respectful way towards others, then the organization becomes one that is known for respectful treatment. If the organization is one in which quality is paramount for each and every individual then the organization becomes one that is known for delivering quality products and services. The organization takes on the characteristics by which the majority of its people operate. (It is of course incumbent to the organization to provide the resources that people need in order to operate in the desired fashion).

What is the tipping point, the point at which an organization’s reputation is driven by those characteristics? Is it when a third of the people operate according to a certain shared vision, a half, two-thirds? I don’t know an exact number but I would suspect that the number will vary somewhat depending on the characteristic that is being adopted. Unfortunately, what is very clear is that a negative characteristic much more easily gets associated with an organization’s reputation than a positive one. It takes but a single breech of ethics to taint a reputation; a single quality issue can cause an organization to have to constantly reprove itself with a customer. A relatively minor labeling issue on a report, for instance, can cast the veracity of the whole report into doubt, doubt that is much more easily purchased than is a reputation of quality.

The notion of how an organization will operate, its standards, needs to percolate throughout the entire organization. Critical operating standards need to be infused into each and every aspect of organizational functioning. They need to break through any barriers that might exist as they find their way into each and every pocket of the organization. For instance, safety cannot be the imperative of a manufacturing unit and then felt not to apply elsewhere within the organization. Safety must be infused if it is to stick long term within the organization and become part of what the organization is, how it is defined.

I have had a desire (not an obsession, just an interest) that I have been pursuing for a number of years. I have been hoping to see a moose in its natural habitat. I have taken trips to Alaska, Vermont, Maine and Wyoming that have been at least partially driven by my desire to observe a wild moose. I have been successful twice in my pursuit of the elusive creature, once in Alaska and once in Wyoming. But each time there has been a slight snag. The moose has been so far away from me that they are no more than a small dot, visible as a moose by binoculars only. The notion of being close enough to observe their behaviors, to really feel their presence, to get a sense of what the creature is really like, has been slightly beyond my grasp each time. Each sighting has left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Somehow those partial successes have only driven me to plan my next foray into moose observation with a little more intensity.

Just as the pursuit of a desire will often fall somewhat short of the vision of perfection that you have in your head, the pursuit of the perfect organizational environment is an elusive goal as well. There is no such thing as a perfect organization, only a vision of perfection that one can strive for only to find that it is constantly somewhat out of reach. But that doesn’t mean we give up on our vision, our desires, we simply need to plan with a little more intensity for our next foray. We set goals; we set goals not because they represent an end state, but because they represent stops, however brief, along the way. In today’s competitive ever changing environment the eventually end state, the culmination of the dream does not exist. The end goal is an ever moving elusive target, but it is a goal that we must pursue.

© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

March 29, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Zombie Engagement or Motivating the Undead

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It seems like you can’t turn on the TV or look at the movie section in the newspaper these days without seeing some reference to zombies. Zombies used to be the stuff of late night horror or the once a year Halloween movie marathon. But it seems pretty clear that zombies have gone mainstream, appearing not only in horror flicks but in television series and even kid shows.

On the university campus, one professor of political science, Niall Michelsen, has incorporated the topic into his classroom instruction and has co-authored a paper titled “Teaching World Politics with Zombies”. Daniel Drezner has written Theories of International Politics and Zombies. In both cases the authors/professors are exploring how the world might react to an actual invasion of zombies. One theory they explore is whether capitalists would be able to exploit the cheap labor that zombies, the undead might provide. Another explores whether stronger countries would sit and watch while zombies ate their way through the weaker ones or if some central organizing effort to control zombies would emerge.

With the growing popularity of zombies and hence the growing population of zombies in society, it was only a matter of time until inevitable personnel issues surrounding zombies, such as motivating or engaging zombies needed to be addressed along with a whole host of others issues. I thought I would get the research ball moving with some thoughts on the topic.

Some of the immediate issues personnel departments are struggling with concerning the rights of the undead include:

  • Do zombies have collective bargaining rights? They seem to be very good at organizing gatherings and may have an edge in negotiations. I mean how many of us really want to sit across the table from a zombie and look them in the eye, even if it is still in its socket?
  • If you are a union member in the living state and then become a zombie do you retain your membership? Can you be legislated into a second class status when you are undead? Are you still responsible for dues? If not, as suggested by the professors, organizations might forgo the living and hire the undead as cheap labor or union busters.
  • Does last in, first out apply during zombie layoffs?
  • Do zombies get severance? An arm or a leg?
  • If you turn into a zombie do you lose your citizenship?
  • If so, can you then get a green card?
  • If your kid turns into a zombie before you do, is your kid an anchor zombie, able to sponsor you for inclusion into zombiehood?
  • Can the undead be elected to political office, be appointed as a CEO, or do they simply need to eat their way to the top?
  • Given how easy it appears to be to kill or injure a zombie, (all you apparently have to do is bash them with a baseball bat), what are the regulations surrounding health care coverage for zombies? Is being a zombie considered a pre-existing condition?
  • And critically, how do you motivate or engage the undead to increase their value as an integral part of the workforce?

There has been much speculation that zombies are somehow different, that they don’t want what you or I want from the work environment or that somehow their relationship with their supervisors are “strained”. Some say that zombies are impatient, unwilling to pay their dues in order to succeed in the organization. Others imply that zombies are not as concerned about job security or being developed for future opportunity, wanting only to unlive in the here and now. Other spurious and suspicious claims have arisen against zombies including that they have strong body odor, that they have socialist, communist or perhaps fascist tendencies, others claim that they are not from “here” and that they are so unlike “us” that they even pray to a different god. Some say that zombies are lazy, willing to move along only at a slow shuffle, or that they are solely concerned about money, presumably because they resist being paid with scraps. Speculation has been rampant that zombies need a strong leader to exist in an orderly fashion and that they are not ready for a democratic oriented society. Meanwhile the reported cases of harassment against zombies have skyrocketed. These are grave issues.

Cutting through all this noise, fear, and paranoia will not be easy for researchers intent on furthering the science behind how to motivate and engage zombies, but with good experimental design much can be achieved and some deeply buried findings may emerge.

Let me suggest a simple framework for carrying out this work. The fundamental underlying notion that I propose is that zombies are people too, being driven by the same desires that any other person has regarding the world or work. I am not talking about what zombies like to do in their off-hours, or what their social norms and eating habits might be, I am talking about what zombies want from their labors and how they expect to be treated in the world-of-work and that by-and-large it is the same thing that anyone of any generation, gender, ethnicity, religion, geographic location or sexual orientation wants, because it is what people want. If we want to spend our time searching for the minutest differences (such as whether you are dead or alive) they can be found, but our similarities greatly outweigh our differences.

When unrest occurs among zombies it is often driven by a deep-seated sense of lack of respectful or dignified treatment (just look at the clothes they are often made to wear) and that the playing field between the living and undead is not even. Beyond this, it is clear that the undead want to go through their existence with a sense of equitable treatment, that given their efforts they are being fairly rewarded and with a sense of achievement, an innate sense of accomplishment arising from their labors.

I often use what I call the MPF© model during organizational transformations and I am convinced that it would work as well during undead transformations. “M” stands for message, “P” stands for Performance and “F” stands for future.

“M” – first off zombies will want a clear understanding of the purpose of the organization, what does it stand for and importantly how they fit in. What will they be doing in their day-to-day job that will help the organization achieve its goals? If the line from the zombie’s job to the organization’s goals cannot be directly drawn, the organization needs to go back and keep drawing it until the message is crystal clear. Zombies want to know how they fit in and how that fit contributes to what the organization is trying to accomplish.

Second is “P” for performance. Examine the message you have delivered to your zombies and then ask yourself if you enabling them or hindering them in delivering on that message. If the message given out by leadership is that the organization will be customer centric, are your processes and procedures, those things that the zombie must live with supportive of that notion or do they fly in the face of it? Many times zombies are frustrated and act out aggressively, because they are asked to do inhuman or impossible tasks given the resources available to them. They are told one thing and then not given the tools needed to deliver on it. Make sure you are enable performance in-line with your messaging.

Third is “F” or Future. Zombies have their eye (figuratively if not literally) on the future, just like the rest of us. They want to know that if they deliver on the goals they now share with the organization that good things will happen. Things like job security, opportunity for development and to get ahead, the ability to provide for their family etc. The evidence on zombie engagement is absolutely clear, people can work through current hardships and difficulties if they have a sense of a purposeful and meaningful future for themselves – not a smoke and mirrors future of continuing unfulfilled promises, but a real one.

People will get on primitive sailing ships and travel to new unknown lands, they will stand alone, unblinking, in front of a tank, they will challenge despotic rulers who won’t hesitate to cut them down, they will give up and then give up some more, allowing themselves to be treated horrifically and suffering deprivation, all for the sake of creating a better life down the road for themselves, their children, and to create a Future that they can believe in and can see. And with my last breath let me say that you should make sure that the zombies who work for you can see that future and then you need to deliver on it. Come by again sometime soon, I’ll keep an eye out for you.

© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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What are YOU looking for?

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This blog recently passed a significant milestone in terms of the number of readers, 17,000. I have to admit I am somewhat intrigued by who all those people are, after all they can’t all be relatives. So using one of the features of the WordPress system, I took a step back and asked, what are people searching for who end up at my blog? Here are some of the top searches that get people here, and where they seem to end up:

It is somewhat interesting to me that over the last few weeks/months that the search term on motivating temporary or casual workers seems to be rapidly gaining in popularity. Could it be perhaps a sign of some hiring? Some of the other searches that are notable are:

While this list is interesting, I don’t presume that any of it is significant simply because people can only end up here if I have written something on the topic they are searching upon. It is a slippery slope to assume otherwise and is similar to questions like, why does this universe we live in seem so perfectly tuned to support the development of life? Why? Only because we are here is it possible for us to ask the question. There could have been thousands or millions of previous universes that were not so tuned and hence no one was there to ask the question.

It is the height of ego-centrism to assume that something that is arbitrary, perhaps owing itself to nothing more than coincidence, was designed specifically to meet your needs. That ego-centrism is nothing more than a flaw inherent in our brains, with its need to find patterns, rules and explanations where none may exist.

I do enjoy exploring possible linkages between workplace topics that would never make any mainstream literature and, for better or worse, I do plan on continuing with this blog. I hope you enjoy them and will continue to add your comments. There is nothing better than a good debate.

© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

March 14, 2011 at 8:53 am

Democratizing Organizations

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For the tyrant has the power to inflict only that which we lack the strength to resist.

Krishnalal Shridharani – 1939

There is change afoot. Arab countries that had been ruled by authoritarian/despotic figures are undergoing upheaval. And while the verdict will be out for a while, there is widespread hope that something more closely approaching democracy will replace the regimes that existed. There is a good chance that in some of these places one despot will simply be replaced by another, but there is also a chance that should a vibrant democratic entity arise, with free market conditions, that a new center of excellence for commerce, creativity and innovation, and perhaps even tolerance will emerge out of the ashes of the failed states. Allusions to the need for slow gradual change are primary driven by those who benefit the most from a slower pace of change. And contrary to their more recent behaviors, Arab countries have a longer past history of tolerance for people’s differences. The current intolerance of anyone different was and is still a mechanism by which authoritarian regimes hope to keep power, with attention focused on the made-up enemy without rather than on the emptiness within. In many lands constitutions will need to be rewritten, with freedoms enshrined and rights guaranteed. This is a great unfreezing moment, one that the world hasn’t seen since the fall of the Soviet Union, and before a refreezing takes place change needs to be wrought, as much change as possible in order to bring forth the maximum benefits to those who have suffered under oppressive rule. It is scary, yes, for many countries that depended on the stability of the status quo, uncertainty is keeping many awake at night, but the potential benefit is just too great to be ignored or not encouraged.

Could other kinds of organizations, not just nations benefit from some unfreezing of power structures and adoption of new “constitutions” of governance?

My daughter had been off school for a week of vacation surrounding President’s Day. Between vacations and snow days I think she has spent more days at home than in school this winter. At the beginning of the vacation week we headed up to Vermont and did some snow shoeing at Hildene, the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln, the only one of Abraham Lincoln’s four sons to reach adulthood. Though he did a stint as Secretary of War under James Garfield, he did not become part of a political dynasty. Nevertheless, he did ok for himself, becoming the Chairman of the Pullman Palace Car Company which at one point controlled ¾ of the railroad track in the nation, as well as manufacturing the cars that ran on them.

Later in the week we went to see Mary Poppins on Broadway (discount tickets available at TKTS) and afterwards swung by the NY Public Library, the world’s largest marble structure, on 42nd Street. I was hoping to show her one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence that is housed there, but found out from the security guard that it is displayed only on July 4th and even with me cajoling him to bring it out just for a few seconds for us to look at he wouldn’t budge. We took a tour of the 3rd floor reading room instead and went through an exhibition that was being held on the texts of three of the world’s religions, and there I did get to show her a Guttenberg bible. Guarding the entrance to the library on 5th Ave. and 42nd St. are Patience and Fortitude, two famous marble lions residing on the north and south side of the entryway staircase. PatienceMayor Fiorello LaGuardia named them Patience and Fortitude in 1930, for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the economic depression. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that Patience and Fortitude conquered all things.

Most organizations tend not to be run as democracies, but more like autocracies or oligarchies, and a few like kleptocracies, and what I have been describing will provide some examples of that. Robert Todd Lincoln’s mother Mary, put her foot down and much to the embarrassment of Abraham, refused to let her son enlist in the military until the civil war was pretty much over and then only as an aide to Ulysses S. Grant to ensure that he did not see combat. There was no voting, no general agreement about that decision in the household. Mary Poppins ran her household in a “spit spot” fashion, there was no arguing with her when she wanted something done and of course she used a “spoonful of sugar” to make her “medicine” go down. And New York City’s beloved mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia was an authoritarian figure, never letting anyone forget who was in charge. Though elected he ruled with an iron fist and got his way on most issues. Examples of organizations that are not run in a democratic-like fashion can go on and on, so what exactly does it mean to democratize an organization, say a profit making enterprise, and are there any benefits?

Let’s try an experiment. Read through this list of characteristics of an organization and see how many of these describe where you work.

  • The organization is full of silos or stove piped and the cooperation of people or groups needed to operate smoothly is restricted as everyone takes care of their own interests.
  • Legacy systems and past policies limit the ability to adopt and implement new systems and policies.
  • The organization has become routine in its operation, less able to adjust quickly to new situations.
  • Personnel and resources already allocated for existing tasks are not easily available for new needs.
  • Subordinates fearful of displeasing their superiors may not report accurate or complete information needed to make decisions.
  • The initial vision of the organization, the founder’s sentiments, and what it stood for has eroded, and myths or stories of the founding of the organization as well as their symbolism fade.
  • If a strong ideology is present in the organization, firm adherence to it may cause inattention to actual external conditions and how the organization needs to change for effective functioning.
  • Deteriorating efficiency and competency of the organizational bureaucracy, or excessive controls and regulations, may make the system’s policies and operation ineffective.
  • Internal institutional conflicts and personal rivalries and hostilities may harm, and even disrupt, the operation of the organization.
  • High potential talent, top performers and those newly hired may begin to depart the organization in response to conditions, restrictions, bureaucracy and pressure to conform to “the way it is done here”.
  • Customers are beginning to become apathetic, skeptical, and a few even hostile to the organization.
  • Corporate vs. field, line of business or old guard vs. newly hired differences may become acute.
  • The power hierarchy of the organization is always unstable to some degree, and at times extremely so. Individuals do not remain in the same position in the ranking, but may rise or fall to other ranks or be removed entirely and replaced by new persons.
  • Business Units within the organization may act to achieve their own objectives, even going against the direction of the organization overall.
  • With so many decisions made by so few people in the organization, mistakes of judgment, policy, and action are likely to occur.
  • If the organization decentralizes controls and decision making, in an attempt to become more effective, its ability to coordinate the organization becomes further eroded.

There are 16 separate statements above describing organizational characteristics. How many applied to your employer? Two? Five? Eight?

I have to admit something to you. These statements were not from a list of organizational characteristics, but rather, I slightly edited and disguised the work of Gene Sharp who wrote “From Dictatorship to Democracy” and this is his list of characteristics and weaknesses of dictators and dictatorial regimes.

For profit organizations are not about to become democracies in the sense that the staff will take a vote and decide on a course of action. Organizations spend much time and effort in selecting and developing leaders whose responsibility it is to lead. The best leaders though are one’s that listen to their people, reflect on what they have learned, and they work diligently to align the organization’s goals to the personal goals of the employees, establishing a mutuality of benefit. By being part of the organization the employee’s personal goals and life ambitions are being accomplished at the same time that the organization’s goals are being accomplished, hence they have a shared interest. This shared interest will result in a greater buy-in on the part of all employees to the organization’s goals. Organizations and specifically leadership that takes into account their employees attitudes, personal goals, life ambitions are behaving in more democratic fashion. Organizations – leadership, of any sort, that attempt to impose their will on employees by means of leverage or formal power may win the battle but will lose in the long run as any employee who can escape will do so, leaving only those who are trapped by circumstance or ability.

In study after study the leadership characteristics that most strongly rise to the top as being worthy of followers are described as:

  • Honest
  • Forward Looking
  • Inspiring
  • Competent.

Those are not exactly the characteristics of someone who forcefully imposes their will on others.


Kouzes, J., Pozner, B., 2007, The Leadership Challenge, 4th Edition, Jossey Bass, San Francisco.

Hildene website, 2010,

NY Public Library website, 2010,

Sharp, G., 2002, From Dictatorship to Democracy, 4th Edition, The Albert Einstein Institution, East Boston.

© 2011 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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