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What science can reveal about the psychological profiles of terrorists

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What went though the mind of the suicide bomber Salman Abedi just before he blew himself up in Manchester this week, killing 22 people? We often dismiss terrorists as non-humans, monsters, at first. But when we learn that they were seemingly normal individuals with families and jobs, it’s hard not to wonder about how their minds really work.

The search for a terrorist “personality” or “mindset” dominated psychological research in the 1970s and 1980s and remains a significant area for research today. A new study published in Nature Human Behaviour, which assessed the cognitive and psychological profiles of 66 Colombian paramilitaries imprisoned for committing terrorist acts, now argues that poor moral reasoning is what defines terrorists.

The idea behind such research is obvious – it’s to identify stable, predictive traits or “markers” of terrorist personalities. If we could do that, we may be able to predict who will become a terrorist – and perhaps prevent it. But this type of research is viewed by many psychologists, myself included, with extreme caution. Researchers carrying out such studies typically use a myriad of psychometric measures, personality and IQ tests in various contexts. But there’s no consensus on how useful these tests are.

And even if we did manage to pin down terrorist markers, what would we do with this knowledge? Would we all be tested across our lifespan? What would happen if we had a marker?

The term “terrorist mindset” is also problematic because it fuels the notion that terrorists are abnormal, resulting in knee-jerk endeavours to uncover the abnormality. For psychologists, abnormal suggests presence of a disorder, deficit or illness which makes terrorists “sick” or different. This idea seems plausible because it helps us come to terms with extreme behaviour.

But terrorist atrocities are undoubtedly the end of a chain of events which only achieve significance with the benefit of hindsight. By focusing on the event itself, how the terrorist was behaving at that time or how he/she may have been thinking in the immediate run up, our understanding becomes distorted. This is because the process of becoming a terrorist has been overlooked.

Study on Colombian paramilitaries

Of course it’s not easy to get hold of terrorists prior to an attack. Most research therefore concerns terrorists that have been caught or are suspected terrorists. The new study did just this. Imprisoned Columbian paramilitaries completed a battery of social-cognitive tests, creating individual profiles – including assessments of moral cognition, IQ, executive functioning, aggressive behaviour and emotion recognition. They were then compared with 66 non-criminals.

The researchers found terrorists had higher levels of aggression and lower levels of emotion recognition than non-criminals. However, no differences were found between the groups for IQ or executive functioning. The biggest difference between the terrorists and the other group was seen in moral cognition – they found that terrorists are guided by an abnormal over-reliance on outcomes. The authors argue that this distorted moral reasoning – that the ends justify the means – is the “hallmark” of a terrorist mindset. They assessed moral judgement by asking participants to rate various stories according to levels of unjustified aggression.

The results are intriguing and seem intuitive. But we cannot be sure that this profile wasn’t a result of their incarceration – we know that prison distorts cognition. If not, was it present from birth or did it develop in the run up to becoming part of a terrorist group?

These questions cannot be answered, yet they are fundamental. Headline statements from high-profile research of this nature can be misleading and counter-productive. Despite its appeal, there is no scientific support for the idea that terrorists are psychopaths or have a personality disorder. Often research is contradictory – some researchers argue that their findings show terrorists to be suicidal while others claim they are extrovert, unstable, uninhibited, aggressive, defensive or narcissistic.

In fact, psycho-pathological behaviours are more likely to conflict with a terrorist agenda than aid it – it after all relies on commitment, motivation and discipline.

The psychology of radicalisation

Many psychologists believe that the events which occur in the years before a terrorist attack, referred to as radicalisation, offer most in terms of trying to answer why a person might turn to political violence. However, the psychology of terrorism is not well advanced. There is little empirical evidence to support existing conceptual models – and they are often limited to particular extremist groups and ideologies.

More and more psychologists are now beginning to believe that a number of key psychological components are fundamental to the radicalisation process. These include motivation, group ideologies and social processes that encourage progressive distancing from former friends, for example. Rather than measuring to predict, we might be better off devoting resources to improve understanding of what motivates individuals to join the ranks of violent extremists. Is it the fundamental human need to matter that makes people seek out others who share their reality? Psychological evidence indicates the quest for significance may indeed be an important driver of extremist behaviour.

The so-called Islamic State (IS). Alibaba2k16/wikipedia, CC BY-SA

However, it is clear that a number of complicated factors are directly and indirectly related to radicalisation. Personality and cognitive performance may change over time and therefore seem irrelevant for prediction purposes. But it is important to note that many in society are vulnerable to being manipulated and managed by terrorist groups to perform terrorist acts because of a cognitive impairment, disability or mental illness.

Accepting that prediction may never be possible because of the complex, evolving nature of terrorism might improve the nature of research in this domain. Quality psychological research aimed at searching for markers of the radicalisation process, such as changes in dress, behaviour and social circles – which appear to have been present in the case of Abedi and others – may be fruitful. Indeed de-radicalisation schemes are increasingly important in the fight against terrorism.

Luckily, the more we find out about terrorists’ quest for significance the better we can understand the identity and social issues that are fundamental to radicalisation. So there’s every reason to be optimistic that psychology can be a powerful tool in the fight against terrorism.

SOURCE:  http://theconversation.com/what-science-can-reveal-about-the-psychological-profiles-of-terrorists-78304

High Turnover Costs Way More Than You Think

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Written with A. Crosser

I remember almost leaving my company in 2006. I was lying in bed, dejected and upset. My corporate mentor called me and talked me off the ledge. He told me I was highly valued at a time I was feeling undervalued. Over the course of our deep conversation, I realized that I had likely misinterpreted a situation and I needed to get out of bed, stand back up and not be corporate roadkill…

It’s well-known that employee turnover rates come as a high cost to companies, however very few discuss the true extended costs and the multiple ways that it impacts the business. It’s important that successful business not only find the best employees, but keep them engaged as well. In one of my most recent articles, we discussed losing a Millennial employee can costs the company $15,000 to $25,000, but it’s actually a lot more when you weigh in a few additional variables.

First, let’s take a look at the hard costs of high turnover. What is a company going to spend in order to compensate for low retention rates? According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, employers will need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary in order to find and train their replacement. Doing the math, that means that for an employee salaried at $60,000 will cost the company anywhere from $30,000 to $45,000 to hire and train a replacement. Other research show that the average costs could be even higher. In a study conducted by the Center for America Progress, the cost of losing an employee can cost anywhere from 16% of their salary for hourly, unsalaried employees, to 213% of the salary for a highly trained position! So if a high trained executive is making $120,000 a year, the true loss could be up to $255,600 to the company!

Perhaps getting rid of Thursday Happy Hour, flex-time, or reducing paid maternity leave was not such a good idea after all.

The question then becomes, why does losing an employee cost so much, and in what other ways do high turnover rates impact a company? From there we look to what can be done to keep strong employees engaged and happy at the company. Not just surviving but thriving at work.

1. The Cost of Training and On-Boarding

Training an employee is not free, and is often relatively expensive. Training seminars and classes can cost a business thousands of dollars, and they can also result in the understaffing of other departments, as training sessions will often need to be led and monitored by other employees of the company. This can result in lowered productivity, and as Zane Benefits, points out the overworking of other employees making up for those who need to conduct training.

2. Interview Expenses

Conducting interviews is a long and tedious process. Many expensive mistakes can be made here in picking the wrong candidate. In order to lower turnover rates, it’s important for businesses to ensure that they are hiring the best candidates for the job, individuals who will be more likely to stay and grow with the company for an extended period. The interview process can include travel expenses if candidates from out-of-town are being considered, which add up quickly. Outside of monetary expenses, the interview process takes immense amounts of time, with company leaders needing to take hours out of their day to conduct the meetings. Much like training, time spent on interviews costs the business by way of lost productivity.

3. Advertising Costs

Posting ads promoting the vacant positon can cost a company a significant amount of money, with most job boards charging a hefty fee to employers looking to advertise. These costs add up over time, meaning that the company could be looking at serious expenses to advertise new positions. Hiring a good external recruiter is a great way to decrease time on task, but the recruiter will often charge 25-33% of one year salary for senior positions.

4. Lowered Engagement

I can’t tell you how many calls I receive from people distraught when they see good people and friends leaving their companies. High turnover rates will most definitely be noticed by staff who remain employed by a business, and this can often result in lost engagement on part of these employees. They will often feel that the ship is taking too much water if too many people leave, overworked, and thus less satisfied and less motivated at work.

5. Productivity of New Hires

When a company is faced with the need to hire new employees, they also face a severe decrease in productivity. As discussed before, remaining employees may lose focus due to high turnover, however the productivity of the new hires is also an issue. According to business expert Josh Bersin, of Bersin by Deloitte, a new employee can take up to two full years to reach the same level of productivity as an existing staff member. Lately, I have been thinking of the workplace like a blended family. Having new stepbrothers and sisters, uncles and cousins come into the ‘work’ family can be a lot of fun, but also can be riddled with new and unexpected challenges, turf wars, feelings of displacement and hurt feelings if not integrated and on-boarded right.

6. Impact on Morale & The Gossip Machine

When other employees leave, the remaining staff will wonder why and the gossip machine commences. If an employee leaves for a higher salary, other employees may interview for other higher-paying positions elsewhere. According to Forbes, employees expecting a raise can expect to see an average of 3 percent, however being recruited for or finding a new position often results in a 10-20 percent raise, meaning that the company has to further compensate for lost staff members. Additionally, if employees left unhappily based on workplace culture issues, they will often communicate with their friends sharing a brighter life/ opportunities available on the other side. I don’t want to diminish in any way the psychological impact that an employee goes through in transition regardless of who’s decision it was to part ways. Transitions are tough but sometimes employees know they can’t get to second base with their foot still on first/

7. Less Effective Service

When hiring for a customer service position specifically, new hires generally do not know the answers to typical questions they will face on the job. For example, if a company needs to hire several new employees to fill IT Help Desk positions, they will take longer to resolve common issues, and it could potentially result in the loss of customers, should they be unhappy with the changes.

So what is a company to do? After all transitions are a given in any company.

Perhaps we can learn something from youth in the New York City schools.

Professor Jonah Rockoff researcher out of Columbia University illustrates that mentoring not only reduces employee turnover, but also improves the skills of new employees, increasing the amount of productivity that you will see in the newly on-boarded staff members. After studying the habits of students in New York City schools and how they perform with and without mentors, Rockoff found that students who received mentoring had the best performances out of all of the students observed, and that they had a lesser chance of dropping out than students who were not mentored. These observations can be applied to business as well, with the concepts of mentoring remaining the same. Rockoff states that when an employee receives specialized attention and training from a mentor, they will perform better on the job, and will be much more likely to stay in the workplace. These concepts have been proven in corporate giants like Google, who have one of the lowest employee turnover rates in the world, and also implement one of the most effective mentoring programs.

There are many costs associated with high turnover, but there are a multitude of ways to reduce it. Mentoring is one of the most effective, cost efficient ways of increasing employee tenure benefitting the mentor, the mentee and driving significant retention.

So when my mentor called me that day from his business trip in Hong Kong, we had a deep and honest discussion. I deleted the resignation letter I had been drafting, dusted myself off, worked through the issue and continued loving my two decade career for many more years.

Julie Kantor is Founder & CEO of Twomentor, LLC a management consulting firm focused on building mentoring cultures and retaining a diverse STEM workforce.

SOURCE:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-kantor/high-turnover-costs-way-more-than-you-think_b_9197238.html

Having more women directors makes good economic sense

By | Hogan | No Comments

Suggesting ASX 200 companies’ boards be at least 30 per cent women in four years should spur all Australian boards to follow suit.

Start Survey.fwThe case for increasing the representation of women on Australian boards is overwhelming. It is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do, in terms of improving business performance.

And now the director community is setting itself a new and ambitious standard to help achieve that goal.

This week the Australian Institute of Company Directors has announced a major step forward in efforts to increase the number of women on boards by setting a target of 30 per cent for female directors. For ASX 200 companies, the goal of having at least 30 per cent women is to be reached within the next four years.

We are among the first major Australian organisations representing business to set such a target and the landmark policy is part of our long-running campaign to improve gender diversity in local boardrooms.

Our aim is to encourage all Australian boards – not just those at our biggest listed companies – to make the decisions that will help their companies more quickly reach the “critical mass” of female representation where the optimal business benefits of gender diversity begin to flow.

There is an undeniable business case for board diversity. Research over many years demonstrates a positive link between the level of female representation on boards and improved corporate performance.

A 2012 report by Credit Suisse, for example, demonstrates a positive link between the number of women on boards and in senior management and improved financial and sharemarket performance. Catalyst research showed that US Fortune 500 companies with more women on their boards tend to be more profitable. And, McKinsey research has shown that companies with a higher proportion of women at board level typically exhibit greater organisational efficiency, above average operating margins and higher valuations.

Research also suggests that the presence of three women, or 30 per cent of a typical 10-member board, is the proportion of representation where “critical mass” is reached in a group setting.

It is at this level where the voices of the minority group become heard rather than being simply represented and where, therefore, this increased capacity for diversity to deliver value begins to be optimised.

Our 30 per cent target will apply to all company structures, as the AICD has a broad membership of more than 35,000 that extends well beyond the top listed companies to small ASX entities, private business and not-for-profit organisations.

The new objective is a significant extension of the AICD’s previous initiatives to increase diversity, which have made a significant contribution to a steady increase in female directors on ASX 200 boards in recent years, from 8.3 per cent in 2009 to 20 per cent today. For ASX 20 companies the figure has reached 23.3 per cent.

The number of ASX 200 boards without any female directors has more than halved from 87 boards in June 2010 to 34 boards and there are now only four ASX 100 boards and two ASX 50 boards without a female director – and none in the ASX 20.

The percentage of females among new director appointments to ASX 200 boards has meanwhile increased from just 5 per cent in 2009 to an average 30 per cent in 2014.

We believe, however, that more needs to be done to further increase that number, at a faster pace, and we are confident our new policy will help accelerate the gains already made.

We also believe that the director community setting its own 30 per cent target is a better approach than a mandated quota imposed by government. We have always said that companies should set their own measurable targets for gender diversity and to facilitate their efforts we are now nominating a minimum standard that we consider appropriate.

The AICD will urge all boards to adopt the new target and regularly report on their progress towards it so that the results of this initiative can be transparent and monitored by all stakeholders.

The AICD has long been the leader in the drive for greater board diversity in Australia. We will continue to pursue the practical programs we have had in place since we first launched our Board Diversity Initiative in 2009, including mentoring and scholarship programs which have helped many women gain directorships and played an important role in the progress already made in increasing the female presence in Australian boardrooms.

We will also continue our leadership role in the development of ASX reporting guidelines on diversity and in publishing the only up-to-date monthly statistics on the number of women on ASX 200 boards.

But we are now taking this leadership role to the next level. In setting this new numerical target, and an ambitious time frame for ASX 200 companies to achieve it, the director community is aiming for a higher standard that will more effectively achieve the important goal of greater diversity on our boards.

John Brogden is the managing director and chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/having-more-women-directors-makes-good-economic-sense-20150410-1mgdae.html