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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Management Professor Studies Bad Workplace Behavior; Will Appear March 27 on 'With Good Reason'

By Brendan O'Hallarn

We have all worked with that person. The employee with no regard for rules and responsibilities. The one who will do anything to get ahead.

How can those employees be identified in the workplace? And what steps can employers take to discourage that behavior?

Rachel Frieder, assistant professor of management in Old Dominion University's Strome College of Business, has some suggestions.

Frieder recently collaborated on a study published in the Journal of Management, one of the most influential journals in the management discipline. Frieder will discuss the findings of the article, "The role of interpersonal influence in counterbalancing psychopathic personality trait facets at work," this week on "With Good Reason," a public radio program spotlighting research at Virginia's public universities.

Frieder will appear on the episode "Cloak and Dagger in the Workplace" at 7 a.m. on Sunday, March 27 on WHRV-FM 89.5 in Hampton Roads. The program also airs in different timeslots at more than 50 public radio stations from coast to coast. Broadcast times are posted on the "With Good Reason" website.

Frieder, who came to Old Dominion in 2014, researches how individuals succeed in the workplace, notably through political skills such as the appearance of sincerity, understanding others' needs and motives, and fitting in with what is socially acceptable.

"Some people in the workplace simply know how to sell and package themselves," Frieder said, noting that the increase in collaborative tasks in workplaces nationwide puts a greater emphasis on political skill.

For the study, Frieder and her colleagues examined how political skill can help an individual overcome psychopathic tendencies such as cold-heartedness, fearless dominance and self-centered impulsivity.

"When we think of psychopaths, we think of the more extreme behaviors," Frieder said, noting that the behaviors exist on a continuum, and that as many as 10 percent of adults possess one or more forms of psychopathic tendencies.

"We were interested in how they can manage in the workplace. We found that some of these deficiencies can be overcome with the right type of social skills," Frieder said.

For the study, 523 German workers completed questionnaires to self-identify certain behaviors on a psychopathic continuum. Those answers were compared with a second questionnaire designed to assess political skill.

The findings that psychopathic behaviors can be controlled through political skill is useful knowledge not only for individual workers, but also for employers in selecting, training and conducting performance management of new employees.

By creating reward systems that emphasize behavior that serves others, companies can reward good corporate citizens but dissuade individuals with less-than-noble motives from engaging in destructive workplace behavior, the study found.

Hosted by Sarah McConnell, "With Good Reason" is produced by the Charlottesville-based Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The show was created more than 20 years ago to spotlight the groundbreaking research being done at Virginia's public universities.

"With Good Reason" has twice won the Gabriel Award for Best Documentary/Public Affairs Program. It also is the recipient of top honors from the Virginia Association of Broadcasters and a second-place award in the Public Radio News Directors competition.

Audio files of the full program and its companion news feature will be posted the week of the show on the "With Good Reason" website.