Tag Archives: transverse selection

More proof of the corruptive effects of phatic elements in the workplace

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transverse-selectionUniversity of Pennsylvania social network researcher Lynn Wu recently discovered a perfect example of transverse selection.

After analyzing several years of anonymized electronic communications from 8000+ employees of a tech firm, she found that while instrumental communications about practical matters drove productivity, social communications about sports and primate food-sharing rituals—like lunches and coffee breaks—drove retention during lay-offs.

More importantly, she found that these two types of communication were substitutes for each other, meaning that they can’t occupy the same network space at the same time.

In simpler terms: practical thinkers did the mission, but social thinkers kept their jobs when push came to shove.

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Transverse Selection as a source of inefficiency and incompetence

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I once worked for a government office admin professional, one of the most powerful GS employees in his agency at the time, who boasted about rejecting a well-qualified candidate for a computer programming position because the guy had worn white socks with dress pants and dress shoes.

We see interview advice all the time targeting the interviewee, advice on grooming and speech and how to compose and format a résumé. “Five Huge Mistakes You Should Avoid During an Interview” is a web headline sure to go viral.

We don’t often see advice for interviewers and hiring officials steering them away from mistakes, however. We seem to simply assume they’ll do the right thing. They’re trained professionals, after all.

This is a dumb assumption.

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