Interesting: "Again, we found that the participants were especially likely to overestimate how awkward the ensuing conversations about the more meaningful topics would be, while underestimating how happy those conversations would make them."

How would this work on LinkedIn -- or would it? Perhaps eye contact is needed?

‘The Gossip’ (ca. 1922) by American painter William Penhallow Henderson. Heritage Images/Getty Images
Amit Kumar, University of Texas at Austin; Michael Kardas, Northwestern University, and Nicholas Epley, University of Chicago

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, there’s hope that life will return to some level of normalcy in 2022.

This includes more opportunities to meet new people and build friendships, a process that’s critical for mental and physical well-being.

This does not, however, mean that everyone will take advantage of these new chances to connect.

Even before fears of a virus compelled most people to stay physically distant, our research suggests that people were already keeping too much social distance from one another.

In particular, our forthcoming behavioral science research suggests that people tend to be overly pessimistic about how conversations with new acquaintances will play out.

Across a dozen experiments, participants consistently underestimated how much they would enjoy talking with strangers. This was especially true when we asked them to have the kinds of substantive conversations that actually foster friendships.

Because of these mistaken beliefs, it seems as though people reach out and connect with others less often and in less meaningful ways than they probably should.

Moving beyond water cooler talk

People usually only disclose their deepest disappointments, proudest accomplishments and simmering anxieties to close friends and family.

But our experiments tested the seemingly radical idea that deep conversations between strangers can end up being surprisingly satisfying.

In several experiments, the participants first reported how they expected to feel after discussing relatively weighty questions like, “what are you most grateful for in your life?” and “when is the last time you cried in front of another person?”

These participants believed they would feel somewhat awkward and only moderately happy discussing these topics with a stranger. But after we prompted them to actually do so, they reported that their conversations were less awkward than they had anticipated. Furthermore, they felt happier and more connected to the other person than they had assumed.

In other experiments, we asked people to write down questions they would normally discuss when first getting to know someone - “weird weather we’re having these days, isn’t it?” - and then to write down deeper and more intimate questions than they would normally discuss, like asking whether the other person was happy with their life.

Again, we found that the participants were especially likely to overestimate how awkward the ensuing conversations about the more meaningful topics would be, while underestimating how happy those conversations would make them.

These mistaken beliefs matter because they can create a barrier to human connection. If you mistakenly think a substantive conversation will feel uncomfortable, you’re going to probably avoid it. And then you might never realize that your expectations are off the mark.

Yes, others do care

Misconceptions over the outcomes of deeper conversations may happen, in part, because we also underestimate how interested other people are in what we have to share. This makes us more reluctant to open up.

It turns out that, more often than not, strangers do want to hear you talk about more than the weather; they really do care about your fears, feelings, opinions and experiences.

Woman and man seated at table talk to one another.
‘In the Cafe’ (1891) by Belgian artist Jan Moerman. Pierre Bourgogne/Fine Art Photographic/Getty Images

The results were strikingly consistent. For the experiments, we recruited college students, online samples, strangers in a public park and even executives at financial services firms, and similar patterns played out within each group. Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, a man or a woman, you’re likely to underestimate how good you’ll feel after having a deep conversation with a stranger. The same results even occurred in conversations over Zoom.

Aligning beliefs with reality

In one telling demonstration, we had some people engage in both a relatively shallow and comparatively deeper conversation. People expected that they would prefer a shallow conversation to the deeper one before they took place. After the interactions occurred, they reported the opposite.

Moreover, the participants consistently told us that they wished they could have deeper conversations more often in their everyday lives.

The problem, then, is not a lack of interest in having more meaningful conversations. It’s the misguided pessimism about how these interactions will play out.

It’s possible, though, to learn from these positive experiences.

Think of the trepidation kids have of diving into the deep end of a swimming pool. The uneasiness is often unwarranted: Once they take the plunge, they end up having a lot more fun than they did in shallower waters.

Our data suggests that something similar can happen when it comes to topics of conversation. You might feel nervous before starting a deeper conversation with someone you barely know; yet once you do, you might actually enjoy digging a little deeper than you typically do.

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The broader takeaway of our work is that these miscalibrated expectations can lead many people to be not quite social enough for their own good and the well-being of others.

Having deeper conversations joins a growing list of opportunities for social engagement - including expressing gratitude, sharing compliments and reaching out and talking to an old friend - that end up feeling a lot better than we might think.The Conversation

Amit Kumar, Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Texas at Austin; Michael Kardas, Postdoctoral Fellow in Management and Marketing, Northwestern University, and Nicholas Epley, John Templeton Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science, University of Chicago

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Here is my takeaway:

"Thus, the barriers and transition costs employees incur when switching employers have been reduced.

Greater options and lower costs to move mean that employees can be more selective and focus on picking jobs that best fit their personal needs and desires."

Employers are having a harder time recruiting new workers. AP Photo/Marta Lavandier
Ian O. Williamson, University of California, Irvine

Finding good employees has always been a challenge - but these days it's harder than ever. And it is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

The so-called quit rate - the share of workers who voluntarily leave their jobs - hit a new record of 3% in September 2021, according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The rate was highest in the leisure and hospitality sector, where 6.4% of workers quit their jobs in September. In all, 20.2 million workers left their employers from May through September.

Companies are feeling the effects. In August 2021, a survey found that 73% of 380 employers in North America were having difficulty attracting employees - three times the share that said so the previous year. And 70% expect this difficulty to persist into 2022.

Observers have blamed a wide variety of factors for all the turnover, from fear of contracting COVID-19 by mixing with co-workers on the job to paltry wages and benefits being offered.

As a professor of human resource management, I examine how employment and the work environment have changed over time and the impact this has on organizations and communities. While the current resignation behavior may seem like a new trend, data shows employee turnover has been rising steadily for the past decade and may simply be the new normal employers are going to have to get used to.

The economy's seismic shifts

The U.S. - alongside other advanced economies - has been moving away from a focus on productive sectors like manufacturing to a service-based economy for decades.

In recent years, the service sector accounted for about 86% of all employment in the U.S. and 79% of all economic growth.

That change has been seismic for employers. A majority of the jobs in service-based industries require only generalizable occupational skills such as competencies in computing and communications that are often easily transportable across companies. This is true across a wide range of professions, from accountants and engineers to truck drivers and customer services representatives. As a result, in service-based economies, it is relatively easy for employees to move between companies and maintain their productivity.

And thanks to information technology and social media, it has never been easier for employees to find out about new job opportunities anywhere in the world. The growing prevalence of remote working also means that in some cases employees will no longer need to physically relocate to start a new job.

Thus, the barriers and transition costs employees incur when switching employers have been reduced.

Greater options and lower costs to move mean that employees can be more selective and focus on picking jobs that best fit their personal needs and desires. What people want from work is inherently shaped by their cultural values and life situation. The U.S. labor market is expected to become far more diverse going forward in terms of gender, ethnicity and age. Thus, employers that cannot provide greater flexibility and variety in their working environment will struggle to attract and retain workers.

Employers now have a greater obligation than in the past to convince existing and would-be employees why they should stay or join their organizations. And there is no evidence to suggest this trend will change going forward.

What companies can do to adapt

It has been estimated that the cost to the employer of replacing a departing employee is on average 122% of that employee's annual salary in terms of finding and training a replacement.

Thus, there is a large incentive for businesses to adapt to the new labor market conditions and develop innovative approaches to keeping workers happy and in their jobs.

A May 2021 survey found that 54% of employees surveyed from around the world would consider leaving their job if they were not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work.

Given the heightened priority employees place on finding a job that fits their preferences, companies need to adopt a more holistic approach to the types of rewards they provide. It's also important that they tailor the types of financial, social and developmental incentives and opportunities they provide to individual employees' preferences. It's not just about paying workers more. There are even examples of companies providing employees the choice of simply being paid in a cryptocurrency like bitcoin as an inducement.

While customizing the package of rewards each employees receives may potentially increase an organization's administrative costs, this investment can help retain a highly engaged workforce.

Managing the new normal

Companies should also plan on high employee mobility to be endemic and reframe how they approach managing their workers.

One way to do this is by investing deeply in external relationships that help ensure consistent access to high-quality talent. This can include enhancing the relationships they have with educational institutions and former employees.

For example, many organizations have adopted alumni programs that specifically recruit former employees to rejoin.

These former employees are often less expensive to recruit, bring access to needed human capital and possess both an understanding of an organization's processes and an appreciation of the organization's culture.

The quit rate is likely to stay elevated for some time to come. The sooner employers accept that and adapt, the better they'll be at managing the new normal.

[You're smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation's authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter.]The Conversation

Ian O. Williamson, Dean of the Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Flipping jobs? AP Photo/Jenny Kane

Christopher Decker, University of Nebraska Omaha

The first U.S. jobs report of 2022 showed continued - if lackluster - growth. But perhaps of greater significance for the economic year ahead are two factors that lurked behind the headline unemployment rate: a stagnating labor pool and the impact of omicron.

First, the good news. The economy did add jobs in December, 199,000 of them, with gains in most sectors. This was less than the 440,000-job increase that some economists expected. Still, the gains are an indication of a reasonably healthy economy.

And October and November jobs numbers were revised upward by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, gains were seen across a number of key sectors. The leisure and hospitality sector was up, as expected given recent trends, as were business services and manufacturing.

Construction was also up and should continue to gain in the months to come - if it can find the workers.

The stagnating labor market

The unemployment rate was down to 3.9% - a new low in the pandemic era. This is good, to a degree. People who want jobs are finding them.

The problem is employers are having a hard time finding the workers amid a somewhat stagnating labor market.

The number of people in the labor force increased a little in December, but not by much - only about 168,000. And with job openings outpacing this small increase in the labor market, there remains a significant risk that worker wages may begin to rise too quickly for the economy.

While this is great for workers, it poses a concern for those trying to tamp down the rising prices of goods. Higher wages in the hands of workers means more money to spend, which generally drives prices of goods upward.

The latest report shows that wages are up, hours worked remain constant and the participation rate was unchanged. Even the number of people not in the labor force but wanting a job changed little. It is very much a sellers market in labor right now. Strikes, wage pressure and more flexible work environments may become the new normal.

Separate data from November, released on Jan. 4, 2021, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides further evidence of a drying up labor market. There were 6.9 million hires that month but 10.6 million job openings - a clear imbalance. Meanwhile the share of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs continued to be high.

It appears that many Americans who lost their jobs in 2020 have either taken early retirement or are still delaying re-entering the workforce.

And those hesitating to rush back to the office or factory floor are unlikely to be encouraged by the problem not yet reflected in jobs data: omicron.

The slowdown to come

The latest jobs report does not really reflect the effect of omicron on the labor market. The monthly jobs data is typically collected mid-month - before the highly contagious COVID-19 variant really took hold in the U.S.

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But if the U.S. doesn't see omicron cases peaking soon, Americans will likely see some real slowdown in hiring. With more workers falling ill and unable to work, managers at retail stores, as well as bars and restaurants, may well be forced to reduce hours of operation, reducing revenue and slowing growth in the process.

We are already seeing this with airlines, which have been forced to cancel flights. The real sectors at risk here are the leisure and hospitality sectors and retail - two industries that have bounced back quite well of late.

This may all sound a little downbeat given that the December jobs report did show gains. Growth is growth - it is just that the risks to the economy are quite high right now.The Conversation

Christopher Decker, Professor of Economics, University of Nebraska Omaha

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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