Work Place News…..So You Think Your Boss Is a Psychopath?

Wake Forest University professors offer survival tips

Newswise — Winston-Salem, N.C. – If you heard about a recent study claiming one in 25 executive leaders meet the criteria for a psychopathic personality and thought: “That sounds like MY boss,” you might be wondering what to do about it Evelyn William, associate vice president of leadership development/professor of practice at Wake Forest University Schools of Business says knowing your boss’s work style could be the key to succeeding. Jamie Dickey Ungerleider, Ph.D, associate professor of Family & Community Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center says that might help you in the short term, but a longer term solution is to find a new boss.

“Leaders who are psychopaths are extremely charming, highly manipulative, see other people as objects and don’t feel guilty about using people to reach their own ends,” Dr. Ungerleider says. “Most people at work have good intentions, but a psychopathic boss does not.”

Ungerleider says that evaluations and reviews won’t usually reveal the problems a psychopathic boss has. “There’s usually a segment of the population who finds them utterly charming and don’t understand why others wouldn’t trust them.”

But if you can’t make a move away from such an employer, “Recognize that you still have a mutually dependent relationship,” Williams says. “Knowing your boss’s work style gives you a road map you can use to make adjustments and deliver the work that will please a difficult boss.”

Williams says you should ask yourself these questions to determine your best working road map:

● How does my boss like to communicate?
● Does my boss focus on details or big picture thinking?
● Which is more important to my boss: analysis and data or human relationships?
● Does my boss use introverted or extroverted discussion patterns?
● When it comes to decisions, does my boss like quick resolution or decision by committee?

“Knowing the answers to these questions allows you to take control of your working relationship and do a good job of managing up,” says Williams. “You won’t feel like the victim and will have control of how to manage the relationship since there are multiple ways to accomplish these tasks.”

But Dr. Ungerleider, says too much success at work could also been seen as a threat to a psychopathic boss. “These people use the skills and talents of people under them to shine for their own managers,” Dr. Ungerleider says. “If you shine a little too brightly while you’re helping them stand out, that becomes a threat. Most of them won’t hesitate to throw you under the bus.”

Both agree on seeking validation from your co-workers in and outside your department. Dr. Ungerleider says you need to know that others have the same concerns.

“Network outside your department and make sure you document what’s happening in yours. That doesn’t mean a vindictive accounting, but rather keeping track of decisions made or assignments given so that you and your boss can agree on your work both in terms of load and delivery,” Williams said. “We’re all fallible humans and need to manage our stress loads — some people may appear like psychopaths simply because they are overwhelmed in their current roles.”

Dr. Ungerleider also says not every bad boss is a psychopath. “Sometimes people put a boss in that category because they’re being treated badly, but those are bad actions or bad decisions, not a personality disorder.”

Released: 9/22/2011  Source: Wake Forest University

Via Newswise

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Light Switch: Study Finds Increased Light May Moderate Fearful Reactions

Newswise — Biologists and psychologists know that light affects mood, but a new University of Virginia study indicates that light may also play a role in modulating fear and anxiety.

Psychologist Brian Wiltgen and biologists Ignacio Provencio and Daniel Warthen of U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences worked together to combine studies of fear with research on how light affects physiology and behavior.

Using mice as models, they learned that intense light enhances fear or anxiety in mice, which are nocturnal, in much the same way that darkness can intensify fear or anxiety in diurnal humans.

The finding is published in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We looked at the effect of light on learned fear, because light is a pervasive feature of the environment that has profound effects on behavior and physiology,” said Wiltgen, an assistant professor of psychology and an expert on learning. “Light plays an important role in modulating heart rate, circadian rhythms, sleep/wake cycles, digestion, hormones, mood and other processes of the body. In our study we wanted to see how it affects learned fear.”

Fear is a natural mechanism for survival. Some fears – such as of loud noise, sudden movements and heights – appear to be innate. Humans and other mammals also learn from their experiences, which include dangerous or bad situations. This “learned fear” can protect us from dangers.

That fear also can become abnormally enhanced in some cases, sometimes leading to debilitating phobias. About 40 million people in the United States suffer from dysregulated fear and heightened states of anxiety.

“Studies show that light influences learning, memory and anxiety,” Wiltgen said. “We have now shown that light also can modulate conditioned fear responses.”

“In this work we describe the modulation of learned fear by ambient light,” said Provencio, an expert on light and photoreception. “The dysregulation of fear is an important component of many disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. Understanding how light regulates learned fear may inform therapies aimed at treating some of these fear-based disorders.”

The researchers used a common method for studying learned fear. They cued their mice with a minute-long tone that was followed two seconds later by a quick, mild electrical shock. The mice learned to associate the tone with the shock and quickly became conditioned to duck down and remain motionless when they heard the tone, in the same way they would if a predator appeared.

The researchers discovered that by intensifying the ambient light, the mice showed a greater fear reaction to the tone than when the light was dimmer. This makes sense Wiltgen said, because mice naturally avoid detection by predators by hunkering down motionless as a defense mechanism. In a natural habitat they likewise would become particularly anxious in the presence of a predator in bright light where they would be more easily detected.

“We showed that light itself does not necessarily enhance fear, but more light enhances learned fear,” Wiltgen said. “It may be similar to a person learning to be more fearful in the dark.”

The researchers wanted to understand what visual pathways to the brain in mammals may be responsible for this behavior in the presence of more light. The eye has two pathways that begin in the retina and end in the brain: one is image-forming and made up of rods and cones; the other is the non-image-forming retinal ganglion cells where melanopsin, a circadian rhythm-regulating photo-pigment, is located.

Using two types of mutant mice, ones without rods and cones but with the melanopsin retinal ganglion cells, the others without functioning melanopsin ganglion cells but with rods and cones, the researchers were able to determine that the visual pathway affecting light behavior was in the rods and cones – the image-forming pathway.

“Both pathways have connections to the emotional circuitry of the brain,” Wiltgen said. “The two types of mice are a nice tool for figuring out which pathway controls the light effect.”

By indexing the two types of fear reactions in the presence of increased light, the researchers learned that the image-forming pathway of the rods and cones had the modulating effect on fear.

“The implications of this in humans is this: that being diurnal, the absence of light can be a source of fear,” Wiltgen said. “But increased light can be used to reduce fear and anxiety and to treat depression. If we can come to understand the cellular mechanisms that affect this, then eventually abnormal anxiety and fear might be treated with improved pharmaceuticals to mimic or augment light therapy.”

Released: 8/10/2011
Source: University of Virginia

Via Newswise

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Back to School Tips for Parents: Make the First Day of School Easier with a Few Simple Steps

Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – School looms on the horizon just like the sun. It is a warm, familiar sunset to ride into for some children. For others, especially children starting a new school or transitioning to a higher grade, it’s a desert sun bringing sweat and a dry mouth.

“Even though most children are anxious during a time of change, they can be quite happy and adjust to the new school within two weeks. But if a child does not adjust, there are issues beyond the transition,” says child-adolescent psychologist Vivian Friedman, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Friedman suggests these actions to ease your child’s transition:

• Schedule a play date with a child from the new school
• Visit the playground during summer
• Take a tour of the school

The most important thing not to do is add to your child’s stress, Friedman says. Stay positive. Drop off and pick up on time. Do not cry when you leave. And do not compare them to other children. Remember, deep down, this behavior is who your child is.

“Character styles are persistent, not permanent. A child who approaches life with fear may also be a cautious adult,” says Friedman. “An easy-going child is likely to continue to approach life with a positive attitude. Help your child to see the glass half-full rather than half-empty. When a child has a negative view, after acknowledging how he feels, ask him how else he might view that situation or how someone else might see it.”

How does a parent know if a child is just discomforted or if they are truly traumatized?

Friedman says whining and threats to run away or harm oneself should be seen as symptoms of underlying issues. She says you need to “look for symptoms such as nightmares or other sleep disturbances, a return to bedwetting in a child who has not done so for a time, startle responses and generally anxious behavior. These are symptoms of trauma.”

Watch your child. If their emotional, behavioral or social behavior is out of the ordinary for longer than a couple weeks, you should consider seeking outside help.

Released: 7/29/2011

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Via Newswise

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