If and when you return to your pre-pandemic job, you will compare your workplace to what it was like before COVID-19 struck. Washingtonian Media CEO Cathy Merrill wrote this month an op-ed about the likely loss of her company’s pre-pandemic culture of collaboration and creativity. Eager for her employees to return to the office, she anticipates an erosion of collaboration and creativity, and describes the risk of job loss for those who continue working from home.

Many Washingtonian staff members didn’t like what they read; employees protested her column with a one-day work stoppage. The top executive and her staff…


Jacqueline Novogratz and Acumen Show Us How

Pursuing your full potential seems like a worthy goal, but also feels unrealistic and frustrating. Perhaps, the best aspiration is to realize more of our potential by finding the most gratifying pathways toward our best possible futures.

Graphic: Dick Close

Thinking about Human Potential

The subject of human potential might remind you of the iconic pyramid of human motives inspired by the great mid-twentieth-century psychologist Abraham Maslow. Recently, I described an upgraded motive pyramid using relevant research to expand on Maslow’s theorizing.

Maslow never used a geometric form to illustrate his motive hierarchy; later authors introduced…


How to Make Bad and Good Decisions about Risk

The Challenger space shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff, killing seven people. The disaster took place decades ago and was not caused by a virus. Nonetheless, it holds lessons for making the best possible decisions as we open and close during the pandemic.

Lothar Dieterich/Pixabay

Analogies are always imperfect, but they can help us know what to consider before making big decisions. As you read the following summary of the Challenger tragedy, please consider the too-risky choices that led to the deaths of those seven astronauts and the lessons those flawed judgments offer. …


Life and work seem especially complicated these days. Analogies, even imperfect ones, can help us make big decisions such as those we all face with the pandemic.

Bad Decisions with the Challenger

The Challenger space shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff, killing seven people. The date was January 28, 1986. The incident holds lessons for how we “reopen” during the pandemic.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Faulty O-rings caused the explosion. For thinking about the pandemic, the essential details are not technical but human. At Morton Thiokol, the contractor, some engineers and managers had worried for years about O-ring defects. …


Don’t Fall Prey to the Not Invented Here Syndrome

It’s not controversial — I’m pretty sure — to say that Donald J. Trump’s personality and management style are unique. Can we learn anything about leadership from the U.S. president?

Yes, a lot, if only we try.

We Can Learn about Leadership from Donald J. Trump

People love to criticize their leaders, whether elected officials or their bosses. I’m as guilty as anyone of criticizing leaders I don’t like or respect, mostly because 1) criticizing is satisfying, and 2) those leaders deserve it, at least in our confident opinions.

The trouble is, criticizing inhibits learning. It makes us feel smart


The “Maslow Pyramid” was Magnificent but Confining. Put Yourself in Charge.

What motivates people (including you)? This age-old question is everlasting due to so many possible and multi-faceted answers.

What’s your first thought in reacting to that question? For many, it’s a pyramid with five colored layers displaying Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Physiological needs comprise the base, and self-actualization is the crowning glory. Introduced in the 1940s and popular by the 60s, Maslow’s theorizing remains prominent and respected to this day.

Maslow never used the iconic pyramid to portray his hierarchy. It is not impertinent to use contemporary…


Crisis Management and the NIH Syndrome

It’s not controversial — I’m pretty sure — to say that Donald J. Trump’s personality and management style are unique. Can the rest of us learn any lessons from the U.S. president about leadership, particularly in a crisis?

Critics say that we can learn what not to do, and will learn little if they think he’s too outrageous to scrutinize. Some supporters might model his actions, but this will backfire for most people working in more normal circumstances.

Readers can find plenty of material about President Trump that use psychoanalysis or highlight a single…


In the United States, we’ve reached a tipping point where the public is concerned and alarmed about climate change. Experts and laypeople alike assert the need for more extensive and productive climate action to deliver a future safer than the one we now face.

Now — not later — is the time to figure out the best ways to help. We can do that by following a few points based on clear psychological principles.

Assess, accurately, your environmental engagement.

The better-than-average effect refers to our tendency to self-assess positively when comparing ourselves against other people. For example, people think their…


In the United States, we’ve reached a tipping point where the public is concerned and alarmed about climate change. Experts and laypeople alike assert the need for more extensive and productive climate action to deliver a future safer than the one we now face.

Now — not later — is the time to figure out the best ways to help. We can do that by following a few points based on clear psychological principles.

Assess, accurately, your environmental engagement.

The better-than-average effect refers to our tendency to self-assess positively when comparing ourselves against other people. For example, people think their…


I just read a smart piece slamming the self-help industry. It makes big, important points. I won’t disagree — this is not a setup for a counter-slam — but I will offer some supplemental and complementary evidence and thoughts.

While acknowledging that the advice sometimes helps, the article states that one of the “myths, shibboleths, icons [is the] idea that you can help yourself out of a mess, pick yourself up by the bootstraps, maybe become the next Bezos or Oprah…”

Further, “especially in an age like this, where most Americans struggle to pay bills, live on the edge of…

Thomas Bateman

Tom Bateman lives in Chicago and is professor emeritus, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store