Oxytocin and High-Performance Organizations

by Larissa Chern ’17

This week, CMC students had the chance to participate in a dynamic, fun, and enlightening talk led by Dr. Paul Zak at the Athenaeum. Dr. Zak, who administers the first doctoral program in neuroeconomics as well as the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, was credited with the first published use of the term “neuroeconomics.” His lab is responsible for advancing the academic research on oxytocin, the brain chemical that facilitates trust between individuals.

According to Dr. Zak’s findings, the secret to a high-performance organization lies in a high-trust environment. The list below numbers the various ways in which leaders can increase their peers’ oxytocin levels, thereby enhancing their organizations’ performance:

  1. Ovation: Recognize people who do outstanding work. If your colleague worked hard last week to hand in that important report and it turned out to be of great quality, make sure to recognize him in front of everyone. If that ovation is unexpected and public, its effect is even stronger.
  2. Expectations: Design hard, but achievable challenges within your organization. Challenge stress stimulates oxytocin, increasing empathy and strengthening bonds between colleagues.
  3. Yield: Give control of projects to others. When we don’t micromanage, we induce innovation and allow colleagues to make mistakes and learn from them.
  4. Transfer: Let people choose what projects to work on. If you let you colleagues bid for the work, they are more likely to devote themselves to it completely. It’s also important to let people work where they like (be it at a café or at their house) and whenever they like (it’s okay if they do their work at 3AM, as long as they do it, and do it well). Offering colleagues a sense of autonomy increases their energy and health.
  5. Openness: Communication, communication, communication. Allow everyone to be on the same page. Announce important information pertaining to the company. After all, all members of the organization have just as much importance.
  6. Caring: Humans are social creatures who build relationships all the time. Foster a friendly and caring environment, allowing for meaningful social interactions.
  7. Invest: Invest in your colleagues’ personal fulfillment. If there is anything about the job they do not seem to be satisfied with, make sure to address their concerns. By helping others achieve work-life balance, you help them foster a sense of growth rather than shackling them to the job.
  8. Natural: Be a vulnerable and authentic leader. Leaders who are seen as confident, but who also make mistakes, are seen as more trustworthy.

Research shows that employees working in high-trust environments report less stress, more innovation, fewer sick days, and more satisfaction with their lives outside of work. It’s no coincidence that the “best companies to work for” have higher stock return and employee retention.

Women in Accounting Panel

By Parker Mallchok ’17 and Lindsay Slocum ’17

Monday’s (3/28) lunchtime panel at the Ath included panelists Emily Rollins ’92, Partner at Deloitte, Hilda Echeverria, Partner at Ernst & Young, and Maryellen Galuchie, Managing Director at Grant Thornton. They all admitted that being in a male-dominated field was slightly intimidating at the beginning. “We almost started dressing like men! Button-downs, ties…” Rollins said, laughing. However, Galuchie noted that there are more female leaders now than ever before, and the trend will only continue.

All three panelists expressed gratitude toward their male mentors and encouraged the men in attendance to ask themselves of their female co-workers: “What if this were my sister?” In response to how they approached starting work in this male-dominated world, Rollins responded that she was always a competitive person, and that this is a key element to bring with you to the office. Beyond just competing with men, you should compete with yourself to do your best.

Moderating this panel was an honor. As women planning to enter similar fields, we were inspired to hear how much these incredible women love what they do, and that women and men alike have been instrumental in their careers. Hearing about their individual work-life balance, which is important to everyone who wants to have a family and a career, was refreshing, as they are excellent proof that you can do both.



Women in Accounting Panel

Join us on Monday, 3/28 for a lunch panel at the Athenaeum. Emily Rollins ’92 of Deloitte, Hilda Echeverria of Ernest & Young, and Maryellen Galuchie of Grant Thornton will be giving fascinating insights about their career paths and what work-life balance means to them. Lindsay Slocum ’17 and Parker Mallchok ’17 will moderate. Lunch begins at 11:30. Click here to reserve your spot!

Rethinking Psychiatry

By Larissa Chern ’17

As a student, I find myself shocked at the number of teenagers who, desperate to focus in class and get better grades, make an appointment with a psychiatrist and, in the span of an hour manage to leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for Adderall. And it’s no secret that children are being diagnosed and treated with drugs starting at a very early age, which may disturb their natural course of development as well as family stability. On Monday night (Feb. 22), award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker paid us a visit at the Athenaeum to talk about this: is our current paradigm of psychiatric care working for us?

Today, psychotropic medication is the first line for treatment of severe psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. And the number of patients on psychiatric medication use and of people diagnosed with psychological disorders will only keep growing. What most healthcare specialists fail to note however, is that even after having had prescribed anti-psychotics for over 50 years, we still lack compelling evidence of its long-run effectiveness. Studies show that the relapse of patients on drugs is much more severe than that of patients on placebo. The same study showed that after five years of having been diagnosed, 50% of un-medicated patients were in remission for schizophrenia as opposed to only 5% of those who were on medication.

Following years of extensive research, a McGill professor made the groundbreaking discovery that anti-psychotics, in the long-run, might actually increase the biological susceptibility to and severity of psychosis. Yet, these study results are not disclosed to the general public because they oppose everything pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists have ever defended. If we are interested in the long-term effects of psychotropic drug use, we must reevaluate these points of contention immediately.

Although Mr. Whitaker declared himself unable to provide medical advice, he has dedicated his entire career to researching and writing about medicine with the sponsoring of the Harvard Medical School. While I remain impartial to the debate at hand, I agree that it is essential to conduct more research and investigate the effects of psychiatric drug use in a full and open manner. In order to better assist our children, we need to rethink the idea that drugs should be the first line of treatment for psychological difficulties.

Women in the World of High Tech

The numbers, apparently, don’t lie: according to the Labor Department’s latest race and gender data on the top ten tech firms, roughly 83% of tech jobs are held by men. Lucky for us, then, that we were able to be in the presence of four very successful women, all CMC alums, currently working at high tech jobs in Silicon Valley. They came to the Ath as part of the CIE’s “Entrepreneurship Week,” and were the first in a series of events taking place at CMC this week.

Candace Adelberg ’10 works as part of Google’s Counter-Abuse Technology team; Kristie Howard ’15 is a software engineer at Docker, Inc., a San Francisco startup that makes building and shipping applications; Mayumi Matsuno ’01 is Director of Product at Electric Imp, a cloud service and hardware solution that facilitates connecting devices to the Internet; and Jacinth Sohi ’11, is a Product Support Manager at Uber, specializing in scaling the infrastructure and launching support operations for new products like UberEATS and UberPOOL.

Though each of these women graduated at the top of their class, they came to their careers in different ways. Howard, for example, received her BA in Computer Science, and felt that taking coding courses in college was extremely helpful. Adelberg, however, is adamant about the fact that the solid foundation you get from a liberal arts education is important: “You can always learn the tech stuff later.”

Among their kernels of wisdom: take advantage of CMC and form relationships with your professors. Get experience working at one of the college’s many institutes (like Berger!). Form a support group of like-minded women who can help you navigate the many challenges faced in the competitive and male-dominated culture of Silicon Valley after you’ve come to terms with the fact that “it’s going to be hard, but you won’t fail,” said Howard. Matsuno says that success in any field ultimately depends on being passionate about your work. “If you’re passionate, you will be successful.”

The lunch ended with a plea for more women to join their ranks, and to understand that we all struggle with balance, and that priorities can change. It’s important to be supportive of the choices women everywhere make to be able to achieve their own version of work/life balance.