Business Briefs: Red and Green Tape, Agreeable Leaders & Pandemic Shopping Habits

Welcome to Business Briefs! The world of academic publications features fascinating findings from real-world experiments in business and the marketplace. Here are some key takeaways and applicable nuggets of knowledge that may be helpful for your business.

Red Tape Bad; Green Tape Good

We’re probably overly familiar with the concept of red tape. It’s a reference to pointless rules and protocols that create barriers to productivity. Red tape is bad, and it’s historically a result of management being disconnected from the workplace…the place where all the work is done. 

But green tape? Ever heard of that? Perhaps not: GreenTape Theory suggests that good systems with good rules make employees happy and improve productivity. Green tape is good.

And although green tape is supposed to be good, research indicates that formal rules generally have had both positive and negative effects on employees. On one hand, rules can reduce ambiguity in the workplace: That’s good. On the other hand, rules also limit employee autonomy: That’s less good. 

In a study published just this year, researchers prodded the concept of green tape related to employee retention. They sent out a survey to workers representing 86 organizations, and got 2,008 responses. The survey asked questions like “How many of your workplace rules can be described as logical?” (or “consistent” or “reasonable” or “purposeful”). Responses were scored on a scale that ran from 0-4.  A score of zero means “no rules;” a score of four means “all rules.”  

The study found that the following green tape characteristics led to employee retention:

  1. Rules are applied consistently
  2. There’s a clear connection between protocols and outcomes
  3. The rules have an understandable purpose
  4. Employees have a sense of optimal control – not too little, not too much. 

That is to say, having the right sorts of rules can help businesses retain good employees in a hot labor market. 

Read more here

Can Effective Organizational Rules Keep Employees from Leaving? A Study of Green Tape and Turnover Intention – Wesley Kaufmann, Erin L. Borry & Leisha DeHart-Davis, Public Management Review


A team at the University of Arkansas conducted a systematic review of 89 manuscripts that looked at agreeableness and leadership and found the following documented benefits:

  1. Employees who work under an agreeable leader are less likely to experience workplace bullying
  2. The employees also report higher levels of psychological safety
  3. And they report higher job and supervisor satisfaction. 

The next obvious question would be this: How can a supervisor be more agreeable? Based on the literature, the following characteristics were highlighted: Being considerate, forgiving, human, and people-oriented.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier to figure out what NOT to do. So, avoid the opposite sort of behavior, which was described as being cold, rude, argumentative, and taking advantage of others. 

Read more here

Let’s Agree About Nice Leaders: A Literature Review and Meta-analysis of Agreeableness and its Relationship with Leadership Outcomes – Andrew B. Blake et al., The Leadership Quarterly

Mixed Signals

The pandemic has been a giant ball of contradictions, so perhaps it’s no surprise that studies of human shopping habits and values are getting results that are difficult to parse. 

So, let’s talk about materialism: Being materialistic means you like to acquire and have material possessions, nice ones. Normally, it’s seen as a character flaw, but if you’re in business to sell stuff …well, it’s nice to have materialistic customers who want to make purchases. How has COVID impacted our urges to buy stuff? Consider this series of experiments:

Researchers asked 742 participants questions about whether buying things was pleasurable, how much media they consumed, and how they felt about COVID. 

The researchers also tracked general goals of another group of 87 participants, sending two surveys 15 months apart. 

Finally, the same research team tracked #retailtherapy hashtags on Twitter. 

The results of all this investigation? The first experiment suggested that the pandemic caused increases in media consumption and stress, and that made us more materialistic. The second experiment found that people’s focus on money decreased during the pandemic. And the Twitter tracking indicates that although people are talking less about shopping…brands are advocating shopping as a way to feel better. 

What’s the meaning? That part is less clear. Perhaps marketers aren’t speaking our language. But then again, perhaps stress has made us all unpredictable. 

Read more here

Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Made us More Materialistic? The Effect of COVID-19 and Lockdown Restrictions on the Endorsement of Materialism – Olaya Moldes, Denitsa Dineva, & Lisbeth Ku, Psychology & Marketing