Ask Ariely: Boss Behavior, Communal Correspondence, and Long-Term Love

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

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Dear Dan,

I’m having ongoing problems with my boss because of his leadership style: He is very rigid and formal, and he demands silent obedience from his workers. Should I rebel, recognize his authority or look for a new job?

—Ajaan 

This is really a question about the likelihood that your boss’s behavior can change. While I would like to be optimistic about the chances here, it is pretty difficult to get people to change in general—and it’s particularly difficult to be optimistic in your case.

Imagine a world in which you were the only person working for your boss. If you rebelled, that would immediately redefine the work environment, and your boss would be quite likely to adapt and change. By contrast, if your company has hundreds of employees, even an outright personal rebellion would make up only a small part of the feedback going up to your boss, leaving him unlikely to learn and change.

As such, if you think that you can get all of your fellow employees to start demanding better treatment, then you should try rebellion—but if you can’t get at least a critical mass of allies on board, move on.

One final point: Feeling in control and having some sense of autonomy are incredibly important aspects of fulfilling work. Any job that doesn’t give you these elements is going to chip away at your well-being and happiness. So when you look for your next gig, make sure that you get a job that gives you more than just a paycheck.

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Dear Dan,

My wife and I have one email address for the two of us. Buddies from my soccer team often joke about our shared email address, calling me a sissy. Are they right? Should I convince my wife to get a separate email?

—Franz 

No—don’t change. I suspect that the notion that everybody should have their own email account emerged a long time ago when email was in its infancy—when we didn’t really know how we should be using it, let alone how it would grow and evolve. Over the years, email has become a vital, rich communications tool, but the notion of one email per person has remained our mental default setting—probably to the detriment of good communication.

You may have heard of an interesting new tech firm called Slack, which offers software to help groups of colleagues trade messages and share files. It could be, the Journal says, “the fastest-growing business application of all time”—and it is specifically designed to create shared communication between people in a manner similar to your shared-email approach. Slack’s popularity among high-tech companies suggests that you’re onto something.

I would tell your teammates that, rather than thoughtlessly accepting a default email habit, you’re ahead of your time—and that one day, they will catch up.

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Dear Dan,

I’m dating a wonderful guy, but I wonder: What’s the thing that’s most likely to solidify our bond and turn it into a successful long-term relationship?

—Logan 

The best advice I can give about long-term couplehood is to find someone you admire and aspire to emulate in some important ways—and have them simultaneously feel the same way about you. With this starting point, you can spend the rest of your joint lives striving to improve and catch up. I’ve adopted this advice myself and can personally attest to how magical it can make one’s life.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.