Ask Ariely: On Including Identities and Managing Meetings

May 7, 2022 BY Dan Ariely

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.


Dear Dan,

I’m advising a young refugee from Afghanistan who is resettling in the U.S. She has been offered admission to several colleges and is setting up meetings to inquire about financial aid. To what extent should she highlight her identity in requesting these meetings?


It is understandable to be reluctant to draw attention to an identity that might be subject to prejudice. In past studies, two groups of employers were shown the exact same resume—but for one group, the resume bore a name associated with a minority. The employers were less likely to respond to the minority candidate. So it is perhaps not surprising that in a recent survey, only 35% of women and members of racial minorities said they were likely to highlight these aspects of their identities when seeking career support.

Recent research has found, however, that making deliberate, explicit mention of one’s identity can be beneficial. In one study, city council representatives were sent emails asking for advice on a career in politics. Some representatives got emails from senders who drew attention to their identities, whereas others got emails from the same senders, but without the identity call-out. Response rates to emails were higher when senders made explicit mention of their identities, and this effect was even stronger for women and members of racial and ethnic minorities.

The researchers concluded that calling attention to your identity reminds people to be aware of their potential biases and to try to counteract them. Assuming that your mentee is seeking financial aid from institutions that view prejudice as negative, she would do well to mention her identity in asking for meetings about financial aid.


Dear Dan,

Switching between working from the office and working from home, combined with ever-changing Covid guidelines, has increased the number of meetings my employees have each week, and everyone is unhappy about it. What can I do to support my employees?


Introduce at least one meeting-free day a week. Most meetings are unproductive, and team-building can happen by other means.

Researchers surveyed employees at more than 70 companies across the globe that had instituted meeting-free days. Employees reported feeling more empowered, autonomous, satisfied and productive than they had before the policy. They also felt less stressed and less micromanaged.

The authors concluded that three meeting-free days a week was optimal, reducing stress by 57% and improving productivity by 73% compared with having zero meeting-free days.

For the strategy to work, however, you must make sure that you aren’t just piling up all the meetings you would have held every day on the non-meeting-free days. Having meeting-free days should instead cause everyone to think more carefully about the meetings they set and the number of people they invite to attend them. You might also consider which goals can be achieved using other means of communication.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.