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Showing posts from August, 2009

Monday Workplace News Round-Up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

A New Zealand firm pays $17,000 after firing its financial controller for SENDING EMAILS WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Sorry, couldn't help myself.

A crappy economy isn't stopping some media companies from launching new magazines.

370,000 Volkswagen and Porsche employees want a 5% stake in the merged company.

Seattle libraries will be closed until Sept. 8th to save $650,000. Seattle librarians have been home for eight days.

Pacific Northwest burger chain Burgerville is paying 90% of health care premiums of employees working 20 or more hours a week. The result has been better productivity, better morale and less turnover.

17% of workers are pondering a job change in the next 12 months, according to a new survey by employment website

A new myYearbook survey of 10,000 kids aged 13 to 17 reveals 83% don't plan to start a Twitter account and 63% believe it's a passing fad. Most teens surveyed said Twitter is la…

Employee Free Choice Act in Freefall

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Employee Free Choice Act, which would essentially make it easier for employees to start unions, is off the table for now because Congress has bigger fish to fry, like healthcare.

Score one for business groups who oppose the EFCA, which has pretty much fallen off the radar will all the focus on the healthcare issue. No word on when the EFCA will reemerge in Congress. I'll keep you posted.

Healthcare Workers Don't Want Flu Vaccinations?

A recent survey of Hong Kong healthcare workers found 52% will refuse a vaccination for swine flu because they fear side effects and don't think the vaccine would be very effective.

Evidently, U.S. healthcare workers share the same doubts. Some states and hospitals require flu shots as a condition of employment, but many do not.

Personally, I can't imagine working in a health care setting without being vaccinated for the flu and other potential illnesses. Working among the sick without being vaccinated would be like playing Russian roulette with my health every day.

The risk of swine flu also creates workplace and patient safety issues. What if otherwise healthy patients --- those who have a doctor's appointment for an annual physical or prescription renewal, for example --- catch the flu from the nurse who took their blood pressure? If there's a huge swine flu outbreak, health care providers could open themselves up to new liabilities.

The element of this whole story th…

Sexting is a Growing Workplace Problem

Earlier today, I had the chance to speak with Shanti Atkins, CEO of ELT, Inc., a San Franscisco firm that specializes in ethics and compliance training. She filled me in on the new frontier of virtual sexual harassment --- that is, sexual harassment done over instant messaging, Facebook, email, smartphones and other technologies.

Cases of virtual harassment are out there. Last month, a 22-year-old female former LA Fitness employee in Oregon filed a lawsuit against former three managers for texting her highly-explicit sexual messages and then firing her after she went over their heads to complain.

In another case, a Florida Hooters waitress is suing her manager for "sexting" her with explicit text messages and photos.

Atkins thinks cases of virtual sexual harassment will only get more common as a younger generation of tech savvy and casually-minded employees enters the workplace. Virtual sexual harassment is "a huge, growing problem because the technologies are developing…

American Employees Need Faster Broadband

Speed Matters released its third annual report that measures Internet speeds across the 50 states. It's concluded that U.S. Internet speeds haven't gotten much faster over the last year. In fact, we're getting our asses whipped (speed wise) by the South Koreans, among others. From this link:

"Between 2007 and 2009, the average download speed in the United States has increased by only 1.6 megabits per second (mbps), from 3.5 mbps in 2007 to 5.1 mbps in 2009. At this rate, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in South Korea, the country with the fastest average Internet connections."

The report goes on to rank each U.S. state in terms of broadband speed. Delaware ranks number one, while Wyoming ranks last with the slowest Internet speeds. Delaware ranks highest because it has lightening-fast FIOS and few rural areas to slow down Internet delivery. Wyoming is just the opposite: lots of rural areas and slow Internet connect…

Hey Mom, Can I Move In?

Somehow, I'm not surprised: A new survey of 16,000 workers finds one-third (34%) have enough money saved to last one week if they're laid off.

20% of those surveyed said they have enough saved to last six months if necessary between jobs.

It's a sign of the times, I guess. Americans are becoming better savers in this recession, but we have a long way to go to match people in other countries.

Canada, You're Making Me Nervous

A new Bank of Montreal survey of 807 Canadian small businesses finds only 10% have a contingency plan for addressing a swine flu outbreak. Even scarier, 82% don't have a "generic plan" in place for addressing an "emerging health issue."

From a Reuter's story:

TORONTO (Reuters) - Only one in 10 small-business owners in Canada have prepared for a H1N1 flu outbreak, a survey by Bank of Montreal showed, even though the virus could have a huge impact on workplaces with only a handful of staff.

While concerns about a fall flu pandemic have spurred governments to order vaccines and schools to draw up plans to combat outbreaks, a Harris/Decima poll commissioned by BMO Financial Group found few small businesses had prepared.

Come on, Canada: I expect a lot more from the land of Tim Horton, hockey and universal health care. You guys poke fun at us for all kinds of things, and we take it in our stride. But we Americans won't be laughing if a swine flu outbreak claims…

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Here are a few headlines catching my eye this morning:

Facebook's headcount will grow 50% this year.

Wyoming's legislature is grappling with the nation's highest workplace fatality rate.

The U.S. Justice Department has given Oracle the green light to buy Sun Microsystems. Are layoffs looming?

The best way to succeed in an internship is to have good manners and stay in touch. Is this really news? Well, maybe for Gen Y.

I'm a PC (seller): Microsoft needs employees for its new line of retail stores.

Mr. Roboto can cook? A restaurant in Japan has replaced human chefs with robots.

Budget problems could soon force NASA to outsource tasks it never would have outsourced in the past.

Not so golden? Unemployment in California hits highest level since World War II, at 11.9%.

Employees in Other Countries Are More Confident

A new study finds employee confidence is increasing in other parts of the world:

According to the employee confidence study by global HR solutions provider Kenexa, employees from 12 countries surveyed reported an increase in employee confidence scores and became more positive in the second quarter of 2009.

"While most countries improved in the second quarter over the first, we saw especially strong gains in Russia, Germany, France and India. The countries with the smallest gains were Japan, Spain, Canada and the UK," global HR solutions provider Kenexa Principal Jeffrey Saltzman said.

By "employee confidence" the study is referring to "the degree of confidence employees have in their employers' marketplace competitiveness and their own careers."

Brazil's employees are particularly confident. Brazil? I just did a little bit of online research and it looks like Brazil's economy is performing better than expected.

The confidence level of U.S. employe…

Thinking About Friending Your Boss on Facebook? Don't!

You're cruising Facebook and see that your direct supervisor has an account. You think, "Oh wow --- I'll friend her!" You envision the two of you sharing things about your lives outside of work, just like good friends do.

But does the boss want to be your friend? A new survey by temporary agency OfficeTeam found nearly half (48%) of the supervisors it surveyed don't want to become Facebook friends with their employees.

OfficeTeam surveyed senior executives at 1,000 randomly selected large companies. From a story about the survey:

Executives were asked, “How comfortable would you feel about being ‘friended’ by the following individuals on Facebook?”

Thirty-two percent chose the strongest category out of 5 comfort levels and were “not comfortable at all” being friended by their boss, 33 percent were “not comfortable at all” being friended by people they manage, and the same number felt the same way about clients.

But don't feel too bad: Nearly the same number (47%)…

Do You Know Why Employers are Rejecting You?

A new CareerBuilder survey reveals what companies are using to reject applicants.

The survey found 45% of the 2,600 hiring managers surveyed use social media sites to screen applicants. Then the results get more interesting.

When these hiring managers were asked what led them to reject a job applicant, here's what they said:

* Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information 53 percent
* Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs - 44 percent
* Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients - 35 percent
* Candidate showed poor communication skills - 29 percent
* Candidate made discriminatory comments - 26 percent
* Candidate lied about qualifications - 24 percent
* Candidate shared confidential information from previous employer - 20 percent

Fourteen percent of employers have disregarded a candidate because the candidate sent a message using an emoticon such as a smiley face while 16 percent dismiss…

For Anna Wintour, the Devil Bears Spreadsheets

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Vogue magazine.

Parent company Conde Nast has hired consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to examine its portfolio of magazines. Trimming costs are en vogue, and Conde Nast must be looking to trim some fat. Apparently, McKinsey is giving Vogue's operations a very close look.

I wonder if one of McKinsey's consultants will dare to ride the elevator with Ms. Wintour?

Layoffs Are Testing Workplace Friendships

We spend our best hours at work and for many of us, it's where we create lasting friendships.

Now workplace friendships are being tested by massive layoffs.

We've all been there: You promise to stay in touch with an ex-coworker but eventually the communication dwindles to chain emails and holiday cards, if that. Without a shared goal --- the work --- to bind you, there can be little left in common for employees who no longer work together.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the friendships that tend to last are the ones where bonds have been created off the clock, such as inviting a co-worker over for dinner or going to see a movie. In other words, office friendships stick better when they're broadened beyond the four walls of the workplace.

The end of office friendships is an interesting side effect of this recession, and one that can impact employee morale. Who hasn't worked with someone who quit a job because their best friends are no longer there? For these workers, sticking …

When An Employee Refuses to Participate in Team Building

I came across an article today that poses an interesting dilemma: What if an employee refuses to take part in a team-building activity?

I'll admit the thought crossed my mind from time to time as an entry-level employee. I'd shudder at the mere mention of a sharing circle or lining up to do the Macarena in the name of team work. I always participated, but there was that voice in the back on my head saying, "God, no. Can we just stop already? I have a lot of work to do."

Some employers seem shocked when an employee won't participate in a specific team building exercise, like this manager who didn't get the expected response after asking employees to take the Myers Briggs personality assessment:

Three of my staff jumped in with all hands and feet and have already (on their own) demonstrated a better understanding of each other and their relationship to each other and their individual jobs because of the testing. A fourth was reluctant and a fifth cited privacy con…

Last Night's Episode of "Shark Tank"

Did you catch last night's episode of "Shark Tank" on ABC?

On the show, entrepreneurs pitch a panel of five potential investors ("sharks"), who are all self-made entrepreneurs.

Last night's episode featured five entrepreneurs hawking very different business plans. Here are the five entrepreneurs, with my rundown of each pitch:

Craig French, founder of Long Island, NY clothing label Crooked Jaw. French played lacrosse in college and broke his jaw, hence the company name. He works out of his mother's house. Anyway, the company sells to a handful of mom and pop retail shops on Long Island and is targeting the mixed martial arts consumer. French seeks $200,000 from the sharks in return for 20% equity in the company.

Shark Daymond John is concerned that French has only been to one trade show and walked away without any orders. French says the funding will help him fly around the country and secure deals. John counters that deals can be struck today through the…

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Here are some stories catching my eye this morning:

A new study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development finds female bosses are more likely to be sexually harassed than their entry-level female counterparts.

Here are the top 10 workplace time wasters, according to an Australian news article. Facebook ranks first, Twitter ranks second. One of my favorite time toilets, Failblog, makes the list, too.

This article offers 5 tips for addressing a group of angry employees.

A new report finds only 44% of 20something employees are contributing to a 401(k) plan. 1 in 4 surveyed is paying off a loan. Student loan payments, anyone?

A new Institute for Corporate Productivity study finds 84% of companies think flexible work arrangements improve employee morale. It's an 8% increase over a similar study conducted last year.

The Employment Non Discrimination Act was introduced in the Senate last Wednesday. If passed, this leg…

Whole Foods Customers Aren't Going to Like This

Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey wrote an editorial for yesterday's Wall Street Journal, and I'm not sure his progressively-minded customers will like what he had to say. An excerpt:

Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America.

Will his op ed lead to a customer backlash? I just heard that Whole Foods has set up a response line a…

My Latest Management Column is Live

My latest workplace column has just been posted front and center on

Feel free to check it out. My column talks about how employees are more fearful to speak their minds at work for fear of losing their jobs. I've encountered this tendency in past recessions, and thought it was worth covering given current economic conditions.

I'll look forward to your thoughts.

Workplace News Round-Up

Here are a few workplace headlines catching my eye today:

60% of companies surveyed in a new study say employees are keeping their 401(k) contribution levels steady;

Being unemployed is too embarrassing to share with the neighbors for many white collar professionals;

Are old-fashioned travel agents back in vogue?;

Pay raises are at their lowest since Hewitt Associates started tracking them in 1976. Bonuses are where it's at;

8% of companies in a new Proofpoint survey say they have fired an employee for leaking company information over a social networking site;

Are employees confident the economy is getting better? Not so much;

55% of executives think the recession still has more than a year to go, according to a new Greenwich Associates survey;

Employers share the 20 strangest employee complaints in a new Careerbuilder survey. My favorite? The complaint about a worker who wants to check a co-worker for ticks. The list had me laughing.

Is Temporary Work Bad for Your Mental Health?

New research to be presented at an American Sociological Association gathering says temp work is bad for the mind. The study's lead investigator says why:

“Temporary workers—those lacking long-term, stable employment—seem to be susceptible to declining mental health for as long as they continue to work in these so-called ‘disposable’ or ‘second class’ jobs,” said Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, a medical sociologist at McGill University and the study’s primary investigator. “This research shows that temporary work strains employee mental health, as contingent workers report more symptoms of depression and psychological distress than similarly employed workers who are not in these fixed-term positions.”

I did a lot of clerical temp work as a college student, and I remember that it could be both stressful and isolating. It was stressful in that I was parachuted into random companies for anywhere from a day to a week, and managers often didn't know what to do with me. The good managers woul…

My Thoughts on ABC's Shark Tank Premiere

Did you catch the premiere of ABC's new reality offering "Shark Tank" last night?

On the show, entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of potential investors. The investors, or "sharks," are successful entrepreneurs in their own right and evaluate each idea for its strengths and weaknesses. If an investor decides to invest in an idea, he or she makes a cash and equity offer for the entrepreneur to accept or decline. Sometimes a negotiation ensues and a new number is reached. Other times, the entrepreneur turns down the offer and walks away.

In other words, it's like pitching a VC firm, only on national television.

I've covered small business for more than a decade, so I was fascinated. There were parts of the show, however, that I had to rewind and watch again. The show moves very fast. So fast, in fact, that I wonder if it went over the heads of many viewers who aren't hip to business terminology such as "net revenue," "ram…

Shark Tank Premieres on ABC Tonight @ 9 p.m.

Tonight is the premiere of a new reality show called "Shark Tank" where entrepreneurs will compete for funding from high-powered investors. Mark Burnett of "Survivor" fame is one of the show's executive producers.

The five investors (a.k.a., "sharks") are multi-millionaire entrepreneurs, including real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, “infomercial” industry pioneer Kevin Harrington, technology innovator Robert Herjavec, fashion icon Daymond John and financial expert Kevin O’Leary.

A bit more about the show from a press release I received about it:

Each week, ambitious entrepreneurs from across the country will present their breakthrough business concepts, products, properties and services to the panel of ruthless investors. Their goal is to convince these merciless moguls to invest their own dollars in the concept. Convincing real-life millionaires to part with their own money is no easy task, because when the idea is poor, the Sharks will tear into the i…

43 Things Actually Said in Job Interviews

Hope you're enjoying your weekend. I just had to post this AOL article about the crazy ways some applicants respond to interview questions from hiring managers and HR people. Here's an excerpt:

Do you have any questions?
6. "Cross dressing isn't a problem is it?" - Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates

7. "If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?" - Megan Garnett, Articulate Leadership Team, Articulate Communications Inc.

8. "What do you want me to do if I cannot walk to work if it's raining? Can you pick me up?" - Christine Pechstein, career coach

9. "I was a Chamber of Commerce Executive once hiring a secretary. [The candidate asked] 'What does a Chamber of Commerce do?'" - Mary Kurek, Mary Kurek, Inc. Visibility Consulting

10. "Can we wrap this up fairly quickly? I have someplace I have to go." - Bruce Campbell, vice president of marketing, Clare Computer Solutions


New York Times Runs Applicant Credit Checks Story

I blogged on this topic a few months ago, and I'm glad to see it's finally getting some traction in the mainstream media.

There's a story in today's New York Times about employers running credit checks on unemployed applicants and then turning them down for job offers as soon as the credit check turns up a bankruptcy or some other sign of financial distress.

Critics argue that these credit checks don't always line up with the job at hand. From the story:

“There’s no relationship between being a personal trainer making $12 an hour” and having a good credit history, said Janet L. Newcomb, a career counselor in Huntington Beach, Calif. “People are being turned down for jobs on the basis of things that really have nothing to do with qualifications.”

That is the complaint of Kevin Palmer, 49, who for months lived at the same homeless shelter in Santa Ana, Calif., as Mr. Ochoa. After an interview that seemed to go well one day in June at a property management company, a mana…

Do Colleges Owe Their Graduates Good Jobs?

I went back to work today wondering which topic to cover. I'll admit that I was uninspired.

Then I read this CNN story about a new college graduate who is suing her alma mater because she hasn't found a job.

The graduate, Trina Thompson, earned a bachelor degree in business administration/information technology from Monroe College and hasn't gotten anywhere with her job search. Now she wants $70,000 in reimbursed tuition fees from the school, as well as an additional $2,000 for the stress incurred during her job search.

An excerpt from the story:

As Thompson sees it, any reasonable employer would pounce on an applicant with her academic credentials, which include a 2.7 grade-point average and a solid attendance record. But Monroe's career-services department has put forth insufficient effort to help her secure employment, she claims.

"They're supposed to say, 'I got this student, her attendance is good, her GPA is all right -- can you interview this person?&#…

I'm Back

I'm back after an action-packed two-week visit to Oregon and Washington. Along the way, we visited Portland, Eugene, Newport, Seaside, Aberdeen, Ocean Shores, Lake Chelan and Seattle. That's a lot of terrain to cover with two small kids in tow, but somehow we did it thanks in large part to friends and family.

The hardest part of the trip was visiting my elderly mother at the nursing home. She's in fragile health these days, and it was very hard to leave. I took this shot out the back window of the car as we were leaving Portland, Oregon to catch our flight home:

Yes, this grainy, over-the-shoulder shot is cheesy and sentimental, but I lived in Portland and I still have wonderful memories of those long, lazy Northwest summer days. There's nothing like a cold pint of wheat beer at one of Portland's laid-back pubs on a breezy summer evening. Long live McMenamin's!

Back to work...