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Showing posts from October, 2009

Holiday Party? What Holiday Party?

Continuing the holiday theme of my last post, the Challenger, Gray & Christmas annual holiday survey is out today.

Among the findings, 62% of companies surveyed will host a holiday party this year - down from 90% in 2007.

Companies hosting holiday parties will be cutting their party budgets up to 20%. Goodbye, fancy off-site location. Hello, conference room!

Some employees might be bummed they won't get to do the Macarena wearing a Santa hat. Other employees, however, will be stoked that they can preserve their dignity by not having to do the Macarena in a Santa hat. It's a mixed bag.

And just because I feel like it, here's the Macarena. It is Friday, after all. Enjoy!

More Employees To Give Thanks This Year

A new BNA survey asks employers about their Thanksgiving leave plans.

It turns out employers are planning to be more generous this year.

Nearly eight in 10 surveyed (79%) will treat Thanksgiving Day and the day after as paid holidays this year - a 6% increase over 2008 and the highest percentage since BNA started tracking employers' Thanksgiving leave plans in 1980.

Check out more numbers from the survey here.

Where Have You Gone, Roseanne Barr?

A new study looks at the jobs women hold on fictional television compared to real life. The title of the report is "Where Have You Gone, Roseanne Barr?" - a reference to the hit 1990s television show, Roseanne. Roseanne, as you may remember, was an unglamorous housewife living in a working-class neighborhood.

The study, conducted by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, finds that the top five jobs for female TV characters are surgeon, lawyer, police lieutenant, district attorney and cable news pundit.

However, the top five jobs for "real life" women in 2008 were secretary, registered nurse, elementary middle school teacher, cashier and retail salesperson.

Quite a difference, no? I won't get into the feminist arguments of the study, but I will say that Hollywood writers need to broaden their workplace settings beyond police stations, law firms and hospitals because they've become so cliched and boring. A show about a cashier or retail salesperson…

The Age of the "Amafessional"

Political strategist Mark Penn - who coined the term "soccer mom" - has come up with a new one: Amafessional. That is, amateurs who are rivaling professionals in a number of fields. Think of bloggers vs. journalists, self publishing vs. going through a traditional publisher, putting your own songs on websites instead of getting a record deal.

From the article:

Struggling amateurs used to want to become stars, and of course some still do, but this new phenomenon is different. Millions are participating just for the fun and challenge of it–-almost like running in a marathon. "Amafessionals" include both the amateur/professional hybrid and pajama professionals, who often work at home rather than the studio or the office.
I have to admit, my first thought was: He's only realizing this now? This trend has been going on for quite awhile; it's just that the current economy is forcing millions of unemployed people to do something with all the time on their hands. Why …

Workload is the Scariest Part of Employees' Jobs

As my kids keep reminding me, Halloween is on Saturday.

With that in mind, CareerBuilder just released its Halloween survey of 4,000 U.S. workers in which it asked them which Halloween character best reflect their bosses' character, and which parts of their jobs scare them the most.

20% of employees say their boss most resembles Glenda the Good Witch - a compliment, really, since Glenda is kind, likable and helpful. So 1-in-5 employees think the boss is essentially a good person.

It goes downhill from here, though. Here's the rest of the list:
11% said the boss is like The Wolf Man, fine one minute, howling the next10% said The Invisible Man, because the boss is never around
9% said Casper the Friendly Ghost, because the boss is eager to help, but is often misunderstood
6% said Dracula, because the boss is constantly sucking the life right out of you
5% said the Wicked Witch of the West, because the boss is always conniving and sending out minions to do his/her dirty work
4% said The …

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye:

ESPN fires a married sports reporter caught up in a Fatal Attraction-esque love triangle. (Update: The soon-to-be-divorced reporter has apparently entered a "facility" to work on his issues.)Fill it to the rim: Poisoned coffee sickens lab workers at Harvard.It's John, not Juan: A New Mexico hotel owner is in hot water for apparently telling Hispanic employees to Anglicize their names and to not speak Spanish in his presence. New Red Cross survey of 1,005 U.S. adults finds 1 in 5 have gone to work or school sick with H1N1 symptoms, while 22% know someone who has had H1N1.Caving in: Employees in New York set up a "man cave" and then get indicted.US Rep. Alan Grayson (D- FL) introduces, where people can list the names of friends and loved ones who died because they lacked of health coverage.500 applicants applied for 1 job opening at an Indiana company. The job pays $13 an hour.Only 49% of Canadians want t…

You're Yesterday's News...Now What?

You've been at your present employer for a few years, and you've done a good job. Your managers value you, and your work.

Then the ground starts to shift beneath you amid a management shakeup. Some of your managers are fired, while others leave. They're replaced by a whole new set of managers hired from the outside.

Suddenly, you're dealing with a whole new set of people you don't know - and who don't know you.

Over time, it becomes more and more apparent these new managers see you as a stodgy reminder of the old management practices they're hell bent on changing. You're not the new management's guy (or gal). They didn't hire you. There's no loyalty to you. As far as they're concerned, you don't seem to fit in with the new strategies and directions they're planning. They make you feel like you're about as hip, hot and happening as fax machine technology.

A new train is about to leave the station. The question is whether or not …

Seasonal Jobs Outlook: OK, But Not Great

A new CareerBuilder survey out today finds 1 in 5 employers plan to hire seasonal workers this holiday season.

Some other findings:

12% of employed workers plan to take on a seasonal job to help make ends meet.

The most popular positions for seasonal recruitment include customer service, retail sales, administrative/clerical, hospitality, shipping/delivery, inventory, technology and accounting/finance.

44% of hiring managers expect to pay $10 or more per hour.
Click the link above for additional statistics, plus five tips for landing seasonal employment.

Halloween Costumes Scare Employers

My child keeps going back and forth between being a superhero or Sleeping Beauty this year. It's a hard decision to make when you're a kid.

Employers, meanwhile, face some Halloween-time decisions of their own. Namely, should they let employees dress up in costumes, and what are the limits on what employees can wear to work?

Before you think, "Oh, it's just a silly holiday and a costume isn't a big deal," consider what Shanti Atkins, President and CEO of ethics and workplace compliance training firm ELT Inc., pointed out to me today: Following a scandalous and sensational year in pop, religious and political culture, there are bound to be some inappropriate Halloween costumes worn to work next week.

In fact, employers can count on it.

Here are a few costume ideas that could create problems for employers:

David Letterman – Letterman has admitted to sexual relations with women he worked with on The Late Show. Atkins predicts there could be men could dress up as Let…

Job Seekers Iron Out the Wrinkles

Today I'm featuring my first guest blogger, human resources professional Jessica Miller-Merrell.

Job Seekers Iron Out the Wrinkles

Job seekers can now add Botox to the job search checklist just after resume and cover letter. In an increasingly youth-obsessed culture, job seekers look to physical enhancements to appear more confident and youthful in the job search. These enhancements vary from hair coloring, weight loss, Botox, and even plastic surgery.
And as the number of unemployed climbs above the 16 million mark, job seekers are becoming more conscious of ways to differentiate themselves from other candidates beyond experience and qualifications.

Oklahoma City salon owner, Greg Welchel has seen an increase in job seekers who are willing to spend money on hair cuts, highlights, and even waxing to gain a competitive edge. "Job seekers want to look and feel professional," says Welchel. "And our salon can help them do that."

And even with the Stock Market creepin…

Monday Workplace News Round-Up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

A new Citi survey concludes this recession sucks the hardest for women with kids.

College students are grumbling about the interest rate on their students loans and they want a government bail out. This curmudgeonly Gen Xer says, "Welcome to the real world, kids!"

This article poses the age-old question: Are techies naturally weird?

The U.S. weekly wage fell 2.5% in the first quarter of 2009, the biggest drop in 21 years. Arlington County, Virginia gained the most jobs and has an unemployment rate under 4%.

Saudi Arabia now ranks third worldwide in the number of foreign-born workers who send money home to other countries.

I'm mad at balloon boy's dad for toying with my emotions and making everyone in the world apparently waste Thursday afternoon worrying about his kid, including first responders who have real emergencies to risk their lives over. Actually, I'm still worried about his kid(s). At least there's a ball…

4-0...wha?! Workers Fear Open Enrollment

Back in the late 1990s, I was working 25 to 30 hours a week at a company while I tried to get my freelance journalism career off the ground.

It was a great arrangement that gave me 10 to 15 hours on the weekdays to build my writing portfolio. The job, however, offered even more: Health insurance and a 401(k) with employer match for every employee who worked more than 25 hours a week. (I've heard the employer can no longer afford such generosity, but that's another story for another day.)

When open enrollment season came around, the HR person brought in an outside "benefits guy" to go over our financial planning options. We employees filed into the conference room, where the benefits guy gave us a full presentation that included pie charts, year-over-year investment portfolio statistics, booklets, yet more statistics, and a flurry of financial acronyms.

As a young employee, I had a hard time following his presentation. I glanced at my co-workers, who sat there quietly …

Leaders Clueless About Employee Morale

A new Human Capital Institute/ survey finds a disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to morale.

84% of the leaders surveyed feel employee morale is good. Only 58% of employees agree.

In addition, 57% of employees think their employers are exploiting the recession to get more hours and less pay out of them.

Monster and the Human Capital Institute surveyed 700 companies and 5,000 U.S. workers in May/June 2009.

All in all, not a rosy picture for employers who will be struggling to keep good employees a year or two from now.

53% of Employees Think the Boss Lies

53% of respondents in a new Adecco Group/Harris Interactive survey think their boss isn't honest.

66% think the boss isn't loyal.

25% would fire their boss if they could.

More than 2,000 U.S. adults responded to the survey, and around 1,200 are currently employed full time or part time. (I'm assuming the other 800 are laid off and looking for new jobs.)

Surveys like this show how much work lies ahead for leaders to rebuild trust in the wake of this terrible economic recession. Amid so many layoffs - many of which were poorly executed - I would actually be surprised if the majority of employees trusted management.

Proactive leaders will find there's a foundation to build on: 89% of those surveyed say a good relationship with the boss is important to job satisfaction. In addition, 75% indicated they would not fire the boss, which reveals a sense of loyalty on the part of employees. Here's hoping managers return the favor as the economy picks up.

The Freelancer-Employee Debate Still Rages

I'm a freelance journalist, and that means I'm paid by the assignment.

Typically, it works something like this: An editor emails me with an assignment offer and I decide whether or not I want to take it. Or I pitch an idea the editor likes and it's assigned. When I take on a project, the editor sends me an assignment letter (contract) that includes an overview of the story assignment, the rate of pay, and the deadline.

Sometimes an editor will lend a helping hand by providing a few sources and relevant statistics, but typically I take the story and run with it. Finding those things - and hitting the deadline - is just part of my job. In between, I typically don't talk to the assignment editor unless I'm running into a lot of trouble with the assignment (which luckily isn't very often).

In fact, if I'm doing my job right as an independent contractor, the editor should be able to concentrate on a million other things while I get the project done. The best ind…

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye:

New Gartner report says companies need to get control over the avatars employees use because they can damage the company's reputation. If they're playing Second Life, good luck.

Frost & Sullivan is reporting a 31% drop in new product launches this year, a 22 point decrease over 2008.

45% of U.S. food service workers smoke -- the highest percentage of any industry, according to a new Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration report. Librarians, trainers and educators are the least likely to smoke.

Not buying the hype? A new Citibank survey of 500 small business owners finds 76% don't think social networking sites are helpful for generating business leads or expanding their businesses.

An International Delight survey of 1,700+ adult coffee drinkers reveals only 38% of them think their employers provide great coffee. Another finding: Only one-third of U.S. employers offer employees free coffee now.

A new Robert Half su…

What Constitutes Idea Stealing Today?

In a new OfficeTeam survey, 29% of employees said a co-worker has stolen their ideas.

But 51% didn't say anything after it happened, and only 13% told the boss about it. Another 13% confronted the co-worker who claimed the idea as his or her own.

I don't have to really talk about the hit someone's morale can take when a co-worker takes an idea and presents it as his or her own. In this economy, however, employees are even more loathe to rock the boat or look like a troublemaker, which means even fewer employees could be likely to report instances of idea stealing to the boss.

Adding to the problem is the teamwork-oriented culture we live in, which requires all of us to be team players who offer our ideas freely for the greater good. In fact, Generation Y workers are more likely to meet in groups to come up with new ideas rather than brainstorm on their own before addressing the group. Creating ideas with everyone's involvement, however, is leading to legitimate questions…

North Carolina Adds a "Fat Tax"

North Carolina just became the second state (Alabama was the first) to require state employees to pay more for health insurance if they are overweight or smoke.

The "fat tax", as it's being called, applies to 600,000 state employees in North Carolina.

Under the new rules, non-smokers and smokers enrolled in smoking cessation programs will pay 20% of their health care costs. Active smokers, however, will be paying 30% of their medical costs. Likewise, state workers will a BMI (body mass index) over 40 will be in the a more expensive plan as of July 2011 than employees with a lower BMI.

The State of North Carolina expects the smoking requirement to save $13 million during the 2010-11 fiscal year. It hasn't made any conclusions yet about the savings the new obesity rule will generate.

Is using the stick instead of the carrot a good idea? Critics call it an invasion of privacy at best and a way to create a hostile work environment at worst, but there's no better way to…

Are You a Small Business Owner?

I have a story assignment from a national publication and I'm seeking a few U.S.-based entrepreneurs/small business owners to interview.

It's on a topic related to hiring trends (I can't really say much more here). Please contact me at for more information if you're interested.

Fired for Twittering

A celebrity leaves a restaurant without paying her bill.

Her agent pays the bill the next day, but doesn't include a tip.

The waiter is cheesed and vents about it on Twitter.

The actress and agent complain to the restaurant's management.

A manager confronts the waiter with his tweets and fires him.

This happened recently in LA. Granted, the incident involves a celebrity, but did the employee deserve to be fired?

I don't think so. I can see the restaurant's concern - if our customers know they could be "tweeted" about, will they stop eating here? - but it's silly, especially in Hollywood, to think people won't use their smart phones to take photos or post a tweet. If the employee didn't post something, a customer sitting nearby might have.

Besides, I think customers who act badly deserve the online ribbing they get on sites like Not Always Right, whether they're a celebrity or not.

This waiter only had 22 Twitter followers when he posted his tweet. …

RIP, Cookie

As I've mentioned in previous posts, management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has been roaming the halls of Conde Nast to help the publisher get its financial ducks in order.

Of course, the term "cuts" usually follows the mention of the word "consultant," and that's exactly what's happening at Conde Nast, which announced today that it's cutting the magazines Cookie, Gourmet, Elegant Bride and Modern Bride from its lineup. Ad revenue fell by double digits at all four publications in the first six months of 2009.


The news was announced this morning by CEO Chuck Townsend in a memo to staffers. “These changes, combined with cost and workforce reductions now underway throughout the company, will speed the recovery of our current businesses and enable us to pursue new ventures,” Townsend wrote. “In the coming weeks, we hope to announce initiatives to develop digital versions of our brands that will make use of new devices and distri…

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Here are a few headlines catching my eye this morning:

It's the first Monday in October, and you know what that means: The U.S. Supreme Court is back in session! Most of its caseload will concern business, too. A key term this term: regulation. Check out the Court's case calendar here.

Insurer WellPoint announces it will cut the health benefits of its own employees.

New Harvard survey: 40% of U.S. adults are absolutely certain they'll get the H1N1 vaccine, but 59% say they won't do it even if H1N1 deaths are reported in their towns. Somehow, I think they'll change their minds if an outbreak is big enough.

Have people pointing fingers over Chicago's failed Olympic bid forgotten the International Olympic Committee has a history of corruption in awarding the games?

Companies now have personal privacy rights.

Oh yeah, that other number: U6, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics number that includes discouraged, underemployed and self-employed workers, calculates that &qu…

Letterman's Late Night Bombshell

By now you've probably heard the news about CBS "Late Show" host David Letterman.

He went public on his show last night with details of an extortion plot, revealing that someone (now reported to be a producer at the CBS true-crime show "48 Hours") has been trying to blackmail him for $2 million dollars in return for keeping quiet about Mr. Letterman's affairs with employees at "The Late Show."

It's being reported this producer once lived with a "Late Show" employee who was having an affair with Mr. Letterman. The producer seems to have created his own real-life version of the show "48 Hours," but that's another topic.

Amid the salacious disclosures, I'm sitting here wondering about the workplace angle and how it will play out. After all, we're talking about the boss having sex with employees. Not just the boss --- the CEO really --- since Mr. Letterman is definitely the top dog at Worldwide Pants, his production …

Welcome Back, Sully Sullenberger!

Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and first Officer Jeffrey Skiles, who safely landed U.S. Airways Flight 1427 on the Hudson River last January, are returning to work today. First up: A flight from LaGuardia to Charlotte, North Carolina this afternoon.

I'm trying to wrap my mind around getting behind the wheel -- er, into the cockpit -- after such a miraculous maneuver. What goes through your mind when you're taking off? I wonder if they're nervous right now, or if they feel they can handle anything after what they went though last winter.

I'd love to hear the passengers reactions when they realize who's on the flight crew. I'd be clapping, cheering, and in many senses relieved that we passengers are in such capable hands. I bet every passenger will want to shake their hands upon leaving the plane.

Anyway, welcome back you guys! You are amazing people, true professionals, and true heroes. I'll offer a smile and a nod to the skies here in North Caro…

It's National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Do you know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of the disabled in the workplace? reminded me about the event, and it offered some statistics about the disabled in the workplace that I thought I'd share:

There are 27 million Americans over age 16 who have a disability, and about 5 million of them are employed;

30.6% of disabled employees are men and 26.9% are women;

In August 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate of the disabled was 16.9%, compared to a 9.3% U.S. unemployment rate for people without disabilities.

The last statistic is the most compelling: Disabled Americans are unemployed at twice the rate of non-disabled Americans. Perhaps it's no surprise that the U.S. Department of Labor announced earlier this week that it's establishing a national technical assistance center to help employers provide more jobs to the disabled.

I'm also struck by a new report about health coverage of disabled Americans. Chec…

Survey Finds Companies Getting Prepared for H1N1

The Business Roundtable released its 2009 Flu Season Survey yesterday.

The Business Roundtable surveyed its membership (primarily large U.S. companies) regarding their preparation efforts for H1N1 influenza and the seasonal flu. The survey also explored companies' lingering concerns about H1N1.

The results show companies have made progress in addressing H1N1, but they still need additional information about the H1N1 vaccine, how "severity" is defined, and the government’s plans for a widespread flu outbreak. Among the findings:

95% of companies surveyed have business continuity and crisis plans in place to specifically address the flu;

89% with business continuity and crisis plans have updated their flu plans --- or activated them --- since the H1N1 Influenza outbreak in April 2009;

Two-thirds (about 66%) said the H1N1 Influenza vaccine is "their number-one concern";

35% still need basic information about a possible H1N1 outbreak --- e.g., what H1N1 is exactly, and …