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Showing posts from December, 2009

Hello, 2010!

I haven't posted anything since December 22?

That's what crossed my mind as I logged in this morning. What can I say: I went into hibernation for a few weeks, which was easy to do since it's been so cold here in North Carolina. We're expecting a high of 35 degrees today, and the seven-day forecast could be one of the coldest in recent memory. (I know, I know...anyone north of the 45th parallel is laughing at me.)

I hope you had a wonderful, relaxing holiday season and that it was everything you wanted it to be.

Now it's time to move on to 2010, which I hope will be better than the suck fest that was 2009. Apparently, I'm not alone in my 2009 angst, either. For the record, I will pronounce it as "two thousand ten" instead of "twenty ten" as is being suggested in some quarters. I'm not sure why I can't bring myself to say "twenty ten," but there you have it. Deal with it, haters.

Lately I've been pondering the entire 1999-200…

Holiday Workplace News Round-up

Ahhhhhh, it's almost Christmas, the most wonderful news dump of the year! Here are a few news threads catching my eye this week:

Yahoo! Ho! Ho! Yahoo employees will be taking an unpaid week off next week, unless they still have vacation days to use.

The U.S. "pay czar" approves executive compensation packages for the CEOs of U.S. taxpayer-funded companies GM, GMAC and Chrysler with salaries far above the $500,000 pay cap, not including options. A Treasury official says the exemptions were offered because these are "exceptional cases."

Straighten up and fly right: The FAA is reminding its employees not to act like drunken hooligans in public.

Poison arrow: Tulsa-based trucking company Arrow announces that it's suspending operations immediately, apparently stranding truckers all around the country after Arrow disables their gas cards at the pump. In other news, competitor Link America is now hiring.

Happy Knew Year: Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell orders his cabinet…

Portrait of an Entrepreneur

When you hear the word "entrepreneur," what comes to mind?

For many people, it's the image of a young, brash guy (sorry, ladies) with nothing but an idea, a dream and no family obligations to hold him back.

A new Ewing Marion Kauffman survey of 549 company founders debunks this stereotype of the average entrepreneur, however. Among the findings:

Roughly 70% were married when they started their first company, and 60% had at least one child;

40 was the average age for starting their first company;

They tended to have at least six years of experience working for someone else before they went out on their own;

47% have advanced college degrees;

More than 90% are from either middle class or lower-middle-class backgrounds.

So while there's a place for the Gen Y Harvard dropouts of the world, the majority of first-time entrepreneurs are actually Gen Xers or Baby Boomers with mortgages, kids and garbage cans to cart to the curb.

The survey also reveals that being risk averse is the …

Darth Vader Opens NY Stock Exchange

Darth Vader opened the New York Stock Exchange this morning. Let's go to the videotape:

I'm laughing because it's so rich with symbolism. You know, going over to the Dark Side, the Evil Empire, good guys vs. bad guys and all that stuff. I think Darth Vader and his posse of stormtroopers should have opened the stock exchange every day this year. It would have been so fitting.

Calgon, Take Me Away...

What a week. Christmas cards yet to mail, emails to return, blog posts to write, a few presents yet to buy, two young children home on holiday break.

At least everyone I know is in the same boat.

I didn't get to my Monday workplace news round-up yesterday because I took our oldest child to see "The Princess and the Frog." She loved it. Of course, now she wants a Princess Tiana Barbie-sized doll for Christmas. I should have seen it coming.

There's been some controversy surrounding the movie, but I thought it was very well done. I would see it again, and I can't say that for every animated movie out there.

Anyway, I will try to work up a post later today. Hope everyone is surviving the holiday madness.

Back to the chaos...

Friday Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

A judge approves $50 million in bonuses for Lehman's derivatives employees based on their unique skills. those skills include driving their company into bankruptcy?

Meanwhile, another judge tells California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that he can't make the state's prison guards take unpaid furloughs.

Sneaky, sneaky: Is the U.S. Senate aiming for a Christmas Eve vote on the health care bill?

Authorities are on the hunt for a stolen laptop that contains personal data on 42,000 U.S. solders, family members and Department of Defense employees.

Profits at General Mills are up 50% in the last quarter, thanks to strong sales of Chex cereal, Yoplait yogurt and other products.

Go long, or go home: Four Fidelity Investment employees get fired for playing fantasy football at work.

A new Regus study finds 44% of global companies plan to hire more part-time working moms over the next two years. Smart move.

We longer accept checks: The U…

Have You Gotten Vaccinated for H1N1?

I got my H1N1 vaccination this morning. It's been on my "to do" list for months, and I'm glad I finally did it.

So far, I haven't spouted a second head or turned into a werewolf, but I'll let you know if things change.

My husband also got vaccinated, as well as our two young kids, who I think will forgive me eventually.

My motivation level to take care of it rose after reading this local news story about a UNC-Chapel Hill freshman named Lillian Chason who died the other day from H1N1 complications. Chason didn't have any pre-existing conditions before she got sick. By all accounts, she was very healthy.

A doctor interviewed for the story points out a scary statistic: One-quarter of the people who have died from H1N1 had no risk factors (e.g., pre-existing conditions) that would make things worse. In other words, they were completely healthy - no diabetes, lung problems, etc. - before they fell ill.

Here's a TV news story about Lillian Chason's condit…

CFOs Plan to Keep Cutting Jobs

The latest Duke University/CFO Magazine study is out, and it's not very encouraging.

1,431 CFOs participated in the survey. It finds that CFOs are more optimistic about their company's long term growth, but they still plan to cut jobs in 2010. They also plan to outsource more jobs. These CFOs don't expect to lift furloughs and pay cuts for at least another year, either.

But the worst news? Two-thirds of these CFOs don't expect their companies to get back to pre-recession hiring levels until 2011 or "later." Holy crap.

What are CFOs worried about?

CFOs’ top economy-wide concerns include weak consumer demand, federal government policies, price pressure and credit markets. Top concerns about their own businesses include maintaining profit margins, difficulty planning due to economic uncertainty, employee morale and liquidity management.

The U.S. Government better keep that checkbook handy, because the line for unemployment benefits could get longer before it gets sh…

Wednesday Workplace News Round-Up

Monday's workplace new round-ups are so much fun, why not do one on Wednesday, too?

Do U.S. federal workers owe more than $3 billion in back taxes? Apparently, employees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development owe a lot in back taxes, while employees at the U.S. Department of the Treasury owe the least.

Smoking 'em out: 400 Reynolds Tobacco Co. production employees in North Carolina accept a buyout to leave the company by 2011.

Gov. Patterson (D-NY) gears up to offer workplace protections to transgendered workers at state agencies.

Nice touch: Some bosses are visiting military bases to see off their reservist employees.

New research finds employers are worried about a brain drain as Baby Boomers retire. Psst, employers: Gen Xers are chomping at the bit for these jobs, so train them already. Then again, 401(k)-strapped Baby Boomers won't be retiring anytime soon, so nevermind.

Seeing red: British grocery chain Tesco apologizes for making fun of kids with red hair. Ser…

Ancient City Discovered on Sea Floor

This is off topic, but fascinating.

Scientists say they have discovered the outlines of an ancient city on the Caribbean sea floor. They won't reveal its exact location yet.

The scientists, who are remaining anonymous, believe the city could predate the Egyptian pyramids. They say it's not the fabled city of Atlantis, however.

Why so much secrecy? I can see withholding the location of these ruins to ward off poachers, but why wouldn't someone want to take credit publicly for his or her work as a scientist? That seems strange. I hope it's not a hoax.

Anyway, you can check out the photos and make up your own mind here.

Brrr! Thermostat Settings Affect Productivity

There's a casual dining restaurant we used to go to quite often. Emphasis on the "used to," because it was always too damn cold in there. If it's 95 degrees outside and you're wearing a parka while you eat your sandwich, then there's something weird going on.

We'd walk in to this restaurant and immediately get hit with a strong gust of Arctic air that took my breath away. In fact, I was pretty sure I could see my breath sometimes. We brought sweaters to wear, and we'd sit and stare enviously at the people who were lucky to snag an outdoor table.

Even my husband thought the restaurant was too cold, and unlike me, he doesn't have the circulation system of a reptile.

As I shivered and ate, I wondered if the manager had relocated recently from Siberia. I also wondered what it would be like to work there. I didn't think I'd last very long, because the temperature would affect my productivity.

It turns out I'm not alone: In a new CareerBuilder…

Monday Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

International recruiting company Hays reports a significant drop in salaries for new positions across seven industries. Construction, property and accounting are the hardest hit.

A new National Institutes of Mental Health survey finds only about half of U.S. teens and children with a mental disorder are receiving treatment.

Want to know which major U.S. employers the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved for H1-B visas in 2009? Computerworld breaks down the numbers and even provides a data base where you can do your own company search. Nice.

The U.S. Supreme Court announces it will hear a California case regarding how much access employers should have to workers' text messages.

E-gads! Facebook surpasses email as the most popular way to stay in touch with friends.

Newspapers may be on the decline, but they're still kicking online's ass when it comes to coupons.

Being a columnist is so easy, anyone can do it. I mean, any…

There's Something in the Water...

...and it's nothing you want to drink.

It's being reported that 53 employees at the Kaiga nuclear power plant in India have been treated for ingesting a radioactive isotope that was added to the company's water cooler.

The substance, tritium, has glow-in-the-dark properties that are used to light up the hands inside watches. It's also used for making nuclear bombs.

So far, the culprit is unknown, but all signs are pointing to a disgruntled employee.

Check out The Times (U.K.) story about it.

I hope these employees are feeling better. Scary stuff.

Let's Party Like It's 1999

It's been a crazy week. I needed to escape for a few minutes.

Where better to go than the halcyon days of 1999? Come with me and relive the magic, and the naivete, of that year in this December 1999 CNN business segment called "The New Economy: Boom Without End?"

It's funny how 1999 seems like only yesterday, but yet a world away at the same time. One of my favorite memories of 1999 is being too lazy to find my 5-pound arm weights (yes, I'm wimpy). Instead, I would reach for a few business magazines on my desk, since they weighed about 5 pounds each back then. I got a pretty good workout, actually. True story.

I also remember asking start-up entrepreneurs for their company sales figures. To this fledgling business reporter, sales figures seemed like the key measure of company success. What were their sales like? Would they give me an idea of their quarter over quarter sales growth, etc.? Inevitably, there would be a few seconds of stunned silence after I asked the…

Meet Me Onli...Er, In the Conference Room

A new Watson Wyatt survey asks 328 employers about their plans for using social media to communicate with employees.

65% say they plan to use social media more often in 2010. Roughly 78% say they've increased their use of electronic communication over the last two years, and 48% are using less paper to communicate with employees. Score one for the environment!

But these employers still love in-person meetings more than social media.

73% say they prefer to communicate company performance through a staff meeting.

58% say they prefer to communicate pay changes in person.

48% say they prefer to talk about job security face to face.

Employers go on to talk about the challenges of using social media to communicate with employees. 36% don't feel their company has the IT know-how and technology (seriously?). 40% say they don't know enough about it (this is possible). 45% say they lack the staff or "resources" to make it happen (again, seriously?). I didn't know posting som…

"What Keeps You Up At Night?"

A fired Bank of America employee has taken to You Tube to say there was "something inherently evil" about her job, which she claims required her to charge $15 "convenience fees" among other things.

She goes on to offer her take on the inner workings of Bank of America during her time there. Many are praising her at a hero. What do you think?

Monday Workplace News Round-Up

Companies in a new Watson Wyatt survey say pensions are hurting their ability to respond to the recession.

U.S. gas prices fall to $2.64 a gallon on average. Cheyenne, Wyoming has the lowest per-gallon price at $2.38. Anchorage has nation's most expensive gas at $3.28 per gallon.

Yahoo! cancels its lavish year-end party.

The great online migration: 4 in 5 senior executives say they will get most of their business news online within the next five years.

Rolling Stone magazine is getting into the restaurant business. Because restaurants historically do so well during recessions.

1 in 4 Bulgarians say they've had to bribe a government employee to get a need addressed.

Don't bother with a bow: National Retail Federation says 55% of U.S. adults want a gift card for Christmas.

Survey finds women are more compassionate about others during the holidays. I'll throw in anxious and overwhelmed.

TD Ameritrade says Americans are ready to start saving for retirement again in 2010. I'l…

Surviving in a Survivalist Economy

I'm having a good day so far. I brewed some great-tasting coffee, new unemployment numbers show employers shed fewer jobs last month, and my Oregon Ducks are going to the Rose Bowl to give Ohio State a tutorial in how football is played.

But the new underemployment numbers are harshing my mellow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 9.3 million Americans are working part-time jobs to make ends meet - an all time high.

These jobs pay the bills but don't allow these workers to apply what they know, and there's no hint they'll get back to using what they know anytime soon.

Talk about depressing.

I have tremendous sympathy for these workers, because it happened to me during the 1990s recession. I know first hand how it feels to be painfully overqualified for the job you're currently doing. You do what you have to do to make ends meet, however.

And when times are tough, you feel lucky just to have a job, grateful that an employer was willing to take a chance on hiring…

25% of U.S. Households Don't Use Banks

A new FDIC study finds one-quarter of U.S. households are stuffing money underneath the mattress instead of going to a bank.

25.6% of U.S. households use conventional banks very little or not at all. That's about 30 million U.S. households.

More than half of black households fall into the "unbanked" and "underbanked" categories.

9 million U.S. households don't have checking accounts. 41% of these households say they never plan to open one.

So how are they conducting transactions? They're more likely to rely on payday lenders, money orders, pawn shops and paying in cash.

You'll find a full copy of the report here.

Ouch: 5 People For Every Online Job Posting

The Conference Board is reporting that online job demand increased by 106,500 in November.

That means there are more online job seekers than online job postings.

As of this moment, there are roughly 3,386,000 U.S. jobs posted online. Sounds great, but the Conference Board calculates there are 4.8 (can't we just round up to 5?) unemployed people for every online job posting. Ouch.

There are a few bright spots in the Conference Board's new report, though.

Demand for workers with computer and math science, sales, business and finance skills keeps growing. There are also openings for "Healthcare support" occupations, whatever "healthcare support" means.

There's also a "modest uptick" in labor demand over the last four weeks in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. The Northeast had the biggest increase in online labor demand last month. Massachusetts lead the way with 16,000 online jobs posted in November.

Labor demand i…

Lights, Cameras...Picket Signs?

Tonight is NBC's annual holiday special that features celebrity guests and the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

This year's show has an added twist, though: A subset of 3,000 unionized writers, producers and technicians are threatening to boycott tonight's show over stalled contract talks.

They may even strike during the tree lighting.

The show has been a ratings winning for NBC in years' past, and the network says the show will go on. This is showbiz, folks.

The union, meanwhile, has unveiled a website called, which features a Seuss-esque anti-NBC poem.

I already can't wait to see how 30 Rock incorporates this into a storyline.

Update: The union decided to stay on the job during the show, despite NBC's "failure to bargain fairly with them."

Consumer Reports Knows What You Hate

What really pisses you off?

Consumer Reports knows. It's just published a top 10 list of what really annoys people - or Americans, in this case.

Without further ado, here's the list of the top 10 things Americans hate the most. Drum roll, please...

1. Hidden fees
2. Not getting a human being on the phone
3. Tailgating
4. Drivers who use cell phones
5. Incomprehensible bills
6. Dog poop
7. Unreliable Internet service
8. Discourteous cell phone use
9. Waiting for repair people to show up
10. Spam! Spam! Spam!

The results are based on a September survey of 1,125 Americans who were asked to rank 21 general annoyances on a 1 to 10 scale. The survey also looked at what annoys Democrats vs. Republicans, older people vs. younger people and rural people vs. urban people.

I like how cell phones show up twice on the list.

The women surveyed were generally more irritated than the men. Topping the annoyance list for women are speeding drivers, having to remember PIN numbers, and products that "ma…

Is Freelancing Worth It Right Now?

Companies are outsourcing more projects to freelancers.

That's the good news.

The bad news? Many of these projects aren't worth doing.

Case in point: The other day, I heard about a publication looking for freelancers to write 1,000 word articles (2-3 pages) on health care topics for $25 an article. Hell, I'd shell out more than that just to buy the coffee necessary to power me through such demanding subject matter, never mind the phone and babysitting overhead costs such a project would incur.

In other words, it's not worth doing. Too bad.

I got a kick out of this freelance job listing that touts itself as a "fun job for out of work journalists" and pays 0.00175/per word once training is over (it pays even less during training). Yes, 0.00175 per word. In total, it would amount to a paycheck of around $210 to edit a 120,000-word manuscript.

I wish I could say that such projects are the exception instead of the rule. The prospect of actually losing money on project…