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Showing posts from January, 2010

Company Offers Unlimited Vacation Days

A Seattle company called Social Strata says it will start offering unlimited paid vacation days to its 13 employees.

Yes, you heard that right. Unlimited paid vacation days.

Company president Rosemary O'Neill says the policy will work on the honor system:

"We thought we want a company of leaders and a culture of discipline," O'Neill said. "When you treat people with respect — which is the essence of the policy — then they rise to the occasion. I really, truly believe that."
O'Neill says she decided to change the company's leave policies after reading the books of Jim Collins. I'll be interested to see if this policy actually works.

Here's a Newsy.com story that features an interview with Ms. O'Neill as well as some company employees:

Tesco Bans "Slummy Mummys"

A Tesco store in Cardiff, Wales has instituted a dress code that bans "slummy mummys" - i.e., moms who shop in their pajamas or otherwise look slovenly.

Apparently, the worst offenders are moms who come in after dropping their kids off at school in the morning.

The new policy isn't going over well:

One outraged pajama wearer was asked to leave the Cardiff store for wearing her penguin clad nightwear. “It is ridiculous and stupid. I’ve got a lovely pair of pyjamas, I’ve worn my best ones today, I look tidy,” mum-of-two Elaine Carmody said. Admitting that she hasn’t dressed properly because she didn’t have time in between dropping off her children to nursery. “I was in a rush, I haven’t got time to get myself dolled up.”
This doesn't have much to do with the workplace, at least from the employees' perspective. I just think it's hilarious, maybe because I'm a mom who has done this disheveled walk of shame down the cereal aisle after dropping my kids off at schoo…

Brett Farmiloe Pursues the Passion

Imagine hopping aboard a 30-foot RV with three of your college buddies and driving around the country to learn what makes some people passionate about their jobs.

16,000 miles, 38 states, 300 interviews and 10,000 photographs later, you have enough gathered to turn out a book.

This pretty much sums up Brett Farmiloe's life since 2007, when his employer, Jobing, sponsored the entire adventure. His first book, Pursue the Passion, chronicles their travels across the country to answer two simple questions: What drives the passions of people who love what they do for a living? And how did they get on the path to a meaningful and fulfilling career?

Their journeys take them to the offices of CEOs, to corporate campuses of Nike, Microsoft, EA Sports, and Playboy and even to a rural goat farm. They interview the CEO of MGM Grand, Michael Jordan's shoe designer, an executive chef with her own show on the Food Network, a telephone repairman, and the first maximum security inmate to become a…

The U.S. Economy Grows 5.7% in Q4

Good news: The U.S. economy grew 5.7% in the fourth quarter, the quickest pace of growth in six years.

Can I get a whoop whoop!

But many Americans, including me, aren't feeling this recovery yet. We need jobs.

I'm encouraged by the Obama Administration's $33 billion plan to offer employers of all sizes a $5,000 tax credit for every new employee they hire this year. Even better, these tax credits are retroactive to 2009, otherwise known as the Year We'd All Like To Forget.

The Obama Administration also proposes to reimburse the Social Security taxes employers will pay in hiring new people. I think this approach just might work. Small employers love tax credits and reimbursements, particularly retroactive ones.

The downside? Some employers might pull moves like "firing" employees and rehiring them to get the tax credit. The Obama Administration says it has some "safeguards" to prevent this kind of thing. I guess we'll see what happens. Still, I'm …

Co-workers Suck At Giving Career Advice

Don't go to your boss or your co-workers if you need advice for getting ahead in your career.

So says a new survey out today from The Creative Group, a staffing agency.

The Creative Group surveyed 250 U.S. advertising and senior marketing executives at large companies. It asked them a simple question: "Have you ever received bad career advice from any of the following sources?" Those sources (along withe percentage of executives saying they received bad advice from that source) were co-workers (58%); the boss (54%); parents and other relatives (35%); a spouse or significant other (30%); a mentor (21%); or one of the above (25%).

So co-workers are the worst people to ask for career advice. The boss isn't far behind.

So what kinds of terrible career advice did these executives receive? Some say they were told to keep quiet amid big problems at work, or to play it too safe. Others said they were told to take too much risk. In some cases, the person giving the advice stee…

Thursday Workplace News Round Up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

Thumbs up: Reaction to President Obama's first State of the Union address is generally favorable today. At the moment, 52% of quick poll voters on CNN.com are giving the speech a thumbs up. Gawker goes as far as to call the speech "awesome." Dude.

Broken union: 2,300 unionized Kaiser Permanente employees vote to leave the Service Employees International Union for the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

Bonus points: Big banks are giving hardship loans to their employees as a way to get around executive compensation limits.

It's dog eat dog out there: A new Harlequin Enterprises survey of 3,000 employees finds a decent percentage are looking for opportunities to tattle on their co-workers. Well, when they're not snooping or trying to sabotage them, that is.

Taxing conversation: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tells the state's employers they'll be contributing about $1 billion more to the unemployment trust fu…

Global Unemployment At Record High

6.6% of the global workforce is now unemployed - a record high, according to a new United Nations labor report.

That's 212 million people around the world who want jobs but can't find one.

From the report:

According to the ILO, the share of workers in vulnerable employment (Note 1) worldwide is estimated to reach over 1.5 billion, equivalent to over half (50.6 per cent) of the world’s labour force. The number of women and men in vulnerable employment is estimated to have increased in 2009, by as much as 110 million compared to 2008.

The report also says that 633 million workers and their families were living on less than USD 1.25 per day in 2008, with as many as 215 million additional workers living on the margin and at risk of falling into poverty in 2009.
The outlook for 2010 isn't any better: The United Nations estimates 3 million workers in the European Union and other developed economies will lose their jobs this year.

Happy Data Privacy Day!

Thursday is Data Privacy Day in the United States, or "Data Protection Day" if you're in Europe.

Yes, there really is a Data Privacy Day. You can't make this stuff up.

In honor of the big event, Microsoft surveyed 2,500 consumers, human resources managers and recruitment professionals in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany to see how the information job seekers post online hurts them in the job search.

The survey was conducted last month.

The findings: 70% of the U.S. human resources managers have rejected job applicants after finding negative information about them online. In fact, American HR managers are the most hardcore about rejecting applicants based on their web footprint in comparison to their European counterparts. 41% of HR managers in the U.K say they've rejected job applicants based on information found online. Only 16% of HR managers in both France and Germany say the same.

However, only 7% of U.S. consumers (i.e., potential job seeke…

Employees' Tech Etiquette Needs Work

I was at the grocery store the other day when a woman walked up behind me and started talking.

I thought she was talking to me for a second, but she had one of those bluetooth devices in her ear and was immersed in animated conversation with a co-worker. She was spilling some juicy workplace gossip as she scanned the shelves of pasta noodles alongside me, oblivious to my existence or sense of personal space. Psst, Jenny - whoever and wherever you are - bluetooth lady thinks you're making the project a total nightmare. She might have Jim talk to you, because everyone is worried you're holding the whole team back. And you have a degree from a good four-year institution! Arrrgh!

But let me get to the point of this post.

Robert Half International recently surveyed 1,400 chief technology officers from U.S. companies with more than 100 employees to gauge how how increasing use of electronic gadgets is affecting workplace etiquette.

51% of CIOs think employee "etiquette breaches&q…

More Employees Feel Like Misfits

Four in 10 employees (39%) feel like they don't fit in with their co-workers, according to a new CareerBuilder survey out today.

CareerBuilder surveyed 5,231 U.S. workers in November 2009.

Downsizing is to blame for this feeling of alienation. Many employees have lost their favorite co-workers due to layoffs and are stuck dealing with co-workers they don't know as well and with whom they have very little rapport. No wonder so many employees feel like they're stranded on the Island of Misfit Toys, just waiting for someone to play with them.



Women are more likely to feel alienated at work: 42% of women surveyed think they don't fit in with their co-workers, compared to 37% of the men surveyed. I suspect that's because women tend to have a harder time leaving the high school clique mentality behind - and I say this as a woman, so don't flame me. I've seen it happen at work, and it's not pretty.

The survey also breaks down which industries are most likely to e…

Oregon Just Might Stick It To the Man

The other day I blogged about a special election in Oregon where two tax measures are on the ballot.

Measure 66 would increase Oregon's personal income tax rate by almost 2% for the richest taxpayers. Measure 67 would increase the state's minimum corporate income tax.

Well, Oregon's voters are speaking tonight - the greater Portland area votes are rolling in as I write this! - and it looks like both measures are going to pass. At last check, both measures hovered around 54% approval with 80% of the votes counted. Wow.

Check this link for up-to-the-minute election results.

Update: Oregon voters passed both measures by a wide margin. Here's a new breakdown, with 90% of the votes counted:

Measure 66
Yes: 54.1% (606,566 votes)
No: 45.9% (515,262 votes)

Measure 67
Yes: 53.5% (599,317 votes)
No: 46.5% (520,180 votes)

Nebraska: Land of the Two-Job Worker

Where in the United States are workers most likely to hold down more than one job?

According to a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report, workers in Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota were the most likely to be doing more than one job in 2008.

Workers in Nevada were the least likely to hold multiple jobs. Only 3.7% of Nevadans held multiple jobs in 2008, compared to almost 10% (9.8%) of Nebraskans.

North Dakota, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Delaware had the largest year-over-year increase in workers holding multiple jobs.

Missouri, Montana, Kansas, South Dakota and Washington had the largest year-over-year decrease in workers holding multiple jobs.

Of course, workers now would just be happy to have a job at all.

You can access a .pdf of the report here.

Are Fast-Casual Chains Pulling a Fast One?

Going out to eat - even to a casual or fast food place - has become a rare treat in this recession. We don't eat out nearly as much as we used to, and when we do, we always end up at a fast-casual dining restaurant.

By "fast-casual," I'm referring to one of those places where you pay at the register, the cashier hands you a tray of food and you go seat yourself. Think Baja Fresh, Chipotle, that kind of thing.

Fast-casual dining establishments are great for parents with young kids. The food is generally good, and you can make a quick getaway if the kids aren't behaving. (The latter is a bonus feature for other diners, as well.)

Tips aren't expected, either, unless you'd like to throw some money in the crew's "gas money" jar on the counter. That's because once the food is paid for, it's the customer's job to get his or her own napkins, forks, salsa, drinks, straws or anything else he or she might need. Customers also bus their tables…

Americans Can't Afford Food Anymore

A new Gallup/Food Research and Action Center survey finds 1 in 5 Americans couldn't afford to buy enough food in 2009.

The Food Research and Action Center is an anti-hunger group.

The research included more than 530,000 Americans, and asked them a simple question: Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?

Here's a rundown:

15% in 43 states said they have lacked enough money to buy food in recent months. Food affordability is a significant problem affecting all 50 states, not just a few.

18.5% surveyed said they experienced problems affording enough food between October and December 2009.

It's even worse for families with little mouths to feed: 24.1% of families surveyed said they couldn't afford enough food in the last three months of 2009.

Mississippi has the highest number of hungry people (26.2%), while North Dakota has the least number of hungry people (10.6%).
You'll find FRAC'…

Will Oregon Voters Tax the Rich?

Oregon's voters will decide on two measures in an election tomorrow.

The main question at issue: Should Oregon stick it to the rich and corporations?

Measure 66 would increase Oregon's personal income tax rate by almost 2% for the richest taxpayers.

Measure 67 would increase the state's minimum corporate income tax.

Keep in mind that Oregon is one of five states without a sales tax, so the money to fund programs has to come from other sources.

As you'd expect, the measures are controversial with attacks going back and forth. Here's an ad in favor of both measures:



Here's an ad opposing both measures:



As a former Oregonian (go Ducks!), I'll be following the election results as voters "go to the polls." I use quotation marks because Oregon is the nation's only mail-in ballot state. Oregonians vote at their kitchen tables.

The deadline for mailing in ballots has already passed, now the vote tally begins. Which way will Oregon go? A new voter poll says …

Jury Duty Or the Unemployment Line?

President Obama couldn't make it for jury duty in Chicago this week, according to various news reports today.

It's funny to envision someone saying, "Sorry I can't make it for jury duty today, but I've got to get ready to give the State of the Union address and figure out a way to get the nation back to work." I'd say that's a pretty good excuse.

On a more serious note, employees are scared to take time for jury duty right now. They're worried they might lose their jobs if they do. Some U.S. counties are reporting a noticeable drop in the number of people reporting for jury duty, even though U.S. laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who serve on juries.

Of course, employees are risking fines and possible jail time if they don't show up for jury duty.

Hmm...jail time or the unemployment line? Talk about a catch-22.

Breaking News: Americans Are Fat

I'm having a doughnut and coffee for breakfast, and I'm in absolute heaven. Doughnuts are a rare treat for me, because they're so hard to leave alone. I swear these sugar-coated sirens call my name from the kitchen counter. Willpower, don't leave me now.

As I chow down, I'm looking at a recent study that says 68% of Americans are obese. Bummer. The good news, however, is that the obesity rate hasn't increased very much in the last decade. We're reached a plateau. We're fat, but at least we're not all blowing up like Violet Beauregarde minus the blue body paint.



I do really prefer the Gene Wilder movie version, but I'm getting off topic.

The study is in this month's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It also finds that American women are significantly fatter than American men. So the right answer when your wife's asks, "Do these pants make my butt look too big?" hasn't budged. In fact, men are free to get…

Are You On the Fast Track?

I wish I was talking about careers, but we all know how the economy is doing.

Instead, I'm referring to roads, or more specifically, the fastest and slowest roads in the United States.

A new survey from GPS device developer TomTom analyzed data from its own customer base to discover which roads are speedy and which roads slow them down.

According to TomTom's data, Mississippi has the nation's fastest roads. The average speed sign in Mississippi hovers between 65 and 70 miles per hour. Maybe Mississippi has just given in to the mentality of Southern drivers, who drive like they're in a Nascar race whether they're on a freeway or in a parking lot. They drive like grandma, however, when they're trying to merge on to the freeway. It's weird. But I digress.

Washington DC has the slowest average speed at 46 miles per hour. Hawaii (53 MPH), Delaware (61 MPH), Rhode Island (63 MPH), and Oregon (63 MPH) also make the list.

The fastest road in the United States is I-15 t…

Friday Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

End of the line? Lands' End to lay off 60 employees.

New Jersey's comptroller has had it with state employees who call in sick.

The U.S. Federal Government now employs the most union members in the United States.

Warren Buffet says CEOs who go to the government for financial help should have to forfeit all their wealth. The same goes for their wives.

Who ya gonna call?: The House Oversight and Government Reform committee is pouring over U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geither's call logs during the Fall 2008 financial crisis.

Fortune names Cary, North Carolina technology company SAS as the best place to work in the United States.

Get ready for Sarah Palin, avatar.

Gartner revises its forecast to say worldwide IT spending will grow 4.6% this year instead of 3.3%.

Workers in Ohio tell President Obama to focus on job creation.

Full speed ahead: CarMax to hire 600 new workers.

The good news for California? New data show the state's une…

Poor Networking Skills Hurt Job Seekers

Gen Xers suck at networking.

That's one of the take home messages from a new Upwardly Mobile survey.

"Job seekers focus on all the wrong areas," says Allyn Horne, Senior Director of Research and Methodology at Upwardly Mobile, an online career management service site . "They are spending all of their time on job boards, but nearly 8-in-10 jobs are landed through someone you know—and, disturbingly, today's job seekers are neglecting their connections."

So how are job seekers hurting themselves?

Sporadic communication: Job seekers are speaking with an average of 8 people outside of their current company every month, whether it's verbal or email communication.

Failure to expand the circle: Job seekers aren't plying their networks for introductions to people that get them farther in the job hunt. Only 38% - about 4 in 10 people - asked for an introduction in the last four weeks.

Small networks: The average job seeker has just 29 people in his or her network…

Congress Can't Legislate Its Way Out of a Paper Bag on Health Reform, Small Business Owners Say

Small business payroll firm SurePayroll just released a survey of small business owners' thoughts on the potential impact of the health care reform bills making their way through Congress. Among the findings:

85% of respondents aren't confident that Congress can reach a compromise on health care that will benefit the small business economy, based on what's happened up to now.

66% are opposed to the original “Cadillac plan” 40% excise tax. The percentage increased to 73% after an announcement earlier this month to raise caps on premiums and to exempt insurance plans that are provided under union contract until 2018.

65% of respondents oppose both the House and Senate employer mandates to provide health insurance.

53% think the Senate’s approach to insurance exchanges is an idea worth exploring.
I'm looking for a copy of the survey to post. More soon.

Tweeting? That's So 2009!

I'm tweeting less lately. My obsession with Twitter peaked last fall, when I was tweeting up to 14 times a day.

Now I might tweet three times a day, or twice every other day.

I'm tweeting less because my workload is picking up just a little bit, making less time for Twitter.

Last year, I had more time to sit on the sofa with my laptop and tweet. On a slow day, tweeting filled some of the void left from not having enough work to do. I could post links to stories I found interesting, keep tabs on friends, celebrities, companies, CEOs, etc. Even more, tweeting made me feel like I was doing something quasi-professional as the recession deepened. I am a member of the Twitterverse! I tweet, therefore I am.

This year, my workload is a little heavier (let's hope it lasts...) and it's changing my outlook on tweeting. My mindset has gone from "What can I tweet about this hour?" to "I'll post it later today when I have a chance" to "It's been a reall…

Starbucks Brews Some Optimism

Starbucks reports its earnings more than tripled in the fourth quarter of 2009, beating expectations. Starbucks sales increased 4%. That's roughly $2.7 billion in coffee sales.

It's Starbucks first quarterly same-stores sales gain in two years.

I take this as a very good sign. If people are willing to plunk down $5 on a venti latte again, it means they're feeling more confident about spending their discretionary income. Confidence is key to economic recovery.

Of course, new jobs data out this morning show new jobless claims are up, and economists expect another rise in the unemployment rate.

Still, I find Starbucks report oddly encouraging. I'm sticking with my coffeemaker, though.

Job Seekers With Internet Access Do Better

Job seekers with Internet access are more likely to stick with the job hunt than those without Internet access, according to the Phoenix Center, a non-profit organization that studies public policy issues related to governance, social and economic conditions.

The study relied on data from the 2007 Computer and Internet Use Supplement of the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. It finds U.S. broadband Internet users, whether they're accessing the Internet at home or at the library or some other public facility, are at least 50% less likely to give up their job search. Dial-up Internet users are about 33% less likely to give up their job hunt.

The Phoenix Center advocates community broadband access, and is urging lawmakers to expand it nationwide now that the real U.S. unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers, hovers around 17%.

You can access both a summary and a .pdf of the full report here.

Are Trucking Rules On the Exit Ramp?

In 2003, the Bush Administration successfully implemented new "hours of service" trucking regulations that changed the number of hours U.S. truck drivers can spend behind the wheel from 10 to 11 hours per shift.

The rules also bumped required driving time from 60 to 77 hours every week, and required truckers to get back to work after 34 hours off instead of 50.

Between 2004 and 2005 - the first 12 months the rule changes were in effect - fatal crashes involving truckers increased 20%. The Truck Safety Coalition estimates more than 20,000 truckers died in collisions between 2003 and 2006 alone.

Now the Teamsters Union is telling federal regulators that the rules need to head down the sunset highway.

"We must protect our truck drivers' health and safety," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "Study after study shows that more time behind the wheel is dangerous for truckers and for the driving public."
Here's another story on the topic from yest…

The U.S. Infrastructure Begs, "May I Be Graded On a Curve, Please?"

The American Society of Civil Engineers has released its 2009 report card on the U.S. infrastructural system.

Drum roll, please: The overall U.S. infrastructure gets a "D" grade. ASCE estimates the United States needs to invest $2.2 trillion over five years to make necessary improvements.

Here's a breakdown of the U.S. infrastructure by grade received:

Aviation (D)
Bridges (C)
Dams (D)
Drinking Water (D-)
Energy (D+)
Hazardous Waste (D)
Inland Waterways (D-)
Levees (D-)
Public Parks and Recreation (C-)
Rail (C-)
Roads (D-)
Schools (D)
Solid Waste (C+)
Transit (D)
Waste water (D-)

The group also grades each state's infrastructure, and you can check out the results here.

On a whim, I checked each state for bridge safety and found 57% of the bridges in Rhode Island are considered "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete." Massachusetts is next on the list with 56% of its bridges in need of repair, followed by Pennsylvania (50%), Hawaii (44%) and New York (42%).

On the ot…

Juju Ranks Cities by Job Search Difficulty

So just how tough is it to find a job in your area?

Job search engine Juju.com released its Job Search Difficulty Index, which measures the difficulty of finding a job in 50 major U.S. metropolitan areas.

Juju says it divided the BLS unemployment figures for each metro area by the number of listings in Juju's jobs database.

The results? Washington, DC is the easiest place to find a job, while Detroit is the hardest. Here are the top 50 metro areas ranked from easiest to hardest in terms of finding a job, along with the average number of unemployed job seekers per job opening:

1. Washington, DC (1.93)
2. San Jose, CA (2.50)
3. Baltimore, MD (2.93)
4. Salt Lake City, UT (3.22)
5. New York City (3.32)
6. Hartford, CT (3.47)
7. Boston, MA (3.72)
8. Denver, CO (3.95)
9. Austin, TX (4.06)
10. San Antonio, TX (4.06)
11. Oklahoma City, OK (4.48)
12. Pittsburgh, PA (4.83)
13. Virginia Beach, VA (5.02)
14. Seattle, WA (5.10)
15. Milwaukee, WI (5.11)
16. Indianapolis, IN (5.15)
17. Richmond, VA (5.23)

Rescue Workers On the Job in Haiti

I watched this video of American rescue workers on the job in Haiti and thought I'd post it.

The video features a rescue team from Los Angeles carrying a survivor out of a collapsed building. It's amazing to see what these international rescue teams and the Haitian people are up against.

Employers To Health Insurers: You Suck

Employers of all sizes aren't happy with their health insurance providers, according to a new PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey of 250 employers.

Among the findings:
Large employers' satisfaction with health insurers fell from 64% in 2008 to 59% in 2009.

Small employers are more unhappy than large employers, with overall satisfaction at 52%. But the gap between large and small employers is narrowing as large employers grow more unsatisfied over time.

Claims processing, administrative fees and provider discounts are the most important basic service offerings for both large and small employers. Wellness programs have overtaken provider discounts as the more important offering for large companies, though.

Employers are frustrated with low employee participation in wellness and disease management programs. Incentives such as cash, gift cards and annual premium savings are no longer working as a way to get employees to enroll.

There's growing interest in personal technology tools such as…

IT Workers are PO'd

IT workers' salaries are stalling out and it's not going over well, according to a new survey from technology career site Dice Holdings.

Dice finds the average IT worker's salary increased just 1% last year to $78,845. As one story notes:

That modest increase is fueling dissatisfaction. Only 46 percent said they are satisfied with the pay, compared to at least 53 percent who said so in each of the previous three years. About half the workers say employers are doing nothing to keep them motivated, according to the survey, and more than three-quarters say they received no bonus in 2009.
My first thought was, "Welcome to the club, guys!" followed by "The average IT worker got a raise in 2009?" Not to be mean, but a 1% average raise in this era of furloughs, pay cuts and salary freezes sounds pretty good, especially when one considers that the average company IT budget dropped 8% last year. I'm sure a lot of employees would be happy to trade places with th…

The Rise of the Sugar Mama

Women with college degrees are bringing home the bacon, according to a new Pew Research study.

Pew finds the median household incomes of married men, married women and unmarried women increased 60% between 1970 and 2007. The median household income of unmarried men, however, grew only 16%. That's quite a disparity.

As more women become the primary breadwinner, it's changing the dynamics of courtship and marriage:

“Marriage is a different deal than it was 40 years ago," said Pew economist Richard Fry, a co-author of the study.

“Typically, most wives did not work, so for economic well-being, marriage penalized guys with more mouths to feed but no extra income. Now most wives work. For guys, the economics of marriage have become much more beneficial."

Pew Research adds:

In 1970, 28% of wives in [the 30-44] age range had husbands who were better educated than they were, outnumbering the 20% whose husbands had less education. By 2007, these patterns had reversed: 19% of wives h…

Blondes Have More...Arguments?

I'm not sure what to think about this one.

A study from the University of California at Santa Barbara finds blonde women are more aggressive, and more determined, to get their own way than either brunettes or redheads. Blonde women also get angrier faster.

The study sought to link confidence levels with levels of aggression. 156 female undergraduates participated in the study. As one of the researchers said:

“We expected blondes to feel more entitled than other young women — this is southern California, the natural habitat of the privileged blonde,” said Aaron Sell, who led the study which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. “What we did not expect to find was how much more warlike they are than their peers on campus.” The researchers believe this is a useful measure of how far women are prepared to fight for their own interests.
The researchers found that men tend to treat blonde women more deferentially than other women, and this princess-like t…

Are You Working Today?

It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Are you working?

28% of private employers are giving employees a paid day off today, according to a BNA survey. It's a five-percent decrease from 2007, when 33% of private employers offered a paid day off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Manufacturing companies are the least likely to observe the holiday: 4% plan to be closed today.

54% of non-profit organizations will be closed.

You'll find more about the survey here.

AARP: Older Americans Like to Volunteer

Americans over the age of 45 are doing more volunteer work, according to a new AARP study out today.

Volunteer work by the over-45 crowd grew from 34% in 2003 to 57% in 2009.

AARP defines "volunteering" as volunteer work chosen by the individual and done on his or her own time. In other words, it's not something encouraged by an employer.

From a press release:

"We have long known that baby boomers stand ready to serve, but this data gives us new information about how they are serving," said Thomas C. Nelson, AARP Chief Operating Officer. "As AARP works to activate Boomers and older Americans, we continue to track these trends so that collectively, the service community can better meet the needs of everyone interested in giving back."

While the rate of volunteering has gone up, however, the number of hours volunteered per month has dropped steadily, from 15 hours a month in 2003 to between six and 10 hours a month in 2009. So more older Americans are volun…

College Presidents Are Feeling No Pain

Colleges and universities across the country have been jacking up student fees and tuition rates, as well as making staff and faculty take furloughs and pay cuts. It's the price of a bad economy.

But the presidents of these institutions aren't feeling any pain.

The Chronicle of Higher Educationjust released its annual report on college and university presidents' pay packages. It finds their pay is increasing 7.5% a year on average. The median pay during the 2008-09 school year was $436,111 - a 2.3% increase over 2007-08.

Meanwhile, the average U.S. college student leaves his or her four-year education of higher learning with a debt load of $20,000. Even worse, many of them are using credit cards to help pay for school, which sets them up for years of dealing with credit card companies. In this economy, the figure could be even higher than $20,000.

University board of directors will argue they must pay university presidents this much in order to recruit great leaders. It's …

Wyclef Jean's Trip to Haiti

Musician Wyclef Jean, a native of Haiti who's best known for his work with The Fugees, has been in Haiti digging for earthquake survivors. Here's an interview in which he talks about digging people out of the rubble with his own hands.



Jean's 4-year-old Haitian relief organization, Yele Haiti, has collected at least $2 million in donations since the earthquake last week. Now it's under fire for how it has allocated funds in the past.

Still, Mr. Jean deserves some credit for going to Haiti to help with the recovery efforts.

African Americans & Rising Unemployment

The U.S unemployment rate of African Americans is about to hit a 25-year high, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington economic think tank.

EPI predicts the national non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for African Americans will reach 17.2% by the third quarter of 2010, and will exceed 20% in five states: Michigan, Alabama, South Carolina, Ohio and Illinois.

Amid these kinds of numbers, EPI predicts 50% of African American kids could be living in poverty by year's end.

United for a Fair Economy, meanwhile, has issued its annual "State of the Dream" report that calculates the median family net worth of Caucasian U.S. families at $170,400, compared to a median family net worth of $27,800 for African American families.

Both reports are worth a glance.

The "Weekend Effect" Is Good for You

A new study in the January issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology finds that employees are in better moods and have fewer aches and pains during the weekend.

The researchers conclude this "weekend effect" happens because employees have more time with their loved ones over the weekend, as well as the freedom to do what they want - e.g., self determination. The "weekend effect" applies to workers in almost every industry, from construction workers to doctors.

The study tracked 74 adults who work at least 30 hours per week. The researchers paged participants in the morning, afternoon and evening for three weeks and asked them to answer questions about what they were doing, how engaged they felt in the activity and whether or not they felt happy, angry or anxious. Stress levels were also tracked.

As this story notes:

The results demonstrated that men and women alike consistently feel better mentally and physically on the weekend. They feel better regardless…

US Grants TPS Status to Haitians

The Obama Adminstration granted Temporary Protected Status today to thousands of Haitians who arrived in the United States by January 12, 2010.

TPS is given to immigrants who can't safely return to their home countries due to a natural disaster or armed conflict, among other problems.

The American Haitian community has been seeking TPS for a long time.

The Miami Herald has some of the best coverage going of the Haitian earthquake disaster. Here's a link to a Miami Herald story about the TPS approval.

Thoughts on the Conan O'Brien Debacle

Like a lot of other people, I've been following the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien time slot war. The latest news is that NBC executive Dick Ebersol is trashing Conan O'Brien as an "astounding failure" who is "gutless" and "chicken-hearted." Ouch.

My friends on Facebook have been debating this topic all week - when they're not despairing over the situation in Haiti - and I've been scanning a few Twitter threads about it. One thing I notice is that people either love Conan and hate Jay, or vice versa. Another thing I notice is that Conan's biggest defenders tend to be Gen Xers.

In fact, Gen Xers are pretty pissed off about the whole thing. They're buying "I'm With CoCo" T-shirts that have Conan's likeness on them, and I have a few Gen X friends who are substituting his likeness for their Facebook profile picture as a sign of solidarity. Twitter pages are springing up in support of The Redheaded One.

Why would Gen Xers ca…

Entrepreneurs Are Raiding their 401(k)s

Entrepreneurs are raiding their own 401(k)s for cash since banks won't lend them the money they need to maintain cash flow.

From a CNN story:

"I'm seeing more and more business owners using this money now than I ever did before," says Sandy Abalos, a CPA and managing partner of Phoenix-based Abalos & Associates. "They never used to touch their retirement assets. And every single one of those I've seen use it all ended up in bankruptcy. I would say maybe 5% of small businesses can viably use retirement money."

A recent Information Strategies survey of 2,000 small business owners finds 74% are willing to raid their personal 401(k)s for the money to keep their businesses going.

But with business failures on the rise -- company bankruptcies rose 44% in Q3 of 2009 -- it's a risky strategy.

I'm a fan of the ABC show "Shark Tank" (airs Fridays at 9 p.m. Eastern), where entrepreneurs try to ply venture capital funds out of a group of investo…

Companies Aren't Letting IT Get Social

This is interesting: More companies are using social media for work purposes, but most of them aren't keeping their IT departments in the loop.

A new Cisco survey of 105 global companies finds 75% are using social networks, and 50% are using microblogging services such as Twitter.

However, only one in 10 companies (1%) is actively involving the IT department in these social media strategies. Apparently, social media are the domain of customer service and marketing. Thanks but no thanks, IT. Go back to your cubicle before we give you a wedgie. The cool kids are running the show.

Treating the IT department like an outsider seems dangerous. While it's not IT's job to pull an employee's foot out of his or her mouth after saying something stupid on Twitter, IT does keep systems secure from viruses, hackers' social engineering practices, and occasionally the company's own employees.

For more on the topic, see this San Francisco Chroniclestory. It's worth a glance.

Rich People Worry About Retirement, Too

Even wealthier Americans are worried they won't be able to retire on time, according to a new Merrill Lynch study of 1,000 Americans with investment assets of at least $250,000.

The latest Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterly finds 43% of those surveyed are spending less on luxury items, vacations and recreational outings. In fact, 52% have made big changes in their lifestyles because of the recession.

Half are worried they won't be able to meet their retirement investment goals, while 29% say they'll have to retire later than they originally planned.

Other worries on their list include:

* Ensuring retirement assets will last throughout their lifetime
* The potential for inflation
* Affording the lifestyle they want in retirement
* Preserving an inheritance for children/grandchildren
* Being able to support philanthropic priorities
* Caring for aging parents

53% are worried about health care costs. I'm surprised the number isn't far higher, actually.

More Kids Living with Unemployed Parents

One in seven American kids is living with an unemployed parent, according to a new report out today from the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan advocacy organization.


The study, entitled "The Effects of the Recession on Child Poverty," calculates that unemployment is affecting 10.5 million American kids under the age of 18. Even worse, the number of American kids living with an unemployed parent has doubled since 2007.

Nine states are singled out for having the highest child poverty risk in 2009. Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and the District of Columbia made the list.

The researchers examined monthly unemployment statistics, as well as the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey for data regarding the family status of unemployed men and women to form their conclusions.

A quote from the researchers:

We can't afford a lost generation. Right now, millions of children are living i…

Glassdoor: Workers Getting More Confident

The latest Glassdoor Employment Confidence Survey is out today.

It finds employees are more confident about keeping their jobs if they're currently employed, but not as confident they could find a new job quickly if get laid off.

Among the other findings:

One in five employees are worried about getting laid off in the next six months. Male baby boomers ages 45 to 54 are twice as worried about it than younger males 18 to 34. In fact, 49% of boomers between ages 45 and 54 are worried about getting laid off - the highest of any age group.

One in four employees expect a pay raise this year. 36% of employees surveyed say they're due for a pay raise or cost of living increase in 2010. Boomers over age 55, however, are the least optimistic about their chances: Only 28% of them expect a raise, compared to 41% in the 18-to-34 age group. Ah, youth.

Employees don't feel confident about getting rehired. One in three employees believe they could find another job matched to their experien…

Haitian Earthquake

Like everyone else, I'm heartbroken to see what's happening in Haiti. My thoughts are with the Haitian people, as well as the foreign workers who are stationed there.

More than 140 United Nations employees are still missing, believed to be trapped in the rubble of their headquarters in the hills above Port au Prince, as well as other U.N. development agency locations in the area.

Here's a link to the United Nations News Centre, where you can follow the U.N.'s recovery efforts.

It's wonderful to see so many countries and companies coming to Haiti's aid at this terrible time. Let's hope today brings good news regarding recovery and aid efforts.

Are Workers Too Worried to Work?

A new survey concludes employees are spending almost 20 hours a week (19.2 hours per week to be exact) worrying about what the boss says and does.

Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Office Tyrant (John Wiley & Sons), conducted a phone survey with more than 1,000 U.S. employees. She found employees spend 13 hours worrying on the job and 6.2 hours worrying over the weekend.

From the press release:

Taylor said, "The study illustrates the tremendous drain that a manager's words and actions can have on the minds and work product of its most valued asset – people – at a time when companies can least afford the loss. Particularly during this period of high unemployment, bad boss behavior can go into overdrive – distracting employees from the work at hand."

"Conversely, the survey suggests that greater interpersonal sensitivity can significantly boost morale and help a company thrive," Taylor said. She advises managers to go the extra mile by showing interest in the tea…

It Still Sucks Being a Small Business Owner

The U.S. economy is starting to show some signs of life, but small business owners are still in intensive care due to the lack of available credit.

CareerBuilder surveyed 1,450 U.S. small businesses - which it defines as work sites with fewer than 500 employees - and found one-third (34%) believe they won't have access to the credit they'll need this year. 15% say if they don't have any access to credit, they can't hire any new employees.

CareerBuilder also asked these businesses to list their biggest challenges. The cost of health insurance ranked first (42%), followed by marketing and building awareness (26%); attracting and hiring top talent (22%); and government regulations (21%).

So concerns about health care costs outpace concerns about government regulation by a 2 to 1 margin.

You can access more information about CareerBuilder's survey here.

Tuesday Workplace News Round Up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

An anonymous Facebook employee claims Facebook regularly invades its users' privacy with a "master password" that lets the company's employees open anyone's Facebook account, among other things.

Well, I guess my fellow freelance journalists are keeping themselves busy.

88% in a new Fox News survey say Conan O'Brien should dump NBC for Fox.

AOL gears up to lay off 1,400 employees by closing some foreign offices.

Is the FDIC going to require banks carrying excessive risk to pay more into the FDIC's bank insurance fund?

Need a ride? INS pulls over a group of illegal immigrant employees on their way to shovel snow at Gillette Stadium in Boston, detains them, and then drops them off at work.

The Wall Street Journal announces that some jobs will never return to the United States because of the recession and technological advancements. And in other breaking news, the sky is blue.

3,500 Saab employees in Sweden are protesti…

How to Restart Your Engine

I handed in an assignment today, and it was a great feeling. I love having work to do. Busy hands are happy hands.

But like millions of other people, my hands aren't as busy as they used to be. There's more time between assignments. I'm sitting on my hands, spending with my kids, thinking about work but not actually doing it.

In this recession, the lag between gigs might last a few days, a few weeks, a month, sometimes longer.

Then when work rolls in, you must essentially re-learn what you do for a living, and quickly. After sitting around for awhile, it's easy to get out of a work rhythm. You have to find a way to restart your engine and go from zero to 60 in a matter of hours. Once you get going, it's full speed ahead to your deadline and getting the job done.

Getting started is the hardest part, though, because as the saying goes, "practice makes perfect." It's just so easy to get out of practice right now. Even a one-week vacation can make you feel…