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Showing posts from 2011

Top 10 Videos Of Animals Playing With iPads

If you're at work today, then odds are you're just wasting time watching viral videos that everyone is busy emailing back and forth.

It's a holiday tradition since at least 1997: Look busy when the boss walks by, surf the Internet when he or she isn't there. Face it, the boss doesn't want to be there either, and is probably watching the same viral videos in his or her office, only he or she has a door. Lucky bastard. Pro tip: There are no conference calls this week.

Or maybe your employer has blocked access to YouTube, which sucks for you because you'll either have to wait until you get home or view the latest viral videos on your iPod or iPad during your break. Speaking of, here are the Top 10 Videos of Animals Playing With iPads, compiled by my husband who is busy procrastinating. He feels he is providing an important service on this boring Thursday before New Year's Eve. You're welcome. The African Bull Frog Ant Crusher vid is awesome. Enjoy!

10. Chamel…

The Top 10 Top 10 Lists of 2011

What are you working on this week? Not much? Yeah, neither are the rest of us.

It's the last week of the calendar year and everyone is feeling all kinds of lazy even if they don't want to admit it. The only things on our minds are the low-bar kinds of things such as hitting the after-Christmas sales, going for a quick jog that turns into a slow walk, working in some teevee viewing and wrangling the kiddos who are bouncing off the walls on winter break. Oh, and deciding whether to watch Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve or CNN's Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. I'm leaning toward CNN, because shelling out for pricey New Year's Eve cover charges and a babysitter will have to wait until 2013. Or at the rate the economy is going, let's just say 2020. But so much for the life of this boring Gen Xer.

If you've scanned the media this week, you've surely seen a few year-end Top 10 lists that are a tried-and-true "evergreen" staple (a.k.a…

The Oscar: Still Made In the USA

And the Oscar goes to...American labor!

The Oscars are right around the corner, and all those little golden statues hoisted overhead by a bunch of self-important, long-winded Hollywood actors will continue to be made by the employees of Chicago manufacturer R.S. Owens & Company, whose employees just inked a new work contract:
Fifty Teamsters with R.S. Owens & Company in Chicago voted overwhelmingly to ratify their first new contract in four years. The three-year agreement includes the workers' first new wage increases since 2006. The raises will be retroactive to the previous contract's expiration on Nov. 14, with average hourly wages between $13-$14.

"Many of the men and women who make these awards have done so for 30 years, and the Teamsters are proud to continue this rich tradition," said Donnie Von Moore, President of Teamsters Local 743, which represents the workers. "Our members voluntarily worked shorter hours for the better part of a year to help R.…

Workplace Trends: The Bulletproof Computer Bag

The workplace can be a tense place these days, what with worried, overworked employees and layoffs and all. So why not arm your remaining employees with bulletproof computer bags or "padfolios," just in case something bad happens?

It's part of the thinking behind a new product line from O'Fallon, Missouri company Discreet Body Armor LLC, whose owner, Tom Griffin, says that he's already sold out his current stock of bulletproof briefcases and padfolios not once, but twice. A sign of the times, I suppose. As Missouri teevee station KSDK reports:

The company that hired Griffin, asked him to recommend a product that could better protect employees in the event of a shooting. Griffin says he didn't find a product he was satisfied with, which led him to bulletproof computer bags and padfolios. Griffin says they chose items that are often carried to board meetings. He says he recommends the products to those employees who are considered "greatest risk," such …

Corporate Holiday E-cards Leaving Us Less Than E-xcited

Corporate holiday e-cards have been arriving in my email box over the last few weeks. The problem is, I still can't decide whether or not I like this modern holiday ritual.

The ritual goes something like this: You check your email to find a message with the subject header "HAPPY HOLIDAYS!" from a company you've worked with in the past, however tenuously. You open it up, scan the message with its pretty holiday artwork (or maybe you don't even get that far...), and then decide whether or not to delete it. Do I want to let it roll off my screen until I scroll back over it in the Spring and wonder why I've kept it this long? Hmmm. Then again, deleting it right away can feel slightly wrong, too. After all, the company remembered you and it took the time to electronically send its good wishes. That's nice, right? Right?

The holiday e-card has its pros and cons. One the one hand -- as I've just said -- it's always nice to be remembered, and sending holida…

Smartphones Stressing Employees Out, Employers Encouraging Smartphones

It blows being a journalist this time of year. Almost everyone you call is out of the office, either physically or mentally, and the business memes of the week turn tame and lame because public relations people, understandably, don't want to release their best stuff when no one is paying attention.

The only thing that vaguely interests me this morning -- other than the craven, unprincipled House GOP sticking it to the average American right before Christmas -- is a business meme involving employee smartphone use.

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Employees want to use their personal mobile devices on the job, and they wish their employers would finally cross that bridge to the 21st Century by letting them do it. Well, it looks like employers are finally caving in and letting employees go BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) so they can drown themselves in useless terabytes of information and misinform each other via social media. Great. It sounds like both sides are finally meeting halfway, ri…

Do You Work With A Procrastinator?

I walked into a business the other day and noticed its "star customers" wall of honor, complete with smiling photos of said customers. Then I looked up to see that the sign said "Our Star Customers Of 2005-06." 2005-06? It's safe to say that someone in the office has been procrastinating.

It got me thinking about procrastination in the workplace. Well, that and the fact that I still have to buy one more Christmas present to send to the West Coast. Why has it taken me so long to get around to this task? Wishful thinking? A lack of organization? Various distractions? All of the above. The point is, we all procrastinate. It's just that the things we procrastinate on tend to differ.

But what if you have to work alongside a procrastinator? I'm not talking about the occasional procrastinator who always drags his or her feet on a dreaded task, which is pretty much all of us. No, I'm talking about the never-seems-to-get-around-to-it-by-deadline employee. Of c…

Friday Funnies: A Herman Cain Christmas

Gather round kids with your Snuggies and smores, because ex-presidential candidate Herman Cain has just released a Christmas video called "It's Christmas In America" where he and his wife read scripture by an open fire. No, really! And like me, you might find it about three minutes too long.

Joblessness Now Leading Cause Of Getting the Poors

Unemployment is now the leading cause of hunger in the United States, followed by poverty, low wages, and high housing costs, according to a new report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Th USCM report focuses on 29 U.S. cities that make up the organization's Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness. Survey participants were asked for details on the emergency food assistance and homeless services provided by their cities between September 2010 and August 2011.

Conclusion: It's really bad out there, folks. USCM tells us that all but four of the survey cities saw requests for emergency food assistance increase over the last twelve months. In fact, emergency food assistance requests increased by an average of 15.5%. Of the people who had to rely on food donations over the last year, 51% were families; 26% were employed; 19% were elderly; and 11% were homeless.

That's right: Slightly more than one-quarter of people seeking food assistance over the last year were employed. You can …

Technology Trends: One-quarter Of Europeans Have Never Used the Internet

As you curse your computer for running too slowly, consider this new statistic: 25% of Europeans have never used the Internet. Ever.

More than 100 million Europeans haven't surfed, clicked, linked, tweeted, updated, shopped, sexted while driving, whatever. A pretty amazing thought, eh? Around half (give or take) of the people in Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece have never surfed the web, as well as 36% of Spaniards.

Europe's Internet usage leaders, meanwhile, are Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

As you imagine not being able to access your favorite "I Can Haz Cheezburger?" websites while you pretend to work (or hunt for work), feel free to access the full report, courtesy of Eurostat.

And don't overlook the 30% of Americans who still don't have any Internet access, especially in this economy. Six in 10 U.S. households with annual incomes below $25,000 do not have wired Internet access at home right now, according to new figu…

Breaking News: Employees Don't Understand Their Health Benefits

Today we learn that STDs are rising rapidly in the over-50 crowd, which somehow seems sort of surprising. What's not surprising, however, is a new ADP survey that says more than one-third of employees don't know anything about their health benefits.

According to the press release:
A new ADP® survey shows a wide gap between the goals and reality of how employees understand their benefit plans. Eighty percent of HR decision makers believe it's important for employees to fully understand their benefit options, yet they estimate only about 60% of their own employees do – a finding with serious implications for how companies communicate one of the most important parts of their employees' total compensation.

"With many employees asked to take on greater responsibility for managing their own benefits, there is room for improvement by HR departments to engage employees in the decision-making process," said Tim Clifford, President of Benefits Services at ADP, Inc., a lea…

Federal Government Still Trying To Define "Cyber Professional"

Federal employees want their cyber job titles and they want them now, according to
The fundamental problem contributing to a human capital crisis in the embryonic field is the inability of agencies to agree on what constitutes a cyber professional, according to federal officials. Without a standard definition, current counts on staffing levels and skills gaps are misrepresentative, the Government Accountability Office reported last month. Until agencies are comparing apples to apples in terms of cyber jobs data, the Obama administration will flounder building a workforce large enough and capable enough to respond to growing threats from nation states, hacktivists and insiders, federal officials say.
"A human capital crisis in the embryonic field"? Wow, that's a mouthful. Government employees are all about their job titles and pay grades, though, and so the federal government better settle on some job titles and job descriptions if it wants to -- let me put on…

Five Tips For Surviving the Company Potluck

Is your office having a holiday potluck this year? Yes? My condolences.

I always feel a certain amount of trepidation whenever I'm facing down a large potluck spread of homemade items prepared by God Knows Who. As I gaze down into the casserole dish boasting ingredients I kind of sort of recognize (hmm, is that spinach?), I'm lost in my own 8" x 12" pan of panic-induced pondering. Who made this? How was it prepared? What's in it? Are any of the ingredients expired? Did a cat, dog or toddler sneak a lick or pick when the cook wasn't looking? And the biggie: Will I get sick if I eat it?

The rational side of me knows that the mystery meat peeking out from underneath the undetermined red sauce in the 9" x 17" baking pan is most likely fine, and it's not like I'm wandering into the kitchen at my favorite fast-casual dining establishments to watch the food preparers do their jobs. But still: I have a far higher trust of restaurant-prepared food th…

Is the Office Rainmaker Drowning You In Despair?

If you work alongside a superstar rainmaker and you've given up trying to compete, then this blog post is for you.

Ah, the sweet feeling of frustration in knowing you'll never, ever be able to outshine your gold-plated co-worker no matter how hard you try! You'll always be Jan to his or her Marcia, a solid middle performer (whose depressing work lives I've explored) destined to get good-but-not-great job reviews and the occasional pat on the back from the boss. But you'll never get your One Shining Moment (TM) in the office Olympics because your superstar co-worker will always win the gold medal. And I mean always.

In a miracle situation where you actually do win the week's gold medal, your boss will still see you as someone of silver or bronze-medal caliber. Her performance this week must have been a fluke, but we'll give her a nice golf clap and a gift card to keep her motivated because I don't want her to quit and make me read an entire stack of resume…

Will the Employee Of the Future Disappear Into the Clouds?

Someday you'll visit a museum with your grandchildren, who will point to a display and ask, "What's that?" to which you'll reply: "Oh, that's what we used to call an employee. They worked in offices. At desks. Then one day they all disappeared into the cloud and we didn't need them anymore." Say it ain't so.

The workplace of the future will have no employees and you can blame it on "cloud" computing, according to an article:
Employees as an entity will become a relic of the past and instead pave the way for an army of 'free agents' that will bond into more inclusive and collaborative teams, according to VMware.

...The panel expects that the term "employee" will probably disappear in the second half of the 21st century as workers transition into becoming their own business, with full time workers being replaced with part-timers and freelancers who will negotiate with other businesses on a contractual basis.

Oh No, Workplace Robot Growth Has Best Quarter In Six Years

First they eat old people's medicines for fuel and now they're taking over the workplace.

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, because companies are liking themselves some workplace robots! According to a story on
The robotics sector just experienced its best quarter in six years after a great 2010. Last year saw a 94% increase in North American shipments of multi-purpose industrial robots, rising to a total of 16,356 new shipments. This only slightly lagged the 2010 worldwide industrial growth of 97% to 118,337 units shipped.
Japan remains the world leader in workplace robotic shipments, followed by South Korea and North America. North America, however, now ranks second in terms of estimated "operational stock of industrial robots," which I presume refers to robots that are actually in use. Robots don't take vacations, they don't complain or sabotage their employers and, best of all, they don't require any health coverage, only an extended warranty.…

New Report On Workplace Depression Sure Is Depressing

How much is mental illness costing your company? Chances are, more than you think.

The Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health in Canada is releasing a report today that calls mental illness in the workplace a "tsunami of economic loss" that is costing Canada at least $51 billion (U.S.) in lost GDP every year thanks to depression and anxiety disorders. The number skyrockets to $1 trillion (U.S.) in lost GDP when North America and Europe are included. Talk about a Great Depression.

The current state of the economy is taking its toll on stressed-out employees. The report estimates that one-quarter of Canadian employees are depressed, as well as one-quarter of American employees. In Europe, nearer to one-third (30%) of employees are suffering from depression.

The Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health in Canada will be promoting a 10-year, $10-billion government and corporate plan for curing depression and improving w…

Study: Americans Still Trying To Find Their Way Back To Stability

Since it's almost a presidential election year, I'll go ahead and ask: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

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No? The Heldrich Center For Workforce Development at Rutgers University has just released a report that's well worth a glance. The researchers have been following a group of unemployed Americans since 2009 and recently asked them to re-assess their financial situation, lifestyle changes, and "permanence of condition," meaning whether or not they see their current situation as temporary or permanent.

In a finding that is completely not shocking, the vast majority report that they are not better off than they were four years ago. Only 7% surveyed say they've "made it all the way back" to where they were before the financial crisis, while nearly one-quarter (23%) describe themselves as "on the way back." One-third (33%) place themselves in the "downsized" category. But it doesn't sto…

Employees' Holiday Wish List? Just Show Them the Money

If you're struggling to come up with a "nice" employee holiday gift this year, just make it easy on yourself and open your wallet.

Employees just want cold, hard cash this year. A year-end bonus, a grocery gift card or an annual gym membership will do just fine, thank you. If you buy the results of a new survey that is. For managers, it means no fuss, no muss, no need to wrap anything. Just show them the money! Doesn't it make you feel good just to say that?

In a sort of workplace Mars vs. Venus thing, also broke down the results by gender. So what kinds of company holiday gifts are the X and Y chromosomes craving this year? In sum, men want stock options while women want grocery gift cards. Why roll the dice on potentially become a millionaire someday when there's a sale on chicken and beans this week? Practicality, thy name is woman. Well, not always, but at least in this particular survey.

Another thing I find interesting is that only …

All Hail the Age Of the Floating Workplace

Larry King tells us that he wants to be frozen, Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump would like to hand poor kids a mop, and now an entrepreneur wants to anchor large ships just outside U.S. waters that will house foreign workers and help companies get around strict visa quotas. Oh, great.

According to a article:

One entrepreneur, however, has come up with an interesting workaround to the challenge [of the H1-b visa cap]: anchor a large ship off the coast of San Fransisco [sic], in international waters, and recruit professionals from other nations to work on board.

Blueseed, a startup incubator (and startup itself), proposes to set such a ship afloat as a "high-tech visa-free entrepreneurship and technology incubator on an ocean vessel in international waters." The ship will be positioned as "a short ferry ride away from Silicon Valley so that great ideas and talent from around the world can live, work, and play while having convenient access to the San Francisc…

Should Working Moms' Salary Packages Include A Maid And Nanny?

An Australian publisher has uttered something American women have wanted to say for a very, very long time: Hey boss, can I get a little more help around the house?

Ita Buttrose, founder and publisher of a magazine American women have never heard of called Cleo, says that women should insist that their employers subsidize a nanny and housekeeper as a part of their overall salary package. Forget the sleek company car and plentiful stock options and give all the single ladies who have turned into bitter ladies what they really, really want: An in-home babysitter and a maid. We want our nanny culture and we want it now!

As Australia's Sunday Mailreports:
The publishing queen said if Australia adopted more of a nanny culture, it would help women stay in work, continue to climb the corporate ladder and snare the chief executive's role.

"I am a great believer in packages that include some support for the mother, whether it is a nanny or a housekeeper or whatever," she said.


Dumb Ideas: Rocket Man And His Leaf Blower

This takes spinning your wheels to a whole new level.

The 10 Dirty Secrets Of Secret Santa Giving

It's almost time for Secret Santas! Yeah, I know. Let's all think it together: Oh man, I don't have time for this crap.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the "Secret Santa" tradition, it goes something like this:

Everyone in the office (or department) draws the name of a co-worker out of a bag. Or maybe your office has another way of pairing people up. Anyway, each employee is then responsible for secretly giving small gifts to their chosen co-worker over the course of a work week. Employees spend their own money but preferably keep their spending below a specific dollar amount. This amount is usually no more than $25. On the last day (Friday) there's the BIG REVEAL when everyone gives their biggest gift and finds out who's been putting candy and other crap on their desks while they were in the restroom. Oh, it was yoooou! I thought so!

But maybe we're not as "into" this tradition as we used to be? One Consumer Reports survey fo…

Breaking News: Everyone Thinks the "Millennials" Are Lazy Whiners

Do you think your 20-something co-workers are lazy, unfocused and in general, just sort of whiny and unmotivated?

Well, so do all your other (older) co-workers!

A new poll of more than 600 employees by Raleigh, North Carolina-based consulting firm Workplace Options finds the youngest workplace generation has a "distinct" (a.k.a. terrible) work ethic. More than three-fourths (77%) of workers polled believe the Millennials "have a different attitude toward workplace responsibility than workers of other age groups," while 68% think the Millennials are "less motivated to take on responsibility and produce quality work compared to their counterparts." According to the press release:
"The idea that younger workers are not as engaged or motivated as older workers is interesting from a management perspective, but may be shortsighted," said Dean Debnam, chief executive officer at Workplace Options. "The attitudes reflected in this poll may stem, in par…

China To Say Zai Jian To the Humanities

Was your undergraduate degree pretty much useless in helping you land your first "real" job? If you majored in the humanities only to turn around and enter graduate school in a valiant attempt to major in something targeted and useful, then you know what I'm talking about.

The Chinese Ministry of Education is apparently tired of its graduates playing the "why the hell did I major in this?" game, because it's just announced that it will start eliminating college majors that muster an overall employment rate below 60% over consecutive years. Your college major better lead to a job, or else! According to the Wall Street Journal:
None of the reports specified which majors would be cut under the new rules, but there are signs that some universities have already started taking steps to decrease the size of programs that don’t result in paid positions. Enrollment in a Russian program at China’s Shenyang Normal University was cut to 25 students this year from 50 in p…

Are Scammers Targeting Workplaces On Cyber Monday?

It's Cyber Monday, the day when online retailers finally get their moment in the sun. But if you plan on shopping from work today, you might need sunlight to disinfect your hard drive afterward.

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Shopping at home is different from shopping at work. At home, it's your personal computer on the line and you're going to be more careful about the sites you pull up. When you're at work, however, it's the company's computer at risk and can't the IT department just fix it already? That's a big part of the problem, along with our attraction to deals that save pennies on the dollar.

And with a new Cyber Monday CareerBuilder survey telling us half of employees plan to shop online at work this holiday season, let's all get ready for viruses and spyware galore. Good luck, IT. You're going to need it.

We Gave Thanks, Now Let's Lose Our Unemployment Benefits

It's the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I'm so over turkey leftovers.

To be honest, I'm not much of a leftovers person, no matter the dish. I very much enjoy the meaning behind Thanksgiving, but leftover food that's been sitting in the refrigerator for more than 48 hours is pretty sketch with me. So while my Facebook friends are raving about their innovative cranberry-mashed potato turkey sandwiches for the fourth day in a row (yum?), I'm pondering exactly when to ditch our sparse, intentionally-downsized Thanksgiving meal to make more room for the foods we'll actually eat.

In any case, I hope your holiday was everything you wanted it to be, and more!

So what to write about this post-holiday morning...well, there's always Gawker's very awesome round-up of Thanksgiving retail worker news that happened over the long weekend and was peppered with enough excitement to bring a tear to the eye. Black Friday sales hit a new record, thanks in part to employees wor…

Gen Xers Now Most Likely To Get Plastic Surgery

My grade schooler was being particularly helpful at the grocery store the other day, and I thanked her. "No problem, Mom! I like helping the elderly."

Bada-bing, bada-boom.

Like every other Gen Xer, I'm starting to feel my years. As I look in the mirror, I often have the same reaction I do whenever I see a McCain-Palin bumper sticker on someone's car: Really?

Now we learn that Gen Xers are going under the knife in a big way. A survey from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) reveals that 43% of all cosmetic surgery procedures last year were performed on Gen Xers between the ages of 31 and 45. Baby Boomers (defined as those between the ages of 51 and 64) comprised a mere 28% of all cosmetic surgeries.

Never trust anyone over 30, or at least recommend they look into Botox. Gen Xers flirting with the big 4-0 are feeling the pressure to keep up with the Jennifer Anistons of the celebrity circuit:
This pressure - whether it's real or perceived - alon…

Ho, Ho, Ho: More Employers Blocking Online Holiday Shopping This Year

It's time to hit the Internet for holiday presents, but don't be surprised if you can't connect to your favorite retail websites at work.

A new Robert Half Technology survey of more than 1,400 U.S. chief information officers reveals these tech-savvy office Grinches plan on stealing your online access this holiday season. A full 60% of CIOs will block retail websites in the coming weeks -- a 12% increase over last year. Nearly one-quarter (23%) will let employees shop online at work but they'll "monitor activity for excessive use." One wonders how "excessive use" is defined, exactly.

The percentage of companies that will give employees unlimited, all-you-can-eat online shopping access this holiday season: 13%. The CIOs who let employees shop online expect it to suck up at least FOUR HOURS of employees' time per week. Um, yeah...I'm finishing up that report and I'll send it to you after I get my shopping cart through Amazon's online che…

Technology Trends: Microsoft's Workplace Activity Patent

Your days of dissing the company on the down low may be numbered.

Microsoft has filed a patent for a "system" that lets employers track employees right down to their physical gestures and will alert HR whenever it sees something amiss. As for the actual patent application, it's Patent No. 20110276369, which describes the technology thus:
Approaches are provided for monitoring, analyzing, and influencing organizational behaviors through multi-modal communication systems. Desired and undesired behaviors and applicable organizational contexts are defined and action plans developed. The behaviors are then monitored through communication sessions between members and analyzed for comparison to the action plans such that feedback may be provided at individual and/or organizational levels to influence the behaviors.
I'm not sure what "undesired behaviors and applicable organizational contexts" means exactly either, but it's sort of creeping me out. According to I…

Science Helps Overbearing Parents Become Even More Overbearing

The Congressional "Supercommittee" warns us that it can't legislate its way out of a paper bag, 60 Minutes jumps the shark by deeming model singer Taylor Swift worthy of one of its once-lofty artist profiles, and now this.

We've entered the age when parents can buy DNA test kits to determine the sports and activities in which their children are most likely to excel. A Boulder, Colorado company called Atlas Sports Genetics claims it can hit a home run in assessing a child's sports aptitude, and it's selling DNA swab test kits to living vicariously through their kids worried parents for $160. Open up and say "aaah" Timmy or Tammy, because we need to know whether you'll do better in soccer, t-ball or Little Gym! According to one article:
The swabs are sent to Atlas, then to a lab in Australia.

The company is looking for something called the ACTN-three gene, which is responsible for fast-twitch explosive muscles.

"It's really just a tool in a t…

Friday Funnies: Blonde On An Escalator

So a blonde tries to go up a down escalator...I'll let you step in here with your own jokes.

Do You Work With A Know-It-All?

Do you work with someone who always tries to make you feel like you were born in a barn? A co-worker who never misses an opportunity to look down his or her nose at you? If you haven't encountered the condescending co-worker, you will eventually. It's almost unavoidable, and it's how you handle these insufferable know-it-alls that makes all the difference. You'll know immediately when you're in the presence of a condescending co-worker. There's a tone in the voice and a certain look in the eyes, as if they're wondering how you manage to button your shirt in the morning without a manual. They'll want to explain the basics of your job to you when you've been doing it (quite well, thank you) for a few years now and you have the student loan debt to prove it. Maybe this person refers to you by pet names such as "sweetie" or "cutie" or the dreaded "hon" instead of your real name while shunting all of the less mentally-inten…