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Showing posts from February, 2011

Monday Workplace News Round-up

I had such high hopes for 2011. Then Tuscon happened, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker started busting unions and taking prank calls, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, we could see a government shutdown in a few days, gas prices are heading toward $4 per gallon, and now TV critics seem to agree unanimously that last night's Oscars telecast was the worst ever. And to think it isn't even spring yet. Here are a few headlines catching my eye lately:

Businesses in Christchurch, New Zealand try to pick up the pieces. Hang in there, guys. We're all thinking of you.

Finally, an article about how to work in more exercise during the workday. Is it wrong to read it while having some potato chips?

British employers work toward low carbon workplaces.

Is Microsoft loosening its employee moonlighting rules?

Infosys faces visa fraud claims.

Patient-on-employee violence appears to be a growing problem for U.S. hospitals.

A good column about Gen Xers struggling to pay off their student loa…

Dealing With Nosey People When You're Unemployed

If you’ve been out of work for months, you’ve no doubt dealt with family, friends or even complete strangers who have all kinds of job advice for you and ask sensitive questions you’d rather not answer.

Why aren’t you applying here or there? I hear so-and-so is hiring, have you looked into it? Maybe you’re just looking in all the wrong places and need to do more networking. How many interviews have you had so far? You mean you haven’t interviewed anywhere in the last six months? Why not? What does your spouse think of all this? It can’t be that hard to get a job interview, can it? Maybe your resume needs work. What's in your cover letter? I don’t see why finding a new job should be so difficult for you. Maybe it's time for you to get back out there? I’m sure there are a lot of jobs if you really look. I bet you regret getting that advanced degree now. How's your 401(k) doing? I have an employer match...

If these questions and comments aren't bad enough, it hasn't esc…

Friday Funnies: Exposure Won't Buy A Big Mac

I dedicate this one to all my fellow "free"lance journalists. [Warning: Language definitely NSFW.]

More Employees Getting To Work On Time

Employers can thank the Great Recession for improving employee punctuality.

A new CareerBuilder survey finds 15% of employees are getting to work late at least once a week, compared to 20% of employees in 2008.

Bad traffic is the most common employee excuse for being late. Employees also blame their tardiness on lack of sleep and difficulty getting the kids off to school or daycare. I can sort of see employees' point with the daycare thing. Have you ever tried to get a 4-year-old to put on shoes and a coat in a hurry, even if you're going someplace they want to go? Let's just say it's a good thing young kids don't work in emergency response, because it would be a national disaster of epic proportions. Parents must add an extra 10 to 30 minutes to their morning schedules if they want to get everyone out the door on time.

One-third (32%) of employers say they've fired an employee for being late, but the survey doesn't offer a time frame. Are we talking about …

Portland, Oregon Offices Go Perfume Free

Do you love wearing your favorite celebrity's perfume or aftershave to work?

If you're a city employee in Portland, Oregon, you'll have to save these scents for after work.

The Portland City Council adopted a rule this week that requires city employees to "refrain" from wearing smelly colognes, perfumes or aftershaves in the office. But that's not all: Scented powders, hair sprays and deodorants are also on the list. But what about patchouli? Hey, we're talking about Oregon here.

Of course, telling employees to "refrain" isn't an outright ban, but city employees who wear perfumed scents to work could face disciplinary action.

City counselors in favor of the new rule cite allergies and "being able to breathe" as a few reasons behind the proposal. Critics, however, think the new rule smells like mean spirit, or at the very least is a generous squirt of questionable city management:
During the first reading last week, Jason Wurster ques…

BLS Report: The Layoffs Just Keep Coming

U.S. employers undertook 1,534 mass layoff actions last month with 149,799 American workers losing their jobs, according to new data out today from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data are based on new filings for unemployment.

A "mass layoff" is defined as a layoff that involves 50 or more employees at a single work site.

The U.S. employment rate in January was 9%, compared to 9.7% in January 2010.

For a full rundown, click here for the BLS report.

Burning Out? Your Boss Will Know When You Spit

A Canadian research team has developed a spit test to pinpoint the employees at highest risk of burn out on the job.

Forget looking at mood, productivity level and "sick" days to assess whether or not an employee is losing steam. Now managers will have the biomarkers to prove it.

In theory, there are a few positives to such a test. Employers would be able to see that an employee is burning out and could take some concrete steps to lower his or her stress level. Not a bad idea when many employees are doing the work of two people thanks to rampant layoffs.

In reality, however, employees could feel like spitting venom as soon as the boss gives them the test results. Hey, John! Your new biomarker report tells us your cortisol levels are rather low. Is the end-of-year deadline getting to you? Based on the report, we've decided to move you to a less-stressful position in the company (one that pays less). Or maybe you'd be happier working someplace else? Let the lawsuits be…

Stressed Employees Want To Whistle While They Work

It turns out that listening to Loverboy's "Working For the Weekend" can actually help you work toward the weekend.

A new survey by British mental health organization Mind finds almost three-fourths of employees surveyed (74%) listen to their favorite songs while driving to work, and 52% say the songs leave them "energized" to get the job done.

Almost one-third of employees surveyed (32%) say music improves morale at the office, while slightly more than one-quarter (26%) say it lowers stress levels and helps employees get along better.

Almost one-fifth (18%) say they would be more productive at work if the boss let them listen to music.

So there you have it, management. Employees want some music to break up the monotony. Have fun getting them to agree on a music station. This may be one area where an executive decision is necessary.

I wonder what's going on with the 48% who don't feel energized after listening to something on the way to work. Do they hate t…

Is An Unemployed Spouse Hurting Your Productivity?

Is your spouse unemployed? Is it stressing you out, making you feel guilty for working, or even affecting your ability to do your own job?

If so, you're not alone.

A new study explored the day-to-day stresses of married couples in China where one partner is unemployed and the other is still working. One of the major findings? We humans are very good at complaining instead of consoling:
"One of the key findings in this study is that couples are better at sharing their burden than helping alleviate it," [Associate Professor Maw-Der Foo of CU-Boulder's Leeds School of Business] said. "If you feel bad at home there is going to be spillover at work where you will also feel lousy. Going into the study we thought that marital support might help alleviate the stress of unemployment on the family unit, but it didn't turn out to be the case."
It's really not surprising the unemployed are offering up a little whine with dinner. It's tough out there, and the …

Would You Give An Employer Your Facebook Password?

You've submitted to a background check along with your job application, and the employer asks for a little something extra: The log-in information to your Facebook account.

A 29-year-old Maryland man claims this is what happened to him. Now the ACLU is looking into it.

Is this the kind of privacy case that could eventually make it all the way to the nation's highest court? The Supreme Court ruled just last month in another workplace privacy case involving NASA scientists that non-government contractors can be required to submit to detailed background security checks.

The Maryland case, however, seems to go directly to the question of workplace online privacy expectations in the age of social media. What types of online information should employees and job applicants reasonably be able to shield from employers, and how far is too far for employers to go? What is considered "private information" with everyone tweeting and updating? These are huge questions to be sorted …

Friday Funnies: Market This!

Have you ever wished you could turn yourself into a tent and take a nap at an uptight barbecue or awkward family gathering? Well, now you can! Live the dream at the 2:00 mark. Snuggie, you've been served.

Report: More Baby Boomers Working Now?

The nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reports today that the percentage of workers over age 55 in the workforce grew in 2010 to the highest level in 35 years.

EBRI says the percentage of Americans over age 55 in the labor force was 29.4% in 1993, but the number has grown consistently since then to 40.2% in 2010.

But wait a second: If you were a 55-year-old Baby Boomer in 2010, then this means you were 38 years old in 1993. So if the bulk of the Baby Boomers were in their late 30s and 40s in the early 1990s, then they wouldn't have been counted in the 1993 statistics. The survey data would have included members of the World War II and "Silent" generations, which is a whole different enchilada.

The Baby Boom generation, as we all know, is also huge. The ranks of 55+ Americans have swelled in recent years. So is a 10.6% increase over 17 years really all that big, given the sheer size of the Baby Boom generation? It seems like generational differences wou…

EEOC Discusses Treatment Of Unemployed Job Applicants

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a hearing yesterday to discuss how employers have been treating unemployed job applicants.

Or more to the point, how employers prefer job applicants who are currently employed over job applicants who have been laid-off or otherwise are not working at the moment. The official lingo for this practice is "excluding unemployed persons from applicant pools."

Some employers are setting up this exclusion by saying in job postings that only the presently employed need apply. Needless to say, this practice isn't going over so well in the Great Recession where everyone knows at least one unemployed job seeker. From an EEOC statement:
“At a moment when we all should be doing whatever we can to open up job opportunities to the unemployed, it is profoundly disturbing that the trend of deliberately excluding the jobless from work opportunities is on the rise,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Pr…

Wednesday Warblings: Misery Bear At Work

Based on my last post, I have to wonder if Misery Bear's sandwich is from a catered office lunch.

Employees In A Pickle Over Office Lunches

President Obama introduced his budget the other day and we could be heading toward a federal government shutdown, but that's so much yada yada. Let's talk about what's really important: sandwiches!

When it comes to office lunches, employees feel sandwiched between bad mayo and iceberg lettuce. U.K. office design company Maris Interiors surveyed 185 employees and found 80% feel the sandwich quality at their business meetings stinks like a mushy tuna sandwich left in a lunch sack.

Less than 5% of employees surveyed (4%) think the quality of office sandwiches has improved since 2006. A full 16% of employees can't tell the difference. These office Mikeys will gobble it up as long as it's free.

I'm a little confused why a British office design company conducted a survey about sandwich quality, but I'm going to suspend my disbelief for a few more paragraphs.

The decline in sandwich quality is the result of -- you guessed it -- the Great Recession. Companies are sp…

Could This Exercise Device Leave Managers Backpedaling?

Office workers of the future might feel a little bit like Lance Armstrong without the yellow jersey.

Welcome to the age of the portable pedal machine, a small, bike-like device that can be placed underneath employees' desks. Now employees will be able to pedal while working on spreadsheets, making sales calls and instant messaging co-workers. In the process, they'll be doing their part to battle the obesity epidemic and to lower insurance rates.

The machines are already being field tested on employees. According to a Fox News article:
Most importantly, [study author Lucas] Carr said, people liked the machines. Almost everyone said they would use them if their employer offered; they also overwhelmingly reported that the machines were quiet and didn't distract them from their work.
Hmm. Have the researchers have ever tried riding a stationary bike while simultaneously trying to get some work done? I have, and it doesn't always work very well. If you're concentrating on …

Congress Gets A "C" On Workplace Safety

Imagine working for an employer where your job is exempt from certain aspects of OSHA.

The employer is also freed from compliance with certain aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act.

The employer isn't really required to keep tabs on employee injuries or illnesses, and there are no laws to keep it from retaliating against employees who complain about safety on the job.

The employer can ignore investigative subpoenas regarding its workplace safety violations.

Yes, this workplace does exist. Welcome to the United States Congress.

A new Office of Compliance report calls on Congressional offices to step it up on the workplace safety front. OOC tallied more than 6,000 safety violations on Capitol Hill over the last two years.

The Office of Compliance was created in 1995 as a part of the Congressional Accountability Act to make sure federal workplaces are up to speed with national workplace laws. Laws Congress apparently enacted for everyone els…

Monday Workplace News Round-up

Happy Valentine's Day! It's a busy one, and I'll update my round-up with news links as I can today. Here are a few headlines catching my eye so far:

Valentine's Day is the biggest day of the year for restaurant wait staff, but will they get good tips?

A new survey finds Americans like romancing people online, but are they doing it at work?

56% of Irish employees say they've had an office romance and regret it. Ouch.

Bill and Melinda Gates had the most successful workplace romance of all, but where's the Lifetime movie?

Employers in the United Kingdom: Please make sure employees know your company's postal code.

Hair nets and high heels are the mating call of the American working woman?

NPR says office dating can put workers on a collision course. Sort of like how I turn off NPR whenever Prairie Home Companion starts.

An interesting column about disabilities and technological change.

Now here's a management question that doesn't get asked everyday.

A bill intr…

Congress Gives Laid-Off Technology Workers Blue Screen Of Death

Early last month, I wrote a post about the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program.

Since 1962, the T.A.A. Program has retrained and assisted U.S. workers who have lost their jobs to foreign imports. In 2009, the program was updated to include technology workers and other professionals who have lost their jobs to offshoring.

The 2009 offshoring provisions of the program were scheduled to expire on Saturday (February 12, 2011) unless Congress extended them.

Congress adjourned on Friday without doing so, and 170,000 displaced U.S. workers could be losing their T.A.A. benefits soon. According to a Canadian Press story:
Expansions to the half-century-old Trade Adjustment Assistance program incorporated in the 2009 economic stimulus act expired Saturday after efforts to extend them were rebuffed in the House of Representatives and Senate this past week. Of the 400,000 workers certified to receive TAA services since the stimulus act passed two years ago, 170,000 might not have been eligible under …

Friday Funnies: Clark Kent's Job Performance Review

Clark Kent needs to reexamine his workplace priorities.

see more Monday Through Friday

Will the Resume Become A Relic Of the Past?

Will we tell our grandchildren about something called a "resume"?

Will we point to a faded CV at a museum someday and say, "I used to have one of those!" while our grandchildren look bored out of their minds and go back to texting their friends?

Quite possibly, yes.

More than 500 HR managers responded to a new OfficeTeam survey about the future of the resume, and one-third (36%) said it's "at least somewhat likely" that online social profiles will replace paper resumes.

A full 21% of HR managers, however, said it's "not at all likely" the resume will go the way of the dodo, while 42% said that it's "not very likely." These HR managers will have to be dragged kicking and screaming across that bridge to the 21st Century. The National Museum of American History may want to hold off on its resume collection, at least for a little awhile.

Tree Octopus Story Still Dupes Journalists

According to this Newsy clip, nobody knows how to research anything on the Internet, including journalists.

I actually saw this Don Lemon CNN interview with Professor Donald Leu in real time. One of my favorite parts was when the professor said the tree octopus study doesn't show the Internet is making us more gullible or stupid, while the cut line underneath the professor screamed PROOF THE NET MAKES US MORE GULLIBLE. Sometimes journalists hear what they want to hear. The rest of you are Peanuts parents.

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Work For Free

Here’s a question for you: Has a friend or family member asked for your free professional expertise at any time in the last two years?

No? The rest of us want to know how you got so lucky. In the Great Recession, everyone wants a bargain, and this includes free labor and pro bono professional advice. Why pay an accountant when your old friend from college with the accounting degree can give you the tax advice you need for free? Why shell out for a graphic artist when you can hit up one of your Facebook friends to create your start-up’s logo for the cost of a wink and a smile?

Welcome to the age of the “profriendship,” where people are looking to save a buck and aren’t shy about asking their professional friends to provide free product, free advice, free labor, free time. In a poor economy where everyone is only a tweet away, no one is safe from being asked, either. Consider a survey of attorneys last year that found attorneys are offering $5,000 in free legal advice to friends and relat…

Wednesday Warblings: Prince Kicks Kim Kardashian Off Stage


60% Of Employees Have Had An Office Romance

It's almost Valentine's Day, and has released its 7th Annual Office Romance Survey. surveyed 2,000 employees about cupid at work and found 60% of respondents have had an office romance.

Men are more likely to have had an office fling, but women are more likely to have had a long-term, serious relationship with a co-worker.

It's not all rosebuds and sunshine, though: 30% who had an office romance said it impacted their relationships with co-workers in a negative way. It turns out the other people in the office have some very definite opinions about what is unacceptable in terms of office romance. For starters, they don't like it when a manager dates a subordinate. Also, employees don't like it when dating co-workers are in same department, work on the same projects, or even work together when they're each employed by different companies. Let's see some daylight between those corporate entities, please.

You can read the full report here.

Your Boss Doesn't Want To Hug It Out

Sorry, your boss doesn't want to hug you.

A new survey of 375 marketing executives by The Creative Group finds 70% think embracing co-workers is inappropriate, while 76% "rarely, if ever" hug clients.

A full 13% of those surveyed said they would never hug a co-worker while 15% said they would never hug a client. What is this, Europe? No, this is the United States, where we shake hands and exchange cold germs. It's what we do, and this time of year we're avoiding handshakes and keeping a three-foot radius at all times so we don't get sick. Back off, buddy.

I'm sure the threat of a sexual harassment lawsuit encourages bosses to avoid hugging, too.

So the next time you feel like hugging it out, you might want to wave instead.

Employers Should Plan For Cybercheating

In a recent study, 1,222 undergraduates were asked if they "cybercheat" by hiring a web service to write their term papers for them, and so on.

Half of them said that yes, they do cybercheat. The majors with the highest percentages of cybercheaters are engineering, technology, computer and mathematical sciences, social studies and business and administrative studies. Yes, business studies. You can read the fascinating study here.

After you scan it, put the findings into the context of the future workplace, when today's college students will be junior-level employees potentially outsourcing their report writing to third-party providers on the down low, when they're not copying all kinds of information off the web to pass off as their own in everything from corporate reports and product ideas to new processes and designs.

You can already hear the tense, closed-door meetings between manager and employee from five years away. "Hey boss, I didn't know I couldn'…

NLRB, Employer Reach Settlement Over Facebook Firing

In 2009, a Connecticut ambulance company claimed she was fired for ranting about her job and boss on Facebook.

The National Labor Relations Board sued the employer last year, saying federal labor laws protected the employee's free speech rights. Yesterday, the company reached a settlement with the NLRB and will change its online policies to give employees more freedom to talk about the employer during off hours.

It's a victory for employee free speech rights in the age of social media.

Needless to say, employers with highly restrictive online policies might want to read up on this case. Here are a few links.




L.A. Times

Hartford Courant

Government, Like Milli Vanilli, Blames It On the Rain

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics announced that the unemployment rate fell to 9% in January. But the economy created only 36,000 non-farm jobs, so we won't be partying like it's 1999 for awhile yet.

Here's a quick snapshot of the BLS report:

The manufacturing, health care and retail sectors gained jobs. The construction, transportation and warehousing sectors lost jobs.

In January, the average hourly earnings of private sector employees increased by 8 cents to $22.86. Average hourly earnings have increased nearly 2% (1.9%) over the last year.

The average workweek for all private sector employees clocked in at 34.2 hours during January. So many people are still not working a full 40 during the week.

Manufacturing employees gained an hour of work per week, while some employees, most notably in the construction field, lost an hour of work per week because of the weather. Blame it on the rain. Or snow.
What will happen next? Will millions of disgruntled U.S. job …

Pew Study Sinks "Anchor Baby" Meme

A new Pew Hispanic Center study finds the vast majority of children born to illegal immigrants are born years after their parents arrive in the United States, potentially dealing a blow to the belief that immigrant women are streaming across the U.S. border to give birth.

The study also finds illegal immigration from Mexico has decreased since 2007, most likely due to the Great Recession. It's estimated illegal immigrants comprised 5.2% of the U.S. workforce last year.

Click here for the full report.

Friday Funnies: Save the Tree Octopus!

Have you heard about the endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus? No? Well, don't bother because it's a hoax.

A new study finds young people tend to believe the Tree Octopus story, however, even when confronted with the truth. They believe the Tree Octopus exists because they read about it on the Internet. Apparently, today's young people haven't heard the old saying that no one on the Internet knows you're a dog. Or, in this case, a fake Octopus.

National Bed Bug Summit Advances Toward Solutions

Weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry about the upcoming National Bed Bug Summit scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C.

Well, the summit happened earlier this week. The subtitle of this year's conference was "Advancing Towards Solutions to the Bed Bug Problem." The Christian Science Monitor has a good article about it.

Advancing Towards Solutions to the Bed Bug Problem? Hmm. Not to make light of a serious problem, but "advancing toward solutions" is the best name they could come up with? As NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz/Ed Harris said in the movie Apollo 13, tell me this isn't a government operation. How about something more snappy like "Taking a Bite Out Of the Bed Bug Problem" or "Feeling Bugged: A National Strategy For Stopping Bed Bugs" or "Stop Bugging Me: Eradicating Bed Bugs in the United States"? Anything other than "advancing toward solutions," which is far too tame and boring given the subject matter. In fact…

Wednesday Warblings: Snookie, Over Here!

Jersey Shore reality star Snookie doesn't even recognize U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and pretty much sums up what's wrong with our celebrity-driven culture.

And Wednesday Warblings on a Thursday is par for the course this week.

Thursday Workplace News Round-up

It's been hard to pull myself away from the twists and turns happening a half a world away in Egypt, hence my usual Monday News Round-up postponed until today. What an amazing series of events unraveling in Cairo. I hope everyone over there will stay safe. I also hope that today is treating you well, wherever you happen to be in the world.

The situation in Egypt just keeps evolving.

So does the status of its internet connection.

Indian software companies evacuate their employees from Egypt.

Other multinational firms are closing their Egyptian offices temporarily, too.

Here comes the inevitable question for companies.

Happy Chinese New Year! 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit. I remember the Year Of the Cat, if only vaguely.

Canada's corrections department looks to hire at least 3,000 new employees this year.

Wells Fargo says there's a retirement gender gap.

And there's a growing pay gap between male and female doctors.

40% of middle class Americans say they're having trouble p…

More Employees Look To Employers For Medical Advice

Do you work in HR? Are you tired of employees asking you questions about their health benefits, what's covered and what's not, or which in-network provider to choose?

Welcome to the age of Employer, M.D.

A nationwide survey conducted by non-profit organization National Business Group on Health finds more employees are seeking medical information from their employers instead of insurers and doctor's offices.

The survey was conducted in October 2010 and included 1,538 employees working for large companies with employer or union-based health coverage.

A full 75% of the employees surveyed utilized their employer as their primary resource for medical and health information last year. The survey also reveals that the percentage of employees using their employer as a medical resource has increased 54% since 2007. Wow.

But what about calling the insurer for more information? Apparently, employees don't want to go there: The percentage of employees seeking out their health insur…

Companies Evacuate Employees From Egypt

Major international companies are pulling their employees out of Egypt as the crisis continues.

Citigroup, HSBC and Barclays are evacuating their non-Egyptian employees. Citigroup has 600 employees in Egypt, most of whom are Egyptian. HSBC has 2,100 employees in Egypt, and almost all of them are Egyptian.

Infosys and Wipro are evacuating staff, too. The same goes for energy companies including Shell.

Heineken is shutting down its beer-making operation. The company has 2,040 employees in Egypt.

A Google marketing executive is apparently missing amid the turmoil, too.