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Showing posts from February, 2012

The 10 Worst Things About Meetings

Meetings. Everyone hates them but everyone has to go to them. Let's have a meeting of the minds about this problem, okay?

Or maybe we can meet halfway to discuss a new survey of 1,600 jaded meeting goers who were asked: "What frustrates you most about meetings at work?" Geez, how much time do we have here? And will there be bagels? If you're wondering, is a Virginia company that helps companies "make meetings better," which explains why it's asking the question in the first place. But moving on: What bugs about meetings? Here are the top 10 complaints as compiled by

1.) Allowing attendees to ramble and repeat the same comments and thoughts;
2.) Doesn't start on time, stay on track, or finish on time;
3.) No specific action items or walk-away points;
4.) No clear purpose or objective;
5.) Not inspiring or motivating;
6.) Not organized. No agenda;
7.) Too long;
8.) Repeating information for late arrivals;
9.) Wea…

Workplace Trends: The Coffee Break App

You're dragging and you need a cup of coffee. Two cups and two handfuls of chocolate-covered coffee beans later, you're bouncing off the walls. You just can't seem to find that happy medium where you're perfectly caffeinated to get everything done.

Pour it on, because now there's an app for that. Researchers at Penn State have developed a software app called "Caffeine Zone" that helps coffee drinkers pace themselves between too much caffeine and too little. According to the press release:
Maintaining proper caffeine balance is important for many workers. For example, sailors on submarines must carefully watch their sleep patterns because their sleeping and waking patterns vary each day, [professor of information sciences and technology, psychology, and computer science and engineering Frank] Ritter said.

"If they, and others who drink coffee to stay awake, drink too much coffee on one shift, they may have trouble sleeping," said Ritter. "So, t…

The State With the Bossiest Bosses Is...

It's the day before the day that doesn't usually exist, and here comes Gallup-Healthways trotting out its annual state-by-state well-being poll that includes a snapshot of the U.S. workplace. Pull up a squeaky chair, because this ought to be fun.

The results of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey are based on recent telephone interviews with a random sample of 353,492 U.S. adults in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Wow, that's a lot of people.

So, what is the state of U.S. states' workplaces? Gallup-Healthways' "Work Environment Index" tells us that North Dakota has the nation's best work environments. North Dakota also has the nation's lowest unemployment rate. Somehow, I suspect the two are connected.

Survey participants, meanwhile, perceive Delaware as having the nation's worst work environments. Forget Delaware's nifty incorporation laws, because when it comes to the workplace Delaware is apparently full of Way…

Will You Be Working For Free On Leap Day?

Wednesday is Leap Day, a day that doesn't exist except in presidential election years. For hourly workers, Leap Day means an extra day of pay. For salaried workers...well, enjoy working for free!

It's simple math, really. If you're a salaried worker paid to work for 365 days and this year has 366 days, then it means you're not getting paid for the extra freak day on the calendar. As if work doesn't suck enough, you'll be giving your employer eight hours (or more) of your time this week, gratis.

Of course, you might choose to look at Leap Day as a way to make up for some of the slacking you've done over the last three years. You know, all the days you ran late, the Friday you called in sick because you didn't feel like driving, the extra minutes you've spent running personal errands on the clock, the one time (ahem) you procrastinated -- hey, it all averages out, right? Maybe you owe your employer this day of actuarial atonement. It's the least you…

Friday Funnies: S@*% Interviewees Say

If you're about to interview for a job, this clip pretty much sums up everything not to say.

Workplace Trends: Seating By Social Media Profile

If you're a frequent business traveler -- and oh how fun that is these days -- then you've had to sit next to a few less-than-desirable seatmates over the years. But your seating woes could soon be over, because a European airline has come up with the ultimate solution: Being able to pick and choose your seatmates based on their social media profiles!

Now the guy in Seat 3A can remind you a lot of...well, you...with his interest in triathlons, his hatred of Katy Perry songs, and his love of dogs.

Dutch airline KLM is rolling out something called "Meet and Seat," because everything needs a catchy name in the age of relentless, in-your-face branding and this is the next wave, people. You are free to surf about the passenger list. Via Technorati:
KLM has rolled out a program called 'Meet and Seat', allowing confirmed passengers on its flights to connect to and put on display their social network profiles, so others can go online and determine whether or not they wa…

Recession Trends: We're all Cheapskate Tooth Fairies Now

Next Tuesday is National Tooth Fairy Day. Yeah, I didn't know this either, but now we learn that the average tooth fairy is ripping off the kids so let's talk about it, shall we?

The Original Tooth Fairy Poll from the Delta Dental Plans Association (again, who knew) tells us that the Great Recession has taken a bite out of the dimes left underneath the pillow of many a newly-toothless child. In fact, tooth fairy handouts dropped by 42 cents on average to $2.10 between 2010 and 2011. Don't spend it all in one place, kids.

Actually, this sounds like a pretty good payout per tooth compared to my Great Depression-era parents, who would tell me to put my tooth in a small glass of water and the next morning there would be four bits (about 50 cents) submerged alongside it. Why did my parents have me put my tooth in a glass of water and then throw in a few quarters when I wasn't looking? I have absolutely no idea; it must be a World War II thing or an old tradition from the Finn…

Sleepy's Ranks the Most Sleep-Deprived Professions

Daylight savings time is right around the corner, and tired, overworked employees suddenly losing an hour of sleep will be having more heart trouble and more workplace accidents.

Or so past research says. But let's keep the past in the past, because mattress store Sleepy's is sleep walking its way into the room with a list of the most (and least) sleep-deprived professions! Sleepy's bases its "Shortest-Sleep Jobs list" on "an independent analysis of individual sleep habits as reported in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)." Sounds semi-official, so let's run with it.

Does your profession make the list? Sleepy's ten most sleep-deprived careers (ranked most to least) are home health aides, lawyers, police officers, physicians, paramedics, economists, social workers, computer programmers, financial analysts, plant operators and secretaries.

The ten best-rested jobs, meanwhile, are forest/logging workers, hairstylists, sales representatives, b…

Breaking News: Frequent Texters Don't Like Big Words

If you text a lot, chances are you hate big words.

It's the conclusion of a recent study that finds university students who spend tons of time texting tend to be "less accepting" of words they don't use and don't recognize. You know, big words that one might find in a newspaper, in a magazine article or on someone's random, weird blog. Conversely, the less one texts, the more likely one is to actually like strange and new words! Could someone please pull up Webster's online dictionary for the texter's version?*

But wait: Aren't texters supposed to be full of literary originality? LOL. According to
The findings came as something of a surprise as language originality and creativity seem to be a characteristic of text messaging.

"Our assumption about text messaging is that it encourages unconstrained language. But the study found this to be a myth," said [graduate student researcher Joan] Lee.

"The people who accepted more…

Let's Take the Opportunity To Discuss Workplace Communication

Think you can tell the difference between a manager's email and that of a rank-and-file employee? A Georgia Tech professor has some handy tips for telling who is who.

Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, has spent a lot of time analyzing old Enron emails. Yes, that Enron. Grandma Millie's Enron. And he tells us there are easy ways to spot whether an email is being directed up or down a company's email chain.

ProTip: Just look at the nouns and verbs because semi-coherent, non-passive writing usually includes nouns and verbs. Former Enron employees used both, and how! For example, employees lower on the corporate food chain were fond of using hedging phrases such as "thought you might" when they weren't writing "attach," "sounds good," "weekend," "absolutely no problem," "opportunity," "thank you" and "call me anytime." Pick me! Managers, meanwhile, wer…

Can Companies Force Employees To Join Social Networks?

We see a lot of stories about employers banning employee use of social media at work. But can employers make employees join social networks?

The IT nerds over at Slashdot are debating it today, and it's a fascinating thread. From a company's perspective, making employees join social media networks seems great at first. Employees get the company's name out there, promote events, products and services, interact directly with customers in real time, and they can chat up their co-workers without ever having to leave their desks. It explains why workplace Twitter use was up 700% last year. Employees have essentially become lock-step marketing and branding armies for companies. How could this go wrong?

Well, employees could feel peer pressure to be more "social" to keep their jobs, which could be creating new and weird workplace morale problems on the down low for employees worried about maintaining privacy. On the other end of the spectrum, we all know people who use th…

Friday Funnies: The Unemployed Life

My spouse gave me flowers on Valentine's Day and then I threw up. The two events are not directly related; the latter is due to a nasty norovirus that seems to be sweeping DC. If those of you who live outside the Beltway think the people of DC are full of crap, then you can now rest assured that Beltway insiders could soon be releasing a few pounds of it into the DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia sewer systems.

I've missed a lot over the last three days while getting just one stomach flu away from my goal weight. Linsanity? Huh? Trademark it? M'kay. Anyway, I've been amused in my herbal tea haze by an online series called "The Unemployed Life." Because when you're unemployed, you have more time to think too much. I love this particular video simply for the ending. Oh, and because naps, which I rarely take, have been central to my existence this week. If you're coming to DC this weekend, bring lots of hand sanitizer. Just a suggestion. See you on Monda…

Employees Are Giving Away the Store In Freebies

Is the phrase "Oh don't worry, it's on me" silently hurting many a corporate bottom line? Yes, according to a new study.

Researchers at Michigan State University and Florida State University surveyed roughly 800 employees working in a variety of customer service fields and found upwards of three-fourths (70%) are giving away the proverbial store by shelling out millions and millions annually in sweetheart deals (a.k.a. "It's on the house, you're so welcome!") the boss doesn't know anything about. Shh! A full 67% of employees in the survey said they have "sweethearted" a customer within the last eight weeks hoping for something in return (for themselves and not so much the company, if it's not obvious). You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

Other studies have estimated that 40% of the $200 billion lost to employee theft each year is due to sweetheart deals. Take it away, Red Hot Chili Peppers!

Now you'd almost expect this…

Valentine's Day? Hate Is In the Air At Work

So much for awesome John Paul Young songs featured in strange Australian movies, because when it comes to Valentine's Day at the office there's not a lot of love to go around, apparently.

Outright hostility is in full bloom in cubicles everywhere, or so the media would have us believe. Everyone hates everyone now! But that's a good thing because romance, or even the hint of it, is a Trojan horse full of potential sexual harassment suits, or so the lawyers would have us believe. Should I delete Trojan in the context of a Valentine's Day post? Many an editor would pull out the proverbial red pen, but I run this show and so it stays.

Labor lawyers, meanwhile, have run all the scenarios. What if an employee gives a co-worker an offensive Valentine's Day card? What if an employee has been crushing on a co-worker for months and months and sees a good opportunity to declare unrequited love? What if two co-workers are having an office romance, or are rumored to be? What if o…

Congress Might Give Vanpool Commuters An Extra $115 A Month

If you use a vanpool or public transportation to get to work, Congress might, just might, be about to give you a small break on your commuting costs.

The United States Senate Committee on Finance approved legislation earlier this week that would raise the pre-tax commuting set aside from $125 to $240 per month, which could save the average, perpetually-running-late, public-transportation-using employee $550 in commuting costs this year alone.

see more Funny Graphs

Actually, employees who commute via public transportation had a monthly pre-tax benefit of -- wait for it -- $240 until last year, when Congress hit the brakes and dropped the allowable amount to $125. The proposed change, which is included in the Transit Benefit Extension in the Highway Investment, Job Creation and Economic Growth Act of 2012, is essentially a U-turn that gets things back to where they were.

Is $115 per month in pre-tax savings a huge amount of money? Well, it's not nearly as much as our elected members of …

Women Who Can't Spell Earn Less Than Men Who Can't Spell

"How do you spell _____?"

If you're a woman who asks this question at work, some number crunching of National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) data might just spell depression.

The Institute For Women's Policy Research examined NAAL's long list of literacy data and it turns out that women with low literacy levels earn less than men with the same poor reading and writing skills. How do you spell "frustrating"? According to IWPR:

Men with low literacy are nearly twice as likely as women at the same literacy level to have weekly earnings above $650. Women with low literacy are twice as likely as men at that skill level to be in the lowest earnings category of $300 a week or less. Even women with higher levels of literacy earn less than men on average—overall, women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns according to IWPR research.
Of course, we've known about the .77-on-the-dollar figure for quite awhile and there's a lot that goes into this nu…

Seven Jobs Where You're Likely To Find Love

Looking for love? Well, your chances of finding it at work are fairly high, and here are the seven jobs where you're most likely to find it.

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According to a new pre-Valentine's Day survey, the seven jobs with the highest potential for finding someone willing to put up with you until you mutually agree it's no longer working a life mate are hotel guest service agent, bartender, flight attendant, fitness instructor/personal trainer, retail sales specialist, pharmaceutical representative and dance instructor.

You'll notice these jobs require a great deal of contact with other people, because computer programmer, librarian and dishwasher didn't make the list. And we all know what happened to Mary in her "other life" where she never met George Bailey. I've always wondered if this scene makes the average librarian cringe.

So, there it is. You just need to get away from your desk more often, or hope that your future spouse meets …

Models Strike A Pose For Workplace Rights

It's almost New York Fashion Week, and just in time for the big event fashion models are trying to polish up their workplace status.

The non-profit Model Alliance is seeking a better deal for models -- who are generally independent contractors -- in dealing with sexual harassment, anorexia, backstage privacy, payment, child labor laws, financial sum, better treatment in an industry that tends to be dominated by powerful fashion designers and very big companies. As reported in Stuff:
"There's nothing funny about a work force that is overwhelmingly young, female and impoverished, working for some of fashion's wealthiest, most powerful brands," said [former model and fashion writer Jenna] Sauers, who is on the board of directors for the Model Alliance.

[Model Sara] Ziff and Sauers said some US-based models had complained about being told to lose weight, had suffered anxiety or depression and been sexually harassed.

"Many top designers pay their mo…

Status Update: NLRB's Social Media Guidelines For Employers

What can employees say on social media sites, and when can employers fire them for it? Don't look now, but the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces U.S. labor law, has issued a few guidelines for employers in 140 characters or more.

In a nutshell, the NLRB's status update on employee social media use says that "employer policies should not be so sweeping that they prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees" and that "an employee's comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees."

Okay, so employees are free to discuss the "terms and conditions of their employment" -- you know, bitching after hours at the local bar about who doesn't deserve a raise or how the boss forgot National Employee Appreciation Dayagain -- but employees shouldn't go on Twitter, Faceb…

Two-thirds Of Tweets Aren't Worth Reading, Say Twitter Users

I've been saying it for awhile, but now I have a study to back me up: Twitter is a vast wasteland of sparse wordage.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology studied actual Twitter users and discovered that only about one-third of all tweets are worth reading. The best part? The researchers created an awesomely-named website called Who Gives a Tweet? to measure Twitter user's reaction to the 200 million or so tweets sent each day, such as these:

see more Failbook

All adolescent whining aside, it turns out a well-written tweet is a rarity:
"A well received tweet is not all that common," [researcher Michael] Bernstein said. "A significant amount of content is considered not worth reading, for a variety of reasons." Despite the social nature of Twitter, tweets that were part of someone else's conversation, or updates around current mood or activity were the most strongly dislik…

This Job Applicant Couldn't Hack the Job...Literally

You hack into a company's systems, type in some malicious code and pull out a bunch of confidential documents. Then you tell the company it had better hire you, or else.

see more epicfails

It was apparently all in a day's work for one job applicant who will now be serving a 30-month sentence for pulling this stunt on the folks at Marriott.

The backstory goes something like this: The applicant accessed the company's internal systems, and then emailed someone at the company to say what he had on them. When nobody replied, he wrote back, only this time attaching a handful of confidential documents and saying he would make them public if the company didn't give him a job in IT. Oh, and there's all that malicious code stuff, too. Geez, I guess we'd better get back to his guy. Contact the U.S. Department of Justice while you're at it, okay? We have a live one here.

The rest is, as they say, made for an engrossing Law & Order episode. And it makes you wonder just …

U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls To 8.3%

Break out the cheap box wine, because the U.S. unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in three long, long, long years!

U.S. employers added 243,000 jobs in January. What can one say except how awesome this news is, even though 12.8 million Americans (official number, cough) remain unemployed and the number of discouraged workers opting out of the workforce remains about the same as a year ago. Still, today's jobs report offers a huge confidence boost that everyone needs.

see more Monday Through Friday

What kinds of jobs were Americans taking in January? Here's a snapshot, courtesy of this morning's official BLS report:
Professional and business services continued to add jobs in January (+70,000). About half of the increase occurred in employment services (+33,000). Job gains also occurred in accounting and bookkeeping (+13,000) and in architectural and engineering services (+7,000).

Over the month, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 44,000, primarily in f…

Are Special Skills Certifications Certifiably Worth Less Now?

Is your special skills certification worth less now? It's happening in the IT field, where special skills certifications -- and their implied pay premiums -- have been steadily losing their value over the last few years.

At least this is what a report from IT industry research group Foote Partners tell us. Of course, changes in the technology field can happen faster than the implosion of the Susan G. Komen Foundation's brand, which makes IT sort of unique. You're certified in Windows 3.1? Ha ha, nice try. We're no longer paying you extra because of that.

I exaggerate, of course. That special skills certifications are being diluted doesn't seem all that surprising, however, especially since employees in almost every field can trek en-masse to a variety of certification sessions. It's like everyone gets a trophy, only for adults. But if you have the same certification certificates on your wall as the rest of your co-workers, then what makes you any different and d…

No Cheeseburger In Paradise: Florida Leads Nation In Long-Term Unemployed

Which U.S. state leads the nation in long-term unemployed residents? I guess I've already told you it's Florida but please act surprised, okay?

More than half (53%) of the Sunshine State's unemployed have been unemployed for at least six months or longer, according to a new Brookings' Hamilton Project report. There are four people for every one job opening in Florida. Roughly 900,000 Floridians want a job.

Of course, Florida's cape-wearing unemployed are now required to apply for unemployment benefits online, which might get sort of tricky if you can no longer afford a computer and an Internet connection because you're unemployed.

Nevada and New Jersey followed a close second and third in the Brookings report, with at least half of their unemployed residents out of work for at least six months. Or longer. Don't forget the "or longer" part.

The EEOC explored the plight of the long-term unemployed last February. Maybe it's time to do it again? It&#…

Cool Job Openings: Twitter Unicorn Slayer

It's not a real job title, of course! But companies navigating an employer's hiring market still feel the need to make twee promotional videos touting their hip and cool company culture, excellent benefits packages and various job openings that no applicant will ever be good enough for, and Twitter is no different. Maybe the script should have been kept to 140 characters, though? I'm guessing Twitter doesn't subsidize employee acting lessons. But they're having fun, and that's a good thing. Home tweet home?

Workplace Trends: The Toilet Timer

If a co-worker constantly annoys you by sneaking off to the loo a little too often, then you're going to like a bathroom alarm system that goes off whenever he or she spends too much time in the can!

see more Monday Through Friday

The hi-tech surveillance system is already annoying a Norwegian company's customer service employees, who can find themselves tripping alarm bells and flashing lights (no, really) if they spend more than eight accumulated minutes in the bog throughout the day. Or take an extended smoking break. Or explode a snack in the break room microwave that they leave for someone else to clean up. Does it really matter what they're doing? If employees are away from their desks for more than a certain number of minutes, then everyone in the company will know, which can motivate or demotivate people -- but most likely demotivate people and send morale straight down the proverbial toilet.

The company says the alarm system is needed to monitor "staffing needs&…