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Showing posts from May, 2012

The 10 Dirty Secrets of the Office Break Room

Shh! Don't tell anyone, but your office break room is a prime source of anger, resentment and outrageous behaviors that are sure to eat you up inside. Blogging about dirty office break rooms last week got me thinking about a makeshift Top 10 list because making wildly inaccurate Top 10 lists is an occupational hazard. Seriously though, if you've ever shared a break room with other people, then you know it's bound to lead to problems, pettiness and perturbed co-workers. So let's get down and dirty with a look at the 10 dirty secrets of the office break room:1. Someone will walk off with utensils. Where did all the forks and spoons go? Yogurt in hand, you're rifling through the drawers and desperately scanning the counter tops to find that they're all MIA. But the designated office supply person/intern/temp just bought some, right? Right. You would have brought one from home, but you figured you'd just use a plastic spoon from the break room. Now your yogur…

Workplace Trends: Play For Pay

Pretend you're a bartender. Your challenge is to read the facial expressions of everyone bellying up to the bar so you can prepare drinks in record time and wash dirty glassware even faster. Afterward, you hope you did well enough to get the job. Welcome to the online "gamification" of hiring. I think I need a drink.
see more Monday Through Friday An article in The Economist features companies such as Knack that are creating new, exciting ways to frustrate the hell out of job applicants. Take the "Happy Hour" bartending game I've just described, for example. The Knack team (still a great song) claims online hiring games are better than the traditional personality tests that can be mastered quickly by smart applicants. In a timed online game setting, applicants' cognitive deficits, competency levels, pattern recognition abilities, and risk-taking aptitudes will trickle to the surface and spritz employers with insightful droplets of data. Shell and Bain …

The Average CEO Makes At Least $9.5M More Than You Do

A new AP survey of CEO pay is out today, and it tells the average U.S. worker something he or she already knows: It pays to be the top dog. And how.
see more Monday Through Friday AP dumps a giant bucket of malaise on us this morning by reporting how the average CEO earned $9.6 million last year. It's an increase of more than 6% over 2010, and the highest CEO pay rate since 2006. Corporate profits were up last year, which may explain part of the pay increase. But stockholders also scored a victory of sorts in making companies convert more CEO pay from cash to stock options as a way to spur CEO performance. That's why CEO stock awards rose 11% between 2010 and 2011, with the average U.S. CEO receiving $3.6 million worth of stock options. Cash bonuses, meanwhile, dropped 7% to $2 million. Still, payday is pretty good for the average, big-time CEO. The Washington Post lists last year's top 50 corporate earners. Topping the list is David Simon, CEO of Simon Property Group, …

Man Wipes Out $114,000 In Student Loans With Single Payment, Internet Goes Crazy

A man walks into a bank and asks to withdraw $114,460 to pay off his student loans in cash. He thought it might be good for a few laughs, but neither his bank nor the Internet thought it was very funny.
see more Monday Through Friday Canadian law school graduate Alex Kenjeev lived the new American dream by paying off his hefty student loan debt in full with cold, hard cash. At first, the Royal Bank of Canada refused to fork it over, but after a few days of proper due diligence the bank let him withdraw the money. Mr. Kenjeev put the money in a bag and walked a few blocks to Scotiabank, which housed his student loan debt. Here you go, it's all there, may I have a receipt, please? Living the dream, people, living the dream. But Mr. Kenjeev, a Toronto venture capitalist, didn't stop there. He posted his "paid in full" bank receipt to Facebook, where it was promptly forwarded to Reddit because, well, that's what happens in the digital age, isn't it? Internet co…

IBM Bans Siri As A Security Risk

Siri can take the night off at both Samuel L. Jackson's house and IBM. IBM has hit delete on Apple's voice assistant because these "conversations" can be stored and accessed. Plus, everything you say goes to an Apple data center somewhere, apparently. We don't want employees' voice files falling into the wrong hands now, do we? The news that some major corporations, especially in the technology field, are having second thoughts about Siri as a security risk doesn't seem all that surprising. Siri is loud, and it makes us ask loud, silly questions like "Is that rain?" when everyone can see and hear that it's raining pretty damn hard outside. Siri might also misinterpret what's being said, especially if you have a strong accent. This is what I think of every time I see the annoying Zooey Deschanel Siri commercial. Hilarious.

Congratulations, Your Office Break Room Is A Disgusting Germ Factory

Alert: Your workplace break room is dirty. Really dirty. Dirtier than anyone's desk, and filthier than the office bathroom. Enjoy your snack!
see more Monday Through Friday Yes, the office kitchen/break room now tops the list of germ-laden workplace "hot spots," according to Kimberly-Clark Professional's latest swabbing of workplace counter tops and appliances. The presumably clean people from Kimberly Clark's Healthy Workplace Project analyzed 5,000 individual swabs taken from a wide cross-section of industries. Now for the stomach-churning results: The break room sink (in particular, the sink faucet handle) is, by far, THE germiest place in the whole office, followed by the microwave door handle (or the big, press-able door release button, if that's the way your office microwave rolls). Rounding out the rest of the list (in descending, germiest order) are keyboards, refrigerator door handles, water fountain buttons, and vending machine buttons. Gosh, alm…

Open Work Environments Creating Open Season On Employee Morale

The New York Times is having an "a-ha" moment this week as it realizes open work environments without walls are driving employees a bit cray-cray. Talk to the hand, people, talk to the hand.
see more Monday Through Friday I must confess I'm not the least bit surprised as the walls come tumbling down on this workplace realization. I've made no secret of my disdain for open work environments as a stress-inducing productivity killer. Sure, open work spaces look nice, but form isn't necessarily going to help employees function better. Management thinks tearing down the walls will lead to better teamwork and higher productivity when it's actually resulting in more stressful interactions and lower morale. Now articles are telling us how the open office floor plan is leading employees to compensate in some fascinating ways, such as listening to their iPods to drown out ambient noise and hiding behind tenuously-stacked "walls" of paperwork to block out vis…

Whoomp, There It Is: Employees Are Skipping Work To Watch Sports

"I'll just call in sick because of the game." It's what employees are thinking all the time, all over the world, apparently. Game on! A new Sidelined by Sports survey commissioned by Kronos tells us what any cynical co-worker already knows: so-and-so isn't getting his or her butt to work because there's a game on. Or the game was on, and now he or she needs to sleep it off. Survey participants included people from Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. So which country's workers are the most likely to skip out on work because of sports? China. A full 58% of Chinese workers surveyed said they call in sick because of sports, and 54% said they call in sick the next morning because they were up too late watching a game. The Chinese also rank first for skipping out on work to play sports themselves. Hmm. American workers will need to step it up to compete with the Chinese, because Kronos says we rank la…

Do Emotionally Intelligent People Suck At Spotting Liars?

Think you're "in touch" with your emotions and can spot a liar from a mile away? You might not be as skilled as you think you are. It turns out the higher we rate our own EI -- e.g., our touchy-feelie side -- the more likely we are to fall for a lie, according to a new paper published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology. Researchers at the University of British Columbia surveyed 116 study participants for EI levels and then had them watch 20 videos of different people pleading for the return of their missing loved ones. What they didn't know is that half of the pleading people had actually committed the crime. The participants were asked to rate how honest or deceptive the pleading people seemed, how confident they felt in what the person in the videotape was saying, and so on. Basically, the more emotionally intelligent the study participant, the more overconfidence he or she displayed in assessing someone else's sincerity level. Aww, but he se…

Friday Funnies: A Telecommuter Does National Bike To Work Day

Today is National Bike To Work Day, a day I'll confess I forgot about until I read this morning's WAPO because I'm self-employed and work from a home office, which pretty much negates the whole need for National Bike To Work Day. So how can independent contractors and telecommuters honor National Bike To Work Day? Luckily, someone just posted the tutorial. Let's go to the videotape!

Breaking News: You've Got Email, And It's Stressing You the Hell Out

A new study says that drinking coffee will help us live longer, which is great news, because another new study says that email could be slowly killing us. Drink up! If you attended this month's meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery -- which you probably didn't, but anyway -- you got to hear the results of a new University of California-Irvine/U.S. Army study that asked a very scary research question: What happens to employees when they don't use email for a week? Before you break into cold sweats and enter a withdrawal state, let me give you a quick overview of the study methodology. The researchers asked one group of busy professionals to stop using email for five days, while another group kept using it. During this time, the study participants were strapped to heart rate monitors to assess their heartbeats and stress levels while a software program quietly tracked how often they opened and shut windows on their computer screens (or clicked and dragged ope…

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…

Workplace Trends: The Competitive Dieting App

Packing a bit of a pot belly these days? Are those dreaded love handles getting a bit too much to, ahem, handle? It used to be that your employer might suggest a wellness program, but stick a fork in that because IBM is about to serve us the future: competitive weight loss "gamefication" apps for the workplace that will give tired, hungry employees everywhere the real-time skinny on their caloric intake and other fun, health-related statistics. Because if there's anything the younger generation understands, it's online gaming. So now you can compete against your co-workers for a promotion, plus losing those stubborn last five pounds just in time for summer. And you thought The Biggest Loser was just a teevee show. IBM's idea, which was under development for a decade, received patent approval in December. So how does it work, you ask? You enter your own data regarding your exercise and eating habits (ah, ah, ah -- don't fudge the numbers!) and the app wil…

Let's Talk About Workplace Bullying

When I first read the story about Mitt Romney's prep school hair cutting adventures in yesterday's Washington Post, I knew it was going to be big. Now get ready for an onslaught of stories about workplace bullying, because that's going to be on like Donkey Kong, too. I'm going to beat the press to the proverbial punch this morning by saying that yes, workplace bullying is still a pox upon us, but now women are rivaling men for the coveted title of Biggest Workplace Bully. That's right: Women-on-women violence is all the rage these days. A recent Workplace Bullying Institute survey finds 3 in 4 women who are bullied at work are being bullied by other women. Women are going after each other more often on the job, all the time. I'll let WBI's press release explain: What attracts the media to woman-on-woman (WOW) bullying is the fact that women are targeted at a higher rate by female bullies (71%) than by male bullies (46%). Yes, women are crueler to women…

Waaah: United States Ranks 25th For Being A Mom

Just in time for Mother's Day, a State of the World's Mothers report from Save the Children tells us that the United States isn't the best place to be a mother but that it's not as bad as, say, being a mother in Niger. Happy Mother's Day!
see more epicfails The United States ranks 25th on a list of 165 countries assessed for trends in mom-dom. The Scandinavian countries and New Zealand top the list as offering a motherload of benefits to moms. The good news is, the United States has moved up slightly on the list from last year, so that's...good? You can access the full, 75-page interactive report here.

U.S. Start-ups Ready To Go Offshore A Few Miles

A few months ago, I blogged about the impending age of the floating workplace -- e.g., how a start-up U.S. company plans to anchor a large ship in international waters off the coast of Silicon Valley where other start-ups can station their staffs. Now the company claims it has 181 global companies interested so far, and 45 of them are U.S. companies. The company, Blueseed, which bills itself as a "visa-free start-up community," has just released a survey of interest of prospective customers that reveals one-quarter of start-ups interested in the idea are U.S. start-ups, with India and Australia rounding out the top three interested countries. Blueseed asked entrepreneurs why they want to incubate on a boat. The "coolness factor," the allure of press coverage, and the thought of living and working in an "awesome" start-up space seem to be the most popular reasons, followed by proximity to Silicon Valley investors, a "streamlined legal and regulator…

The Long And Short Of Projecting Power As A Petite Working Woman

Have you seen The Photo of actress Eva Longoria standing next to The Soup host Joel McHale? My first reaction was, "Wow! Eva Longoria looks so little!" Then I realized that she and I are about the same height. Oh, no. At 6'4", McHale towers over 5'2"* Longoria. Sure, she's a bit hunched over in bare feet, and they do seem to be standing on a slight, grassy incline. The difference in height, however, is still rather startling, like she's his kid sister or a petite poodle. But as a rather diminutive lady myself, I say power to the little people. Flash that great smile of yours, Eva, and stand tall, my friend. Somebody call 9-1-1, because there's a shawty fire burning on the grass floor. A petite woman, which I'll define as a woman 5'3" or shorter, usually knows from a fairly young age that she's never going to be among the tallest, strongest people in the room. Or at least, she's figured it out by the time puberty is winding…

Debt 411: Colleges Withholding Official Transcripts From Delinquent Borrowers

If you've gotten behind on your student loan payments, then your college might not release your official transcript to prospective employers. So, neener-neener.
see more Monday Through Friday As if having Mom nag you to make your bed at age 25 isn't bad enough, now colleges are apparently honoring a request from the federal government to withhold the official transcripts of delinquent student loan borrowers to sort of, you know, light a fire underneath them to start making regular, monthly payments for the rest of their lives. And there are a lot of regular, monthly payments that will need to be made over the next four or five decades, since U.S. college graduates now owe a record-breaking $1 trillion in student loan debt. That's more than we Americans owe on our collective credit cards, if you didn't know. So start paying up, X Factor Generation, or no jobs for you. This goes for broke Gen Xers too, although we can still work for free. But wait a minute: don'…

Future Sales Reps Might Not "Like" This

Have you ever wondered how many other customers like the same shirt? Well, at Brazilian retailer C And A the hangers are tallying customer "likes" in real time for all to see. Glimpse the future, folks. As VentureBeat.com reports:The store, C [And] A, is putting "real-time Likes" counters on its hangers in retail locations around Brazil. The Like data is taken from C [And] A's Facebook page, where the company has listed its various wares for people to interact with. When a person Likes an item, that Like shows up on the hanger. It is meant to help customers with purchasing decisions. If they are unsure of one item, they can see how many people online think the product is a good buy. The workplace blogger in me takes it to the next logical step: Being able to rate individual employees, in real time, on their service, skills and abilities, all by using Facebook's digital thumb. After all, if the "like" button can help customers make better buying…

Workplace Trends: The Cashless Workplace

If a co-worker has asked you to contribute $5 toward something at work and you don't have any cash and now you're frustrated that you'll waste your morning break going to the ATM, then know that you're not alone. Your co-workers are just as frustrated as you. Welcome to the cashless workplace, where employees rarely carry cash anymore because they always use their debit cards (or credit cards). But employers are still kicking it old school when it comes to small-cash monetary collections for the disappearing birthday party, gifts, charitable donations, the NCAA office pool -- the list goes on and on. The person doing the collecting wants cold, hard cash NOW. Oh, crap. So you dig into your purse or wallet. You had a $5 bill, but that was a few weeks ago and now it's gone. You desperately eye your co-workers. May I borrow a $5 bill and pay you back ASAP? The problem is, they were about to ask you the same question. Maybe you can write a check instead, but who car…

Is Workplace Boredom the Biggest Stress Of All?

You'd think having too much on our proverbial work plates would be enough to totally stress us out, but new research tells us that being bored out of our gourds at work can be even worse than being too busy. Hmm. Let's pull ourselves away from our awesome mid-morning daydreams to think about it. University of Central Lancashire psychology professor Sandi Mann tells us that boredom on the job is second only to anger as the most common emotion at work. Professionally, we're living on a Likert Scale from extremely angry to extremely bored, with the bell curve trending toward extremely bored. I'm not sure where the margin of error lies in all of this, but Mann believes our jobs are getting more and more boring, thanks to technological advancements, bureaucracy, too many useless meetings, the night shift, and our modern-day, crazy-making tendency toward "self-actualization," e.g., thinking we have so much control over our lives that we can set our career goals …

How Many Canadians Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

I don't know about you, but when I think about Canadians I tend to think of a hardy, handy, hopeful kind of people. Nope, at least according to a new survey that finds a startling number of them don't know a flat tire from a faulty zipper and for God's sake, don't ever ask them to fix either one. This goes for Canadian men as well as women. Who knew? Doug and Dougette will definitely need to hire a contractor: A Harris/Decima telephone survey of 1,011 Canadians says they're lacking in the basic maintenance skills that their parents could perform with their eyes closed. Roughly 46% of Canadians admit they don't know how to install a faucet, and 14% would suffer the deluge if their house's water main broke because they don't know how to turn off the water. About 45% can't replace a broken zipper; 28% don't know how to change a flat tire. Almost one-third (31%) of Canadians have no idea how to swap out a light fixture. No wonder all the HGTV shows…

Do You Work With A Grumpy Loner?

Ah, teamwork. It's what makes the workplace go 'round. But what if one of your teammates is a gruff loner who doesn't really want to be part of a team? This employee got the company t-shirt, but would rather not wear it, thank you very much. Shooting the crap in the break room with everyone else or going out for Friday 5 o'clock happy hour with the gang isn't on this employee's workplace bucket list. Never will be. When it comes down to it, he or she can be about as soft as prickly cactus and tends to have a hard time interacting with most people. Conversations with this employee might come off as awkward, forced and off-putting somehow. These workers just seem sort of...mysterious?...and make you wonder what they do when they're not at work, because they don't really share very much about themselves. How can someone who has worked here for five years be such a blank slate to everyone else in the office? The ultimate introvert, this employee gives of…