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Showing posts from October, 2012

Could Hurricane Sandy Blow Away Current Business Models?

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, and recovery from the storm could top $20 billion. For workplace writers, it's time to write another story about business contingency planning. Or is it? It's almost second nature for workplace writers to work up the evergreen "you should really start planning for this stuff" article whenever Mother Nature gives us a major wake-up call. Not surprisingly, such articles abound this morning here, there and everywhere and the key word seems to be flexibility. "Employers with more flexible work arrangements would find themselves in a distinctly better position to ride out storms like Sandy," says Human Resource Executive. "For some companies, Sandy could prove to be a powerful catalyst in creating truly flexible workers. For others, it's highlighted the flexibility they already have," muses Businessweek. "Weathering a widespread, unexpected event depends upon flexibility and preparing for the worst. Those …

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Hurricane Sandy is almost here, the trains and buses aren't running, schools and offices are closed, and the kids are running in circles as we prepare for power outages and random bouts of cabin fever. All signs point to this being a very long day. Where are the candles!? Yes, I'm a bit distracted so here's a Monday morning workplace news round-up: Your HR department is probably voting for Mitt Romney. Why can't your daycare's sick kid policies ever sync with your job? Speaking of parenting and work-life balance, it's not just for moms anymore. The best part of this scene was always the flipping hot dog in the background. Employees' greatest workplace fear is... What it's like to be a social media damage control employee for a major company, in 1,000 words or less. Eight workplace rights your employer might not be telling you about.Fast Company offers a list of workplace "dos" and "don'ts" for election week. Workplace com…

Your Co-workers Are Tired Of Your Political Opinions

When your co-workers start arguing politics at work, do you want to tell them to shut up? In case you're still undecided, a new survey says yes. Seattle leadership consulting company Fierce Inc. surveyed employees and tells us they're going mano-a-mano over politics during the workday. This finding isn't too surprising given that we're less than two weeks away from a presidential election. Employees are talking politics because it's what everyone is talking about and thinking about right now unless he or she is a dreaded "low-information" voter or worse, an "undecided" voter who, for some unfathomable reason, still can't make up his or her mind. Who are these people!? The mind wobbles. Anyway, back to Fierce Inc.'s survey, which reveals that more than three-fourths (78%) of employees see workplace political discussions as a source of tension. After all, employees can't simply "unfriend" co-workers in adjoining cubicles wh…

Needle, Needle: Have You Gotten Your Flu Shot Yet?

The other day, I ran around town trying to get a flu shot. "Trying" is the operative word here. I went to my local pharmacy retailer boasting the big "GET YOUR FLU SHOT HERE!" signs out front, went inside, and said I'd like to get a flu shot, please. I filled out the paperwork, then waited while the attendant pecked on the computer. May I see your insurance card? Oh, your insurance plan won't cover any of it; you'll have to try somewhere else. Fearing a repeat of ineligibility at other flu shot-promoting retailers, I cut to the chase, called the doctor's office, and managed to snag an appointment within a narrow, somewhat inconvenient time frame on the last day of their last, upcoming flu shot clinic. And I feel very lucky they can fit me in. (I also feel very lucky to have insurance, but that's another post entirely.) Whew. Why does this have to be so hard? We simply have to make it easier for time, energy and money to intersect with availa…

Have You Hugged An Independent Contractor Today?

Becoming an independent contractor is marketed as the cure-all for the modern cubicle dweller. Set your own hours! Become your own boss! Make your own money! Get stuck in a rut! Um, let's discuss the last one on the list, shall we? First, let me just say that being an independent contractor is awesome. You are your own boss. You can turn down work, you can work from home, from your car, from the coffee shop and you can set your own hours. If you're having a busy week (when it rains, it pours!) you could be burning the midnight-to-wee-hours oil. But it's all good, because you are your own boss dancing to your own fiddle music. Going solo is a great way to work, if you can pull it off. Did I mention that you get to be your own boss? But independent contractors who take on long-term contracts can start to feel stuck in a rut like your average employee, because just as the average cubicle dweller has a job description, so can your average independent contractor. John does X…

How To Deal With A Disappearing Job Contact

You're looking for a job. One day, you get caught up in conversation with someone who has a promising job lead for you. The build-up seems almost too good to be true, which it is, because it soon becomes clear that this whole thing will be going nowhere. Was it something you said? Let's talk about the disappearing job contact! Days, weeks, perhaps even months later you're still waiting for the promised contact information or introduction. Maybe the person who brought it up is very busy, forgetful, or had second thoughts? You don't want your mind to wander, but you're starting to wonder if this person is the kind of person we've all known who says, "We should totally get together next week! Which days would work best for you?" and you throw out some time frames and then...nothing happens. The next time you see this person, it's deja vu all over again. "We should totally get together!" Uh-huh. By the third or fourth time, you're on to…

Is Too Much Positivity Ruining Your Workplace?

Is is time to take down all the motivational posters at work? It's a real question, but you don't want to look like a wet blanket for bringing it up. Let's live, laugh, love our way to curmudgeonly self-actualization! A column in today's Chicago Tribune points out something I've been thinking for years but didn't want to say out loud lest I ruin our collective sense of workplace zen by practicing random acts of cynicism and senseless sarcasm. As columnist Rex Huppke writes:To distill this down to my own lowbrow level of thinking: Keep it real. Don't see that I made a mistake and then tell me that mistake was brilliantly executed. Don't address my conflict with a co-worker as a chance to come together and embrace. Tell me who's right or wrong and tell us both to knock it off! If I do something well, tell me. If the team's doing great, tell us. But take down that ridiculous poster with the soaring eagle — before I actualize my inner demons and …

Let's Par-tay! Office Holiday Party Trends For 2012

It's almost Halloween, which means it's almost the holiday we blow right past Thanksgiving, which means Christmas is right around the corner. What's your average, anal retentive office manager to do? The good news is, people are feeling more excited about the holidays this year, and we're starting to get a sense of impending holiday trends. Consider Boston-based event management company Longwood Events + Lifestyle, which is just one group already predicting the top holiday party trends for 2012. So what's the plan, Stan? Here are a few tips for getting the office party started:The Venue. Where will you guys party? I hope somewhere outside company walls, because who wants to party at work? Yawn. Longwood Events suggests taking everyone ice skating because it will encourage team building. But my question is: what if you don't know how to ice skate? Just have everyone sign a we're-not-responsible-if-you-break-a-leg waiver, and don't push nervous employees…

Knack Attack: 80% Of Employees Skip Lunch Break

If you're not out to lunch at work anymore, then you're not alone. Four in five workers are skipping their lunch breaks to get more work done. You can borrow my salt shaker, it's right there behind my stapler.
see more Monday Through Friday A new Right Management survey of 1,023 North American workers, which probably means the surveyors included Canada but not Mexico, could have HR managers everywhere chomping down on a giant mayonnaise-covered bun of malaise. Of these 1,023 "North American" workers, roughly 40% are eating at their desks while they work and more than three-fourths (81%) admit that, yeah, I don't really take what I'd call a "real" lunch break anymore. I tend to cube-graze. Please pardon the crumbs on my chair they haven't taken away yet, I meant to wipe them up. Why does everyone use hand sanitizer after using my keyboard? As if that's a "real" question anymore in today's workplace, where the straight line …

By 2022, We'll Need Huge Binders For All the Women

Binders full of women. When Gov. Romney uttered this phrase last night while talking about workplace inequality, it became an instant Internet meme. Trap her, keep her! Gov. Romney's "binders full of women" comment caught my ear, because I immediately thought of a new Booz and Co. survey that I wasn't going to blog about that says one billion women will enter the workforce worldwide over the coming decade. Man, employers will need to invest in some awfully big binders, and soon! Maybe microfiche or bigger servers will be in order? Or maybe we can store working women in "the cloud"? We do live in the digital age, after all. Young women in particular aren't feeling partly-cloudy about their career prospects: A new Pew Research Center survey finds more young women than young men in the 18-to-34 age range value starting a high-paying career. Exactly two-thirds (66%) of the young women Pew surveyed said that getting their careers going is their number-one …

Thesis Statement: I Will Dance My Advanced Degree

As a Ph.D. candidate, one of your main tasks is to conduct original research that makes you one of the world's leading authorities on the subject. But could you dance it? It seems like there's a strange contest for everything these days, because even the Piled Higher and Deeper crowd can get in on the action. Case in point: A competition that lets Ph.D.s perform an original dance interpretation of their doctoral thesis for trips and prizes.Science and AAAS recently sponsored the fifth year of the Dance Your Ph.D. contest. This year's winner is Peter Liddicoat, a materials scientist at the University of Sydney in Australia, who performed an original dance to his Ph.D. thesis entitled "Evolution of nanostructural architecture in 7000 series aluminium alloys during strengthening by age-hardening and severe plastic deformation." Yeah, say that five times as fast as you can. Shake it down to the alloy ground, Dr. Liddicoat! Here is the performance that won Dr. Liddi…

Did You Get the Memo About National Boss Day?

Heads up, folks: Tomorrow is National Boss Day, the day when Americans and Canadians are supposed to make a special effort to thank the boss for exhibiting both kindness and fairness throughout the year. Oh come on employees, you can do this! First, a disclaimer: Is this holiday officially called National Boss's Day, National Bosses Day or National Boss Day, because I'm seeing all three designations all over the Internets this morning. It's also being referred to as National Bosses Week. I decided to follow Hallmark's lead and call it National Boss Day. Please correct me if I am wrong. Funny, we wouldn't have National Boss Day if it weren't for a secretary named Patricia Bays Haroski, who was working for State Farm Insurance Company in Deerfield, Illinois one day in 1958 when she decided to register "National Boss' Day" as a special day with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As the story goes, she meant to choose her boss's birthday, October 8, …

Office Meetings Got You Down Lately? Try "Plussing"

If you watched the vice presidential debate last night, then you saw Vice President Joe Biden talk while Congressman Paul Ryan drank water. But let's leave the post-game analysis to journalists surfing Twitter for the news because we have other things to talk about today, like how to keep office meetings from becoming substantive-free character attacks! Whether it's a presidential debate or a weekly staff meeting, we've all participated in discussions that turn negative without adding very much to the discussion. Everyone leaves the conference room confused and more than a little bit nonplussed. Well, Xerox and Pixar have found a way to make departmental meetings productive AND positive though a conversational technique called "plussing." Here's how it works, according to Lifehacker:At Pixar, the animators have developed a technique that helps keep the fighting productive and intellectual. They call it "plussing." As people criticise the work und…

The Digital Diss: When Co-workers Suddenly Unfriend You

You've just been fired. As you're still reeling from the news, another big surprise awaits you online: Being "unfollowed" on Twitter and "unfriended" on Facebook by all of your former co-workers. Status: It's complicated. One by one, and seemingly all too quickly, the "teammates" who once had your back are turning their virtual backs on you. When you think about it, being unfriended, unfollowed and disconnected by co-workers is becoming the 21st Century equivalent of turning in one's I.D. badge. It's over, buddy. It's been nice knowing you, goodbye and good luck. We now e-shun you. It's getting hard to be an employee without an online presence too, since employers pretty much demand a social media footprint when hiring and encourage employees to use social media for astroturfing purposes. Managers are also hot to have co-workers "friend" each other for better teamwork and productivity. Awww, look at everyone co-exis…

October Surprise: When CEOs Start Talking Politics

By now, you may have heard about the CEO of a privately-held resort company who e-mailed employees saying that four more years of the same Presidential administration could threaten their jobs. I vote for a conversation on the topic! Here's an excerpt of Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel's e-mail to 7,000 employees:"The economy doesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration," he said in the e-mail. "If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company," he says in the nearly 1,400-word e-mail. "Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone." You can read the full e-mail here. Mr. Siegel isn't the only C-suite dweller talking politics: It's estimated more than…

Strike A Pose! Employee Halloween Costume Trends For 2012

It's time for my annual Halloween post, because it's October and what else is there to talk about besides the 2012 election? Pour yourself a bowl of candy corn if you can stand the stuff, and let's Monster Mash our way to quitting time! The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend $1.4 billion (yes, billion) on adult Halloween costumes this year. That's a lot of zombie face paint, wigs and glitter. Of course, if you're already employed in one of the world's scariest jobs, you can always go as yourself, right? As I've said in past blog posts, I'm all for the Halloween office party. Employees work hard, and Halloween is a harmless way to blow off steam and improve employee morale -- unless you have the One Employee who refuses to participate or the employee who didn't get the memo about what not to wear. Stacy London hangs her head in shame. (Psst: Save the naughty bar wench costume for the after-hours party at your co-worker's …

It's Columbus Day, Let's Argue About Columbus Day

Will you be wishing your co-workers and customers a Happy Columbus Day? Be forewarned: Some of them might want to give you a swift Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria to the gut for doing so. Columbus Day celebrates explorer Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World, and there are parades and other events throughout North and South America to mark the occasion. Columbus Day has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1937. In 2012, however, an undetermined percentage of Americans view Columbus Day as all sorts of politically incorrect. In fact, three states -- Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota -- do not recognize Columbus Day as a federal holiday, and cities and municipalities across the country are now celebrating "Native American Day" and "Discoverer's Day" and "People's Day" instead. But maybe you're not up on your Columbus Day trends and make the mistake of saying, "Happy Columbus Day!" to a co-worker who gives yo…

Unemployment Rate Falls To Lowest In Four Years

Americans, with the possible exception of everyone associated with Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, had one, simple word cross their minds this morning as the September jobs report flashed across the mediawaves: "YEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSS!" Our little economic engine that sometimes can is making its way up the mountainside and could be gaining momentum. The September jobs report says U.S. employers added 114,000 jobs, which isn't the million jobs we need right away but it's on the right track. The unemployment rate is now 7.8%, the lowest in almost four years! But wait, it gets better because summer job growth has been revised up. Yay! Here's the official BLS September jobs report. I've said many times that we're still in recession (even though technically we're not anymore), but I'm really talking about how it feels like we're still in recession because recessions affect our mindsets as much as they affect our pocketbooks. We …

Could the Office Coffee Maker Make You Go Blind?

Ah, ah, ah! Before you pour that second cup you never have at home, a new study throws hot water on the idea by finding a link between coffee consumption and blindness. Let's get blinded by the science, people! To be exact, the researchers looked for instances of exfoliation glaucoma (EG) or exfoliation glaucoma suspect (EGS), but I suspect the medical terminology could make our eyes glaze over so let's just call it glaucoma. The researchers followed 78,977 women and 41,202 men over age 40 who had undergone eye examinations between 1980 and 2008. The study concluded the participants who drank at least three cups of caffeinated coffee every day had "an increased risk" of getting EG/EGS compared to the non coffee drinkers -- i.e., the person we all know who says proudly, "Oh, I don't drink the stuff, never have." How do you get through the rest of your day, because everyone this girl of coffee-slammingFinnish extraction knows will be talking to the hand…

Could Your Co-worker Actually Be A Psychopath?

More and more, it seems like your co-worker gets a perverse sense of satisfaction from psychologically obliterating everyone else in the office. You're starting to wonder if he or she might be a psychopath. Well, you might just be right. I follow international workplace news -- it's fun to travel internationally, even if it's only in my head -- and one thread I've been following lately is the spate of stories in the international media about dealing with workplace psychopaths. Australian psychotherapist John Clarke is telling companies to be on the lookout for them, because they're way more common than we'd like to think. Up to 3% of average employees could have the inability to feel for other people and take enormous enjoyment in seeing them suffer. As Dr. Clarke said at a recent conference:"The workplace psychopath is somebody who psychologically destroys the people they work with to feed their need for a sense of power and control and domination over o…

How Presidential Debates Are Like Staff Meetings

Or are staff meetings like presidential debates? It's sort of a chicken-vs.-egg question, but there are a few similarities between your average, televised presidential debate and the regularly-scheduled office meeting. Let's adjust our podiums to the right height and throw out a few zingers, shall we?First, let me say that I get very excited for presidential debates. Always have. The traditions. The suspense. The annoying cable news countdown clocks. The monotone moderator explaining the rules. The first firm handshake. The stumbles, the fumbles, and, yes, the zingers. The post-game punditry wrap-up. It could be a late night. Hope you don't have an 8 a.m. status update meeting tomorrow.Speaking of meetings, have you ever noticed how everyone in your department brings his or her own "personality" to staff meetings, and it might be a slightly more enhanced personality than they exhibit the rest of the time? Everyone takes on a role in a staff meeting that is not un…

Insomnia Costing U.S. Employers $30 Billion A Year

Having trouble sleeping? Well, you're simply adding to employers' $30 billion in annual woes caused by employee insomnia. Maybe some Melatonin would help? Who needs sleep? Employees do! And they're never gonna get it, apparently. A new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry reveals that Americans are watching an awful lot of 3 a.m. infomercials, 20-minute CNN news loops, and Little House On the Prairie reruns. The researchers surveyed 10,094 working Americans and estimate one-fifth (20%) are raging insomniacs. But it gets better, because the researchers put a price tag on the average insomnia-induced workplace error: $20,000. Add it all up, and you get a cool $30 billion in workplace accidents and mistakes. Maybe a better pillow or a glass of warm milk would help? The researchers encourage employers to start screening employees for insomnia, which I would think would be a rather easy visual study. Why are we going through so much coffee lately? Why is everyone so zo…

Five Tips For the Suddenly Stay-At-Home Parent

The economy has forced you out of the workforce due to a layoff or a lack of decent-paying work, and now you're at home full-time with the kids. You never saw yourself being a full-time, stay-at-home parent but here you are, suddenly grocery shopping on Tuesday morning alongside all the retirees and other stay-at-home types. Attention shoppers, there's an emerging career crisis on Aisle 9! I was surfing news the other day when I happened upon a Carolyn Hax column about a suddenly stay-at-home mother who is having a hard time adjusting. Here's the letter:DEAR CAROLYN: I feel like I'm a working mom stuck inside a stay-at-home mom's body. This is a new and strange lifestyle that's just not clicking with me yet, and I worry it never will. I'm afraid going back to work isn't going to happen anytime soon, nor do I necessarily want it to. All the "mommy friends" I've made are educated, driven career women like I ... was. They work during the d…