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Showing posts from March, 2013

No, Kidding: Children Ask Way Too Many Questions Every Day

If you're working from home with kids in tow and feeling like you have the attention span of a golden retriever, then you're not going to be surprised by a new survey that finds the typical kid asks at least 220 questions per day. Are you tired yet? Mom? Dad? Are you tired yet? Online retailer Littlewoods estimates that the typical 4-year-old girl asks nearly 400 questions every day. And, if you're like the brilliant comedian Louis C.K., then you already know that you won't be able to answer most of her questions adequately. One question leads to another, and before long you don't know who you are anymore. What's my name again? The Littlewoods survey of 1,000 parents concludes that the average kid asks 105,120 questions every year. Shh! I can't hear myself think! We cannot, under any circumstances, let managers of TEKs (Telecommuting Employees with Kids) see this survey. Someone hide it from Marissa Mayer, stat! Here is an article about the survey. Hap…

How To Take A Totally Cool Spring Break At the Office

It's that time of year again: Spring Break. But you're not 21 anymore. You're 31, or 41. Or...let's stop while we're still ahead, shall we? There's nothing quite like spring breakers on MTV and March Madness on the old people's network CBS to make us feel old, old, old. Remember when MTV used to play music videos? Yeah, me too. Ah, youth. You won't be living it up on a sun-splashed, semi-clad beach this week watching stupid 20-year-olds do incredibly stupid and irresponsible things they'll surely regret in 20 years. No, you've morphed into just another boring, responsible working adult trying to take a mental vacay by the printer tray in between boring status update meetings. Too bad the fluorescent lighting does absolutely nothing for your skin tone. Remember to take your Vitamin D! Oh, the places you could go, if it weren't for adulthood's unending rounds of responsibilities. Just ask employees at one of the biggest party schools a…

Training Wheedles: Employers Might Spend More On Training

The customer in all of us can smile today, because companies in a new Right Management survey say they're going to start investing more money in employee training. Did they remember the fries this time? Why yes, they did! If I had a dollar for every time my order or purchase has been screwed up in some way in this recession, then I could buy the whole store. Just ask any jaded American consumer for whom "how will they screw it up this time?" has become a mantra. You ordered the fish platter but got the breaded veal. You asked for a room with two queen beds but got the room with one king-sized bed. The cashier at the big box store stares at your store coupon like it's a secret message from a 200-year-old time capsule. She pages the manager for help, and then you just stand there, waiting. Oh please, please, please tell me you know how to do this because I have to be somewhere in 15 minutes! Yes, this recession hasn't been kind to employee training programs. Empl…

It's Spring, But the American Winter Just Keeps Going

How your day going? I started out my day watching a cable news roundtable wonder why under-employed Americans aren't saving enough for retirement. Maybe it's just me, but there's something vaguely vexing these days in watching the poised-but-parochial Punditocracy sit around in designer clothes sipping Starbuck's drinks while trying to one-up each other with personal anecdotes about their teenagers to show how they "get" the average, unemployed American adult. Let's just say that whoever invented the mute button deserves a Nobel Prize. Specifically, the pundits were talking about Generations X and Y, who can't seem to scrape enough money together for retirement, much less a nice meal out on the town. Shocking, isn't it? A new Urban Institute report serves up a depressing morsel of generational malaise:Despite the Great Recession and slow recovery, the American dream of working hard, saving more, and becoming wealthier than one's parents hol…

Study Finds Workplace Bullying Makes Women Work Harder

An Australian study making the rounds in the foreign press finds that women respond to workplace bullying by working even harder. Men, meanwhile, respond to workplace bullying by doing pretty much the opposite. Let's go a few rounds in the ring to find out what's going on here. I've been following this study since it first appeared in a Perth, Australia newspaper a few days ago. Now it's running everywhere except here. You know what I love about workplace articles in the foreign press? That foreign journalists use the word "scheme" instead of "plan." As in, "The government is proposing a new workplace safety scheme that would cover millions of employees." It always makes it sound slightly sinister. Anyway, back to the study. Researchers at Perth's Edith Cowan University and the University of New England surveyed about 320 Australian employees to measure the impact of incivility on employee performance and behavior. As I mentioned at …

Call Me, Maybe: Why Employers Should Get Back To Job Applicants

If you're a job seeker in this economy, then most likely you've dealt with employers who never bothered to get back to you. Whether it's failing to acknowledge your job application or neglecting to close the loop after multiple rounds of interviews, being left in the dark is no walk in the park for many a stressed-out, demoralized job applicant. Let's shine a light on this modern workplace woe. The problem of the disappearing employer is on my mind after hearing the story of an acquaintance who was flown internationally to interview for a promising-sounding job. This person was told that the hiring decision would be made very soon. A month later, this acquaintance hadn't heard anything yet (hint, hint) and decided to check in with the potential employer. In non-HR speak, the response/overall vibe went something like this:Um, hello!? We hired for this job almost a month ago. That means it's already filled. Why are you bugging us? Go away. Welcome to the sta…

March Madness Banned At Work? Not For Senior Management

So your company has banned March Madness video streaming at work, eh? This ban means no televisions in the break room, no dunking diversions via your desktop, and no sneak peaks at your smartphone during boring status update meetings. You, my friend, have been shut out at the bits and bytes baseline. But not senior management, which has IT working overtime to make sure its March Madness video stream won't dip. Let's sink this workplace web inequality from behind the three-point line! IT staffing specialist Modisasked more than 500 IT professionals how they're getting ready for March Madness in the workplace. Slightly more than one-third (34%) said that they're busy blocking all things NCAA Tournament. Nearly half (48%) said that their employer already blocks, or severely limits, non-work related content streams in the workplace. You already know this, however, or you wouldn't be trying frantically to get an outside WiFi connection at work to catch up on the hoo…

Badgering Managers Can Finally Count Employees' Eyelashes

Are you keeping up with your emails and general workflow? Are you staying productive at all times on the job? Don't look now, but management could soon know a lot more about your work habits and attitude than you think. It turns out that Track isn't just the name of one of Sarah Palin's kids. Welcome to the age of the "electronic sensor" that lets employers track your every move via your workplace I.D. badge. The future is already happening, according to a Business Insider article:Sociometric Solutions has created tracking devices for Bank of America, Steelcase, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., and is in talks with General Motors. It was started by a team of Ph.D students from MIT who decided to study the chemistry behind what makes certain workspaces like Google great at building teams. They came up with sensors placed in employee identification badges that gather real-time information to help companies measure productivity. The sensors identify a person's …

Urgent! Researchers Find Link Between Email Use And Obesity

Sure, you could walk down the hallway to say something in-person to a co-worker, but why bother? You'll just email her instead. It's easier. It's also making you fatter. When you finally get off your ass, would you stop by the break room and get me a doughnut? The tendency of technology to encourage laziness isn't surprising in the least. What is surprising is that researchers have taken the time and the energy to link email use to workplace obesity rates. A new Healthways Center for Health Research study finds a relationship between email use and office ennui:A study of workplace emails found a strong link between the frequency coworkers emailed each other and body mass index (BMI), a measure used to determine obesity. The analysis of emails found obese co-workers were more likely to email each other. The cube farm is turning into the fat farm, thanks to technology use. Again, this isn't surprising; even The New York Timeshas figured it out by now. The project i…

The 10 Most Irritating Workplace Facebook Status Updates

A new survey reveals the 10 most irritating types of Facebook status updates. But what about the constant stream of status updates that your working "friends" are posting all day, every day? Let's give an electronic thumb's up to the 10 most irritating kinds of workplace-related Facebook status updates! First of all, let me say that I view Facebook as a tale of two extremes. You can either bore people with the mundane aspects of your day or you can brag incessantly until your "friends" want to unfriend you. Personally, I find neither option appealing. Your working friends, meanwhile, want to say something, anything, but what should they say? Aye, there's the rhetorical rub! If you're like the rest of us, then you might occasionally find yourself on the receiving end thinking: What in the world is this working person thinking? In some cases, you might start to wonder when some of your online working friends actually have time for working. As promi…

Facebook's Office Temps Might Be Leaving Employees Cold

Everyone's going on and on about Sheryl Sandberg's pompous, babblings-from-inside-the-bubble 60 Minutes interview, but so much leaning in has me tuning out lately. No, let's talk about something else, like why on earth Facebook's offices are so damn cold. According to a new article in Britain's The Guardian, walking into Facebook's offices is like walking into a deli fridge. Or into the back of a cold room in a scientific lab. Or into Jason's Deli. Or down a Seattle street in July. It's gonna be a steamer today, Seattleites: 78 degrees with very low humidity, so crank the air conditioning! Wait, we live in Seattle so we don't have air conditioning, but we do have useless ceiling heat systems and a lot of unhappy hipsters who could use some cloudy weather after five days of sun, sun, sun. If you look closely, you might find 50 shades of gray among the clouds on a warm, overcast day. Try it, it's fun. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (the rainy…

Employees Have No Freaking Clue What's Going On Anymore

Many employees don't know what's expected of them at work anymore because management isn't taking the time to explain, according to a new Florida State University study. Lean in? Most employees just want the boss to fill in the blanks for once. You're not alone if you're whispering to your co-worker, "Wait, are we supposed to take care of this now? I thought it was so-and-so's job. I have no idea what's going on around here anymore!" In fact, the average U.S. workplace is turning into a giant ball of confusion. The FSU study finds less than one-fifth of 750 blue and white-collar employees surveyed know what is expected of them at work each day, and most of them feel like they're left in the dark a lot of the time. What effect is the lack of clarity having on morale, productivity and employees' overall feeling of fondness for their companies, you ask? Of those surveyed, 60% report "higher levels of mistrust" with management. Hal…

Daylight Saving Time Turns Employees Into Total Grumps

If you're tired of the short, winter days, then there's light at the end of the tunnel: it's Daylight Saving Time this weekend! Remember to move your clocks ahead one hour so you can feel dazed and confused. If you're a manager, brace yourself for Monday because employees will be total grumps who might just feel like clocking you over the head. A new survey from the Better Sleep Council finds nearly one-third (30%) of more than 1,000 Americans surveyed admit to suffering a big mood change in the wake of Daylight Saving time, while 5% surveyed say that "the Incredible Hulk has nothing on them" after the clocks move ahead. Hey, at least they're being honest about it. One in 10 employees will fall asleep in a meeting next week, thanks to Daylight Saving Time. Women are more likely to feel the effects than men, but both sexes will require at least one week to adjust to the time change. My favorite part of the Better Sleep Council survey lists the stupid th…

MIT Works Hard To Make Its Nerds Workplace Ready

The scientist, engineer, or computer nerd you work with may boast more than one advanced degree, but may seem to have skipped Social Graces 120. Not if your nerdy co-worker is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however. MIT sends its super-smart nerds to charm school before it unleashes them on the rest of us. Thanks, MIT! MIT's Charm School is celebrating its twentieth year teaching nerds how to use their noodles in social situations. The classes even teach them how to canoodle, which in true MIT fashion, is probably based more on theory than on actual practice. As MSN News reports:Founded in 1993, Charm School just celebrated its 20th birthday with classes in alcohol and gym etiquette, how to dress for work (for men and for women) and how to visit a contemporary art museum. There are also classes on how to make a charming first impression, the right way to tweet and even how to dance at weddings. "We're giving our students the tools to be prod…

When It Comes to Gen Xers And Exercise, Frankie Says Relax

School and work have been cancelled today, thanks to the "Snowquester." So far, we have only a dusting of snow on the ground, but mostly it's just a wet, soggy mess. Leave it to Washington, D.C. to name its only potential snowstorm of the season after a needless political firestorm. For me, the "Snowquester" means re-evaluating today's "to do" list, which may, or may not, include a few minutes of exercise. Working out these days, however, can be an exercise in frustration. I go into my short workouts hoping that a quick, two-mile run won't leave me limping, or wondering if my lower back will bounce back anytime soon if I pedal my way furiously to nowhere on the stationary exercise bike. I'm becoming a mere shadow of my former 20-something self who could barely stretch, start into a 5-to-7-mile run, blast past the middle aged Baby Boomers on the running path, barely stretch during my cool down, and then ride an endorphin high until I cou…

Telecommuters, The Boss Still Thinks You're Mowing the Lawn

In the wake of the Yahoo! telecommuting decision that has us debating whether at-home workers can type and mow the lawn at the same time comes a new Staples Advantage survey that concludes telecommuting programs create happier employees and lower absenteeism and stress. Where did I put the rake? I'm only joking. I've worked exclusively from a home office since the dot-com era, when all of my friends said, "I just got a job as a VP for a dot-com with only a bachelor's degree and barista experience and I'm getting stock options, too!" and I thought to myself, "How can I take my master's degree and earn as little as possible while working my ass off without any job security?" What can I say; I've always liked a good challenge. So I became a freelance writer, working from a home office blasting Lou Bega's Mambo No. 5 while all of my neighbors trudged to an office somewhere until they could retire at age 35. I'm an independent contractor…

Memo To the Great American CEO: Just Shut Up Already

Is it just me, or do major CEOs seem less interested in talking about their businesses these days and more interested in talking about themselves, or pretty much anything else that's not entirely related to their companies? Last week, we saw the furor over a leaked memo in which Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer announces that the company's teleworkers will be rocking a desk at work once again come June. As much as I'm an ardent fan of working from home, it's her decision and the chips will fall where they do. We'll see how it goes. But that's so last week, because in this week's installment of "What Did Marissa Say Now?" we'll be debating Ms. Mayer's feelings on feminism. In the PBS/AOL documentary series Makers she reveals that she wouldn't consider herself a feminist. "I don't, I think, have sort of the militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that," says Ms. Mayer. Okay, stop the presse…

Can the Threat Of Federal Furloughs Actually Be Funny?

The sequester is here! Oh, great. The furloughs, the political infighting, and the queasy feelings of uncertainty don't seem like a laughing matter -- unless you're a federal employee who also happens to moonlight as a stand-up comic here in Washington, D.C. Let's go to the videotape! Comedian Shahryar Rizvi, who spends his days working as an IT project planner for (cue the irony...) the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, has been having some comedic fun with furloughs. More than 300,000 federal employees live and work in the DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia), so there's a potential audience around every corner. Laugh and the world laughs with you as you wonder if you'll have a job to go to next week. It's worth a try, anyway.

Dealing With Co-workers Who Make False Assumptions

How should you handle a co-worker who parachutes into a project, meeting or situation without any background information whatsoever but acts like he or she knows exactly what's going on? Pull out your whiteboard and erasable marker, because we're going to plot graph the low-information "expert" co-worker! This question is on my mind after taking my preschooler to do some bulk store shopping the other day. We have a routine of hitting the food court to buy her a smoothie before we start shopping. It gives her something to focus on for a few minutes while I focus on my grocery list. We started this routine one day a long time ago, and as any parent knows, when you do something in the moment for a preschooler you set a precedent that turns into an expectation that can quickly turn into a routine. You must pick and choose your battles, as well as your precedents. Buying the smoothie buys me time. So there we were, entering the store through the "out" door hea…