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Showing posts from June, 2013

Open Work Environments Are Closing Employees' Minds

Ah, the open work environment. The wall-less wonder of the modern working world, where watching your co-worker nosh on last night's smelly leftovers for lunch is supposed to give you a sudden burst of creative productivity. Funny how it's not working, right? Now a new report is here to back you up. Design and architecture firm Gensler has released its 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey (WPS) that finds many employees trying to work (emphasis on "trying") in open work environments aren't getting all that much done. From Gensler's press release:Workplace effectiveness has declined since 2008, as measured by comparative data between Gensler’s 2013 and 2008 U.S. Workplace Surveys. The inability to focus for many is the key driver of workplace ineffectiveness. Results show that a lack of effective focus space drags down the effectiveness of all other work modes: collaboration, learning and socializing, as well as the effectiveness of the workplace as a whole. Respondents…

TMI! Reacting To Co-workers Who Say Uncomfortable Things

You're in a meeting when a co-worker suddenly makes a startling, and rather uncomfortable, personal admission. You promptly look at your lap, at a colleague, or down at the floor, and wish you could be anywhere else but here. Oh, what to do in these situations, right? Here's how to react when a co-worker says something that makes everyone else very uncomfortable. It's a fact of life that sometimes we'll learn more about someone than we expected in the oddest of moments, and sometimes it might happen at work. Perhaps, as a hypothetical example, you work for a well-known chocolate maker and you're listening to a product pitch when the person leading the pitch suddenly reveals that he was raised in a whorehouse and chocolate was pretty much the only good thing in his life as a kid. Take it away, Mad Men's Don Draper! Awkward workplace moments aren't limited to the big screen. Just ask Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who, just the other day, listened to an investo…

Yeah! The Most Persuasive Word In Business Meetings Is...

Which word in the English language is the most likely to foster great product ideas and land new business deals? "Ramp up"? No. "Synergy"? Nope. "Scale"? Please try again. Yeah, this could take awhile. Wait, back up. What did I just say? Yeah? Yeeeeeesssss! Let's do business! Statisticians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed 95 words regularly used in business meetings and discovered that the most persuasive word is: yeah. Not "jeah" in the cloying and confusing Ryan Lochte reality teevee kind of way. No, this blog post is about using "yeah" in an I'm-showing-support-for-your-ideas-by-building-consensus-and-not-criticizing-you-in-a-meeting-so-please-tell-me-more kind of way. Now you're talking! The MIT researchers ran the numbers and found enough statistical significance to conclude that uttering "yeah" at regular intervals during business meetings "indicates agreement with a previous id…

Treating Employees Well Is More Important Than Philanthropy

Which act of kindness is the most likely to impress your company's customers: Making a donation to a local organization, going "green," or being good to employees? Well, it isn't the first two on the list. Let's Biggie size this employee-centered post for only 99-cents more! A Restaurant DemandTracker survey finds that being good to employees makes a far bigger impression on customers than either charitable giving or biodegradable forks. As FastCasual.com reports:According to Restaurant DemandTracker, a recent survey of restaurant customers in the U.S., treating employees well is more important than giving back to the community or utilizing sustainable food sources. The survey asked people what was important to them when choosing which restaurant to visit. Overall, 48 percent of restaurant consumers said they prefer to visit restaurants that treat their employees well. This was slightly higher among women (50 percent) and among consumers whose household income…

Rectangular Conference Tables Make Employees Argue More

Are the conference room tables in your office round or rectangular? It could make a difference in how argumentative employees get at staff meetings! Canadian researchers sat groups of people around either rectangular or oval tables to see how they reacted to advertisements, because, well, I don't know why they would have them react to advertisements, but that's what they did and this is what they found:Subconsciously, the style of seating brings out one of two conflicting attitudes, said the researchers from Alberta and British Columbia universities. Authors Juliet Zhu and Jennifer Argo wrote: 'The geometric shape of a seating arrangement can impact consumers by priming one of two fundamental needs - the need to belong or the need to be unique.' They added: 'Seating arrangements influence consumers in a wide range of settings such as restaurants, hotel lobbies, public transit, or waiting areas in airports and doctors' offices. 'Circular-shaped seating a…

New Study Finds An Ugly Truth About the Workplace

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all in the office? A new Michigan State University study finds our "less fair" counterparts are suffering more on the job. Now that's not fair at all. Let's discuss. MSU researchers surveyed 114 employees and asked how often their co-workers were, quite frankly, mean to them. You know, by saying hurtful things, being rude and making fun of them. Here's the hurtful truth, according to the official MSU press release:People who are considered unattractive are more likely to be belittled and bullied in the workplace, according to a first-of-its-kind study led by a Michigan State University business scholar. "Frankly, it's an ugly finding," said Brent Scott, associate professor of management and lead investigator on the study. "Although we like to think we're professional and mature in the workplace, it can be just like high school in many ways." While plenty of research has found that…

That's What He Said: Let's Stop Talking Past Each Other At Work

Have you seen comedian Russell Brand's interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe? Not only does Brand teach the hosts how to do their jobs, he also gives us as a nation a quick tutorial in how to stop talking right past each other. It almost makes the remake of Arthur forgivable! I've watched this interview a handful of times to see the wheels fall off the journalistic bus. From co-host Mika Brzezinski starting the interview by in effect saying, "I don't know who you are, but people tell me you're famous" to confused journalist Katty Kay calling Brand "Willy" to I've-never-heard-of-him Brian Shactman saying that he can't understand anything Brand says because of his English accent, this highly un-researched trainwreck of a teevee interview is a painful, mini tutorial in how not to interview someone. It should be required viewing in every J-school basic interview techniques class. But my favorite part of the interview starts around the 5:10 mark…

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service...And No More Viral Videos?

Attention, service employees: As you know, customers are angry. Really angry. All the time now. On top of this, it feels like management isn't always managing the situation very well. It's time to take a look at feeling stuck in the middle. Let's go to the videotape! It's not hard to find video after video of customers behaving badly, whether it's at Wendy's or Dunkin Donuts or pretty much every retail establishment in between. By the way, less than six months until Black Friday roll around again, everyone! I wrote a workplace column back in 2001 on the topic of employees feeling "stuck" in the middle between angry customers and nebulous management, long before viral videos became an everyday fact of life. In the column, I explored the detrimental effects of "emotional labor," e.g., the game face employees must wear to manage their emotions on the job, particularly when confronted by very angry customers. Yes, the term "emotional labo…

How To Deal Gracefully With A Co-worker's Ingratitude

You do something nice for a co-worker who turns around and criticizes your thoughtful efforts. Let's talk about how to deal with the co-worker who disses your good deeds!Perhaps you took the time to select and buy a birthday gift for a co-worker. I'm not talking about online gift cards that take all of 45 seconds to buy. No, no, no. You, oh intrepid one, actually walked through the mall (gasp!) and spent some time thinking about this person's tastes, and interests. Then you selected a gift based on these personal attributes. Maybe you even splurged a little bit on the gift.Don't worry, it's all good, because the debit to your account will feel worth it as soon as you see the sheer look of delight on your co-worker's face as she purrs "Thank yoooouuuuuu, this is so nice of yooooou! I love it! Thanks so much for remembering my birthday!"Instead, your co-worker opens the box, looks inside, and then says with a frown: "Hmm, too bad I already have one…

You Make Me Sick: Paid Sick Leave Reduces Spread Of Flu

A new University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study hurls a not-so-shocking finding at us: Giving employees a few paid "flu days" reduces the spread of flu at work by 40%. Now that's sick, in an Urban Dictionary kind of way. Of course, it's better to stay home when you suddenly feel clammy, nauseated (let's hope you're not nauseous!) and you no longer have an appetite. As we know, however, a lot of employees will ignore these (and other) symptoms and report to work, anyway, flushed cheeks and all. Hey Chris, can I borrow your pen? Well, you "can" borrow my pen, as in, I know that you possess the basic "look at me, Mom!" skills to be able to use it. The question at hand, however, is whether you "may" use my pen, as in, whether or not I will grant you the permission to borrow it. Not to be an annoying stickler for grammar this morning, but why does everyone insist these days on using "can" instead of &…

Happy Father's Day! Dads Get Disrespected At Work, Too

A new Canadian study concludes that middle-class working men in "non-traditional" parenting roles are more disrespected at work than men in the traditional role of ignoring the kids except when yelling at them to stop doing whatever annoying thing they're doing. Happy Father's Day! Researchers at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management find that working dads who openly make time for the kids as well as a home life are getting dissed on the job:"Their hours are no different than other employees', but their co-workers appear to be picking up on their non-traditional caregiving roles and are treating them disrespectfully," says Prof. Jennifer Berdahl of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, who co-authored the study with Sue Moon from the Long Island University Post. Results were based on two separate field studies, each using mail-in surveys. The first was targeted at unionized workers in female-dominated occup…

Employees, Your Lack Of Ambition Is Bringing Us All Down

Attention, U.S. employees: You're slacking off on the job because you don't care anymore, and your bad attitude is slowing down economic growth. Career crisis on Aisle 9! Gallup is out with a new "State of the American Workplace" report that finds a whopping 70% of American employees are currently "disengaged," a fancy word that means "waiting for the weekend." Living the old Loverboy song is costing U.S. employers as much as $550 billion each year in lost productivity. According to the press release:Though this figure matches the all-time high since Gallup began tracking the U.S. working population's engagement levels in 2000, U.S. business leaders shouldn't be patting themselves on the back. An alarming 70% of American workers are not showing up to work committed to delivering their best performance, and this has serious implications for the bottom line of individual companies and the U.S. economy as a whole. Of the 70% of American wor…

Let's Talk About BYOD Privacy In the Workplace, Stat

Last week, we found out that the NSA might be able to watch us type every typo, and then frantically hit the "backspace" button to start typing the word all over again. Wow, that's a lot of random typos to scan. An employee, for instance, might misspell "adult daiper" [sic] on her BYOD device, thinking that no one outside of Google will ever know about her incontinence problem because she's conducting the Internet search via her personal smartphone. Don't pee your pants, lady, but the guys in corporate IT might already know. Sorry to say it, but the BYOD device that you see as your personal, private property at work could be about as private as all of your other "big data" that's stored "in the cloud" these days. As Cisco reported recently, 90% of American employees are using BYOD devices in some way, shape or form for work-related purposes, forever blurring the lines between what is mine and what is yours. Not only could your…

OMG, Summer Interns Are, Like, Bringing Their Slang To Work

This summer's average summer intern was born in or around 1993. Not to make you feel old or anything. To these Millennials, "google" is a non-capitalized verb and, of course, they don't know a world without the Internet. And they're invading your workplace this summer like so many noisy cicadas and asking a lot of questions, such as what is that dusty thing in the corner of the room (e.g., a fax machine). If you really stop to listen, then you might realize that their professional speech pattern is peppered with words such as "love," awesome," and "cool." But "cool" is apparently a little bit too Gen X for them, because your Millennialistic summer interns are just as likely, if not more so, to describe something that's "cool" as being "crazy," "sick," "fantastic," "amazing," and "epic." As in, This is going to be such an epic project to put on my sick Twitter fee…

Do You Work With An Impossible Perfectionist?

You're waiting for a co-worker to finish her part of a project. The problem is, she is an impossible perfectionist who is perfectly willing to let the perfect be the enemy of the good on pretty much every project. Sit down, this could take awhile. The impossible perfectionist never got the message that every piece of completed work will have some level of inherent, minor imperfection, even at deadline time. It could always be...better...if only you had the time to make it so. But "good enough" is not in the impossible perfectionist's lexicon, and so she proceeds to take forever, sculpting a little more here and there, making small, "last minute" changes, mulling it over for days and days before making a final decision. Perhaps the decision never gets made at all, thanks to the impossible perfectionist's inability to accept that something can, in fact, be great, but not perfect. Meanwhile, the impossible perfectionist might look down her nose at you a…

New Study Offers Window Into Workplace Daylight Exposure

It turns out there's a link between the number of windows in your office building and your workplace productivity. Let the sun shine in! It's a well known fact of office life that ambitious employees value the square footage of their office space as well as its view. Don't you dare offer them a windowless office that's nothing more than a s^$%hole with a support beam. You might have to resort to bribery to relocate people to new projects. Now researchers at Chicago's Northwestern University have found a "strong relationship" between workplace daylight exposure and employees' activity and sleep patterns. In the study, nearly 50 daytime employees, 27 in windowless workplaces and 22 in window-gifted workplaces, went about working and living while the researchers measured their exposure to sunlight. Here's the non-UVA induced damage:Compared to workers in offices without windows, those with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white li…

Seven Ways For Managers To Manage Workplace Anxiety

Do your co-workers seem to be feeling a bit more anxious lately? Well, they are more anxious, or so says a new Harris Interactive poll of more than 2,300 Americans. The poll concludes that two-thirds of Americans are moving down the "Happiness Index" into Downinthedumpsville. We're all kinds of anxious about all kinds of things, apparently. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 31% of Americans are dealing with symptoms of anxiety. If you're a manager who thinks employees are leaving their anxieties at home when they bring themselves to work, then think again. One in five adults is so anxious that it's interfering with his or her ability to get the job done. Anxious employees are more likely to procrastinate, turn into obsessive perfectionists, avoid certain projects, let phone calls and emails go unanswered for days/weeks/months, and in general, feel so overwhelmed on a daily basis that even the easiest work-related tasks start to seem imposs…