Tuesday, February 20, 2020

Extra News and Views: February 20th 2007

My regular Saturday “News and Views” posting hasn’t been able to keep up with all the items I have collected over the past few weeks. I shall also miss two Saturdays, since I am away from this Friday and will have only very limited Internet access. I have therefore decided to add an extra posting of interesting items, most of which I have been holding for one or more weeks.

Staff don’t trust senior executives

[link] Yet another survey lamenting the poor levels of trust in the workplace. Sadly, the consulting firm that commissioned it trotted out the old platitudes about “communications problems.” Maybe it will eventually sink in that problems with trust usually mean that someone isn’t actually behaving in trustworthy ways. No amount of “better communications” will deal with that. And, while I’m on that topic, here’s another survey blaming communications for what is much more likely to be good, old-fashioned mistrust.

The downside of office politics

[link] There’s evidence to suggest that office politics have “grown from being a peripheral issue ten years ago to the single biggest cause of stress in the workplace today, according to British researchers. Unfortunately, they seem to have few ideas what to do about it.

Ideas on happiness at work

[link] Alexander Kjerulf offers some thoughts from various well-known people. Interesting to see the founder of Honda saying that people will not sacrifice themselves for the company. I’d be even happier if he said should not . . .

Are you obsessed with your cellphone?

[link] It seems that some Australians are. According to Management Blog, the average Australian spends over an hour on their mobile phone each day (this time consists of 35 minutes of texting and 25 minutes of talking) and lots freely admit to being addicted to them. Sadly, the research quoted gives no idea how much of the up to A$500 some people spend on cellphone calls each month is really necessary. I suspect the answer is “very little.”

Scary Co-Workers?

[link] [via] Business Week lists the colleagues people can’t get away from fast enough, and how to deal with them. The pictures in the accompanying slide show are scary in themselves. Unfortunately, the advice is mostly based on journalistic platitudes.

Is a good company like a good user interface?

[link] Kathy Sierra thinks so. She thinks they should support people in doing what they’re trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way. Seems like very good advice to me. The post is a good read, as always with Ms. Sierra, and the comments are fascinating as well.

Too apathetic to write about apathy?

[link] Max McKeown explains that a quick search on Amazon reveals not one single business book or pamphlet about overcoming apathy. Yet getting people to do things is, he believes, the essence of leadership. I quite like the part where he says: “Stress can cause apathy—and here the competent leader can help (and other slacker incompetents can learn) by giving back control of the situation to the person who has learned to be helpless at work, or doing a certain task, or simply in your presence.” Not so sure, though, about his continued emphasis on the idea that it’s all caused by learned helplessness. To my mind, many more people have learned that doing anything other than agreeing and trying to do their jobs as best they can is a recipe for being blasted by some ambitious Hamburger Manager eager to blame everyone else for his or her own shortcomings.

One bad apple is enough

[link] William Felps and Professor Terence Mitchell from the University of Washington’s School of Business analyzed some two dozen published studies that focused on how teams and groups of employees interact, and specifically how having bad team mates can destroy a good team. They found that teams that had a member who was disagreeable or irresponsible were much more likely to perform badly. Hardly a surprise, but it’s good to see intuitive ideas born out by research. Sadly, they also found that negative behavior outweighs positive behavior—that is, a bad apple can spoil the barrel but one or two good workers can’t unspoil it.

A warning for top dogs

[link] Janet Dowd explains the origin of the terms “top dog” and “underdog” and suggests that until the underdogs of the business world are properly acknowledged and valued, the top dogs will always be in danger of being caught off balance by the uncertain force of the thrust from below. Good advice.

Don’t let life “happen” to you

[link] Craig Harper from Down Under believes that most people have never really defined success. They want to be “different” and “better” and have more, but they don’t know what any of that is. He says: “we need to step back from the busy-ness and mayhem of our life, be still for a moment . . . and get some perspective, space and clarity . . . We need to stop looking for the convenient, easy, comfortable path and look for the rewarding, challenging, exciting, amazing and fulfilling path.” Good on yer, mate!

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