Saturday, June 16, 2020

News and Views: June 16th 2007

Finally seeing the light?

Here are some interesting snippets from The Standard, a Hong Kong newspaper, reporting on a seminar for corporate executives held there last week. [link]
  • “We believe long working hours are a sign of loss of productivity and efficiency," said Ambrose Linn, Hong Kong manager at Dutch mail company TNT, which enforces a maximum 48-hour week on its employees with no more than 12 hours’ overtime.
  • . . . a survey by local nonprofit organization Community Business found that employees work an average 51 hours a week - 25 percent higher than the maximum working hours set by the International Labour Organization. A third of respondents said their productivity was being affected by long hours while 31 percent said long hours were causing health problems.
  • “Senior management has to change its mind-set, especially with the new graduates coming out of university. They don’t want to work 60 hours a week, and companies won’t attract the talent,” Shalini Thakur, associate director of diversity at investment bank UBS, told the seminar.
  • BP says it has stopped making it mandatory for senior management to be supplied with smart phones and e-mail devices because constantly checking and responding to messages goes against the company’s philosophy of promoting work-life balance.

Bullying grows as a workplace issue

That’s the title of an article in the New Hampshire Business Review. According to the article, a national poll conducted by the Employment Law Alliance found that 44 percent of American workers reported having worked for an abusive supervisor. Psychologist Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute and co-author of “The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job,” says that decreased job performance, depression, feelings of helplessness and isolation, anxiety, and fear are among the emotional affects of workplace abuse; while such self-destructive habits as alcoholism and thoughts of violence or suicide are not unheard of. It seems that state legislators are considering addressing the issue in several states in the northeast of the US. [link]

Developing trust

Some good ideas on this topic in an article on a site associated with a medical journal in the UK. The author is given as “Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University.” I checked him out and this isn’t a joke. Dr. Griffiths is Director of the International Gaming Research Unit at the university, with an impressive list of awards and prizes to his credit. I liked this point very much; “No quick fixes for broken trust—If you think broken trust can be put right with a little charm or good humor, then think again. While wit and humor are constructive in a trusting relationship, they have the potential to exacerbate damaged trust.” Too right! [link]

Work/life balance is shot

Will McInnes, a blogger from the UK, says: “. . . wherever I look I see hardcore old fashioned macho business working . . .” I do too, Will. He mentions: “. . . two e-mails, one sent at 11 p.m. last night, the other at 01.58 a.m. this morning. Business emails. Work.” He also has a link to an article about a VP in Google who regularly works 12+ hour days, has “marathon e-mail catch-up sessions” at weekends, and attends around 70 meetings a week. As will says: “Sorry, all due respect and other cop-out caveats, but that is just insane.” [link]

Stress and tragedy

Also from the UK, The Independent had a report on a tragic situation caused by excessive working. The article starts by noting: “Stress or depression forces more people to take time off than any other ailment save for bad backs. No fewer than 10.5 million working days are lost to stress in Britain every year, costing the economy an estimated £4bn. Most of those absentees are at least facing up to their problem, and, in the main, are seeking help. In the macho confines of the City, where sexism, racist discrimination and homophobia are rampant enough, it is a different story.” It seems that a senior executive in an insurance company beat his two-year-old daughter to death, probably as a result of mental collapse brought on by overwork. There have also been several suicides recently of so-called high-fliers in London’s financial district. The same district has, it seems, more Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Gamblers Anonymous meetings than anywhere else. Isn’t it time that people put two and two together? [link]

19 Battlefield Tips to Survive Stress at Work

Comparing work to the battlefield is commonplace, but it usually means little more than various leaders trying to find links between what they do at work and what generals do at war (other than strut around wearing fancy uniforms and shouting orders). This article tries to find ideas for combating workplace stress from the methods developed to deal with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and similar problems caused by the stresses of warfare. I’m not sure about all of them, but some might help. [link]

Kill Meetings to Get More Done

Good ideas from on how to get out of all those useless meetings. What it doesn’t address is why the meetings are there in the first place. Usually it’s all about covering your butt by involving as many other people as possible in anything that might go wrong. If someone needs a lot of meetings on a project, my guess would be that they don’t believe in it and aren’t sure it will work. People rarely do anything that might lessen their personal share of the credit for something they truly think will be a great success. [link]

Why meetings make us mad

Still on the subject of meetings, this survey found, unsurprisingly, that: “. . . the number one business meeting frustration, it seems, is disorganization . . . more than a quarter (27 percent) of the 1,037 people polled said that disorganized, rambling meetings were their biggest bugbear, followed by 17 percent who said they were annoyed by colleagues who interrupted and tried to dominate meetings.” If so many meetings are disorganized and dominated by loud-mouths, why do people go on holding them? [link]

Greed goes international

Does this statement ring a bell? “Indian executives could be in danger of pricing themselves out of the market with salary demands that are so high they are forcing Indian companies to look to cheaper expatriates to fill senior roles.” It didn’t take long, did it? Part of the problem is the silly practice of setting executive salaries by comparisons with other executives. That’s a sure recipe for constant leap-frogging. This will also be very familiar. “Sunil Mittal, head of the Confederation of Indian Industry, (whose salary as head of the Bhati Group doubled last year) said that ‘Salaries cannot be legislated. There is shortage of skill at the top level, and more specifically in the service sector, which is why pay packages of senior executives are high,’ he insisted.” What that probably means is that there is a shortage of people prepared to forget about earning more than the next guy and accept only what the job is worth. In the USA, there are almost no executives like that, it seems. [link]

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