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Are you on autopilot?

Here are five signs to check whether you’re heading toward some pre-determined destination that has been chosen for you by others.

Are you on autopilot? Admittedly this can be a tough question to answer. First, it is always hard to be brutally honest with oneself. If you realize that you are traveling through life on autopilot, you may just need to make some big changes. Second, how can you tell if you are? Personally, I believe the best method is to look for particular signs. The following are 5 signs that are either relevant to my life or the lives of some close friends of mine.

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Why good manners matter more than you think

A civilized workplace adheres to proper standards of behavior. If you don’t respect others, why should they respect you?

You might think that standards of manners and behavior at work are on the decline, but according to a new survey, good manners are critical if you want to move up the career ladder.

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Labor Day thoughts about workers and their rights

How far have we come in providing sensible rights for working people since US President Grover Cleveland declared the first Monday in September as Labor Day in 1886? Peter Dreier gives a decidedly mixed report card.

On most measures of economic and social well-being, American workers rank below their counterparts in other affluent nations. For example, Americans work more hours each year than employees in Canada, Western Europe, Japan, or Australia. In 2004, the most recent data collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), employed Americans worked an average of 1,824 hours annually, compared with 1,816 in Australia, 1,789 hours in Japan, 1,751 hours in Canada, 1,669 in England, 1,585 n Sweden, 1,443 in Germany, 1,441 in France, and 1,363 in Norway.

Unlike every other affluent country, the U.S. has no statutory minimum vacation policy. As a result, American workers spend fewer weeks on vacation than workers elsewhere.

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Term report on CEOs

How would a teacher report on CEOs, using the standards applied in school? I think most CEOs would find themselves swiftly on their way to the Principal’s office.

No mayor or other government official would ever dream of recruiting school teachers to help fix America’s corporations. But if corporate executives can be called upon to turn around our schools, then why not call upon teachers to turn around our corporations? Let’s dream on . . .

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Gimmicky leadership

Managers are suckers for gimmicks, especially if they believe they can get them quick results with no work. Sadly, if something looks too good to be true . . .

As we stand in shock, we feel betrayed and angry. Our heroes turned out to be fakes. Yet after all the juicy stories have come and gone, with personal shame buried and forgotten, we need to examine the society that has allowed such people to prosper, so driven by an entitled sense of instantaneous satisfaction, get rich quick mentality, and celebrity culture that being rich and famous at any cost is considered to be the epitome of success. We see everyday the end justifying the means.

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Can you trust your organization’s strategy?

Most business executives have a sense of profit. How many have a sense of purpose? And is there any difference? Maybe a sense of purpose that you can share with others is more important to success than watching the bottom line all the time.

Behavioral research carried out by a team from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital has found that commitment is largely influenced by one’s sense of purpose, feeling of personal impact and overall trust in the organization.

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Workaholics aren’t doing their organizations any good

Contrary to many people’s expectations, employing workaholics isn’t too good for an organization, it seems.

While there is a lot to be said for a strong work ethic and sense of industry, workaholics generally are not particularly productive people. They generally use frenzied activity to conceal a lack of forward motion and focus. I have known many such people, not uncommonly viewed with something approaching awe by observers from outside of the workplace and even sometimes by their peers, and who were given the title of “workaholic” as an honorarium; some even allowed it to be used as a shield to deflect closer scrutiny. But the truth is that workaholics typically cannot withstand closer scrutiny.

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Why does bad management thrive?

If it’s true that more efficient, more productive, and more effective organizations will always triumph over less well-run competitors, how do so many truly awful managers even survive—let alone prosper as some do?

The source of all these reflections is an email I just received from a young professional describing how his firm operates. My question is: why hasn’t this egregiously bad management been driven out competitively? How do firms like this stay in business?

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The real problem with all those e-mails

Next time someone complains to you about all the e-mails they have to check every day, maybe you shouldn’t be so sympathetic. It may be that the person talking to you is an e-mail junkie: someone who is so obsessed with checking e-mails that they create their own e-mail hell.

We’re accustomed to hearing that we’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming data. But like most such research, this latest study doesn’t really show that we get too many emails. What it shows is that we’re addicted to checking. And, as any Skinnerian psychologist will tell you, we’re like rats in a box pushing levers for food: we find it addictive precisely because we sometimes, even usually, don’t find any new messages. If you really received multiple emails every minute, checking would hold no promise of a surge of excitement. Instead of clicking compulsively, you’d be forced to make sober plans for dealing with the onslaught.

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Is career happiness easier if you’re gay—at least on the inside?

Michael Melcher wonders whether people who are gay, and have to face the changes associated with coming out of the closet, are more ready thereafter to make any equally significant lifestyle changes needed to get their careers and lives on track.

Career change is probably easier if you are gay. A big part of coming out is recognizing that you are not going to get acceptance and approval from everyone, including in many instances your own family. So you develop a basic understanding that what you truly want and need may be quite different from the world’s expectations of you. If you naturally expect a certain amount of rejection and befuddlement from the world, they don’t faze you as much when they happen.

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Corporate culture runs up against the reality of work-life balance

“Focus isn’t the problem. Every organization, public and private, should keep an eye on the bottom line. The question is whether a model that incurs a dropout rate of experienced, talented women that’s twice the rate of men makes any business sense. One estimate put the cost of an associate’s departure — taking into account recruitment, training and severance — at $315,000.” [Read more >>]

Ways to restore harmony and reduce stress

“If your work life and personal life are out of balance, your stress may be running high . . . To take control, first consider how the world of work has changed, then reevaluate your relationship to work and apply these strategies for striking a more healthy balance.” [Read more >>]

A brief guide to active living and workload management

“The behaviors that have led you to passive living happen because of your beliefs. We all behave in accordance with our beliefs. Therefore to change your way of life you must first change your mind.” [Read more >>]

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Modern work?

“I recommend the Stanford podcast “Doing Good Work” (available on iTunes) for anyone thinking about work/life balance. Joanne B. Ciulla, author of The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work, gave a particularly polished presentation. She questioned the gap between ‘forced leisure’ for many at the bottom of the income scale and nonstop work for some at the top.” [Read more >>]

How to not suck as a boss

“Ever work under a maniacal boss who kicks you to the curb when something goes wrong? In our opinion, most bosses have little grasp on how to properly manage people, let alone run a business or an organization.” [Read more >>]

The workplace wish-list

“American workers have a very simple wish-list. They want to be paid more, they want better healthcare coverage and, above all, they want greater respect from their managers.” [Read more >>]

Fighting stress with food

“If you think about it, we all “self-medicate” during stressful times — upping caffeine intake to keep wired, stuffing in the sugar for comfort or quaffing wine to calm down. Eating lentils will not solve financial worries, stop the baby crying or repair a broken relationship, but making careful food choices in moments of strength can help your body through times of strife.” [Read more >>]

Slow cook your business goals for success

“The best tasting food is slow cooked. If you cook food too fast it’s often not as savory. The best success is also slow cooked. Building success slowly over time allows you to do things right the first time, allows time for reflection, time to enjoy the process, and time to enjoy your life. In the rare cases when success happens fast it can be an exhilarating and heady time, but also extremely stressful.” [Read more >>]

Rebound from overload

“Overwhelmed feelings are a bit like panic attacks to your brain … in that they pull the floor out beneath you. No wonder solutions flee for the moment. The panicked brain sends back messages that there is no place good to go – and we tend to believe it. Luckily your brain is holds extraordinary talents for tackling problems that come from being overwhelmed.” [Read more >>]

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Is the boss a real piece of work?

“Lawmakers across the country are considering legislation that would give workers grounds to sue their superiors for being, basically, jerks. Bookstores are stocking bad-boss advice tomes, including “Snakes in Suits” and “Was Your Boss Raised by Wolves?” Today the AFL-CIO will name the worst boss in the country, based on the results of an online contest. Are relations between workers and management really in such an awful state?” [Read more >>]

Turn off and switch on

“Here’s an idea. Before you start reading this, reach into your pocket or bag, find your mobile phone and press the “off” button. Now I realize for a lot of you this won’t be easy. Some of you, I’m sure, are breaking out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of it. Others will be shaking their heads incredulously at the outrageousness of my suggestion.” [Read more >>]

Who wants to be a middle manager?

“Research shows waning interest in middle-management jobs and higher levels of dissatisfaction among those holding the positions. Just four in 10 managers are extremely or very satisfied working for their employers, according to a 2007 survey of more than 1,400 respondents by Accenture, a management consulting and outsourcing company. About 25% of those looking for new jobs said they were searching because of a lack of advancement prospects, and 43% of middle managers polled felt as if they were doing all the work but not getting credit for it. One-third reported frustration with their work-life balance.” [Read more >>]

Agreement and trust

“Peter Block, author of The Empowered Manager, noted that the apparent power of those at the top is much less than absolute. What leaders can do from the top down depends on the will of those below. Block recommended that leaders analyze their relationship with each of their essential people by asking two questions: 1. How much do I trust them? 2. How much do I agree with them? Block then offered this grid to help leaders think about how to build support for change initiatives: . . .” [Read more >>]

17 Tricks to reclaim your stolen attention

“Time is not money. Attention is money. Not just money, attention is life itself. Where you pay attention doesn’t just impact your bank account but the quality of life itself. With the colorful buzz of television, downpour of e-mail messages and endless stresses it is time to reclaim what has been stolen from you.” [Read more >>]

Work-life readings worthy of summer

“Here’s a grab-bag of new titles that especially fit these last days of summer, when our thoughts turn to carpools and apples, deadlines and briefcases, and perhaps yearnings for a bit more time and connection. While diverse, these books have something in common: They can help us to adapt to and effect change.” [Read more >>]

Seven signs that your career has stalled

“Have you recently found your mind might turn to that question we often ask ourselves — just where is my career taking me? Is it time for you to get your career back on track? Here are seven signs that you can identify your career has stalled and actions you can take to overcome them: . . .” [Read more >>]

Who’s average if you’re not?

“Today Rowan Manahan in Dublin, asked … who’s average … and Rowan’s post made me wonder about this compelling question from a different light. From a Business Week survey on workplace attitudes, Rowan pointed out that 90% of 2000 surveyed middle managers ranked their performance in the top 10%. Executives too, placed themselves very near the very top.” [Read more >>]

Nothing special about achieving gender equality

“Work-life balance policies and flexible working are among the most fruitful tactics for creating an environment where women can thrive, and progress to more senior positions if that is what they want.” [Read more >>]

Interesting work top factor sought in next job

“The No. 1 thing employees are looking for in their next job: interesting work, according to 29 per cent of nearly 1,000 people polled in 33 countries, the bulk in the United States. Tied next for what people most want in their next position were meaningful work and work/life balance, cited by 18 per cent each, according to the survey by global consulting firm BlessingWhite Inc.” [Read more >>]

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Corporations have a love affair with micro-management

“Over last ten years or so, I’ve noticed a definite shift, particularly in the expectations that top executives demand from mid-level managers. I now believe that the commonly held definition of management, at least for that middle level, is more akin to either simply, ‘Getting things done’, ‘Getting things done yourself’ or worse, ‘Getting things done in spite of people.’ Enter the micromanager. While micromanagers may be the bane of their co-workers and direct reports, the top echelons of corporations can’t seem to get enough of them.” [Read more >>] [via]

Natural talents: the importance of what you can’t not do

“Everyone has natural, innate talent. Just watch them. Pay attention to yourself, too. Watch who can’t not organize something. . .who can’t not run the numbers when a project is proposed. . .who can’t not ask just the right question at the right moment. These are all indicators of one’s innate talent. What can’t you not do?” [Read more >>]

Is pressure a good thing?

“Waiting — even for a second or two — is the technique behind the success of many people. And it is a particularly worthwhile technique when under pressure because each level of complexity in the decision requires more time. Obvious enough perhaps — and the reason that the first thought ought to be, ‘how can I give myself more time to take this decision’.” [Read more >>]

It’s always the right time to say thanks

“It’s easy to understand why we don’t say thank-you as often as we should. In our hectic, overcommitted lives, we tend to focus primarily or exclusively on our own needs and desires. When we’re not immersed in activity (and sometimes even when we are), we mentally go through the items on our extensive to-do lists. . . . Nevertheless, everyone wins when we step outside of ourselves and acknowledge the many things for which we should be grateful, in every area of our lives.” [Read more >>]

The forgotten other half

“I keep hearing that this is a record-breaking economy. I hear presidential candidates say that cutting taxes for the rich makes our nation stronger; and that so long as the stock market is buzzing, our economy is winning. I’m telling you that we’re wrong. I’m telling you that we are failing our own. There is a divide in this country, it is bigger than red and blue, and it is growing. There is a widening gulf between the haves and those who don’t even have enough to pay the gas bill.” [Read more >>]

Bad habits to stop now

“. . . nine stressful and common habits that entrepreneurs and office workers should strive to eliminate. Focus on one or two at a time, just as you would with high-priority to-do items.” [Read more >>]

Doing things backwards.

“What is one of the most effective ways to change your own behavior and habits? Doing things backwards. What I mean by backward is that if you for instance start moving slower you soon start feeling calmer. If you start to — even if your force it — you soon feel happy and like you actually want to smile. It’s kinda strange but it sure does work.” [Read more >>]

Stress is a career-killer

“What the study found is that when employees are stressed, their emotional intelligence — in other words, their ability to monitor and interpret their emotions and the emotions of those around them — is stunted.” [Read more >>]

10 Tips for creating an ethical culture, one decency at a time

“One of the toughest tasks for a manager, no matter what type of company you work for, is to earn the respect and the trust of those who work for you, while still ensuring that your company or department is meeting all of its production / financial goals. [. . . ] Ethics in the workplace . . . is very much a consistently challenging idea—maybe because it’s so rare, or maybe because “ethics” is usually one of those subjects that you have to take a whole separate class on in management school. Rather than having it taught as part and parcel of how a manager should conduct himself or herself, ethics is considered something ‘extra’ . . .” [Read more >>]

Workaholics dissatisfied, study shows

“‘They devote more effort to work, but they derive no more satisfaction or pleasure from it than do non-workaholics,’ writes Statistics Canada analyst Leslie-Anne Keown, author of Time Escapes Me: Workaholics and Time Perception. ‘They are very dissatisfied with their work-life balance and wish they could spend more time with family and friends.’” [Read more >>]

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The quiet sacrifice of leadership

“You have to look into the mirror and ask yourself what is best for my people, my organization, and my community. Am I prepared to act and suffer any personal consequences? And then you need to step into the deep end of the pool without a lifesaver in sight.” [Read more >>] [via]

Recognizing workplace gossip for what it is

“For most of us, the idea of ‘workplace violence’ conjures up images of physical harm. But there is another form of workplace violence that is just as dangerous and insidious — and that is workplace gossip. Gossip is any language that would cause another harm, pain, or confusion that is used outside the presence of another for whom it is intended.” [Read more >>]

Satan’s training brochure, Fall 2007

“Here are some highlights from the new catalogue:

  • The Ineffective Facilitator: Feeling Good About Accomplishing So Little
  • Chaos Theory for Managers: If a Butterfly Flaps its Wings in China, Can We Blame Outsourcing?
  • Communicating With Difficult People- How to Avoid It
  • The Effective Administrator: Exercising Godlike Power On a Mortal’s Salary”

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Top 10 reasons why constant complaining is so toxic in the workplace

“When people complain, they focus only on what’s wrong. Things may be mostly fine in the company, but complainers only talk about the problems, annoyances and peeves they perceive. If things in a company are 80% good and 20% bad and you spend most of your time thinking and talking about the bad 20% - the situation will look a lot worse than it really is.” [Read more >>]

Workplaces cause depression in one in 20 adults

“More than one in 20 young adults is likely to develop clinical depression or an anxiety disorder each year as a result of stress at work, new research has suggested. A study of almost 1,000 32-year-olds in New Zealand — including everyone born in the city of Dunedin during 1972 — has revealed that having a high-stress job can double the risk of developing one of these psychiatric problems for the first time.” [Read more >>]

Do dream jobs really exist?

“More thirtysomethings than ever before are feeling disillusioned with their careers and openly acknowledge that they’d like to move into something more rewarding and fulfilling. They admit to a number of factors that prevent them from doing so – a third of people said that a potential drop in salary going into a new career would stop them from changing, a quarter said that they lack the confidence to change and a further quarter admitted to having no clear direction.” [Read more >>]

Get out of the fast lane

“Relax, chill out: doing easy, everyday tasks with the children is the key to happy families, says Toxic Childhood author Sue Palmer in her new book. [ . . .] The simple truth is that if children are to grow up happy and resilient, they need love, time and attention from the significant adults in their lives.” [Read more >>]

If at first you don’t succeed try, try 40x

“So, I’m sitting around yesterday feeling crummy about myself. And not the usual self-loathing that comes from simply being me, but a more concrete, quantifiable inner gloom that stemmed from once again working late, thereby missing the chance to meet my wife and daughter for an early movie. I could tell they were disappointed from the note that was left on the entryway table reading ‘Gone to bed. Dinner in fridge. You may want to look for your heart in there, too.’” [Read more >>]

Scheduling for work life balance

“A [tag]]flexible schedule at work[/tag means that work and personal commitments can be more cohesive throughout the course of the day. However, if you find yourself constantly checking a work planner and a personal calendar to schedule to do items, separate calendars could be causing complications in your ability to maintain a cohesive schedule of all life’s tasks.” [Read more >>]

Do you see your boss in the mirror?

“They say that animal lovers end up looking like their pets. But now it seems that looking like – and being like – your boss can be pretty significant for your career, too. A study by academics at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and Washington’s American and George Washington universities has concluded that how much you rate you boss – and how much your boss rates you – depends on how alike you are.” [Read more >>]

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Top 12 ways to restore your work/life balance

“So you took the test and have realized that you are a workaholic. Or the most important other person in your life has convinced you that you behave like a workaholic. And you want to do something about it. Here are 12 ideas for beginning that restoration project. . . .” [Read more >>]

Bad manners undermine morale

“Amid signs that an epidemic of rudeness and bad manners is infecting our working environments, researchers have confirmed that colleagues or mangers who are rude and undermining can have a demonstrable negative impact on employee engagement and productivity.” [Read more >>]

Fear of success vs. Fear of failure?

“Let’s be honest: All of us have doubts that block us from doing things. It’s even socially acceptable to talk about some ‘fear of failure.’ But ‘fear of success?’ It’s just as real. Being afraid to achieve the very things that we want. How does it happen?” [Read more >>]

Schedule time before the seminar for “after the seminar”

“We all know what it can be like to leave a meeting and have to dive right into the flood of incoming input again. (Ever had a meeting-to-meeting-to-meeting day?!) Having a few hours blocked out the next morning, or even after the seminar (or early or late evening could work for some) may give enough time to set up the new processes and/or systems.” [Read more >>]

Dispatches from the war on stress

“In a highly competitive, globalized world, psychological health is increasingly taking a back seat to moon-shot target-setting and a relentless focus on making the numbers. Jeffrey Pfeffer, who teaches organizational behavior at Stanford Business School, sums up the prevailing attitude at many companies: ‘First we’re going to scare you to death and, now, give you some psychological counseling to try to make you feel better.’ Much more effective, says Pfeffer, is getting ‘rid of the source of the problem and not Band-Aiding it.’” [Read more >>]

Ten habits to boost your happiness

“Good habits can make you more effective. Great habits will make you happier. I’ve recently been trying to collect habits that make me appreciate life more. Finding the habits that make you more productive isn’t that hard, but placing the right rituals that impact your happiness is more difficult. Here are the top ten I’ve found helpful . . .” [Read more >>]

Stop being so nice to your co-workers

“Do nice guys finish last at work, too? A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology says yes. Dr. Nikos Bozionelos of the University of Sheffield in England researched personality and career success and found that white-collar workers who were the most agreeable, conscientious and sensitive to the needs of others were less likely to be promoted. Bozionelos believes it’s because they don’t put their own needs first . . .” [Read more >>] [via]

10 Ways to have a happy workday

“It’s easy to have a good day at work if you prepare in advance and keep a good running list of how to get through with the most happy day. Here are the top 10 ways to have a happier workday . . .” [Read more >>] [via]

Workplace stress blamed for limiting some careers

“Many Canadian workers say workplace stress has negatively affected them physically or psychologically, with one in five claiming it has limited their careers, according to survey results released Monday.” [Read more >>]

Lost sleep is gone for ever

“The average American sleeps an hour less each night than they did 40 years ago. But if you think that catching up on sleep at the weekend will make up for the sleep you didn’t get during the week, dream on. Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago have found that repeated sleep loss or interruption quickly damages our ability to catch up on lost sleep.” [Read more >>]

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The manager who makes every little problem a three-alarm fire can burn your business

“Pyros are bosses who compulsively light one fire after another in their organizations. These constant emergencies are highly destructive. They waste time and resources while diverting attention from the important issues facing the business. Employees become too busy to do their regular work, and while the pyromaniac boss focuses on the minutiae, the business may miss the chance to head off more dangerous long-term threats.” [Read more >>] [via]

Stop working longer hours! Start working wiser hours!

“Your ability to time manage can make or break your career! After all, if it doesn’t matter how fabulously talented you are, if you don’t have the time to show off your fabulous talent to others — or — if you’re so overwhelmed by your schedule, that your fab talent gets reduced to low-level, disorganized, shlock work!“ [Read more >>]

Observe your future self

“If you’re a ‘young blade,’ as my Grandma likes to say, you need to take a good look at the veterans of your industry. I suggest:

  • Meet them.
  • Observe them
  • Hang out with them.
  • Ask questions of them.

Then: create a picture of the type of person that someone who does what you do often becomes.” [Read more >>]

Forget the “hols” completely?

“Millions of stressed Brits cannot leave work behind when they go on holiday and spend their break sending emails from the beach, a shocking survey reveals. A whopping two-thirds of workers have had their hols interrupted by bosses and 80 per cent worry about their work while away, according to a poll. A staggering 20 million British employees think they have to take work with them on holiday, the survey suggests. It also revealed how today’s technology means many hard-pressed workers can never escape the boss wherever they are as a third always pack a laptop or Blackberry with their swimming trunks.” [Read more >>]

Why fear rules the workplace

“What is it about the workplace that makes millions of people around the world, regardless of national culture, afraid of their bosses? Fear can be dangerous; it can turn into a mindset in which things aren’t questioned and unthinking obedience to authority is normal. In fact, most of the advice we hear in the workplace with regards to bosses says one thing and one thing only: don’t complain about your boss, however bad.” [Read more >>]

Time for time off

“People in business need to take more of their vacation time. This is important for ongoing work-life balance as well as to allow workers to get recharged for the work ahead. The good news is that businesses tend to be generous in allocating vacation time, with 75 percent of senior executives and managers being entitled to four or more weeks a year. The bad news is that only 39 percent of those people take four or more weeks off, based on our global research.” [Read more >>]

U.S. organizations encourage bullying

“Organizational culture in many American workplaces actively triggers, encourages and even rewards bullying, according to new research, with employees in the U.S. bullied up to 50 percent more often than those in Scandinavia. New research to be published in the September issue of the Journal of Management Studies compared data for the U.S. and Scandinavia and found that what it terms “persistent workplace negativity” is between 20 percent to 50 percent higher for U.S. workers than for their Scandinavian counterparts.” [Read more >>]

Don’t wait until you’re dead to relax

“Tension feels natural to most people because they have been practicing it for most of their lives. It is a little bit like sitting in a good posture; it feels weird if we normally slouch (and yes, I am guilty of that one) because we are asking our body to do something it isn’t used to doing. Of course if we persevere it will start to feel natural and we will get the health benefits. It is exactly the same with relaxation and being relaxed will suddenly feel a lot better than tense all the time.Relaxation helps maintain health, reduce stress and promote good sleep and if that isn’t enough, it can help you look younger too!” [Read more >>]

Do you need to be a competitive jerk to succeed?

“Having an actual opponent sometimes requires a competitive edge. But in most pursuits competition simply isn’t important. Inventing an enemy keeps you from thinking rationally. You will overvalue potential threats and become blinded to opportunities.” [Read more >>]

Employees who are given the flexibility to juggle the needs of their families and careers respond by working harder and longer.

“Ms Bourke, a partner at organizational change consultancy Aequus Partners, will today release a survey of 3400 employees at Insurance Australia Group that she said reveals ‘employees who feel they have job flexibility are the same employees who have more trust in and more commitment to the organization. The old adage give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile isn’t borne out in the research,’ Ms Bourke said. ‘It’s more give them an inch and they’ll give back a mile to the organization.’” [Read more >>]

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Putting the ‘work’ into work/life balance

Here’s something that might amuse you, taken from a British magazine. Try this excerpt: “FROM THE HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT: Effective Immediately… SICK DAYS: We will no longer accept a doctor’s statement as proof of sickness. If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work. … SURGERY: Operations are now banned. As long as you are an employee here, you need all your organs. You should not consider removing anything. We hired you intact. To have something removed constitutes a breach of employment. . . “ [Read more >>]

Anti-anxiety strategies

“Promising to do this and do that can take a toll on you. Practicing anti-anxiety techniques involve letting go of the need to say “yes” to every request someone asks of you. People often experience extreme stress because they allow their commitments to take over their life. You do not have to go through this type of misdirected motivation. One way to measure if you are over committed would be to cancel an appointment you have scheduled. How would you feel if that were to happen? Would you feel a sense of guilt? Over committed persons feel guilty if they tell someone “no” because they are tired.” [Read more >>]

Canadians among the worst at taking vacations

“A study by online travel company Orbitz has found a noticeable drop in the length of time North Americans are booking for vacations. [ . . . ] Many workers, now seeing themselves as “indispensable”—a quality often supported by management—feel guilty about booking more than a week at a time. Others are worried they’ll miss something. It appears there’s a growing trend where employees don’t see the value in vacations, and find taking them more hassle than they’re worth. Preparing to leave, finding others to cover for them and the fear of falling hopelessly behind make vacations, especially expensive ones, less and less attractive. [ . . . ] “ [Read more >>]

Finding the source of work/life balance

“I’m always skeptical when I hear a company preach balance because they can’t possibly know what “balance” means for every single employee. It’s an HR buzzword. I used to believe it was the job or company that dictated how much balance, if any, existed. If I could just find the right position or the right company, magically everything would come into focus and my family would be given the same priority as my work required. I was dead wrong. It’s not the company. It’s not the position. It’s me. It’s how I manage the job, not how the job manages me. . .” [Read more >>]

What’s all this about learning?

“Organizations have little, if any, intrinsic interest in providing learning for their employees. They can’t measure or evaluate learning against their bottom line commitments. Learning doesn’t necessarily make a worker any better at the task they are being paid to do—indeed, some would argue that the provision of learning actually inhibits productivity, providing as it does, choices which an individual may not currently be aware of. [ . . . ] So, why have organizations begun to present themselves as the vanguard advocates of learning and development? Simple. The new breed of corporate cannon-fodder just doesn’t buy the same old arguments that worked so well on us and our forefathers.” [Read more >>]

Are leaders really leading actors?

“. . . it may be quite important for leaders to perpetuate the myth of having significant control over performance. As employees, we expect it of our leaders. In our behavior, we defer to leaders. And that reinforces their tendency to act like what we expect of leaders. According to this line of thinking, it may require that a leader act out the role, concealing real feelings in the process. In short, it suggests that some part of leadership is theater that perpetuates the half-truth that leaders are indeed in control.” [Read more >>]

Making a drama out of a crisis

“Managers are supposed to be able to glide effortlessly through the crises each day throws their way. In reality most end up dropping something else equally important, going all uncommunicative, working late or tearing about in a stress-induced panic. More than half of managers say that the only way they can handle crises is by getting stressed and burning the candles at both ends.” [Read more >>]

Bullies blight U.S. workplaces

“Bullying continues to cast a shadow of American workplaces, with three out of 10 HR executives admitting that they have seen an employee quit because of the way they have been treated. A survey of 100 HR professionals by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas also revealed that a third of executives have witnessed or experienced workplace bullying.” [Read more >>]

BlackBerrys and PDAs bad for work/life balance

“BlackBerrys and smart phones may have had a huge impact on executive and employee productivity but they also have a negative impact on work/life balance by making it more difficult to switch off from the office. A recent survey by RIM found an average BlackBerry user converts one hour of downtime to productive time each day and ups their overall team efficiency by 38 per cent. All of silicon.com’s 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel agreed BlackBerrys and smart phones have improved their productivity but warned it can have a negative impact on work/life balance without judicious use of the off-switch.” [Read more >>]

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Study suggests managers may not know when employees are overwhelmed

“Stress in most workplaces is nothing new.But a new survey done by ComPsych, a Chicago-based employee assistance company, suggests many bosses don’t notice when anxiety is running high among workers.While 60 percent of employees reported high levels of stress and extreme fatigue in a spring survey done by ComPsych, only 45 percent of managers perceived workers as highly stressed.” [Read more >>]

Success: All work and no play?

“Do most of us have the notion of work-life balance wrong? Is it possible to get ahead in our careers without literally working around the clock? The answers are never clear cut. But I’m asking these impossible questions because of an item I recently read on the Wall Street Journal blog called The Juggle that deals with the issues of life and work. The blog cited New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s commencement speech to graduates of City University of New York’s College of Staten Island.” [Read more >>]

“Always on” connectivity and management

“Here are a few questions I think we need to explore.

  1. As a manager how do you control both, personal and professional so one doesn’t take over the other?
  2. How do we manage the “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkies” James Governor talks about?
  3. How do we measure productivity of the “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkies”?
  4. Do we need to change the definition of productivity?
  5. How do you recruit a “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkie”, what would the job description look like?
  6. How do we explain to the Busy people that the Burst people are actually getting their work done?
  7. If Bursty people can, or are perceived to, get their jobs done so quickly, should we expect more productivity out of them during 9 to 5?” [Read more >>]

What Gen Y Really Wants

“With 85 million baby boomers and 50 million Gen Xers, there is already a yawning generation gap among American workers-particularly in their ideas of work-life balance. For baby boomers, it’s the juggling act between job and family. For Gen X, it means moving in and out of the workforce to accommodate kids and outside interests. Now along come the 76 million members of Generation Y. For these new 20-something workers, the line between work and home doesn’t really exist. They just want to spend their time in meaningful and useful ways, no matter where they are.” [Read more >>]

Offering a good work-life balance—for example, by rewarding employees with an occasional lie-in—can cut staff turnover and boost profits

“. . . author, Mike Emmott, employee-relations adviser at the CIPD, said the five [businesses studied] had key things in common. The managers were all ‘people’ people; they were good at communication and fostered a caring ethos in their businesses. This meant they had low absenteeism, very high retention of expertise and experience, and workers who looked after each other. Emmott was particularly struck by how policies promoting work-life balance were ‘so intimately linked with business ideas about profitability. It’s about resolving business issues, not just about being lovey-dovey’.” [Read more >>]

Americans learning to disconnect more on vacation?

“Orbitz’ Take 5 to Travel survey seems to show a trend towards more balance between the workplace and the American worker’s desire to use a vacation to actually take time out to relax and rejuvenate.” [Read more >>]

Work-life contradiction . . . or balance?

“Freud’s seemingly contradictory observations, made nearly 80 years ago, sum up the dilemma around work-life balance and show why the problem has never changed, and is unlikely to.On one hand, Freud seemed to say work was life and vice versa. On the other, he cautioned that people get trapped in its importance, missing the intersection of work, family and society and leaving us with the same age-old questions. How much money do you need? How much time do you want to spend with your family? How much time for yourself? How much stuff is enough?” [Read more >>]

Workaholic groups aren’t working

“Health professionals, academics and psychologists agree. They claim the changing work-place, technology and globalization have produced a worldwide epidemic of ‘workaholism’. [. . . ] But as the Workaholics Anonymous member said, perhaps many of these people are in denial about the consequences of their ‘addiction’.” [Read more >>] [via]

A long list of ways to dodge long hours

“It’s hard to leave the office at a reasonable time of day when your workplace culture centers on long hours. But the cost of not leaving work is high: a half-built life and career burnout. Of course, if you never work long hours, you will never appear committed enough to get to the top ranks. So your job is to work enough hours to look committed but not so many hours that you risk your personal life and your ability to succeed over the long haul.” [Read more >>]

Fear drives us to work

“Whenever your work is driven by fear, you’re not really happy. No matter what you try to mask it with. It doesn’t sound like he’s enjoying his successes, because he doesn’t have enough time. If he [an entrepreneur] doesn’t have enough time for dinner, I doubt he has a wife, family, let alone much human interaction outside of work.” [Read more >>]

Do you need to be a competitive jerk to succeed?

“I’ve found competition actually de-motivates me. I find I can run a race faster if I’m not trying to beat the other runners. Games where you face off against another opponent can be fun, but I’ve always preferred close matches to simply winning at all costs.” [Read more >>]

The two F-words you should love

“We all experience failure and the subsequent frustration. But how you handle those tormentors makes all the difference in your final outcomes. Oftentimes the peak of frustration comes right before a major breakthrough. That’s if you don’t quit.” [Read more >>]

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Vacation time again . . . or maybe not

How much vacation you’re allowed depends on where you work. Right? Of course, but so does how much of that vacation you actually take. It seems that people in the USA are the champions at not taking all of their vacation entitlement. “While Europeans enjoy four to five weeks of mandatory annual leave, many Americans find it difficult to take the one or two weeks of paid vacation they receive annually,” writes Jennifer Muhmel. Why? The obsession with lowering costs and doing more with less, certainly. But how about this? According to this article: “. . . some workers said taking a vacation adds stress. An estimated 27 percent of managers and 16 percent of non-managers return to work more stressed than when they left, according to a survey.” [link]

Does insecurity cause stress? Or is it the other way around?

Ed Moyle suggests that, while we know that the costs of workplace stress are high and the negative health effects on employees and the organization are well documented, the effects of increased work pressure also include decreased security for the firm as a whole. He suggests that stress, by impacting priorities and causing more people to panic when things go wrong, increases the insecurity of the firm as a whole. See if you agree. [link]

Are you over-connected?

All the technology to keep people in touch 24/7 may be near to becoming more of a curse than a benefit. Students sit in classes answering e-mails and sending text messages. Meeting attendees use the time to catch up on messages or send yet more to other people. A recent survey of 10,000 users by software company InCredimail found 12 percent said they spend more time online than sleeping each day. David Levy, a University of Washington professor and researcher on information overload, now schedules a weekly 24-hour Sabbath from electronic devices. In his view, the problem is part of an ongoing “more-faster-better” syndrome afflicting people today. You can read more here. [link]

Is Munich the world’s most liveable city?

It is, according to the International Herald Tribune and Monocle magazine. “A winning combination of investment in infrastructure, high-quality housing, low crime, liberal politics, strong media and general feeling of Gemütlichkeit make it a city that should inspire others.” Why do I mention this (other than liking Munich quite a lot myself)? “Work-life balance seems to be the city’s mantra. Make no mistake, people in this city work hard. With some of the highest apartment rents in Europe and all the shiny BMWs on the streets, they have to,” says William Boston, who wrote this article. “After work, Munich’s masses enjoy the city’s chill factor. The options are many, whether it’s drinking beer in the English Garden or in the shade of the tall trees at Viktualienmarkt, sunbathing on the banks of the Isar river, attending the theater or concerts, or hanging out in the smart bars around Gärtnerplatz or entertaining at home.” Sounds good to me. [link] [via]

Maybe we should feel sorry for lawyers?

According to the BBC: “The work-life balance of the UK’s lawyers is to come under scrutiny as part of a Law Society review to see why record numbers appear to be leaving the profession.” It seems that, far from being all about big bonuses, expensive holidays and flowing champagne, a legal career is more likely to end in emotional or physical breakdown. that because lawyers are under such intense pressure to complete the requisite number of chargeable hours per day—sometimes 8 or 9— and still find time for all the routine work. If you want a grim picture of a job that is: “. . . all about ego, money and soulless, ruthless commercialism and exploitation,” look no further. [link]

Can bosses really get a life?

Andrew Cave, of the London Daily Telegraph, interviewed 66 CEOs about their life and relationships outside of work. The results might surprise you. Only a handful of the 66 CEOs have been divorced, with the overwhelming majority married for over 20 years. I wonder if that is a tribute to British calm and phlegmatism on the part of their wives? Most of these guys (and they’re all guys) seem to overrule or ignore their wives’ wishes on a regular basis. They may have lengthy marriages, but the picture the article paints of how they and their families operate suggests most as as much the CEO at home as they are at work. [link]

No further defense needed against the Dark Arts?

How do you see office politics? Like this, maybe: “It’s well recognized that to get to the top takes not only talent, but talent at certain “dark arts” — guile, ruthlessness and political acumen to name but three. “ Or like this: “Where office politics once meant turf wars, back-stabbing or pursuing personal advantage, now the majority of managers see it as about building alliances and consensus . . .” This article claims that British business leaders are rejecting old-fashioned notions of office politics in favor of creating partnerships, building relationships and developing constructive political skills. I don’t want to scoff at anything that promises a more civilized workplace, but I have to sat that I’m skeptical. [link]

How do you know if you’re a workaholic?

Take this questionnaire. Then, depending on the answer, let Workaholics Anonymous help you out. It seems that a recent survey by the Center for Work-Life Policy, a New York-based nonprofit group, found that 45% of executives were “extreme” workers, putting in more than 60 hours a week and meeting five other criteria such as being on call 24 hours a day and facing demands from several time zones and meeting ever more demanding deadlines. WA should have a brisk trade. [link] [via]

Tyrants in the workplace

Leading Blog paints a grim picture: “Power corrupts. Well . . . it can and too often does. The exercise of power — causing some to submit to the will of others — is necessary in any functioning state, organization or relationship. This power may shift, but it always exists. Power is not evil, but one should be cautious about the form it takes. Power controlled by the ego is something to be fearful of. [. . .] Power with out humility and compassion is ignoble at best, but more often than not, it quickly degrades to tyranny, exploitation and destruction.” Selfishness and greed are most likely the causes, but what is the cure? Nothing is suggested in this otherwise thoughtful article. [link]

Civilizing the (social) organization

Henry Mintzberg makes some highly civilized suggestions about how to improve organizational functioning: “Corporations are social institutions, which function best when committed human beings (not human “resources”) collaborate in relationships based on trust and respect. Destroy this and the whole institution of business collapses.” Chris Bailey agrees. [link]

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