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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