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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