Saturday, July 28, 2020

News and Views: July 28th 2007

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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Saturday, July 21, 2020

News and Views: July 21st 2007

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’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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Saturday, July 14, 2020

News and Views: July 14th 2007

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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Saturday, July 07, 2020

News and Views: July 7th 2007

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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Saturday, June 30, 2020

News and Views: June 30th 2007

The Performance Review lottery

Are performance appraisals are either an unscientific lottery or just a measure of your popularity with the boss? It seem that there is new evidence to back either position. Research has revealed that the majority of employees who report to multiple bosses get completely inconsistent ratings. It seems that today’s obsession with “measuring” everything isn’t matched by an ability to get the measures right. [link]

The arrogance of macho managers

One of the commonest characteristics of macho, grab-and-go managers is their unbelievable arrogance. In this thoughtful article, Daryl D. Green reflects on what happens when a leader gets side-tracked by his ego and personal pride. The list of companies and other organizations brought nearly to ruin by arrogant leaders is a long one. Personally, I can’t think of a single case where a leader’s arrogance has been other than harmful. [link]

Getting away from it all

James Dale gives a long list of top leaders who sneak off to play golf, play in rock bands, go fishing, or “waste” their time in other ways. His point is that: “Sometimes you should do something that isn’t work, refreshes your mind and body, and gets you out from behind your desk, computer, car, or airport lounge.” Not only is it a great way to give yourself perspective, he argues. It’s a great way to get ahead at work too. [link]

Is working less better for the world?

That’s the argument made by Dara Colwell. Her view is that Americans are working harder than ever before and at a greater cost to the environment, while research suggests that practicing a simpler lifestyle made people happier and used fewer resources. Maybe slowing down is the best way to go “green?” [link] [via]

Mindlessness rules!

Robert Waterman, Jr., in his book Adhocracy, says that: “ Stress—the kind produced by rapid change—seems to make us revert to mindless, programmed behavior.” True enough. This post suggest four ways to deal with that. [link]

Can technology reduce stress?

The Chicago Times thinks so. They say that technology is playing an increasing role in helping workers combat stress: everything from relaxation techniques perfected with a computer program to software that alerts office workers when their stress levels reach a certain threshold. Peter Buttrick, head of the cardiology division at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, doesn’t agree. He says making major lifestyle changes, such as exercising, moderating the foods you eat and eliminating things that are stressful, are key to producing long-term effects on stress levels. [link]

Fired by your family?

Tom Stern, author of CEO Dad: How to Avoid Getting Fired by Your Family, believes that there can be many reasons for the fracture between your work and your family life. “In mine, it was both nature and nurture--a genetic high-drive component that I was born with and a family culture that overemphasized overachievement and underemphasized closeness and fun,” he explains. Try his website at [link]

Busy Girls’ Guide

Did you know that there’s a site for women trying to handle a life and a career? That it dispenses advice on areas from organizing your life to dating and romance? You didn’t? Well check it out . Here’s a sample of Is your laptop wrecking your back? “The simplest rule to follow is: ‘do the opposite movement to the one that is causing the problem’. e.g. if your screen is to your right, move it to the left. This can be applied beyond just working practice - sleep on your other side, carry your bag on the other shoulder, hold your phone in the other hand.” [via]

Is self-discipline the answer?

CIO Magazine offers “Five Sensible Tips for Achieving Work-Life Balance,’ including Maintain boundaries between work and home, Stick to a schedule, and Delegate. Not rocket science, eh? [link] [via]

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Saturday, June 23, 2020

News and Views: June 23rd 2007

Injustice is bad for your heart

A report in The Guardian newspaper, published in London, shows that feelings of injustice are enough to cause stress and heart attacks. According to the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive, five million employees describe themselves as “extremely stressed”. The article goes on to point out that stress-related health problems include high blood pressure, obesity, and cardiovascular disease; and that some doctors suggest that an increase in people experiencing strokes at a younger age may also be related to work stress, especially if a person feels a slave to their work and not the master of it. What’s even more interesting is that research shows a heightened sense of injustice in the workplace corresponds directly to the risk of heart attack or angina. [link]

Unmasking serial killers in the workplace

According to Dr. Ellen Weber: “The problem with stress is that it masks as diligence or self-righteousness—so we miss its warning signals as people fail to spot signs before a serial killer’s strike.” People find that stressors can stir up their cortisol hormones in ways that leave them angry, stressed or anxious, and unable to sleep well. All are potential precursors of illness and premature death. It hardly seems worth risking a fall into the clutches of a serial killer just to improve an organization’s bottom-line, but that’s what tens of thousands are doing right now. [link]

Take that vacation . . . now!

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the U.S. is “the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation.” Worse, according to this posting: “US workers gave back close to 574 million vacation days in 2006, depriving themselves of much-needed breaks, according to Expedia’s annual vacation deprivation survey. On average, Americans leave at least four days unclaimed annually.” Why do people accept this craziness? Maybe everyone has been reduced to such an abject state of fear by lay-offs and threats of outsourcing that they are ready to work unpaid when they should be on vacation (that’s what not taking vacation days amounts to). I suspect it also has a lot to do with organizations taking advantage of people’s wish to seem important and irreplaceable. Whatever the reason, it’s an irrational way to behave. [link]

Appreciate life’s journey

If these statistics about stress and vacation deprivation are getting you down, try this upbeat idea from Brian Kim: “If there’s one thing that I wish to impart to those who have started down the path toward the fulfillment of their dreams, it is this: appreciate the journey. “ Brian suggests that you sit down and think about what you’ve done so far: “The rich cornucopia of knowledge, contacts, skills, opportunities to test your resolve, experiences of triumphing over obstacles, etc., that you never would have got before had you not undertaken this journey of yours” He reckons that you’ll be surprised at how far along you’ve come. Good advice. [link]

Think twice before you ask for that promotion.

According to Penelope Trunk, promotions are more stressful than divorce. She says that things get more political; there is more ambiguity and uncertainty; and you don’t have as much personal control and you have to get things done through other people. Therefore, if you don’t want to deal with office politics and delegation, then you should say no to the promotion. She concludes: “So forget about that promotion. Don’t let someone else define your career path for you and then promote you through it as if their vision for your life is your vision. Instead, figure out what work you are best suited for, and request it. This is the best path for you.” See if you agree. [link]

Is your boss a crazy boss?

Fortune magazine’s Stanley Bing has an tongue-in-cheek online quiz to help you find out. It’s all part of a marketing push for this book: Crazy Bosses: Fully Revised and Updated He also offers stories from readers about the bullies, narcissists and other crazy bosses they spend their working days with. [link]

Are business units a con?

According to The Corporate Cynic, they are. He sees them as creating the perfect breeding conditions for more executives and their assorted hangers-on and cronies and creating endless turf wars: "The Business Unit Leaders and their minions started getting into the pants of the purchasing and operating functions claiming that these functional areas were really there to support them and therefore their property. The functional VP’s fought back because they had overall responsibility and were held accountable for the functions. Then the BUL’s began to argue amongst themselves as to what product lines or customers belonged to each unit." Pretty provocative stuff, but worth thinking about. [link] [via]

An article in Management Issues asks whether: “. . . having a tyrannical boss leave any kind of lasting imprint on the employee—or are employees just fond of complaining?” The article refers to a posting on that suggests the mental fallout can have lasting effects. The writer of this article says: “I finally was able to leave the place of torture recently but I am still very affected by what they did to me. . . I was subject to malicious outright lies, ethical questions lobbied, public demeanings, and quite frankly abusive behavior to the extent every written, spoken word or look was a case for negative feedback.” Check out the comments too. [link]

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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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Saturday, June 09, 2020

News and Views: June 9th 2007

Bad business to come?

Margaret Heffernan is in gloomy prognostication mode: “ . . . the biggest undergraduate major by far in the U.S. today is business. Twenty-two percent of B.A.s are awarded in business, compared with a paltry eight percent in education, five percent in health professions, less than four percent in English and a tragic two percent in history. No wonder, as a nation, we’re stupid, sick, inarticulate and prone to repeating bad mistakes.” I’m very much inclined to agree. As she says: “When I was running companies, I didn’t want kids with B.A.s in business. I wanted kids who could speak, write, think about the world, who even had some sense of context. They were like gold dust. My best employees were invariably Russian, Chinese, Indian, gay, Jewish, female. Being outsiders, they’d had to struggle and struggling, they’d learned about the world. I wanted—and still want—people who pay attention, reflect, and can handle complexity. But almost everything about current career structures militates against this.” When I read this, I wanted to cheer: “ . . . they’re mostly learning outdated, macho rubbish that replaces creativity and commonsense with doctrinaire, slick mumbo jumbo.” Absolutely right! [link] Suggested reading: Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management.

When it’s time to quit a bad job

Alexander Kejrulf posted this typically thoughtful piece this week, thinking about when it’s right to quit a job and when it isn’t. Should you quit at the first sign of trouble? Or do you only quit when all hope is gone. His conclusion is this: “If your job does not make you happy you should first try to fix it. If there’s no realistic hope that you ever will, it’s time to get out of Dodge.” Check out his six tips for finding your quitting point. [link]

When it isn’t

On a similar theme, Penelope truck thinks that there are 5 situations when it’s wrong to quit. What are they? You hate your boss. You want more prestige. You want to meet new people. You want more meaning in life. You want more happiness. See whether you agree with her. [link] Penelope trunk's book: Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success

How you shouldn’t check your email while working

Sound advice from Craig Childs. E-mail is a great time-waster, if you allow it to be. The trick is to be disciplined about it. And here’s another reason to think before you click on that e-mail “send” button. You might just end up in court. A University of Arkansas law professor is suggesting that the U.S. Federal Copyright Act does not protect someone from copying and distributing another person’s private expression. Which means that forwarding any e-mail without permission of the sender may even be against the law. Then there's another piece about wasting time gossiping by email while at work. This claims that: “Staff who ping those “humorous” emails around the office with funny attachments are not just distinctly irritating, they are also a significant drain on a company’s productivity and can even put the whole business at risk.” Heavy stuff! [link]

Ethical decision-making

More ethical decisions would undoubtedly make the world a better place, so you might just want to check out this "quick guide to ethical decision-making" from the St. James Centre in Australia, whose slogan is: "Think . . . to create a better world." The contents list includes:
  • would I be happy for this to be on the public record?
  • what would happen if everybody did this?
  • how would I like it if someone did this to me?
  • will the proposed course of action bring about a good result?
  • what will the proposed course of action do to my character or my organization's character? and
  • is the proposed course of action consistent with my espoused values and principles?
Good stuff. [link]

“I wish you enough”

Here’s a neat little story that will appeal to many people, I think. A tad sentimental, but with some definite things to think about embedded in it. I’m not going to reveal any more. You’ll have to read it for yourself. [link]

Get a life!

This article from Fast Company contains lots of good things. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite: "If you're so 'successful,' why aren't you having more fun? If you're so 'together,' why are your days so chaotic?" "As long as our work is so vital that we can't slow down, we don't have to look at our own lives: a marriage that isn't working, a career that isn't satisfying, children we're out of touch with, friendships we've outgrown. There's nothing more 'dangerous' than having a little time on your hands." [link] [via]

The curse of macho management

According to The Scotsman newspaper, the glass ceiling still intact, due mostly to a macho ethos in professional firms in accounting. Professor Elizabeth Gammie unveiled her statistical research, which began in 2003, and paints a gloomy picture of the reality in major accounting businesses. In response, says the article, “[Frank] Blin, Scottish leader of the UK’s largest firm [PricewaterhouseCoopers] with a fee income of about £1.8 billion, said there is an acceptance of a macho culture and long working hours, but there was also an urgent business imperative for change.” I wonder if they will act on that “imperative” if it threatens to lessen billable hours? [link]

Report on happiness at work

You can download a report on happiness at work which contains some interesting points, such as there:
  • Happiness declines the longer people stay with an organization.
  • A similar pattern emerges in relation to the number of years people have spent in their current roles.
  • 85 per cent of senior managers and those at board level are happy, making them the happiest employee group. (Since they’re the richest, most powerful, and benefit most from up-ticks in stock values, that’s hardly surprising.)
  • People who work part-time are happier than those working full-time. This suggests that those who work part-time feel happier due to a healthy work-life balance and perhaps since their work plays a less significant role in their lives they require less to be happy.
  • Women feel more job satisfaction than men.
  • Those aged 55+ are the happiest employees. [And nearest the end of their working “sentence?”]
[link] [via]

“Talkin 'bout 4 generations”

Are there really major differences between current generations? This article suggest that the oldest current generation was brought up on strong ideas about duty and public service, the baby boomers were raised ambitious and hard-working, Generation X has more interest in work/life balance, and young people of Generation Y “. . . have come of age in a largely prosperous society and who, let’s face it, are easily seen as overconfident,somewhat entitled and unrealistic in their expectations of the workplace.” I’m not at all sure such stereotyping is either useful or valid, myself, but you can make up your own mind. What’s more interesting is that these are all expressions of distinct value-sets, and values pretty much define how people react to events, people, and expectations. [link]

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Saturday, June 02, 2020

News and Views: June 2nd 2007

The end of the 40-hour week?

According to a Gartner research report released on May 30th, by 2015, people will be working a whole lot less hours each week. Gartner argues that: “ . . . three of the four traditional pillars of work—the living wage, long-term relationships with loyal employers, and government- or company-provided pensions—have already gone the way of the dinosaurs, leaving only the 40-hour workweek.” Wonderful news, if it turns out to be true, but I’ve seen predictions like this in the past. None of them proved accurate. Ah well, we can still hope. [link]

But maybe it will happen . . .

According to Penelope Trunk: “. . . a great generational shift taking place in America since Generation X became adults. The shift is in the definition of the American Dream. Our dream is about time, not money. No generation wants to live with financial instability. And we are no exception. But finances alone do not define someone’s American Dream. Especially when our dream is about how we spend our time.” [link]

Try a “Travel Sabbatical”

That’s the suggestion of Tara Russel, writing in Bay Area Business Woman. “In an age when we are hearing more and more about work /life balance, it seems increasingly difficult to truly ‘unplug.’ Nonetheless, many people today are doing just that. Eschewing their daily routine and stepping out to travel for months or even years at a time, busy professionals are rediscovering life on their own terms and you can, too.” She offers five tips for planning your next travel sabbatical. I think it sounds like a great idea. And if you can’t (yet) get away, how about using her tips right in your home area? You can still learn to know and reframe yourself, without ever leaving your home. [link] (Suggested reading: “Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going.”)

Good news for BlackBerry owners

It seems that all our latest electronic wizardry isn’t increasing workaholic tendencies. Statistics Canada, in a study, entitled Time Escapes Me: Workaholics and Time Perception, “. . . found 31 per cent of Canadian workers aged 19 to 64 identified themselves as workaholics in 2005. That was unchanged from 15 years ago, despite the proliferation of cellphones, BlackBerrys and home computers that keep people connected. “ This isn’t so surprising. Workaholism, like all addictions, is a human sickness. Drug addicts make use of the latest drugs. Workaholics use the latest ways of continuing the “work fix,” whether they are electronic or not. [link] (Suggested reading: “The Overwork Trap: How We Get Caught and How We Escape.”)

Gender differences on work/life balance

According to Cindy Krischer Goodman, who writes “The Balancing Act” column for The Miami Herald: “A 2007 DayTimers Life Satisfaction survey reveals men and women have different measures for living a satisfied life.
More women have a clear purpose and sense of meaning in their lives. They tend to find satisfaction doing things that help others and they tend to be more organized, prioritizing weekly goals. More men get satisfaction from personal success. More men also feel they have succeeded more than most people.” Hmmm. Sounds a little too stereotypical to me. [link]

What relaxation type are you?

Here’s an idea: fitting your chosen approach to relaxation to your personality. Are you vision, sound, or body-oriented when it comes to relaxing? I think sound does it best for me.[link] [via] Or perhaps power napping will improve your performance? It seems that: “. . . taking the recommended nap time of 20 to 30 minutes during the day. . . is far more effective than sleeping an extra 20 to 30 minutes in the morning. ”

The need for resolution

Steve Roesler writes that: “. . . we literally terrorize ourselves when we pile on mental burdens that need to be released. Managers add stress to their lives by postponing important conversations and letting them build up until their heads start to feel like a balloon waiting to burst.” I’m sure that’s true. His solution is proper feedback. Why? “Trust comes from a series of interactions where people have made agreements, talked about how things were going, and then lived up to what they said they would do.” [link]

Venting or ranting?

Management Issues reports on: “. . ., a site that claims to be the place to ‘rant away all your work related stress.’” It seems that lots of young, Generation-Y types go there and rant (with extremely colorful language) about their bosses. “Most ranters, of course, are complaining about micro-managing supervisors. And most posters are rather young. So Generation Y seems particularly upset with the way managers do their managing.” On one visit, I found rants against bosses who hate women (or homophobes who hate gays), one with disgusting personal habits (and I mean disgusting), someone who talks too much about supposedly-ideal husband, and more incompetent bosses than I ever imagined existed. I’m tempted to say it’s all good, clean fun, but it isn’t at all clean. [link] (Suggested reading: “When You Work for a Bully: Assessing Your Options and Taking Action.”)

Dealing with interruptions

Lorie Marrero writes at on the “Top Ten Sources of Interruptions,” with ideas on how to deal with each of them. Here are two of my favorites: “5. E-mail
Turn off the “new e-mail has arrived” notification sounds and pop-up windows. . . Force yourself to stop pressing the Send/Receive button all day long as if you were a lab rat about to get a treat!” and “10. Saying YES when you should say NO
If someone asks you for help, stop and consider the request carefully before answering. Use the very effective phrase “not available” when declining a request. People tend to not question this phrase and instead will go on to the next choice.“ [link]

When to leave a job that sucks

Here's an interesting set of suggestions on when it's right to call it a day and walk. Troy Hadley offers “ 10 important signs that your job sucks.” he also offers a “health warning” first: “Some of my advice here involves big ideas . . . that should not be undertaken lightly. Research tactics first before acting.” Here's one that appealed to me: “Ask yourself if you are putting energy into the right areas. Are you spending all of your time arranging meetings and conference calls and not able to put your all into the actual work? Unless you are a project manager, arranging people-to-people face time can take up lot precious work time. Can someone else handle that for you? If your company can't provide reasonable support, you might want to look for one that can.” [link] There's also the opposite point of view at: “10 important signs your job might be worth staying at.” [via]

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Saturday, May 26, 2020

News and Views: May 26th 2007

On being yourself, not a cheap imitation of anyone else

Herman Najoli has a series of articles on being yourself, prompted by watching his son as he grows up and explores the world. There’s too much imitation going on, especially in the workplace. Being yourself isn’t always comfortable, but it’s always authentic, and usually the best course of action too. [link] [link] [link]

Do you fancy a five-day weekend?

If so, here’s a site where you can join in the movement to petition the US Congress on the subject. Sounds like a good idea to me! Why are they trying to change the law? “Because overwork has become a major problem for Americans, and it’s getting worse by the year. The two-day weekend was created in 1930, and despite decades of unparalleled technology growth, our people are actually working more and more each year.” [link] [via]

Thoughts on work/life balance from Ellen Galinsky

Ellen Galinsky, founder and president of the Families and Work Institute, gave an interview to the Washington Post. Here are some selected snippets: “We have found that the most people who do best at managing work and family life are what we call dual-centric. They don’t put work first all of the time, but they prioritize their work and their family lives. . . . In the long run . . . having a rewarding life at home is good for work life and having a rewarding life at work is good for home life.” “Change is hard and in the industrial age, productivity and commitment were seen as ‘face time.’ So you need to replace that measurement in your manager’s mind with another way to assess your performance. Then if you deliver, you will hopefully have a convert.” [link] [via]

Need a break?

Vacation time is almost upon us, But if you think that a vacation is going to cure all your stress problems at work, think again. It seems that many people return from vacation just as stressed—or even more so—than they were when they went away. That’s the conclusion of a survey of more than 2,000 workers. “A quarter of managers admit they return from vacation more stressed than when they left, with a third having spent at least part of their break checking in with the office—often every day.” When are organizations going to realize that people need a complete break from work to recharge their batteries? [link]

“Mobile snacking”

This, it seems, is the latest trend—at least in Canada: people using their cellphones and BlackBerrys as entertainment. A recent survey found that, from a sample of “tech-savvy 30-to-50-somethings,” 73 per cent admitted emailing on a mobile device as a form of entertainment, 44 per cent reported using mobile technology for text messaging and listening to MP3s, 33 per cent reported using mobile technology for listening to the radio, and 19 per cent use mobile technology to watch videos. Maybe all that time in the office is actually spent doing something other than work. [link]

Good? Or just consistent?

Andy Haselman suggest that we should not make the mistake of assuming consistency always equals good. “A consistently great experience is not the same as a consistent experience,” he writes. “As far as many businesses are concerned, their attitude towards customers is all about consistency. Consistent mediocrity, that is. The only way to break this habit is to break the rules.” Laced with amusing examples, this is an article all managers and supervisors should read— especially those who have anything to do with customer service. [link]

Type A or Type B?

It’s long been believed by many people that some people (Type A) have a natural tendency to overexert themselves, while the more laid-back Type Bs cope better with stress and pressure. Which are you? Jonathan Farrington posted an article that might help explain and indicate why being a Type A person or organization can be a problem. His description of Type As sounded to me exactly like Hamburger Management. [link]

Are good times just around the corner?

Alexander Kjerulf shared a really funny cartoon on his site— a cartoon that says far more about the stupidity of engaging in the rat race the most of the articles that I’ve read on the subject. As he writes: “Does anyone honestly think that making more money, consuming more stuff, driving a bigger car or bagging that fancy title will make them happier?’ [link]

Sometimes realization comes hard

Here’s a quote that just about sums up the whole need for more civilized working styles: “After sitting in a meeting and being told that 60+ hours a week was a reasonable amount of time to give to the company and there was absolutely no need to work on the work/life balance and then the next day pulling my 4 year old into daycare at 5:30 am with him kicking, screaming and pleading with me to stay home I realized that management was either smoking some heavy drugs or I was for agreeing to sacrifice the entire reason I took the job in the first place.’ What did she do? She quit. A brave (and very rational) lady. [link]

Emotions, not smoke, get in your eyes.

Cali, at Work+Life Fit, quotes one manager saying this about requests from his subordinates for understanding of their need for family time: “I look at these young parents who want to work from home periodically, or leave early and then work later after their kids go to bed, and I am jealous. I think of all the times I had to work late getting a project done in the office, and what I missed because of it. It’s not that they can’t effectively work from home or shift their hours, it’s just that I wish I could have done it. So I do find myself resentful and resistant.” Full marks for honesty! I wonder how many other managers turn down reasonable requests for the same reason? As Cali writes: “Until we all start being honest about the outdated ‘because I did it that way,’ beliefs that keep us from innovatively rethinking work, real change will be limited.” [link]

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Saturday, May 19, 2020

News and Views: May 18th 2007

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Here’s an interesting article with ideas to help you get out of situations in which you feel overwhelmed. As the author writes: “We often deny we are overwhelmed because we do not know how to stop the frenetic behavior that leads to this feeling. So we do nothing.” [link]

In Pictures: Ten Ways To Recharge At Work

If you prefer messages in visual format, rather than words alone, check this out from This will strike home with many people: “From there take an annual career physical. Ask yourself: Am I get paid enough? Does my work challenge me? Am I learning and contributing? If most of the answers aren’t yes, it might be time to look for a new job. . . . Looking for a new position might be just what you need.” [link]

Life laundry

It seems that a head teacher at a school in Great Britain is doing the laundry for her staff as a way of helping them cope better with the stresses of work. Another offers car washing and valeting services at bargain rates, and has done a deal with a local car mechanic to carry out vehicle servicing, picking up cars from school and returning them at the end of the day. What next? CEOs acting as baby-sitters? Top executives doing your weekly trip to the supermarket? The CFO handling the school run? nice idea, but somehow I can’t see this catching on in most organizations. [link]

9 Quick Tips for Managing Overwhelm

These come from Molly Gordon. I like this one: “2. Putter. Puttering orients you in time and space of your life while making mental room for you to notice what really wants to be top priority. Tip: Set a time limit on puttering if you are worried that you will lose the entire working day to it.” And this: “. Be real. However linear or spontaneous, ground your choices in your real life and work experience. It doesn’t make sense to simply ignore a deadline or to pretend that a complex piece of work can be done in 10 minutes..” [link]

The Greatest Productivity Tip in the World?

That’s what the author claims. I’ll leave you to judge, but this article certainly contains plenty of interesting ideas. Plus it’s almost worth it for the picture of Gloucester Cathedral in the header alone (Gloucester is in the West of England, by the way, less than 30 miles from where I was born). [link]

French workers biggest whingers: study

I found this picked up (gleefully!) in many parts of the world. This is from Australia. But before I get too smug, I also noted that Britons come second in in the moaning stakes, followed by Sweden, the United States and Australia. It seems that Dutch workers are the happiest, followed by their Thai and Irish counterparts. [link]

Do you terrorize yourself?

How about this from Steve Roesler: “Please think on this: In order to induce terror, you never have to commit the act. It is the unresolved possibility of terror that keeps one--or the world--in a state of fear and stress.” And this: “If you’re a manager, you have thoughts about people’s performance that you are carrying around. And they are building up. Your employees don’t know how they’re doing. And the first thing we humans do in the absence of truthful information is fantasize about it--negatively. Do something now. Feel the relief that follows.” [link]

The value of praise

I’ve always felt that praise is grossly underestimated as a source of motivation and good feelings in the workplace. Many managers act as if being seen praising anyone is worse than being found in the stationery cupboard having a meaningful sexual relationship with a laptop. So I was interested by this article from the Chief Happiness Officer. [link]. This one, called “Choose happiness at work,” is even better. [link]

The nine biggest myths of the workplace

Here’s the wonderful Penelope Trunk writing for Guy Kawasaki. I think my favorite is: “Work hard and good things will come.” Or perhaps: “Do good work, and you’ll do fine.” And how about: “Authenticity is a tool for changing the world by doing good.” [link]

Curing e-mail addiction

Yesterday’s posting here was about distractions, especially e-mail and IMs. That’s probably why this article from appealed to me so much. E-mail can easily become addictive, just like IMs and cellphones. As the article states at the start: “The biggest obstacle to productivity is connectivity. Too many of us have become addicted to email, to our feed readers, to Twitter and IM, to forums, to social sites like MySpace and YouTube and Digg. It’s an addiction, and as yet, no good cure for it has been found.” [link]

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Saturday, May 12, 2020

News and Views: May 12th 2007

Connecting your values

Do the values that you follow in the workplace and the ones that you use in the rest of your life match up—or even connect? It seems that for 65 percent of Canadians the answer is a resounding “no.” Does that mean that they “turn off” everything that’s most important to them when they go in to work? Or that they willingly compromise their own values in the work situation in return for the money they earn? Either way, it’s a worrying statistic. [link]

Canadian common sense

Canadian columnist P.J. Harston says it’s not just wages that keep businesses competitive and productive. Recent surveys show companies that help employees keep a work-life balance, companies that offer perks, and those that help employees learn new skills while on the job are more likely to retain the best, most productive workers. Seems like common sense. [link]

Eating your way to work/life balance?

Here’s an interesting idea. It seems that Italian workers separate work from the rest of their lives through food. At least, that’s one blog writer’s take on the topic. See if you agree. [link]

The dangerous myth of the dream job

Here’s an interesting contrarian view from Timothy Ferriss. He suggests that converting your passions into your work is the fastest way to kill those passions. He also thinks that we shouldn’t expect too much from our jobs. An interesting point of view, and one that goes against much of the received wisdom from the self-development gurus. [link]

National Clearinghouse on Academic Worklife

if you work in the academic world, you should probably be aware of this new web site. It claims to provide resources to help you understand more about all aspects of modern academic work and related career issues, including tenure-track and non-tenure-track appointments, benefits, climate and satisfaction, work/life balance, and policy development. [link]

Five ways to make career change easier

Are you thinking of changing your career? Before you take the plunge, try reading Penelope trunk’s recent column on Yahoo. It may save you from one or two costly mistakes. [link]

Five ways to boost your employees’ productivity

The title might be offputting, but this post contains a great deal of common sense. I particularly liked the point that most people’s productivity depends heavily on the attitude of their bosses. You don’t want a macho boss, you want a boss who cares. [link]

Negative impact of new CEOs

A study has concluded that the promotion of a CEO internally results in executive turnover of 22 per cent. When a new chief executive is selected from outside the company, turnover increases to 33 per cent. Scary stuff—or not, if you want to clear out the guys at the top and start again! [link]

Do you know what a “slash career” is?

Here’s your opportunity to find out. It seems it’s being a consultant/author, or a teacher/musician, or any other combination of roles with slash marks between them. The intention is to add greater flexibility and autonomy, and more sources of income to secure your (patchwork) paycheck . If one well dries up, you still have the other(s). It seems that The New York Times has launched a column on the topic by Marci Alboher, attorney and author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success, [link]

Learning from business

I’m always seeing articles that point to where all the problems are in combining work and business with the rest of life, so here’s an interesting variation. This article looks at lessons from business that you can apply to the rest of your life. Interesting reading! [link]

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Saturday, May 05, 2020

News and Views: May 5th 2007

More problems “Down Under”

According to the Australian Government Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission: “Despite a decade or more of economic growth and prosperity, many Australians say they are not living the lives they want. They feel pressured, stressed and constrained in the choices they can make, particularly at key points in their lives.” Europe, Australia, and Canadia are all much more aware of problems with workplace stress than the USA, where the attitude persists that business is purely about making money—and anyone who can’t cope with that better get out. It’s fine to be on your own when you are ahead of the pack; not so good to be behind everyone else, as the USA was in the debate about global warming. [link]

Britons have the blues too

According to The Guardian newspaper: “. . . fewer people can look forward to a secure old age; most will have to work longer, and harder, for their retirement. Levels of engagement and trust at work are obstinately low. Since real salary increases have been hogged by the best paid, inequality with even medium earners has grown by leaps and bounds.” Does that sound familiar? How about this: “AIM’s work on UK companies’ notorious reluctance to take up advanced management practices shows that the idea that there is something called ‘best practice’ that can be bodily transferred from one context to another is simplistic. Instead, companies need to look within themselves as much as outside to develop their own unique ‘signature’ processes. This is why Toyota remains way out in front of other car firms, despite all attempts to imitate it.” Or this: “Establishing such processes involves building human and organizational capital - patient, painstaking work. But today’s institutional context might have been designed to make such long-term organization-building impossible.” [link]

Here’s a very likely cause of more stress

According to yet another survey: “Many employees spend their careers wrestling with their conscience about how they earn their living, as managers force values on them that conflict with their own personal outlook on life.” No! You mean that employers try to force their staff to compromise their consciences to make more money? Hey, guys, listen to this . . . Seriously, no one needed a survey to understand this, but it sometimes help to see the plain facts in print. [link]

More negative survey data

A survey of retail employers by Harris Interactive on behalf of found: “When it comes to job satisfaction, more than a quarter of workers (27 percent) surveyed feel they have been overlooked for a promotion at their current job. Forty-four percent say they are unsatisfied with their pay. One-third (33 percent) are not satisfied with their work life balance, with more than half (54 percent) saying their workload is either heavy or too heavy, and 44 percent saying their workload has increased in the last six months. In terms of career advancement, 34 percent are dissatisfied with opportunities at their current position and 36 percent are dissatisfied with the training and learning opportunities.” Hardly a good situation for retaining talented staff! [link]

Signs to get out . . . fast!

I know that it’s long been said that when a corporation buys an executive jet, has fancy landscaping done on its HQ, or you see the CEO’s face on the front cover of smart business magazines, it a good sign of impending collapse. But the CEO buying a grand home? I guess it;s much the same syndrome: overweening arrogance and personal aggrandizement. It seems that finance Professors Crocker Liu of Arizona State University and David Yermack of New York University found that: “regardless of the source of finance, future company performance deteriorates when CEOs acquire extremely large or costly mansions and estates.” [link]

How Do I Convince Employers I Want to Downshift My Career?

That’s the provocative question asked by The answer? It’s going to be tough, since corporations are suspicious of motives like wanting to avoid working 18-hour days. You can read the rest here. [link]

Don’t do as I do, do as I tell you

Senior executives seem to believe that they know it all already. Well, I guess many of us suspected that, but here’s some proof that senior managers are rather unlikely to take training themselves, whatever they say bout the need others have for it. This new survey reveals that of all corporate staff levels, the most senior are the least likely to get training. [link]

Yoga anyone? has an article on the best workplace stress relievers. They have pictures too! I wasn't too keen on the snide, journalistic tone, or the seeming emphasis on the obvious (control your schedule, take regular breaks), but you might find something useful. [link]

The Power of 10 Minutes

LifeDev has a fascinating article on what you can get done in 10 minutes. As the author says: “ . . . 10 minutes… now that’s a tasty number. Not only will ten get you started, you’ll probably be finished too, if you focus. And focus is practically required with 10 minutes. It’s a small, focused amount of time.” Worth a look. [link]

Is workplace stress falling?

It is, according to a recent survey. Falling very quickly. Yet extreme versions, characterized as “desk rage,” are rising. Confused? So was I. Maybe reading the article will help sort it all out. [link]

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Saturday, April 28, 2020

News and Views: April 28th 2007

A phony war for talent?

Steve Roesler has a provocative and thoughtful piece in which he doubts the current media frenzy about a “War for Talent” and a “Generation Gap” represents very much of the reality of what is facing organizations. As he points out, organizations are, as usual, keen to locate the reason for any shortages of suitable staff “out there” somewhere. The reality, in his view, is that the problem is internal, based on defective management attitudes, too much workplace stress, pervasive anxiety pushing people to leave the corporate world, and organizational failure to address practical problems that block the flow of what talent there is. Worth thinking about. [link]

Have you paid your dues?

Penelope Trunk is typically outspoken and combative on the subject of people needing to “pay their dues” in the lower and middle reaches of an organization to reach the top after 40 years or so. She amasses a fine range of expert opinion to debunk the whole idea that buying some kind of ticket to the top by submitting to a soul-crushing grind of 80-hour weeks is anything worth aspiring to. Hard to disagree. [link]

Shut up and let me fail!

Hamburger Management treats communication as a one-way street. Your arrogant, macho boss tells you what to do and shouts at you for not doing it fast enough. You (the hapless subordinate) must keep your mouth shut and do as you are told, or suffer even more abuse. This piece does a great job of explaining why an approach such as this is about the best possible way to ensure that your project or business strategy will be a complete failure. [link]

More wise words about the war for talent

Here’s Bob Sutton laying into some of the total rubbish being spread around about how to deal with the (self-created) talent gaps that have started to make organizations take notice. His firm statement that so-called “management superstars” are grossly overrated (and overpaid) is enough by itself to make the piece worth reading. [link]

How to make more time for what matters

Do you need some sound advice on how to take back control of your attention and stop allowing it to be frittered away by a mass of pointless distraction? Whenever people tell me that they don’t have time to get their work done during normal hours, I know without asking that they are either wasting much of that time on distraction and pointless activities, or allowing it to be hijacked by meaningless and unnecessary meetings. If you follow this advice, you'll be surprised how much empty time you will find for the things that really matter. [link] [via]

Outsourcing: more hype than substance?

Most management fads and fashions turn out to be based on snake-oil. Outsourcing, it seems, is already showing unexpected drawbacks. According to new research, far from saving organizations money, IT and business processing outsourcing deals end up costing them far more than the work would have done had it been kept in-house; while as many as two thirds of large outsourcing contracts start to fall apart before the end of their contract terms. Not surprisingly, the only people to make real money out of outsourcing were the people actively pushing the idea: the consultants. [link]

The best place to look for thieves and cheats is . . . in the boardroom!

Research is backing up what I have been saying for some time: macho leaders risk losing any sense of ethics or morality. If that happens, they find it easy to abuse their positions for their own personal gain. A study by accountancy firm KPMG Forensic found that the typical company fraudster is a trusted male executive, sometimes even the chief executive, who will carry out as many as 20 acts of serious fraud over a period of up to five years or more. Makes you feel your trust in the guys at the top is justified, doesn’t it? I guess that loyalty, like communication, is one-way in the realm of Hamburger Management. [link]

Forget balance, try L-O-V-E

Here's Lisa Earle McLeod arguing that work-life balance is a fundamentally flawed concept. She wants us all to focus on “the four-letter word that is the real secret of success—L-O-V-E.” No, she's not trying to harken back to the 1960s and “flower power.” She wants us all to truly love what we do and know that we’re making a contribution that matters. If that means changing your job, do it. [link]

Working until you drop?

Since most of us are living longer, healthier, and more active lives, governments have not been slow to spot the potential for higher tax revenues and less pressure on social security if people can be persuaded to work well past normal retirement age. Mirko Bagaric thinks we should go on working for most of our lives. Not to please the government, but to maintain our psychic well-being. Read this piece to see if he convinces you. [link]

Is a work/personal life balance even possible?

Is work is creeping into your personal life? Are you missing out on family events and the support of your friends due to your work schedule? Are you trying to keep your work and non-work lives separate and in their right place? Dumb Little Man offers some practical tips. [link] [via]

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Saturday, April 21, 2020

News and Views: April 21st 2007

Weighing up Australian values

While this article is specifically about Australia (where there seems to be an extremely lively debate in progress about work/life balance and the demands modern management places on people), many of the points raised apply anywhere. I was especially interested to see this comment: “The obligation accepted by most employers to offer longer-term security in return for workers accepting the employer’s authority no longer form the basis of work contracts. Today’s emphasis on individual work contracts is based on the interest of employers as opposed to values reflecting a sense of reciprocal social responsibility.” Important stuff! It’s a great shame that America seems immune to such probing discussions of the nature of working life and the obligations it should impose on all sides. [link]

Measure your job status quotient

If you like slightly oddball questionnaires, here’s one that you can try. It claims to be able to measure your job’s impact on your wealth. It points out, quite reasonably, that your job helps dictate how you can live right now, and how you will be able to live in the future (based on what—and if—you can save any money from your current salary. Don’t treat this as any kind of scientific analysis, but it might just help you to think rather more deeply about your job in the context of your total finances. [link]

The perils of Retail Therapy

Here’s another thoughtful piece from Down Under. Do you spend lavishly to cheer yourself up after a miserable week at work? Do you “reward” yourself for those long hours and excessive stress by going on a shopping spree? Are you so busy at work that you have to pay people to handle most—maybe even all—of those routine household chores? Here’s an article that weighs in pretty heavily on: “working to afford to be able to work.” I can do no better than to quote one paragraph: “I now teach people how insidious the working to pay for working cycle is. The more hours you spend working, the more money is required to handle the non-working part of your life, which means you have to work more, and on it goes. It starts with the occasional take-away, but can quickly extend to every part of your life. You can’t afford the time to build those bookshelves, so you buy them. You jump in the car to go to the local shop instead of walking because you don’t want to waste that half-hour walking. You get depressed at your lifestyle and you compensate by buying something you don’t need and can’t really afford.” [link]

Sick of your job . . . or sick because of it?

Here’s yet another scary and depressing survey from Great Britain: “The latest 24-7 survey—a research project conducted by the Work Life Balance Center and the universities of Keele, Coventry and Wolverhampton—found that two thirds of employees have been made ill by work, with 48% of these suffering from depression, and 43% suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.” Maybe it’s the dreadful weather there. Maybe UK universities are more ready to delve into workplace problems that universities in other parts of the world. Whatever the reason, it does seem that much of the bad news about the workplace is coming from Europe at present. Is everything so sunny in the USA? Or are people here just conditioned to keep quiet? [link]

Jack Welch on work/life balance

If you want a viewpoint from probably the ultimate guru of Hamburger Management, here’s Jack Welch on work/life balance: “The problem with that word is 'balance.' The word is choices, and you make them. You in the end make choices, and you live with them. Its not a company’s job to make your choice or to make the choice easy for you. I respect all the choices you make, but no company is working to make your balance; they’re dealing with your choices. If firms can’t attract people with intrinsic value and pay packages, then they have other problems.” Hmm. I translate that as: “I don’t care about your life—never did—but I do care about making money. If you get in the way of that, ‘dealing with your choices’ is going to include firing you.” It’s a bit like asking the Pope to recommend a really hot, sexy night club. [link]

One cross Englishman

More from across the pond, this time a lengthy rant against the whole idea of people feeling that they ought to be happy. Most of the article is a book review, but I noticed this broadside against those who promote the idea of work/life balance: “Unfortunately government has caught a bad dose of ‘happy clapping’ and ministers have latched onto the idea that we should try to engineer this happiness. You see it in the work-life balance debate (read work=unhappy, life=happy). You also see it within organizations, as hapless HR people try to take control of the emotional welfare of employees. Self-appointed armies of coaches, counsellors, mentors and therapists are crawling all over organizations searching for the pathological. Everyday emotions and ordinary contention are diagnosed as illnesses and people with creepy ‘open questioning’ techniques come in to offer cures.” The author claims he wants to stir people up. I suspect he had a bad experience with someone from HR in his past. [link]

Are you being scheduled to death?

It's amazing how many people—including senior executives—accept having little or no control over their working days. Their time is almost entirely taken up with activities scheduled for them by other people. Why do they do it? Is it just bravado? THis article doesn't come up with any answers, but it surely recognizes the problem and points to some ways out of the mess. [link]

Working kills people

Hell, so does eating, drinking, having sex, and just being alive. Still, those are all more exciting and pleasant ways to do it. Here’s yet more scary research from Great Britain on this topic: “Research from the UK Work Foundation found that the main cause of the 2.6 million people on long term sickness and incapacity benefit is workplace stress, costing the tax payer billions of pounds every year. Our current command and control organizational model is literally killing people. Recent research by McKinsey & Company indicates that “half or more of a company’s spending on labor may be devoted to basic interaction activities, many of them internal to the organization”. Again corroborated by other UK Work Foundation research finding that non-productive interactions in many organizations exceed 60%.” Maybe new approaches to work can give an answer. But then again, maybe not. [link]

Be a stringent gatekeeper of your time.

Here’s a great piece by someone who has suddenly woken up to the way that we allow our time to be nibbled away by every type of unproductive and wasteful activity— especially if we spend large parts of the day in from of a computer. Here are two points I like particularly: “Stop trying to accommodate a global work schedule. Again, unless it’s really mandatory or unavoidable, I work during my work hours, not those in other parts of the world;” and “Make ‘no’ the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.” [link] [via]

Use money to buy time?

Penelope Trunk has an interesting, contrarian article about the relationship between time and money. We all know the old saw: “Time is money.” She suggests this is so only because we “buy” money with our time. As she points out: “Time is more important than money. You think that you know this, but you probably don’t act on it as much as you could. If you spend your time buying material things then you are using up the one thing that can make you happy (time) on things that definitely don’t make you happy (stuff).” All the excessive time in the workplace can indeed lead lead to an impressive salary. But time is a very finite resource. If you use most of it to get money, what will be left? Many rich people no longer have the time to enjoy their wealth, which seems to render the whole process futile. [link]

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Saturday, April 14, 2020

News and Views: April 14th 2007

Bad bosses are expensive

It seems that more employees than ever are walking out on maddening managers, at least in countries like Australia, where unemployment is low. A survey found that 82% of respondents had left a job rather than put up with a boss who acted like a jerk. Around 75% claimed that they would turn a job down, even one with higher pay, if the boss had a bad reputation. In a time when there is said to be a scarcity of talent, that’s a cost that could really do with being cut back hard. Hidden in the text is an even worse statistic: more than half of the people questioned said their manger did not always keep their word or provide leadership. Why do companies put up with these idiots in so-called leadership positions? Could it be that the guys at the top are no better? [link] [via]

The leader’s link to creativity and productivity

I usually enjoy what Dan Bobinski writes for Management Issues. This article is no exception. It includes this great quote from Dr. William Glasser: “Bossed workers tend to pay no attention to their creativity because they know it is not wanted; no one will listen to them anyway. Stifling creativity (which is easily stifled—a derisive look may do it forever) may be the worst effect of bosses.” it’s all too easy to blame employees for lacking creativity, but the truth is that far too many senior managers are not nearly as good at engaging the creativity and interest of their employees as they think that they are. [link]

Who benefits?

Wall Street never loses its appetite for corporate mergers, the bigger the better. Why would it? The banks and various advisers make megabucks on every one. Top managers also seem to love mergers and acquisitions, mostly because gobbling up other organizations boosts their egos. So who loses out? Shareholders, it seems, in a big way. And employees, naturally, since most mergers bring huge job losses. Oh . . . and the customers, since, according to this survey, more than 90% of mergers and acquisitions don’t work as planned—or at all. You can argue over the reasons, but the truth seems to lie in the old adage about never giving a sucker an even break. So long as management egotism abounds, others will see it as a license to print money. [link]

A rose-tinted view of innovation

Yet more evidence of smugness and complacency at the top. While senior-level executives are more likely to be satisfied with their organization’s innovation in products and technology, their professional technocrats, such as engineers and programmers, are the least satisfied. Nearly three quarters of senior-level executives say they are satisfied, yet just six out of 10 professional employees feel the same way, rising to seven out of 10 mid-level managers. The higher you go, the smugger you get. [link]

Can’t get no respect no mo’

Bosses are also human, of course (yes, they really are), and some in Great Britain have been talking to The Guardian about disrespectful staff, disloyalty, and all the whining that goes on. It seems that the peons are revolting in more ways than one—ten, to be precise. See the workplace from the point of view of a poor, misunderstood executive. Great fun! [link]

Nine things a leader needs to do to build and maintain trust

Kent Blumberg offers nine great ideas on how to create more trust—an essential element in a civilized workplace, and one that is all too often the victim of mindless Hamburger Management. Here are two essential points from the list: “1. Always tell the truth. If you can’t answer a question, explain why. The smallest lie kills trust.” and “5. The more micromanagement and rules, the lower the level of trust. Rules imply lack of trust. Micromanagement implies the same.” [link]

Baby Boomers in the driving seat

As a Baby Boomer myself, this article interested me. It seems that, in Great Britain at least, the over-50 population now command approximately 80% of the total wealth. It also claims that: “people aged between 52 and 60, have achieved a form of perfect work/life balance that Generation X—people in their 20s, 30s and 40s—strive for but may never afford.” I didn’t know I was so fortunate. “Perfect” work/life balance, eh? Seems what they really mean is that we oldies have saved and got pensions and now have money to burn. Ummm . . . not sure about that last bit. [link]

12 Tips for Creating Lasting Change in Your Life

Here’s an interesting list, compiled by M.J. Ryan. I like: “Make it Non-negotiable” and “Come Up with Solutions for Your Usual Excuses.” Here’s the best: “We’re doing the best we can. We will mess up or forget. When we do, our task is to hold ourselves in love. You and I are human beings dealing with the challenges of growth. When we treat ourselves with kindness, we don’t collapse into shame or guilt, but can try again with greater wisdom for having faltered.” [link]

“Desk Rage?”

We all know about Road Rage. Now here’s an odd little piece about the perils of “Desk Rage.” Well, maybe not so odd when you recall the cases, some very recent, where disgruntled employees have gone into their place of work, armed with a gun, and killed fellow workers. It appears that: “22% of American workers report having been driven to tears as a result of workplace stress; and 9% . . . report that physical violence has occurred at their workplace due to stress.” Scary stuff! [link]

Lack of Control of Work Hours Leads to Burnout

Doctors, we know, often work terrible hours and face stresses the rest of us fortunately never have to deal with. So this is an interesting report, since it claims to show that it isn’t the hours, or the pressures themselves, that cause burnout, but the sense of having no control. In general, the analysis of the results revealed that female and male physicians are highly satisfied with their careers, but: “The strongest predictors of whether physicians will experience burnout and career dissatisfaction are how much control they have over their schedules and over the total number of hours worked in a week.” That seems to me to be true in other professions too. Lacking control over your own work schedule and the number of hours of work that you do each week is such a basic human need that being deprived of it must undermine your whole sense of being in charge of your life. If you feel that you’re on a treadmill that you can neither slow down nor stop, burnout is just around the corner. [link]

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Saturday, April 07, 2020

News and Views: April 7th 2007

Numbers, Schnumbers!

I’ve written before about the futility of relying solely on numerical measurements as the basis for management. Now confirmation of this viewpoint comes from a study by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu that states: “Top executives too often have tunnel vision when it comes to gauging the health and performance of their organizations, becoming obsessed with crunching the numbers while overlooking critical non-financial information.” Since Deloitte’s are accountants, this is quite an admission! It seems 90% of top executives thought that their information about the financial health of their organization was good; but less than a third said the same about all the other indicators of business health: customer satisfaction, innovation, competitiveness, and employee commitment. Another case of “never mind the quality, feel the width?” [link]

To sleep, perchance to dream . . . about the office?

A survey of New Zealand and Australian workers has found that job stress is affecting people’s dreams.The online survey of 770 workers, carried out by a Melbourne-based legal and accounting firm MSI, found 70 percent of respondents think about work while they sleep. The survey’s researchers think this is a sign of stress. I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to find a way of making people actually work while asleep? [link]

Maybe Mom doesn’t know best.

Here’s a statement by a mother from Palo Alto, CA, almost the cradle of high technology: “It is our responsibility to talk to our nieces, daughters, younger sisters about the path they are choosing at a young age and how it might affect their ability to balance work and life at a later stage.” The writer of the blog that quoted this adds her own take: “I work in technology, and not a week goes by that I don’t wish someone had talked to me about choosing a career that would allow me a satisfying work/life balance. Okay, I admit that in my late-teen years and early twenties, a discussion about how I should think about studying something that would allow me to come home make dinner every night for my husband and children would have fallen on deaf ears! But...god, if someone had at least clued me into the fact that certain professions are more amenable to having some balance/peace of could have been really enlightening!” Read the comment from a Program Manager who cut her working hours from 60+ to 40, just by cutting out wasted time. Full marks for honesty and good sense! [link]

The opposite point of view.

It’s good to look at ideas from people who think the whole work/life balance thing is a confidence trick or a piece of trendy nonsense. For example, “Life at the Bar“ boldly states that work/life balance is nonsense. Despite the provocative title, the text itself is far more measured, focusing on the need for each individual to construct a balance between work and the rest of life that fits their needs: “Look for a way to have a satisfying career and a satisfying personal life, but don’t expect it to be an easy or static path, and don’t expect what works for one lawyer to work for another.” In a post with the fascinating title “Hot Worms and Workaholics: Let the Workers Be!” the writer attacks the “health terrorists” whose “ pathogenic view causes us not to see a healthy forest because we are too busy looking for diseased trees.” I wasn't convinced, but I enjoyed the argument. [link]

CEO . . . with or without kids?

Penelope Trunk is challenging the prevailing “you can have it all” idea again with this post. She begins: “Climbing to the top of corporate America requires near complete abnegation of one’s personal life, not in a sacrificial way, but in a child-like way. In most cases, when there are children, there is a wife at home taking care of the executive’s life in the same way she takes care of the children’s lives.This is not a judgment on whether people should have kids. It’s fine to choose not to have kids. This is a judgment on whether people with kids should be CEOs of large companies.” I certainly find myself nodding in agreement when she says: “People who create careers that allow them to assume large levels of authority in their personal life are living as responsible adults. People who concentrate on work and delegate maintenance of all other aspects of their personal life are not truly living as adults.’ Take a look at her arguments. [link]

Low-value bureaucrats?

Vince Thompson has a new manifesto on ChangeThis. He says: “. . . more than half of the managers leading teams today are ready to walk out the door—leaving their teams, their companies, and for some, if necessary, their homes and communities, behind in hopes of making a fresh start elsewhere. This came as shocking news to some business leaders. But many managers had seen it building for years—years in which managers in The Middle have been displaced by technology, de-positioned by consultants, handcuffed by red tape, distracted by mergers, spoofed in the media and denigrated as low-value bureaucrats.” Heady stuff! Whether or not you agree with his solutions, it makes interesting reading. [link]

Is this normal?

Here’s John Blackwell, questioning whether organizations have woken up yet to the changing nature of work: “No one goes to work for the good of their health. However, in the 21st century should we really be accepting that our work has demonstrably harmful effects on our wellbeing? Far too many employers assume that stressful working conditions are a necessary evil if they are to remain productive and profitable. Yet there’s now unanimous acknowledgment of the direct interaction between sustainable employee health and the construct of the workplace.” Not an easy read—too many different ideas packed into a single article—but worth a look. [link]

The American jerk epidemic.

Bob Sutton’s articles are always worth reading and this one is no exception. He points out that:” A study of American workers released today found that nearly half have worked for an abusive boss. “ Since Hamburger Management encourages mindless, macho behavior— and has become the management style of choice for many organizations—I’m not at all surprised. Is the only way to stem this epidemic of uncivilized, self-destructive behavior to let loose the lawyers? Maybe. But I still retain some vestiges of hope that sanity will prevail first. [link]

Testosterone poisoning?

On the same site, Bob has another post noting that what he mentioned as a kind of joke in his book—the idea that bad behavior is due to testosterone poisoning—turns out to be true. It seems that people with high levels of testosterone actually enjoy angry expressions and seek ways to provoke them. [link]

Trust you, boss? I’d rather trust this rattlesnake.

Trust is another element of a civilized working environment that seems to be in increasingly short supply. According to research by consultancy Watson Wyatt in Canada, workers, whatever their age, have a lot in common when it comes to attitudes to those in charge: “Fewer than half of workers—whatever their age—trust their organization’s leaders, with a nearly six out of 10 believing that bosses rarely respond to questions with a straight answer.” The same study found a clear link between employee engagement and a company’s financial performance, with those companies with high employee engagement levels demonstrating better total annual returns to shareholders, higher market premiums, and higher productivity levels than those with low engagement. Make sense to you? Makes sense to me. [link]

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Saturday, March 31, 2020

News and Views: March 31st 2007

Ways to rejuvenate during your workday

Here are many different suggestions on how to refresh yourself during your work day, courtesy of The Ledger in Florida. As a birder, I especially like this one: put work out of your mind by listening to a tape of bird sounds. But the suggestions include breathing exercises, going to the gym, or just taking a walk. There’s also good advice that you should watch for any early signs of mounting stress—headaches, short tempers, trouble sleeping, and low morale—and act before it gets worse. [link]

Tips for coping with stress at the office

Here are some more tips for coping with the kind of office environment that feels more like an extreme assault course of a survival exercise. The part on limiting distractions is something that anyone can do— but, oddly, many resist. I suggested similar ideas to a stressed person only today and got a decidedly luke-warm response. I wonder why? Maybe I touched on the fear that underlies people’s obsession with responding to every call or e-mail: the fear that if they don’t, they’ll be either left out, or miss something important. Rational? I don’t think so. [link]

New generation, new ideas

Newsweek joined in the discussion about whether our current concerns with stress and overwork are due more ot the peculiar attitudes and habits of the Baby Boomer generation than anything inherent in work and the workplace. Looking at small, family-owned businesses, they claimed survey results show that:
Unlike previous generations, for Gen Y work-life balance isn’t just something to strive for—it’s a given. In a Universum survey of 37,000 recent college grads, 59% pegged balancing their personal and professional lives as their top career goal.
Then, perhaps conscious that this could be taken for a claim that young people are somehow lazy or feckless, they add: “. . . an interest in work-life balance doesn’t mean Gen Y’ers are resistant to working long hours—they just want to work differently.” It seems that meaningful work matters most. Interesting. [link]

Maybe you can’t have balance without boundaries

David Brewster thinks so, and he makes a persuasive case. Check it out. I especially warm to the idea that you need to establish boundaries around your expectations. I’m sure that over-active ambition leads to a great deal of frustration, when expectations rise to the point where they become impossible to match—especially when the boss has the expectations, and the staff are the ones who have to try to match them. [link]

Stephen Covey on work/life balance

In the pages of Forbes, Stephen Covey has weighed in on the work/lie balance debate. He has a slightly different perspective, summarized as a concern that people rarely have very clear objectives about what they want, so finding a balance with other things becomes almost impossible. But he doesn’t confine his strictures to individuals. Here’s what he has to say about organizations:
. . . there is another profoundly pervasive cause for work-life imbalance. It is to be found in the painful and surprisingly ineffective way most organizations work. In no way is this pain more clearly or practically manifest than their inability to focus and execute on their highest priorities.
I think he’s right on that one. Covey adds:
Despite all our gains in technology, product innovation and world markets, most people are not thriving in the organizations they work for. They are neither fulfilled nor excited. They are frustrated. They are not clear about where the organization is headed or what its highest priorities are. They are bogged down and distracted. Most of all, they don’t feel they can change much. Can you imagine the personal and organizational cost of failing to fully engage the passion, talent and intelligence of the workforce? Can you imagine the waste of time, energy and resources?
I very much agree. [link]

When less means more

The Courier-Mail in Australia says bluntly that:
Working less is not only good for you. It can help save the environment and the push is on to slow us down.
Or, at least, that is what the paper reports that Professor Tim Robinson from the Queensland University of Technology’s School of Economics says. He claims that working fewer hours not only improves quality of life, it reduces environmental damage.
The more we work, the more we contribute to traffic congestion, energy consumption in terms of electricity and air conditioning and deforestation from the amount of paper used.
I hadn’t ever thought of Slow Leadership as an environmental movement, but the professor makes a persuasive case. Reader comments are interesting here. Not surprisingly, some people think that it’s easy for a professor to suggest working less, since he earns far more than they do. It’s that old economic trap again—do you prefer (or need) a better quality of life or more money? [link]


Here’s an interesting perspective on work/life balance, stated by a recent graduate interview by the Chicago Tribune:
Work-life balance is very difficult to achieve in shorter time frames. I think of it instead as constant prioritization. If you prioritize correctly you will have balance over time.
Maybe part of the frustration some people have with not getting the right work/life balance is caused by that constant bugbear of American culture: wanting it all and wanting it now. The curse of instant gratification may apply to work/life balance too. [link]

Laugh and the work world laughs with you

That’s the title of a posting on The Canadian’s blog. The writer, Craig Harrison, is a professional speaker and trainer, and offers a number of ways to bring humor and fun into the workplace, claiming that it can increase productivity, encourage creativity, enhance team building, and improve esprit de corps. See what you think. [link]

Maybe it’s all a matter of perspective

That’s the idea of Will Herman, who claims that:
. . . most statements like these [about work/life balance requirements] are vast oversimplifications of the situation. There is no one formula for balancing work and life - each person has their own and, like most things in life, it’s dynamic. Therein lies the challenge. You have to figure out what is best for you at any given time and try to make it work.
In a follow-up posting, he tells his own story. Worth a look. [link] [via]

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Saturday, March 24, 2020

News and Views: March 24th 2007

One stress: many cures . . .

It seems that everyone has an idea about causes for stress. According to The Canadian, it’s laughter. The British Psychological Society reports on the benefits of a stable relationship. But the Belfast Telegraph of Northern Ireland wins the prize with no less than 10 ways to beat stress. Take your pick. [link]

Benchmarking stress . . .

It’s all very well knowing that stress exists in the workplace, but how can you tell if it’s a problem where you work? Here are 10 helpful indicators. The author says: “Corporate leaders and managers sometimes erroneously manage stressed people by using increased demands and closer supervision. Instead, you should use stress-reducing techniques to manage the stressors.” Sound advice. [link]

How about a change . . ?

Enough about stress. What about changing things first. Not so easy, according to Management Issues, though it does offer you a series of fairly conventional ideas on how to bring change about. But what about “The cosmic egg of change” as an idea? According to Max McKeown, “change management models, frameworks, four steps, seven steps, and so on, don’t tend to worry about what happened before. They start as though everything just ‘was’.” He points out how convenient this is as a way of suggesting that all the problems came from nowhere, so today’s managers can’t be blamed for any of them. All they have to do is instigate change to be absolved from all responsibility for the mess that they are changing. Neat! [link]

Spartan training—literally . . ?

Wayne Turmel has a great piece about the new blockbuster movie “300”, about how 300 Spartans held out against impossible odds. It seems some macho managers are already seeing this as justification for their “tough guy” style. They ought to know better than take any Hollywood movie as remotely close to historical truth. As Wayne correctly points out, the Spartans were a group of people whom you wouldn’t want to join. Their militaristic culture made even Nazi Germany look liberal. They had totally enslaved the original population of their land and so lived in constant terror of a revolt. Their response to this was the ultimate in siege mentalities, coupled with constant, brutal suppression of their slaves. Their leaders were, I guess, the products of such a system: egotistical, ultra-macho thugs who had been born to the idea that they must never show any weakness or human feeling, and only death in battle was a suitable end. Umm? Did I say it wasn’t a film about modern management? Perhaps I was wrong after all. [link]

Those Brits are obsessed with sex . . .

It seems that British HR professionals have found a new way to grab people’s attention and get them excited (sorry!) about the problems of stress. They are pointing out that workplace stress can ruin your sex life. According to Personnel Today, “There is a growing body of evidence that workplace stress affects sexual health, which in turn makes employees even more stressed and unproductive. The problem is at its height in the US, where doctors report that a failure to switch off from work is putting pressure on patients’ sexual relationships. One female patient asked her doctor if it was normal for her husband to put his Blackberry on the pillow while they made love.” I won’t steal the writer’s thunder any further. You’ll have to read it for yourself. [link]

What is Generation X anyway . . ?

It’s always amusing when the media strike up a bandwagon, then others wade in to claim it’s nothing but hot air. Start with this piece, claiming a “revolution” in workplace attitudes from the so-called “Generation X.” Then try the rejoinder. [link] As a "Baby Boomer," I can say that I don't believe in generational stereotypes anyway. How are they different from gender, race, or any other kind of stereotyping?

Men, it seems, are making heroic gains in the battle for balance. How did I miss that . . ?

According to this writer, research finds that men are making headway in the herculean struggle to balance work and family. He rather spoils the effect of this amazing statement by then claiming that: “we’re also feeling more harried.” Seems he wants it both ways. And I guess he has something of a gender bias when he points out that: “Women get all the sympathy for being sandwiched between nuclear family and aging parents, but a third of the 93 million Americans who take care of two, three, or more other people are guys.” So what? Stress is stress, regardless of whether the person stressed is male or female. I’m afraid I don’t buy the “let’s all feel sorry for guys” message. [link]

They would say that, wouldn’t they . . ?

According to research sponsored by a teleconferencing company: “British managers waste £17 billion a year on unnecessary face-to-face meetings and lose the equivalent of 23 working days a year traveling to and from business appointments.” Hmmm. I agree that many of meetings are unnecessary, most are a waste of time, and such benefit as they do provide could almost always have been gained another way. But isn’t teleconferencing just a way of having a meeting via the ether? You’re still stuck in a room, listening to windbags polishing their egos. Only now you have to stare at a TV or computer screen, instead of being able to see the idiot who’s talking live. Teleconferencing may save some travel, but it’s the meetings that are the problem, not how you get to them. [link]

Yet another entry in the category of “surveys that produce the most obvious findings . . . ”

How's this? "It isn't inadequate processes, strategy or technology that lead so many organizational change programs to run into the sand. The main reasons for failed change are all about people." Wow! [link]

Mini stress busters . . .

I started with workplace stress, so I'll end with it too. How about "Ways to rejuvenate during your workday" as an idea. You could take a hike, go to the gym, do some breathing exercises, or listen to bird songs. If any of these appeal, this is the place to find out more. [link]

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Saturday, March 17, 2020

News and Views: March 17th 2007

Some pointed humor

If you haven’t already discovered the comic strip CEO Dad, you might like to take a look. Nothing earth-shattering, but some amusing digs at the kind of person whose work/life balance is perfectly consistent—everything is work. One of my favorites is where his wife complains he’s always missing family vacations, he says he thought the last one he joined in was great . . . and she says that teleconferencing doesn’t count! [link]

Fractional work?

Now that most people have finally worked out that multi-tasking is a bad idea—as well as being a gigantic hoax on those who were ill-advised enough to depend on it —there’s another panacea for all the problems of overwork: so-called “fractional work.“ As usual with such fashions, the idea comes draped in all kinds of jargon. What it really means is organizations “hiring” people for extremely short periods— a kind of part-time working, where each part may be no more than a few hours a week for one or two weeks. Is this the answer to making employment more civilized? You be the judge. [link]

The luck of the Irish?

A very appropriate link for St. Patrick’s Day, I think. Recently, Ireland had a national work/life balance day, sponsored by the government and IBEC, a business and employer group. IBEC even admitted that “long commutes, caring responsibilities and lack of personal time can interfere with employees’ ability to perform.” During the “Dark Ages,” after the fall of the Roam Empire, the Irish are credited with saving Western civilization by providing a haven for learning and scholars, beyond the reach of the barbarian hoards sweeping the rest of Europe. Perhaps they’re going to do it again. I certainly cannot imagine an employer and government sponsored push for better work/life balance here in the USA. [link]

Romance and the crowded calendar

Here’s an aspect of a work-only lifestyle that I hadn’t thought about: how do you find time for dating? A lady in Chicago, who estimates she sometimes works 100 hours a week, seems resigned to the fact that, even at the ripe old age of 32, she really has no time to form any kind of romantic relationship. “When I was with a man, he would literally have to make an appointment to see me,” she said. “My business comes first. I don’t mean to sound cold or cruel, but [public relations] is a demanding business,” If you want to try to feel sorry for all these ultra-successful people who have no time for love and romance, try this article from the Chicago Tribune. [link]

Smug? Self-satisfied? Exhausted?

I couldn’t quite believe parts of an article about Jane Friedman, the CEO of HarperCollins publishers, in Modern Mom. Asked about her “childcare situation,” (I think that means looking after the children), she said: “It was the best it could possibly be. I hired a professional nanny.” Asked about the toughest times, she said: “The hardest balancing act [for work and life] occurred during my very long, contentious divorce.” Divorce? Despite the perfect childcare situation? But then: “I did not let the discussion about “go to work,” “stay at home” bother me. ” And here’s some great advice for every woman trying to balance working and bringing up a family: “But forget about sleeping. I have not slept through the night for 31 years. Also, for sure, hire a smart and kind caregiver.” Hear that? If you can’t afford a caregiver, I guess you aren’t worth talking to. [link]

Are you better off not being promoted?

According to research by HR consultancy DDI, nearly six out of 10 managers rated the challenges associated with securing a career transition as second only to dealing with divorce. Still, I couldn’t help wondering whether the people polled were really bright enough to cope with any kind of promotion. “More than three quarters of the leaders polled said understanding that the new role required a different way of thinking would have helped them to be more successful, with nine out of 10 strongly agreeing.” A new role might require a different way of thinking? Imagine that! Still, in the dog-eat-dog world of Hamburger Management, it’s hardly surprising that jealousy and envy were also major problems faced by the newly-promoted. Or that “. . . we have to re-build our notion that people are there to help. Sometimes they are there to make you fail.” [link]

Not just a gender issue?

Writing in The American Prospect, Courtney Martin focuses on the problems men face in trying to spend enough time with their children and family, as a well as hold down a demanding job. His own father, a lawyer, would, it seems” . . . would get up at 4:30 a.m., after maybe five hours of sleep, and get to work so that I could put in a full day before showing up at your game at 4 p.m.” Martin claims that men have been almost entirely absent from the public conversation about these issues. He tries to set the record straight. [link]

Our employers don’t want what we want? Amazing!

I think this falls into the category of “amazing research findings that show what everyone else has known since the dawn of time.” A poll of 1,864 managers by the UK-based Chartered Management Institute found that, while managers valued making an impact at work, enjoying what they do, and developing their colleagues, employers, it was felt, were more focused on profit margins and becoming market leaders. You mean to say some people expected a majority of today’s employers to care about anything else? [link]

For big US accountancy firms, it seems, work-life policies are window dressing

“Researchers who studied two Big Four firms and two second tier firms have found that not only are flexible working policies viewed with suspicion by management, but anybody brave enough to actually ask for alternative working arrangements is going to find that their career prospects suffer as a result.” Ah, the duplicity of accountants. “Even partners, after a beer or two, would admit that work-life balance programs are largely window dressing.” [link]

Can Slow Leadership save the planet?

According to Work Wise UK, an immediate answer to some of the problems of the environmental impact of human activity on the globe is for the world to reform the way it works. According to this group, the widespread introduction of smarter working practices will significantly reduce the need for travel, both commuting and travel for business, making a huge impact to the levels of CO2 emissions from transport sources. Wow! I never knew I was single-handedly saving the planet via this blog. Apparently, here’s how I’m doing it. [link]

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Saturday, March 10, 2020

News and Views: March 10th 2007

Mission impossible?

According to The Age, work-life balance is the big lie. Research from WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University shows that people who chose flexitime and part-time options might be at a disadvantage in the workplace. In many instances, they are seen as not pulling their weight. When men chose flexitime, their career prospects took a dive. The perception was that there was something wrong with them. Seems a daunting prospect, doesn't it? But organizations can't stay stuck in the Stone Age if enough of their people demand better treatment. [link]

12 steps to cure e-mail addiction

CNN published a 12-step plan to help emailoholics deal with their affliction. Pretty bland stuff, but it may help a few of the afflicted. What about taking more radical steps, such as forcing yourself to hold all e-mails for at least one hour, then re-reading them to see if you need to send the thing at all? [link]

(Work) Time for a nap?

Also from The Age, this blog by Leon Gettler suggests there's some evidence napping is good idea. He even quotes Winston Churchill: “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one - well, at least one and a half.” Sleep-deprivation is on the increase, so napping may be the only answer. [link]

Are you a Rabbit?

Liz Ryan, writing in Business Week, considers that people typically fall into one of three groups where their relationships with their jobs are concerned. The first group are Rabbits: they're the ones who are scared to leave. She calls the second group The second group of people Searchers: Their expectations are way out of sync with reality, whatever the job they soon get disappointed, and they're on the job hunt again. The third group are Pragmatists: people who look at their job situations realistically and likewise keep an eye open to possibilities across the street or down the block. Check the article to see which one best fits you. [link]

Blackberry Thumb, Treo Envy & ADD

Anthony Riley muses about reports that the amount of stress associated with being constantly connected is well documented. Work-life balance is severely diminished and the ability to make rational decisions, when inundated with constant communication, decreases. He thinks that the nature of information for the 21st century has also increased productivity expectations beyond what is attainable. Sadly, he doesn't come up with any answers. [link]

The ten top ways to beat stress?

The Belfast Telegraph in Northern Ireland comes up with its own answers. One of them is to avoid working for a successful company! It seems that a study of 24,000 employees in Sweden found that those who worked in organizations with the highest rates of growth had the highest levels of sickness. [link]

Will Generation X change the work culture?

The Financial Post (Canada) thinks there's a huge change coming. They claim that: “Generation X, born between l960 and l980, . . . question authority, seek bigger meaning in life and work, are technologically savvy, live in the present, are skeptical, see career as a key to happiness, are open to multi-careers, consider challenge and variety as being more important than job security and constantly aim to achieve work-life balance.” On the basis that the attitudes of leaders determine the corporate culture, they believe a new generation of leaders will make some radical differences. Is the answer to making work civilized to get rid of all Baby Boomer bosses? [link]

Try moving to China?

It seems that laws in China mandate better working hours and practices than in the USA. Here's the experience of one person who moved there. Sounds a radical answer to workplace stress, but you never know. [link]

Stress and sickness

Dan Bobinski has some frightening statistics about the correlation between stress and getting sick. For example: People who get less than five hours of sleep twice a week or more are 300 percent more susceptible to heart attacks. If you aren't stressed already, this article will make you so! Still, it contains plenty of ammunition to try convincing even the most skeptical of macho bosses that stress isn't in anyone's interests. [link]

Maybe the word is getting around?

According to a survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), 85% of recruiters have had candidates reject an executive job offer in deference to work-life balance, and companies are increasingly creating individualized plans to meet the work-life balance needs of top candidates. As so often, organizations only start to take notice when the guys at the top feel pain. Maybe, in time, it will filter down to the “lower ranks” too. [link]

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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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Saturday, February 17, 2020

News and Views: February 17th 2007

More about stress and disease

Link to studies showing that workplace stress can lead to an increase in rates of heart disease, flu virus, metabolic syndrome, and can negate the heart-healthy aspects of a physically active job. There’s so much scientific evidence about the negative impact of job stress, I cannot quite see why the authorities haven’t stepped in with preventative legislation as they have with, say, seat belts in cars. [link]

Even government watchdogs can be caught out spoiling their own patch

Great Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (the government body charged with monitoring how employers deal with work-related stress) has been strongly criticized after one of its senior employees claimed he was forced into early retirement by work-related stress. [link]

Regular napping may reduce risk of heart disease

Researchers from the University of Athens Medical School in Greece found that those who took regular, mid-day naps lowered their chances of heart disease by more than a third. I think I’ll look into that as soon as I’ve had my next nap. [link]

When you feel that surge of blood to the head . . .

How to curb your primitive instincts and save yourself from wrecking your environment, your possessions, and your relationships. [link]

Accountants still don't get it

A study by Arizona State University suggests bosses at large public accounting firms don't like people who try to achieve work/life balance. Employees who worked part-time or flextime hours were less likely to get plum assignments going forward, and their career prospects took a hit, and (surprise) the negative impact of part-time and flextime work schedules packed more wallop against men than women. Seems the top bean-counters can't count the benefits of a happier workforce. [link]

A vigorous attack on “the market and its workaholic ways”

Oliver James, writing in The Times (London, UK), is unhappy that Britain came bottom of Unicef’s league table of the happiness and welfare of children in industrialized nations (one place below the USA. Holland was top). He blames Margaret Thatcher, who he claims began a trend towards what he calls “affluenza virus” values—placing too high a value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame, plus what he calls a “men in skirts” version of feminism that is, he believes, vigorously hostile to parents being at home when their children are small. Worth a look, whatever side of the argument you’re on. [link]

Aussie professor also targets “affluenza”

Professor Niki Ellis says that highly skilled workers are putting in 50 hours per week, not because they love their jobs but because they’re trapped by their lifestyles. She also claims there’s an “attitude of denial” towards workplace stress in Australia. 50 hours a week is mild, compared with what is sometimes the norm in the USA, but I applaud her point. [link]

Transatlantic comparisons

Brian Lee compares Americans and Europeans and notes that what Americans lack in leisure time, we tend to make up for in work ethic. In his view, Europeans tend to place a much greater emphasis on the arts, spending time with family, and relaxation. I know which I prefer . . . but I’m a European, even if I now live in the USA. [link]

Motivation run amok?

Is ambition is a good trait to hold? Here’s a carefully argued view that says that it isn’t. The anonymous writer also has an interesting turn of phrase: “You don’t have to murder to be ambitious though. You can also tweak your accounting. The leaders of Enron and MCI didn’t kill anyone, but their ambition devastated thousands. I’d call them gentleman despots.” Worth a look for the passion alone. [link]

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Saturday, February 10, 2020

News and Views: February 10th 2007

Juggling life's demands

The Miami Herald reviews books that might be helpful in dealing with work/life balance issues. A wide choice, it seems. [link]

What are the tell-tale signs that you need to find a better job?

Kate Lorenz, Editor of, tells all. Better start polishing that resumé right away! [link] [via]

Do people “quit their boss” not their job?

Adelyus of CIO Asia shares personal experience of managing attrition in a competitive environment. Seems that Asia is just like everywhere else when it comes to coping with the shortage of high-quality IT staff. [link]

The Happiness institute claims that flexibility leads to happiness at work

Their view is that without good work/life balance there’s little happiness at work—and without happiness at work, there’s less productivity, lower energy levels and less effective team work. Sounds fair to me. [link]

Wall Street Journal jumping on the work/life balance bandwagon?

Even the venerable Wall Street Journal, hardly a likely publication in which to find “soft” management ideas, has started its own blog about work/life problems. Called The juggle, it claims to focus on “choices and tradeoffs people make as they juggle work and family.” [link]

Breaking point?

According to Celia Milne, writing in the Canadian journal Financial Post, many of the worst sufferers from stress and burnout work in “what might otherwise be seen as ‘good’ jobs—full-time, high-income positions in large organizations that, like it or not, come with a lot of unpaid overtime.” Duh? [link]

Attorneys at breaking point too?

It seems that attorneys are in the forefront of cases of burnout—and the billing structure in that profession is to blame, according to Chris Marston. He says that: “professionals either face enormous pressure to ‘bill time’ to meet quotas, or they feel tremendous pressure to ‘fill time’ by billing time when work is light because of the beauty contest that our industry has created by comparing the ‘spreadsheet’ of numbers of each attorney against one another as means of determining their value to the firm.” Now where have I heard that before? [link]

Stress and the Knowledge Worker

According to Eclectic Bill, Googling this topic throws up some heavyweight reserch from the likes of the Canadian Policy Research Unit that a good business case can be made for increasing knowledge worker productivity by reducing workplace stress. [link]

Future gloom

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, a recent official survey suggests that the daily juggling act of balancing work and caring responsibilities is destined to get harder rather than easier. [link]

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