Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Most slackers are...men

Don't get mad at me--I learned most slackers in a team situation tend to be male. American men, to be exact. They tend to more individualistic, meaning do whatever they want and not do things they don't want to.

If you work with free riders, how can you motivate them? Adam Grant took this up in the Oct 2013 Government Executive Mag.

It helps to show the slacker how the team effort is helping someone--have a beneficiary talk to the group.

Let the person know everything the others are doing. They may not even know how much they are dogging it.

Keep groups small--so every effort stands out. Give everyone a different responsibility.

Make sure each input is visible and known.

And keep the group close knit--no one likes to let down someone they know and see all the time.


I once saw a reality show in which I guy said he had never in his life done anything he didn't want to.

Really? My mouth fell open.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Demand for biz grads remains flat

Employers expect to hold level with their demand for MBAs in 2014.

This comes from a new report from the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Still, 72% of employers plan to hire MBAs.

Eight percent intend to hire business undergrads--again the same as in 2013.

Of those, financial service specialist hiring may be down, though.

And don't expect raises beyond inflation.

Well, hmpf!

What should you do if you are thinking of an MBA or in the process of getting one? I say--proceed. You are one person, with one set of skills, and one dream. Not a statistic.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Be mindful in describing female execs

Attention all HR newsletter, magazine, and obit writers. You need to be very careful in your writing when it comes to female scientists and executives.

Curtis Brainard wrote about this in the Summer 20134 issue of Science Writers Magazine.

Too often, the tack writers take is to emphasize the woman's "perseverance" in the face of hideous discrimination.

Phrases like "she is married and has two children, but has been able to keep up with her research" are a no-no.

Do not mention: the fact that she's a woman (should be obvious), her husband's job, her child care, that she "nurtures" underlings, that she was taken aback by the competitiveness of her field, how she is a role model for other women, and how she is "the first woman to..."

The above is called the Finkbeiner Test after science writer Ann Finkbeiner, who wrote a post about an astronomer--and treated the woman as just as astronomer, not some role model.

I have been guilty of this--I wrote an profile of an astronomer, too, once--she said she often had to tell men that her "eyes were up here." I included that--although my emphasis was on the fact that she only had a BA and was known for many discoveries.

The NYT opened an obit on a woman who had won The National Medal of Technology by talking about what good beef stroganoff she made and how her kid thought she was world's best mom.

They took out the stroganoff after a blizzard of tweets--but left in that she followed her husband from job to job.

Our work in never done.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Clueless bosses must learn the intertubes

I am kind of OK with technology and kind of a testy goober--both at the same time. I don't tweet and hate FB, but I also am plunging into new screenwriting software and whining and calling tech support about that.

Melissa Korn, WSJ, Dec 18, 2013, says c-suite types are being paired with smart "kids" or being given classes in the new media and social tools. A two-day program for execs can cost $60,000.

Sixty grand? Someone is using the old noodle, looks like. But it may not be the execs.

Most companies say digital growth is important--but only 10% think they are achieving it fast enough.

Other execs come to the training because their companies have been trashed on Twitter or other sites.

Another top leader hired someone to show her how to shop on her smartphone.

If anyone knows Final Draft--email me?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tiny apts becoming the rage

Rents are soaring in many big cities so teeny-tiny apartments--say 300 square feet--are becoming more than an amusing novelty.

Kris Hudson wrote about this in the WSJ, Dec 20, 2103. They are called micro apartments.

They are about the size of a hotel room. And they cost half of what a normal apt would. Pricey for what you get?

Often there is no separate kitchen or bedroom.

They are aimed at singles in their 20s or 30s who work a lot and don't hang out at home.

Experts swear this trend is on the march.

I read in my DC newsletter that some people in DC even raise children in them.

No way! Really? I guess they got tired of sanity.

Me, I like Airstreams. In theory.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Terminated because of weight?

Pavneet Uppal, of the firm Fisher & Phillips, fielded a question from a woman in Arizona (AZ Republic, Dec 8, 2013).

She said she was fired from the front desk--on the grounds of taking too many breaks and not completing her work. She said that was untrue and she suspected the real reason was her size.

Apparently coworkers made comments about her weight and said she was the only woman on the desk who was "not a cover girl." One manager sent emails about gym memberships and another told her to wear makeup since she was the first person someone saw when they came to the office.

Uppal said such discrimination was unfortunate but common. Studies show, he said, that attractive employees make more money.

If say, a protected class, such as older employees, were held to higher standards of appearance, that would be illegal.

If the weight was from a disability--there might also be cause of action.

Otherwise, it's a stupid, cruel world, apparently.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Start a startup weekend

There is an idea--pardon the expression--going around. If you have an idea for a business or product, why not interest fellow head whackers in a startup weekend?

You could advertise it on Craigs maybe--or in a press release in the paper--or on Linked In's many creativity groups--or Facebook.

It could even be in someone's home. Everyone will make a "pitch" of their idea. Maybe others would join your "startup."

At very least, you will learn the flaws in your ideas.

Companies have started as the result of startup weekends. Zaarly is one--a mobil app that tracks nearby sellers and allows users to bid on items.  Planely--something about airplanes-is another.

You will have to get out of your comfort zone (if you have one, I don't). This is because people will inevitably pounce on flaws. People are like that.

My idea is Valet Cat--where cute guys and gals in shorts bring heavy kitty litter bags to your car, saving you humping them through the store with your aching limbs.

At a startup weekend, I am sure someone would tell me to quit being so lazy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sad at Christmas?

People tend to get sad if they aren't as hippy-hoppy-happy as they think they should be. But when you start to dwell on someone who died recently, it can get really bad.

A missing face at the table--all of that.
Hayley Hirschmann, PhD, a bereavement specialist at Morris Psychological Group in Parsipanny, NJ, says there is no right or wrong way to grieve, but some forms of expression can lead to lasting depression. Pardon me, but wouldn't that be the "wrong" way then?

We all know the five stages from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (which she sort of refuted when she was dying). These are shock, sadness, anger, fear, and acceptance.

Wallowing is bad--not facing at all is bad.

So what should you do?

Lean on friends and family.

Join a support group.

If you have a faith, participate on it.

Plan for grief triggers--maybe a certain tradition.

And if you feel really undone, talk to a counselor.

Gradually, the fact of the loss will become another thing about you--but not the way you are defined.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Data miners can tell what's wrong with you

I am not sure even I am paranoid enough to keep you ahead of this spying stuff. But I do try.

Joseph Walker, WSJ, Dec 17, says medical researchers do not need your medical records (still somewhat sheltered for now, except from the govt) to find candidates for medical studies. They can use credit card records, cable TV subs, social networks, pharmacy data, and other available info to pinpoint if you have a disease or condition.

Isn't that peachy?

They use hundreds of "data points," new speak for scraps of info.

Take an obesity drug they want to study. How to find fat people. Hmmm, well, they are sedentary, it's assumed. They look for people with cable, then fast food on their cards.

Or arthritis--preference for jazz, owning a cat, participating in sweepstakes--you probably are arthritic.

One expert in the story said patients would be shocked at how little privacy they have--and how accurate these systems are.

One woman researched diabetes a lot but did not have it--she was called for a diabetes project. So maybe it has flaws--this system--but I bet not too many.

These are nosy nells.

Why do I get those come-ons in the mail for burials at sea? Those creep me out. I guess because I am death age. And maybe because I own a calendar with pix of beaches?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

C'mon, gals, we can code

According to Government Technology Magazine (November), in a story by Colin Wood, women earn 57% of all undergrad degrees and 52% of all math and science degrees.

But in computer science, women represent only 18% of grads.

They are teaching two-year-olds to code in nursery school, so the sort of condescending implication is that more women could do it, too.

But we do need women to get into this! By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing-related openings--and only 30% of those will find workers.

We equate technical and masculine, the story asserts. (I know I do, bad bad Star, although recently a tech took over my computer and installed some software that baffled me--and she was a woman, or as I prefer to say, a Cyber Goddess.)

Some groups are cropping up that encourage women to get into this work (iUrban Teen Tech is one, Black Girls Code is another ). There are scholarships galore for women willing to get into computing.

Kids need mentors--hip teachers--encouragement. Those two-year-olds will grow up coding. Nothing stands still.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Startups may be short experiences

Stephanie Gleason and Rachel Feintzeig, WSJ, Dec 13, 2013, says joining a startup company can be a fast rollercoaster to unemployment.

The new companies have a philosophy of "fail fast," meaning they want to throw it out there, see what happens, and if it doesn't take off, not burn through everything. This can lead to "failing fast" for hires, too.

Some people come and go in days.

So if you move to take a job--know it could be a fast ride.

New companies fire 25% before the first year is out. For companies in business for longer than 18 years, this number is just below 7%.

Often, too, new companies hire on friends--or friends of friends--and these people may not have the specialized skills.

One company head said she hired the best and the brightest--and everyone hated each other.

Also people coming from the more sheltered corporate world often do not move as fast as people in a startup need to.

In one example, an experienced marketing manager from outside did not want to make cold calls.

Companies can turn and burn--remember that.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Executive skills for children

Schoolchildren need an array of intellectual, emotional, and social skills, according to Stacey Spencer, EdD, a pediatric neuropsychologist with the Morris Psychology Group in Parsippany, NJ.

The key to executive function, or success in school, is short-term memory. This means the ability to store recent info and use it and make sense of it.

Poor functioning in this area--in the school environment--means inability to prioritize tasks, focus, and cooperate with other kids.

In the early grades, kids are expected to do work independently and also work with others.

So, parents, how can you help?

First, try to make the child's environment less stressful. Home should be stable with outlets for creativity and physical activity.

Relationships should be supportive and reliable.

And, play and activities should foster thinking, creativity and social connections. Gradually increase the complexity of activity. I remember playing a lot of Concentration--putting a deck of cards face down on the floor and trying to draw pairs. If you did not get a pair, you put the cards back--and had to try to remember where an ace was or an eight--if you needed one

Or maybe Mom was not trying to improve our executive skills-but was trying to shut us up for five minutes. Hey! I bet that WAS it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

OMG--leave us alone!

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Elizabeth Dwokin and Greg Bensinger (Dec 9, 2013) revealed yet another creepy wrinkle in trying to sell us stuff.

Heat maps.

Little devices in some malls will home in on your cellphone and track you as you move around the store. Something called the Future of Privacy (ironic, since privacy has no future) says 1,000 retailers already do this.

They say they just want to rearrange stores--put certain items in high traffic areas.

One retailer swore she learned that people linger longer at displays far from the entrance.

Can't you find that out without locking in on cellphones?

Nordstrom did a test--and posted that they were doing it. People were not charmed.

Other applications include "pinging" cellphones with sales. They can also tell how many times you came to the store and didn't buy--and then they offer better incentives in the form of coupons sent to the phone while you are in the store.

Yeah, call me up and upsell me. Well, upsell THIS!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to increase your pay

Our workplace smarties Dale Dauten and JT O'Donnell tackled what to do if you think you are underpaid.

JT said instead of just documenting all you do and asking for a raise, you should ask the employer what you could do so earn more.

If the employer says "nothing," it might be time to look for another job.

Dauten cautioned, though, not to give up too easily--try to increase your value. Find out what they value most--troubleshooting, managing a team, inventing--and concentrate on it.

What part of your skill set is deficient--fix it.

What emerging skills--say social media--do you need to master.

Get smarter, get visible, be loyal, work hard.

But even this may not be enough. But one thing is for sure, you need to suit up, show up, and speak up.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Say "no" at the holidays

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, has some advice for people who work in an office. The holidays are a time when you can easily be overloaded with burdens that are not yours to bear.

People want projects done before the end of the year, they want to be covered for, there are parties to plan, work plans to be developed for the next year, gifts to buy coworkers, on and on.

This can lead to workers being "on" 24/7--working at home, checking emails at home.

You need to say no sometimes or you will burn out. This means setting boundaries.  You can say, "I would love to but I have a lot on my plate, too."

Or you could take on a small part of the task requested.

If the boss dumps a list on you, ask him or her to prioritize.

I hate that non-word.

Keep a schedule. And divide tasks into HAVE TO DO, SHOULD DO BUT NOT NOW, and DECIDE AFTER THE HOLIDAYS.

Or--just bail and go to Key West.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Green energy

Flash! Houseplants make workers 40% more productive.

This according to researchers at the University of Exeter (England)--in a study done at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Plants make people feel more productive and creative, they found. They boost staff well-being.

But was it the plants--or allowing the workers to design their own work space including plants?

Creativity was up 45% if people designed their own workplace.

Yes, there have also been studies showing that plants help hospital patients with their pain and anxiety.

Plants can also cut down on bacteria in the air. NASA confirms this for its confined spaces.

And, yes, having them around can reduce sick days. In schools--they supposedly boost learning potential.

So, what do you think? Would a nice houseplant help you get promoted? Your call.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Millennials have weird (healthy) eating patterns

Is the food scene around your office strange? I remember when I had a real job back when dinos roamed--there were doughnuts. Do they still do that? Don't know.

I got a press release from Unisonagency.com with some interesting factoids:

Twenty-five percent of consumers say they have a daily calorie target (QSR Magazine).

Economically, health eating makes sense, they say, referring to being a vegetarian because of rising meat prices.

But for young people--who eat out--money is not the issue. Millennials love themselves, Unison says. They score 30% higher on narcissism personal inventories than older counterparts.

Women eating only "good" food were rated as sexier and more feminine than "bad" food eaters.  Male "good" food eaters were also rated as attractive.

I dunno--what do you think? Is a guy nibbling tofu a babe magnet? Are women obsessing over carbs interesting conversationalists?

I am biased--I eat "bad" food sometimes--bad, bad food. You don't even want to know.

OK--but don't tell--the fries of the French.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sometimes companies bite back on reviews

What is it with this review stuff? I had a clothing place ask for a review of a blouse. I wrote, "Uh, neck hole, sleeves, good color--what do you want me to say?"

On Good Morning America, they had a story about an online merchant who slammed a Utah couple with a $3,500 fine for writing a negative review.

The couple fired back asking for $75,000 in damages for being annoyed.

The wife had ordered a $20 item and it didn't arrive. She wrote a negative review on RipoffReport.com.

This was five years ago. Then the hubs got an email from the company asking for $3,500, claiming the couple had agreed to a "non-disparagement clause" in the Terms of Service.

They asked RipoffReport to take the review down--but the company involved the bad company in the arbitration.

The "debt" ended up on the couple's credit report, costing them financing of a new furnace in cold Utah.

The bad company is also is asking for another $50 for a dispute fee or some nonsense.

What's more, the non-disparagement clause was not even in the Terms five years ago.

A nonprofit is helping straighten this out.

Should I name the bad company? Probably--but they sound a little nutty to me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Silicon Valley not only techie paradise

Silicon Valley in Northern California gets the buzz, but it is no longer the fastest growing tech center.

Tech jobs are expanding all over this country, according to New Geography dot com. A guy named Mark Schill, research director at the Praxis Group, looked at job creation trends in 52 large metro areas.

The two with the most technology growth were not Silicon Valley. One was Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas, which has expanded employment by 41% since 2001, with STEM employees rising by 17%. Located there now: AMD, Cisco, HP, Intel, and Oracle.

The second is Raleigh-Cary, NC. There has been a 54.7% increase in tech sector employment since 2001, with a 24.6% increase in STEM employees. IBM, GSK, Syngenta, and Cisco are now located there.

Southern Silicon Valley--San Jose, Sunnyvale--was strong but is struggling to keep up the pace.

Seattle also may be a comer.

Actually, a lot of smaller places with lower living costs may grab a share--think Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Denver, Kansas City, and Jacksonville, FL.

Phoenix is trying for Silicon City--does that count? Intel is down the road from me.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Customer rage cresting at the hols

Arizona State's WP Carey School of Business says 56 million households experienced at least one customer problem in the last year.

Companies need to improve customer service. And I don't mean drones tooling through the air and bringing your purchases.

They have been studying customer rage since 1976. It is increasing--despite automation.

Or maybe because of automation. More "Your call is important to us," fewer live agents.The average is four contacts to get a problem solved. Four!

We yell more now at agents. (I am glad they can't record what I say while the robot is babbling. How I hate those robots--"Please help me understand..." Grrr.)

People complain by phone 11 times more than on the web.

Of those who complain, 56% say they got exactly nothing for their trouble.

But--if companies gave an apology or coupon, satisfaction shot up from 37% happy to 74% happy with the complaint sequence.

Sooo...we have a way to go. How often have you thought, "Why can't I just do this?"

Monday, December 2, 2013

Manly men use body wash

Would a new shampoo make you feel more confident in your job interview? I am talking to you, men!

Elizabeth Holmes, WSJ,  Nov 27, 2013, says the giant, hyper-masculine types in the NBA dote on their body products.

Amar'e Stoudemire (detached retina, like me), stocks up on body wash, oils, and creams, he says. Before games, he applies a stress relief smell.

They often post on their favorites on Twitter and Instagram. What, oh, what has happened to sports?

Of course, this is known to the cosmetic companies, who are paying the athletes tons to endorse their products.

They also get pimples--which one player attributed to touching a ball others had touched. Yup, kind of going to happen.

And, naturally, deodorant is a huge best seller.

You get the idea.

It's OK to smell good. Ax? You decide. Maybe Shea Souffle from Carol's Daughter instead?