Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Service of Pride in Work

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Photo: youtube

Hair-raising

I have been going to the same hair stylist and salon for years. Support staff in the establishment changes frequently. Most recently this neighborhood business hired a hair washer who, when he’s finished rinsing, adds a spectacular head massage for minutes–no extra charge [though my appreciation appears in his tip]. Heaven. When not washing hair he never sits still, sweeping away every hair practically as soon as it hits the bright white floor. Who knows if he loves what he does but his pleasant nature and fervor insure that he’ll always get work. He’s at the salon a few days a week and is a bartender at night.

Hauntingly Charming

I forgot I’d dashed off a note to the manager of my apartment building. I admired the fall decorations that appeared in the entrance early in the month and the abundant flowers planted outside. When I passed him in the lobby weeks later he beamed and thanked me for my note. I’ve written before about him and the 510 apartments he oversees. He runs the 38 story building as though it was his private home.

Brick by Brick

In the 30s, east of Second Avenue in Manhattan, there are sterile streets spanning two blocks–no stores, no doors to apartments or offices–just road and narrow sidewalks on either side, which is unusual. The passages permit vehicles quick access to the Midtown Tunnel that runs under the East River connecting this borough and Queens.

I walk through one almost daily on my way to and from work [photo left and below]. It was out of commission and closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic for a few days to lay down new sidewalks and brick walls. This particular morning a crew was adding some finishing touches. As I sauntered past I said to the crew chief “looking good” and he stopped me to point out particulars of his men’s handiwork. He was so pleased someone noticed the brickwork and sidewalks and joyfully shared some finer points.

It is a pleasure to be around people who act as though they like what they do, who do their work well and with pride. Can you share examples?

Service of an Obnoxious Co-Worker

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Photo: npr.org.

A friend who directed a large department at a major corporation advised her staff about dealing with difficult people at the office. “They are like mosquitoes,” she said, “they can’t hurt you; they are just mindless irritations that you can swat away.”

Photo: youtube.com

At least one insufferable person works in almost every office, organization or business. Most of us have faced or observed them. “They’re the people who demean and disrespect you. They might steal credit for your successes, blame you for their failures, invade your privacy or break their promises, or bad-mouth you, scream at you and belittle you. As the organizational psychologist Bob Sutton puts it, they treat you like dirt, and either they don’t know it or they don’t care.” Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, wrote this and shared his tips on how to best endure in a New York Times article, “How to Deal with a Certified Jerk at Work.”

Photo: mindsight.clinic

Becoming defensive isn’t the solution, wrote Grant. He approached a heckler in the audience of one of his presentations. He called for a time out, approached the offender and said “You’re welcome to disagree with the data, but I don’t think that’s a respectful way to express your opinion. It’s not how I was trained to have an intellectual debate. Were you?” The critic had called him ignorant and said Grant didn’t know what he was talking about. After Grant sent him backup data, the fellow apologized. Dr. Sutton calls a person like this “a temporary jerk.”

Grant reported: “Research on the psychology of certified jerks reveals that they have a habit of rationalizing aggression. They’ve convinced themselves that they have to act that way to get the results they want.” The way conflict mediation expert Sheila Heen told Grant that she might respond to an aggressive person is by saying “Really? It was my impression that you were smarter than that, and more creative than that — so I bet you could come up with some other ways to be just as clear without having to actually rip somebody else apart.”

You might not be able to speak with a boss or manager this way so Grant suggested decreasing your independence and minimizing your interaction with the chief while at the same time increasing his/her dependence on you. Dr. Sutton had a different idea: consider the person a “spectacular, amazing specimen” for your study of jerks to change “your attitude toward the situation.”

How have you dealt with an obnoxious creature at work? What do you think the inspiration is for a person to act this way? To use my friend’s analogy of treating work jerks like a mosquitos, what repellant do you use to divert their attention? Are there any positive outcomes of surviving the negative dynamic?

Photo: wikihow.com

Service of Women Construction Workers: Positive Political Impact?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

A few weeks ago I was walking in midtown Manhattan and was taken by the sign above. That’s why Anne Kadet’s Wall Street Journal article also caught my eye: “Yes They Can! Program Boosts Number of Women Construction Workers–New York City’s construction unions say the portion of apprentice slots reserved for women has risen from 10% to 15%, and most are filled with graduates of the Nontraditional Employment for Women [NEW].”

Kadet wrote that the seven week tuition-free training program is done in a former Manhattan firehouse. The Blue Collar Prep program includes carpentry, electrical work, trades math, health and safety.

According to its website, the program was founded in 1978: NEW “prepares women for careers in construction, transportation, energy and facilities maintenance industries.”

Photo; new-nyc.org

Kadet reported: “NEW recruits and trains about 225 women a year to enter apprentice programs offered by the city’s construction unions…… Nationally and citywide, women fill just 3% of construction jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. NEW and union officials say that as a result of their unusual efforts, women represent more than 6% of the New York area’s roughly 100,000 union construction workers.”

Jennifer Wilkerson with the National Center for Construction Education and Research [NCCER] pointed to an anticipated shortage of trades workers, the strikingly low number of women currently in the industry and the fact that many women aren’t aware of the opportunities for them. Hopefully the word will spread about this way for women to make a lucrative living and more will.

“NEW’s incoming students usually earn low wages in traditionally female occupations, said Erik Antokal, the group’s assistant vice president for programming. Union construction jobs, meanwhile, typically pay $40 to $60 an hour, plus full benefits. ‘These are family-sustaining, middle-class jobs,’ he said.”

Photo: youtube.com

According to Kadet, “Some still have a hard time accepting women in hard hats. But NEW grad Erika Glenn-Byam said the culture has improved since she started working as a laborer in 2006. On one of her first jobs, a co-worker confessed that the men on her crew shared a secret motto: ‘Get rid of the women!’

“‘You guys need to grow up,” she told him.” After 13 years as a laborer she is buying a two-family house for herself, her mother and brother who has Down syndrome.

I admire people with construction skills and almost daily wish I had some. I’d not heard of NEW or programs like it for women–have you?– yet it’s been around for 41 years.

What do you think of women in construction? As their numbers increase do you think it will inflame resentment by men feeling women are increasingly infringing on their world or because it seems to be working, might it assuage tensions between men and women in certain industries with positive political ramifications for women?

Photo: nwic.org

Service of Performance Evaluations: Inequality for Women

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Photo: yourlifechoices.com.au

Words have always mattered, especially to those who make their livings writing, singing, reporting, performing in plays and films, giving speeches and the like. Today most are aware which words hurt or insult and use them with eyes wide open.

There is an area—performance evaluations–in which word choice unintentionally sends harmful or positive signals. The negative impact falls on women and their potential for leadership positions.

Photo: leanhealthcareerchance.com

I wasn’t surprised by the findings of two researcher/professor PhD’s and a PhD statistical consultant who studied the words most used for men and for women—4,000 of them–in 81,000 military performance evaluations. The Harvard Business Review published highlights of their findings.

For men the words were “analytical” as a positive and “arrogant” as a negative. For women, positive and negative words were “compassionate” and “inept” respectively. Any doubt which you’d hire if you were looking for a competent employee—an analytical or compassionate one? Which would you fire first if you had to choose between arrogance and ineptness?

David G. Smith, Judith E. Rosenstein and Margaret C. Nikolov explained why they chose the military as their hunting ground. “The top-down enforcement of equal employment opportunity policies, hierarchical organization by military rank and not social status characteristics, and recent total gender integration in all occupations are hallmarks of meritocratic organizations where we might expect less gender bias in performance evaluations.”

They found no differences in objective measures–grades, fitness scores or class standing.

Photo: helioshr.com

Back to the subjective measures, the focus of their conclusions. “Men were more often assigned attributes such as analytical, competent, athletic and dependable, women were more often assigned compassionate, enthusiastic, energetic and organized.” And to describe negative attributes “women were more often evaluated as inept, frivolous, gossip, excitable, scattered, temperamental, panicky, and indecisive, while men were more often evaluated as arrogant and irresponsible.”

The researchers’ wrote that their findings line up with others that also show that women often receive “vague feedback that is not connected to objectives or business outcomes, which is a disadvantage when women are competing for job opportunities, promotions, and rewards, and in terms of women’s professional growth and identity.” Female leaders are criticized for being “too bossy or aggressive” and yet advised that they should “be more confident and assertive.” Other research has shown that “when women are collaborative and communal, they are not perceived as competent—but when they emphasize their competence, they’re seen as cold and unlikable, in a classic ‘double bind.’”

The researchers wrote that when asked, most people think of men as leaders. Their study showed that “even in this era of talent management and diversity and inclusion initiatives, our formal feedback mechanisms are still suffering from the same biases, sending subtle messages to women that they aren’t ‘real leaders’— men are.”

Have you written performance evaluations using different terminology to describe men and women’s qualities and weaknesses? Have you run into this bias in performance evaluations about you or people you know? Do you know women who are analytical, competent, athletic and dependable—the positive words to describe men’s performances–or men who are compassionate, enthusiastic, energetic and organized, flattering words about women?

Photo: businessnewsdaily.com

David G. Smith, PhD, is a professor of sociology in the Department of National Security Affairs at the United States Naval War College. Judith E. Rosenstein, PhD, is a professor of sociology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the United States Naval Academy. Margaret C. Nikolov, PhD is an independent statistical consultant who previously taught at the United States Naval Academy.

 

Service of Using Economic Arguments to Mask Bigotry

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Photo: wxyz.com

I’ve got news for those who fear that immigrants will take jobs from Americans. Turns out there aren’t enough people in this country to handle the work that businesses need as it is. Unemployment stats on Friday were the lowest since 2000—3.8 percent.

That fact doesn’t faze some Republican lawmakers. They demanded “a vote on a bill that would lower legal—not illegal, but legal—immigration,” according to Gerald F. Seib. In his Wall Street Journal article, “An Immigration Debate Distinct From Economic Realities–There is a good case that America’s economy has never needed immigrant labor more than it does now,” he reported that 6.6 million unfilled job openings impact fisheries in Alaska, restaurants in New Hampshire, crab processors in Maryland and farmers. “For the first time in history,” he wrote, “there are enough openings to provide a job for every unemployed person in the country.”

Photo: alaskajournal.com

There were 66,000 travel permits allotted for low-skilled foreign workers requesting H-2B visas in January yet the federal government received thousands more applications. Seib predicted that the feds might add 15,000 more–not nearly enough. “The search for more highly skilled workers is even more urgent. The NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business] says that 22% of small-business owners say finding qualified workers is their single most important business problem, more than those who cite taxes or regulations,” he wrote.

In “Summer is Here. Where are the Workers?” Ruth Simon, in the same paper, reported that last year Congress refused to renew visas for returning workers–each had to start the process from scratch. She wrote that landscaping and food processing businesses are as severely impacted as restaurants. The demand is so great that the government made a business’s “winning” workers the random choice of a lottery because they were 15,000 short six months ago.

Back to Sieb. He wrote that “Demographers think that in the next three decades, the share of Americans aged 65 and older will surpass the share of Americans aged 18 and younger,” and he concluded that even though we “can handle…and may actually need” more immigrants “the climate is more hostile toward immigrants and immigration than at any time in recent memory.”

Photo: buildingacustomhome.com

Sieb attributed the 2016 campaign for moving a political party that generally favored immigration because it energized the American bloodstream to one that is “increasingly dominated by those with a distinctly darker view of immigration.” In addition to jacking up punitive laws against illegal aliens and refusing to offer permanent legal status to Dreamers, the conservative members’ bill would reduce the number of visas by 25 percent, to 260,000/year. The Cato Institute calculated that the reduction “would be closer to 40%, adding: ‘This would be the largest policy-driven reduction in legal immigration since the awful, racially motivated acts of the 1920s.’”

Immigration grinches posit that Americans’ wages should increase as a result though that doesn’t seem to be happening [take a look at last Thursday’s post, “Service of Hourly Work–No Bed of Roses,” as one example]. Seib attributes the true attitude “among many Americans that they are losing control of their country and its traditions—as in economic dislocation. The quest to control America’s borders has morphed into much broader sentiments.”

Stingy immigration quotas negatively impact small business. Would lawmakers take better notice if big business was affected? Immigrants have been absorbed here for decades. How best to allay economic fears of those blocking immigration today? Addressing the fear of loss of control is a bigger challenge: In addition to fighting with better education, any other ideas?

Service of Hourly Work–No Bed of Roses

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Photo: biggiesboxers.com

Hourly workers have more than minimum wage pay and taxes nibbling away at their income. They must fight to get the full wages due because of technology that gyps them and also upends and holds their lives hostage by changing their work schedules at the last minute.

Photo: work.chron.com

Rachel Feintzeig in her Wall Street Journal article reported something that doesn’t get sufficient attention. The headline: “Employees Say Time-Tracking Systems Chip Away at Their Paychecks–Employers maintain the methods keep labor costs predictable and reduce time spent recording breaks.”

Workers are suing American Airlines, Kroger and Montage Hotels & Resorts, to name a few businesses “for unfairly subtracting fractions of their hourly wages using time-tracking technology.” These “rounding policies” over years can amount to $thousands in lost pay.

Some hourly hospital workers are in the same boat as their counterparts in airline, supermarket and hospitality industries. Often they can’t leave a patient to grab a bite of lunch yet they are automatically dunned a half an hour of pay each day for a break not taken. Workers in call centers who stay past their shift to finish a call claim that the time “is rounded away.”

Photo: cheatsheet.com

The fines made against businesses represent chump change to employers who have saved $millions in unpaid wages. Elizabeth Tippett, a professor at the University Of Oregon School Of Law told Feintzeig that casino workers in Nevada were awarded $450,000 when the gaming company they sued saved $12.6 million in wages thanks to its rounding policies. After litigation costs the employees shared $207,500.

Photo: casino.org

The software creates a “heads I win, tails you lose” dynamic with employers holding all the cards causing additional miseries for hourly workers. Feintzeig wrote: “Time-tracking software is usually part of a broader workforce management system that records absences and schedules workers. These suites of software have come under fire from attorneys general in New York and other states for enabling employers to switch around shift assignments at the last minute, creating unpredictable schedules for workers.”

Time tracking technology is also big business–$12 billion worth. Clearly more than a few companies use it.

Do these workers have a prayer in today’s economic climate that favors the rich and ignores everyone else?

Photo: 123rf.com

Service of Office Friends: Who Is Invited to Special Occasions?

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Photo: thoughtcatalog.com

I met some of my oldest friends at or through work. And while the article that inspired this post focused on weddings, there are many special occasions—50th birthday parties, 25th wedding anniversaries, a child’s momentous event–that might create the same dilemma: which office friends to invite when faced with constraints of a budgetary nature or of space?

The title of Sue Shellenbarger’s Wall Street Journal story “The Dreaded Wedding Decision: Which Co-Workers to Invite?” covers a lot. You spend more time on the job, shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, more than with most family and friends. It’s natural to share event plans and glitches or address family kerfuffles with these folks as you munch lunch. But who gets cut from the list: Cousin Frank and his nasty wife–which will cause a rift with your aunt and uncle and create stress for your parents–or Frieda and Fred in accounting?

Photo: one-stop-party-ideas.com

According to Shellenbarger, the reaction of one groom with 18 office friends and space for only three: “Just because you’re really cool with and close to a friend at work doesn’t mean you’re going to be cool and close in your personal life.” When a bride’s work friend told her she couldn’t wait to attend her wedding, she said: “I’m really sorry, but we have kind of a strict guest list. I hope there are no hard feelings.” There weren’t.

One bride in her story opted for fewer flowers and a less expensive dress so she could invite all 15 of her co-workers. A wedding expert shared the obvious point that you should invite the entire group if you’re inviting most of a small team of co-workers. As for inviting the boss, another expert suggested to think twice if she/he is buttoned up and your family is wild and loves to party.

Photo: excelle.monster.com

“Couples agonize over which co-workers to include and how to cushion the hurt among those they leave out. Balancing your needs without damaging important relationships requires nuance.”

One couple who worked in different departments at the same airport invited 30 guests and kept mum about their wedding. When they returned to work the bride was bombarded by co-workers with questions as to why they weren’t invited. To smooth things out she promised to invite to a housewarming party one person who would no longer speak with her.

Shellenbarger reported on a survey by The Knot of 13,000 couples which showed that guest lists shrank last year by 13 people to 136, as couples are increasingly passing on spacious banquet halls in favor of smaller venues like historic mansions or barns.

Social media postings spill the beans at work even if you don’t: Shellenbarger reported that nine out of 10 couples post engagement pictures.

Have you been in this situation or observed others who were? What is the best way to handle the stomach-wrenching dilemma if you can’t, or don’t want to, invite the entire office gang? Do you have other issues to consider if you are a manager?

Photo: historicwaynesborough.org

Service of Pretentious Behavior in Restaurants, in Business & at Home

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Photo: hssaz.org

Who is taken in by pretentious behavior? Such conduct has always turned me off.

Foodie Foolishness

Photo: myhumblekitchen.com

Number 10 of “The 19 Types of Food Snobs, Ranked by Obnoxiousness,” by Andy Kryza and Matt Lynch, stuck out to me. They wrote in Thrillist,com: “It’s been two years since The Repatriated Expat moved back to the US after a magical six months residing in Spain. And yet, the backhanded comments about how ‘it’s so weird to be eating dinner before 10 pm,’ the observations that the gin and tonics ‘just aren’t the same,’ and the refusal to consume any red wine that isn’t Rioja have not lessened in the slightest.” This was my favorite–fun post.

Office Folderol
I started working just as executive secretaries no longer placed calls for bosses. They went like this:

  • Secretary No. 1: “Hello, Mr. Jones calling to speak with Mr. Snodgrass.”
  • Secretary No. 2: “Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Jones calling.” Snodgrass would get on the line and wait until Jones’ secretary got hold of him—unless Jones had left the office by then and it all started again.

The practice never made sense to me: Why waste four people’s time to accomplish one task?

A similar dynamic happens today sometimes. If I expect a response, I need either to copy—or email—the person’s assistant–even if he/she knows me. It’s pretentious. Why? Many other women and men juggling as many as three busy lives—demanding jobs, onerous family responsibilities and often time-sucking pro bono obligations—get back to me directly and without the fanfare.

Expensive Fashion Accessory

Photo: pinterest.com

In a book review about Meryl Gordon’s “Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend,” I read about Bunny’s sending a private jet to pick up a scarf that was in another of her homes to coordinate with an outfit she was planning to wear. Was Bunny [photo left] spoiled or pretentious? Maybe someone tattled on Mrs. Mellon: Is a person being pretentious if nobody is supposed to know what they do?

Do food snobs drive you nuts? Can you name superfluous, affected business behavior? Are pretentious people aware of the impact of their behavior? Do some not realize that they are?

Photo: redbubble.com

Service of Patching Up a Bad First Impression

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

 

Photo: nz.pinterest.com

I once thought I had an infallible instinct where first impressions are concerned but I’ve been wrong too many times in both directions—thinking that someone’s great or creepy when they’re not. Regardless, first impressions are a fact of life.

Photo: thegrindstone.com

Some can’t be salvaged. There was the college freshman dressed for the beach at an interview for a scholarship where the judges and all other candidates wore business attire. Her mother tried to rescue the faux pas by claiming the wardrobe choice had been hers. It didn’t work: Competition for the generous scholarships was too keen.

In this regard, Sue Shellenbarger, who wrote “The Next Step After a Bad First Impression at Work,” in The Wall Street Journal, shared an opposite situation from which there was also no return. A job candidate wore a tailored black suit and heels to a job interview at a fashion house where all the employees dressed in casual hippie-style attire. [My opinion: She was vying for a job requiring digital skills and should have taken 10 seconds to look at the company’s website before the interview which might have given her a tip.]

Photo: thebalance.com

Nevertheless, wrote Shellenbarger, “It’s possible to recover from a bad first impression. But it takes time, effort and some nuanced skills.”

According to the reporter, quoting the author of “No One Understands You and What To Do About it,” Heidi Grant Halvorson, there’s a “tendency for the first few things people notice about someone to influence how they interpret information later.” Grant Halvorson also mentioned confirmation bias that “causes people to notice only details that confirm what they already believe. ‘People see what they expect to see,’ she says.”

If you learn that someone who has a bad impression of you is to be your new boss Grant Halvorson suggests you try to “build familiarity with a casual greeting or wave” at the gym or cafeteria—be seen frequently, but don’t stalk.

Photo: cartoonstock.com

Other suggestions from experts Shellenbarger quoted follow. I don’t agree with them all:

  • Be early for meetings for a long time if you were late to one
  • Subtly inform a senior executive of your experience, if their impression is that you have little, by emailing the person via LinkedIn and weaving in examples that prove otherwise the next time you speak with them
  • Root for the same sports team to “dispel bias”
  • Make fun of your blunder to ease tension
  • Follow up a job interview where coverage of your accomplishments was weak, by sending strong work samples to dispel the notion
  • A job applicant who admitted to prison time for dealing meth came to the interview with a list of “self-improvement efforts” illustrating that he was no longer a criminal and the names of solid references, “prepared to answer the tough questions.” He was hired and became one of the best employees.

Have you salvaged a bad first impression or helped a colleague or friend do so? Do you think it’s an impossible, useless task and you’d best lick your wounds and move on? Do any of the tips translate to personal relationships?

Photo: prestonroad.org

Service of Skilled Trades—the Noble Professions

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Photo: oldbroadabroad.com

Erica Martell refinished a handsome wood chest, sanding, priming and painting it [photo below, center]. My friend’s research, patience, diligence, and results impressed me.

I envy the skills of carpenters, plumbers, electricians, builders, auto mechanics, landscapers, tree surgeons, bricklayers and stone masons who create and fix things. These professions need a great deal more admiration and respect than they get.

Mike Rowe Photo: mikerowe.com

In spite of diligent work by people such as Mike Rowe, I wonder if recognition of people who make a living via skilled manual labor has changed significantly. Chuck Todd interviewed Rowe on his MSNBC show on Labor Day. The actor, TV host, producer, narrator and writer’s passion was no doubt inspired, in part, by the 39 episodes of “Dirty Jobs,” a show on Discovery where he completed 300 different ones, according to his website. The show was his concept. He founded mikeroweWORKS on Labor Day nine years ago. He calls the program “A PR campaign designed to reinvigorate the skilled trades.”

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Fewer Americans Value a College Degree, Poll Finds,” Josh Mitchell and Douglas Belkin reported that the “wage premium of getting a degree has flattened in recent years,” according to Federal Reserve research. “Some Americans believe that learning a trade offers more security than going to college.” The survey of 1,200 took place in August.

Photo: 123rf.com

Respondents who were most skeptical about the value of a degree were those who didn’t have one. “Four years ago, men by a 12 point margin saw college as worth the cost. Now they say it is not worth it, by a 10 point margin.” Americans 18-34 who don’t believe outnumber those who do 57 to 39 percent—a figure that hasn’t much changed.

They reported that 63 percent of college grads said college is worth the expense—about the same now as in 2013. Nevertheless, there’s the matter of student debt, that Mitchell and Belkin quoted as $1.3 trillion—with $millions of payments in arrears. Yet, according to the reporters, unemployment is 2.7 percent vs. 5.1 percent among college grads and those who never attended college respectively, “But the wage premium of getting a degree has flattened in recent years,”

I think the prestige relating to physical work can and should change—do you? In countries such as France waiting on tables is a noble profession so why not skilled trades here? When it comes to making a living, do you see the value of a college degree? Has the significance of such a degree changed in your mind? Do you wish that you were skilled at a manual trade?

Erica Martell’s refinished chest

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