Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

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

Service of Networking: Is That All There Is?

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Photo: successinhr.com

 Adam Grant, a New York Times opinion writer, author and Wharton School professor doesn’t think networking is all that it’s cracked up to be. Think of the numerous networking events–or how to network workshops–you may have forced yourself to attend. A cornerstone offering of industry associations to which I belong, his article “Networking is Overrated” caught my eye.

Photo: LinkedIn.com

Grant wrote that when he read research about how people in one study felt about networking—dirty—it made him want to take a shower. Clearly he would rather not network at cocktail parties. This could very well be one of the reasons LinkedIn is so popular. It’s painless networking while you sleep.

I selected a few paragraphs that support his position. Grant wrote: 

Photo 123rf.com

“Not long ago, I watched a colleague try to climb the ladder of success solely through networking. For a few years, he managed to meet increasingly influential people and introduce them to one another. Eventually it fell apart when they realized he didn’t have a meaningful connection with any of them. Networking alone leads to empty transactions, not rich relationships.”

So what to do in place of networking? Become skilled at something Grant suggests.

Photo: geocaching.com

“Of course, accomplishments can build your network only if other people are aware of them. You have to put your work out there. It shouldn’t be about promoting yourself, but about promoting your ideas. Evidence shows that tooting your own horn doesn’t help you get a job offer or a board seat, and when employees bend over backward to highlight their skills and accomplishments, they actually get paid less and promoted less. People find self-promotion so distasteful that they like you more when you’re praised by someone else–even if they know you’ve hired an agent to promote you.” [What a perfect example of the importance of third party endorsement, a cornerstone of the value of PR!]

Grant sagely pointed out that the “right people” will help you depending on what you have to offer. “Building a powerful network doesn’t require you to be an expert at networking. It just requires you to be an expert at something.”

“The best networking happens when people gather for a purpose other than networking, to learn from one another or help one another.” [That’s my kind of networking.]

Do you like to network? Do you agree with Adam Grant? Have you made worthwhile connections doing so? Were you surprised by Grant’s conclusion that tooting your own horn has a negative impact on job searches and promotions?

Photo: greatfxprinting.com

 

Service of Telecommuting [II] & Teams, Old as the Hills

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Photo: michiganemploymentlawadvisor.com

In spring 2013 I wrote “Service of Telecommuting” after Yahoo’s HR director, Jackie Reses, had sent a memo to all staff telling them that if they worked at home they had until June of that year to report, fulltime, to a desk at a Yahoo office. According to a recent article on bloomberg.com, “The Rise and Fall of Working from Home–The permanent telecommuter is going extinct,” the approach continues to unravel.

In the article, brought to my attention by CG who has contributed to this blog, Rebecca Greenfield reported that earlier this year IBM “told 2,000 U.S. workers they could no longer work from home and about the same number of employees that they had to commute into offices more often. Facing 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue, IBM hopes that bringing people back together will lead to faster, more productive, and more creative workers.”

The last straw

Small companies have also tried the concept and have rejected it. Greenfield described a PR agency whose staff didn’t act like the grownups the boss had expected them to be. Too many took advantage of the situation so he cancelled the option after less than a year. In addition to not answering the phone when home and being incommunicado for full days, “The last straw…was when someone refused to come in for a meeting because she had plans to go to the Hamptons,” the owner told Greenfield.

She wrote: “More than 60 percent of organizations surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management this year said they allow some type of telecommuting, up from 20 percent in 1996. But telecommuting comes in many flavors, and 77 percent of organizations don’t let people work from home on a full-time basis. Most employers allow ad-hoc remote work for the person who needs to stay home for the plumber or wait for a package.”

Photo: 123rf.com

You might not remember who French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is [1808-1890], but you’ll remember the saying he penned: “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” I am thinking of the big deal made these days about teams when in my experience they have existed all along.

Regardless, I’m not convinced that the increase of teams in the workplace that Greenfield noted has accelerated the demise of telecommuting. “At the same time, work has also become more team-based. Only 38 percent of companies are ‘functionally’ organized today with workers grouped together by job type, a 2016 Deloitte survey found. Most comprise collaborative groups that shift depending on the work.”

In my opinion, collaboration and face-to-face communication help any enterprise that consists of more than one person. People who prefer to work alone, at home, shouldn’t get jobs in a company. Obviously there are exceptions for temporary periods—sick family members and anticipated nasty travel glitches for example—but as a routine option, I think what telecommuting saves in real estate—space to house an employee–is lost in lackluster productivity. Do you agree? Do you think that IBM will find that its policy change will help turn around its period of sluggish performance and creativity?

Photo: zultys.com

Service of Difficult Jobs

Monday, December 19th, 2016

Hard jobs old people turned

Two years ago about this time of year I wrote “Service of Challenging jobs.” Walking around town I see plenty of people who perform uncomplicated jobs that don’t require a lot of training but boy: Are they hard to do!

I thought I was finished drafting the post when I saw this ancient couple inching along First Avenue after Saturday’s snowstorm [photo above]. They were under scaffolding on a clean sidewalk but it was early and most—crosswalks too–were still slushy, icy nightmares. For them simple everyday activities and chores are difficult.

What this photo doesn’t show is what happened next. A kid on his bicycle came up to the old man and holding his bike with one hand he steadied the elderly fellow’s arm with the other to help him over slush and across the street. Such unexpected kindness by someone so young brought tears to my eyes.

Hard jobs up high with poster turnedLook at the top of the building facing 45th Street just off Third Avenue [photo right]. You’ll see a crane with two men putting the finishing touches on a poster. Pedestrians pay no attention: Employers expect these men to be sure-of-hand so as not to drop any tools on the folks below.

Hard jobs heavy lifting of grocery carts turnedThose palettes get plenty heavy when full of cartons holding cans, bottles and boxes of detergent. The man in the forefront isn’t wearing a jacket and the temperature was in the 30s the day I shot this in front of a D’Agostino grocery store.

Hard jobs up high at Javits turnedThe brightest of the lights–third from the left–is on the cart of some men working high up in the Javits Center late at night in a largely empty building. I wasn’t able to tell precisely what they were up to but it looked like they were replacing light bulbs. Acrophobia is not in their DNA.

Look at the tree branch reaching out over Third Avenue and you’ll see a pair of arms tying lights on it to dress the avenue for the holidays [photo below]. What you don’t see is the wall-to-wall traffic behind the van. If the branch decorator falls on to the avenue from the cherry picker he’s in trouble.

Have you noticed any people with precarious jobs in and around where you live and work?

 hard jobs placing lights on trees turned

Service of Seeds: What You Admired As a Kid May Be What You Do For a Living

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

seeds

I envied students, when I was one myself, who knew they wanted to be a teacher, nurse, doctor, journalist, artist, dentist or dancer—to name a few careers. In college, I still had no clue, but with the benefit of hindsight, the seeds were there long before.

A casual conversation with strangers on a railroad platform underscored how this might work for people lucky enough to be choosy in how they make a living. In Dover Plains, NY the other evening a crew of electricians was upgrading the lights at the railroad station. David, the team leader, was enthusiastically describing to another passenger and me what to expect when the project was done. He said we’d be getting “circus lights.”

We looked puzzled and he explained, “You remember when you were a kid and wentDover Plains RR Station to the circus? Those lights.” I said I remember piles of clowns squeezing into a small car, the lions and trapeze artists and cotton candy but don’t remember the lights and he laughed and said, “I guess that’s why I became an electrician!” [Once I Googled “circus lights,” I knew what to expect, but the image didn’t immediately come to mind.]

Circus lights

Circus lights

David got me thinking about what caught my attention as a child: attractively decorated apartments and homes, well dressed women and fashion in magazines and stores, hair styles, the way my aunt and a friend’s mother set a table and entertained and how great some stores looked and what fun it was to visit them and finding treasures in less appealing stores, to name a few things. In lower school, with friends during rest period, I put together a “magazine” [currently misplaced or tossed]. With the exception of fashion and beauty industries, I’ve been professionally involved in some or another way with the others and worked for two magazines.

Thinking back, do you see seeds and clues from your youth that translated into the work you do–or did–or did you know all along what you wanted your future to be?

 Student thinking

 

Service of Retail: A Bellwether of the Economy’s Health, Impact of Shifts in Purchasing Habits or What?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

empty store in manhattan

On a recent weekday we walked down First Avenue from 70th to 53rd Street in Manhattan and were alarmed by the number of empty spaces where stores, restaurants, nail salons and other business once thrived in a neighborhood swarming with people.  The worst was an entire block with rental signs in all the street level windows.

The Mt. Kisco Daily Voice reported last week that the Poughkeepsie Kmart branch is one of 78 to close around the country in May. I’ve driven by it a few times a month for years. The times I dropped in I found that the supposed value priced store offered cheap fashion and home fashion with no flair and commodities at far from discount prices which, in part, may account for this news.

On to another retail scene. “Upscale Shopping Centers Nudge Out Down-Market Malls: Some retailers are closing stores in weaker-performing locations to focus on Web sales and more luxury spots,” was a Wall Street Journal headline for Suzanne Kapner’s article. She wrote “Once-solid regional ‘B’ malls that thrived for years are losing shoppers and tenants to the ‘A’ malls—those with sales per square foot in excess of $500, according to Green Street Advisors.

“The research firm estimates that about 44% of total U.S. mall value, which is based on sales, size empty store 2 ave 1and quality among other measures, resides with the top 100 properties, out of about 1,000 malls.” Kapner continued: “Mall owners disagree about whether the Internet is their main problem. They point to demographic changes that redirected population and income growth away from malls built years ago, along with a real estate glut that has left the U.S. with 24 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 15 for Canada, 10 for Australia and 5 for the U.K., according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.”

A few days later, also in The Wall Street Journal, Kapner wrote “Glut Plagues Department Stores,” where she reported that hundreds will close “to regain the productivity they had a decade ago.” Green Street Advisors was again her source. Some 800 are expected to close representing “a fifth of all anchor space in U.S. malls.”

The developers will figure out what to do with these properties and customers will find other places to buy what they need but what about all the employees–how will they make a living?

I wonder if these retail signals representing mom and pop enterprises to major brands reflect shifts in purchasing habits or a canary in the economic coalmine–or both? Politicians and their followers looking for easy answers and quick fixes will blame increased minimum wage laws and the greater cost of health insurance for employees under Obamacare. Others will fault the closings on the massive shift of disposable income from the middle class to the extremely rich, which has occurred over the last 35 years. What do you think?

empty store 2 ave 2

Service of It Matters

Monday, July 13th, 2015

It matters

Photo: mycutegraphics.com

Photo: mycutegraphics.com

 

You can be the most sensitive person in the universe and still be innocently and inadvertently indifferent to something that’s significant to another person.

A friend teaches a reading class to six first graders. Each has a book and there’s one for her. When the class was over one day, the smallest child in the class asked if she could please carry the books back to the homeroom. My friend, who reminded me that children this age love to be helpful, said thanks but that it didn’t matter as another child was doing it. The diminutive child looked her in the eye and said, “It matters to me.” So my friend asked the other child if she’d share the “load.” The child handed three of the books to her classmate, keeping the rest for herself. The little one beamed all the way back to homeroom.

In a vastly different scenario, Jim Brownell said to me: “This is a dump but it doesn’t have to look like one.” I’d just admired the transformation of the Millbrook, N.Y. transfer station [photo below]. As you approach it now there are three flags–American, Army and Marine–posted in a generous bed of mulch they’d installed. Brownell and Joseph Magnarella, who is in the photo, are the transfer attendants responsible for the makeover. Brownell is a Marine [on NCIS I learned once a Marine, always a Marine]; Magnarella is former Army.

When I first noticed the makeover, only the American flag and two poles were in place. Brownell expected the other two flags shortly. I left work early July 3—the dump is only open three days a week—to grab a photo for this post and only two flags flew. I asked Brownell for permission to take a photo and explained the nature of my post. He suggested I wait for the missing Marine flag, especially in light of the title. “It matters,” he said. [He was on vacation the day I returned for the photo.]

Can you share examples of something insignificant that nevertheless mattered a lot to you or to someone else? How about employees who go above and beyond because where they work–and how it looks–matters to them?

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Service of Secrets to Success

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Secrets to success

I read an article in which women were asked to share their secrets to success in a particular industry. Here are just a few tips to illustrate the point:

  • “The key to success is to determine exactly what success means to you—set your own goals and accomplish these by working hard, dedicating your time and energy, while maintaining pride and confidence in what you do—even when it may not always go the way you planned.”
  • “Patience and tenacity are essential to attaining any goal in life. It’s also important to put yourself in situations where opportunities will present themselves.”A little bird told me
  • “Find what you are truly passionate about and then pursue it wholeheartedly, because a life’s work that brings you joy will strengthen you throughout a long career.”
  • “It’s no secret that women have to work hard and smart every day if they want to be successful!”
  • “Intuition cannot be overrated.”

Do you agree these quotes apply equally to men and women and to most industries? Do you think this approach is passé?Can you guess the industry?  For the answer keep an eye on the comments. When someone guesses right, I’ll confirm. If nobody does, I’ll disclose it there.

What's your answer

 

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