March 31, 2006
Trust in Management Is More Important than Money
Every time I meet with candidates who are interested in a job at Monster, I always get the same question: What is the salary? I always laugh at this. They don’t even know what the job entails yet, but if the pay is right, they think they will be happy. This is just not true.
Economists John Helliwell and Haifang Huang at the University of British Columbia recently confirmed the belief that money is not everything with a formula that can measure your true job satisfaction. They found trust in management was the biggest factor. If you get a new boss and your trust in management goes up at your job (say, up one point on a 10-point scale), that's like getting a 36 percent pay raise, considering your overall satisfaction. Getting a raise on the same scale is only likely to boost your overall satisfaction with your job by less than a point on a 10-point scale.
There is a common saying in the human resources world: People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. While everyone wants to make more money, salary alone is usually not why we leave.
Keep this in mind when looking for a job. And ask questions about management style to make sure it fits in with how you like to be managed.
For more on this topic, check out these resources:
- “Building Trust in the Office”
- “Don't Let Money Lead You Down the Wrong Career Path”
- “Money Isn't the Only Way to Get Paid on the Job”
- “Ten Tips for Staying Happy at Work”
March 30, 2006
The Latest Round of Carnage at American Automakers
Big Three automaker GM had its own Black Tuesday this week. According to this article, the company laid off 500 white-collar workers across 30 US locations -- its second round of layoffs in this still-young year. This came after last week’s announcement that GM is offering to buy out all 113,000 of its hourly workers. I heard on the radio Wednesday morning that GM had taxis lined up outside to take people home, as the pink-slipped had to turn in their company cars.
Against the backdrop of union troubles and the potential bankruptcy of former parts division Delphi, there’s lots of speculation that GM, one of the biggest companies in the world, will file for bankruptcy itself. And the other two members of the Big Three, Ford and Chrysler, are struggling with layoffs and rising costs as well. Both companies will make their execs pay more for healthcare to stem the tide.
There’s no doubt the American auto industry is in trouble and has been for a while -- for a multitude of reasons. So where does that leave thousands of stranded autoworkers?
This Monster article talks about how auto jobs are moving from Motown to the South, where labor is cheaper. Workers can look to parts suppliers or even work with their union to find a new career direction.
So if you drove to work Tuesday in a Chevy and came home in a cab or were hit by an earlier layoff, there’s help available -- including here at Monster.
March 29, 2006
Do You Use Eggcorns?
The English language is an evasive beast. To every meaning, there is an inventory of words. This is probably ever more apparent to those who have learned this dialect (or, as in my case, also the alphabet) as a second language.
I’m a natural editor; more than a piece of my professional role, it’s almost a sixth sense -- a disease, really. I have an immediate, gag-like reflex to any blatant butchering of the language. But I try to offset this involuntary reaction with the realization that not everyone (especially in the realm of business) can see the “dead people” (i.e., comma splices, missing or misplaced apostrophes, phonetically spelled words, etc.). If you’re an editorial freak like me, you know what I’m talking about.
But I digress. It seems like a new breed of literary butchering has surfaced. Known as eggcorns for the simple fact that a woman once mistakenly used the term in place of “acorns,” these words and phrases are the vernacular equivalent of the age-old song-lyric fumble (i.e., hearing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” chorus as “hold me closer, Tony Danza”).
But the interesting thing about these is that they are more than mere ignorant slights of the tongue. Eggcorns incorporate a seeming intuitive element; for instance, eggs are shaped like acorns, so the new name actually makes sense on a certain level.
Eggcorns are everywhere. This eggcorn database has tracked more than 529 examples. You might have heard (and/or used) some of these in and out of the office:
- Intensive purposes (intents and purposes)
- Zero-sum gain (zero-sum game)
- Reductio and absurdum (reductio ad absurdum)
- Buy one's time (bide one’s time)
- Cadillac converter (catalytic converter)
I’d suggest we all try to steer clear of these, at least in our professional communications. You never know when you’ll come across someone who won’t take the error with a grain assault.
March 28, 2006
Betas, Betas Everywhere
Lately it seems every piece of software or Web feature I use is a beta version, which means I'm a beta tester -- willingly or not. Does this mean we can all add software QA tester to our resumes?
In fact, there's lots of historical precedent for beta testing. I can think of two examples from the Old Testament. What was The Flood but a rather damp, drawn-out uninstallation of a beta test of the known world? Thank goodness Noah's group of beta testers survived to repopulate and retest version two.
Then there were the Ten Commandments. The first time the product development lead, Moses, showed them to the beta test group, the feedback was so negative he had to toss out version one and redo them. The second version has proven to be an extremely stable and long-lived release. So far, neither religious groups nor Microsoft have tried to release Ten Commandments v3.0.
Software betas began as specialized testing of prerelease versions of applications by selected users. Now it's a mainstream practice for product developers of all kinds. Companies like Google have created a veritable cult around using "beta" releases to introduce new site features, completely new functionalities or even a few sly jokes -- check out the Google Gulp -- all without having to say, "the product's ready now."
Why introduce products this way? Part of the answer is in a recent BusinessWeek cover story -- "Speed Demons: How Smart Companies Are Creating New Products -- and Whole New Businesses -- Almost Overnight" -- which trumpets speed to market as a winning strategy. In the search for speed, some experts advocate eliminating the traditional discrete stages of the beta test process for the ongoing, dynamic development process used by the open-source software community -- which sounds a lot like Google's approach to beta products like Google Video or Page Creator. The company updates the product on-the-fly while we users just keep clicking along.
The need for speed and competitive demands can sometimes result in a major pileup. One such was last week's double-barrel announcement that Microsoft's new desktop version of Windows, Vista, won't be ready in time for this year's holiday computer selling season. Neither will the companion version of Office 2007. I, for one, think Microsoft did the right thing by delaying rather than shipping something that isn't ready. But it's a tough choice. Sometimes winning means being first rather than best.
Careers can have beta tests too. They're called internships. I got my start in the media business that way and never looked back. Here are some tips about how to use an internship to beta-test your career choices:
- "Ask for More as an Intern"
- "Seven Ways to Land a Great Internship"
- "Students Describe the Benefits of Internships"
- "Turn Co-Ops or Internships into Full-Time Jobs"
March 27, 2006
Career Lessons from Celebrity Women
I admit it: I’m a celebrity junkie. I want to know the minute Brangelina makes it official, and I’m fascinated by the train wreck that is Britney Spears’s marriage. When I get the paper, I often turn to the arts and entertainment section first to get all the delicious dirt on my favorite stars.
But most celebrities are famous and rich because they’re successful. And beyond the glamour and gossip, there are career lessons to be learned. This recent Monster article talks about what women can learn from three major female celebrities: Madonna, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.
Disclaimer: I commissioned and edited this story. But I learned a lot from reading it. I’ve always been a huge Madonna fan, not only for her music but also for her intelligence, keen business sense and vision. I’m not such an admirer of Martha Stewart, but I do respect her work and pluckiness, especially after a jail term. And what can I say about Oprah? I love her book club, and she’s famous for being good to her employees.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. You could do worse for your career than to emulate these three famous, successful women.
March 24, 2006
The Power of Language at Work
We all have bad habits. One of mine is a propensity toward cursing. I’ve tried to stop many times, but it’s tough. When I get frustrated or stressed, dropping a bad word is how I blow off steam. Even if I use such language in my everyday life, however, I do try to watch my mouth, as my mom’s been telling me for years, at work.
According to this article, the use of foul language is a good litmus test of office culture. Some workplaces embrace it as a sign of passion, while others frown on it, worried about the appearance of unprofessionalism or charges of sexual harassment.
But even in professions where dropping the F-bomb is par for the course, some are resisting the urge. One high-profile case is comedian Steve Harvey, who is working to reduce the profanity in his act for religious reasons. “I think of my place in history,” he says in the article. “I think of my longevity and where will I be when it’s over for me. If there’s a heaven, and that’s true, I want to be in line for that. You think about your soul and what does that mean to you as a person.”
Not all of us have such lofty goals. But wherever you work, I think it’s important to consider the impression you’re making. And that extends to the language you choose to use -- or not.
March 23, 2006
Are You Slacking Off at Slacking at Work?
Last month, I moved to a new position. Since the move, I have felt stress that exceeds anything I have felt in the past. I think about work a lot more outside of work than I ever have before, and I think it is starting to catch up with me.
As I searched the Web this morning for something to blog about, I couldn’t help but stop on a CNN article titled, “Be Smarter at Work, Slack Off.” I’m not the only one who noticed it -- see Maya’s take yesterday.
The article talks about the issues of busyness and how we may be able to succeed more if we do less and slack more. With the US workforce working at least 50 hours a week plus the resulting lack of sleep, it’s a wonder we stay as far ahead of the curve as we do. "The physiological effects of tiredness are well-known,” notes Peter Capelli, a professor of management at Wharton, in the article. “You can turn a smart person into an idiot just by overworking him." People just don’t have the time nor the mind-set to be creative in a world that is in constant change.
The article talks about Google's recent product launch, Page Creator, which allows people who can't write HTML to create their own Web pages quickly and easily. Within hours of its release, the program was such a smash hit that the company had to put a temporary limit on the number of Google users who could sign up for it. The engineer who created it fell into the idea because his relatives were constantly bugging him to build Web pages for them. He came up with the technology while fiddling around on a project unrelated to his regular job.
These type of work habits are nourished at Google, which is know for its laid-back, slackeresque atmosphere. "We want to take as much hurry and worry out of people's lives as we can, because a relaxed state of mind unleashes creativity," says Stacy Sullivan, the company's HR director. "And everybody's on flextime here, so we don't reward face time or working super-long hours. We just measure results."
While not every company can be Google, it’s important for companies to recognize the importance of allowing employees breathing room to allow those great ideas to come. Even if you’re not in a role where you could create the next big thing, we all need time to look around and see what we could do better. So my advice for today: Take some time to step away from your world, and maybe you’ll find at least one way to improve it.
March 22, 2006
Can Less Work Increase Productivity?
My commute is a Wi-Fi-free 1.5 hours each way. When I’m not exhausted to the point of unconsciousness, I take the time to read. It’s the only point during the day I don’t feel guilty for not doing work in one form or another. But, surprisingly enough, through using this time to read completely unrelated books, magazines and newspapers, I’ve come up with more work-related ideas than I do during the workday.
You might have experienced this kind of so-called associative thinking while in the shower, chopping up onions or getting your hair done. It’s the kind of “eureka” moment you can’t really encounter while rapidly juggling tasks at work. And yet the ideas that come about from these moments are the ones that tend to make a difference at work.
This recent CNNMoney.com column reflects on the emerging fact that “what scientists have only recently begun to realize is that people may do their best thinking when they are not concentrating on work at all,” as Fortune staffer Anne Fisher writes. Fisher goes on to reference the Google model to illustrate the importance of giving employees room to be relaxed and creative in their everyday jobs.
But not everyone works for Google. Most of us spend our time between meetings flipping through Outlook, Word and the Web like 13-year-olds with their TV remotes, iPods and cell phones. Do we simply have too much work to think?
You might not have a guilt-free, hour-point-five you can take on a daily basis, so perhaps the answer lies in the hands of the employer -- which is really who stands to benefit from giving employees more room to breathe.
March 21, 2006
Working Sick: Come to the Office or Stay Home?
For the last week or so, I've suffered from an upper-respiratory illness. A cold? Bronchitis? I'm not sure the diagnosis matters. But I felt lousy -- and sounded that way. Nonetheless I came to the office two and a half days out of the last five work days and spent two intervening weekend days in bed trying to recover. So why did I bother coming in at all? Good question.
I'm not alone. According to this intriguing item noted in the excellent public health-oriented blog Effect Measure:
A survey done by the office staffing firm Office Team shows that 80 percent of people polled said they very frequently or sometimes showed up sick for work. ... Office Team also surveyed 150 senior executives. Only 21 percent believed that employees very frequently worked while feeling sick (versus 49 percent of employees who reported they did so). This is likely to affect sick leave policies and employer flexibility.
So nearly half of all employees report regularly coming to work feeling poorly, but only one-fifth of senior execs think they do. How soon those execs forget. Did the other 79 percent of those senior execs get to where they are by staying home whenever they felt a bit under the weather? I don't think so.
Fact is, most of us feel obligated to hold up our end of the employment bargain by showing up for work, even when we -- and our employers -- might be better off if we stayed home. This CBS News item uses the phrase presenteeism to describe employees who are on the job but too ill or distracted to be productive.
Most sick-day policies seem designed to discourage employees from taking sick time. (Read Norma's take on PTO policies.) Yet coming to work when you're sick affects the productivity of you and those around you. Who can concentrate with a hacking cough in the next cube, not to mention the obvious issue of sharing germs and viruses with coworkers?
As the Effect Measure blog discusses at length, the potential for a global bird flu pandemic makes sick-day policies and loyalty to our jobs, customers and coworkers a topic of more than passing importance.
I'm one of the lucky ones -- I can telecommute to my job if necessary. Even so, I probably came to work this past week more than I should have. We should all be talking about this issue now, before the crisis is upon us.
On a less global note, here are some tips on managing an illness and your job:
March 20, 2006
The Job of Helping a Stranger
What makes an ordinary person go on a mission to help a total stranger?
Ask Stephanie L. Dietrich. The 44-year-old grocery store clerk combed the woods near her Akron home for five months to find the bodies of two children murdered by their father, Manuel Gehring, who committed suicide without revealing their whereabouts. Dietrich’s dog, Rico, sniffed out the buried bodies last December. According to this Boston Globe article:
Wiping away tears, Dietrich said the search was cathartic. She described how she studied testimony Gehring had given to police and how she set out before and after work to hunt for the bodies. Her marriage was falling apart, she said, and she found a sense of purpose in the cold nights and hot afternoons in the woods. She had never met the children's mother, New Hampshire resident Teri Knight, who had conducted her own fruitless search the summer before along 650 miles of Midwestern highway.
Dietrich was honored by the FBI last week. When asked about her motivation, she said: ''I know everybody thinks it's because I'm a mother and I have my own kids, but if I didn't have kids, I would have done it. Isn't that what you're supposed to do for each other?"
The whole story just astounds me, especially when I think about the unbelievable effort Dietrich put forth for someone she didn’t even know. It became her obsession, her reason for living. We all need a driving force to keep us going. If everyone could harness it for the good of others like Dietrich did, imagine what we could accomplish.