April 30, 2007
Cultivate a Culture of Love at Work
What did you carry to work today? A bag lunch? Workout clothes? What about your emotional state of mind?
Everyone carries emotions into the workplace. And whatever you’re feeling -- happiness, anger, fear, frustration -- it’s likely contagious.
Much like the office cold, says Sigal Barsade, “emotions travel from person to person like a virus.” Barsade, a Wharton management professor who studies the influence of emotions in the workplace, is coauthor of a new paper, Why Does Affect Matter in Organizations? (“Affect” is behavioral studies speak for emotion.)
According to Barsade and the study’s coauthor, Donald Gibson of Fairfield University, emotions don’t have to be grand to have impact. A quick frown, downcast glance or lack of response exchanged in a meeting can carry as much weight as a more demonstrative response, particularly one from a boss.
Beyond nonverbal nuance, the paper examines the “emotional labor” concept. That’s when employees attempt to regulate emotional responses in difficult situations -- think of the salesperson who handles the irritable customer with the usual, “I’m sorry sir, but we can’t…” A polite response is easy, and quickly loses meaning, both to the speaker and audience. Instead of “surface acting,” the researchers advocate reaching deeper to find an emotional response that reflects an authentic empathy we’ve developed on a personal level (a kind of method acting approach to our own higher self).
Barsade’s research also points to a positive workplace phenomenon she calls a “culture of love.” It’s where employees feel good about passing along good feelings. This affect helped to transform a long-term-care facility, creating an environment where both residents and staff felt more positive and optimistic.
What can you do today to cultivate a culture of love in your workplace? You can start with a simple inner smile meditation. With any luck, the next grin you share with a coworker will likely be a real one, not a J.
April 27, 2007
Relocating for Work? Read This First
In my younger days of renting, I moved about once a year. But now that I’m a homeowner, I’m coming on five years in the same house. And I like it that way.
Still, I vividly remember how each move was an exciting opportunity to start over in a new place, complete with a fresh neighborhood, neighbors and overall way of life. Even so, moving always involves upheaval, uncertainty and stress.
So if you’re thinking about moving, either for a specific job or to see where your talents could take you in a new market, we’ve got some advice for you. Check out these articles on negotiating your relocation to make that next move as hassle-free -- and opportunistic for your career -- as possible.
April 26, 2007
Why My Daughter Stayed Home on Take Our Daughters to Work Day
My daughter didn’t come into work with me this morning, and I’m disappointed. After all, today is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and now she’s missing out on all the fun-filled activities that a few of my colleagues have organized here at Monster HQ.
But my daughter is just 10 days away from turning 13 -- not that either she or I is counting, of course -- and that means she often wants to do the exact opposite of what her dad requests.
So this afternoon, when my daughter could be eating pizza, watching a movie and taking a tour of our office facility with other Monster kids, here’s what she’ll probably be doing instead: checking her email, listening to music she’s downloaded (and paid for herself, thank you very much) through iTunes and spending some time on a social-networking site that promotes creativity for girls. Far more attractive alternatives for her, I suspect, and activities I could never have even dreamed up as a way to escape the drudgery of spending a workday with my father back when I was in middle school.
Yes, for our digital-native children, adopting the latest and greatest tools of new media is second nature. The challenge for us digital-immigrant adults is to try and keep up with them. Here are a few resources that just might help:
- “Resources for Working Dads”
- “Blogs, Podcasts and Wikis: A New Technology Primer”
- “Refine Your Online Image”
April 25, 2007
Thank Your Admin Today
Today marks Administrative Professionals Day, part of a weeklong celebration that recognizes the workplace contributions of more than 5.5 million administrative assistants, secretaries and administrative support supervisors currently employed in the US, according to the US Department of Labor.
Administrative Professionals Week began as National Secretaries Week. That was back in 1952, before the advent of the electric typewriter and long before the personal computer. It was an era that defined secretarial work as part manual labor and part Girl Friday. Large offices often had their own stenographer pool, typically a group of women who churned out documents en masse on cartridge typewriters (check out some great vintage film from this era).
While today’s office is a different place, some things haven’t changed. Many a modern workplace still relies on the skills, knowledge and expertise of a great admin to keep things running smoothly, whether as secretary, general admin, medical admin or virtual assistant.
The theme of this year’s Administrative Professionals Week (April 23 through 28) is Shaping the Future. And what is that future? As the workplace becomes more and more mobile, administrative professionals “need to take charge of their own career development and be fully aware that the necessary skills to remain key contributors to employers are constantly changing,” according to the International Association of Administrative Professionals. (IAAP)
Let’s add to that an awareness of financial worth -- for example, according to the IAAP, the 2006 salary for a senior executive assistant was anywhere between $37,000 and $51,000. Such a wide range puts the onus on the worker to negotiate for a competitive salary, one that reflects their skills and experience. That’s particularly an important factor for women, according to the authors of Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. In surveys, they found that women were 2.5 times more likely than men to feel "a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
If you’re working as an admin, hats off to you. You’re one of the folks who continue to make modern business hum smoothly. In honor of your special week, we’ve put together these articles on admin career development.
And if you work with one, take a moment today or this week to say thank you to your admin, perhaps with a bouquet of flowers or lunch. If you need some guidance, check out these suggestions.
April 24, 2007
It's 2007 -- Do You Know Where Your Health Insurance Is?
Ten years ago, Congress authorized the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide health coverage for children living in families earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. The Foundation is working to make sure this program is reauthorized by Congress this year.
But while you're thinking about health insurance, consider this: More than 45 million Americans are uninsured -- and many of those are employed. The total spending on healthcare in the US is $2 trillion -- 16 percent of our total GDP. These are big numbers, meaning healthcare coverage is a big issue for all of us.
To help Monster members better understand these complex issues, we've pulled together a series of articles about health insurance and enlisted the help of two experts to provide advice and commentary. Here are a few of the resources we've gathered on this topic:
- "Risky Healthcare: Excerpt from The Great Risk Shift"
- "Condition Critical: A Look at America's Ailing Health Insurance System"
- "The Working Uninsured"
- "No Easy Healthcare Lessons from Other Countries"
- "Health Insurance Reform's Effect on Workers and Employers"
- "Consumer-Driven Health Plans"
Our special guest experts, Dr. Jacob Hacker, professor of political science at Yale University and author of The Great Risk Shift, and Bianca DiJulio, policy analyst for the Health Care Marketplace Project at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, will be online this week (April 23-28) to respond to questions and comments. Visit the Health Insurance Anxiety message board to participate in this important discussion.
April 23, 2007
Why Is a Woman's Salary Lower Than a Man's?
Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, and new research by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation shows that just one year out of college, women working full-time earn only 80 percent of their male colleagues’ salaries, even when they work in the same field. Ten years after graduation, the pay gap widens, with women earning 69 percent of what men earn.
The findings confound me. I’ve always attributed the gap primarily to women’s career tracks; they’re more likely to work part-time and take time out of the workforce to raise children. This study suggests I should think again. Even after adjusting for hours worked, occupation, parenthood and other factors known to affect earnings, the study found that one-quarter of the pay gap between men and women remains unexplained.
I can’t help but think about my two nieces who will be enrolling in college in September. The sad fact is that no matter how well they perform, they’ll probably earn less than their male peers. Both my nieces are going to top-tier schools; one is attending one of the most competitive in the country. But the study reports that even women who attended highly selective colleges earn less than men from either highly or moderately selective colleges and about the same as men from minimally selective colleges.
The study says sex discrimination is at play. It must be. But I also wonder: Does strong academic performance suggest that young women have too strong a desire to please both in the classroom and at the negotiating table? Are we not instilling in our girls enough of a sense of their own worth?
No matter how I slice it, I come out deeply concerned, not only for our young women but also for our society as a whole. The fact is that in college, women outperform men -- earning slightly higher GPAs than men in every college major, including science and mathematics. Imagine if we let them reach their potential outside the classroom. Now think about how we can make that happen.
Check out these related articles:
April 20, 2007
This Earth Day, Keep It Green with These Resources
Environmental topics like global warming and corporate social responsibility are grabbing the headlines, leaving many people wondering what they can do to help our good Earth. In honor of Earth Day on Sunday, here are some concrete suggestions for how workers can stay environmentally responsible every day:
- Determine how environmentally responsible your company is by investigating sustainability and corporate responsibility reports as well as whether they recycle everything from computers to copy paper. Ask questions, and make suggestions where you see opportunity to improve the status quo.
- Vet future employers (or your current one) by checking out independent ratings of their social responsibility, like the Greenpeace survey of green tech companies. (Incidentally, according to this week’s Monster poll, 80-plus percent of you would be more inclined to work for an environmentally conscious company. Employers, take note.)
- Consider a green career. For ideas, check out this look at green and growing industries, five hot environmental jobs and the education options needed to get into these areas.
How do you keep it green?
April 19, 2007
To Get Creative at Work, Step Away from Your Computer
When and where are you at your creative best?
That’s a question I posed to the Twitter community recently, after noting that my own creative juices tend to flow best first thing in the morning. The responses I received were telling. Here are some of my favorites:
- ChipGriffin: When I’m not trying to be creative and mind is just relaxed and wandering -- shower, bed, long drive, beach, etc.
- TedDemop: Creative best? Occurs in random spurts at unplanned times. Often early a.m. -- sometimes before sleep/sometimes upon awakening.
- comedy4cast: Usually when I’m trying to concentrate on something else. My mind wanders and…bingo!
- DanYork: In regular activities, I find some of my most creative times (in terms of idea generation) are when I’m out walking or biking.
Like me, these four members of the Twitterati spend hours upon hours at the computer and online each day. And yet, for all of us, creative thoughts or solutions often bubble their way up through our brains precisely when we’re away from our machines.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the tools of technology that I write about here each week -- instant messaging, RSS, blogs, podcasts, wikis, etc. -- and know that they lead to terrific brainstorming sessions, project collaboration and the start of the creative process. But I also know that it’s those very un-technical activities -- eating breakfast, showering, taking a walk -- when the creative thoughts they produce finally crystallize for me.
How does technology work for you in the creative process? Take our Monster Poll.
You can also check out these other Monster resources on creativity:
April 18, 2007
Virginia Tech Heroes
During Monday’s tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, college senior Kevin Sterne grabbed an electrical cord and fashioned a tourniquet to stem the bleeding from the bullet wounds to his thigh. Twenty-year-old Derek O’Dell, who had been shot in the arm, shut the classroom door and along with some other students, pushed himself against it so the gunman, who had briefly left the classroom, couldn’t reenter. Twenty-year-old Trey Perkins used his clothing to staunch the wounds of bleeding classmates.
In the aftermath of this week’s bloody shootings, college officials have come under strong criticism for not locking down the campus quickly enough following the initial two fatal shootings and for alerting students through email to stay home. I cannot help but draw parallels to 9/11, when my brother-in-law died after following a directive from security to return to his office. Like those mentioned above, he too fought heroically to help trapped colleagues. My sister spoke to him via his cell phone shortly before he died.
I don’t know how I would respond in such a crisis. Although I hope never to find out and do not advocate that we spend our life anticipating such a situation, I do believe effective training would benefit us all.
The failures of the security team during 9/11 and now, arguably 4/16, show that training alone does not necessarily save lives, but thorough preparedness can surely help. For example, this past weekend was the 10th anniversary of the flood in Grand Fork, North Dakota. It is celebrated as a FEMA success and often invites comparisons to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, where FEMA drew sharp criticism for its response.
Twenty years ago, I was a CPR-trained ski patroller. In recent years, I’ve let that certification lapse. It’s time we took a closer look at our own preparedness and the training we do and don’t provide, particularly at our workplaces, irrespective of the nature of our employment. We all could benefit from knowing how best to respond in a crisis. Were disaster to strike my office or my home, I would not be as well prepared as I once was. Would you?
Read more on how to create a disaster plan.
April 17, 2007
Think Outside the Career Box
"Think outside the box." How many times have we heard or read this catchphrase, intended to stimulate creative imagination and innovation? After all, innovation is a hot topic in the business world -- the key to staying ahead of competitors at home and overseas. But, as anyone who has ever participated in a brainstorming session can report, it often seems as though getting out of the box just leads to projects and products that get out of hand.
The issue is that creativity and innovation must be implemented in a world where there are rules and limitations. In this BusinessWeek item, "Turning Limitations into Innovation," Google VP Marissa Ann Mayer discusses how the tech leader balances creative constraints with "a healthy disregard for the impossible." She also points out another key limitation for successful innovation: Setting short time limits for implementation.
Mayer explains, "Speed also lets you fail faster. Have you ever wondered how a product so lame got to market, a movie so bad actually got released, a government policy so misguided got passed? In cases like these, the people working on it have spent so much time and are so personally invested that it's too painful to walk away."
What's good for a successful employer like Google is also good advice for employees. Are you thinking creatively about your career? Do you work with "a healthy disregard for the impossible"? Are you really thinking out of the box or just trying to stay in one -- too invested in a job or company to walk away? Being creative in your career means taking on the big tasks while defining limits on what you will accomplish, along with establishing a timetable for success -- or failure.
Here are more resources about career creativity:
- "Be More Creative"
- Bob Sutton's blog "Work Matters"
- "Balancing Boundaries With Creativity"
- "Limit Creativity, Get Innovation"
- "Think You Manage Creativity? Here's Why You're Wrong"
- "Top Book Picks for Creatives"
- "Weird Rules of Creativity -- Think You Manage Creativity? Here's Why You're Wrong"