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November 28, 2007

How Do You Make Decisions at Work?

Every workday is filled with a myriad of decisions to be made. Some have few consequences and are made without much thought: where to park in the morning, which pen to use, whether to have tuna or ham for lunch. Others are more complex: Should you have it out with your coworker? Is that interview you got called for worth it? How can you cut your budget for 2008?

A lot of people (myself included) make the ol’ pros and cons list when deciding something major, weighing all the options to find the one that makes the most sense. But thinking that much may not be the best way to make such decisions, according to a new book called Gut Feelings. In it, psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck Institute in Germany advocates trusting your gut more and such lists less.

Gigerenzer argues that cognitive shortcuts in our brains are there for a reason and help us through life. Says the Newsweek article: “Psychologists now believe that these cognitive shortcuts evolved over eons in the brain's neurons, probably because exhaustive and complex calculation was so often impractical for our early ancestors, who were always only one step ahead of their predators.”

So how do you make decisions at work? Do you go with your intuition, or is it lists and deep thought all the way? Tell us in the comments below. And in the meantime, check out these Monster resources about the art of work-related decision-making:

Posted by Christine on November 28, 2007 at 08:55 AM in Current Events , The Daily Grind | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

November 26, 2007

What’s Your Workplace Eating Style?

The first workday after Thanksgiving ushers in a couple of seasonal events. Today, of course, is Cyber Monday -- the day many people will take a break from work to do a little online shopping, costing employers an estimated $488.4 million in lost productivity.

But, aside from being a holiday milestone for retailers, today is also the official start of the holiday eating season, that special time of year when food is everywhere -- including the office. Last week, our department got a jump on the season when Chris, our tech guy, brought in his homemade cheesecake. That’s just a taste of things to come, of course, as over the next few weeks, workplaces everywhere will be inundated with all sorts of unhealthy -- but delectable -- holiday treats.

Some of us will be able to resist the coming parade of cookies, cakes, pastries and pies, but most of us won’t. Some of us will regret our indulgences, while others will simply enjoy every calorie-laden morsel, along with the associated office socializing.

Food and drink are favorite topics around here -- we’ve discussed the finer points of lunch and coffee consumption more than a few times in this blog -- but the prospect of even more food in the office got me thinking about not just what we eat at work but how. Here are five workplace eating styles I’ve observed:

  • Healthy: Most of us aim for this, but let’s face it: These are the people you love to hate -- the impossibly slender ones smugly collecting their low-fat yogurt and fresh broccoli florets out of the fridge (after their five-mile runs, of course) while you’re walking by with your Big Mac and large fries.

  • Stealthy: Do these people ever eat? You can’t be sure, because they’re supremely artful in concealing their food intake.

  • Stressed: A contentious phone call, a disagreement with the boss or a tight deadline can send these types into a mindless eating binge. You can hear them angrily chomping away in their cube.

  • Scavenger: These folks have a sixth sense when it comes to finding food anywhere on the premises. Watch for them picking through anything left over from an office function after everyone else is gone.

  • Social: Easy to spot, the more socially minded work eaters have candy jars on their desks and are always rounding up colleagues for lunch.

What workplace eating styles have you observed? What style are you? Leave us a comment below.

For more on the topic, check out these Monster resources:

Posted by Ann on November 26, 2007 at 11:35 AM in The Daily Grind | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 21, 2007

Get Ready with Monster’s Guide to the Holidays

By nature, I am a planner. I’m happiest when I have plotted out my next moves and have a Plan B in case the original one doesn’t pan out. And this year, when it comes to my favorite season, the holidays, my planning ways will come in handy.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m due with my first child around the turn of the year, so I’m either going to have a newborn or be nine months pregnant on Christmas Day. To soothe my worried mind, I’m starting my holiday preparations early this year. We’ve made our Christmas gift list and started shopping, and I’ve told family and friends my availability will be limited after mid-December.

So you can imagine how happy I was when we came up with Monster’s Guide to the Holidays. This collection of articles covers everything from holiday party etiquette (with 90 percent of companies reporting they will have a holiday shindig this year, according to Challenger, Grey and Christmas, this is news you need to know) to career-related gift books you’ll want on your shopping list. Check it out, and remember: Even if you’re not having a baby, it never hurts to be prepared early. Just ask the guy who started hanging garland at the mall on November first.

Posted by Christine on November 21, 2007 at 10:05 AM in Current Events , The Daily Grind | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 19, 2007

How to Be Productive at Work This Thanksgiving Week

OK, admit it: You’re really not in a working mood this week. After all, the great American holiday of Thanksgiving is just three short days away, and there is no shortage of related items to distract you between now and then. For example:

  • How early your boss will let you leave the office Wednesday
  • Where you’re flying for the long weekend
  • Who’s coming to dinner and which long-lost second cousin you’ll have to be polite to this year
  • How many extra helpings of stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce you’ll manage to stuff down on Thursday afternoon
  • Who’s playing in the Turkey Day football games
  • Whether those Friday shopping bargains are really worth rising before dawn and waiting in extra-long lines to cash in on.

But here’s the good news: You’re not alone. Your coworkers and colleagues around the country would similarly prefer to skip the standing team meeting or put off writing that report or proposal for at least a few more days.

But it’s precisely because nobody else wants to be working all that hard that you have the chance to make this one of your most productive weeks of the year. Here’s why:

  • Mark my words: Some of those scheduled meetings you have in the next couple of days will be cancelled. Use the newfound free time to wrap up a bugaboo project -- one that has never been at the absolute top of the priority list but that will have you feeling much better once it’s done. 

  • When we’re at work but don’t actually want to do the work we’re supposed to be doing, we like to chit-chat. Why not turn the nation’s collective gregariousness this week into your own gain by scheduling a networking phone call or lunch? You’re ensured of having some lively -- and fruitful -- discussions that just might lead to new business partnerships or job opportunities.

  • You’ll stand out from the crowd.  If you spend the next few days getting organized and cranking through all of your assignments while your coworkers resort to goofing off, who do you think will be sitting pretty in the eyes of your boss come next Monday morning?

So don’t allow the visions of Thanksgiving Day delights to dance too loudly in your head, and stay focused right through Wednesday afternoon. The turkey will still taste just as good on Thursday.

Posted by Bryan on November 19, 2007 at 01:00 PM in Current Events , Networking , The Daily Grind | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 14, 2007

What We’re Thankful For, 2007 Edition

In a week, we’ll all be gearing up for the big feed that is Thanksgiving. This time of year often gets us thinking about what we’re thankful for -- if only to be ready for when Aunt Matilda asks everyone to go around the holiday table and say it.

I went around the Monster Career Advice table, as we’ve done in past years, and asked my coworkers what they were thankful for at work. Here are their (and my) responses. Happy Thanksgiving, and tell us what you’re thankful for in the comments below.

Ann: Health insurance is my thing -- the thing I read about, think about and talk about pretty much all the time. (Yes, I make a fascinating party guest.) So I am thankful that we were able to host an online community event in April on health insurance issues. I am grateful to our guest experts, Bianca DiJulio of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Jacob Hacker, author of The Great Risk Shift, for sharing their time and expertise with us, and to all of you Monster members who participated.

In July, I wrote about a friend whose family had lost health insurance just as a new health insurance mandate was going into effect here in Massachusetts. I am happy -- and thankful -- to report that my friend’s husband has since found a full-time job with health insurance, and that they are now covered. But I will really be thankful when health insurance is no longer a major cause for worry in this country.

Brooke: As it is my first year out of college, I am thankful I have a job! I have been fortunate enough to be able to work in a challenging and dynamic environment right after graduating. I must admit it’s been a pretty unique experience working for a career advice Web site at the beginning of my career; I’ve learned so much on many different levels. In the past five and a half months, other than career advice (which I’ve come to know), I’ve learned a whole new set of skills, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve discovered a lot about myself. And if a job can do all that for you, you know you have a lot to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Bryan: I’m especially thankful this year that my wife and I found a good babysitter for my 1-year-old son. I can come to work knowing that he’s in safe hands. I’m also grateful for the arrival of a new coworker, who’s successfully encouraged me to stop skipping lunch.

Christine: There are a lot of personal things I’m thankful for this year, my husband’s continued good health being high on the list. The biggest, of course, is my belly, or more accurately, what’s inside it -- we’re due with our first child in early January and are over the moon. This has made the whole concept of work/life balance come into full focus for me. I’m thankful I work at a company that understands life isn’t all about work and has been accommodating for doctor’s appointments, sick (make that exhausted) days and other fun pregnancy brings. And then there’s after the baby comes...

Christopher: Last year at Thanksgiving, I was gearing up for my wedding, which occurred just two days after the holiday. I have to confess -- I was thinking more about saying my vows properly than reflecting on what I was truly thankful for. Shame on me, I know.

Nearly a year has passed now, and while my wife may tell you I am most thankful for turkey (which I do thoroughly enjoy), what I am really thankful for is her. She has given me the most wonderful year of my life and has made me an all-around better person. It was also her that urged me to start looking for another job earlier this year when I was clearly unhappy -- and because of that urging, I can now be thankful for a job that I look forward to coming into each and every day and the wonderful people I get to work with.

Norma: There’s a lot for me to be thankful for, like my husband and son, my family, my great friends and that I am lucky enough to truly enjoy the work I do and the people I work with. So I could go all sentimental on that stuff, or I can talk about the diversions at work that I’m thankful for. All work and no fun makes me a dull employee, right? So here are the two diversions I am most thankful for: Pandora Radio, which plays the music I want to hear based on how my preferences mesh with the “Music Genome Project,” and JibJab Starring You! videos, in which you take a JibJab movie and cast it with heads from your own pictures. Hours of procrastinating fun!

Posted by Christine on November 14, 2007 at 10:13 AM in The Daily Grind | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 12, 2007

Is It Time to Fire All the Smokers?

A couple of years ago, our posts on whether a company had the right to fire employees who smoked -- Maya said no; Thad said yes -- caused quite a stir with our readers.

And with the annual Great American Smokeout happening this Thursday, coupled with the recent news that the smoking rate among Americans isn’t dropping, I think it’s time to raise the issue again.

Here’s what we know:

  • Smoking is bad for your health.
  • Employees in bad health miss more work days per year than their healthier counterparts.
  • All other factors being equal, healthy workers are better for their companies’ bottom lines than unhealthy workers.

But just because you know you shouldn’t smoke and your company would prefer you didn’t (some even pay for stop-smoking programs), does that mean you should be sacked for smoking -- even if it’s during your break and outside your work building?

I certainly hope not. After all, employees engage in plenty of other (potentially) unhealthy/risky behaviors on their own time that we’re not talking about firing them for: eating too much red meat, driving without a seat belt, not washing their hands when they have a cold, etc.

If I had a magic wand, I’d wipe out smoking completely. It’s a disgusting, unhealthy and smelly way to live. But since I’m no Harry Potter, the best I can do is encourage the few smoking friends and colleagues I do have to kick their habit.

But until they do, let’s not have them in fear of losing their jobs because of their private, personal choices -- as unhealthy as those choices might be.

What’s your take? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted by Bryan on November 12, 2007 at 02:17 PM in Current Events , The Daily Grind | Permalink | Comments (185) | TrackBack (0)

November 07, 2007

Female Absenteeism: It’s Not Always Why You Think

Statistically speaking, women are absent from work more often than men. The knee-jerk reaction: They’re caring for the kids. Indeed, according to this article, married and unmarried women with children report more absences than their childless counterparts. (Interestingly enough, married men with children report fewer absences than those without children.)

But hold on: There’s more going on here than just family getting in the way of work. The article goes on to say: “[Eric] Patton and his coauthor Gary Johns found that elevated absentee rates for women could not be fully explained by health, family or job issues. Instead the researcher postulated that social expectations have created an ‘absence culture’ for women that may be a factor.”

Absence culture? Not according to this mom, interviewed for the story: “Lauren, a Cleveland mother of two teenage daughters, finds she can never call in sick because she’s worried about how it will be perceived at the equipment company she works for. ‘Even when my daughters are sick, even when I'm sick, even when I have a myriad of pressing problems, even when I have the cable guy coming to the house or the chimney sweeper or the plumber, even when my mother is sick and needs me, even when my father-in-law is in the hospital, I don't call in sick,’ she says.”

My personal theory on why women are absent more often: They are more likely to do the right thing and stay in bed when they don’t feel well. While there will always be those who abuse the system -- male or female -- I think staying home when you’re sick is something to be encouraged.

And as for women who need to take time off to take care of the kids? As long as the work is getting done, employers should be more sympathetic. It makes for better work/life balance and as a result, happier, more productive employees. And when they can, dads need to step up to the plate to share the load.

For more on this subject, check out these Monster resources:

Posted by Christine on November 7, 2007 at 11:31 AM in Women at Work | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

November 05, 2007

Our Love/Hate Relationship with Email

Email is the bane of the knowledge worker’s professional existence.

OK, so pardon my grandiose pronouncement, but it’s true, isn’t it? There really is no escaping the love/hate relationship you have with your email inbox. For example:

  • Love: Email is a cheap, fast tool for sending and receiving quick replies to/from colleagues.

  • Hate: Because you’re in the habit of answering your email right away, you expect others to do the same. In fact, if a coworker hasn’t replied to your message within a half hour, you start to think you’re being ignored.

  • Love: Thanks to the ask-a-question, get-an-answer power of email, you can avoid those boring conference calls and unnecessary, time-wasting meetings.

  • Hate: Somehow, the conference calls and meetings aren’t slowing down -- and neither is your email.

  • Love: If you’re not a phone person, email is a more comfortable communications mode for getting some of your transactional work done.

  • Hate: Because you didn’t pick up the phone when you fired off that emotional email to your client, your tone was misinterpreted and you just lost a major corporate account -- as well as your job.

  • Love: Your BlackBerry delivers your email to you anywhere, anytime!

  • Hate: Your BlackBerry delivers your email to you anywhere, anytime!

There really is no escaping email -- we need it to do our jobs. But when we allow our inbox to manage us instead of the other way around, email becomes a terrible burden.

So what’s the solution?  How about email-free Fridays? Several companies are starting to adopt the concept as a way to encourage actual face-to-face interaction and to reduce the level of unnecessary email.  If you think an email-free workday is a great idea, make sure you vote in this week’s Monster poll (bottom of page).

Now I wonder who I should ask at Monster about putting the policy into place at our workplace?

What are your best practices for managing email?  Drop them in the comments section below. 

Here are a few of our resources on the topic:

Posted by Bryan on November 5, 2007 at 12:40 PM in The Daily Grind | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)