Food Trucks
Posted by editor at 5:30 am in workplace notes

Miracle Mile Lunch Trucks examines the competition between “permanent” businesses and food trucks in one neighborhood in Los Angeles:

For food truck lovers — and there are many in this city — Wilshire Boulevard near South Curson Avenue is a mecca, distinguished by the sheer number of upscale trucks it attracts. On Wednesday about 1 p.m., there were nearly a dozen. Across the street from the La Brea Tar Pits, the India Jones Chow Truck, Mrs. Beasley’s Dessert Truck and Fishlips Sushi were all crowded into half a block.

For restaurant owners, the trucks are competition that take away business and hog precious metered parking spaces. Some shop owners are said to have called the police on trucks that languish beyond the allowed hour at a meter.

It sounds delicious—but I can understand why “permanent” business owners are threatened. On the other hand (I used to work in this area), I wish the permanent businesses were tastier.

Your Brain on Technology
Posted by editor at 6:38 am in workplace notes

Read Your Brain on Computers and see if it doesn’t resonate just a bit.

Terrariums in the Cubicle
Posted by editor at 7:32 am in workplace fun

I had a terrarium when I was a kid that made me quite happy. While reading Terrariums Make a Comback, I wondered if perhaps these were the perfect cubicle toy: easy to care for, pleasing to look at, and infinitely interesting. Slideshow for terrariums here and ideas for making one here.

Multitasking and the Blackberry
Posted by editor at 8:07 pm in decline of civilization

I just found this great description of our perception of “multi-tasking” at work, particularly the practice of using a Blackberry to check emails and whatever while others are present, such as during a meeting:

I often hear this rationalization: It’s a way to multitask and increase efficiency. But neuroscientists tell us that dividing our attention between competing stimuli instead of handling tasks one at a time actually makes us less efficient.

Still, the illusion that multitasking can aid productivity is powerful. And it’s abetted by the fact that splitting our attention between real and virtual worlds can produce a kind of neural intoxication, research shows.

Through our devices, we find a way to disappear without leaving the room. By splitting ourselves off and reaching out electronically, we fill empty interpersonal space and ignite our senses. We can find relief and a fleeting sense of freedom. [emphasis added]

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Hooters Doesn’t Enjoy Irony as I do
Posted by editor at 7:45 am in workplace notes

This is a video of a Hooters employee who has been told that her uniform doesn’t fit properly because she’s 5’8” and 132 pounds. They gave her an ultimatum involving losing weight to keep her job. But please enjoy the appearance of the manager, who is interviewed toward the end of the video clip.

Workers Asked to Return Bonuses
Posted by editor at 7:36 am in workplace notes

After 16 years!

Yes, in suburban Atlanta in 1994, bonuses totalling $39,000 were given by mistake.

Somehow I think they are still going have a hard time collecting this money.

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The Productivity Myth
Posted by editor at 6:57 am in workplace news

The Productivity Myth is a good dissection of the notion that we are more productive in the recession. Why are we more productive? Because we’re scared of being laid off! Additionally, the entire notion of productivity is a bit warped:

Getting more tasks accomplished — say writing and responding to scores of emails in between other activities — may technically represent higher productivity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean adding greater value.

Instead, the ethic of more, bigger, faster ultimately generates value that is narrow, shallow and short-term.

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Jobs that No Longer Exist
Posted by editor at 5:20 am in workplace notes

At the end of a long workweek, 20 Jobs that Have Disappeared can put your work life in perspective. Not only did your job most likely not exist 100 years ago, it might not exist 100 years from now! At least that’s true from where I sit.

Utah Leads Nation
Posted by editor at 1:53 pm in workplace news

in male sexual harassment claims with almost a third of the claims filed from men. And another insight from EEOC statistics—states that were hardest hit by the recession, such as Michigan and California, had a corresponding increase in male claims of sexual harassment.

To summarize the problem:

 Stephen Anderson, president of Anderson-davis Inc., a workplace training company in Denver, says filing a claim is often a no-win situation for a man. “If a woman is harassing you, people might think ‘What is wrong with you? You should be flattered,’ ” he says. In cases where another man is the harasser, the victim might be afraid that he comes across as unmanly or homosexual, he says.

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When the Honeymoon Ends….
Posted by editor at 7:36 am in workplace notes

I’ve been at my current new job just over two months. And although it’s a big change from being self-employed, it is similar (and familiar) to most of the jobs that I’ve had in the past in this particular way: there’s always a period of oblivion at the beginning when everyone is cordial and the organization seems totally functional, and then that period ends. It might end with a meeting, a goof on my part, a realization back at the cubicle while reading an email, or maybe a memo. But it does end. And it always ends with some disappointment on my part, even if it’s just a bit.

Now, this doesn’t mean it’s now a terrible job. It just means that it’s a normal job with normal people who have strengths and weaknesses and bring their baggage to work because it’s impossible to leave it all at home. That’s all okay. Welcome to reality, and all that.

I call this particular time the “End of the Honeymoon” at work, and I’m sure other people use this term, but the only thing I managed to find on-line was about a “dream” job as a honeymoon tester. As I’ve grown older, the honeymoon has ended sooner and sooner with each new job. It used to be about three months, which would take me through a summer internship unscathed, and it quickly slipped with each new job. And now I think it’s about 6 weeks for me.

How long was your current honeymoon at your job?

A Fresh Start
Posted by editor at 10:58 am in workplace notes

As you can probably see from the scarcity of posts, I’ve been very busy. I started a new full-time (outside the home) job in February, and it really takes a lot of my time.

 After more than five years of beings self-employed, it’s odd to have a boss again. It’s even more peculiar to be paid regularly and have benefits. But I’m managing to cope. And I knew that it was time for me to leave publishing and go in a new direction.

I do have one question for you though: How do you find time to exercise?

A Bad Boss
Posted by editor at 4:53 pm in workplace notes

A letter in Consumerist highlights life under a bullying boss. Commenters ponder the options: to leave, to document, to go to HR (or all of the above).

The Value of Social Media
Posted by editor at 9:01 am in workplace notes

There’s an interesting discussion at the Harvard Business Blogs on the value of social media, Is Social Media Worth Your Time, in light of Beware Social Media Snake Oil in Business Week.

I like social media, especially in the workplace, but I will be the first to admit that it’s time consuming. I’ve found that the most I can do with social media is belong to Linkedin. I can’t do Facebook or Twitter. But if what you’re seeking if buzz, then you need to consider it.

Best Office Spaces
Posted by editor at 10:10 am in workplace notes

Some of the most beautiful office spaces in the world are shown here.

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Strategically Defaulting on a Mortgage
Posted by editor at 8:56 am in workplace notes

Apparently it may be in your best financial interest to default on your home loan if your home is underwater (worth less than you owe), but for emotional reasons (e.g., shame) many people will not consider it:

Contrary to reports that homeowners are increasingly “walking away” from their mortgages, most homeowners continue to make their payments even when they are significantly underwater. This article suggests that most homeowners do not strategically default as a result of two emotional forces: 1) the desire to avoid the shame and guilt of foreclosure; and 2) exaggerated anxiety over foreclosure’s perceived consequences. Moreover, these emotional constraints are actively cultivated by the government and other social control agents in order to induce homeowners to ignore market and legal norms under which strategic default might not only be a viable option, but also the wisest financial decision.

It’s an interesting issue, really. You choose to play by one set of moral rules, and your lender (and the industry) use an entirely different set.

Read the abstract of an academic paper examining the issue here.

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Posted by editor at 8:10 pm in workplace notes

When Being Positive Is Entirely Meaningless is a great post about the need to mediate incessant positivism with some reality.

The Rule of Three
Posted by editor at 5:03 pm in workplace notes

Our brains seem to fixate on the number three, and three is just enough times for something to be mentioned in a work of fiction for the reader to take note.

In management, the rule of three can also be a general guideline for when to address a management issue. If something happens once, it’s potentially an accident. If something happens twice, it’s a potential pattern. And if something happens a third time, it’s a recurrent issue, and time to have a chat. And it doesn’t just apply to managers and traditional workplaces. You can also use this rule as a consultant:

If someone makes a joke about my consulting rates — maybe they say something like, “well, with rates like those, it’s a good thing you add value (chuckle, chuckle).” I might laugh along with them but I notice my discomfort. The second time I smile but don’t laugh. The third time I say “This is the third time you’ve joked about my rates — I know it’s a joke but I also wonder if you feel like they exceed my value. If so, I’d like to talk about it with you.”

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The Water Cooler
Posted by editor at 7:30 pm in workplace notes

Several studies show that in order to increase “productivity,”* it is important to provide workers time for breaks, including around the water cooler. Through using badges with mics to monitor interactions, scientists recorded sociability as well as work habits:

….we monitored IT workers and their productivity using similar badges. Once again, we found that group cohesion was a central predictor of productivity. In fact, workers whose group cohesion was in the top third showed an increase in work productivity of more than 10%. In addition, workers who had access to more people, that is, their network of company contacts was larger, also demonstrated increased productivity. In this case, workers whose network access was in the top third of the group showed an additional productivity increase of 4%

So although you may feel guilty about time spent around the water cooler, it’s important to being human to connect with one another (and leads to an increase in “productivity.”)

*Productivity will be shown in scare quotes as it’s notoriously difficult to measure.

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Getting It Done, Getting It Done Right
Posted by editor at 4:10 pm in workplace notes

Bob Sutton has a great post on the tension between getting it done and getting it done right. He describes this as the tension between the need for completion and the need for perfection.

The discussion about perfection and completion reminded me of a job that I had as an editor in which I was consistently sent back to the drawing board to rework whatever idea we developed. I never completed a project because of a boss who was a perfectionist. But this was almost the perfect antidote to life in traditional publishing in which project after project had to be completed on a rigorous schedule without regards to quality.

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Is Voice Mail Obsolete?
Posted by editor at 1:03 pm in workplace notes

Apparently those of us who still call our voice mails to check messages are in the minority. Many people have their voice mail electronically transcribed and sent to them.

A Very Unhappy Customer Service Rep
Posted by editor at 11:46 am in workplace notes

Who knew customer service reps were so unhappy (you probably did) or had such dark senses of humor.

Of course, AT&T says it’s not true.

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