Less than Full Disclosure
Posted by editor at 10:49 am in workplace notes

I don’t read a lot of Mommy Blogs mainly because too much talk about children makes me want to poke out my eyes. (And, yes, I am a parent.) However, I have been struck a number of times when I pass by a Mommy Blog by the amount of consumption that is often included as a key part of parenting. There’s always mention of a great snack picked up cheaply at Target, some great pair of $50 leopard-print toddler sneakers with sequins, or maybe a trip to Disneyland to take rides and buy Mickey Mouse undies. The entire subject matter makes me want to gag.

I’m sorry. But. Disney. Leopard-prints for toddlers. Snacks at Target. Gag.

But, yes, excessive consumption is nauseating to me. Not the consumption that is necessary to survive, because, yes, we all must remain clothed most of the time, and fed. But the sort of glorification of consumption as if it is not only edifying, but cleansing, clarifying, and deeply religious.

It never occurred to me that most of these Mommy Blog posts were from parents who got the stuff for free, but apparently that’s the case.

I feel so naive. I even get stuff offered to me, occasionally, but most of it is workplace-related (often software), and not that interesting, and I always say no.

I think, in the interest of full disclosure, it would be ethical to tell readers when you were received merchandise for free.

Banning of Pens
Posted by editor at 4:10 pm in workplace notes

We’ve heard of the banning of pens in the workplace before, right? At least I swear we did in Weird Workplace News regarding a phone call center where pens were banned. In an age, where you can take a photo of just about anything with your cell phone, it doesn’t make sense to ban pens, but apparently a customer at a makeup store who was conducting research was banned from writing anything down.

Why We Have Non-Work Email
Posted by editor at 6:50 pm in workplace notes

Because without a separate non-work email address, you might be tempted to use your work email to communicate with your lover and you might accidentally cc the entire workplace, which would be Cornell University.

I am mortified on this person’s behalf.  

Gossip in the Workplace
Posted by editor at 8:12 am in workplace notes

Resisting the Urge to Gossip discusses a study that suggests that there are three ways to derail gossip in the workplace:

  • change the subject
  • target someone else
  • pre-empt criticism with positive comments

Of course, you probably don’t want to target someone else with gossip, but it’s worth thinking about ways that have worked for you in the past.

A Brief Tribute to Sister Marguerite
Posted by editor at 4:45 pm in workplace notes

More than a decade ago, I taught at a small, private school for Native Americans in Santa Fe. There were only about a dozen faculty for our school in grades 7-12, and we were close.

It is with great sadness that I read about the murder of one of my former colleagues, Sister Marguerite, on Halloween. She was extremely kind to me when I was a fledgling teacher, and she was greatly committed to social justice work in the poorest communities. My prayers are with her roommate, and my teaching mentor, Sister Magdalena, and the community of Navajo, New Mexico.


I’ve noticed that many of us have become addicted to our Blackberries. We bring them everywhere; we check them incessantly. But how do you get the attention of a group of people who are using Blackberries rather than listening to a presentation? Or using Blackberries rather than participating in a meeting? Or using Blackberries to fact check you as you are speaking? This article, How to Deal with a Blackberry Junkie, addresses the issue in part using K-12 teaching techniques:

Make meetings more interactive. Push for participation. Call on — and call out — that CMO. Create expectations that inhibit leaning back and promote the lean forward. If people think they can get away with diverting their attention, they will. Do you think commercial airline pilots all over the world will think twice before they spend more than 15 minutes on their laptops doing non-flight-related calculations? I do. Do you think students will think twice about IM-ing their sweetheart if there’s a better than even chance they’ll be called on in class? I do. Do you think a CMO will think twice before checking her messages if two of the best-regarded advertising agencies simply shut up — or decline to present — until she makes it clear to everyone in the room that she’s fully engaged? I do.

It’s not bad advice, but I wonder if it will work if we are dealing with genuine addictions to electronica. Thoughts?

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The Tenure Process
Posted by editor at 4:21 pm in workplace notes

Tenure is a big deal in the academic community. It’s the equivalent of a permanent position, and most of us in other areas of the workforce know how rare those are.

At DePaul University, five of seven professors denied tenure were women, and four of them appealed the decision, but were turned down by the president. The tenure review process is described this way:

  Professors are initially evaluated by their departments and colleges — that is, by colleagues in the same field — but ultimately by a universitywide academic board. Under that system, the task force concluded, “the judgments and expertise of dozens of faculty are overturned by the majority of a small committee, most of whom may not have any expertise in the areas they are assessing.”

Unlike at other universities, the tenure review board at DePaul does not just defer to the judgment of a professor’s departmental colleagues. That board’s actions go to the president for a final decision.

Tenure review isn’t fair, and can determine the composition of a university in terms of professorial makeup for decades to come. But how can you fix a system, such as the one at DePaul, when management doesn’t think it needs to be fixed?

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Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Posted by editor at 10:23 am in workplace notes

How to Spoil a Day at the Office has numerous real-life examples of passive-aggressive behavior. What is striking is how proud of their behavior people are! You can read the entire article here, but here’s an example:

 I have a co-worker who relies on e-mails and phone calls anytime he wants to communicate–even though we all work together in the same office building, on the same floor! Most of the time, it would be quicker for him to just get up out of his seat and tell me something face-to-face than it is for him to dial my extension or type it out, but he always avoids personal contact. It is really annoying, so I make it a point to never answer phone calls when I see they are from him and to ignore anything he sends in an e-mail!


In light of David Letterman’s statement, “I have had sex with women who work for me” a former writer on Late Night with David Letterman has written an essay in Vanity Fair that describes the workplace:

Without naming names or digging up decades-old dirt, let’s address the pertinent questions. Did Dave hit on me? No. Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no.

And the writer did what many of us do: we walk away. Talking to someone in HR seems too difficult, and too filled with potentially devastating reprecussions.

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Do Meetings Make You Anxious?
Posted by editor at 9:20 am in workplace notes

Surviving the Workday contributor, GhostGirl, wrote a post on meeting anxiety a while ago that has received many hits recently, and even some new comments. This makes me wonder if our recession is causing us to be more anxious about meetings in the workplace.

Generally speaking, I think meetings make people anxious when they don’t know know what is going to happen at the meeting and what their role might be. Will I be called on? Will I need to lead a portion of the meeting? Should I do anything to prepare for the meeting? This leads to a sense of uncertainty about the meeting, which can cause anxiety. As a meeting organizer, you can address these concerns by clearly assigning roles in an agenda, which is distributed ahead of time. It seems obvious enough, but often is not done.

What makes you anxious about meetings?

The Joys of Contract Work
Posted by editor at 3:57 pm in workplace notes

Why Contracting May Be Your Next Move seems to be a pretty biased article masquerading as journalism.  However, the comments seem to provide far more realistic feedback about the realities of contracting. Although the article does describe the drawbacks (less of a sense of permanency, less benefits, less chance to search for permanent work), these seem underplayed when placed against considerable benefits named of contract work (get hired faster, build your resume, boost your confidence, expand your network, it goes on and on in this fashion). It’s worth reading in case you’re considering contracting, but please don’t consider it necessarily factual.

Generation X Ignored
Posted by editor at 12:31 pm in workplace notes

I hear that the Millennials are Poised to Replace the Baby Boomers in the workplace:

 In the coming years, Gen Y will replace the Baby Boomers in the workplace. Gen Y brings its own unique demands. Cathy Benko, co-chairman of Deloitte, in her book, Mass Career Customization, sees the corporate ladder motif being replaced with a latticework based on workers’ personal goals and aspirations.. Smart companies are reacting to the new workforce conditions dictated by Gen Y. And while Gen Y likes the 24/7 social networking connection and dislikes long working hours , they are fundamentally conservative in their lifestyle, with a dislike of ambiguity and risk.

I’ve heard this notion of Baby Boomers being replaced by Millennials a number of times. The article suggests that Generation X has family issues to deal with and is in the process of shifting in and out of the workforce, so that Boomers will be replaced by Millenials rather than Gen X.

Giving Praise at Work
Posted by editor at 11:45 am in workplace tips

Giving praise at work is an important part of being a manager. It’s also simply part of being a coworker. But the details of how to give praise are often overlooked: be specific, don’t over praise, praise minor accomplishments (or obscure ones) as well as major feats, and praise behind someone’s back as well as in front of. Here’s my favorite: don’t damn with faint praise. As the director of my high school choir once said to me, “When you started with us, you couldn’t sing your way out of a bucket. And look at you now.” Gee, thanks!

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You know that being a college student can be difficult, right? That’s why you need a personal assistant. At least one Georgetown undergraduate thinks that he does. What’s truly amazing is that this student isn’t actually willing to pay for your time in full:

Tasks such as doing laundry that involve a lot of waiting around (time when you could be doing other tasks or doing your own stuff) will be counted for the approximate amount of time it would take to do the labor involved. For instance, laundry will be counted for half an hour even though a laundry cycle takes 1.5 hrs to complete.

It’s a good thing we’re not all paid like that! Other tasks include making the student’s bed, organizing the closet, and picking him up from work.

8 Ways to Encourage
Posted by editor at 9:45 am in workplace notes, workplace spirituality

I’ve been pondering criticism recently, and 8 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor prompted some more thinking.

Some of the difficulty of being a writer (and also a minister) has to do with the regularity of feedback. As a working writer, I receive a lot of feedback, and most of it negative. If I were truly a bad writer, I’m convinced I simply wouldn’t get work (or not repeat work and not repeat clients). So, in my mind, it’s not so much that my writing is bad, but that the feedback is negative because that’s how people are used to operating in the world. They don’t tell you what works; they tell you didn’t work for them.

In 8 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor, the number one way to encourage your minister is to cut the criticism:

Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, creator and host of television’s “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” recently gave an address describing the time he was a student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and attended a different church each Sunday in order to hear a variety of preachers.

One Sunday he was treated to “the most poorly crafted sermon (he) had ever heard.” But when he turned to the friend who had accompanied him, he found her in tears.

“It was exactly what I needed to hear,” she told Rogers.

“That’s when I realized,” he told his audience, “that the space between someone doing the best he or she can and someone in need is holy ground. The Holy Spirit had transformed that feeble sermon for her and as it turned out, for me too.”

Tips for Managing Selfish Bosses
Posted by editor at 12:48 pm in workplace tips

A study comparing behavior of toddlers to bosses (I’m not kidding) found that toddler behaviors, including being overly demanding, interruptive, impulsive, tantrum-throwing, and self-oriented, in bosses had increased up to 50%. So if your boss acts like a toddler, you must not be alone. You’re probably also a bit frustrated.

Why Are Boss Egos Expanding suggests four tips for dealing with a toddler-like boss:

• Praise unselfish behavior demonstrated by your boss – Positive reinforcement of good behavior works. Encourage selflessness at every chance. If your boss takes even the slightest step in refocusing toward you, toward others on your team or in your office, praise it lavishly.

• Model good teamwork – Show that no one person can carry the entire office. Demonstrate through your words and actions how to cooperate by giving others credit when it’s due. Praise others for their teamwork.

• Find ways to make your needs known – Give your boss plenty of advance warning that you have other tasks that need your attention – diplomatically. Don’t provoke your boss, think “educate” your manager, without being patronizing.

Help your boss understand the effects of selfish actions – When your manager takes self centered actions that have negative consequences for you, the team or your working relationship, point it out in a non-threatening, non-emotional way.

Being the Boss in a Bad Economy
Posted by editor at 7:37 am in workplace notes

If you’re a boss, you should definitely read How to be a Good Boss in a Bad Economy. It reminds us that an ill thought out turn of phrase can lead to rampant speculation in a bad economy. More importantly, it also reminds us that being the boss leads to a certain world view that it’s difficult to overcome. A little power goes to our heads:

In this study, teams of three students each were instructed to produce a short policy paper. Two members of each team were randomly assigned to write the paper. The third member evaluated it and determined how much the other two would be paid, in effect making them subordinates. About 30 minutes into the meeting, the experimenter brought in a plate of five cookies—a welcome break that was in fact the focus of the experiment. No one was expected to reach for the last cookie on the plate, and no one did. Basic manners dictate such restraint. But what of the fourth cookie—the extra one that could be taken without negotiation or an awkward moment? It turns out that a little taste of power has a substantial effect. The “bosses” not only tended to take the fourth cookie but also displayed signs of “disinhibited” eating, chewing with their mouths open and scattering crumbs widely.

So there you have it: a little power, and you’re taking the last cookie, chewing with your mouth open, and eating like a slob. It’s difficult to overcome, but it’s not impossible with some foresight and manners.

Universities Are Ruled by the Married
Posted by editor at 12:48 pm in workplace notes

In universities are ruled by married people, the author discusses the fact that 89% of university presidents are married. She wonders if there is an unwritten expectation that presidents must be married in order to have this top level position. It’s an interesting thought. We probably all carry some assumptions about the sort of life a person must lead to be a university president. Is married part of the assumptions?

Securing Your Laptop
Posted by editor at 9:33 am in workplace tips

If you use a laptop in public places, you might peruse tips for securing your laptop. One of the most curious things to me is that apparently people leave their laptops unattended in public. There are locks for this sort of thing, of course, but I would just assume the laptop would walk off.

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Weird Workplace News
Posted by GhostGirl at 3:37 pm in workplace news

StaplerToday’s theme is: Keystone Cops!

I now know that the exact value of a police hat in New Zealand is $78.17. And that the man would not have stolen them if he was sober. Natch.

For the billionth time, if you are going to stage some sort of mock workplace violence as part of a joke, drill, or in this case class lesson, please warn people first, because it is not the panicking people who call police that are the idiots in this situation.

I am completely angered by this story of a nurse who was handcuffed for following procedure. A police officer asked her to draw blood as part of a sobriety check. When she stated that the alleged drunk needed to be admitted first, she was handcuffed and hauled outside.

Two more cases of cops making asses of themselves: undercover drug officers caught playing Wii during a raid, and Bagelgate.

And finally, in Florida, garbage men and other “mobile professionals” are being trained to fight crime. I’m loving the phrase “mobile professionals.”

Wow, we just started getting a torrential downpour. Time to put buckets under the leaks in my roof. Tune in next week!

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Forget Names Often?
Posted by editor at 4:55 am in workplace tips

Here are some tips for gracefully asking someone for her/his name when you’ve forgotten it. Here’s my favorite:

4. The “You’re brilliant!” dodge:
“Wow, you have a terrific memory. I can’t believe you remember my name from that meeting six months ago. I can’t remember the names of people I met yesterday! So of course I have to ask you your name.”

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