Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Five Working Parents You'll Encounter On Take Your Kids to Work Day

Tomorrow is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, the one day a year (okay, the third day this year alone, cough!) that our co-workers will bring their child with them to the workplace.

You're bound to learn more about your co-workers by watching them attempt to parent while being a working professional. You might observe how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in some ways, among other things. At a minimum, you'll get to see the little people who sometimes leave you holding the bag at work.

So without further ado, here are five types of parent/co-workers you might encounter on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day:

1. The overly-permissive parent. This co-worker's child is using your office chair like a Sit 'n Spin when they're not running up and down the hallways, leaving wrappers from their free break room snacks on the floor, and treating the office like a playground to the distraction of everyone in the office. Aren't they just so cute at this age? Uh.

2. The overly-strict parent. On the flip side is this co-worker, who definitely had a talk with their child before they came to work today. Don't touch anything, be quiet, I'll let you know when you can participate. You can quietly play on my iPad while I work all day. Hey, the kid is just happy to miss a day of school. With any luck, he or she will learn something about the STEM field by osmosis.

3. The boastful parent. Do you know that your co-worker's fourth grader is highly gifted? If you didn't know, then you will know by quitting time. You will also learn all about your co-worker's parenting philosophies for raising great kids, even though your oldest is in grad school. Maintaining a sense of humor for the next few hours will be crucial.

4. The tentative parent. This co-worker didn't really want to bring their child to work, but somehow got talked into it. Quitting time can't come fast enough for this co-worker. You may actually be surprised to learn this co-worker has children, since they never talk about their kids at work. It's information doled out strictly on a need-to-know basis, apparently? Shh -- nothing to see here, just keep working, everyone!

5. The put-them-to-work parent. This co-worker wants their child to get a hands-on work experience, which is great! Busy hands are happy hands especially where kids are concerned. So why not show a third grader how to use the office copier to make 20 copies of a report for today's meeting? Let's just hope their participation in the work flow doesn't bring things to a sudden standstill because Pages 10 through 15 somehow got out of order. Supervision is very important. Don't even think about pawning this responsibility off on the administrative assistant, either.

There are other types of parents we could discuss, but these are the basics. As you watch your co-workers bring their children to work tomorrow, the best thing you can do is to roll with it and have a sense of humor. You are a workplace role model in the eyes of these kids, so don't take yourself quite so seriously. You were a kid once, too, so find the fun and joy in watching the next generation glimpse the future.

Besides, recent surveys reveal that today's workplaces aren't all that different from the average preschool classroom. The tantrum your boss had last week is proof.

Even if you don't like kids all that much, remember one thing: Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day is an experience these kids will remember all their lives. It was a special day with Mom or Dad to see why they always get home so late, and why they're always on their smartphones. It informs their growing view of the working world at an impressionable time in their lives, even if the only thing they discover is that they never, ever want to do the same type of job as their parents.**

Of course, your employer may be planning an entire day's events around Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day complete with seminars, t-shirts and a complimentary lunch. How awesome is that?*** Your particular workplace, however, may be depending on employees to work together to pull off the event and make it a success. Would you mind showing your co-worker's child how Excel works? Thanks.

If your employer's "it takes a workplace to raise a child" mentality isn't working for you, then think of it this way, Millennials: 20 short years from now, the runny-nosed kid borrowing your office stapler without permission could be the savvy, 28-year-old hiring manager skeptically scanning your resume and wondering why you think your broken down, 50-year-old self is qualified for the job.

Yikes. So have fun, be fun to talk to, and most of all, decide to be a good role model for Generation Z tomorrow, will you? It does take a workplace village.

** Let's hope it's not a family business.

*** Answer: Very awesome!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

People With Short Names Tend To Earn More Money

Tempted to saddle your first child with a name that will take him years to spell correctly?

Well, spellcheck this, parents: A new report from finds employees with short names make more money. Goodbye Theodore and hellooooo, Ted!

The top-earning names in the workplace tend to be restricted to four or five letters, max. After that, each letter leads to an estimated $3,600 reduction in annual pay. So call your kid "Jon" instead of "Jonathan" from the get-go, will you? It's short and sweet, and will earn more green!

In a workplace context, it makes total sense. "Chip" sounds a lot more easy-going and accessible than, say, "Worthington." It's also easier for everyone to spell and remember, which is key at work. The shorter, the better -- as far as co-workers and customers are concerned.

So what are the Top 10 highest-earning names among today's workforce? Be forewarned that they are decidedly Gen X monikers, because Gen X is at its peak earning potential. Here are the top five highest-earning men's names:

1. Tom
2. Rob
3. Doug
4. Dale
5. Wayne

And here are the top five highest-earning women's names:

1. Lynn
2. Melissa
3. Cathy
4. Dana
5. Christine

I'm a Christine who goes by the five-letter nickname, and I have to say that it's been a good experience. "Chris" is generally quick and easy for everyone to spell. I'm a simple person, and my name reflects it. "Chris" is the casual Friday of workplace names. It's a name everyone knows, even if it's a tad boring.

I have to admit, whenever I hear a mother utter her young child's very long name in a curiously loud voice at the grocery store, I automatically hear the nickname in my mind. Yes, you call your child Robinson right now, but he will go by "Rob" twenty years from now, guaranteed. Why?

First, because he'll get tired of spelling "Robinson" all the time. Second, because only his family (read: Mom) calls him Robinson. As in, "Robinson, did you clean your room?" or "Robinson, did you make your bed?" or "Robinson, if you don't stop doing that right now, we're going home!"

No, thanks. Twenty years from now, the name "Rob" will represent adulthood, and a sense of self-determination, as he drives himself to his first real job.

The good thing, Mom? "Rob," at least according to The Ladders study, could very well earn more money over the long run than Robinson. You can still ask grown-up Robinson if he cleaned his room, though.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

HuffPo Founder Who Asks People To Work For Free Says To Get More Sleep

Is is just me, or is Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington everywhere lately? Every time I turn on the television, there she is, promoting her new book entitled The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.

In a nutshell -- and I'll get straight to the point because I know how sleep deprived you are! -- Ms. Huffington wants to change the way we sleep. Human beings are not machines; we need regular downtime. REM isn't simply an awesome rock band, it's the key to a restful sleep. So cool your bedroom to 65 degrees, leave your smartphone charging on the kitchen counter, and close your eyes. Stop over-acheiving and start dreaming, America!

Ms. Huffington says she's getting a full eight hours of sleep 95% of the time, and she feels great. As someone who got a decidedly underachieving 6.5 hours of sleep last night, I think: Good for her. Learning how to unwind is a nice way of being kind to yourself. Even high-powered working professionals need a power nap.

Still, every time I stumble across her talking about the importance of adequate rest and how to make it happen, I can't help but think about the many talented writers who toil away without pay for The Huffington Post. After all, there's nothing that will bring on a 3 a.m. bout of insomnia quite like wondering how to cover this month's bills because you're working for free.

From cult actor Wil Wheaton, who took HuffPo's no-payment policies to task on Twitter and on his blog, to other writer and authors who are boycotting the site for the same reason, working for free (er, "exposure") is not working for many writers. As Mr. Wheaton puts it so well: "The company can absolutely afford to pay contributors. The fact that it doesn't, and can get away with it, is distressing to me."

Verizon bought The Huffington Post last year for a reported $315 million. $315 million. You'd think there would be a few pennies to scratch together for the contributing bloggers doing the daily grunt work. They're on the ground, making the calls, doing the interviews, looking up relevant statistics, writing the story while editing for grammar, organization and spelling, turning the story in on time, making changes for the editor, going back to look for additional statistics for a different editor, sometimes gathering needed photos, videos and artwork. Then their work is unleashed online, where commenters worldwide can pick it apart and call the writer a lazy idiot.

Welcome to the life of a freelance journalist, whose job now ranks among the worst jobs in America. It's a hard, stressful job that isn't for the faint of heart. Increasingly, it isn't for anyone who wants to earn a paycheck, either.

Of course, there are people who will say, "Hey, you made your bed now lie in it. Maybe you should have chosen a different line of work. Journalism school? Heh." Yes, we chose this job, because we love to write, gather information, and talk to people. It's what we do. We deserve to be paid fairly for our efforts, just like working professionals in every other field of work. Writing well is a skill, and writers are always negotiable.

In a Vogue article, Ms. Huffington is asked if she received any push back from people in her life about her extended bedtime schedule. She says, "People may have a boss who has unrealistic expectations. I did a panel at which a CEO said, 'I expect my chief of staff to be available 24/7.' I said to him, I expect in two years you will not be able to make that statement in public, the same way now that people can't say I don't hire women because they get pregnant. We're in transition. We have a growing number of executives who recognize that it's in the interest of the bottom line—forget everything else—to actually take care of the well-being of their employees."

Offering a paycheck for doing a job -- even a freelance project -- is the main way employers take care of the well-being of the people who work for them. Expecting them to work for no pay, and somehow get by that way, is an unrealistic expectation. With any luck, no media boss in two years will think they can "pay" writers in exposure. Let's hope the media world is in transition so freelancers don't have to lay awake all night wondering how to pay the bills.

Writers, please show more respect for your own talents. Yes, you are worthy of a paycheck. Never work for less. Trust me, you'll sleep better.

Bottom line: if you're going to write a book that encourages stressed-out employees to get more sleep while talented contributors to your online publication deal with the stressful disrespect of working for free, then I'm going to have a hard time buying what you're selling. To actually take care of the restful well-being of employees, employers must pay them a wage that allows them to support themselves and their families.

This opinion isn't one I'll need to sleep on, either.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Seven Tips For Addressing Zika in the Workplace

I was outside with a friend when she suddenly slapped the back of her neck. "I think it was a bug," she said, looking at her empty hand. "Maybe it was a mosquito?" We both looked at each other. Oh, no. It's almost that time of year again: mosquito season.

Luckily, it wasn't a mosquito, but this might not be an average mosquito season. Just yesterday, the CDC increased its estimate of U.S. states with the Zika mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, from 12 to 30 states.

Still, a new poll finds 4 in 10 Americans know "little to nothing" about the virus.

We can all do more to understand the risks. Here are seven basic tips for thinking about the Zika threat in the workplace:

1. Look to minimize sources of standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, so check the perimeter of your building for places where water could accumulate easily, even in a misting rain. Buckets (including upside down buckets), saucers underneath potted plants, concave-shaped trash can lids, upside down food lids and discarded soda cans are all places where standing water can easily gather. Get in the habit of getting rid of it.

2. Provide mosquito repellent. Employers can't require employees to wear bug spray, but providing it is one way for employers to show concern for employee safety. This excellent Consumer Reports article breaks down the various mosquito sprays so you can see what's available.

3. Get back to nature. Do you know that lemongrass, geraniums and marigold plants are thought to act as natural mosquito repellents? Lemongrass is a main ingredient in citronella. Used coffee grounds can also be sprinkled around flower beds and in places where standing water has already accumulated. If you're repelled by what comes out of the office coffee maker, then mosquitoes will dislike it even more. It might be worth a try? Let us know if it works.

4. Analyze upcoming business travel. Can an employer require you to attend an international business conference? Can you as a manager pull a pregnant employee off a project that requires extensive travel to Zika hot zones? What if an employee refuses to travel somewhere because he's worried about Zika? Can you make employees get a medical checkup upon return? Read this article.

5. Wear clothing that covers you. It's summer, and you want to show off more skin at work! However, it may be wise to invest in summer-weight long pants, long-sleeve shirts and shoes that cover your feet. It's all in the name of greater skin protection. Look for long, loose, and light-colored clothing.

6. Educate employees. Some employers, such as Kimberly Clark, are taking the time to educate employees about the Zika virus. The CDC offers fact sheets and posters that can be downloaded and shared with employees. Knowledge is power.

7. Ponder contingency plans. How would the work get done if an employee were to contract the Zika virus? And how would management reassure worried co-workers? Take a few moments to think about how the company would work though these issues. With any luck, you won't have to put your plan into action but it's good planning to know what you would do beforehand.

This post is merely scratching the surface, but it's a start. Feel free to share your tips too, so we can all learn together. Take care, and have a happy, healthy summer.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Nickelback's Lesson For the Modern Workplace

A Finnish researcher is out with a new study that explains why everyone's a critic when it comes to the Canadian band Nickelback. Yeah, that band.

Finnish doctoral student Salli Anttonen strums the right chords in a paper entitled "Hypocritical Bulls— Performed Through Gritted Teeth: Authenticity Discourses in Nickelback's Album Reviews in Finnish Media." In the paper, she explores why Nickelback gets such a bad rap among dedicated music fans.

For the record, I'm not a Nickelback hater but I'm not a huge fan, either. The band has some catchy tunes, and they've sold a lot of records. If a Nickelback song is on the radio, then I'll usually let it play in the background. But we all know someone who would sniff, "Why are we listening to Nickelback? All their songs sound the same!" before immediately changing the car radio to Rush.

Why all the hate? Why does Nickelback get criticized while other bands get a free pass?

Anttonen concludes Nickelback's problem is that it is a little too good at following musical convention. So good, in fact, that the band's songs come off to many listeners as somehow...inauthentic. Some might say like a fork in the proverbial eardrum, but I'll let drop the beat on the phenomenon:

"Nickelback is too much of everything to be enough of something," Anttonen continues. "They follow genre expectations too well, which is seen as empty imitation, but also not well enough, which is read as commercial tactics and as a lack of a stable and sincere identity."

But this isn't Pitchfork, this is a random workplace blog where The Imagine Dragons are playing in the background as this post is in progress. Now that I've just lost all my music cred, the question is: Can highly-talented employees suffer from a "Nickelback effect" at work? Is it possible to follow job expectations a little too well and end up on the outs with our peers?

Yes, I think it can happen and the average job description isn't helping matters. Today's job descriptions require applicants to be too much of everything instead of enough of something. Though layoffs and attrition, employers have been able to meld five jobs into one over the last eight years, which means each new hire must be some sort of workplace virtuoso -- or at least, a very quick study on a wide range of incredibly discordant work tasks.

From SEO to marketing to accounting to selling to coding to managing, it's all right there in one entry-level job description, daring us to do it all well and top the charts.

It's the rare employee, however, who can rock every requirement in today's nearly-impossible job descriptions. Most employees have weak spots, because we're human. So when we encounter the slick co-worker who rocks all the work charts, we begin to doubt their authenticity. We wonder what they're about, exactly. Is this person for real, or is he simply an empty suit? Is she really that good at her job, or is she simply faking it?

Maybe the key is to rock a job just enough -- and no more! -- because hitting every note in a disparate job description is a great way to create disharmony with co-workers who want to see a few minor chords added to our broad range of work riffs? You know, just to shake things up and come across as...authentic. Sniff.

Considering the most popular post on this blog is how to deal with jealous co-workers, getting criticized at work for being undeservedly successful could be the power ballad of our times. Just ask Nickelback.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

U.S. Employees Worry About Money All the Time

Do you worry about money while you're making money?

If so, you're not alone. New research from Workplace Options/Public Policy Polling reveals that employees are worried about their personal finances more than ever!

U.S. employees have money on their minds, but not in a good way. A full 88% of working Americans surveyed are worried about their financial situation. Hey, the bills have to get paid. But catch this: More than half of those surveyed (55%) revealed that their financial stress level has gone up in a measurable, year-over-year kind of way.

For more than one-quarter surveyed (28%), their worries about money have gone up "significantly" since February 2015. Verging on three-quarters surveyed (69%) revealed they worry about their personal finances many times per week. More than four in 10 employees surveyed (44%) say they worry about money problems every single day.

Anyone who thinks, "Well, it's not my problem" might want to consider the impact on the workplace. More than two-thirds of employees surveyed (68%) are using work time to take care of personal financial business -- an almost 10% increase over 2015.

Meanwhile, the percentage of employees who have taken time off work to handle a personal financial crisis -- or to recuperate from the stress caused by it -- has increased 15% over the last year alone.

Men and women are equally worried about their personal financial dilemmas, but men are more likely to take time off work to deal with the problem. Bottom line: we're still living that Simply Red song from 30 years ago.

Yet, many TV pundits wonder why the average American seems so intent on voting for outsiders this year while some economists theorize that economic growth remains sluggish because too many people have jobs. Um, no. IT'S BECAUSE THE AVERAGE EMPLOYEE IS WORKING HARDER AND MAKING LESS. It's that simple. I apologize for shouting.

Anyway, it's a data rich survey that's worth a look. You can get additional survey results here.