Friday, May 22, 2015

LOL, Survey Reveals Our Workplace Texting Habits

A new survey reveals how we're using texting on the job, and let's just say that our fingers are flying across tiny keyboards all day long.

RingCentral, which provides something called "cloud communication services," recently surveyed more than 500 people regarding their texting habits. Keep in mind that more than half (60%) of survey respondents were in the 25-to-44 age range.

What does the survey reveal? First, we're sending and receiving more and more texts on the job. Verging on half (47%) of participants in the RingCentral survey are receiving up to 20 texts a day, while more than one-quarter (21%) are receiving between 21 and 40 texts.

Then there are the 10% surveyed who would qualify as "Super Texters." They are receiving more than 60 texts every day. Every. Day.

As a workforce, we're also running between multiple apps: More than three-fourths surveyed (78%) are switching between as many as four messaging apps during the work day. Our co-worker sent a text via this messaging app, a client is waiting for our reply via that other messaging app, and our significant other just messaged us via a completely different messaging app to remind us about picking up Hot Pockets and toilet paper on the way home. Emoji. Always with the emojis.

On that topic, emojis are becoming a fixture littered among our workplace texts. Once considered highly unprofessional, the business world is coming around to the idea of throwing in a smiley face along with our feedback that the project is good, but not quite there yet. More than half surveyed admit to slipping emojis into their work-related online conversations. No word yet on whether or not these emojis make the over-worked employee on the receiving feel better, or worse.

With so many apps at our fingertips, many working professionals are feeling overwhelmed by it all. More than four in 10 surveyed (42%) feel like they're reaching communication overload on a fairly regular basis because too many texting apps require their continual attention. In fact, 30% of texting communications are now full, in-depth conversations instead of short-burst replies.

The scariest statistic? Nearly one in four surveyed (38%) admit to texting while driving within the last month. [Insert crying face emoji here.]

And, there you have it. The latest on our texting trends. Now go send that text, but not when you're driving.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Study: Small Talk Is A Big Deal In Job Interviews

You're sitting in a job interview trying to make small talk. Blah, blah, blah -- can't we just get to the real interview questions already?

What you may not realize is that the interview is already in full swing, and the interviewer may have already decided whether or not to hire you.

New research reveals that many interviewers decide within the first few minutes whether or not they want to hire an applicant. It turns out that small talk is, in fact, a very big deal. While you're waiting for a real question, the interviewer could be quietly questioning you.

Are you able to engage others in general, light conversation? Do you have a "positive, nice" personality? Can you show interest in people other than yourself? Can you put other people at ease in a stressful situation? Could you speak with our clients without causing a problem?

But how can you turn yourself into a skilled small talker of epic proportions, especially if small talk doesn't come naturally to you? Luckily, it isn't too hard! Here are five quick tips for making small talk in a job interview:

1. Listen for key words. Your nerves might make your mind feel like it's swimming, but listen for key words or phrases from the interviewer within the first minute. Weather. Traffic. Busy day. Deadline. Take this key word, or phrase, and respond to it. Yes, it's quite humid outside today for this time of year. They seem to be doing a lot of construction on the freeway lately. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to meet with me, and on deadline, too. But make sure to...

2. Stay positive. Your commute to the interview may have indeed been a traffic nightmare, and you have horror stories about working under tight deadline, but don't share such details with the interviewer. Keep your small talk positive, smile, and don't get personal. Keep it light. Follow the interviewer's lead (see Tip #1). Don't be afraid to flash a keen wit, but remember to keep it squeaky clean and non-controversial.

3. Show some interest in the interviewer. Small talk is all about showing interest in the other person. In a job interview situation, the interviewer wants to see that you're a "nice" person who would be easy to work with every day. Be this person from the very get-go, but stick to what feels comfortable for you. Most people like to talk about themselves, so...

4. Look for conversational clues. Be very observant as to your surroundings in an interview situation, because the interview setting will likely offer some ideas for light, easy conversation. "I can't help but notice the baseball on your desk. Is that from a recent game?" Bam! You've just opened the door for the interviewer to reveal that he's a big Boston Red Sox fan, and where he got the baseball. Go with the flow, and be genuine about it. People can sense insincerity. You might go ahead and just admit that you're a Yankees fan. Boy, I hope you two get around to the actual interview. At least you won't be lost for conversation, and the interviewer likely won't forget you.

5. Bring the small talk full circle. When the interview is wrapping up and you're both saying goodbye, circle back to the very beginning of the interview and riff off the initial light banter between you two. You might wish the Boston Red Sox fan a great season (except when they're playing the Yankees), make a comment about the weather, the traffic, or whatever small talk topic came up at the start of the conversation. In this way, you're reminding the interviewer that you're a good listener who is great at small talk -- both highly attractive attributes in a co-worker who could eventually be client-facing. You'll leave with interviewer with a good vibe. You're sure fun to talk to, even if you are a Yankees fan.

Most of all, remember that small talk speaks volumes in an interview situation. It matters just as much, if not more, than the rest of the interview! That's because an employer can teach processes, but it can't instill personality. Never underestimate the influence that a seemingly unrelated topic of conversation could have on your overall interviewing success. Now get out there, and get conversational!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Our Worst Tweets Will Now Appear In Google Searches

That forehead-smacking tweet you rattled off five years ago without thinking it through first? It might soon appear in everyday Google searches.

Yes, it's true. As someone searches for "easy baked bean summer recipe," he or she might also pull up your tweet from 2011 about your explosive gas situation after sampling a co-worker's baked bean recipe at the company summer retreat. We don't even know you, but now we know just a little bit too much about you. Then again, isn't that the whole point of social media?

Don't forget the hiring manager who might do a simple Google search while looking at our resume. Will he or she decide to swipe left on our job prospects at the company? #tweegret.

Why, oh why, is this happening? Apparently, Twitter and Google, which have had a rocky, on-again/off-again relationship over the years, have been canoodling lately and re-discovering what they have in common while the rest of us continue to embarrass ourselves daily on social media. Now Twitter and Google wants us to feel the love, too.

According to PC Magazine:

The companies said today that Twitter content will show up in Google search results. It's rolling out to the iOS and Android Google apps and the mobile Web in the U.S. The desktop version will arrive "shortly," as will content in other countries.

And:

"By deeply integrating Twitter's real-time content into Google search, we hope you find it easier than ever to explore your interests across both Twitter and Google," Twitter said.

Twitter has a spokesperson named Twitter? Wow.

But what might it mean for the average person who is not Taylor Swift? I'll tell you exactly what it means, in Twitter speak: #checkyouroldtweetsstat.

Review your Twitter history, before it's too late! Remember what you said and delete what you can, although it will still be there forever. But take heart, job seekers: At least you're not authoring a stupid, random workplace blog.

Of course, Google filters our results to pull up the most popular pages first. Will Google filter out our non-retweeted tweets that were most in need of some filter at the time? Will our tweets show up 40 pages deep into someone's Google search, long after he or she has given up scrolling through pages and pages of random tweets inserted among more targeted search results? #we'llfindoutsoon

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sorry, A Goldfish's Attention Span Is Longer Than Yours Now

To get directly to the point: Your attention span is only 8 seconds long, thanks to modern technology. #DidYouSaySomething?

Microsoft looked into our dwindling attention span situation, and it's not looking good, folks. Microsoft concludes that the average human attention span has taken a nosedive since the year 2000. The average person now has roughly the attention span of a goldfish, give or take on second.

That's right. As you try to focus on this blog post as you multi-task and debate what to have for lunch, there's a goldfish swimming in a bowl somewhere thinking random goldfish thoughts, but it's spending one second longer focusing on them than we modern-day, smartphone-mumbling humans!

Then again, the average goldfish, as far as we know, isn't responding to texts while reading emails and catching up on the latest Buzzfeed articles, but still. The average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish.

A goldfish!

Our fault lies, of course, in navigating too many gadgets and sources of information. As Engadget (no pun intended) reports:

While people could focus on a task for 12 seconds back in 2000, that figure dropped to 8 seconds in 2013 -- about one second less than a goldfish. Reportedly, a lot of that reduction stems from a combination of smartphones and an avalanche of content. Many younger people find themselves compulsively checking their phones, and the glut of things to do on the web (such as social networking) makes it all too easy to find diversions.

The key at work these days is to keep messages short, as in, 8-second bursts of content that can sink into our colleagues' craniums. Instead of sending a one-page memo about focus group results, simply get straight to the point. For example:

The focus group said that our Beta product blows in a major way. Emergency team meeting at 2 p.m. in conference room. Donuts.

Think "inverted pyramid," which is a newspaper writing technique that prioritizes information by leading with the most important facts. Have you ever noticed how the first few paragraphs of a newspaper story contain the most important details (what, where, when, why, how), and then the story gets more and more general (statistics, trends, quotes, etc.) from there? Apply this technique to your work emails and memos and you can't go wrong, because A GOLDFISH HAS A LONGER ATTENTION SPAN THAN YOUR CO-WORKER.

I think I've made my point. Besides, I'm way past my 8-second limit.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sign-up Snit: How To Hit Up Co-workers For Cash At Work

You sense it coming out of the corner of your eye. Oh no, you're about to be asked to put $10 in the pot for another office birthday party! Employees, everywhere, are tired of being asked to donate money. Or are they?

If you work in an office, then chances are good you will be asked to pony up some cash in the very near future, especially now that the office birthday party is back after the Great Recession. It's always somebody's birthday, or somebody else is retiring. There are second and third baby showers to celebrate, as well as Girl Scout cookie sign-up sheets being hawked by harried working parents.

By the way, do the Girl Scouts do much these days except sell cookies? While our Brownies are finger painting and making another macaroni necklace between cookie sales table appearances, our Cub Scouts are geocaching and learning useful, life-long skills so they can star in a future episode of any Discovery Channel survivalist show. Come on, Girl Scouts. Let's step it up a little bit so our girls know why they shouldn't eat red snow. Great show.

But back to the point of today's post, which is how employees feel about being asked to contribute cash at work. More than half (54%) of senior managers in a new OfficeTeam survey said that employees are being asked to shell out some money for "staff celebrations" at least once a year.

The good news? Many employees don't seem to mind being asked to contribute! Slighty more than half of employees surveyed (51%) are fine with throwing a few dollars into the pot occasionally, while one-quarter (25%) don't hesitate to part with their cash when they think it's for a good cause.

Still, there are good ways, and bad ways, to ask our colleagues to part with their hard-earned cash. Luckily, OfficeTeam donates some handy advice for asking the right way:

DON'T ask everyone to chip in; don't make it mandatory; don't put anyone on the spot; and don't overdo it with monetary requests. In other words, don't ask employees to chip in for the birthday party of someone they do not work directly with, and don't guilt trip anyone to donate. Ever.

DO ask the employees who work most closely with the co-worker being feted; do make sure these employees know financial contributions are voluntary; do allow employees to donate what they want; do ask for donations on the down low through a targeted email or sign-up sheet instead of appearing in-person, deskside; and do look for ways to combine multiple celebrations into one, grand event.

For example, you might celebrate all May birthdays at once with one, enormous sheet cake. For bonus points, celebrate a co-worker's impending new arrival with baby-themed cupcakes at the same time.

Companies might also start a general "celebration fund" employees can donate to a few times a year in any amount they works for them. Simply remind them via company-wide email. Par-tay!

OfficeTeam's survey found that 16% of employees think it's "annoying" to be asked to donate period, no matter the cause. Chances are, you know exactly who this teammate is, too. So avoid hitting up this colleague for donations in the name of workplace harmony.

Past surveys have revealed that employees, perhaps not surprisingly, tend to donate according to their salary level. Employees earning in the mid-salary range are the sweet spot for employee donations. Good luck figuring out where these co-workers lurk in your office.

I will now contribute to the ever-expanding amount of free content on the Internet by publishing this voluntary blog post.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Feeling Blue? Here's What Your Tie Color Says About You

Hey, guys: What does your tie color say about you? A new British study finds that your tie color is saying something, at least to other men. Let's knot it all wrong into a quick blog post, shall we?

Researchers at the University of Durham in England had 50 men and 50 women look at pictures of 20 men wearing blue, gray and red t-shirts. T-shirts? Anyway, the study participants were asked to assess how "aggressive" the shirt wearers (all men) seemed on a scale from one to seven.

The study participants were asked also how "dominant" the shirt wearers seemed on a separate, one-to-seven scale.

The results revealed that men literally see red whenever they see red on other men. That is, they perceive men wearing red as naturally more aggressive, dominant and angry. A man wearing blue or gray? Eh, not so much. We'll let U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walk us through the primary tie colors.

It's interesting to note that women in the study noted no difference in the perceived level of male dominance, no matter what color the men wore in the photos. As long as he doesn't leave his red, blue or gray t-shirt on the floor for somebody else to pick up, it's all good.

So what's behind this hue-influenced happening? As The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports:

"Redness is often a signal of male dominance in non-human species, such as the mandrill monkey; if the same is true in humans, we would expect other males to be particularly sensitive to it," [Robert Barton, an author of the study and professor of evolutionary anthropology at Durham University in England] said.

Hmm. So how do we interpret these results in terms of the general workplace? For starters, don't wear a red tie to a job interview, unless the job itself is rather aggressive in nature and the interviewer is a woman. Otherwise, go with muted blue or dull gray. I hope you get the job.