Friday, April 11, 2014

Spotify's Top 10 Music Play List For the Workplace

Does your workplace allow music? Okay, Muzak. Either way, it's still some tune-age to break the tedium. But which songs constitute The Ultimate Workplace Music Play List?

Well, Spotify has identified the 10 songs current employees listen to the most, and here they are!

1. Adele -- Someone Like You

2. Do I Want To Know? -- Arctic Monkeys

3. I Will Wait -- Mumford & Sons

4. Diamonds -- Rihanna

5. Dark Horse -- Katy Perry, Juicy J

6. Drunk In Love -- Beyonce, Jay Z

7. Treasure -- Bruno Mars

8. Do What U Want -- Lady Gaga, R. Kelly

9. Under Control -- Calvin Harris, Alesso, Hurts

10. Get Lucky -- Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers

Spotify also reveals that 61% of employees get to listen to music at work. Yes, you may put me in the "get to listen" instead of "have to listen" camp, because I love music, always have, especially when I'm working.

And employees at work love themselves some Adele. In fact, 16% of employees are whistling to her while they work, the most of any modern artist, apparently. The Arctic Monkeys rank as second most popular artist with the workforce, and, well, m'kay. I watched the Arctic Monkeys perform on Saturday Night Live once, I think?

And wasn't Beyonce "Crazy In Love" just a few years ago? Now she's "Drunk In Love." I can't keep up with her musical love life anymore. I like the three or four most popular Mumford & Sons songs, but the group vaguely reminds me of The Dave Matthews Band during its 1990s heyday. The band is good-to-great when I'm in the mood to listen to them -- and it's obvious that they're talented -- but their songs can start to sound the same.

Bruno Mars' "Treasure" is fine enough, but I find myself editing and reworking his lyrics in my head whenever I hear his music. His lyrics always strike me as close, but not quite. I do the same with P!nk. Is that weird? Probably.

"Get Lucky" is the best song on the list. It has a good beat we can all dance to while waiting on hold. But who cares what I think. You have to get on the elevator and listen to Muzak! It's all good.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

40% Of Admin Assistants Babysitting Co-workers' Kids At Work

Ah, the busy, breathless life of today's administrative assistant!

Everyone needs to be copied immediately on an urgent email, calls have to be routed here and there, a slate of meetings must the added to the boss's Google calendar and...a co-worker wants you to watch his or her child at your desk again because today's childcare plans (a.k.a. school) fell through. Or Junior is too sick to go to school, but somehow he's well enough to come with Mom or Dad to work. Happy National Administrative Professionals' Day 2014, everyone! - I'm teaching the dog how to babysit

National Administrative Professionals' Day is April 23 (please make a note of it!), and Staples has just released its cool annual survey full of fascinating factoids about life as a modern-day administrative assistant.

In a nutshell, let's hand the average American administrative assistant a Huggie and a pooper scooper, because he or she is doing a lot of babysitting and pet-sitting at work these days. A full 40% of employees Staples surveyed admit to asking the office administrative assistant to babysit their kids for them at the workplace, while 20% of employees say they've asked the administrative assistant to watch Fido while they go about their jobs. Oh, who's a good boy? You are Fido! Awwww.


Every day, across our wonderful country, the following conversation is playing out underneath drab fluorescent lighting as the beleaguered administrative assistant is once again arm twisted into watching a co-worker's kid (or pet) "for just a few minutes" as the phones ring off the hook:

Hey, can I ask a huge favor? I have to sit in on a "quick" video conference call with a client, and the schools are closed/my babysitter canceled. Can Olivia/Sophia/Emily sit out here with you while I sit in on the call? It won't take more than a few minutes, and she brought her Wonder Loom, her Monster High activity book, a few snacks, and she'll have my iPad to play games on. She shouldn't have to bother you at all!!!***

Eh, okay, as long as she's quiet and self-contained. Everything is going smoothly, until Olivia/Sophia/Emily gets restless, wants to wander the hallways, or starts asking too many questions. Do you know that she can weave a 2-foot-long bracelet on her Wonder Loom? It's her personal best so far. She can weave trinkets into her bracelets now too, and she wants to make you an epic bracelet to wear! She'll bring it with her next time. And what does that machine do? What's a fax machine? Her grandpa has one of those. He lives in Florida and drives a golf cart, and he has alligators and big bugs in his backyard. Is Mom done with her meeting yet? So booooored. She said she'd buy ice cream if I'm good. I'm hungry. Do you have any candy?

Kids are awesomely great, but being put in charge of them while you're trying to work could potentially lead to hours of lost work time you won't get back, Mr. or Ms. Administrative Assistant, since we all know that your co-worker probably won't be back "in just a few minutes."

Oh, by the way, have you had a chance to nail down pricing for Friday's catered lunch? Your conference room-ensconced co-worker, who has since left the conference room and is now sitting in her own office chatting on the phone with the door closed, wants to know why it's taking so long to find a new, exciting restaurant and place the order. It's not like you have anything else to do, right? You sound like you're starting to get a cold...

All kidding aside, it's one thing to kindly volunteer one's child-minding services for a minute or two at work; it's quite another to be taken advantage of as a last-minute, emergency babysitting option for more than a minute or two. It's disrespectful to ask the office administrative assistant to watch our children, our pets, our plants, or anything else for long periods of time. It's not their job. They already have a very important job holding the company together every day for management, employees, clients and customers alike.

Let's give our harried administrative assistants the professional respect they deserve, in addition to a nice present for National Administrative Professionals' Day. And I'm not talking about a 2-foot-long Wonder Loom bracelet. April 23. Mark your calendars!

Another Staples finding fascinates me as well: Roughly 20% of U.S. office administrative assistants are regularly asked to critique their co-workers' fashion choices. Why yes, Ms. Senior Accountant, those pants DO make your butt look big. And still, after all of these work interruptions, the average administrative assistant ranks among the happiest employees in the whole company. He or she also happens to be the biggest team player in the office.

But back to babysitting. Mr. or Ms. Average Employee: If the administrative assistant helps you out in a pinch by babysitting or pet-sitting for you AT WORK, be sure to thank him or her with a handwritten thank-you note. Alternatively, you might verbally thank the admin assistant while presenting him or her with a gift card he or she can't wait to use.

No, I'm serious. You asked the administrative assistant last-minute to take on your parenting (or pet) responsibilities in addition to scheduling, filing, sending callers to voice mail, and letting everyone borrow her keyboard. And any parent knows how much child care costs these days. Really, a complimentary cup of Starbuck's coffee isn't too much to ask.

Sigh. At least summer is almost here! Can't wait. Oh wait, school will be out, and summer camps have been known to get canceled. Hmm. Nevermind. At least we'll always have doggie daycare.

*** Any resemblance to real-life work conversations is completely unintentional.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why Employees Think They're Talented When They're Not

If you work long enough, you will encounter the co-worker who consistently overestimates his or her professional abilities, and a new Iowa State University study tells us that the modern performance review is only making the problem worse. Let's go ahead and tell it like it is for once!

American culture -- with its American Idols, scripted reality shows, and one-on-ones with the boss come performance review time -- is leaving many employees shocked when someone eventually breaks it to them that, truth be told, they cannot sing, act, or summarize a spreadsheet very well, ahem.

"But everyone tells me how awesome I am at it!" is a standard reaction to being told how terrible we are at...whatever it is we're not doing all that well. Take it away, Andy Bernard!

Did anyone in the office ever tell Andy Bernard outright that they didn't like his singing? I don't think anyone did, but I stopped watching The Office after Jim and Pam's wedding like the rest of America. So it may have happened after all; I don't know. As annoying as Andy Bernard could be sometimes, however, not one of his fictional co-workers initially wanted to hurt his feelings because they knew how much he loved the sound of his own singing voice. He was fairly good at his job, too. So why rock the boat and upset him? At times, his vocalized overconfidence could even be endearing. He went to Cornell, you know.

Well, it turns out the same goes for every-day job performance reviews in real-life workplaces. Managers don't want to hurt employees' feelings, and so they don't tell them everything they need to know. According to the ISU press release:

People often think they are good at their job or have a talent, such as singing, because of the feedback they receive from employers, family and friends. Too often that feedback is vague and does not offer any suggestions for improvement, Associate Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University Zlatan] Krizan said. It is much easier to tell someone they are doing a good job instead of being honest and risk hurting their feelings.

"This is one reason why we have barriers to self-insight, because oftentimes, even if we get feedback, it's not accurate," Krizan said. "As a society we make the wrong trade-off by thinking that boosting self-esteem is going to boost performance, and that rarely happens. That empty praise of telling someone they’re great, or pretending there are not skill differences when there are, can really become a problem."

A manager might lead off with an employee's strong points and then work down the list to the tasks where he or she a lot better. Professor Krizan suggests managers set "specific measures for evaluation and feedback":

"This will lead people to consider the things they've done and the outcomes, which will be more closely connected to real performances versus broad ideas of competency," Krizan said. "If people are evaluating themselves in terms of very specific criteria, they’re going to have better self-insight because they are constrained by how to interpret the ability."

So, there you go. How to evaluate employees without making them overestimate their own talents and ask for another raise. Feel free, however, to falsely compliment the Andy Bernards of the office while also suggesting they stick to singing in their cars, or in the parking lot, during breaks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sorry, Managers: Employees Aren't Really Getting the Memo

Don't be offended when a co-worker or client finally has "a chance to skim" your long-form email, document or report. We're all skimming the superficial surface of longer-form communication these days with the attention span of a golden retriever, thanks to social media! - TOO LONG; DIDN'T READ

Forget reading the fine print in your latest credit card holder agreement, because wading through a very long memo without subheadings and sidebars in advance of a 10 a.m. work meeting is already torture enough. The same goes for too-long emails (sorry, TLDR), blogs (people actually read them?), ad copy (just get to the point, please), and anonymous comments sections accompanying trending news stories (hint: separating one, big block of text into smaller paragraphs would help hold our attention, LOL).

We're not only living in the breathless social media age, our brains are busy adapting to it as well. Now scientists are sounding the alarm bell that our brains are rewiring themselves in the digital age. At the rate we're going, soon we'll be lucky to be able to absorb Kim Kardashian's tweets in one sitting without having to re-read them for clarity and understanding.

It's no secret that attention spans are shrinking in our ADHDHDTV culture. I remember back in the day when my mom would sit in her recliner slowly peeling and eating an enormous, red apple over the course of an hour while watching CBS's analog versions of Matlock or Murder, She Wrote. The plot moved so slowly that Jessica Fletcher could be pedaling somewhere on her bicycle and teenage me would get bored, leave the room, come back later, and Jessica Fletcher would still be pedaling somewhere. It took forever to find out who did it, because Jessica Fletcher was always pedaling to the beat of a lighthearted, allegro piano accompaniment. Is she ever going to get to where she's going!? Tune in next week for Part 2 of the episode!

Ah, memories. But you simply want me to get to the point, and not in German, so I will.

For better and for worse, we no longer have the patience for either long-form documentation or slowly-evolving television plots that revolve around two-wheeled modes of transportation. I'm guessing this may be part of the reason Hollywood has shelved a remake of the TV series Murder, She Wrote with Gen X cast members. Who has time to watch a fictional TV character spend the entire show pedaling somewhere? Go ahead and give the 21st Century Jessica Fletcher a Vespa to speed up the plot!

But no, we're too busy Facebooking, tweeting and Instragramming to wait for her waiting for the stop light to turn green. Give us the skinny right now in 140-characters or less, or start a silly reality TV show, preferably without anyone going somewhere on a bicycle, unless it's a behind-the-scenes reality show about the Tour de France and then we're there.

We're even at the point where wordsmiths have stopped trying. Reputable journalists "report" the news now by screen grabbing misspelled and abbreviated "quotes" off Twitter. Sometimes, Twitter pushes the news to the side to hog the entire story line. Please make it stop.

Neuroscientists are prodding us non-readers to start a "slow reading" movement to keep our brains active. Yes, slow reading, which sounds sort of like slow cooking, which means slowing down to take the time to do it. The less we stop to read, we more we might feel like we're back in grade school amusing ourselves by watching our classmates pat their heads, rub their tummies and jump up and down on one foot because they didn't take the time to read the instructions before starting the test.

If they had stopped to read the instructions all the way through before starting the test, then they would have discovered that they needed only to write their names in the top-left corner. Perhaps we were the kid jumping up and down patting our heads while our teacher sat there, rather unamused and, truth be told, completely unsurprised. Oops.

So what does this trend mean for today's "at a glance" workplace? Well, it probably means the 10-page management white paper to be discussed during this morning's meeting won't get read in much, if any, detail because our brains increasingly allow us merely to skim and scan the surface of what we "read." Impatient employees could be faking it until they make it. To lunchtime, that is. Let's hope the menu at the deli isn't too long, and they don't have to use a bicycle to get there.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Biggest Workplace Jerks Are Named Sarah And David

Are any of your co-workers named Sarah or David? Can they be a tad bit unhelpful on the job and, quite frankly, unsympathetic obstructionists standing in the way of your personal plans for workplace success? Well, a new survey is here to back up your pent-up frustrations! - Hi, My name is David I will be your Candy Crush counselor please have a seat.

A recent poll of British workers finally puts a name on the ultimate foot-dragging culprit at work. And that name is David. Or Sarah, if you're female. As Recruiter (U.K.) reports today:

Do you know any Sarahs or Davids in your workplace? Well you should possibly steer clear as recent research has shown them to be the most obstructive and unsympathetic of colleagues.

According to a report titled ‘The Workplace Can’t’, the person most likely to be unco-operative and unprepared to help in a British workplace is female, say 54% of those polled, and most likely to be called Sarah, although males received 46% of the vote and are most likely to be called David.

So Sarah and David, you've been put on notice. Your co-workers perceive you both as quite unhelpful and, according to random survey results, highly annoying obstructionists a lot of the time on the job. At least, if you're British.

In case you're wondering, Sarah has fallen over the last four years from #33 to #56 on the popular baby name rankings list. So we won't have as many Sarahs slowing down workplace progress 20 years from now, apparently.

David, however, has moved up steadily on the popular baby names list over the last four years, from #39 to #34. So there will be more Davids to make up for a lack of Sarahs by happily sticking a wrench into the spokes of workplace progress for decades to come!

I must say, I've never been as happy to be named "Chris" as I am right this minute. Chris. The utterly boring, completely ubiquitous, highly forgettable, unisex name that's guaranteed to have everyone playing an email gender-guessing game and getting it wrong most of the time. Now I can't wait for the workplace survey that reveals just how unhelpful we are at work.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sorry Millennials, There's Still A Corporate Ladder To Climb

Do you think your workplace is a meritocracy based on the beauty of a very flat organizational chart? - On my personal organizational chart, I report directly to Coach purses.

Well, not to burst your highly non-bureaucratic bubble, but a new Stanford study concludes that the corporate ladder still exists, and it's not budging. Let's help the Millennials dust the cobwebs from the corners of their quaint workplace expectations, shall we?

Stanford is here on this fine April Fool's Day to tell any professional over the age of 35 what we already know: There's always a corporate hierarchy, even when it's subtly played down to give the appearance that it doesn't exist. To find out, simply touch one of the company's third rails, or make a big, company decision unilaterally to see what happens.** Who authorized you to do this, huh? No one signed off on this as far as I can tell. Big decisions like this one always run through ME!

So much for the lack of management structure, huh?

The realization that even "cool" young companies have a corporate hierarchy where our boss has a boss who probably has a boss called an "investor" who can decide who gets fired, hired and promoted is apparently making the youngest workers stick their fingers in their collective ears and yell "No! La-la-la-la-la." As The Kansas City Star reports:

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer's study shows what more seasoned employees are right in recognizing — that the traditional power structure still exists.

Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior, says his students in class give him push back when he talks about how hierarchy remains the governing structure.

"There's this belief that we are all living in some postmodernist, egalitarian, merit-based paradise and that everything is different in companies now," Pfeffer says in a Stanford Business School article. "But in reality, it's not."

Younger generations may think the corporate structure is more of a merry-go-round, but really it's still a ladder.

And ladders are for climbing!

Now there are young companies out there touting the clear absence of management as a trendy hiring and retention tool. And new hires dig this idea, because every new generation of employees has it all figured out from the start, until they figure out that somebody has to make the big decisions. We Gen Xers, for example, were going to show the Baby Boomers a thing of two about managing a "flat" organization. Whatever happened with that? It was our original idea! Oh, I remember. We woke up one day on our way to vesting to realize our new boss is the same as the old boss. That's a riff on a lyric from a band called "The Who," Millennials. Oh, nevermind.

So don't fool yourself, Millennials! Even if your employer says the company is "flat," "egalitarian," "a beautiful democracy of epic proportions," "a ladder-less market leader," an "amazing meritocracy" or there's a human resources director who calls herself the "Chief People Person In Charge Of Happy People," don't fall for it. There's still a hierarchy in there somewhere, you simply have to pinpoint it. Yes, even in your trendy, growing, 21st Century start-up with 20 employees. Because people are people, and business is business. Okay, you can take your fingers out of your ears now.

** This is generally a terrible idea, unless you feel like losing your job.