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13 posts from March 2012

March 08, 2012

How to make someone miserable at work

Horrible boss
More than 20 years ago, I worked in an office with mostly female co-workers. Our male boss had a nasty, gruff manner and gave all of us lousy performance reviews. We could never do anything to meet his expectations. Every suggestion made at a staff meeting became an invitation for him to call us moronic. I grew to disdain this man.

Before long, most of my co-worker friends bolted. I had little work experience so it wasn't as easy for me to jump ship. But I was lonely and miserable so I didn't the unthinkable  --- I quit without another job lined up. Not my proudest moment! 

Today, I read a story in the Washington Post that reminded me of those dark days. It's titled: How to completely, utterly destroy an employee’s work life.

Teresa Amabile,director of research at Harvard Business School and Steven Kramer, a developmental psychologist and researcher, are coauthors of The Progress Principle. They have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work and what makes them miserable.

"What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work. Many leaders, from team managers to CEOs, are already surprisingly expert at smothering employee engagement."

They give five steps to making an employee miserable:

Step 1: Never allow pride of accomplishment.  (At every turn, stymie employees’ desire to make a difference)

Step 2: Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. (Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible, and allow people no autonomy in meeting them.)

Step 3: Give yourself some credit. (Truly believe that employees are doing just fine  and that “bad morale” is due to the employees’ unfortunate personalities or poor work ethics.

Step 4: Kill the messengers.  ( if you do get wind of problems in the trenches, deny, deny, deny. And if possible, strike back)

Readers, have you ever been in a workplace where the boss or manager has completely and utterly destroyed your work life? Did it force you do to something as drastic as I did? Do you have any advice for others beyond -- quit your job?

March 07, 2012

Why you should help a returning veteran and how

Imagine you have no work life balance. Your entire life is about work. Even more, you have a position of authority where you're coming up with strategy for how to keep your co-workers on track day after day. Then, suddenly, you have no job.

I know many of you went through job loss during the recent recession and I know it was horrible for your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. But our military who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are finding this transition from high powered job to no job beyond devastating. Many are suicidal.

Last week, I shared the veteran's perspective in this tough transition from combat zone to unemployment line.

Today, I shared the employer perspective.

Both are frustrated sides in their efforts to get returning veterans transitioned into civilian life.

US Army Staff Sargent Robert Butler sent me an email with his sad story. After several low paying jobs, he started a shaved ice business, trying to get his vending truck into city parks. He writes:

I thought that we could take the trailers into parks and ballgames to make a living. I was wrong. I am told to get into parks owned by the city. Partly paid for with my tax dollars and made possible by the blood me and my brothers and sister spilled for this country I would have to be put on a waiting list. For one the list never changes. At Bayfront park it is the same Food Trucks day after day. They have a schedule. This truck on Tuesday and Thursday every week. That one on Monday and Wednesday every week.

I waited in line already. I waited in line for 5 1/2 years. 2 1/2 of which I spent in combat. I don't recall seeing any of these people waiting in line in front of me to go and fight for this country but they sure don't mind standing in front of me when I am trying to make a living for me and my family now that I am home. I have been invited to parks to see a ceremony were they have erected a veterans memorial. But after the ceremony when I approach them about bringing my trailer to the park so I can make a living they say "I'm so sorry that's not how it works, we have 3 vendors that run the whole park. But we can put you on a list so that people having birthday parties here can hire you if they chose." AGAIN, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"

 You can't give us veterans a small corner in your city parks to try and make a living? I would think that right by your veterans memorials would be a perfect spot. People visiting the memorials could actually talk to living veterans. Children could meet some of these living heroes who have returned to you. The memorials are great. I have all of my friends that died fighting beside me tattooed on my chest so I will never forget them. But what about us veterans that are alive! We don't deserve a spot in the parks owned by the cities and countries we fought for? Haven't we earned some sort of preference?

 Enough of the yellow ribbons on your cars saying you support the troops. That ribbon makes you feel good having it on your car. It does nothing for me or my family. What veterans organization have you donated to or volunteered your time to?

Many cities are hosting job fairs specificly for veterans. Miami will hold one on May 9. If you have a business and can put a former veteran to work, or if you can help a veteran prepare a resume that will translate military skills into language an employer can understand, please step up to the plate. I received an email about a crowdfunding site, www.sprigster.com to help veterans raise money to buy a franchise businesses. It is a for-profit site but I believe the intention is good.

It may be hard to squeeze volunteer efforts into your work life balance, but talk to some of these veterans, hear their stories and you will find making time is well worth it.

Brian r

(Above Brian Reynolds, a recruiter with GS4 Secure Solutions has helped his company to hire more than 2,700 veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan)

March 02, 2012

Has Google usurped our parenting? Ask Google Dad

Yesterday, my 10-year-old  son wanted to know what triumph meant. I immediately pulled out my pocket dictionary and tossed it to him. He looked at me like I was from another planet and said: "Really mom?" He then marched over to the computer and put the word into Google.

I felt so old school!!!

Face it parents, our kids will do everything in their lives differently than we did. They will work differently, learn differently, play differently and it will be sooooo hard for us to come to grips with this new reality as we try to fit becoming more tech-savvy into our work life balance.

Today, my guest blogger is an old friend, Miami super attorney Spencer Silverglate. He shares his wise take and personal experience raising kids in the digital age.


            Blood red.  Marbled to perfection.  Two 12-ounce slabs of New York’s finest, grass-fed, prime-grade, cut-it-with-a-fork, melt-in-your-mouth, beef fillets. Steak.  It’s what’s for dinner—at least it was last Wednesday. Except it wasn’t just another meal. 

        As I explained that morning to my 16-year-old son Cameron, it would be the night I pass on the manly pursuit of grilling dead animal flesh.  Just like my father passed it on to me and his, undoubtedly, to him.  Yes, that night I would hand over the apron and tongs to my son and reveal the family recipe for grilling steak.  He may have started the day a boy, but by nightfall, he would be a man. Barbecue Man!

         Imagine my shock when I rolled into the driveway at 6:45 that evening, accosted by the unmistakable aroma of sizzling meat.  Impossible, I thought to myself. I hadn’t even begun the lesson.  I stared in disbelief as I entered the house and saw my son on the back patio, hovering over the open flames that caressed the tender underbelly of the New York Strips.

           “What do you think you’re doing?!” I barked.  “You were supposed to wait for me.  And be careful, you’ll burn the steaks.  You need to cut ‘em open and check to see if they’re done.”

            “No, Dad,” he objected.  “If you do that, the juice will leak out.”

            “What are you talking about?” I snapped.  “I’ve always done it that way.”

            “Chef Ramsey says cutting the steak will dry it out like beef jerky,” he responded.  “You’re supposed to press the meat and feel for the same firmness as the fleshy part of your nose.”

            “The fleshy part of . . . who the heck is Chef Ramsey?!” I snarled.

            “Really, Dad?  Gordon Ramsey—quite possibly themost famous chef on TV.  I just watched him on YouTube.  According to Gordon, this is an 8 ½ minute steak.”

            I stood there slack-jawed for a moment and then walked away with the remnants of my male ego.  Probably just as well.  My son was putting the final grate marks on the best cooked steaks the old grill ever produced.

            The Steak Incident, and others like it, has caused me to question whether our role of parents has been usurped by computers.  There’s very little we can teach our kids that they can’t find on the Internet.  Only the computer generated lesson is “better.”  If you’re a kid, why ask a parent for help with homework when you can have a Stanford professor explain it online?  Why ask dad how to swing a baseball bat when Albert Pujols can teach you on YouTube?   Why ask mom for decorating advice when you can watch Martha Stewart on your smart phone? 

            What’s the capital of Iceland?  Wikipedia it.  How do you spell “chrysanthemum?”  Spell check it (I just did). How do you build a tree-house?  Google it.  How do you get to the mall?  GPS it. Who sings this song?  There’s an app for that. Where do babies come from?  You get the point.

             We were at dinner the other night and a disagreement broke out over the ways in which one may become a U.S. citizen.  My son, who recently studied the issue, explained the process to my wife and me.  Poor lad, he left out the one about marrying a U.S. citizen. I figured I’d impress him with my mental superiority, so I laid it on him.  He respectfully disagreed, explaining that marrying a citizen would yield a green card, not necessarily citizenship.  As my blood pressure began to rise, I figured I’d play the dad card.  You know the one: “I’m right because I’m dad.”  Before I could utter the words, my son already pulled up the facts on his iPhone. 

             The computer was right, of course.  The darn thing is always right.

             When I was a kid, what my father said was final.  These days what Google says is final.

            But have we moved forward or backward? We seem to be floating around in our own, ear-bud wearing bubbles streaming only preferred content.  Why listen to top 40 hits when I can live in the land of perpetual Bruce Springsteen?  For that matter, why bother interacting at all?  I may be sitting next to you at lunch, but I’m texting someone 300 miles away.  Today our personal relationships are not centered around work or school or church, but Facebook.  So what if we never leave the couch—we can still have thousands of “friends.”

           I take comfort in knowing that not everythingcan be replaced by machines.  Some things still need to be experienced, especially by our children.  They may be able to go online and learn about riding a bike, but they need a parents’ firm grip on the seat to steady the ride.  And maybe that’s the best metaphor for what parents provide their kids—a firm grip on the ride of life.   

            I realize of course that we won’t be getting rid of machines anytime soon, nor would I want to. Although technology has the potential to supplant relationships, it can also enhance them.  Anyone who has connected online to a forgotten high school friend can attest to that.

             Like anything in life, there must be a balance.  A harmony between man and machine that enriches rather than detracts from the human experience. Which brings me back to my son...

            Just the other day I was getting ready for a formal party and decided on a whim to sport a white pocket square to offset my black tuxedo.  Not being a hanky-in-the-top-pocket kind of guy, I had no idea how to fold the silken Rubik’s Cube.  Cameron happened to notice my struggle and casually suggested I go online.   Even though it wasn’t my first instinct, I had to admit it was a good idea.  A few minutes later I had a perfectly folded pocket square.

            So there you have it.  My family, just like my ebony suit and ivory handkerchief, now lives together in perfect harmony—with a little help from Google.



( Google dad, Spencer, and son, Cameron)