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October 30, 2008

Illinois study finds high school social skills predictor of better earnings

The skill of getting along well with others
A new study out from the University of Illinois finds that social skills and behaviors such as conscientiousness, cooperativeness and motivation need to accompany traditional academic learning for success in the workplace.

The researcher studied the success of high school students 10 years after graduation. Employers stressed in their response surveys there’s a need for workers who can get along well with each other and get along well with the public. The study points out how schools need to help students improve their social skills and behaviors in addition to traditional academics.

If you’ve had a surly person wait on you at a fast-food restaurant or a client who implies she knows far more about your field (and it’s not her specialty) than you do……….then you’ll not find the results of this study surprising.

The researcher applied many controls including race, family socioeconomic status and educational attainment after high school. I find the results after applying those controls more surprising. News release on the study:
Ten Years On, High-School Social Skills Predict Better Earnings than Test Scores
Published Oct. 15, 2008

How we respect and treat one another, civility, does impact success in the workplace.

October 27, 2008

How are you surviving the national election debate in your workplace?

Several weeks ago an eXtension (extension.org) colleague ended his online meeting by encouraging everyone to vote. Several attending responded they didn’t know how they would vote. The leader of the meeting obviously knew how he was going to vote, but was very civil---didn’t get baited into talking about the candidates.

Way back in early January, P.M. Forni who is one of the leading voices on civility today, provided tips on dealing with talk about national politics in the workplace.
Casting a Vote for Workplace Civility in 2008: How to keep your cool during political discussions at work

Do Vote next Tuesday (if you haven’t already)!

October 21, 2008

A bully or not?

Bullying exists in far too many workplaces in the United States. We now recognize that. But to declare any difficult person a bully—that’s jumping to name calling.

I’d not seen the difference between a difficult person and a bully explained well until I read a post on Bully Free Workplace, which happens to originate in Canada.

That post says, “Difficult people are not necessarily out to harm another; they are out to protect their own needs. Therefore, if you can reason with a difficult person in order to show good will for their needs, they may change. A bully will not change; they are out to destroy your needs.”

Read the full post at http://www.bullyfreeatwork.com/blog/?p=128

This week, Oct. 19 - 25, 2008 is Freedom From Bullies Week.

The Workplace Bullying Institute out of the state of Washington calls this a week for support, inspiration, peace and health. See the institute’s to do list at http://workplacebullying.org/freedom.html

October 15, 2008

2008 Blog Action Day: Focus on Poverty

More than 10,000 bloggers are focusing on one issue of global importance: poverty.

Poverty can be defined as the lack of the necessities that determine quality of life—safe food and water, shelter and clothing plus opportunities including education and health care.

How does poverty relate to civility in the workplace?
Certainly it relates to civility, respect for all humankind. But the workplace? That’s a bit more difficult.

What if at a conference, we posted a sign at break time that said “This break of refreshments and food would have cost $238. There are no drinks or treats here because we donated that $238 to the local food pantry.” I think most people would be startled, but they would applaud the effort.

What if instead of a going-away gift or birthday gift, we gave a card with an alternative gift? (http://www.altgifts.org/)

Those would be acts of social responsibility
Here are more:

Push for fair trade coffee in your workplace.
Buy company clothing from a firm that doesn’t use sweatshops.
Give your time, talents and money to local charities endorsed by your workplace. (See last week’s post: The reliable way to buy happiness)
(June 12 post: Social responsibility in an organization)

Consider the clients
In my workplace, it’s first of all the people of Iowa.
Are we tolerant and accepting of people who have less money, less education, mental or physical problems? Do we show biases in our expressions, words and actions?
Do we work on programs to help lift people out of poverty rather than simply meeting poverty’s pressing and immediate need?
Do we provide access to our services for those who don’t have the money to purchase program materials, who don’t have computers at home or work, who can’t afford gas to attend?

If you don’t know TED, today would be a good day to visit.
TED on Rethinking Poverty
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has broadened. TED’s mission: Spreading ideas.

What do you think?
How can we address poverty in our workplaces?

October 14, 2008

Freedom and happiness

Freedom causes happiness---That’s a conclusion of Arthur Brooks in his book ‘Gross National Happiness’.

You may be surprised at the forms freedom can take. Brooks cites a 1976 study in a nursing home. On one floor, residents could decide which night was movie night and could choose to care for plants. The residents on that floor began to show greater alertness, more activity and better moods than residents on the control floor that were not given the same choice and responsibility.

“To the extent that work gives people a sense that they are in charge of their lives, it will bring them joy. If work strips people of control it will bring misery.”

Each person perceives and enjoys success at his or her personal level. Workers need to believe their work is meaningful and define what earned success means to them.

Brooks writes, “Indeed, people who feel they do not have control over their own successes are generally miserable. In 2001, people who said they did not feel responsible for their own successes—whether they enjoyed successes or not, mind you—spent about 25 percent more time feeling sad than those who said they did feel responsible for their own successes.”

Civility, respect for each individual, is at play here. If workers are involved and empowered to the extent they individually wish to be, they’ll be more creative and productive in the workplace because they are happier.

October 08, 2008

The reliable way to buy happiness

Arthur Brooks in his 2008 book ‘Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America--and How We Can Get More of It’ says the only way to “buy” happiness is to give your money away to charity.

He says people who give money to charity are 43 percent more likely than nongivers to say they are very happy. And volunteers are 42 percent more likely to be very happy than nonvolunteers.

Why does charity correlate to happiness?
Psychologists refer to the “helper’s high” and believe it is due to endorphins. Charity lowers stress hormones that cause unhappiness. Charity brings a sense of control in a chaotic world. We can be proactive solving problems and thus feel empowered. Helping another can relieve our own unhappiness if we focus on someone else’s problems instead of our own.

The more people give and volunteer, the happier they are
It’s the time of year that United Way campaigns are underway in our work places. And Iowa Shares also in my workplace. You have infinite choices of where to give your money and your time. This coming year will probably be difficult for many in our county, so do yourself a favor, help others by giving away some time and money.

Brooks says there’s “evidence that giving is habitual, and –like good manners, good taste and other fine things in life—the earlier people are exposed to the joys of charity, the more likely they are to practice giving throughout their lives and enjoy its amazing benefits.”

October 02, 2008

Management by Wandering Around (MBWA)

Management by Wandering Around came to public notice when Tom Peters and Bob Waterman wrote ‘In Search of Excellence’ in 1982. The strength of MBWA lies in informal communications and getting out of your office or cubicle.

It is the opposite of drive-by decisions and drive-by management.

You get to know those you work with, what their passions are, what they think about a project. You get to know the clients, what they want, their fears and aspirations.

‘Stay intimately in touch’
That’s how Peters described MBWA in a 2004 post on his blog, www.tompeters.com. He wrote about scrapping a speech to retailers after he’d spent two hours wandering in and out of shops and had a much more real vision of retail than he had from talking to experts and searching the Web.

He is emphatic that email does not count. You must wander.

Management by Wandering Around is one of my all-time favorite ways to stay in tune with coworkers and clients. When you display sincerity, civility and genuine interest in what others think, when you listen without judgment, you’ll find their core values and passion. People will come to you with comments, ideas and all kinds of helpful information. There’s a dedication and enthusiasm in working together in your workplace or on a volunteer effort. I don’t believe ‘management’ in MBWA is reserved for those with management titles. It is caring about each person, what drives them and managing expectations and information.

In their book ‘In Search of Excellence’, the authors write about excellent companies taking advantage of MBWA and organizational fluidity. “The nature and uses of communication in the excellent companies are remarkably different from those of their nonexcellent peers. The excellent companies are a vast network of informal, open communications….The intensity of communications is unmistakable in the excellent companies. It usually starts with an insistence on informality.”

Finally they write about MBWA as the ability to talk, and I would add ‘listen’, to anyone, anywhere.
It works. I’m a believer.

October 01, 2008

Know your workplace drive-bys

Drive-by, adjective
1 : carried out from a moving vehicle, a drive–by shooting
2 : done or made in a quick or cursory manner, a drive–by analysis
--Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

“Drive-by Decisions
You’ve not participated in any of the planning meetings; you didn’t read any of the background; and you’ve never talked to the customer(s). Then, you speed through and issue an instant decision/edict. There is, of course, a time and place for making a quick decision, but let’s not confuse “the buck stops here” leadership with “I’m the decider” petulance.” -- Ivy Sea Inc., a business consulting firm based in San Francisco.

Drive-by Management
Can appear at different times in a project. May be at the beginning when you are given few details and no direction. Or at the end when the project is near completion and the early decisions are under a microscope with suggestions that go back to the planning and draft stages.

How to cope
Learn to spot drive-by decisions and management and those who operate that way to help in the future. If someone tosses out tasks which you work on and report back only to have that person look at you as if to say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” you’ll know there’s probably no need to spend much time on that person’s tasks in the future unless you work out some real details at the beginning.

Drive-by management at the end of a project teaches you to get minute details at the beginning of the next one from this person.

This article has good suggestions to start thinking about how to deal with drive-by management:
Management by Drive-By-Shooting by Glory Borgeson
March 23, 2007

You can sign up for the Ivy SeaZine, tips and inspiration for conscious enterprise and communication, at http://www.ivysea.com/

And a new drive-by term I found through a search:
Working moms and the Mommy Drive-By: Why do we do this to one another? by Lylah M. Alphonse
Aug. 19, 2008
“We've all experienced it at one time or another: The Mommy Drive-By. When someone -- a relative, another mom, a total stranger -- takes it upon herself to question your judgment or criticize your parenting.”