Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Study Reveals Why Co-workers "Un-friend" Us On Facebook

A co-worker has "un-friended" us on Facebook, and now we're vaguely down in the dumps wondering why we were dumped.

Well, buck up my friends, because researchers at the University of Colorado Denver looked into the frenemy-inducing confusion surrounding Facebook "friend" dumping and have a friendly suggestion for us based on actual online survey results! - Unfriended by a friend/coworker on Facebook for no reason? That's so 9th grade.

Maybe you haven't been quietly dumped yet, but you've recently been put on notice that a Facebook "friend" is re-evaluating, and then culling, his or her (eh, it's usually a her, isn't it?) "friend" list to separate the wallflower wheat from the overly-communicative chaff. Maybe she's decided that we update far too much, or far too little. Perhaps our observations on life, politics, art, leisure and/or parenting have turned annoying. Perhaps, in the absence of self-revealing tidbits, we "share" too many TLDR news stories or, if we're super lazy and boring, post another Someecards joke.

If this "friend" knew us in high school 25 years ago, then perhaps she's realizing that she hasn't seen us since high school and we have nothing in common (if we ever did). One wonders why it took so long to reach this e-piphany. Whatever the reason, our long-distance "friendship" is suddenly on the ropes and in dire need of introspective re-evaluation.

It's not personal, everyone! It's just time to narrow down my friends list, because I'm looking for real conversations over a social media news feed with people I haven't seen since high school. If I choose to drop you, it's been nice knowing you. Again, it's nothing personal!

This type of status update generally elicits a handful of frantic responses from "friends" along the line of, "Whaa!? Please don't dump me! I really enjoy your selfies! I know I'm usually too busy to comment, but I hope we're still friends!"

The rest of us, meanwhile, simply lurk confusedly in the background, just like we did in high school. What I don't understand is why one would bother telling everyone about an impending Facebook "friend" dump in the first place. Why not simply cull the "friend" list on the down low without the news feed fanfare and drama?

Anyway, back to the main topic since I know we need to check our social media pages. The University of Colorado Denver, which surveyed more than 1,000 people on Twitter, knows exactly why people dump us on Facebook. In case you're wondering, here are the five types of "friends" most likely to get "un-friended":

1. High school friends

2. Other

3. Friend of a friend

4. Work friends

5. Common interest friend

Wait a minute. "Other" ranks second? What does "other" mean? I'll assume the term refers to long-time-lurkers-first-time-commenters or something? Sorry to break it to you, Mr. or Ms. Other, but we're not Facebook Official anymore. You. Have. Now. Been. Culled.

Ouch. As you can see going down the list, our workplace "friends" rank fourth as Most Deleteable Person On Facebook. And what makes employees vulnerable to getting Facebook dumped by a co-worker? Well, it turns out that getting Facebook dumped isn't so much about what we say in our status updates; it has more to do with what we do, or say, IN PERSON during the work day! Let's go to the Facebook official UCD press release:

"We found that people often unfriend co-workers for their actions in the real world rather than anything they post on Facebook," [Computer Science and Information Systems doctoral student at the CU Denver Business School Christopher] Sibona said.

So, there you have it. Crystal clear, in 140 characters or less, no hashtags necessary. We aren't dorks on Facebook so much as we're dorks in person on the job, and it changes our Facebook "friend"/co-worker's view of us enough to say "enough."

In a vaguely odd way, this finding restores my faith in humanity a little bit. Perhaps it indicates that our in-person interactions remain very important in this day and age, and, in fact, carry a lot more weight than anything we might say online via Facebook, Twitter or hastily-written workplace blogs that rely heavily on Someecards to break up the copy?

Sure, our co-worker standing nearby may seem lost in her smartphone, but she heard everything we just said sans proper self-editing (gasp!) and now she's thinking about including us in her next Facebook "friend" dump. Sigh. Can we still be common interest friends?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

10 Things Employees Probably Won't Do For Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, the day when we're supposed to celebrate our planet and do small things on an individual basis to make it better. Too bad we don't tend to see ourselves individually as much of a problem, especially when we're busy at the office. - Let's recycle cliches about taking action on global warming

Collectively, human nature is impacting mother nature, and three-fourths (75%) of employees in a new Harris Poll/Ricoh America Corporation survey say they will call out wasteful environmental practices in the workplace. But our individual carbon footprint? Well, now. Let's not go there. After all, it's not that big, is it? It's just little ol' me! My environmental impact is minimal!

Apparently, this type of "who, me?" thinking is more common on the job than we'd like to admit, if we buy into the results of last Earth Day's TeamViewer survey. It begs a question we'd rather not recycle: Are there tasks employees might not be adding to our own environmental "to do" list when we're at work? Without further ado, here are 10 areas where we can all do better:

1. Recycling cans and bottles. We have a small collection of soda and/or water bottles littering our work area and we really should recycle them but we don't feel like walking ALL THE WAY to the recycling bin. So we throw our bottles and cans in the garbage can. Perhaps we have a company-provided recycling bin underneath our desk, but our recycling still goes in the garbage can. TeamViewer found nearly four in 10 employees (39%) never, ever recycle anything at the office, and slightly more than one-third (34%) drink bottled water at work. It adds up to waste baskets overflowing with...I'm just going to say one word to you: plastics.

2. Going paper-free. Many companies pride themselves on going paperless in the digital age (kudos), but many employees still prefer their standard-ruled sheets of paper, and lots of them, and these employees aren't about to go double-sided on the copier for anyone. In fact, more than half (53%) of employees don't see why they should bother to minimize their printer use. Let's not get started on all the passive-aggressive Post-It notes left randomly in the break room. Who will get to clean the microwave this time, huh?

3. Telecommuting. We could telecommute more often to lessen our carbon footprint, but we have an important 10 a.m. office meeting this morning. Or the boss said, "Telecommute? Ha-ha, no way. I need you here in the office. Now get back to your desk." Perhaps we've been given the go-ahead to telecommute, but we worry that out of sight could eventually mean out of mind, which isn't a good state of mind to put the boss in as this recession lingers. Maybe next year, or when Dot-Com 2.0 finally rolls around?

4. Using public transportation. We could take the bus, the train, a bike, or carpool more often but our car is like a second office. Besides, we feel like model global citizens as we sit behind the stinky semi-truck at the stop light and watch the driver behind us throw a burning cigarette butt out the car window.

5. Powering down our computers. Exactly half of U.S. employees don't power down their computers when they leave work for the day. That's a lot of wasted energy. At least turn off the monitor. Sleep mode works, too.

6. Turning off the lights. The meeting is over, everyone is leaving the conference room, but no one sees it as their job to turn off the lights. Or something? It seems to be, because nearly three-fourths (74%) of employees don't bother to turn off the lights when they leave an empty room. We'll leave a light on for you, indeed. Maybe it's time to invest in some auto-controlled lights? Or a Clapper?

7. Making a charity donation. Budgets are tight, it still feels like a recession in many ways, and our co-workers keep asking us to chip in for yet another school fundraiser. We'd love to contribute to the Sierra Club, but increasingly we need every penny to put food on our table. Let's hope it hasn't been genetically modified (the food and not the table, in case you're wondering).

8. Relying on reusable containers. Do you know that roughly 60% of employees don't bring their own lunches to work? Let's hope they're using some "compost-able" or recycled plates and utensils along the way, and that they're not stealing their nice co-worker's lunch from the office fridge. Again. (Someday, you're going to catch him or her, aren't you?)

9. Using less water. We tend to use less water at home than we do at the office simply because we're not paying the water bill at work. The TeamViewer survey found employees who work at home tend to consume significantly less water (and electricity, etc...) than their office-dwelling counterparts. On that note...

10. Adjusting the heating and A/C. More than four in 10 (44%) office employees don't worry about adjusting thermostat settings to save energy. At home, however, they don't mind wearing a sweater when it's cold outside or sweating a little bit when it's hot. Speaking of, it's almost time for the summer thermostat wars!

If you've scanned this list and thought rather indignantly, "Hey, silly blogger of unknown gender, I do most, or all, of these things and more" then good for you. Truly. You are a great human being and a good example for the rest of us. I mean it. Really. We need you do keep doing what you're doing while the rest of us strive to do better in every area all year round as constant caretakers of our fine planet. After all, it's the only one we have. Putting our empty plastic and aluminum items into the proper recycling bin isn't too much to ask, is it?

Oh, and Happy Earth Day!

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.