Monday, August 31, 2015

Time Out! Gap Puts An End To On-Call Scheduling

On-call scheduling. It's the woe of retail workers everywhere, because calling into work to see if they'll be working today is no way to live.

Retailers have come to rely on "on-call scheduling" as a matter of employment, keeping employees (who are essentially treated like day laborers waiting on a corner for a work van to pull up and load them in) on short notice.

Will I work today? And if so, when? How many hours will I get? Will I make enough to cover the bills this month? Will the company call me any minute and tell me to report to work within the hour? Could I lose my job if I can't make it on time, because I had to find a babysitter or was stuck in traffic?

Now imagine living this scenario every day. This is where we are in our work couture, and while it's fashionable it sure isn't very pretty.

Retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Starbucks and Victoria's Secret have begun to move away from on-call scheduling, but Gap is strutting the workplace runway by announcing that it will end on-call scheduling NATIONWIDE effective September 30.

Starting in October, Gap will give employees a 10-to-14 day window on scheduling. No more wondering, no more waiting, no more thinking I'd better not go visit grandma today in case the phone rings!

Gap's announcement makes me want to do the baggy crotch Khaki Swing like I did in 1999. I still have the chunky-heeled, black shoes as a reminder of the employee-centric dot-com era, where the average 25-year-old was a perk-jaded VP of Something and I used 1,000-page issues of Fast Company as make-shift arm weights in my home office. Those were the days!

Of course, U.S. retailers are under growing pressure from both the public and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to stop using on-call scheduling. Employees need a bit of certainty, flexibility, and a personal life free of constant worry about if, and when, they might work. Being on-call, all the time isn't good for us.

Will Gap, the parent company of retailers Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix and Old Navy, experience a brand resurgence? Will it see a flood of job applications now that it has announced an end to on-call scheduling? Are Gap khakis still so baggy?

I don't know much about current fashion trends, but I hope this management trend takes off.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Naked And Underpaid XL: Survey Ranks CEO Pay

How much do you earn in comparison to your company's CEO?

Well, a new Glassdoor.com survey released yesterday concludes that the average U.S. CEO is earning roughly 204 times more than the average U.S. employee.

Glassdoor poured over the SEC filings of Fortune 500 firms and compared these filings to information the employees of these firms have posted to Glassdoor's website and...ugh, where to begin.

Let's start with Discovery Communications, the home of naked and blurred survivalist shows, where the CEO-to-employee pay ratio is around 1,951 to 1, based on Glassdoor's estimates. Discovery's CEO made in excess of $156 million in 2014, while the average Discovery worker made $80,000.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Chipotle was served up a cool $28.9 million in salary last year while the median Chipotle employee salary was 19,000. The CEO-to-employee pay ratio according to Glassdoor, in case you're wondering? 1,522 to 1.

CVS, Walmart and Target round out the top five.

On the other hand, the CEO and founder of retailer Fossil took home $0 in salary last year, refusing compensation. I hope he can pay his electrical bill.

So, there you go. I'm just putting this free content out there in a judgment-free Internet zone for your consideration. I will now pour myself another cup of coffee and hit my head against a wall.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Study Finds Men More Likely To Quote Themselves

A new study finds men are more prone to "self-citation," meaning they tend to cite their own, past work in their latest project. And you can quote me on that!

Researchers at Stanford University, New York University, and the University of Washington analyzed 1.6 million research papers going back to the 1950s and found that male authors were more likely to reference their own past work, and by a 10% margin!

Even more, the tendency to quote oneself appears to be growing over time. Thanks a lot, social media!

Of course, the study explored the ivory tower world of "H-Index" academic research. Citations are sort of like Facebook likes for the research community, only citations actually mean something. What about the modern, non-tenured workplace replete with white papers, PowerPoint presentations, break-out sessions, team meets, work retreats, and the like? Metrics must be met. Are men in private industry more likely to say, "As I wrote last year..."?

As one workplace blogger wrote two years ago, "women tend to back off, devalue their own contributions, and give more credit to the men where credit may not be due" when there are men on the work team. Perhaps women need to step it up a bit in the self-citation department?

Hmm. I just cited my past work in my new work to see how it feels, and I have to say that it feels very strange. I think I'll stick to quoting other people instead.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Survey Reveals Top 10 Childish Behaviors At Work

If you think temper tantrums end by age five, then you're in for a big shock because a new CareerBuilder survey reveals the Top 10 ways employees are pouting, shouting, crying and trying to get their way at work!

CareerBuilder/Harris Interactive surveyed more than 2,500 HR managers, as well as more than 3,000 employees, to find out what grown working people do when they don't get their way. Let's just say a national time-out might be necessary, because slightly more than 3 in 4 employees (77%) have recently "witnessed some type of childish behavior among colleagues in the workplace."

Surprised? Without further delay, here are the Top 10 childish behaviors witnessed by survey participants:

Whining (55% of those surveyed have seen it at work); pouting over something that didn't go our way (46%); tattling on another co-worker (44%); playing pranks on another co-worker (36%); making a face behind someone's back (35%); forming a clique (32%); starting a rumor about a co-worker (30%); storming out of the room (29%); throwing a tantrum (27%); and refusing to share resources with others (23%).

A few behaviors that didn't make the Top 10, but deserve honorable mention in my opinion: Failing to clean up after ourselves at work; actively sabotaging our co-workers so they don't "win"; and speaking in vocal fry.

We know from past surveys that the average manager spends one full workday each week handling disputes between employees, and the Millennials are tops at workplace tattling. What we may not realize is how immature behavior can start to affect our personal workplace brand: The CareerBuilder survey finds many employers will think twice about promoting employees who are negative, sloppy, too gossipy, and vulgar in word choice. (Whether they go ahead and eventually promote these employees anyway is another story, I guess.)

How should we best react to a co-worker who is throwing a tantrum, pouting, or otherwise acting childish on the job? Hmm. It's probably best to ignore it as much as possible until our co-worker can calm down and engage on a more mature level. Otherwise, we're telling this co-worker that whining and pouting works -- at work.

Incentives for good behavior from management, such as snacks and fun activities, might also help. Encourage adequate rest. We all need to learn to share, since we're sharing the same sandbox. But this isn't a parenting blog, even though it's quickly starting to sound like one.

tl;dr: If you've ever witnessed childish behavior at work, then you're not alone. Most employees have seen it. Where's the reality TV show Workplace Supernanny when we need it? Hey, I'd watch it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Simple Moral Of Amazon's Workplace Story

I've been taking a summer blogging break to rest my mind before returning in September.

I figured that everyone is on vacation (in mind, if not in body) this time of year. Also, I like to think that I'm practicing what I preach on this blog by taking some time off. How can I encourage anyone else to put the work away if I never do it myself?

Then I read the New York Times story about workplace practices at Amazon.com, and so much for my self-imposed summer blogging break.

From reportedly having employees navigate a "rank and yank" system to encouraging verbal aggressiveness in meetings to questioning the loyalty of employees facing the worst life has to throw at them, Amazon's workplace culture sounds like a case of mean management on steroids.

The moral of the story, at least to me, is how easy it can be to lose perspective in today's overwrought workplaces that run on caffeine and contradiction. The contradictions are everywhere. We're encouraged to think like entrepreneurs at the same time employers track us ever more closely. We're placed on teams that might not exhibit much, if any, real teamwork. Technology is there to free us on the job, but it ends up confining us instead. We repackage old concepts to sound brand-new (today's "gig economy" is yesterday's "free agent nation"), and somehow fail to see the humor in it.

Worst of all, if we're not careful, we can begin to place more faith and loyalty in our employer than in our closest personal relationships. Something seems to be going haywire with our modern work culture, and we need to regain some much-needed workplace perspective. Here are seven takeaways for keeping our work lives in perspective in today's all-or-nothing workplaces:

1. Speak with someone who has lost a job. The average working professional fears unemployment more than just about anything, and it can drive a lot of on-the-job decision-making. Ask a friend or family member what it was like to lose a job. You'll hear fascinating tales of personal resilience in the face of adversity, and it can be oddly freeing to verbalize our unspoken workplace fears.

2. Imagine yourself without a job title. If you were stripped of your job title today, who would remain? How would you describe yourself to others? What makes you interesting outside of your job? If you're stuck for ideas, then it's a sign you need to broaden your horizons. Hobbies, family, volunteering, REM sleep at 3 a.m. and being mentally present at Thanksgiving dinner are the things of which a good life is made. On that note...

3. Set personal boundaries. What goes over the line for you at work? The more dysfunctional a workplace culture, the more your personal boundaries could be severely challenged. Doing the right thing at work takes courage and strength. Make it a career goal to look back with pride on how you carried yourself in a professional role, and how you managed to take the high road when it mattered most. You are far greater than any job title. Strive to be a good person first, and a talented professional second.

4. Stop obsessing about career. Our very serious obsession with all things "career" has clouded our vision. A good career is nice, but ultimately a career is simply a series of jobs performed over the long term. Good job titles are nice, but they can be a fickle mistress (See Tip #2). Good money is nice too, but it can't fix a poor work environment or fill us with joy. Stay open-minded to life's possibilities. Ladders are meant to be moved.

5. Don't get taken in by a "smart" pitch. A potential, high-profile employer tells you how it hires only "smart" employees. The company likes you, and that feels so good, doesn't it? Employers aren't playing dumb; they're smartly playing to your ego! But is it the right fit? Always trust your gut instincts. They're trying to tell you something. (And if your parents don't understand your decision, well, it's not their life.)

6. Don't fear failure. Refuse to be afraid of failure. Failing represents opportunities for growth, learning, experimentation and innovation. It's not all bad. Then again, some modern metrics might make us feel set up to fail. Today's workplace metrics indicate that our work teams are failing, but how are today's workplace metrics failing our work teams? Hmm. Now that's a good question!

7. Think dynamically about the workplace. The workplace isn't a static enterprise. It's always changing, and so are you! Envision yourself as a much older employee, potentially with a mortgage, a family and a bad lower back. Could you keep up the pace? Will current workplace metrics suit your older professional self someday? Life moves fast. Younger employees have a great opportunity to craft future workplaces that incorporate human nature into the metrics.

Well, it's some pie-in-the-sky food for thought for sure, especially since we'll be working through lunch again. It's never too late to create a kinder workplace, and to go a little bit easier on ourselves (see Tip #4). It's a big job, but somebody has to do it! Flag it as an "urgent" task. Now let's get to work.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Calling Out Co-workers Who Call You On Vacation

You're vacationing in a warm, pretty place (or taking a "staycation," nothing wrong with that!) when a co-worker contacts you out of the blue to ask a very basic, work-related question.

Here's a basic question: Why can't your co-worker handle it himself and leave you alone?

If you've ever experienced this common workplace problem on holiday, then you're not alone: A poll conducted on behalf of mental health charity Mind reveals nearly one-quarter (24%) of 1,250 employees surveyed have received work calls on vacation.

If it's that bad in Britain, then it's probably worse here as we enter the dog days of August! We've all been there. Our co-worker is on vacation, and we have a question pertaining to a problem, a project, or a client. For whatever reason, we feel like we can't answer it ourselves.

So we ping our vacationing co-worker with an "urgent" flag. Let's hope the answer isn't sitting front and center on our desk, with a big, neon Post-It note that reads in all-caps: "Here's the client file, you may get a call from them while I'm out of town."

Oops.

This is where great listening and communication skills, adequate cross-training, competent management, and fantastic follow-through come into play. How departments treat co-workers on vacation is directly related to the strength of training in all four areas.

Really, this shouldn't be so hard. Before leaving the office on vacation, we should make sure we've tied up as many loose ends as possible to ease the load on our beleaguered co-workers. We should anticipate any major issues that could arise in our absence. This client can be very demanding and might call while I'm gone, here's the scoop. You get the idea.

If we're covering for a co-worker who is leaving on vacation, then we should make sure to ask questions (and listen closely to the answers) so we are prepared (confidently...) to handle problems in a pinch.

Perhaps our co-worker will return the favor someday when we go on vacation. (Unless we work with vengeful co-workers who take delight in turning our beach time into a working vacation through constant contact, that is. That's an entirely different post, however.)

Bottom line: If you're thinking about bugging a co-worker who is on vacation today, stop and think twice before doing so. Is it really necessary? Can you work through the problem on your own, perhaps with assistance from another co-worker, simply so your vacationing co-worker can relax and truly get away from it all?

Also, just how important on a scale of 1 to 10 is this work-related question? (10 for the business will lose big money or fall apart without asking it; 1 for trivial matters such as "Where did you put the stapler?") Know the difference, and set boundaries.

What can wait until this co-worker returns? (Yes, some things can wait a few days. Really.)

Of course, our chances of being bothered on vacation depend on our line of work. Some jobs are easier to leave behind than others. Perhaps you have one of these jobs. Good for you.

With any luck, our vacationing co-worker will return to the office with a big smile on his or her face, rested and ready to tackle work once again.

Thanks for not bugging me while I was gone, guys! Our co-worker probably won't say this out loud, but he or she will, no doubt, be thinking it. Good job.