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    Entries in workplace (108)


    Summer Fridays (probably should have waited until Friday to post this)

    A week or so ago I had the chance to talk to Kirsten Fleming from the New York Post about work schedules, workplace flexibility, and perks, (particularly in industries like tech, advertising, and fashion). The resulting piece, How Summer Fridays became the most divisive issue in NYC, ran about a week ago, and is a fun, informative take on what organizations are doing with respect to 'Summer Fridays' and more workplace flexibility in general, and is peppered in classic HR Capitalist style with a cool series of Instagram embeds of NYC workers enjoying their Friday afternoon freedom.

    Here is a snippet from the piece, (which includes what might be the apex of my professional career, a quote in the awesome New York Post), and you can read the rest of the piece here:

    Owens is one of the fortunate New Yorkers who have a coveted Summer Friday work schedule, which means beating the scrum of weekend warriors to the roads and rails. And while he relishes his early exit, he gets just as much of a thrill from ribbing his pals who toil away in traditional industries that require them to work a full day on Fridays.

    After all, once the summer calendar is under way, the Big Apple becomes a tale of two cities — the people who have Summer Fridays and the rest of the working schlubs. The liberal policies vary from allowing employees to leave early to giving them the day off entirely. The lucky “haves” tend to work in creative industries like fashion, public relations and media...

    Catch the rest here...

    Oh and by the way, are you slacking off taking off any time on Friday afternoons this summer?

    Have a great week!


    On ZOPA and striking first in negotiations

    Meandering through the internet on a long cross-country flight yesterday, and I came across a piece on the Harvard Law blog from 2011 (I know, in internet years that sounds like 1924, but hang with me on this), about the concept of anchors in negotitations and something called the ZOPA, or the Zone of Possible Agreement.

    You should check out the piece from 2011, as it really does a great job of debunking a pretty common perception when it comes to power dynamics in negotiations: namely that the person who puts the first offer on the table puts him/herself in a position of weakness. Obviously I have not read ALL the terabytes of salary negotiation advice that has been written, but I feel like the wide majority of said advice for the candidate counsels them to avoid putting an actual salary number on the table, as it reduces their further negotiating power. Once they set a number like, "I would like $89,000 in salary", then the only place the negotiation can proceed is down (in terms of that number). 

    But as the Harvard piece points out, that starting number (whomever puts it out there), sets an effective anchor on the rest of the negotiation. Here is the gist of the argument around anchors and the ZOPA from the piece:

    It is desirable to anchor first in many negotiations, for several reasons. In negotiation, you are trying to both learn about the zone of possible agreement(ZOPA) and influence the other side’s perception of the ZOPA. While advance research can help you reduce your uncertainty about the ZOPA, you typically will have more to learn about the ZOPA once talks begin. As such, you will be vulnerable to being anchored. Therefore, anchoring first in price-oriented negotiations can be both good offense and good defense.

    An overly aggressive offer, however, risks derailing negotiations if it causes the other side to question your credibility or to wonder whether agreement is even possible. Because it is hard to know what your counterpart will view as absurd, anchoring with a relatively inflexible, extreme offer increases the probability of reaching a stalemate. Anchoring instead with a flexible but extreme offer gives you a lower-risk opportunity to favorably shape your counterpart’s perceptions of the ZOPA.

    Additional research done by Adam Galinksy at Northwestern University backs up the Harvard findings. According to Galinsky:

    My own research also shows that the probability of making a first offer is related to one's confidence and sense of control at the bargaining table. Those who lack power, either due to a negotiation's structure or a lack of available alternatives, are less inclined to make a first offer. Power and confidence result in better outcomes because they lead negotiators to make the first offer. In addition, the amount of the first offer affects the outcome, with more aggressive or extreme first offers leading to a better outcome for the person who made the offer. Initial offers better predict final settlement prices than subsequent concessionary behaviors do.

    So it seems pretty clear, if you find yourself in a salary/bonus/some other type of compensation negotiation with your employer, seizing the upper hand by putting the first, aggressive number on the table is likely to lead to the best outcome from your perspective.

    It almost seems similar to the advantage the serving player has in a tennis point - every subsequent shot of the rally is influenced and impacted by that first serve. 

    And it seems in salary negotiations, as in tennis, it's better to be the one serving.

    Have a great week!


    FOLLOW-UP: Culture Can't Be Wrong

    I was doing some spring cleaning this past weekend, (on a mid-May day that was so cold it hardly felt like Spring), and discovered in a not-touched-in-a-long-time pile of books not only a rare first edition print copy of original The 8 Man Rotation book on Sports and HR, but also one of my favorites of the last few years, Chuck Klosterman's excellent book titled 'IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas'

    On Saturday evening when resting up from my busy day of charitable volunteer work, rescuing stray animals, and helping little old ladies cross the road, I decided to thumb through and re-read some of the Klosterman book, as it is a collection of essays, it is kind of easy to simply jump in at any part that seems interesting. As he is a pop culture observer and critic, many of the essays are about, well, pop culture, and when re-reading an essay titled 'Cultural Betrayal', I had two thoughts. One, was I really get this idea and it makes sense. And the second -  I am pretty sure I blogged about this essay at some point. The fact that I had dog-eared the page and underlined a couple of sentences in the piece was another giveaway.

    So I checked the blog archives and sure enough I did riff on the'Cultural Betrayal' essay with a blog post titled after a concept from the piece, 'Culture Can't Be Wrong', which ran back in February 2010. It was a short piece about cultural elitism, mainly framed through this idea, (which was kind of common in our little HR space back in 2010): that somehow the folks that were actively blogging, tweeting, patting each other on the back for how 'with it' we all liked to think we were somehow 'better' than the ignorant or lazy folks that were not on the bandwagon with us. There is also a solid take on Farmville.

    The blog post from 2010 also got several really interesting and well-thought out comments, (which on this blog anyway almost never happens anymore, despite there being at least 4x or 5x more readers today than there was in 2010. That is a topic for another day.).

    So for this mid-May day in 2014 I am going to run the piece again, mainly because it is interesting to me to see what we were talking about almost four-and-a-half years ago, and two, since despite a couple of the specific references being a little dated, I think the main points still hold up. Here is the full post from 2010:


    Culture Can't Be Wrong - February 26, 2010

    On the way to an event last week I read Chuck Klosterman's excellent book titled 'IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas'

    One of the articles 'Cultural Betrayal', contained the observation 'Culture can't be wrong'. The main point of the piece is the idea that if 25 Million people watch 'American Idol' each week, and you can't see the point and despise the show, that the 25 Million people are not 'wrong'. You may not share their tastes or affinity for pop singing, or karaoke-bar style performances, but in a way you are the one that is 'wrong'.

    What does all this have to do with technology, workforce, or anything remotely near what we typically cover on this site?

    Not much probably, but let me take a crack at what I see as the connection, a take on technology and perhaps even social media elitism. At times in the new media echo chamber there is a kind of self and mutual reverential society happening.  Like we are all in some cool, elite clique and boy the folks that have not jumped on board, or don't 'get it' are somehow not in our cool kids group.

    So here is my take:

    You are not 'better' or smarter than your buddy who has never heard of Twitter while you are sitting feeling cool about hitting the 1,000, 2,000 or whatever follower mark that is currently consuming your thoughts.

    You are not of more value to society simply because you refuse to play 'Farmville' on Facebook. Something like 60 million people play Farmville.  Some of those people are your friends, co-workers, nurses, firefighters, teachers, and coaches.  60 million people!

    How many of your suppliers, customers, and shareholders are in that group? How many of the people that can directly and impactfully influence your organization's success are in a group that participates in a game that you may have shown public disdain for?

    Failing to understand that group shows a marked lack of awareness and appreciation for what is actually happening in the world. Ignoring that group will result in missed opportunity.  Insulting that group (and you know some of you do) could be a disastrous error.

    Stop acting like a smart-aleck social media smartypants.  Don't be an elitist. Don't be that person.  Don't.

    Culture can't be wrong.


    What did you think? Does this still apply in 2014? Are we still caught up in our little echo chamber? 

    Have a great week!


    How much does industry specific experience matter?

    Lifted from a comment left on Tuesday's 'Chocolate Foresight Activator' post was this question from commenter Stew, who wondered about my conclusion/observation that since Hershey didn't mention the word 'chocolate' at all in the job posting for this 'Chocolate Futurist' role, that maybe what they really wanted was the best marketer/planner/designer/strategist they could find, even if he/she didn't know much or even care about chocolate:

    This job scares me a little as it sounds more like the "Phillip Morris's" style job..

    i.e. you don't have to care about smoking - just love marketing.

    If you look at "Whittakers Chocolate" they would argue you should have a passion for the chocolate......and the marketing will follow.

    Another way of raising the classic question about industry specific experience, and its relative importance as a predictor of success in most types of support functions or back office roles.

    Or said differently, do you really need to have had 5 years experience as a chocolate company marketer, in order to qualify for a job as a marketing manager for say a jelly bean manufacturer?

    Or does someone's marketing functional experience generally translate across industries, making the fundamental or core marketing skills like demand generation, content creation, sales enablement, etc. the real prerequisites for success in most any marketing job?

    After all, a bright enough and motivated enough person can learn just about anything, (leaving aside for obvious reasons those highly skilled and really critical you don't mess up kinds of jobs like airline pilot, brain surgeon, point guard), so in the above example if an organization had a choice between a great marketer than did not know the candy business or a candy expert that did not know much about marketing, then which way should they go?

    But since no one has time, budget, resources to do much on the job training, we usually try to land candidates that meet both criteria - functional expertise and industry experience.

    We want candidates to show not only can they do the job, but that they can do the job here.

    I wonder how much of the 'skills gap' isn't masquerading as a 'industry experience gap?'

    What say you, how much, for roles that are generally pretty transferable from one domain to another, does specifc industry experience matter for a candidate?


    On positive reflection and workplace stress reduction

    Quick shot for a 'I have about 7,817 emails to read/reply to Thursday' but want to put off that torture for at least 15 more minutes, (the time allotted to research, write, edit, and hit 'Publish' on this sucker).

    Did you catch the HBR.org 'Daily Stat' item from this past Tuesday? If not, here it is in its entirety (please don't come after me Harvard):

    Stress levels and physical complaints declined by roughly 15% after employees were directed to spend 10 minutes writing about three things that had gone well each day, says a team of researchers led by Joyce E. Bono of the University of Florida. At the end of the work day, the employees logged on to a website where they were asked to write about events large or small, personal or work-related, and explain why they had gone well. The findings suggest that this intervention could have important effects on employee stress and health, the researchers say.

    SOURCE:  Building Positive Resources: Effects of Positive Events and Positive Reflection on Work Stress and Health.

    Pretty simple right?

    Take about 5-10 minutes at the end of the day and deliberately think about, and document, three positives from the day - work successes, some good news in your personal life, maybe even something simple like your favorite NBA team won the game last night. Do this every day and over time, at least according to this research, your overall stress level is likely to decline, and you will start to feel better overall.

    Sounds like it makes sense, lots of us forget to think about thepositives in our work or personal lives and focus on the negative. If you are encouraged/forced to write down or log in an online tool somewhere only the positive things at the end of the workday I suppose that will help you 'shut down' from work in a generally better mood and mental place than you might otherwise. Especially if the final 'work' of the day was something unpleasant or difficult or simply just a pain in the neck, (like the task of reading all your email that I am currently avoiding).

    What do you think, would this kind of intentional positive reflection make a difference in reducing your stress levels?

    For me, I am not so sure. Maybe it is the cynic/pessimist in me, but the second I sat down to document the three positive items for the day, I would naturally look to pair or balance them with three negatives.

    And then I'd probably be back to focusing on the negatives again and stressing and you know the rest.

    But what the heck, I might as well give it a shot:

    Three positives from yesterday:

    1. Scored two First Class upgrades on my flights home from IBM Connect

    2. My old reliable truck actually started after 4 days parked outside at the airport in mostly sub-zero temperatures

    3. I made it home in time to watch KD and LeBron go at it in one of the NBA's best match ups

    I guess all in all that makes for a good day.

    I will let you know tomorrow if I feel less stressed. I still have all that email to read though...

    Happy Thursday!