Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘Bob Rosner’

Therapeutic Suffering

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerI was at the gym discussing my less than perfect posture this morning with Kyle Davis, a master trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Seattle.

I told Kyle that my shoulders were killing me after doing the rotator cuff exercises that he’d shown me to help stand me up straighter. He just laughed and called my pain, “therapeutic suffering.” Suffering that was required to get me to a better place.

Immediately I knew that I’d have to steal his phrase for the workplace. Because it explains so much about what we all need to know to survive today’s turbulent economy.

Call me a tad too cynical, but the workplace has two kinds of suffering right now. Therapeutic and Non-Therapeutic suffering. Sure I’ve heard that there are happy people out there, but after over 50,000 emails from readers, I can count them on one hand. Then again, before I changed the name of my weekly column to Workplace911 it was called Working Wounded.

Back to therapeutic suffering, when a boss hassles you to make a presentation perfect, that would qualify as therapeutic, the goal is to make you better. When a boss yells at you for the sake of yelling, as had happened to a friend of mine earlier last week, well that’s the non-therapeutic version. Or abuse, short sightedness or just bad management.

The key is to take the time to sort out the therapy level in whatever pain you’re experiencing. Give the challenging economy, most of us aren’t in a position to jump ship at our first non-therapeutic treatment. But if the suffering becomes too non-therapeutic, we can always get Human Resources, our Union or other loyalists in the company to support our cause.

The interesting part. Even if you can’t change the behavior or your job, just knowing that you’re being treated unfairly just might be able to help you to keep your cool and to maintain your perspective.

Use the concept of therapeutic suffering at work and you just might find yourself improving your posture too.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Dumb, Dumber and the Downgrade

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerThe recent debt ceiling debate and S&P downgrade of the U.S. government reminded me of a fight between an ex-spouse and boss over who can make your life the most uncomfortable. You realize that they both have lots of weapons to do it and there is precious little that you can do to change the outcome.

Congress fiddled and S&P lit the match last week and the rest of us will suffer. That’s the bad news. The good news? It shouldn’t be any more than nine to eighteen years that we’ll be stuck in purgatory. At least that’s what a S&P official said when asked how long it took previous downgraded countries to regain their AAA rating.

Ironic that a rating agency would start the ball rolling on this most recent downgrade, when it was the rating agencies sloppy ratings that started the recession in the first place by giving their highest ratings to what could only be charitably called junk bonds. Or worse.

But my favorite moment, is when the Treasury Department found a $2 trillion dollar mistake in the rating agency’s calculations about how bad our fiscal hole is moving forward.

It was Senator Everett Dirksen who said, “A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, soon it adds up to real money.” Senator, the quote still works, you’ve just got to change the “b” to a “t”.

One more metaphor, you know how I love my metaphors. This one comes from Africa, “When the elephants fight it’s the grass that suffers.”

We can dig ourselves out of this mess. But so many of our institutions need to be cleaned out an refocused on actually addressing our long terms financial health. I guess that last statement would officially make me an optimist. Or crazy.

Okay, I’ll accept a combination of both.

We can rise above this but only when we put self interest in the side and do what’s best for everyone moving forward. Okay, I’ve not seen it in my lifetime, but I’ll choose to keep an upbeat tone to this missive.

Wish us luck. We’ll need it.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

What We Really Want

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerWe all know what we want from our jobs, the biggest possible paycheck. Oops.
According to a worldwide study by the Hay Group, the number one desire of employees was career advancement. Yep, we’d rather make progress in our careers than just get a wad of cash.
Curious to read the other findings from the study?
Merit increases was the second desire of employees. Note it just wasn’t more pay, but pay based on doing a good job. Third was another pay issue, base pay amounts. I’m assuming that this was another way of saying a salary increase.
Okay so a bigger paycheck did crack the top five. But again it fell behind career advancement and merit increases. Far from the greedy employees bosses often write to me about, employees have an interesting way of often understanding the big picture more than they’re often given credit for.
Rounding out the top five, non-financial recognition and training.
Talk to most managers and they always talk about employees wanting more pay. But if you research the studies on the topic you consistently see that employees respond with answers like these, answers that actually help the company. Like non-financial rewards and training.
Which gets back to my observation about managers who always tell me that their people are overly focused on cash compensation.
So here are two possible reasons for this. First, that the employees are not telling the truth in the surveys. And that could well account for some of the responses. Or second, that the people in leadership are actually the ones who are overly concerned about cash.
My belief is that there is some truth to both responses. But I feel that bosses need to pay attention to surveys like this. Your people have more pride and loyalty than you probably realize.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com

I’m a Guy and I’m Stressed Out

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerAh, the good old days. It’s 1977 and the Labor Department’s Quality of Work study found that 34 percent of men say that they’re experiencing some kind of work and home life stress. About one in three.

Fast forward to 2008 (okay, it’s 2011, but the Labor Department sometimes gets too much labor on it’s plate to produce reports in a timely fashion. Don’t get me started on the stress they’re experiencing) and the same question gets agreement from 49 percent of men with families. Just about half.

Where does this stress come from? Not many surprises here. 60 percent of me who have a spouse who also works report substantial conflicts in the demands of work and family, as do men with young kids (55 percent) and men who work the longest hours (60 percent of those working more than 50 hours a week, versus 39 percent of those working 40-49 hours/week).

There are many reasons for this: wages have remained essentially flat for almost 40 years, long hours, working not only your job but the job of laid off coworkers, greater job insecurity and boundaries between work and home life that are breaking down. Heck, just writing this list is stressing me out.

Okay, my take is that this is all a good thing.

Men should assume more stress from their home life. Take more responsibility. In my significant relationships I did 80% of the cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kids. I think that men should contribute in all these areas.

Because participating in family life does bring stress. But it also brings joy and meaning. So this is one of those areas where stress is not 100% bad. It can complicate your life but it also enriches your life at the same time.

Why should women have all the joys and stress from home? Dive in there fella.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Weighty Matters

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerOkay, this one is a blinding glimpse of the obvious, we have bias against people who are overweight. That’s the boring part. But it gets interesting when it comes to how the bias is different for men and women.

A study by a University of Florida professor found that thinner women had a higher salary. And so did heavier men.

That was interesting enough. But the reason why thinner men earned less was fascinating. Thinner men are often seen as a pushover or nervous.

I didn’t see that one coming.

And I’ve heard that overweight women are seen as lacking discipline. Isn’t it amazing that we can judge the same thing, being overweight, so dramatically different for men and women?

We all know that men earn up to 25% more than women and that this gap has held relatively consistent through the years.

Here is my question, with all of us getting fatter, will this pay differential just keep growing along with our butts?

Call me old school, but I think that bias not only does exist, it should exist at work. But our bias should be focused on the quality of our contributions and not on the size of our bodies.

This sounds to some of you as naive and to others as utopian. But I see it differently. For anyone who is able to see past these biases, there are a large number of high performers who most people are overlooking, heavier women and thinner men.

Get behind these overlooked workers and you’ll pound the competition.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

It’s Lucrative at the Top

Monday, July 11th, 2011
Image: Bob Rosner

According to a recent study commissioned by the New York Times, CEO pay is up 23%.

Okay so the suites are doing well. Damn well.

How are the rest of us faring? Non executive pay increased .5%. Yes, less than inflation. While CEOs race onward and upward, our pay shrinks.

I heard an interesting segment on the radio this weekend, the pay of the average worker hasn’t increased in 40 years.

Which leads me to a simple question. Is greed good?

Yes, that sounds familiar, it was the popular refrain from the movie Wall Street in the 1990s. Gordon Gekko, that Oliver Stone is a subtle guy isn’t he, made that a catch phrase for an entire generation.

We have a major problem in terms of unemployment in our country. At the same time we have CEO’s lavishing on themselves such extreme pay packages that they alone could cut the country’s unemployment rate in half just by making their pay packages more reasonable.

Marie Antoinette when told that her people were starving famously said “Let them eat cake.” It gave some small indication of how out of touch she’d become.

But if we were to try to come up with a similar phrase for today’s gilded class of CEOs I feel like the phrase would have to be let them eat dirt.

Okay, that was harsh, but I’m still flummoxed by the fact that no one has gone to jail after the financial shenanigans of the banks that caused our most recent recession.

But we’ve got to stop coddling these executives. Its not like Hollywood stars who had huge paychecks, CEOs only profit by taking the money that we’ve earned through our hard work.

Yes, I’m frustrated. You could say that I’m mad as hell.

I’m tired of seeing people suffering. We need to hold executives accountable. Now.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

2011’s Hero

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerWith an economy going sideways, CEOs ladling on lavish pay packages and far too many still unemployed, it’s rare that a smile just explodes across my face these days from something I hear in the news.

That is until I heard of Warren Nyerges. He’s a former sheriff’s deputy who had tussled when Bank of America had tried for foreclose on his Florida home. There was only one small problem, Nyerges had paid cash for the home and owned it outright.

After two months of harassment, Nyerges was dragged into court by BoA. When the judged heard about his ordeal, he ordered BoA to pay him $2,500.

After five months the bank hadn’t paid, so Nyerges turned the tables on the bank. One morning deputies entered the building and gave a familiar spiel, pay the money you owe or prepare to lose your possessions, according to the Naples Daily News. There was a delicious irony, the person who was being ordered to pay up or lose the furniture was the bank’s branch manager.

I told you this was good stuff.

This was all witnessed by local media, Nyerges attorney, deputies, a moving company and the court’s permission to seize bank assets. Todd Allen, Nyerges’ attorney summed it all up, “I’m either leaving the building with a whole bunch of furniture or a check.”

Don’t get me wrong, this shouldn’t have been a surprise to BoA. Nyerges had talked to company officials and had even sent a certified letter to the President of the Bank. All to no avail.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the Florida State Attorney General’s Office opened an inquiry into the bank’s foreclosure practices. But here is the icing on the cake, the bank blamed its local counsel that it had hired.

For his panache and cojones, I salute Warren Nyerges. Not only did he get BoA off his back, but he let them feel what it was like to be on the other side of such reprehensible behavior. If only they’d been able to realize it, something good could have actually come out of this for the community at large.

But Nyerges isn’t done yet. He wants the bank to pay his attorney’s fees. He said he’d be back with the moving truck. Stay tuned…

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Do You Care How Much the Boss Makes?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerThere is a bill currently in Congress that would require companies to provide a simple comparison of what the CEO earns and how this compares to the pay of average employees.

Sounds simple, right.

No this is controversial stuff. Some Republicans in Congress call the comparison between the chief executive’s pay and everyone else in the company “useless.”

Useless?

So a group backed by 81 major companies, including McDonald’s, Lowe’s, General Dynamics, American Airlines, IBM and General Mills, is lobbying against this proposal.

According to a study by MIT and the Federal Reserve, executive pay at the nation’s largest firms has more than quadrupled in real terms since the 1970’s even as pay for 90% of America has stalled.

Remember, this isn’t a labor union study. It’s done by MIT, the Federal Reserve, the University of California and published in the Washington Post.

In 1979 the average executive pay at the nation’s top companies was 28 times the average worker’s income. By 2005, executive pay had jumped to 158 times that of the average worker.

I’ve just lost any shred of objectivity. This is insane.

But don’t just look at it from the point of view of an employee. Don’t investors need to know these numbers? To see how much executives are gilding their own pockets?

Call me old school, but I believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let’s hope that Congress doesn’t allow this information to see the light of day.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

No Job is Better Than a Bad Job

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerA study out of Australia found that people in poor quality jobs (those with high demands, low control over decision making, high job insecurity and an effort-reward imbalance) had more adverse effects on mental health than being unemployed.

Yep, a crappy job can be harder than no job at all. Holy Fosters.

“The researchers analyzed seven years of data from more than 7,000 respondents of an Australian labor survey for their Occupational and Environmental Medicine study in which they wrote: As hypothesized, we found that those respondents who were unemployed had significantly poorer mental health than those who were employed. However, the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or more often superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality. The current results therefore suggest that employment strategies seeking to promote positive outcomes for unemployed individuals need to also take account of job design and workplace policy.”

Okay, some of you will take the gratuitous Fosters reference and the Australian sample for the study and blow this off. But you’ll do this to your own detriment.

I believe that this part of “down under” applies perfectly to “up and over” (or whatever words you choose to describe the opposite of “down under”).

Leaving out one important fact, a crummy job allows you to pay your bills in a way that no job usually doesn’t, I’m still reticent to toss this finding into the round file.

I’m not tossing it for one main reason, there is a major belief out there that it is always better to look for a job when you have a job. Because you’ve got both the economic and emotional security to come across better in an interview.

But this finding does cast a shadow on that concept. Because a crummy job can actually deplete your energy to the point that you can’t get hired.

I’m not sure that I’d ever suggest to someone to leave their job to increase the chances they’ll get a new one. But it does suggest that everyone who is unemployed should realize that there are certain advantages that go with the turf. And lord knows, it’s important for anyone who doesn’t have a job to grab every advantage that they can.

Thankfully the researchers didn’t limit their findings to just out of work people. They added a comment directed at employers too. Perhaps employers could be persuaded to be more mindful of the mental health of their workers — happier employees are a benefit to their employers. “The erosion of work conditions,” the researchers noted, “may incur a health cost, which over the longer term will be both economically and socially counterproductive.”

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winningworkplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Clerical Vs. Strategic

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerRecently I worked at a job with a wonderful woman. She had been a administrative assistant all of her career. So when I asked her to create a data base for our sales calls, she immediately turned it into a clerical function.

She created an Excel spreadsheet that had a lot of columns that was chock full of tons of details about every client and potential client. There was only one problem, it was like a file cabinet, it stored everything. It was unwieldy and almost defied you to explore our best prospects or do any real analysis of our sales opportunities.

I sat down with her and discussed my concerns about what she’d done. I struggled to find a word to describe the limitations. Finally it came to me, the data base wasn’t strategic. It needed a lot of work to become a tool that was nimble and flexible enough to guide our sales process.

This reminds me of a conversation that I had with a friend this weekend. She is bright, creative and very talented. But it appears that she is going through the motions when it comes to her career. It feels like she is filling a file cabinet with all the contacts and ideas for everything that she feels she should be doing with her career. But her entire search process seemed to lack a strategic element.

Most of us are raised to fill a box on an organizational chart. We have expertise and experience that allows us to do a heck of a lot more than fill a box on a chart. But that’s what we do, we gather data on the job possibilities that are out there for us.

But we need to be much more creative and directive in how we go about this process. Need I say, we need to be more clever in how we approach our job exploration.

Note I said job exploration, not job hunt. It’s really important that we sort out where we want to go before we start looking at jobs.

A job shouldn’t be just the way you pay your bills or pass the majority or the hours that you’re awake each day. I believe that a job should be your gift to the world. Really. It should be a unique contribution of your talents that only you can provide.

Sounds great. But it’s also difficult to dig deep enough within yourself to sort out why you are here. What your purpose is. But it is well worth the effort.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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