Showing posts with label workplace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label workplace. Show all posts

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Scale of motivation to (re)work: Towards a new approach to the theory of self-determination

Scale of motivation to (re)work: Towards a new approach to the theory of self-determination. By  Camus, Gauthier; Berjot, Sophie; Amoura, Camille; Forest, Jacques
Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, Vol 49(2), Apr 2017, 122-132.

Abstract: The motivation of the unemployed to want to work again is an important topic for the workforce integration professionals, as well as researchers. However, there is currently no tool available to assess this type of motivation. Grounded in self-determination theory, we aim to overcome this gap by creating as well as validating such a scale. Seventeen items, reflecting the different subdimensions of motivation, were selected (following a pretest and 2 exploratory factor analyses (N = 88 and N = 94). Then these items were submitted to unemployed participants (N = 189), along with measures of self-efficacy, well-being and job search behaviours. A confirmatory factor analysis was performed and the links with other variables were analysed. All these analyses give credit to the validity of the scale of motivation to (re)work, hence creating a tool to answer the many questions that are facing practitioners and researchers in the field.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Call My Rep! How Unions Overcame the Free-Rider Problem

Murphy, Richard John: Call My Rep! How Unions Overcame the Free-Rider Problem (March 01, 2017). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6362. Available at SSRN:

Abstract: This paper proposes an explanation of why union membership has been increasing in some occupations, despite the opportunity to freeride on traditional union benefits. I model membership as legal insurance whose demand increases with the perceived risk of allegations. Using media reports on allegations against teachers as shocks to perceived risk, I find for every five reports occurring in a region, teachers are 2.5 percentage points more likely to be members in the subsequent year. These effects are larger when teachers share characteristics with the news story and explain 45 percent of the growth in teacher union membership since 1992.

Keywords: unions, teachers, media, insurance

JEL Classification: J510, J450, J320

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Upward Mobility and Discrimination: The Case of Asian Americans

Upward Mobility and Discrimination: The Case of Asian Americans. By Nathaniel Hilger
NBER Working Paper No. 22748
October 2016
NBER Program(s):   LS

Asian Americans are the only non-white US racial group to experience long-term, institutional discrimination and subsequently exhibit high income. I re-examine this puzzle in California, where most Asians settled historically. Asians achieved extraordinary upward mobility relative to blacks and whites for every cohort born in California since 1920. This mobility stemmed primarily from gains in earnings conditional on education, rather than unusual educational mobility. Historical test score and prejudice data suggest low initial earnings for Asians, unlike blacks, reflected prejudice rather than skills. Post-war declines in discrimination interacting with previously uncompensated skills can account for Asians’ extraordinary upward mobility.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Disrupting Disruptive Physicians. By Bruce Gewertz


Disrupting Disruptive Physicians

Bruce L Gewertz, MD
JAMA Surg. Published online March 11, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.2911.

On Thursday mornings, our operating room management committee meets to handle items large and small. Most of our discussions focus on block-time allocation, purchasing decisions, and alike. However, too often we talk about behavioral issues, particularly the now well-characterized disruptive physician.

We have all seen it or been there before. A physician acts out in the operating room with shouting or biting sarcasm, intimidating colleagues and staff and impeding them from functioning at a high level. The most debilitating perpetrators of this behavior are repeat customers who engender such fear and uncertainty in all who contact them that the morale of the nursing staff and anesthesiologists is undermined, work becomes an unbearable chore, and performance suffers.

When one engages a difficult physician on his or her behavior, the physician responds in characteristic fashion. He or she defends his or her actions as patient advocacy, pointing out the shortcomings of the scrub nurse or instruments and showing limited, if any, remorse. He or she argues that such civil disobedience is the only way to enact change. In truth, disruptive physicians’ actions are often admired by a sizable minority of their colleagues as the only way to articulate real frustrations of working in today’s highly complex hospital. In extreme situations, these physicians become folk heroes to younger physicians who envy their fortitude in confronting the power of the bureaucracy.

A few days after a recent outburst by a particularly unpleasant and repeat offender, I was enjoying my daily interval on the stationary bicycle at my gym. My thoughts were wandering to a broad range of topics. I spent some time considering what really drives this nonproductive behavior and how otherwise valuable physicians could be channeled successfully into a more collegial state. As in the past, I was long on theory but short on conviction that it would make a difference.

After my workout as I prepared to shower, I received an urgent email. A patient I was consulting for upper extremity embolization had developed confusion and possible cerebral emboli despite full anticoagulation. I responded that I was on my way to see her and suggested a few diagnostic tests and consultations.

As I typed my message, a custodial employee of the gym reminded me that no cellular telephones were allowed in the locker room. I pointed out that I was not using my cellular telephone but rather an email function and I was not offending anyone by talking. He again pointed out that cellular telephones were not allowed under any circumstances. As I argued back, “I am a physician and this is an emergency.” My voice got louder and I became confrontational. I told him to call the manager. Another member next to me said quietly that the reason for the cellular telephone ban was the photographic potential of the devices and that I could have simply moved to the reception area and used the telephone any way I wished.

I felt like the fool I was. I trudged off to the showers feeling, as in the Texas homily, lower than a snake’s belly. After toweling off, I approached the employee and apologized for my behavior and for making his job more difficult. I told him he had handled the situation far better than me and I admired his restraint.

The lessons were stark and undeniable. Like my disruptive colleagues, I had justified my boorish behavior with patient care. I had assumed my need to break the rules far outweighed the reasonable and rational policy of the establishment; after all, I was important and people depended on me. Worse yet, I felt empowered to take out my frustration, enhanced by my worry about the patient, on someone unlikely to retaliate against me for fear of job loss.

I have come to realize that irrespective of disposition, when the setting is right, we are all potentially disruptive. The only questions are how frequent and how severe. Even more importantly, from a prognostic perspective, can we share the common drivers of these behaviors and develop insights that will lead to avoidance?

The most common approaches used today are only moderately effective. As in many other institutions, when physicians are deemed by their peers to have violated a carefully defined code of conduct, they are advised to apologize to any offended personnel. In many instances, these apologies are sincere and are, in fact, appreciated by all. Unfortunately, on occasion, the interaction is viewed as a forced function and the behavior is soon repeated albeit in a different nursing unit or operating room.

When such failures occur, persistently disruptive physicians are referred to our physician well-being committee. Through a highly confidential process, efforts are made to explore the potential causes for the behavior and acquaint the referred physician with the consequences of their actions on hospital function. Often, behavioral contracts are drawn up to precisely outline the individual’s issues and subsequent medical staff penalties if further violations occur.

That said, as well intentioned and psychologically sound as these programs are, there remains a hard core of repeat offenders. Despite the heightened stress and ill will engendered by disruptive physicians’ behavior, they simply cannot interact in other than confrontational fashion when frustrated by real or imagined shortcomings in the environment.

Based on nearly 20 years of physician management experience, it is my belief that in these few physicians, such behaviors are hard wired and fairly resistant to traditional counseling. An unfortunate end game is termination from a medical staff if the hostile working environment created by their outbursts is viewed as a liability threat by the institution. Such actions are always painful and bring no satisfaction to anyone involved. These high-stakes dramas, often involving critical institutional players on both sides, are played out behind closed doors. Few people are privy to the details of either the infraction or the attempts at remediation. Misunderstandings in the staff are common.

I suggest that an underused remedy is more intense peer pressure through continued education of those colleagues who might silently support these outbursts without fully realizing the consequences. This would begin by treating these incidents in the same way that we do other significant adverse events that occur in our hospitals. In confidential but interdisciplinary sessions, the genesis, nature, and consequences of the interaction could be explored openly. If indeed the inciting event was judged to be an important patient care issue, the problem could be identified and addressed yet clearly separated from the counterproductive interaction that followed. In addition to the deterrence provided by the more public airing of the incidents, the tenuous linkage between abusive behavior and patient protection could be severed. It is this linkage that provides any superficial legitimacy to the outbursts.

Through this process, peer pressure would be increased and provide a greater impetus for self-control and more productive interactions. Importantly, with such a direct and full examination of both the character and costs of poor conduct, whatever support exists for such behaviors within the medical staff would be diminished.
Bruce Gewertz, MD, Cedars-Sinai Health System Published Online: March 11, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.2911.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Real Women's Issue: Time. By Jody Greenstone Miller

The Real Women's Issue: Time. By Jody Greenstone Miller
Never mind 'leaning in.' To get more working women into senior roles, companies need to rethink the clock
The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2013, on page C3

Why aren't more women running things in America? It isn't for lack of ambition or life skills or credentials. The real barrier to getting more women to the top is the unsexy but immensely difficult issue of time commitment: Today's top jobs in major organizations demand 60-plus hours of work a week.

In her much-discussed new book, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg tells women with high aspirations that they need to "lean in" at work—that is, assert themselves more. It's fine advice, but it misdiagnoses the problem. It isn't any shortage of drive that leads those phalanxes of female Harvard Business School grads to opt out. It's the assumption that senior roles have to consume their every waking moment. More great women don't "lean in" because they don't like the world they're being asked to lean into.

It doesn't have to be this way. A little organizational imagination bolstered by a commitment from the C-suite can point the path to a saner, more satisfying blend of the things that ambitious women want from work and life. It's time that we put the clock at the heart of this debate.

I know this is doable because I run a growing startup company in which more than half the professionals work fewer than 40 hours a week by choice. They are alumnae of top schools and firms like General Electric GE +0.38% and McKinsey, and they are mostly women. The key is that we design jobs to enable people to contribute at varying levels of time commitment while still meeting our overall goals for the company.

This isn't advanced physics, but it does mean thinking through the math of how work in a company adds up. It's also an iterative process; we hardly get it right every time. But for businesses and reformers serious about cracking the real glass ceiling for women—and making their firms magnets for the huge swath of American talent now sitting on the sidelines—here are four ways to start going about it.

Rethink time. Break away from the arbitrary notion that high-level work can be done only by people who work 10 or more hours a day, five or more days a week, 12 months a year. Why not just three days a week, or six hours a day, or 10 months a year?

It sounds simple, but the only thing that matters is quantifying the work that needs to get done and having the right set of resources in place to do it. Senior roles should actually be easier to reimagine in this way because highly paid people have the ability and, often, the desire to give up some income in order to work less. Flexibility and working from home can soften the blow, of course, but they don't solve the overall time problem.

Break work into projects. Once work is quantified, it must be broken up into discrete parts to allow for varying time commitments. Instead of thinking in terms of broad functions like the head of marketing, finance, corporate development or sales, a firm needs to define key roles in terms of specific, measurable tasks.

Once you think of work as a series of projects, it's easy to see how people can tailor how much to take on. The growth of consulting and outsourcing came precisely when firms realized they could carve work into projects that could be done more effectively outside. The next step is to design internal roles in smaller bites, too. An experienced marketer for a pharma company could lead one major drug launch, for example, without having to oversee all drug launches. Instead of managing a portfolio with 10 products, a senior person could manage five. If a client-service executive working five days a week has a quota of 10 deals a month, then one who chooses to work three days a week has a quota of only six. Lower the quota but not the quality of the work or the executive's seniority.

One reason this doesn't happen more is managerial laziness: It's easier to find a "superwoman" to lead marketing (someone who will work as long as humanly possible) than it is to design work around discrete projects. But even superwoman has a limit, and when she hits it, organizations adjust by breaking up jobs and adding staff. Why not do this before people hit the wall?

Availability matters. It's important to differentiate between availability and absolute time commitments. Many professional women would happily agree to check email even seven days a week and jump in, if necessary, for intense project stints—so long as over the course of a year, the time devoted to work is more limited. Managers need to be clear about what's needed: 24/7 availability is not the same thing as a 24/7 workload.

Quality is the goal, not quantity. Leaders need to create a culture in which talented people are judged not by the quantity of their work, but by the quality of their contributions. This can't be hollow blather. Someone who works 20 hours a week and who delivers exceptional results on a pro rata basis should be eligible for promotions and viewed as a top performer. American corporations need to get rid of the notion that wanting to work less makes someone a "B player."

Promoting this kind of innovation, where companies start to look more like puzzles than pyramids, has to become part of feminism's new agenda. It's the only way to give millions of capable women the ability to recalibrate the time that they devote to work at different stages of their lives.

We have been putting smart women on the couch for 40 years, since psychologist Matina Horner published her famous studies on "fear of success." But the portion of top jobs that go to women is still shockingly low. That's the irony of Ms. Sandberg's cheerleading for women to stay ambitious: She fails to see that her own agenda isn't nearly ambitious enough.

"Leaning in" may help the relative handful of talented women who can live with the way that top jobs are structured today—and if that's their choice, more power to them. But only a small percentage of women will choose this route. Until the rest of us get serious about altering the way work gets done in American corporations, we're destined to howl at the moon over the injustice of it all while changing almost nothing.

—Ms. Greenstone Miller is co-founder and chief executive officer of Business Talent Group.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In Defense of the CEO. By Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan

In Defense of the CEO. By Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan
The Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2013, on page C1
Chauffeur-driven limousines, millions in stock options, golden parachutes. It's no wonder bosses' pay and perks can rankle. Here's why the best ones are worth it.

A $90,000 area rug, a pair of guest chairs that cost almost as much, a $35,000 commode and a $1,400 trash can—these are just a few of the expenses from a remodeling of John Thain's office when he took over as Merrill Lynch's chief executive officer in December 2007. The total bill came to an astonishing $1.2 million—about the price of five average single-family homes.

Those same remodeling expenses contributed to Mr. Thain's resignation just over a year later, after Bank of America BAC bought Merrill, and helped to define the popular image of the CEO as someone who lives a life of extreme privilege: gold-plated faucets, country club memberships and chauffeur-driven limousines, all paid for through corporate largess. Mr. Thain's limo tab included $230,000 for his driver—$85,000 in salary, the rest in overtime and a bonus. This was on top of Mr. Thain's receiving a reported $78 million in compensation for 2007.

It's easy to get upset about perks and pay packages like Mr. Thain's. But even in the face of public and investor outrage, CEO salaries are still on the rise. Progress Energy's CEO Bill Johnson received a $44 million payout when he left the company after its merger with Duke Energy DUK last year, and Abercrombie CEO Michael Jeffries took home over $48 million in 2011—while the company's stock price tanked.

Excessive, decadent? That's a hard call to make without having some idea of what a CEO does. Many CEOs are overpaid or, even worse, paid for incompetence. Still, you can only appreciate the difference between pay-for-performance and pay-for-incompetence by first understanding the CEO's job.

Let's start with the basics: how chief executives spend their time. Among the first researchers to give us a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the CEO was management guru Henry Mintzberg, who followed a handful of business leaders for his Ph.D. thesis at the MIT Sloan School of Management over four decades ago. He discovered that, first and foremost, CEOs go to meetings. Lots of them—it is where his research subjects spent over 80% of their work hours.

The astonishing thing is that the percentage of time CEOs spend in meetings has hardly shifted in four decades, despite innovations like email. A study conducted last year by Oriana Bandiera of the London School of Economics, with Columbia's Andrea Prat and Harvard's Raffaella Sadun, assembled time diaries for hundreds of Indian CEOs. (With other collaborators, they have done similar research on smaller samples of Italian and American executives.)

Unlike Dr. Mintzberg—who did the legwork himself—this group of researchers asked the CEOs' executive assistants to record in 15-minute increments how their bosses allocated their time over the course of a week. Were they working alone or in a group? If in a meeting, how many were in attendance? Was the meeting with employees or with outsiders, via telephone or in person? Despite the vastly different geographies and eras—and differences in customers, products and size of organizations—the CEOs all spent their time in much the same way: in face-to-face interaction.

That time is often marked by interruption. In the five weeks of Dr. Mintzberg's study, he recorded extraordinarily few instances of a CEO alone and without disruption for more than 15 minutes straight. Half their activities lasted fewer than nine minutes—and this was in the pre-BlackBerry age—while only 10% went on for more than an hour. Those hourlong stretches were taken up primarily with hourlong meetings. The more recent studies have found a similar pace of interruption.

Yet saying that the job of someone like Jeff Bezos consists of going to lots of meetings is a bit like saying that Shakespeare wrote words. True, but pretty thin for explaining what made, say, Steve Jobs Steve Jobs.

Meetings remain the focus of the CEO's day because such personal interactions are critical to learning the information necessary to run a company effectively. After all, one of the most important jobs of managers is to decide what information gets passed up through the chain of command. If CEOs were to rely solely on written reports and data sheets from self-serving underlings, they almost would be guaranteed to make the wrong decisions. What manager wants to pass on bad news—so much easier to do in a report than when you're being questioned in detail by your boss? This very problem was at the root of Toyota's response to its problems in 2009 with sudden, unexpected acceleration in its vehicles: Managers were all too willing to paint a rosy picture for the CEO, which hampered his ability to direct the company to respond appropriately.

Harvard Business School professors Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria argue that the skill to extract from underlings the critical details that are needed to inform top-level decisions is part of what makes the best CEOs better than their peers. It works in reverse too. The information the CEO needs to convey is just as prone to being misrepresented and misinterpreted as it works its way through a corporation, across shareholders and among customers. So, in the vast majority of meetings, CEOs are not just uncovering information but also constantly refining their message.

Consider, for instance, founder Tony Hsieh's drumbeat in referring to Zappos as a "service company that just happens to sell shoes." Meetings give him the opportunity to let his stakeholders know exactly what he means. The company hit its billion-dollar sales goal two years before schedule, in 2008, and was acquired by in 2009 for a reported $1.2 billion.

The Porter-Nohria view is backed up by the data. In their time-use study of 354 Indian CEOs—still a work-in-progress—the researchers collected detailed information on the nature of CEOs' meetings, including who attended. Two dominant management styles emerged. "Style 1" leaders, in their taxonomy, spend most of their time meeting with employees; they also tend to hold larger meetings and to include people from a wider set of departments within the organization. "Style 2" CEOs are more apt to spend their time alone, in one-on-one interaction, and outside rather than inside the firm.

Though the researchers are still putting together their findings, they have observed that the first management style, which is inclusive and cross-functional, is typical of CEOs at companies that are more efficiently run and more profitable.

Why don't all CEOs adopt Style 1? It's likely that part of the story is ability: not everyone is up to the task of dealing with the complexities of a bigger conference room filled with disparate participants. It may also reflect a CEO's decision to devote less attention to the company than to cultivating his outside image. In a 2009 study, Ulrike Malmendier of the University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA's Geoff Tate found that companies performed poorly after their leaders were voted "CEO of the Year," because of the distractions that came with the fame, like writing a book and hobnobbing at Davos. A truly great CEO cannot be distracted; she must remain a great intelligence gatherer, a great communicator and ultimately a great decider, and meetings are one of her most important tools.

The existence of great CEOs does not mean, of course, that the average one deserves his millions—although CEOs, never known for their modesty, may think they do. When Dow Jones reporter Kaveri Niththyananthan questioned the CEO of U.K.-based EasyJet, Andy Harrison, about his 2009 compensation of nearly $4.5 million, Mr. Harrison smiled and replied, "I'm worth it." When a congressman suggested to Ford CEO Alan Mulally that he should take a salary of one dollar, given the near-bankrupt state of the U.S. auto industry, Mr. Mulally replied, "I think I am OK where I am"—this in a year when he took home nearly $17 million in compensation. (Mr. Mulally seems to know the value of meetings; he has listed "You learn from everybody" as one of the key attributes of great CEOs.)

What Messrs. Harrison and Mulally no doubt had in mind were their companies' profit numbers. Profits had fallen by 64% the year Mr. Harrison claimed to be worth his millions, but he could point to five straight years of profits as EasyJet CEO—a rare achievement in the airline business. Mr. Mulally's $17 million payday came on the heels of a billion-dollar turnaround that transformed a $970 million loss at Ford into profits of nearly $700 million just a year later.

But are CEOs really so much smarter (and better at running meetings) than the rest of us? Possibly, but that's not the right question to ask. To claim they're worth it, CEOs don't actually have to be all that much better than the runner-up for the job.

In "superstar economies," as in the market for CEOs, even a slight edge in ability can translate into enormous payoffs. That's why Major League Baseball pitchers earn so much more than triple-A players, despite throwing fastballs only a couple of miles an hour faster. When the stakes are in the billions, shareholders should be more than happy to sign off on a multimillion-dollar paycheck, even if the recipient is just slightly better than the next best option.

By the same token, if CEOs' decisions have such a disproportionate impact on corporate profits, you might be willing to pay a lot to motivate them to put in extra hours in the office. And this view helps to explain—if not always to justify—many of the privileges that come with a corner office: the corporate jet that gives CEOs more face time with employees in different locales; the chauffeured limo that frees up time during the morning commute.

As for another controversial perk, what could possibly be the point of paying CEOs for getting fired? The so-called golden parachute goes back to a perfectly reasonable attempt to get CEOs to create even more value for their companies. Introduced by TWA in 1961, the practice took off during the merger wave of the 1980s, when executives started pondering whether it was smarter to seek out merger opportunities to make money for shareholders or to hold on to their jobs. Mostly they opted for keeping their jobs, often to the detriment of the stock price.

As a result, shareholders gave CEOs an escape valve that, the reasoning went, would encourage them to work in the long-term interests of their companies. Even one of the fiercest critics of CEO compensation, Harvard Law School's Lucian Bebchuk, reports in recent research with Alma Cohen and Charles Wang that golden parachutes do motivate CEOs to find merger-and-acquisition opportunities and, as a result, to extract more takeover premiums for shareholders.

So maybe we should be a bit more understanding of Gillette's board, which awarded a severance package worth well over $160 million to CEO James Kilts after the company was acquired by Procter & Gamble in 2005, in what Gillette shareholder Warren Buffett called a "dream deal." (And Merrill's Mr. Thain? He oversaw the company's acquisition by Bank of America at the height of the financial meltdown, a deal that remains shrouded in controversy, in part as a result of $4 billion in 11th-hour bonuses handed out in December 2008. By the time the dust cleared, Mr. Thain walked away with a seemingly modest $1.5 million severance package.)

Yet executives whose ineptitude or laziness makes their companies ripe for takeover also get rewarded sometimes. Indeed, Prof. Bebchuk's study finds that companies where executives are protected by golden parachutes generally trade at lower levels than those where CEOs don't have them. But how should we think about such pay-for-incompetence? Instead of shaking our heads at the injustice, we can consider it an unfortunate side effect of well-motivated incentives. Designing severance packages more carefully is a worthy idea, but simply eradicating them could do real damage.

Before joining the shareholder activists calling for CEOs to be held accountable and stripped of their more obvious excesses, it's worth pausing to think about why those perks exist in the first place. Sometimes it's the result of slick managers who have co-opted their boards, but sometimes it's simply that we can't easily distinguish good CEOs from bad ones before the employment contract is signed. Seeing CEOs make millions for being fired—and even for losing money—may be hard to stomach, but it is collateral damage in the economics of motivating them to run their companies well.

—Messrs. Fisman and Sullivan are the authors of "The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office," published this month by Twelve.

Corrections & Amplifications

The remodeling of John Thain's office at Merrill Lynch in 2007 included a $35,000 commode (a piece of furniture). An earlier version of this article said the project included a $35,000 toilet.

The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. By Peggy Drexler

The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. By Peggy Drexler
The Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2013, on page C1
Women who reached positions of power were supposed to be mentors to those who followed—but something is amiss in the professional sisterhood.

Kelly was a bright woman in her early 30s: whip-smart, well qualified, ambitious—and confused. Even a little frightened.

She worked for a female partner in a big consulting firm. Her boss was so solicitous that Kelly hoped the woman—one of just a few top female partners—might become her mentor. But she began to feel that something was wrong. In meetings, her boss would dismiss her ideas without discussion and even cut her off in mid-sentence. Kelly started to hear about meetings to which she wasn't invited but felt she should be. She was excluded from her boss's small circle of confidants.

What confused Kelly was that she was otherwise doing well at the firm. She felt respected and supported by the other senior partners. She had just one problem, but it was a big one. One of the male partners pulled her aside and confirmed Kelly's suspicions: Her boss had been suggesting to others that Kelly might be happier in a different job, one "more in line with her skills."

I met Kelly while I was conducting research on women in the workplace. She was trying to puzzle through what she had done wrong and what to do about it. (To protect the privacy of Kelly and others in the study, I refer to them here by first names only.) I wasn't sure Kelly had done anything wrong, and I said so. As I told her, "You might have met a queen bee."

Having spent decades working in psychology, a field heavily populated by highly competitive women, I had certainly seen the queen bee before: The female boss who not only has zero interest in fostering the careers of women who aim to follow in her footsteps, but who might even actively attempt to cut them off at the pass.

The term "queen bee syndrome" was coined in the 1970s, following a study led by researchers at the University of Michigan—Graham Staines, Toby Epstein Jayaratne and Carol Tavris—who examined promotion rates and the impact of the women's movement on the workplace. In a 1974 article in Psychology Today, they presented their findings, based on more than 20,000 responses to reader surveys in that magazine and Redbook. They found that women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women. This occurred, they argued, largely because the patriarchal culture of work encouraged the few women who rose to the top to become obsessed with maintaining their authority.

Four decades later, the syndrome still thrives, given new life by the mass ascent of women to management positions. This generation of queen bees is no less determined to secure their hard-won places as alpha females. Far from nurturing the growth of younger female talent, they push aside possible competitors by chipping away at their self-confidence or undermining their professional standing. It is a trend thick with irony: The very women who have complained for decades about unequal treatment now perpetuate many of the same problems by turning on their own.

A 2007 survey of 1,000 American workers released by the San Francisco-based Employment Law Alliance found that 45% of respondents had been bullied at the office—verbal abuse, job sabotage, misuse of authority, deliberate destruction of relationships—and that 40% of the reported bullies were women. In 2010, the Workplace Bullying Institute, a national education and advocacy group, reported that female bullies directed their hostilities toward other women 80% of the time—up 9% since 2007. Male bullies, by contrast, were generally equal-opportunity tormentors.

A 2011 survey of 1,000 working women by the American Management Association found that 95% of them believed they were undermined by another woman at some point in their careers. According to a 2008 University of Toronto study of nearly 1,800 U.S. employees, women working under female supervisors reported more symptoms of physical and psychological stress than did those working under male supervisors.

Something is clearly amiss in the professional sisterhood.

Erin, another participant in my own study, was a food writer at a glossy magazine. Her supervisor, Jane, seemed out to get her from day one—though never quite to her face. Jane liked playing hot and cold: One day she would pull Erin close to gossip about another colleague; the next she would scream at her for not following through on a task Erin hadn't known she was expected to perform.

Erin eventually found out that Jane was bad-mouthing her to mutual contacts in the food and restaurant industry. Jane would casually slip barbs into business conversations, telling others, for example, that Erin had engaged in an affair with a married man (she hadn't) or was giving more favorable reviews to restaurant owners who were her friends (she wasn't).

Jane's campaign against Erin wasn't much more than mean-spirited gossiping, but Erin felt that it caused her peers to think of her differently and certainly made her professional life more difficult. But how could she lodge an official complaint? "What would it say?" Erin asked me. "Jane is talking about me behind my back?" At various points, Erin thought the only way to fight back was to play along and start trash-talking Jane. But was that really the solution?

As the old male-dominated workplace has been transformed, many have hoped that the rise of female leaders would create a softer, gentler kind of office, based on communication, team building and personal development. But instead, some women are finding their professional lives dominated by high school "mean girls" all grown up: women with something to prove and a precarious sense of security.

What makes these queen bees so effective and aggravating is that they are able to exploit female vulnerabilities that men may not see, using tactics that their male counterparts might never even notice. Like Jane's gossiping about Erin's personal life. Or when Kelly's boss would comment on her outfit: "Who are you trying to impress today?" Or not-so-gently condescend: "Did you take your smart pill today, sweetie?" Their assaults harm careers and leave no fingerprints.

That is one reason many victims never see such attacks coming—and are powerless to prevent them. In Kelly's case, she had assumed her female boss might want to help foster her growth out of some sense of female solidarity. Erin had specifically sought out working at the magazine because she admired Jane's writing and wanted to learn from her. Why wouldn't Jane be eager to teach? It is women, after all, who are hastening the table-pounding male bullies toward obsolescence.

But both Kelly and Erin's superiors seem to have viewed the women under them not as comrades in arms but as threats to be countered. In a world where there are still relatively few women in positions of power—just 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 16% of boards of directors, as noted in Deborah Rhode and Barbara Kellerman's book "Women and Leadership"—it is an understandable assumption that the rise of one would mean the ouster of another. One for one, instead of one plus one.

Though it is getting easier to be a professional woman, it is by no means easy. Some women—especially in industries that remain male-dominated—assume that their perches may be pulled from beneath them at any given moment (and many times, they are indeed encouraged to feel this way). Made to second-guess themselves, they try to ensure their own dominance by keeping others, especially women, down.

The result is a distinctive strain of negative leadership traits—less overtly confrontational than their domineering male counterparts but bullying just the same. Comments on appearance or dress are part of their repertoire—something that would be seen more obviously as harassment when coming from a man—as are higher, sometimes even unreasonable, expectations for performance. Women who have risen in male-dominated fields may want to tell themselves that their struggle and success were unique. As a result they sometimes treat the performance of females who follow as never quite good enough.

It cuts both ways, though: Women aren't always the best employees to other women either. Female subordinates can show less respect and deference to female bosses than to their male bosses.

A 2007 Syracuse University study published in the Journal of Operational and Organizational Psychology found that women are critical of female bosses who are not empathetic. They also tend to resent female bosses who adopt a brusque and assertive management style, even as they find it perfectly acceptable for male bosses. And so they question and push back, answering authority with attitude.

One woman I encountered in my research, Amanda, faced this problem when she began a new job as a vice president at a Manhattan ad agency. The role was her first in management and included overseeing three women who were her age or younger. She knew she was qualified for the position, but from the very first day, Amanda had a difficult time feeling that she had their respect, or even their attention. Though deferential and solicitous to her male colleagues, they openly questioned Amanda's decisions. They went above her head, made comments about her wardrobe and even refused to say good morning and  good night. She felt like she was back in high school, trying to break into an elite clique.

Amanda tried various tactics: being overly authoritative, being their "friend." Eventually she stopped trying to get them to respond or encouraging them to do their jobs as directed. Instead, she fired all three.

Queen bees are creatures of circumstance, encircling potential rivals in much the same way as the immune system attacks a foreign body. Female bosses are expected to be "softer" and "gentler" simply because they are women, even though such qualities are not likely the ones that got them to where they are. In the more cutthroat precincts of American achievement, women don't reach the top by bringing in doughnuts in the morning.

Men use fear as a tool of advancement. Why shouldn't women do the same? Until top leadership positions are as routinely available to women as they are to men, freezing out the competition will remain a viable survival strategy.

—Dr. Drexler is an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and the author, most recently, of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers and the Changing American Family."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The rise of the older worker

The rise of the older worker, by Jim Hillage, research director
Institute for Employment Studies
December 12, 2012

There are more people working in the UK today than at anytime in our history. Today's labour market statistics show another increase in the numbers employed taking the total to 29,600,000, up 40,000 on the previous quarter and 500,000 on a year ago.

Almost half of the rise has been among people aged 50 or over, with the fastest rate of increase occurring among those 65 or over, particularly among older women.

There are now almost a million people aged 65 or over in jobs, double the number ten years ago and up 13 per cent over the past year. Although these older workers comprise only three percent of the working population, they account for 20 per cent of the recent growth in employment. However this group has a very different labour market profile to the rest of the working population, particularly younger people, and there is no evidence to suggest older workers are gaining employment at the expense of the young generation. For example:
  • 30 per cent of older workers (ie aged 65+) work in managerial and professional jobs, compared with only nine per cent of younger workers (aged 16 to 24). Conversely 34 per cent of young people work in sales, care and leisure jobs, compared with only 14 of their older counterparts.
  • Nearly four in ten older workers are self-employed, compared with five per cent of younger workers.
  • Most (69 per cent) of 65 plus year olds work part-time, compared with 39 per cent of young workers (and 27 per cent of all those in work).
Jim Hillage, Director of Research at the Institute for Employment Studies, explains that:

‘There are a number of reasons why older workers are staying on in work. In some cases employers want to retain their skills and experience and encourage them to stay on, albeit on a part-time basis, and most older employees have been working for their employer for at least ten years and often in smaller workplaces. Conversely, some older people have to stay in work as their pensions are inadequate and it is interesting to note that employment of older workers is highest in London and the South East, where living costs are highest. Finally, there is also a growing group of self-employed who still want to retain their work connections and interests.’

2012 © Institute for Employment Studies

Update: Long-Term Jobless Begin to Find Work. By Ben Casselman
The Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2013, on page A2

The epidemic of long-term unemployment, one of the most pernicious and persistent challenges bedeviling the U.S. economy, is finally showing signs of easing.

The long-term unemployed—those out of work more than six months—made up 39.1% of all job seekers in December, according to the Labor Department, the first time that figure has dropped below 40% in more than three years.


The problem is far from solved. Nearly 4.8 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months, down from a peak of more than 6.5 million in 2010 but still a level without precedent since World War II.

The recent signs of progress mark a reversal from earlier in the recovery, when long-term unemployment proved resistant to improvement elsewhere in the labor market.

Total unemployment peaked in late 2009 and has dropped relatively steadily since then, while the number of long-term unemployed continued to rise into 2010 and then fell only slowly through much of 2011.

More recently, however, unemployment has fallen more quickly among the long-term jobless than among the broader population. In the past year, the number of long-term unemployed workers has dropped by 830,000, accounting for nearly the entire 843,000-person drop in overall joblessness.

When Michael Leahy lost his job as a manager at a Connecticut bank in 2010, the state had already shed about 10,000 financial-sector jobs in the previous two years and he had difficulty even landing an interview. By the time banks started hiring again, Mr. Leahy, now 59, had been out of work for more than a year and found himself getting passed over for candidates with jobs or ones who had been laid off more recently.

In July, however, Mr. Leahy was accepted into a program for the long-term unemployed run by the Work Place, a local workforce development agency. The program helped Mr. Leahy improve his resume and interviewing skills, and ultimately connected him with a local bank that was hiring.

Mr. Leahy began a new job in December. The chance to work again in his chosen field, he said, was more than worth the roughly 15% pay cut from his previous job.

"The thing that surprised me is this positive feeling I have every day of getting up in the morning and knowing I have a place to go to and a place where people are waiting for me," Mr. Leahy said.


The decline in long-term unemployment is good news for the broader economy. Many economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, feared that many long-term unemployed workers would become permanently unemployable, creating a "structural" unemployment problem akin to what Europe suffered in the 1980s. But those fears are beginning to recede along with the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

"I don't think it's the case that the long-term unemployed are no longer employable," said Omair Sharif, an economist for RBS Securities Inc. "In fact, they've been the ones getting the jobs."

Not all the drop in long-term joblessness can be attributed to workers finding positions. In recent years, millions of Americans have given up looking for work, at which point they no longer count as "unemployed" in official statistics.

The recent drop in long-term unemployment, however, doesn't appear to be due to such dropouts. The number of people who aren't in the labor force but say they want a job has risen by only about 400,000 in the past year, while the number of Americans with jobs has risen by 2.4 million. That suggests at least much of the improvement is due to people finding jobs, not dropping out, Mr. Sharif said.

The average unemployed worker has now been looking for 38 weeks, down from a peak of nearly 41 weeks and the lowest level since early 2011.

The long-term unemployed still face grim odds of finding work. About 10% of long-term job seekers found work in April, the most recent month for which a detailed breakdown is available, compared with about a quarter of more recently laid-off workers. The ranks of the short-term jobless are more quickly refreshed by newly laid-off workers, however. As a result, the total number of short-term unemployed has fallen more slowly in recent months, even though individual workers still stand a far better chance of finding work early in their search.

And when the long-term unemployed do find work, their new jobs generally pay less than their old ones—often much less. A recent study from economists at Boston University, Columbia University and the Institute for Employment Research found that every additional year out of work reduces workers' wages when they do find a job by 11%.

Moreover, the recent gains have yet to reach the longest of the long-term unemployed: While the number of people unemployed for between six months and two years has fallen by 12% in the past year, the ranks of those jobless for three years or longer has barely budged at all.

Patricia Soprych, a 51-year-old widow in Skokie, Ill., recently got a job as a grocery-store cashier after more than a year of looking for work. But the job is part-time and pays the minimum wage, which she finds barely enough to make ends meet.

"You say the job market's getting better. Yeah, for these $8.25-an-hour jobs," Ms. Soprych said.

Economists cite several reasons for the drop in long-term unemployment. Most significant is the gradual healing of the broader labor market, which has seen the unemployment rate drop to 7.8% in December from a high of 10% in 2009. After initially benefiting mostly the more recently laid-off, that progress is now being felt among the longer-term jobless as well.

The gradual strengthening in the housing market could lead to more improvement. Many of the long-term unemployed are former construction workers who lost jobs when the housing bubble burst. Rising home building has yet to lead to a surge in construction employment, but many experts expect hiring to pick up in 2013.

Another possible factor behind the recent progress: the gradual reduction in emergency unemployment benefits available to laid-off workers. During the recession, Congress extended unemployment benefits to as long as 99 weeks in some states. Today, benefits last 73 weeks at most, and less time in many states. Research suggests that unemployment payments lead some recipients not to look as hard for jobs, and the loss of benefits may have pushed some job seekers to accept work they might otherwise have rejected, said Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Everybody involved was, one, interested, two, dedicated, and, three, fascinated by the job they were doing

Notable & Quotable.
The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2012, on page A15

Astronaut Neil Armstrong, who died on Saturday at age 82, speaking about the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon, from NASA'S Johnson Space Center Oral History Project:

I was certainly aware that this was a culmination of the work of 300,000 or 400,000 people over a decade and that the nation's hopes and outward appearance largely rested on how the results came out. With those pressures, it seemed the most important thing to do was focus on our job as best we were able to and try to allow nothing to distract us from doing the very best job we could. . . .

Each of the components of our hardware were designed to certain reliability specifications, and far the majority, to my recollection, had a reliability requirement of 0.99996, which means that you have four failures in 100,000 operations. I've been told that if every component met its reliability specifications precisely, that a typical Apollo flight would have about [1,000] separate identifiable failures.

In fact, we had more like 150 failures per flight, [substantially] better than statistical methods would tell you that you might have. I can only attribute that to the fact that every guy in the project, every guy at the bench building something, every assembler, every inspector, every guy that's setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, "If anything goes wrong here, it's not going to be my fault, because my part is going to be better than I have to make it." And when you have hundreds of thousands of people all doing their job a little better than they have to, you get an improvement in performance. And that's the only reason we could have pulled this whole thing off. . . .

When I was working here at the Johnson Space Center, then the Manned Spacecraft Center, you could stand across the street and you could not tell when quitting time was, because people didn't leave at quitting time in those days. People just worked, and they worked until whatever their job was done, and if they had to be there until five o'clock or seven o'clock or nine-thirty or whatever it was, they were just there. They did it, and then they went home. So four o'clock or four-thirty, whenever the bell rings, you didn't see anybody leaving. Everybody was still working.

The way that happens and the way that made it different from other sectors of the government to which some people are sometimes properly critical is that this was a project in which everybody involved was, one, interested, two, dedicated, and, three, fascinated by the job they were doing. And whenever you have those ingredients, whether it be government or private industry or a retail store, you're going to win.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Graen's "Unwritten Rules for Your Career: 15 Secrets for Fast-track Success"

Miner (2005) says (chp 14), citing Graen (1989), that those interested in achieving their personal ends would need to focus on:
things a person should do to achieve fast-track status in management, what unwritten rules exist in organizations, and how to become an insider who understands these rules and follows them to move up the hierarchy. These unwritten rules are part of the informal organization and constitute the secrets of organizational politics.

There are fifteen such secrets of the fast track:

1. Find the hidden strategies of your organization and use them to achieve your objectives.  (This involves forming working relationships—networks—with people who have access to special resources, skills, and abilities to do important work.)

2. Do your homework in order to pass the tests. (These tests can range from sample questions to command performances; you should test others, as well, to evaluate sources of information.)

3. Accept calculated risks by using appropriate contingency plans. (Thus, learn to improve your decision average by taking calculated career risks.)

4. Recognize that apparently complete and final plans are merely flexible guidelines to the actions necessary for implementation. (Thus, make your plans broad and open-ended so that you can adapt them as they are implemented.)

5. Expect to be financially undercompensated for the first half of your career and to be overcompensated for the second half. (People on the fast track inevitably grow out of their job descriptions and take on extra duties beyond what they are paid to do.)

6. Work to make your boss successful. (This is at the heart of the exchange between the two of you and involves a process of reciprocal promotion.)

7. Work to get your boss to promote your career. (This is the other side of the coin and involves grooming your replacement as well.)

8. Use reciprocal relationships to build supportive networks. (It is important that these be competence networks involving effective working relationships and competent people.)

9. Do not let your areas of competence become too narrowly specialized. (Avoid the specialists trap by continually taking on new challenges.)

10. Try to act with foresight more often than with hindsight. (Be proactive by identifying the right potential problem, choosing the right solution, and choosing the best implementation process.)

11. Develop cordial relationships with your competitors: Be courteous, considerate, and polite in all relationships. (You need not like all these people, but making unnecessary enemies is an expensive luxury.)

12. Seek out key expert insiders and learn from them. (Have numerous mentors and preserve these relationships of your reciprocal network.)

13. Make sure to acknowledge everyone’s contribution. (Giving credit can be used as a tool to develop a network of working relationships.)

14. Prefer equivalent exchanges between peers instead of rewards and punishments between unequal partners. (Equivalent exchanges are those in which a resource, service, or behavior is given with the understanding that something of equivalent value will eventually be returned; this requires mutual trust.)

15. Never take unfair advantage of anyone, and avoid letting anyone take unfair advantage of you. (Networks cannot be maintained without a reputation for trustworthiness.)

More recently, in another book, Graen (2003) has revisited this topic and set forth another partially overlapping list of thirteen actions that distinguish key players from others [...]. These guidelines [...] for how to play the hierarchy and gain fast-track status are as follows:

1. Demonstrate initiative to get things done (i.e., engage in organizational citizenship behaviors).

2. Exercise leadership to make the unit more effective (i.e., become an informal group leader).

3. Show a willingness to take risks to accomplish assignments (i.e., go against group pressures in order to surface problems if necessary).

4. Strive to add value to the assignments (i.e., enrich your own job by making it more challenging and meaningful).

5. Actively seek out new job assignments for self-improvement (i.e., seek out opportunities for growth).

6. Persist on a valuable project after others give up (and learn not to make the same mistake twice).

7. Build networks to extend capability, especially among those responsible for getting work done.

8. Influence others by doing something extra (i.e., this means building credibility and adjusting your interpersonal style to match others).

9. Resolve ambiguity by dealing constructively to resolve ambiguity (i.e., gather as much information as possible and obtain frequent feedback).

10. Seek wider exposure to managers outside the home division, which helps in gathering information.

11. Build on existing skills. Apply technical training on the job and build on that training to develop broader expertise; be sure not to allow obsolescence to creep in.

12. Develop a good working relationship with your boss. Work to build and maintain a close working relationship with the immediate supervisor (Strive to build a high quality LMX, devote energy to this goal—see Maslyn and Uhl-Bien, 2001).

13. Promote your boss. Work to get the immediate supervisor promoted (i.e., try to make that person look good; as your boss goes up, so well may you).

Graen, George (1989). Unwritten Rules for Your Career: 15 Secrets for Fast-track Success. New York: John Wiley.
Graen, George (2003). Dealing with Diversity. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Miner, John B. Organizational behavior I. Essential theories of motivation and leadership. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Management Tips from the Wall Street Journal

Management Tips from the Wall Street Journal

Developing a Leadership Style

        Leadership Styles
        What do Managers do?
        Leadership in a Crisis – How To Be a Leader
        What are the Common Mistakes of New Managers?
        What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?
        How Can Young Women Develop a Leadership Style?

Managing Your People

        How to Motivate Workers in Tough Times
        Motivating Employees
        How to Manage Different Generations
        How to Develop Future Leaders
        How to Reduce Employee Turnover
        Should I Rank My Employees?
        How to Keep Your Most Talented People
        Should I Use Email?
        How to Write Memos

Recruiting, Hiring and Firing

        Conducting Employment Interviews – Hiring How To
        How to Hire New People
        How to Make Layoffs
        What are Alternatives to Layoffs?
        How to Reduce Employee Turnover
        Should I Rank My Employees?
        How to Keep Your Most Talented People

Building a Workplace Culture

        How to Increase Workplace Diversity
        How to Create a Culture of Candor
        How to Change Your Organization’s Culture
        How to Create a Culture of Action in the Workplace


        What is Strategy?
        How to Set Goals for Employees
        What Management Strategy Should I Use in an Economic Downturn?
        What is Blue Ocean Strategy?


        What are the Keys to Good Execution?
        How to Create a Culture of Action in the Workplace


        How to Innovate in a Downturn
        How to Change Your Organization’s Culture
        What is Blue Ocean Strategy?

Managing Change

        How to Motivate Workers in Tough Times
        Leadership in a Crisis – How To Be a Leader
        What Management Strategy Should I Use in an Economic Downturn?
        How to Change Your Organization’s Culture

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Can Institutional Reform Reduce Job Destruction and Unemployment Duration?

Can Institutional Reform Reduce Job Destruction and Unemployment Duration? Yes It Can. By Esther Perez & Yao Yao
IMF Working Paper No. 12/54
February 2012

Summary: We read search theory’s unemployment equilibrium condition as an Iso-Unemployment Curve(IUC).The IUC is the locus of job destruction rates and expected unemployment durations rendering the same unemployment level. A country’s position along the curve reveals its preferences over the destruction-duration mix, while its distance from the origin indicates the unemployment level at which such preferences are satisfied Using a panel of 20 OECD countries over 1985-2008, we find employment protection legislation to have opposing efects on destructions and durations, while the effects of the remaining key institutional factors on both variables tend to reinforce each other. Implementing the right reforms could reduce job destruction rates by about 0.05 to 0.25 percentage points and shorten unemployment spells by around 10 to 60 days. Consistent with this, unemployment rates would decline by between 0.75 and 5.5 percentage points, depending on a country’s starting position.


This paper investigates how labor market policies affect the unemployment rate through its two defining factors, the duration of unemployment spells and job destruction rates.  To this aim, we look at search theory’s unemployment equilibrium condition as an Iso-Unemployment Curve (IUC). The IUC represents the locus of job destruction rates and expected unemployment durations rendering the same unemployment level. A country’s position along the curve reveals its preferences over the destruction-duration mix, while its distance from the origin indicates the unemployment level at which such preferences are satisfied. We next provide micro-foundations for the link between destructions, durations and policy variables. This allows us to explore the relevance of institutional features using a sample of 20 OECD countries over the period 1985-2008.

The empirical literature investigating the influence of labor market institutions on overall unemployment rate is sizable (see, for instance, Blanchard and Wolfers, 1999, and Nickell and others, 2002). Equally numerous are the studies splitting unemployment into job creation and job destruction flows (see, for example, Blanchard, 1998, Shimer, 2007, and Elsby and others, 2008). This work connects these two strands of the literature by investigating how labor market policies shape both job separations and unemployment spells, which together determine the overall unemployment rate in the economy. The IUC schedule used in our analysis is novel and is motivated by the need to understand the nature of unemployment, as essentially coming from destructions, durations or a combination of both these factors. This can help clarify whether policy makers should focus primarily on speeding up workers’ reallocation across job positions rather than protecting them in the workplace.

One fundamental question raised in this context is whether countries with dynamic labor markets significantly outperform countries with more stagnant markets. By dynamic (stagnant) we mean labor markets displaying high (low) levels of workers’ turnover in and out of unemployment. Is it the case that countries featuring high job destruction rates but brief unemployment spells tend to display lower unemployment rates than labor markets characterized by limited job destruction but longer unemployment durations?  And how do institutional features shape destructions and durations?


This paper reads the basic unemployment equilibrium condition postulated by search theory as an Iso-Unemployment Curve (IUC). The IUC is the locus of job destruction rates and expected unemployment durations that render the same unemployment level.  We use this schedule to classify countries according to their preferences over the job destruction-unemployment duration trade-off. The upshot of this analysis is that labor markets characterized by high levels of job destruction but brief unemployment spells do not necessarily outperform countries characterized by the opposite behavior. But, the IUC construct makes it clear that high unemployment rates result from extreme values in either durations or destructions, or intermediate-to-high levels in both.

Looking at unemployment through the lenses of the IUC schedule focuses the attention on each economy’s revealed social preferences over the destruction-duration mix. Policy packages fighting unemployment should take into consideration such preferences. Some countries seem to tolerate relatively high destruction rates as long as unemployment duration is short. Others are biased towards job security and do not mind financing longer job search spells. A few unfortunate countries are trapped in a high inflow-high duration combination, seemingly condemned for long periods of high unemployment.

An optimistic message arising from this study, especially for countries located on higher IUCs, is that an ambitious structural reform program tackling high labor tax wedges, activating unemployment benefits and removing barriers to competition in key services can effectively contain job losses, limit the duration of unemployment spells and yield substantial reduction in unemployment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No More Résumés, Say Some Firms

No More Résumés, Say Some Firms. By RACHEL EMMA SILVERMAN
WSJ, Jan 25, 2012

Union Square Ventures recently posted an opening for an investment analyst.

Instead of asking for résumés, the New York venture-capital firm—which has invested in Twitter, Foursquare, Zynga and other technology companies—asked applicants to send links representing their "Web presence," such as a Twitter account or Tumblr blog. Applicants also had to submit short videos demonstrating their interest in the position.

Union Square says its process nets better-quality candidates —especially for a venture-capital operation that invests heavily in the Internet and social-media—and the firm plans to use it going forward to fill analyst positions and other jobs.

Companies are increasingly relying on social networks such as LinkedIn, video profiles and online quizzes to gauge candidates' suitability for a job. While most still request a résumé as part of the application package, some are bypassing the staid requirement altogether.

A résumé doesn't provide much depth about a candidate, says Christina Cacioppo, an associate at Union Square Ventures who blogs about the hiring process on the company's website and was herself hired after she compiled a profile comprising her personal blog, Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, and links to social-media sites Delicious and Dopplr, which showed places where she had traveled.

StickerGiant's John Fischer, right, and interviewee Adam Thackeray shoot a video Monday. Mr. Fischer uses an online survey to screen applicants.

"We are most interested in what people are like, what they are like to work with, how they think," she says.

John Fischer, founder and owner of, a Hygiene, Colo., company that makes bumper and marketing stickers, says a résumé isn't the best way to determine whether a potential employee will be a good social fit for the company. Instead, his firm uses an online survey to help screen applicants.

Questions are tailored to the position. A current opening for an Adobe Illustrator expert asks applicants about their skills, but also asks questions such as "What is your ideal dream job?" and "What is the best job you've ever had?" Applicants have the option to attach a résumé, but it isn't required. Mr. Fischer says he started using online questionnaires several years ago, after receiving too many résumés from candidates who had no qualifications or interest. Having applicants fill out surveys is a "self-filter," he says.

A previous posting for an Internet marketing position had applicants rate their marketing and social-media skills on a scale of one to 10 and select from a list of words how friends or co-workers would describe them. Options included: high energy, type-A, laid back, perfect, creative or fun.

In times of high unemployment, bypassing résumés can also help companies winnow out candidates from a broader labor pool.

IGN Entertainment Inc., a gaming and media firm, launched a program dubbed Code Foo, in which it taught programming skills to passionate gamers with little experience, paying participants while they learned. Instead of asking for résumés, the firm posted a series of challenges on its website aimed at gauging candidates' thought processes. (One challenge: Estimate how many pennies lined side by side would span the Golden Gate Bridge.)

It also asked candidates to submit a video demonstrating their love of gaming and the firm's products.

IGN is a unit of News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.

Nearly 30 people out of about 100 applicants were picked for the six-week Code Foo program, and six were eventually hired full-time. Several of the hires were nontraditional applicants who didn't attend college or who had thin work experience.

"If we had just looked at their résumés at the moment we wouldn't have hired them," says Greg Silva, IGN's vice president of people and places. The company does require résumés for its regular job openings.

At most companies, résumés are still the first step of the recruiting process, even at supposedly nontraditional places like Google Inc., which hired about 7,000 people in 2011, after receiving some two million résumés. Google has an army of "hundreds" of recruiters who actually read every one, says Todd Carlisle, the technology firm's director of staffing.

But Dr. Carlisle says he reads résumés in an unusual way: from the bottom up.

Candidates' early work experience, hobbies, extracurricular activities or nonprofit involvement—such as painting houses to pay for college or touring with a punk rock band through Europe—often provide insight into how well an applicant would fit into the company culture, Dr. Carlisle says.

Plus, "It's the first sample of work we have of yours," he says.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Scott Belsky Says Managers Need to Avoid Distractions and Take Time to Focus on Their Long-Term Aims

How to Make Your Dream Project Happen. By JAVIER ESPINOZA
Author Scott Belsky Says Managers Need to Avoid Distractions and Take Time to Focus on Their Long-Term Aims WSJ, Aug 24, 2011

Even the most successful managers sometimes struggle to turn their ideas into reality. But some authors, creative teams or companies manage to be more productive than most. So, what distinguishes them from the rest, and what can we learn from them?

Over the past 5½ years, Scott Belsky, author of "Making Ideas Happen," met with hundreds of individuals and teams at companies such as Google and Apple to find out how they go about executing their projects. He is the founder and chief executive of Behance, a self-described New-York based "creative professional platform." whose main aim is to help creative thinkers see their ideas develop into actual results.

"We spend too much time focused on innovation and creativity and not enough time on the execution side. Ideas don't happen because they are great or by accident. They happen because there are other forces at play," he says.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in London, Mr. Belsky shared some of his tips for turning ideas into concrete outcomes. The interview has been edited.

Embrace 'micro action'

A lot of the creative teams [I met with] will find micro actions to push ideas forward, rather than always sitting back and waiting for the perfect time. We are often are told to "think before you act" but I found it's never the right time to do something new. In fact, it's always the wrong time because you always find a reason why you should wait.

Escape the 'reactionary' workflow

Everyone is struggling right now with the same thing. We have entered the era of reactionary workflow. We are constantly connected, have our devices with us at all times. Right now you are probably receiving emails, voice mails, text messages, Facebook messages…all of this stuff is coming to you. You could live a life of simply reacting to what's coming in rather than being proactive in what matters most to you. You can slip into reactionary workflow the minute you get up in the morning with your phone and everything else. You can never have an impact on your long-term stuff. We will never push an idea forward unless we find ways to manage it.

Book time to think about the longer term

Executives I work with preserve what I call windows of nonstimulation in their day. They book themselves two- or three-hour chunks and they don't focus on their to-do list or their email. Instead, they are focusing on two or three things that important to them over the long term. They are revisiting their business plan during this enforced period of [thinking] time.

How to avoid the 'project plateau'

If you have an idea to write a novel, your energy and excitement will be extremely high. You are willing to stay up until three in the morning writing that first chapter. But then four days later your energy is going to start going down. You will realize that you are behind on your other deadlines and you are going to find a million reasons to get back to what's urgent. You then enter the "project plateau" where most ideas die.

The one thing that's really important to keep yourself engaged with a project even though it's no longer new is to kill off [subsequent] new ideas. The whole premise of the project plateau is that there is a lot of energy and excitement when a new idea comes but it's really important to work with people who are doers. If we spread our energy too thinly the main project suffers.

'Insecurity work' is bad for you

Five or 10 years ago, when you wanted to know how things were doing you waited for the data to get to you. You got a weekly report, or a quarterly report. Today, executives walk around with applications that allow them to see to the minute the number of visits to their website.

The problem with this is that there is a new type of work that we are starting to do. I call it insecurity work. It's stuff that we do repeatedly throughout the day: searching Twitter for a keyword. When you are leading a bold creative pursuit you always want to know that it's OK. We should really delegate this work to somebody else. If your job is to lead a creative project, you shouldn't be filling your day with this stuff. I

The power of accountability

The power of accountability was a big theme that I saw in everyone that I met. They all had stories of having an idea within a company but not sharing it. And then suddenly for some reason putting it out there and being held liable for it. That was always a good turning point for them. Chris Anderson, author and editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, says every time he has an idea he puts it out on his blog. People ask, first of all, aren't you afraid somebody is going to steal your idea and, second of all, aren't you worried that you are sharing it prematurely? The answer: the more I share the idea, the more likely people are to hold me accountable and help me refine it.

—"Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality" is published by Penguin.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

PwC Chairman Aims to Keep Millennials Happy

PwC Chairman Aims to Keep Millennials Happy
WSJ, July 11, 2011

When Dennis Nally started at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP 37 years ago, the business was simpler, says the chairman of the accounting and management-consultancy. Back then nearly 80% of firm revenue stemmed from PWC audit work in the U.S.

Today, the company has 175,000 employees operating in 154 countries. And about half of PwC's global revenues derive from tax and advisory work, which includes consulting on operations, human resources and M&A, among other things.

About 18% of the firm's revenue comes from work for clients in developing markets in Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa. Over the next five years, the company expects this to grow to 40%, as its clients become increasingly focused on emerging markets.

Recruiting and hiring, particularly in those markets, is the biggest challenge the firm and its clients are facing, says Mr. Nally. As evidence, he quotes from PwC's annual global CEO survey, released in April, in which more than 90% of the business leaders surveyed said that they are focused on making significant changes to their human-resource policies in the next 12 to 18 months.

The Wall Street Journal spoke with Mr. Nally in London where he talked about hiring and the importance of keeping the so-called millennial generation happy. Edited excerpts:

WSJ:How do you define talent?

Mr. Nally:Having the technical skills is important but that's almost a given these days. [Talent is also] having the right softer skills in terms of being [able] to work in a collaborative environment, teaming with people, good communication skills, good sensitivities to cultural diversity.

WSJ:What's the biggest challenge for companies when trying to recruit talented staff?

Mr. Nally:The competition for talent in the emerging markets has never been greater and that's placing a lot of pressure on salaries. Having a competitive compensation base is really important. It's [also] about how to create an environment where people want to be. This millennial generation is not just looking for a job, they're not just looking for salary and financial benefits, they're looking for skill development, they're looking for mobility, they're looking for opportunities to acquire different skills and to move quickly from one part of an organization to another. How you manage that sort of talent and how you deal with their expectations is very different from what's been done in the past.

So, clearly articulating your people strategy, what you can deliver and importantly what you expect in return is key. Connecting with your employees so they understand you can deliver the career they want is key.

WSJ:How do you go about creating that connectivity?

Mr. Nally:The human capital agenda has to be driven by the CEO. It's so strategic today that you want to have great support coming from the HR organization, but if this isn't viewed as just as strategic as new products and services or research and development, [it] won't be successful.

WSJ: Why is this thirst for talent more evident now than before?

Mr. Nally: The opportunities are so significant, coming from all different directions in all parts of the world that the demand for talent is at an all-time high. In today's global competitive workplace, you can't think just in the context of your own territory.

WSJ: What sort of policies will companies need to put in place?

Mr. Nally: The millennium generation is probably the most technological group of people ever joining the workforce. How they want to work, use social media and team within a company is very different than the prior generation. If your human policies aren't responsive to what they are looking for, they are going to go to a company that is. They want less-hierarchical structures, they want more flexibility, they want to work as hard but they want to define how they do their work. If you can't figure out a way to accommodate that kind of flexibility, you're not going to be able to retain that talent.

WSJ: What [is PwC] doing to attract and retain talent?

Mr. Nally:We have adapted both how we recruit and how we work with people once they join us to suit the millennial generation. For example, in the U.S. we have set up a LinkedIn application that allows students to track the career paths of existing graduate trainees already in the firm so a student can see how a career with PwC develops. In the U.K., we use a Facebook application to connect recruits together before they join so they can begin to build their own PwC community.

We also provide mentors for our people from day one both formally and informally and encourage people to actively use their mentors to build skills and experience. We understand that flexibility and the ability to gather useful experience are key, as a result we actively encourage our people to move both between different business areas and around the world to gain experience. We also provide career breaks, flexible working, cycles of experience outside PwC and we actively encourage volunteering.

Correction: Dennis Nally is the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers. In an earlier version of this article, the caption and headline incorrectly said Mr. Nally was the CEO.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

At the Ends of the World: Projects at Remote Locations

At the Ends of the World: Projects at Remote Locations. By Fabio Teixeira de Melo, PMP
PMI eNews, Nov 06, 2009

We have all heard that the world is getting smaller and smaller. However, some projects challenge that view: namely, those performed at remote locations.

For project management, a remote location is a place where:

Access to resources is more difficult; Both public and private sectors have less presence, or no presence at all; Local communities have little connection with the “civilized world.” Successfully executing a project at these locations requires a specific approach for some of the unique challenges you’ll face. Here are a few suggestions:

You should creatively explore what alternatives are available for supplying materials and consumables, and know the risk for each one. You have to consider natural factors, such as flood and dry seasons and their impact in site access, as well as frozen, blocked and / or dangerous access roads.

Consulting local communities is vital for gaining knowledge on alternatives, potential risks and contingency plans. Keep in mind that it is not only about bringing equipment in: it is about feeding and supporting your site team.

Communication depends heavily on wireless phone and internet access. These options facilitate working at remote locations, but they do not always function properly. Between thunderstorms, heavy rain, energy shutdowns and frozen equipment, many things can go wrong.

Communicating through traditional, hard-copy mail is safe and reliable, but takes more time. Consider adding redundancy—exchanging data electronically but also sending hard copies through traditional mail—to the communications management plan, logistics plan and schedule. It can make the difference between taking advantage of wireless communication and suffering from the lack of it.

Local Community:
With very few exceptions, remote locations are inhabited, usually by poor and unassisted communities living in a subsistence economy. They often lack proper authorities, which is an invitation to the actions of drug producers, smugglers and others who interact with the local community. You should consider them as a part of it – in fact, sometimes they even act as the “local authority.”

Base your approach on the core values of respect and honesty. Show interest for the community and try to build trust without interfering in their relationship with potential outlaw groups. For those groups, try to negotiate your relationship in the basis of non-interference, but consider their presence in your risk management: it’s not unheard of for project managers to be kidnapped by local gangs or terror groups.

Social Responsibility:
Your project will probably impact the local community. Hiring its people is a good way to inject money to the local economy, but you have to be cautious as to how many people will be employed and what jobs they will take.

Resist the temptation to hire everybody, since they will have to continue to live after you demobilize. If you train them to work on your project—for example, to operate your bulldozers—when you finish they either will be unemployed or will have to leave the region in search for a job.

Instead, give them insight and training on how to improve and market what they currently produce for their living. Help them get more productive and organized. Your project will certainly bring them closer to “civilization,” and you should help them make that encounter more of an opportunity than a risk.

When you plan for a project at a remote location, don’t associate the challenge with logistics only. Remember that the communications and stakeholder management for these projects have particular requirements, which, if not properly performed, can be as harmful to your project as a natural disaster.

Fabio Teixeira de Melo, PMP, is a Site Manager working for Odebrecht, a Brazilian multinational construction company with projects in over 20 countries. An LI ’04 graduate with more than 15 years of experience in construction project planning and management, he was founder and first President of PMI Pernambuco – Brazil Chapter; participated in the elaboration of the Construction Extension to the PMBOK® Guide, served a 5-year term as DPC SIG Latin America Chair and contributed with articles for the SIG’s newsletter. You can contact him writing a comment to this post.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The jobless stimulus: It's still not too late to redirect $400 billion to business tax cuts

The Jobless Stimulus. WSJ Editorial
It's still not too late to redirect $400 billion to business tax cuts.
WSJ, Sep 07, 2009

The recession may be over on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, but on Working Family Avenue it still has a ways to run. That's the lesson of yesterday's August jobs report that showed losses of 216,000, which believe it or not is the slowest monthly decline in a year and caused the White House to praise with the faint damn that the "trajectory is in the right direction." That's the good news.

On the other hand, the jobless rate popped up to 9.7%, the highest rate in 26 years, from 9.4%, reflecting an increase in the size of the labor force. The main concern we see going forward is the slow pace of new job creation to soak up the 7.4 million workers who have lost jobs since 2007.

There are now 26 million Americans who can't find a full-time job. Average weekly hours remained at an abysmally low 33.1—which is putting a strain on family budgets. And the jobless rate including so-called discouraged workers, or those who have stopped looking, leapt to 16.8% from 16.3% in July. Meanwhile, the number of Americans working part-time who want full-time work increased by 278,000 to 9.1 million, which as a share of the workforce is larger than at any time since the recession of 1982. These are the workers that employers will tend to hire first as a recovery unfolds, so it is worrisome that this cohort remains so large.

None of this does much for the credibility of the Obama Administration's stimulus spending plan, which was sold with the promise of a jobless rate this year of "below 8%" if the stimulus were passed. That was off by some three million jobs in a mere seven months. The same economists who fretted in February that $780 billion in stimulus was too small now claim that the $300 billion or so that has been spent has somehow ignited the recovery.

But a tax-cutting stimulus would have provided much more job and economic growth for the buck, and it could even now too. If the Administration really wants to fire up private job creation, how about taking the remaining $400 billion or more and using it to lower business taxes? The unspent stimulus is enough for a two-year down payment on repealing the U.S. corporate income tax, which studies show is a job and wage-increase killer.

Congress could also reconsider its July minimum-wage increase of 70 cents an hour, which almost certainly contributed to the leap in teenage unemployment to 25.5% in August. The rate was 24% in June and 23.8% in July, before the wage hike started to price low-skilled teens looking for jobs out of the workplace. Congress would be wise to suspend the increase until the overall jobless rate falls below 7%.

Of course neither of our proposals is going to happen given the current policy views in Washington, but someone has to speak up for workers who want a job, as opposed to those lucky enough to still have them.

We still believe an economic recovery is under way, and some job growth will certainly follow. But the danger is that the U.S. will recover with only European levels of job creation. The French and Germans have had a hard time bringing down unemployment even during expansions, thanks to the burden of high taxes, regulation and onerous union work rules. The economic agenda now pending on Capitol Hill includes all three of these burdens, so it's no wonder that employers are being supercautious before they add to their payrolls.

The U.S. economy is a remarkably resilient animal, and even deep recessions have always been followed by recoveries, usually strong ones. But businesses aren't going to rehire nearly as many workers amid the current policy uncertainty. The faster Congress defeats cap and trade, union card check and the House health-care bill, the better for job creation

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Workers will pay for the new health-care payroll levy

The Pelosi Jobs Tax. WSJ Editorial
Workers will pay for the new health-care payroll levy.
The Wall Street Journal, page A16, Jul 30, 2009

Even many Democrats are revolting against Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 5.4% income surtax to finance ObamaCare, but another tax in her House bill isn’t getting enough attention. To wit, the up to 10-percentage point payroll tax increase on workers and businesses that don’t provide health insurance. This should put to rest the illusion that no one making more than $250,000 in income will pay higher taxes.

To understand why, consider how the Pelosi jobs tax works. Under the House bill, firms with employee payroll of above $250,000 without a company health plan would pay a tax starting at 2% of wages per employee. That rate would quickly rise to 8% on firms with total payroll of $400,000 or more. A tax credit would help very small businesses adjust to the new costs, but even a firm with a handful of workers is likely to be subject to this payroll levy. As we went to press, Blue Dogs were taking credit for pushing those payroll amounts up to $500,000 and $750,0000, but those are still small employers.

So who bears the burden of this tax? The economic research is close to unanimous that a payroll tax is a tax on labor and is thus shouldered mostly if not entirely by workers. Employers merely collect the tax and then pass along its costs in lower wages or benefits. This is the view of the Democratic-controlled Congressional Budget Office, which advised on July 13: “If employers who did not offer health insurance were required to pay a fee, employee’s wages and other forms of compensation would generally decline by the amount of that fee from what they otherwise would have been.”

To put this in actual dollars, a worker earning, say, $70,000 a year could lose some $5,600 in take home pay to cover the costs of ObamaCare. And, by the way, this is in addition to the 2.5% tax that the individual worker would have to pay on gross income, if he doesn’t buy the high-priced health insurance that the government will mandate. In sum, that’s a near 10-percentage point tax on wages and salaries on top of the 15% that already hits workers to finance Medicare and Social Security.

Even Democrats are aware that his tax would come out of the wallets of the very workers they pretend to be helping, so they inserted a provision on page 147 of the bill prohibiting firms from cutting salaries to pay the tax. Thus they figure they can decree that wages cannot fall even as costs rise. Of course, all this means is that businesses would lay off some workers, or hire fewer new ones, or pay lower starting salaries or other benefits to the workers they do hire.

Cornell economists Richard Burkhauser and Kosali Simon predicted in a 2007 National Bureau of Economic Research study that a payroll tax increase of about this magnitude plus the recent minimum wage increase will translate into hundreds of thousands of lost jobs for those with low wages. Pay or play schemes, says Mr. Burkauser, “wind up hurting the very low-wage workers they are supposed to help.” The CBO agrees, arguing that play or pay policies “could reduce the hiring of low-wage workers, whose wages could not fall by the full cost of health insurance or a substantial play-or-pay fee if they were close to the minimum wage.”

To make matters worse, many workers and firms would have to pay the Pelosi tax even if the employer already provides health insurance. That’s because the House bill requires firms to pay at least 72.5% of health-insurance premiums for individual workers and 65% for families in order to avoid the tax. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2008 found that about three in five small businesses fail to meet the Pelosi test and will have to pay the tax. In these instances, the businesses will have every incentive simply to drop their coverage.

A new study by Sageworks, Inc., a financial consulting firm, runs the numbers on the income statements of actual companies. It looks at three types of firms with at least $5 million in sales: a retailer, a construction company and a small manufacturer. The companies each have total payroll of between $750,000 and $1 million a year. Assuming the firms absorb the cost of the payroll tax, their net profits fall by one-third on average. That is on top of the 45% income tax and surtax that many small business owners would pay as part of the House tax scheme, so the total reduction in some small business profits would climb to nearly 80%. These lower after-tax profits would mean fewer jobs.

To put it another way, the workers who will gain health insurance from ObamaCare will pay the steepest price for it in either a shrinking pay check, or no job at all.