Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stinking brown nosers

Greetings good citizen,

It looks like ‘green shoots’ are going to lead the way for a while good citizen, with the latest drop in the unemployment numbers and all…

Oh, in case you were wondering, I stumbled on the solution to the conundrum of how the unemployment ‘number’ can go down while the unemployment ‘percentage’ can go up.

The ‘household survey’ determines the percentage of unemployed and the business survey determines the ‘number’ of people that file for unemployment…although this leaves the conundrum of how weekly unemployment is still running in the 500,000 a week range. Yet we somehow manage to finish the entire month with only 324,000 unemployed. (As opposed to the 2 million workers that lost their jobs during the course of the month.) Apparently it doesn’t have to add up or make sense, this, like election results, is whatever they say it is.

Is this proof that magic is real or do the people compiling government statistics have advanced college degrees conferred upon them while they were still in nursery school?

Well, this is neither here nor there as far as tonight’s offering goes. The Boss loves ‘hard times’ and here’s why:

For Many Workers, Fear of Layoff Is Big Motivator

Published: June 6, 2009

Filed at 4:47 p.m. ET

Her job description says Madeline Adams is a social worker. But lately she's begun volunteering for tasks she never had before at the St. Louis marriage counseling agency where she works: planning events, ordering supplies, stocking shelves. She estimates she's put in hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime work. [Funny, I recall most Japanese workers did similar things when vying for the coveted ‘silver helmet’, which carried the promise of a ‘job for life’…many of which went ‘poof’ when the Japanese economy tanked over a decade ago.]

Adams isn't gunning for a promotion. She just wants to keep her job.

Bosses around the country these days are discovering it's not too much ask for a little extra help around the office. Anything but.

More employees seem to be showing up early, forgoing vacation time, taking on extra projects -- and doing it all with a smile (whether real or otherwise.)

It's hard to say just how widespread the phenomenon is. But Labor Department figures show workers have sharply boosted their productivity over the past year as layoffs mounted. Workers' output-per-hour jumped 2.7 percent during 2008 -- nearly double the increase during 2007 and triple the increase in 2006. [What they aren’t saying is these idiots did this while settling for smaller paychecks…not particularly ‘good’ economics as the only thing they have to sell is their time…idiots!]

Not all that extra productivity has been voluntary. e workers are simply forced to do more as co-workers leave notes Steve Davis, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute.

The pressure mounted Friday, when the government said employers cut 345,000 jobs in May, and the nation's jobless rate hit a quarter-century high of 9.4 percent. Fear of being the next layoff is pushing some workers to fight harder to cling to their jobs, said Bruce Tulgan, founder of New Haven, Conn.-based Rainmaker Thinking Inc., workplace consultants. [Hmmn…does Brucie Baby tell his clients to create a ‘climate of fear’ in their workplaces…seeing how ‘good’ it is for productivity?]

Often, the efforts amount to common sense. People dress better and show up early. They say nice -- OK, flattering -- things to the boss. And they try to look busy.

''I've started to see a sea change,'' Tulgan said. ''A growing number of people are saying: 'I've got to roll my sleeves up and do something now.' They're finding ways they can identify problems before they happen.'' [Apparently Brucie ‘practices what he preaches’ if his own employees are ‘treading on eggshells’.]

Some workers are aiming for the ''halo effect,'' said Bernie Sparks, founder of the 21st Century Leadership workplace consulting: When managers decide who goes and who stays, those seen as having a halo over their heads stand a better chance of surviving. [I just noticed this article is based not on reality but the ‘opinion’ of management consultants…who naturally bill themselves as ‘experts’.]

That's what Chris Kirkman is thinking. A graphic designer in San Diego, Kirkman plans to scrap the weeklong summer vacation he and his wife usually take. They'll instead take off a Friday and go on a long weekend road trip.

Kirkman says he thinks avoiding absences can help an employee build a reputation as being especially dedicated to the company. [I personally subscribe to the ‘bucket of water’ theory…if you put your fist into a bucket of water, you won’t leave a hole when you extract it…not now, not ever.]

''It kind of pays to hold on to your vacation days,'' Kirkman said. ''It not only helps when you get laid off, but it helps you work a little bit harder for your management to see.'' [It also flies in the face of the absolute truth, ‘that all of your money won’t an extra second buy’. Oddly, I have the opposite problem, I work so efficiently that I don’t appear to be ‘busting a hump’ while I’m out-producing everyone else. I’ve noticed those who appear to be in ‘perpetual motion’ seldom accomplish anything…]

Tulgan says forgoing vacation time isn't likely to save anyone's job. Managers tend to calculate the overall value each worker brings, regardless of how much or how little vacation they take.

''But on the other hand, if you disappear on a long vacation and nobody really misses you, then you might be putting ideas in a manager's head,'' he said. [Oddly, when the ‘brown noser’ takes time off the boss usually notices and uptick in productivity as the rest of the workers can concentrate on what they are supposed to be doing because the Brown noser isn’t distracting everyone with his or her ‘chest thumping’.]

And it's hardly guaranteed that anyone's sudden boost in productivity -- or attitude -- can avert a layoff. Bosses tend to see through behavior that amounts to, well, sucking up, said Gary Walstrom, founder of Culture Index Inc. consulting firm in Kansas City, Mo.

Walstrom helps companies decide whom to let go. He urges them to focus on hard data -- shedding the salesmen who generate the lowest revenue or the customer service staffer with the most unresolved complaints. Someone who starts showing up early once the economy sours isn't necessarily worth keeping.

Kathie Martin treats each workday as an eight-hour job interview. At 59, she has more than 30 years' experience in marketing and public relations. But she isn't counting on it to assure her job at Alabama Public Television in Birmingham.

In January, Martin was told her public relations position would be eliminated in two months. Then she got a break: A co-worker left his job in the nonprofit station's fundraising department, creating an opening.

Martin had never done fundraising. But her boss offered her a deal: She could stay at the station if she spent most of her time on fundraising. She leapt at the chance.

She feels today's tight economy doesn't provide the luxury to turn down any job, even if it's not in your field of expertise.

''You can't just rely on what you already know; you have to keep learning,'' she said. ''The more you know, the more valuable to the company you are.''

Learning how to solicit money has demanded new skills, Martin said. So she's working longer hours -- and not complaining about it.

Some unionized workers have decided to accept pay cuts or sacrifice benefits to save their jobs. In Multnomah County, Ore., county workers voluntarily agreed to surrender their usual cost-of-living pay raises to save the county money.

Union president Ken Allen said his members realized that sinking tax revenue could eventually force layoffs. The concessions are temporary, he said. Workers will wait until revenue rises to ask for the raises back.

Companies can use the recession as a motivating force, said Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

''It's possible that you can scare people into performing better,'' Cappelli said. ''It is also possible you might be able to engage the employee in some sort of improved performance if there is this view that: 'If we all pull together, we might get through this.'''

Not that things always work out smoothly.

''Workers in a downturn can also get so nervous that they just freeze up and aren't able to do good work, especially if they're afraid of being laid off and it's not clear what the standards are,'' Cappelli said.

That's why some employees are pushing for more face time with the boss.

Luke Walters, an engineering construction consultant in Chicago, grew fearful last year as construction projects slowed. His firm still had work. But he'd heard of engineers being laid off at other firms.

He met with his manager.

''I said: 'Look, is the economic downturn going to affect me and my position?'''

His manager said it eventually could. But he agreed to notify Walters if job cuts might be looming. Meantime, Walters can focus on his work and keep his productivity up, without feeling the need to send out resumes to potential employers.

Adams, the St. Louis social worker, wishes she were so relaxed. She fears reduced federal funding could cause staff cuts at her agency.

If so, Adams, 30, wants to be last in line when managers start deciding who's expendable. [As the ‘consultants’ say, going ‘above and beyond’ will only ‘help’ you if your primary work is ‘exemplary’. Then there is the ‘flipside’ of this coin. Ms Adams job is likely ‘civil service’ so when it comes to cut backs, seniority will be the tool used to determine who gets cut and who stays on.]

In taking on more than her regular duties, she figures, ''I make sure I'm a person the agency can't do without.''

I’m willing to bet Ms Adams has ‘made the grade’ even with those she’s trying to ‘impress’. You know what ‘making the grade’ means, don’t you? Making the grade has to do with the three states of being. You neither help nor hinder people so you are ignored, people don’t give a shit about you. Or you are pleasant, helpful and most of all, unassuming, this makes you liked. If you are interfering and overly competitive to the point everyone watches what they say when you’re around, you’ve ‘made the grade', you’re ‘hated’.

One of the important things that has occurred over the past decade is how, economically speaking, increased productivity has gone ‘un-rewarded’. If you’ll work harder for nothing, you aren’t doing anyone, including yourself, any favors.

Worse, these days it is the boss and not the worker that is ‘incentivized’ to increase productivity…if he can do it by scaring you to death, it’s he that gets rewarded and not you.

Brown nosing has always been a serious problem in non-union shops and today most shops are non-union. The boys at Wally-Mart will fire your ass if you even whisper the word ‘union’ while on the premises.

The boss do indeed love a brown noser…and in a non-union shop, the average brown noser usually has some serious competition. The competent folks with long service don’t have to kiss the boss’s ass because they have already pulled the boss’s bacon out of the fire repeatedly. Oh, AND they got overtime pay for doing it.

If you’re competent, you don’t need to suck up. If you’re competent your job isn’t in jeopardy unless the company is in danger of shutting down. If the people you work for make a fatal error, you usually won’t have any problem finding another job…you reputation will precede you.

So good citizen, do today’s tough economic times have you living in a ‘state of fear’?

Sadly ‘self-confidence’ is something you either have or you don’t. Pay attention to details and do what’s expected of you and you have no reason to fear.

Conversely, you don’t want to earn a reputation as a ‘suck up’ because that will precede you as well. One hand ‘always’ washes the other, don’t go ‘giving it away’ or you’ll turn yourself from a ‘mench into a ‘threat’.

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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