Yesterday, Greg Smith, Goldman Sachs executive director and head of equities derivatives in Europe, the Middle East, and Africavery publically resigned from his position with an opinion piece to the New York Times detailing the firm’s loss of moral fiber. Smith alleged management was more focused on earning profits and fleecing customers than actually helping clients make sound financial decisions, with leaders’ attitudes influencing new analysts. He even went as far as calling out current CEO Lloyd Blankfein and President Gary Cohn for losing “the firm’s culture on their watch.” “Smith’s approach, while commendable for tackling a very real issue of profits versus people, should not serve as a model for the average worker on how to leave his or her position,” warned John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “The number of people quitting their jobs is on the rise, with nearly 1.9 million workers doing so in January. While many might be emboldened by Mr. Smith’s public outing of his former employer to exit in a similar fashion, it is important to remember that most workers do not have the benefit of Smith’s former high-level position and salary. For most workers, it is best to exit quietly and not burn any bridges. New employers may need to contact your former boss for references, and loose talk may be the difference between a new job and continued unemployment. Even a rant about a former employer on Facebook can become an obstacle to new employment.” What are best practices for leaving an employer? How should workers handle issues of corporate culture with management? How might managers communicate more effectively with their employees to foster an ethical and respectful culture?
TRIBUNE CO. CEO UNDER PRESSURE TO RESIGN
This morning, the Chicago Tribune, citing inside sources, reported that the Tribune Company’s controversial CEO Randy Michaels will retire by end of the week, though no confirmation was provided by company executives. Michaels has come under fire for instilling a “frat boy” culture at the once-venerable media company, an allegation that gained traction last week with the suspension and then resignation of chief innovation officer Lee Abrams, who sent a company-wide email containing highly offensive material. The situation at the Tribune Company raises many important issues that should be discussed by employers around the country. It is one thing when a co-worker or department manager is creating a hostile or uncomfortable work environment, but what do employees and employers do when that environment stems from the highest ranking executives? What challenges will the Tribune Company face in finding a CEO who will be able to restore the company’s reputation while, at the same time, “shaking things up” in a media industry that is in a volatile state of change? What lessons can other companies learn from this when it comes to selecting a CEO; is it more important to find a leader who will define the culture or one who fits the existing culture?
SPEAKING OF HOSTILE WORKPLACES…
According to a recent poll created by the Workplace Bullying Institute and conducted by Zogby International, 35 percent of workers have witnessed workplace bullying this year. Of those bullied, 68 percent was same-gender harassment and 80 percent of women bullies target other women, the study found. The Workplace Bullying Institute recommended full screenings of new hires, thorough background checks, in addition to human resources scanning the environment for any potential trouble. What behaviors indicate a workplace bully? What policies can be used to protect the workforce? What are best practices for handling a bully?
Hiring remains far from robust, but recent signs of life suggest that employers are poised for a possible surge by year’s end. A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that both hiring activity and job openings have improved significantly in recent months. The latest statistics show that companies hired 4.5 million new workers in May, up from 3.96 million the same month a year ago. In addition to those hired, employers reported having another 3.2 million job openings at the end of the month, compared to less than 2.5 million openings at the end of May 2009. Separations – both voluntary and involuntary – remain at a level (4.1 million in May) that makes it difficult to create a dent in the number of unemployed, which stands at 14.6 million. However, as USA Today reported Wednesday, public companies are sitting on record levels of cash and appear ready to go on a hiring binge as soon as they see evidence that this recovery is sustainable. What are employers waiting for when it comes to hiring? Could hiring accelerate this year or is a 2011 increase more likely? Since many of the 3 million job openings are not officially advertised, how do job seekers uncover the hidden opportunities?
A new survey conducted by WorldatWork, Loyola University Chicago and the Hay Group suggests employees are becoming more interested in shaping their compensation packages to include work/life balance, especially in a time when employers are increasingly concerned with employee engagement. The survey found that 48 percent of employers surveyed agree that benefits and prerequisite programs have a high or very high impact on employee engagement, compared to 42 percent who believe raises have a high or very high impact and 41 percent who believe base salaries determine employee engagement. What kinds of perks will reengage employees? How can organizations strike a balance between their employees’ work and life? What other ways can companies foster and gauge their workers’ engagement?
EMPLOYERS ARE MORE SELECTIVE, BUT BODY ART NOT A ROADBLOCK TO SUCCESS
While certain areas of the economy are showing signs of recovery, the pace of job creation remains brutally slow. The job market remains extremely competitive with more than 14.5 million out-of-work Americans vying for employment. As job seekers try to find new ways to stand out from the crowd, some are undoubtedly asking themselves if their tattoos and body piercings are helping them stand out but in a negative way.
Workplace authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., says while some employers might frown upon conspicuous body art, the practice is becoming so commonplace that companies would be severely limiting the pool of candidates if they rejected everyone with a tattoo or nose ring.
“Employers’ anti-tattoo stance probably softened considerably during the labor shortages of the late 1990s. Today, even in this tight job market, most companies are not going to view tattoos too harshly. One reason is that with everyone from soccer moms to MIT computer science graduates sporting tattoos, preconceptions about tattooed individuals are no longer valid. Secondly, and more importantly, companies have a vested interest in hiring the most qualified candidate,” said Challenger.
Indeed, employers might have a difficult time finding candidates without some type of body embellishment. Overall, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that as many as 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. A 2010 Pew Research Center report on Millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) revealed that 38 percent have tattoos. Tattooed Gen Xers aged 30 to 45 were not far behind at 32 percent.
Despite concerns of how potential employers and others might perceive tattoos and piercings, a surprisingly large percentage do not make any efforts to conceal them. While the majority of people keep their tattoos covered, the Pew Research study found that 30 percent of tattooed Millennials have their body art on full display for the public. Additionally, nearly one in four (23 percent) Millennials have a piercing somewhere other than the ear lobe.
“Two decades ago, showing off tattoos and body piercings would be a surefire way to get your resume placed in the ‘No Way!’ pile. Times have changed. Those making the hiring decisions are younger and not as adherent to traditions about workplace appearance,” said Challenger.
“There are definitely certain industries where more conservative standards of appearance persist. We may never see visible tattoos on bankers, lawyers, accountants or the clergy. However, areas such as advertising, marketing, sales and technology are more inclined to be progressive and more accepting of new fashion and lifestyle trends,” said Challenger.
“As a job seeker, you have to judge whether the employer you are interviewing with is going to be accepting of your body art. If that is not the case, and that is where you really want to work, then you will have to make an effort to conceal your tattoos and take out your piercings,” said Challenger.
“The best way to determine if body art is acceptable is by asking someone, preferably not the person you are to meet. However, if you know someone else at the company or if you have established rapport with a secretary or receptionist, you can ask that person,” Challenger advised.
Challenger offered some additional advice on issues that could come up for young job seekers steeped in the latest fashion and youth-oriented trends:
Tattoos: Show them off, unless they are offensive, in which case you should plan on concealing it in the interview and even after getting the job. The other time you would want to conceal your tattoos is if you know that a certain employer would frown upon such decorations.
Piercings: Beware! With increased security at many corporate offices, too much bling could set off metal detectors. You do not want to be late to the interview because you were forced to remove 12 body piercings at the security desk. In addition to the security issue, too many piercings might be a distraction for the interviewer and could hurt your chances. Also, it would be prudent to remove tongue and lip piercings, as these often make it difficult for others to understand what you are saying.
Cell phones: Cell phones have no place in the job interview. They should be turned off and stashed away in a bag or briefcase. Imagine being in the middle of answering an interview question and your personalized ring tone featuring the latest hip-hop anthem interrupts. Even on vibrate, a cell phone going off can be a major distraction in the interview.
Portable Music Players: Although it seems that everyone has them attached to their pocket, purse or hip, keep the iPods at home. If co-workers see you with ear buds in your ears all day long, they will assume you are not listening, and possibly not working very hard.
Dress for the Job You Want: The old adage is still true today. Upper management will be likelier to recognize you if you begin to dress and groom yourself professionally. They may see it as taking initiative or acting as a role model for the office.
Commentary on Gen. McChrystal’s situation from workplace authority CEO John Challenger:
“In the corporate world, public comments by a senior executive that are critical of the CEO or other top executives would most likely result in that person’s removal. This type of second-guessing and backbiting is not uncommon in the corporate world, but once the behind-closed-doors infighting becomes public, someone usually pays the price,” said workplace expert John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
“Of course, the biggest difference between the General McChrystal situation and anything in the corporate world is that he is in charge of a war. The other difference is that President Obama has embraced a team-of-rivals strategy throughout his presidency. He wants the best-of-the-best, even if they disagree. He would undoubtedly prefer that these disagreements not be aired in such a petty way on the national stage, but that is the risk a leader takes when he decides not to surround himself with ‘yes men.’
“The fact that Obama has not fired General McChrystal already is evidence of the measured approach he takes to problem solving. His calling for a face-to-face meeting demonstrates the graveness of the situation, but Obama does not seem like one who would make a decision about the leadership of a war because he may feel personally slighted,” Challenger continued.
“If General McChyrstal is removed from his position today by President Obama, it will not be because of his comments. If he believes that General McChyrstal is still the best person to manage the war in Afghanistan, then his job will be safe, regardless of any flip comments made in public.”
The idea that an employee needs to be liked by his employer is echoed far and wide by career counselors and executive advisors. It is not to say, that your superior must be your “buddy” or even someone with whom you would invite over to your home. Rather, when we say, “make sure you are well-liked,” we’re suggesting that you put some of the following into practice:
1) Be polite and responsive to your employers’ requests. Obviously, you should be practicing good manners in the work place. A “good morning” or “how are you” does, in fact, go a long way. Additionally, when you are asked to complete assignments, or even asked to take on a special project, you do it in a timely, polite manner.
2) You do not need to come right out and ask if you are well-liked. In addition to being “well-liked,” Challenger advises that you make sure you have adequate “face time” with your employer – make sure they know who you are and what you are contributing to the company. Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to schedule 10 minutes or so every six months to discuss your workload and performance with your boss – not to be confused with already scheduled performance reviews – this would be more of an informal discussion. Let your employers know what you are doing.
3) In several industries, having projects determines whether or not you keep your job (i.e. manufacturing, engineering, advertising, direct sales, etc.) In addition to getting that face time, let your employer know that you are interested in going above and beyond. This is not sucking up, it is taking an active interest in advancing not only your career, but also the interests of the company.
These tips should aid job seekers, and those who already have positions in addressing career moves. Thanks!
HEALTH CARE REFORM COULD CREATE NEW JOBS
The health care sector has been one of the few bright spots in this otherwise depressed job market. Over the past 12 months, health care employment has grown by nearly 300,000 workers, while most other sectors continue to shed jobs. As the debate over health care reform rages on across the country, few have examined what the proposed changes will mean for job creation. Part of the problem with attempting to determine how health care reform will impact employment is that no one knows what the final legislation will contain. However, if the bill that passes accomplishes one of the primary goals of reform, which is to get the millions of uninsured some type of health coverage, then we are most likely going to see a rise in the demand and use of health care services. This, in turn, will increase the need for more health care workers, particularly those specializing in preventive care and long-term care. What are the pros and cons regarding health care reform when it comes to small business? Which health care occupations could see the biggest boom from health care reform? FANTASY FOOTBALL’S IMPACT ON WORK PRODUCTIVITY
With the NFL season opening games less than two weeks away, Fantasy Football participants across the country are finalizing their draft picks and preparing for 17 weeks of point tracking, roster shuffling and player trades. With many Fantasy Footballers using their workplace Internet to research players and make mid-week team moves, what will the impact be on office productivity? Should employers be worried or should they find a way to embrace the growing popularity of Fantasy Football and use it as a morale- and camaraderie-building activity? DISNEY BUYS MARVEL COMICS
On the surface today’s announced merger between Disney and Marvel Comics appears to be a win-win for all parties. And it may indeed prove to be one, as Disney is able to benefit from increasingly successful comic book franchises, while Marvel obtains the unparalleled marketing strength of Disney. However, one challenge could be difficult to overcome: the task of combining what are likely to be highly divergent cultures of the two corporations. The clash of corporate cultures has been a contributing factor in many mergers that failed to deliver on expectations, including the ill-fated marriage between Time-Warner and AOL. How do companies decide if they are a good fit for each other? Are job cuts likely to follow the closing of the merger? What should employees of both companies be doing now and after the merger to increase job security?