Thursday, December 4, 2008
But we can turn this upside down and ask what constitutes a good employee? You say you demand a better definition than “A good employee is someone who is not a bad employee.” Well, I’ll take a shot.
A good employee is one who is not disruptive. Not good enough? You say you want something more proactive? How about this, a good employee is a person who is slow to judge, who sees the world in gray rather than black and white, and has genuine concern for one’s fellow man.
In sum, a good employee is a person who is decidedly disinclined to say, “I am doing this for your own good.” See www.workplaceattitudes.com
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I am sure that he regards the Catholic Church as the First Church of the Perpetual Second Chance, Mormons as purveyors of bullet-proof underwear, Protestants as snake charmers, and other forms of religion as delusional. Bill, in the name of rationality you are a bit extreme. It seems to me that this is a little like the Pyrrhic skeptic who says, “I can know nothing,” and when asked “How do you know?” he replies “I don’t.”
It is for the foregoing sentiments that I didn’t like “Religulous.” Too many straw men and it seemed too easy. Goldwater said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” I suspect Goldwater’s motives. Bill, I am sure you are pure of heart, but extremism in the defense of doubt is a vice because it is another form of intolerance.
I am reminded of the joke about the patient who goes to the doctor and is told that he is overweight. The patient says “I’d like a second opinion” and the doctor says ok, “You’re an idiot.”
I admit I may have my doubts about the talking snake, Jonah and the whale, and Noah and the flood. In fact I may be best described as an agnostic with foxhole reservations (there are no atheists in foxholes). Still I don’t think that agnosticism and certitude, even about doubt, make a good platform. It’s like saying, I am not sure and you can’t be sure so you’re wrong.
Shoot down the zealots to your heart’s content but give a little credit to Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer. You can call them self-deluded do-gooders but they still did a lot of good.
P.S. Bill, I still like you. For more on intolerance see http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I must admit that I feel a little guilty testing people at the lower levels for “good workplace attitudes.” How many people with good attitudes worked for Enron and Merrill Lynch? I bet it was plenty, in fact the vast majority. It only took those at the top to bring the others down. Sure there are jerks everywhere, but I’m not so sure that the crème rises to the top. What rises to the top seems to be more a matter of what a skimmer removes at a sewage treatment facility.
I know, in times such as these it is easy to be cynical. I wish it was as easy as the scenario in the movie “Network” where Peter Finch encourages us to go to the window and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” What then? The movie doesn’t say.
The Workplace Attitudes Test suggests that about one in twenty workers is a jerk. But there is another phenomna going on here. Jerks tend to congregate together and at all levels there is a tendency to ignore the rules. A lower-level jerk can be a pain in the butt to those around them, and jerks at the highest levels can cause untold damage, but the lesson is to ferret out jerks at all levels and don’t hire them. Hey, corporate boards don’t tolerate them. Government regulators, regulate them. Legislators, remember what Madison said about men (and women) not being angels and pass the appropriate legislation. Rules and consideration for one’s fellow man should apply to everyone. Maybe, the Workplace Attitudes Test should be considered a candle in the darkness. See, www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Yes, the Workplace Attitudes Test will help you keep jerks out of the workplace but short of a revolution, what do we do about psychopathic executives and irresponsible regulators? Frankly, I just don’t know. See www.workplaceattitudes.com if you would like to foster an island of sanity in a sea of deep do do.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Our statistics show that about one in twenty hires is a bad one. That’s about five percent. Now I know you may think that the following quote could apply to me: "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts, for support rather than illumination." Andrew Lang (1844-1912) But I say unto you, as Johnny Carson said to Ed McMahon, “Wrong moose breath!” It really is about five percent.
Plus I’m not saying this as a perception thing. Like George Carlin observed, “Have you ever wondered why everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, and everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot?” It’s really is about five percent.
Yes, about one in twenty potential employees has an attitude problem. How many times have you had thoughts like this: "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." (Clarence Darrow) Or along the same line, consider this quote from Mark Twain, "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
Now, at least in the workplace, you don’t have to have these sentiments. You can screen out these people before nature does it for you. See: www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Sure Einstein probably didn’t read self-help books, but he had the intellectual tools to begin with. The rest of us probably could use the boost. Now, you have probably noticed that I have ended several sentences with a preposition. That reminds me of the old joke about the tourist who visits Harvard and asks “Excuse me sir, but could you please tell me where the library is at?” The Harvard man replies, “We at Harvard do not end a sentence with a preposition.” The tourist says, “Oh, I’m sorry, could you tell me where the library is at, asshole?” Why do I think that people who don’t end sentences with a preposition tend not to read self-help books? For more on attitude see: www.workplaceattitudes.com
Monday, July 7, 2008
I recently ran across a short story called “Carta a Dios” (1940) by the Mexican writer Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes (For those readers who are conversant in Spanish please place the missing accents where they belong.) This charming vignette illustrates a fundamental fact about human nature, i.e. if you know what someone takes for granted or what they accept to be true without question, you know that which is most important about them. Some of you cynics out there will note that this story also shows that “No good deed goes unpunished.”
But on with the story. Our protagonist is a dirt-poor peasant named “Lencho.” The scene: a small house on a hill near a river, a corral, and a small field of corn and beans soon ready for harvest but in need of rain. Lencho’s wife calls her husband, their two sons from the fields, and their youngest boy from nearby to a simple dinner.
Conversation turns to the weather and the clouds descending from the northeast that promise rain. Lencho asserts “Soon it is going to rain” and his wife adds, “God willing.” And so it rains, the harvest is good, and Lencho and his family live happily ever after. Not really!
Instead it hails, the leaves are stripped off the trees, the land is covered with salt-like crystals of ice, the crop is ruined and the family is devastated. No one can help Lencho and his family and they are destined to starve the following year. But Lencho is a man of faith and asserts, “Surely, God will not let us starve.”
Although Lencho has worked like a beast of burden all his life, somehow he has learned to write and so he decides to write a letter to God. He writes, “God, if you do not help, we will die of hunger this coming year. I need one hundred pesos to plant another crop and to live until the harvest comes in.”
Lencho puts his letter in an envelope, addresses it to “God,” goes to the post office, buys a stamp and puts it into the mailbox. Sometime later a postal employee sees the letter, opens it and chuckles. He shows it to his supervisor who shares the mirth and then becomes serious. He says, “Such simple faith is such a beautiful thing to see. We cannot disillusion a man of such faith.” And so the supervisor takes part of his paycheck and asks his fellow employees and their friends for contributions.
Although they cannot collect all of the one hundred pesos they are able to enclose sixty. They put the money in an envelope with Lencho’s name on it. Lencho arrives a few days later and asks if there is a letter for him. He exhibits not the least surprise when he is told yes. Ah, such faith.
Lencho opens the envelope, counts the money and becomes infuriated. He goes to the post office window, asks for paper and pen, and writes the following, “God, the money that I asked for arrived in my hands with only sixty pesos. Send the rest because it is much needed, but don’t send it to this post office because all of the employees who work here are crooks. Lencho.”
Should you want to learn more about human nature, see www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Fiona Smith was very nice (I hope you read this Fiona) and was writing about some companies in the Australian workplace where jerks and bullies are less tolerated than they used to be. Her article is entitled “Now be nice – there’s no place for bullies” and it is in The Australian Financial Review, June 17, 2008. She starts her article by saying, “At Arup Australasia, there is a ‘no dickheads’ policy. If you can’t treat others with respect, you won’t be tolerated.”
She is quoting the managing director of this engineering consulting firm, Robert Care. Robert, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The article goes on to cite examples of intolerance for intolerance, or as the fine folks down under might say “We are not going to dick around with dickheads.”
Then Fiona went on to describe how to identify these people and she got to me - well, what I mean is she got to my Workplace Attitudes Test. The following four paragraphs are from her article.
“There are many consultancies offering psychological testing to make sure that new recruits will fit into the culture of their new employer, but one company in the U.S. is selling a test specifically targeted at weeding out jerks.
The president of Allegiance Research Group, Dale Paulson, says his Workplace Attitudes Test has not yet been picked up by the big corporations – ‘HR people are not as receptive’ – but is proving popular with small businesses, franchises, associations, and even a policy academy.
‘About ninety percent of problems come from ten percent of employees – people who have chips on their shoulders’ he says. The 45 question test, developed nine years ago, is very effective at the lower levels of the organization and for supervisors, he says, but, realistically, is unlikely to be used at the top of the organization. ‘If you are making ten million dollars you get to be a jerk’ he says.
But wouldn’t people with a history of difficulty working with others be tempted to lie about their attitudes in a test? ‘No, they are actually proud of their attitudes. They come in and say things like, ‘it’s a dog eat dog world,’ ‘you can’t trust anyone,’ and, ‘if you step on my toes and you don’t apologize you are going to get broken toes.’ he says.”
And so folks, I’m here to tell you that in addition to shrimp on the barbie and Foster’s beer, there are jerks in Australia, except they are generally referred to as “dickheads.” See http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Vindictive people are quite proud of their assumptions. They tend to agree with these types of statements: “If someone insults me, I remember it for a very long time,” “Don’t get mad, get even,” and “I’m the wrong person to cross.” Vindictive people tend to be mad most of the time.
I’ve been told that they get more ulcers, have higher blood pressure and tend to have more heart attacks. I have even read somewhere that evolution hasn’t had enough time to eliminate these types of people. In the meantime you might want to avoid hiring them by visiting www.workplaceattitudes.com
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Entitlement is an interesting value and it has, on occasion, been a source of humor. I am reminded of Woody Allen’s lament, “Oh Lord if you could only give me a sign—like putting 10 million dollars in a Swiss bank account in my name.” Or the story of a man named Joseph who prayed every day for thirty years to win the lottery. One day on a hilltop he beseeched God “God, why have you not honored my prayer? I attend church every week, I tithe, I am good to my family and my fellow man and yet you don’t honor my prayer.” And God spoke to Joseph, “So Joseph, buy a ticket.”
Why do we find this so funny? I think that it is because we all feel entitled to some degree. But like the other values measured in the Workplace Attitudes Test, values that are extreme and inflexible cause problems.
Recently there has been a lot of buzz about generational differences concerning entitlement. It has been argued that when you raise children where everyone gets a trophy, you area fostering entitlement. A recent generation has been labeled the “Me Generation.” The proportion of people from different generations may differ on a variety of values, but I caution you to remember that entitlement is an individual characteristic. We hire individuals not generations. This is where skilled interviewing and a good pre-employment test will help. See: http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Friday, June 6, 2008
I think that the WAT test works for some very simple reasons: it has a limited objective; it is based on understanding values from the right cohort; people are fairly open about their beliefs and values and extreme or disruptive behavior results from holding certain values in the extreme. Let’s look at each point.
WAT’s limited objective. When I set out to develop the WAT I sought to answer a simple question. Do disruptive workers share certain identifiable attitudes? I made the assumption that the workplace is almost always a social environment and I wanted to understand individuals who do not get along well with others. This is much easier than trying to understand personality or trying to match people to a certain type of job. Personality has many components and jobs can be done in a variety of ways but there appears to be a limited number of ways to be disruptive in the workplace.
The right cohort. A cohort is simply a group of people that share some characteristic. I refer to them as turkeys or jerks. Fortunately they’re not hard to find and they tend not to be bashful. Part of my research included going to supervisors in various types of organizations and asking if it would be possible to interview some present or past employees about their work-related beliefs and attitudes. I didn’t say I was looking for jerks and I interviewed all kinds of employees but, in truth, it was a turkey hunt. I correlated problem employees with many variables such as job-hopping, negative work experiences, dislike of work in general, involvement in law suits, etc. As you may appreciate, it is not hard to find problem employees.
Beliefs and Values. Short of saying, “Yes I am a jerk,” turkeys or jerks are quite willing to talk about their beliefs and values. Often this is to amplify their low opinion of others. You’ve heard of the term “a people person,” well these are “anti-people persons.” Where Will Rogers said he never met a person he didn’t like, these individuals almost never met people that they do like. I am reminded of the pundit who said, “I love humanity, it’s people I don’t like,”
Now to understand values one must ask open-ended questions. This is much like the jury-consultant approach. They ask questions like, “What do you think of the justice system?” This is followed up with such questions as “Why do you think that?” or “Why do you feel that way?” Now, I’m not going to go into the exhaustive set of questions that I asked jerks and non-jerks but I am going to tell you about some of their answers and attitudes.
Here are some of the scintillating insights found in their answers. “Most people are stupid.” “You can’t trust anybody.” “My boss is so stupid, he couldn’t find his ass with both hands.” “I spend my nights lying awake thinking of ways to get even.” “Work sucks but you have to do it.” “I never get a break.” “I should be making more money.” And one of my favorites, “Step on my toes and forget to apologize and I’ll kick your ass—I don’t care who you are.” I was wise enough not to suggest steel-toed shoes for the last one. I could go on, but you get the idea. Next let’s look at some of the attitudes that underlie these sentiments. To name a few, the problem attitudes include judgmental, vindictive, adversarial, egocentric and entitled.
Extreme values. I found a strong correlation between disruptive behavior and holding the above mentioned values in the extreme. For each value, five test questions were developed. Each question had three options, one weak, one moderate and one strong. For example, for the judgmental attitude the following question is an example:
When I feel I have been treated unjustly …
* I will do whatever is necessary to defend my rights.
* I seldom feel I have been treated unfairly.
* I probably should do more but oftentimes just let it go.
It is only when the respondent answers four of five questions like this it is deemed that they hold that attitude in the extreme.
Respondents have strong (belief-related) rationales for their extreme answers and these extremes are strongly related to disruptive behavior. This test works because people tend to be proud of their values and they use those values to justify their behavior. Although job candidates may not reveal this information in a job interview, they are willing to express themselves in the test.
There you have it. The WAT works because it doesn’t try to do too much, it is based upon understanding the right people, they are willing to reveal their beliefs if given the chance, and strongly held disruptive values are related to disruptive behavior in the workplace See: www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Friday, May 23, 2008
This allows the critic to take a position of moral superiority and yet not offer anything of value. I am often amazed how often people put up with this sort of jerkdom. Someone offers a good solution and our jerk takes the opportunity to raise their eyebrow, dip their chin and say, “It’s not perfect and I can’t agree.” Most often we as an audience say “Gee, I guess you could be right.”
This is a subtle form of jerkiness, and I think it may hide an inferiority complex. I suppose I should be more sympathetic but I choose a tranquil workplace over psychological tolerance. I am reminded of an episode of “MASH” where psychiatrist Sidney Freedman described Frank Burns and his problems by saying, “He is such a walking sack of fertilizer that it is hard to care.” Now I’m not totally unsympathetic. For example I would probably chastise the wag who said of someone with an inferiority complex, “It’s not a complex.”
Each of us must decide to what extent jerk behavior should be tolerated, but all of it has its cost. See http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I called Oscar wise because he was always right. I think it had something to do with understanding the importance of attitude. See: www.workplaceattitudes.com
Saturday, May 17, 2008
In terms of definition, I suggest that jerk behavior involves the abuse of other people, particularly subordinates. But why not throw this open to people in their workplaces and let them provide definitions? Workers are perfectly able to define behavior that should not be tolerated. I suggest jerk-defining focus groups.
Now, how about the libertarian argument that we shouldn’t regulate behavior? Well we do regulate behavior. Duels such as the one between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton are quite effectively banned these days. Also, there are very few gun fights like in the old west. We reframed the issue and said that consensual duels and six-gun face-offs are not self-defense or a matter of honor. We decided to call it murder.
However, even if we define jerk behavior to specific work environments, one major problem remains. How do we identify jerk behavior when it occurs? I suggest anonymous jerk de-merits.
For example, let’s give every employee 100 anonymous de-merit points each month to spend on anyone who has acted like a jerk. Each employee would make a list of people that they interact with and they could assign de-merits in any amount to anyone on that list. Totals would come in at the end of each month.
Should the cumulative list be public? I’m not sure. Should you take action against those who get consistently high scores? Good question. All I am saying here is that it is possible to define jerk behavior and it is possible to identify it.
It is best not to hire jerks in the first place, but if you have them in the workplace you need to decide what you can do about it. See: www.workplaceattitudes.com
Friday, May 16, 2008
This is very similar to the premise of the Workplace Attitudes Test (WAT)--if you want specific information you have to ask specific questions. The WAT seeks information about bad attitudes in the workplace. Then I asked clients, “What do you like about the Workplace Attitudes Test?” “What problems has it solved for you?” and “What changes would you like to see?” Here are some of the answers:
“I used the WAT on about ten new hires because I decided that I didn’t need it. I hired the next ten on my own. After a sexual harassment suit that was settled out of court, I’m back to using the WAT. Would this have made a difference? Probably. You see, I tested my hires after they were on the job. Two of them showed high warning signals. I don’t know why Dr. Paulson lowered he price.”
Manager, Lawn Service
“We promoted a clean freak perfectionist for our fabric and sewing store, thinking that this was a good thing. There are no fabric remnants on the floor but some of our best sales clerks have quit and customer complaints are rampant. From now on I’ll be using the Workplace Attitudes test for promoting supervisors as well as new hires.”
Fabric Store Manager
“Given the (Often hidden) cost of jerks why wouldn’t you use a pre-employment bad-attitude screener?”
Manager, Fast Food Franchise
“With a money back guarantee, it’s a no-brainer”
“If you think that this test is better than just an interview, you’re a better interviewer that me.”
Locksmith Store Owner
“I my opinion, HR keep a lot of good people from getting the job; the WAT keeps bad-attitude people from getting the job.”
Department Store Manager
“If you don’t want to ask someone “Are you an asshole,” you should use this test."
Honcho at a Motor Scooter Store
“Some people are proud to be jerks; others hid it during the interview. Now you can catch them in the act.”
“This (the WAT) is not a psychological test, it simply tells you if the person you are considering can get along with others. You need this information.”
“If you could send your candidate to boot camp like the military, you wouldn’t need this test. But then again maybe you would because some recruits wash out.”
A Retired Army Sergeant
“Dr. Paulson, why would you lower the price when you save someone so much money by helping your clients avoid turkeys?”
"We wanted someone who would enforce the rules and yet would get along with people. The WAT help us find the right person."
Manager, at a Marina
“You can’t believe the number of jerks out there. I interview a lot of kids. Some pampered and spoiled. The WAT screener makes my job much easier. At an amusement park you want patient and polite employees. Believe me this separates the wheat from shaft.”
Manager at an Amusement Park
“Wow, this thing (the WAT) couldn’t be easier, one score and a bar graph. No warning signals, no problem.”
VP, Department Store
“One less thing to worry about.”
Hardware Store Manager
“$49 bucks, you’re kidding me? (I mean this in a good way.)"
Supervisor, Boat Supply Store
“I haven’t tried other tests and probably won’t. This works. Thanks.”
Tour Company Director
“By keeping it simple and concentrating on bad attitudes, this thing really works.”
Admissions Director, Community College
“Believe me, there are bad apples out there and this test keeps them out of your barrel.”
Owner, Auto Shop
Now to be honest, two people didn’t like the Workplace Attitudes Test but I didn’t include their comments because these two turkeys are jerks. See http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Now there is good self-esteem and bad self-esteem. The self-esteem goodnicks were less likely to be verbally defensive by blaming others or providing excuses when discussing past transgressions or threatening experiences. The baddies were more verbally defensive. The professor sums up, “These findings support the view that (high self-esteem involving) heightened defensiveness reflects insecurity, fragility and less-than-optimal functioning rather than a healthy psychological outlook”
My conclusion, self-esteem probably is not a great predictor of job performance and HR professionals should probably stay out of the psychoanalytic business. I think that this is true of pre-employment tests as well. A good pre-employment test should be related to the job environment and not one’s personality.
The Workplace Attitudes Test makes the following assumptions: 1) the workplace is a social environment; 2) people should get along with each other; 3) people with bad attitudes don’t play well with others; 4) certain work-related attitudes pre-dispose people to act in certain ways; 5) workplace attitudes can be measured; 6) disruptive people, often described as jerks, have problem workplace attitudes; and 7) jerks, identified by behavior or consensus, are happy to reveal all of their workplace attitudes because they are proud of those attitudes.
The Workplace Attitudes Test works not because it is psychoanalytic, but because it looks at attitudes related to social aspects of the workplace. See, www.workplaceattitudes.com
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
About eighty percent of the comments tended to agree that jerks are costly and that HR should do its part to bring tranquility to the workplace. However, about twenty percent of the comments demonstrated a fair amount of tolerance for jerks.
One comment asked (in Latin) who is going to watch the watchers. My Latin is non-existent so to add insult to injury, I had to look up the quote on Wikipedia. Another person said that “One man’s victim is another man’s whiner.” Someone else said “The purpose of HR is to serve as a protective device. Make sure everything is legal, fair and compliant and quash anything likely to result in litigation. When you are done with all that then by all means, you may devote a few minutes per day to your Utopian ideals on human potential.”
Others have suggested that jerks are necessary to shake things up and to keep people on their toes and that if someone is really good at their job then jerkiness should be tolerated.
There you have it, some justifications for tolerating jerks in the workplace: (1) who has the right to judge; (2) their victims may just be whiners; (3) the anti-jerk idea is utopian; (4) people need jerks to motivate them; and (5) and some jerks are so important that we need to tolerate them.
This is an old debate, but I agree with James Madison’s sentiments when he said, “If men were angels, government wouldn’t be necessary.” In other words, certain actions should be taken to guard against the worst instincts of some people. Even gun rights advocates tend to agree that hand-grenades and bazookas should be regulated. I’ll grant that some people would disagree, but they are jerks. See http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Creativity may involve confrontation and the challenge of ideas but it cannot tolerate personal attack. Let’s look at the process of creativity to see why this is so. Some years ago I wrote a paper on creativity and group dynamics and I noted that there is a difference between renovation and innovation. Renovation involves the modification or improvement of something that already exists, whereas innovation involves the development of something new. I suggest that renovation can be strangled by jerks but innovation is stopped dead in its tracks.
Renovation is hampered by jerks because they tend to personalize critiques and this discourages suggestions. Innovation is stifled because this type of creativity requires some very special conditions that are antithetical to jerk behavior.
What are the conditions of creativity? I suggest the creativity requires: 1) persistent determination to solve the problem; 2) willingness to expand the boundaries of the problem; 3) willingness to consider multiple possibilities; and 4) respect for something I call the “gestalt.”
The persistent determination to solve the problem is somewhat self-explanatory. It involves a willingness to think about a problem and to learn as much as possible about things related to the problem. In short, it is strong curiosity. It is also lack of certitude, and jerks tend to be blessed by certitude. I am reminded of the quote by Bertrand Russell, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people are so full of doubts.”
A willingness to expand the boundaries of the problem is another form of
open-mindedness. If the problem is faster communication, then breeding faster horses for the pony express is not as good as working on the telegraph. In fact, sometimes creative innovation finds a solution to a problem that you didn’t know existed. The Walkman and the Ipod come to mind. Again jerks get in the way. Steve Jobs appears to be an exception because some people think he is a jerk ( “The No Asshole Rule” book written by Robert Sutton, Ph.D.), but a creative one. I contend that he is a genius first and a jerk second. He would probably do even better if he were less of a jerk.
Willingness to consider multiple possibilities is a process where ideas need to be evaluated without regard to status or personality. I recall a story of a group of executives trying to solve the problem of long wait times at elevators at a busy hotel. There were many complaints. They finally decided it was necessary to tear out several hotel rooms to make way for more elevators. The lady cleaning the room and emptying the ashtrays muttered that she thought that this was silly. One of the executives was smart enough to ask her why she thought it was silly. She said, “Well at the last place I worked they had the same problem. They installed mirrors on each side of the elevators and people were so busy looking at themselves that they forgot about the wait time. The complaints stopped.” If the executive was a jerk, I suspect that he would not have asked the advice of a mere “cleaning lady.”
Finally, respect for the gestalt. This is a little more difficult to explain but many scientists suggest that oftentimes their pre-occupation with a problem is rewarded with a sudden solution to their problem. It springs full-blown into their mind. Oftentimes in the shower or at night. These insights must be respected and they seem to be the result of patient
open-mindedness. Again, jerks seem to be excluded from this process. Maybe you want to make your workplace more creative, see www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Mean stupid is where, upon hearing that a kid was hit by a car in the street, someone says “Well if he didn’t want to be hit, he shouldn’t have been playing in the street.” Benign stupid is where, upon learning that Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, someone says “Wow, what are the chances of that?”
This is similar to the distinction between “states” and “traits” drawn by Dr. Robert Sutton in his book, “The Asshole Rule.” He notes that psychologists indicate that “states” are fleeting feelings, thoughts, and actions whereas “traits” are enduring personality characteristics. States are often related to circumstances, and traits are related to beliefs and attitudes.
Beliefs and attitudes are the lenses through which a person sees and interprets their world. The Workplace Attitudes Test is based upon research linking identifiable beliefs and attitudes with the consistent behavior of jerks and turkeys in the workplace.
In short, jerks and turkeys act the way that they do because they have certain beliefs and attitudes that determine their behavior. They tend to see the world in a way that justifies their actions. We all have subjective lenses (beliefs and attitudes) through which we see our world -- as Bertrand Russell, British author, mathematician and philosopher, is reputed to have said “There is not one world, but as many worlds as there are people in it.”
My research related to the Workplace Attitudes Test shows that jerks and turkeys see their world as a place of hostility, a place of winners and losers, and a place where courtesy and consideration have little value. Jerks and turkeys are often able to “play-act” their way through a job interview but once they have the job their negative beliefs and attitudes usually direct their behavior.
Fortunately, the Workplace Attitudes Test lets us see the lens through which they see their world. See www.workplaceattitudes.com
Saturday, April 5, 2008
When it comes to jerks, I am reminded of that cartoon about two guys standing in a pot surrounded by cannibals. The caption reads “It doesn’t help to add more salt once you’ve crapped in the soup.”
Why do I bring this up? Well, I’ve been reading some blogs lately that say that one jerk in the workplace may be a good thing. The argument goes that some people are indispensable, that it is impossible to find enough reasonable people, and that one jerk will help keep everyone else on their toes.
There is an interesting book called The "No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t," written by Robert Sutton a professor at the Stanford School of Engineering and the founder and co-director of Stanford’s Center for work. He points out that there is a calculated “total cost of assholes” and it is surprisingly high, plus it is almost impossible to enforce a civility rule with one asshole (or jerk) in the workplace.
I have often wondered why there is such great tolerance for jerks. I think one of the reasons is that a lot of jerks have money and we have an almost irrational appreciation for conspicuous consumption. We tend to forgive people with wealth and give them credit for virtues that are conspicuously lacking. They also tend to like the attention and they get a lot of press. For every Warren Buffet, a reasonable man, there seems to be ten Donald Trumps. I like to refer to this as the jerk or asshole halo effect.
But let’s look a little closer at the behavior of the office jerk. Mark I. Schickman, in his review of the aforementioned book, says that jerks “take credit for other people’s work. They manage expectations by making employees feel bad about themselves. They have the laser-like ability to find the weakest, most insecure people and focus their aggression on them. The symptomatic behaviors include insults, threats, teasing, shaming and ostracizing.” http://hrheroblogs.com/resources/2008/02/06/the-no-asshole-rule-building-a-civilized-workplace-and-surviving-one-that-isnt
Do you want to have even one jerk in your workplace? Shouldn’t it be a primary function of bosses and HR to keep these people away from the rest of us? I am reminded of the Tylenol scare of a few years ago. Some nut was putting poison in Tylenol. It would have been unthinkable to say it was only a few poison capsules in millions and millions of bottles. Come on folks, end the suffering. Screen for jerks and assholes. See http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I lean towards the second tinker’s dam definition. Albeit, why would I say that the guarantee, for the Workplace Attitude Test (WAT), is worthless? The WAT test is designed to ensure that you don’t hire a person with a bad attitude in the workplace. Presumably, if you are asking for your money back you have hired a “turkey.” This puts you in a bit of a sticky wicket which is defined as a difficult situation.
(A wicket is the playing surface used in cricket. It is a direct allusion to the difficulty of playing on a wet and sticky pitch. www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/334550.html)
Overall, you’ve hired the wrong person and a few dollars back from us isn’t going to help you much. Fortunately, the Workplace Attitudes Test works well and no one has every asked for their money back.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
This area attracts a lot of Americans and Canadians, and Canadians never tire of telling you, “We are just like Americans except that we are unarmed and we have health insurance.” After hearing this several times one sometimes wishes to be armed.
For me this looks like the land of hammocks and margaritas and naptime. It appears that one of the most pressing questions should be “prone or supine?” Imagine my surprise when one of the local American business people expressed interest in my Workplace Attitudes Test. It appears that everywhere there are people who will take advantage of the system and create problems for employers.
In Mexico the system decidedly favors the worker. Add to this the fact that some Americans have difficulty believing that other countries are not like the U.S. and you have a cauldron of misunderstanding.
In Mexico employers, including and maybe especially North American employers, have certain obligations to their employees even if part-time. This is probably as it should be but it includes maids and gardeners and others that we might consider self-employed, contract labor, or hired as part of a larger maid service or landscaping company, etc. The wages are low but when you hire someone, in many ways you take responsibility for them. You will be expected to pay for some vacation time and possibly other obligations such as payment into a retirement account or keeping them employed while you travel for a few months. In others words, they expect a certain amount of security. Loyalty cuts both ways and the system works well if both parties act in good faith.
One of the big problems is getting rid of someone with a bad attitude or someone who does not do the job. Most Mexicans work very hard for what we would consider very little money. Albeit, there are turkeys everywhere and woe be it to the Gringo employer who does not follow correct procedures when firing someone.
As I understand it, in Mexico there is something that is called a “Denuncio” where an aggrieved party goes to the local police station or City Hall to file a complaint. This is probably a little like a scene from the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is told “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” Now you get to experience the legal system in a foreign country. Most people simple settle and this can be thousands of dollars. I heard a few stories about having to pay $25,000. This may explain the interest in the Workplace Attitudes Test in a village in Mexico.
At this point, please note that the Workplace Attitudes Test has not been tested or validated for use in a non-English-speaking foreign country. It should work, but I am not sure. I do know that there are plenty of turkeys to look for in the United States. So if you want to know more about the best darn bad attitude test available, please see www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I suppose a speed bump is where you hire someone, put them on probation and get rid of them after a week or so. They may have missed work, come in late, been rude to customers, but you caught it early and the rest of the staff or you picked up the slack and not too much damage was done.
A pothole would be where the morale of fellow workers was affected, some customers were lost, and it was difficult to get rid of them. Examples of this from previous blog entries are “Jack is Back or What Happened When I Hired and Embezzler”, (that one cost $14,000) or “People Can Seem So Darn Nice,” (where it took a year to get rid of a drama queen) or “A Tale of Two Employees,” (where one employee averted a serious problem and another lost customers for a movie rental store).
The land mine is best described by Lester Rosen in Kennedy Information Recruiting Trends in his article “Recruiting Russian Roulette.” http://www.esrcheck.com/ He writes, “It’s a sobering thought, but every time a recruiting professional makes a placement, there is the possibility that a new hire can put him out of business.”
I am reminded of the old Flip Wilson comedy routine that parodied an old radio show when he said, “Who knows what evil lurk in the minds of men? The devil do honey!”
Is it that bad? According to Lester Rosen it is! To quote Mr. Rosen, “Industry statistics suggest that up to 10% of applicants can have criminal records. Fraudulent misrepresentations as to education and employment occur in as much as 40% of the time according to some studies.”
Mr. Rosen points out staffing professionals are particularly vulnerable to “Negligent Hiring” law suits. He goes on to say, “A staffing professional would need to show whether credentials and education were verified, whether past employment was checked, and whether a criminal background check was done.”
I couldn’t agree more but, in fact, everyone who is involved in hiring is vulnerable. Even if the dangers were only a speed bump careful hiring is important. Now the Workplace Attitudes Test is only a part of the puzzle. It does not replace a good interview or a good background check. It does, however, focus on the identification of bad attitudes and it helps you identify some applicants that you may want to eliminate early. See http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
You are about to enter a new era of employee selection. This is truly a breakthrough. Now for the first time you can understand the values that motivate potential employees. When selecting new hires you can avoid the landmines while you pick the cherries.
Without getting too complicated, we analyze workplace attitudes to predict likely behavior.
Wouldn’t you like to avoid potential employees who may sue you or your company?
How about identifying gadflies who would rather socialize than work?
Maybe you would like to know about people who are likely to be hostile to your customers or clients?
Conversely, how would you like to find people who are grateful to have a job, who are willing to put in extra effort, and who are team players?
Now you can.
All you need to do is have job candidates take the Workplace Attitudes Test which consists of forty-five questions, and we will evaluate it for you. You then receive a bar chart that describes the individual’s relevant workplace values and an overall score that tells you how likely they are to be disruptive in the work place. Remember, everyone is on their best behavior during the job interview. With the Workplace Attitudes Test you are in a position to hire good employees by avoiding bad ones. It makes you a better interviewer and applies to a variety of environments including business, non-profits, and the public sector.
Just because Ben Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird doesn’t mean that you have to hire one
This sums up the primary purpose of the Workplace Attitudes Test. Still, many companies have used it to evaluate and help existing employees. I used to think that this was a little like closing the barn door after the horses have escaped. After all, once a person has worked for your organization you should know who has problem attitudes.
Also, the test reports on bad attitudes and as mentioned these are difficult to discuss. For example, an interviewer might not want to say “I see here that you are quite judgmental” or “I note that you tend to be a bit vindictive.” Dale Carnegie who wrote “How to Win Friends and Influence People” would not approve.
You can have the information but you don’t need to state it in a negative way. Each attitude relevant to the workplace is not single dimension, rather it exists on a continuum. That is, each bad attitude that is related to “disruptive behavior” has a corresponding attitude that is related to “getting along with people.” Next, I will look at the nine attitudes to show you what I mean.
Judgmental versus Accepting
Vindictive versus Forgiving
Adversarial versus Accommodating
Egocentric versus People-Oriented
Entitled versus Unassuming
Undisciplined versus Self-Disciplined
Insubordinate versus Respectful
Risk-Inclined versus Cautious
Non-Traditional versus Traditional
Each of the “bad” or disruptive attitudes has a corresponding “good” of socially-skilled attitude. Note our research has shown that the bad attitudes are disruptive only when they are extreme.
When working with existing employees and when reporting the results to a job candidate, it is the positive attitudes that are reported. It is important for the interviewer to understand that extreme and negative attitudes are warning signals, but is better to report the results in a positive way.
Although, it is the primary goal of the Workplace Attitudes Test to screen out potentially disruptive employees it is also useful for matching people to different types of workplace environments and to help some employees perform their jobs better.
In terms of matching people to work environments, command-and-control workplaces such as the military or the Catholic Church will likely find that individuals with respect for tradition and a respect for authority tend to fit in better. Conversely, entrepreneurial or team-building organizations may not need as much respect for authority and tradition and would prosper with people who are more self-disciplined and people oriented.
In one instance, the Workplace Attitude Test helped a young supervisor work with older sales representatives. Joyce was in her late twenties and supervised six sales reps who were twice her age. She did a great job. All of her reports were done on time, her meetings were short and efficient all of her staff liked her, business was great and she was miserable.
She wasn’t sure why she was miserable and discussions with her boss didn’t help. The big boss wanted to keep her and gave her raises and more time off, but still she was miserable. At that time, the Workplace Attitudes Test was under development and the entire staff agreed to take the test. No one had warning signals but the test solved the mystery.
Joyce proved to be accepting, forgiving, accommodating, people-oriented, unassuming, self-discipline somewhat cautious and very traditional.
Joyce’s sales reps were, well, sales reps. They too had good people skills, but they had little respect for authority, were a bit undisciplined, and quite entitled.
In short, Joyce wanted to please people, and her sales reps tended to take advantage of her. She met everyone’s needs but her own.
I am reminded of a great quote from the movie, “Three Days of the Condor” when a young CIA agent asks a grizzled old veteran played by John Housman, “What do you miss about the old days (referring World War II)?” Houseman replied, “The clarity.”
Joyce finally had clarity and the story has a happy ending. Joyce got a private office and a gatekeeper secretary. The sales reps could no longer barge in and talk to her at anytime. They had to make an appointment, unless it was critical, and they received an incentive to get their reports on time.
Joyce regained her sanity and the organization kept a good supervisor. To learn more, see http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Monday, February 25, 2008
But this isn’t the only change in Norbert. It seems that he now thinks that bureaucrats can be quite fine people. He said that the people at the Social Security office were extremely nice, helpful, and efficient. They helped him track down missing documents, helped him fill out the forms, and were very supportive.
Why is it that there are so many people like Norbert who like to bash bureaucrats? Many seem to believe if we could only get rid of the “bureaucrats” life would be better. They also ask “Why do we need bureaucratic regulation?” I can think of a few reasons such as the savings and loan debacle, poison pet food from China, lead paint on children’s toys, tainted meat, and the recent mortgage meltdown. What do you think? Maybe we should keep some of the firefighters and police who protect our streets and the foresters who fight the forest fires.
I agree with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison when they wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” I wonder if I could design a politician’s version of the Workplace Attitudes Test.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Overall, it usually identifies someone who has difficulty getting along with others. I will explain how this is calculated after we look at the attitudes that are measured. My research has shown that all nine are relevant to getting along with others in the workplace
Judgmental versus accepting
Propensity to defend one's rights, a strong sense of right and wrong, may have a compulsion to intervene in a controversy.
Vindictive versus forgiving
Tends to keep track of obligations as well as perceived slights and insults, may
have the propensity to persist in the attempt to “correct” the situation.
Adversarial versus accommodating
Limited understanding of the needs and desires of other people and generally- accepted social obligations.
Egocentric versus people oriented
May be disinclined to assist fellow workers, limited obligation to customers, and a general unwillingness to make sacrifices for the good of the organization.
Entitled versus unassuming
May assume that they are not being rewarded sufficiently, tends to see work as an obligation rather than an opportunity, and may have a sense of entitlement.
Undisciplined versus self-disciplined
Limited commitment to finish projects without supervision.
Insubordinate versus respectful
Tends to doubt people in authority and the chain of command, may question that "rank has its privileges," oftentimes unwilling to seek help from a superior.
Risk-Inclined versus cautious
Generally unwilling to delay decisions in order to get more information, disinclined to check with others, and limited regard for record keeping.
Non-Traditional versus traditional
Oftentimes little desire to understand past events, rules and regulations, or work-related ceremonies.
Each of these attitudes can be assumed to exist on a continuum. For example, one’s attitude can go from very judgmental to very accepting. This is determined by asking five questions for each of the attitudes and providing three possible answers for each question. Here is an example of a judgmental question.
Q Overall . . . (select one answer)
1 Right is right and wrong is wrong and people should know the difference.
2 Rules should be enforced, but with some discretion.
3 Every situation is different and it is hard to apply universal rules.
For each question there is an extreme, average and moderate answer. In order to score high on the attitude being measured, the respondent must answer three extreme and at least two moderate answers. Our research has shown that extreme answers indicate strong negative attitudes that are not conducive to getting along with others.
It would seem to be quite difficult to achieve extreme scores but about one in twenty people do it. When they are interviewed concerning their answers, they tend to report that their answers accurately reflect their view of the world. This is, after all, what attitudes are defined to be. They are the filters through which we see the world. This reminds me of the Spanish expression “Cada cabeza es un mundo.” It translates to “each head is a world.” Our goal is understand those worlds so they don’t collide. I’ll have to admit that I might have carried this analogy too far, but if you really want to use your cabeza refer to http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
In an upcoming article I will discuss how to interpret the scores based on types of work environments.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Jack looked good, chiseled Grecian features, five-hundred dollar suits, alligator shoes and a really nice brief case. I hired him on a Friday and by the following Monday he had read all of our reports and promotional material and was quite well informed. Jack did a very good job and I was, frankly, impressed.
As I mentioned, there was very little opportunity to misappropriate funds. Our small research company did have an asset which would seem to have only moderate value. We had done some work for trade-out with a local airline. Trade-out is where a company receives sort of a promissory note that can be used for other services. This could include airline tickets, restaurant meals and hotel accommodations.
Soon Jack learned about our trade-out account and he came to me for a “small” favor. He said that he had a girl friend who had helped him when he needed a friend. When he was on probation, she had let him stay at her house. He said he would like to take her to a local ski resort for the weekend to reward her for her generous help.
I mean, how could I refuse? How much could one spend on a single weekend? The trade-out account had $14,000 in it, nevertheless Jack and his friend were able to have a $14,000 weekend. Of course, I didn’t know this until I tried to use the account and by that time, Jack had another job with a large advertising agency. Apparently, it is easier for a person with a job to find another job when he already has one. This is probably especially true for an embezzler. On the plus side, it did provide inspiration to develop the Workplace Attitudes Test. See www.workplaceattitudes.com. Now if I would have had the Workplace Attitudes Test, I suppose I could have still hired him. Nah, I’m not that dumb.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Later, I developed the Workplace Attitudes Test (WAT) and she agreed to take the test. The results showed that she is - well, a drama queen. She tested very high on entitled, undisciplined and insubordinate but what did I know? Now I consider the WAT the best darn bad-attitude screening device available today and Gloria deserves some of the credit for inspiring me to develop it.
Gloria did some part-time work for my company and then moved on when she found a full-time job. Gloria makes a good first impression because she has seemingly good social skills which are important in an interview. On the job, she is a disaster. She cannot focus because she prefers to socialize, and she quickly ignores the chain of command. She often fails to do her job or finish a project and always blames someone else. In other words, her survival skills are highly developed and she has a tendency to scapegoat people.
Supervising Gloria became a Herculean task for her new boss. Picture this, she was on several committees, interacted with almost everybody, especially the higher-ups and to her, work was party time. Several of her colleagues and her immediate boss became fed up with her but by then she had friends in all the right places.
It took over a year but after countless intrigue, much of it orchestrated by Gloria herself, she was finally encouraged to move on. And if you don’t want to fire someone like Gloria, you give her a good recommendation to make sure that she moves on. Did I mention that one of the people that Gloria befriended was the organization’s legal counsel? He thought a good recommendation might be wise. Of course, one can’t outright lie but everyone agreed that Gloria has great people skills. Take a look at www.workplaceattitudes.com and see what Gloria helped inspire.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Now assuming that we could be in for one big banana, how does this affect the hiring process? It would seem that with more people looking for work, good people would be easier to find.
Many job candidates in 2008 may be looking for a new position because they are facing serious financial problems, some may be facing foreclosure, and some may have less than excellent credit reports. A lot of times candidates are automatically disqualified because of their credit rating. The truth is that many people are in trouble because of circumstances, not irresponsibility. For example, it could be the housing meltdown, it could be a serious illness in their family, it could be that they started a business that didn’t work out. It is better to judge applicants not by their credit report but by their work-related attitudes.
Are they entitled versus unassuming?
Are they adversarial versus accommodating?
Are they egocentric versus people oriented?
Are they judgmental versus accepting?
Are they vindictive versus forgiving?
Are they insubordinate versus respectful?
Are they undisciplined versus self-disciplined?
Overall, there is not much good about a recession but there are tools to help the interviewer in these challenging times. The Workplace Attitudes Test looks at several of the attitudes listed above, and more. See: http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Now, as you may know, Blockbuster does not give you a receipt when you return a movie. It’s sort of “On the honor system” and one has to hope for the best. When I returned to the store I waited patiently while the solo employee finished a phone conversation on the merits of various ski resorts. I thought my patience would be rewarded with a modicum of empathy. After waiting at the cash register for a time, the employee looked at me with a trace of annoyance and asked “What can I do for you?” I explained that I had received a phone call saying that I had not returned a movie but that, in fact, I had. This explanation was rewarded by a blank stare and the words, “Your card.” This I immediately interpreted as meaning my Blockbuster card and I handed it over.
A quick swipe of the card into their computer system indicated that I must be a kleptomaniac with a tendency for mendacity. I was told “Our records show that the movie was not returned.” I said that I returned the movie a few days ago. He repeated, “Our records show that the movie was not returned.” It appeared that we were in a bit of a loop.
I asked, “Could you check the shelves?” He said, “You could.” After two minutes of frantic looking, I found the movie and brought it to the counter. In a moment of contrition only found in some prison cell blocks, the clerk said, “Lucky you.” The clerk then turned his back to make another phone call.
I would suspect this person would score quite high on more than one of the warning signals of the Workplace Attitudes Test. But I got to thinking, how much money does this type of employee cost Blockbusters?
In the future I don’t want this kind of surprise. I like to know what to expect. Unless they embrace truth in advertising and they change their name to Ballbusters, I won’t be back.
Now I’m not a very good movie rental customer. I usually rent a movie once a week but when I’m in the store I often buy a snack or something so I drop about six bucks. Multiply this by fifty and it adds up to about $300 a year. Not a lot of money but if it happens often it adds up for them.
Contrast this with another shopping experience. I was waiting in line at McDonalds to purchase and scarf down one of their vaulted chicken snacks when a rather disheveled octogenarian lady cut in front of me. She asked for a coke and the cash register rang up $1.06. She took out a shabby coin purse and counted out 76 cents. Alas, she had no more and looked up expectantly at the Hispanic cashier who smiled sympathetically. The cashier said “No, no, that’s okay” and gave her a cup for her coke. After the lady had left, the cashier was obviously concerned that I had to wait and said “I’m sorry.” I said “That’s all right” but before I could give my order, the octogenarian was back. Looking confused, she said, “I want ice cream.” The ice cream machine was broken and I could see my snack wrap fading into the sunset. The cashier said “Ma’am we have apple pie, would you like apple pie?” Now you may have heard the expression, “No good deed goes unpunished.” The old women said, “I’d like two.” The cashier replied, “Two it is.”
When the cashier got back to me she again apologized. I got my order and gave the cashier extra change to make up for her loss. I did this because I can be very generous when it comes to small amounts and someone was probably watching. I am reminded of one of my favorite expressions, “There is no greater pleasure than to do an anonymous good deed and then to get caught.”
If you would like to hire the second employee rather than the first, maybe you would like to look at www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Newer generations are equally critical of the previous generation. This reminds me of the old bromide, “The grandson wants to remember what the son wants to forget.” Suffice it to say, generations are different and they approach life and work differently.
Tom Brokaw wrote several books on the “Greatest Generation.” This is the generation that grew up during the Depression, won World War Two, developed the suburbs and spawned the “Baby-Boomer” generation. Mr. Brokaw drew so much attention to that generation and did so many interviews that one wag was inspired to quip, “The Greatest Generation has just delivered a cease-and-desist order to Tom Brokaw!”
Now it is the Baby-Boomer generation that is retiring from the workplace to be replaced by Gen X, Gen Y, and/or Gen Me. It is these generations that are receiving much attention from HR experts.
Gen X was born in the 1960s and 1970s, Gen Y was born between 1980 and 1995. Gen-Me tends to be a more pejorative term and overlaps Gen X and Gen Y, and they were born after 1970.
In an article entitled “Generation Y: They’ve Arrived at Work With a New Attitude” appearing in “USA Today”, http://usatoday.com/money/workplace/2005-11-06-gen-y_x.htm columnist Stephanie Armour describes a 22 year old young lady in flip-flops at her desk listening to her i-pod and saying that she doesn’t want work to be her life. “This is Generation Y, a force of as many as 70 million, and the first wave now embarking on their careers –taking their place in an increasingly multigenerational workplace.” Armour goes on to describe Gen Y as having been pampered, nurtured and provided with a multitude of diverting activities. Since toddlers they are both high performance and high maintenance.
Bruce Tulgan of Rainmaking Thinking, who co-authored Managing Generation Y with Carolyn Martin states “If you thought you saw a clash when Generation X came into the workplace, that was a fake punch. The haymaker is coming now.” Tulgan gave a recent example of a young woman who just started a job at a cereal company, “She showed up on the first day with a recipe for a new cereal she’d invented.” Conflict?
Jean M. Twenge wrote a book whose title seems to say it all, Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled and More Miserable Than Ever Before. Would I be too cynical to ask, if they are going to make the rest of us miserable it’s only fair that they’re a little miserable themselves?
K. Henderson wrote a book review of Generation Me (mentioned above) and called her review “The Self-Esteem Movement is Setting Our Kids up For Failure.” Not one to mince words, she says, “Instead of creating well-adjusted, happy children, the self-esteem movement has created an army of little narcissists. Narcissism is a very negative personality trait linked to aggression and poor relations with others.” http://www.amazon.com/review/R2Z252ND5U3D7R/ref=cm_cr_pr_viwpnt
Oh boy. Here are a few more. Mike Kraus, offers strategies to retail store managers who are faced with the statement, “Pay me more or I’m quitting.” http://www.allbusiness.com/retail/6070443-1.html.
Rebecca Mazin authored an article called “How Many Employees Will Have the Flu on Monday?” This refers to likely absences after the Super Bowl. She suggests that employers track absences after weekends and three day holidays. http://allbusiness/medicine-health/deseases-disorders-infectious/6611264-1.html.
In the latest (Dec 2007) Junior Achievement/Deloitte Teen Ethics Survey, “Thirty-eight percent of the teenagers surveyed believe that it is sometimes necessary to cheat, plagiarize, lie or even behave violently in order to succeed.” No wonder Tom Brokaw misses the Greatest Generation.
Well which is it? Is that graffiti on the Pompeii wall accurate in that older generations will always disparage younger generations, or are Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Me really going to hell in a hand basket?
Referring back to Aristotle’s Golden Mean, I think that the answer is a decisive yes and no. The point is that all generational labels are generalities. Useful if they are correct more than 50% of the time. But the problem that I am concerned with is whether the next person I hire will be disruptive in the work place. Who is to say which generation has the most jerks or turkeys? Maybe the proportions are different. Therefore, I recommend that you assess everyone as an individual. You might even want to consider using the Workplace Attitudes Test. http://www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Q. When someone insults or slights me . . . (select one of the following answers)
A. I tend to remember it a very long time.
B. I can hold a grudge, but not often.
C. at first I get irritated, but soon forget it.
Turns out, I did not need to be concerned because they did select some extreme answers. In this case, the extreme answer is “A.” In follow-up interviews I discovered that people with strong or extreme attitudes are proud of these attitudes. They tend to believe in absolutes. Later, correlating extreme answers with job performance suggested that attitudinal rigidity inclines one to disruptive behavior.
I am reminded of Lee Marvin’s line in the movie, Paint Your Wagon. He said, “When I was conceived, my parents did not have the benefit of marriage but you, sir, are a self-made man.” It turns out that there are a lot of self-made men (and women) out there and they are proud of their status.
If you listen carefully you can often hear, “You’ve got to watch your back all the time,” “You can’t trust anyone,” and “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.” Yep, people will tell you what they really think if you just give them a chance.
Skilled interviewers can sometimes pick up on attitudinal rigidity but most often the interviewer concentrates on “can do the job” rather than “will do the job.” Also many interviewers may feel it is not polite to ask these types of questions. That is why the Workplace Attitudes Test is so valuable. It asks questions that you may not be inclined to ask face-to-face, and people are willing to answer accurately. For more info see, http://www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Truth be told, some police spend their entire careers without firing their guns outside of the firing range. Most like it that way. Police work is difficult, and oftentimes dangerous. They go where there are problems and they often see the seamier side of life. It is a challenging career and I am happy to say that the Workplace Attitudes Test has been utilized to help screen people for this profession.
The Test assesses nine work-related attitudes and I’d like to discuss a few of them here. These include judgmental versus accepting, vindictive versus forgiving, adversarial versus accommodating, and egocentric versus people oriented.
In most professions one does not want a person who is judgmental, vindictive, adversarial and egocentric. But when looking at work-related attitudes it is important to understand your own work environment, and some organizations may prefer a certain combination of attitudes. For example, law enforcement may want high judgmental which is defined as a strong sense of right and wrong yet it should be coupled with moderate or low egocentric. We want police to enforce rules and regulations. That is their job. We also want police who have people skills, a sense of forgiveness, and the ability for accommodation.
This is expecting a lot, but thousands of law enforcement people do just that every day.
For more information see http://www.workplaceattitudes.com.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Unfortunately, they haven't taken the test and probably won't. They have, however, given a lot of speeches, written a lot, and participated in many debates. I think we can treat these like job interviews and we can draw some attitude-conclusions.
On some WAT attitudes there is no problem. For example, both are very self-disciplined and hard working. And we don’t have to worry about insubordinate because the President doesn’t have supervisors. Also, to be fair, let’s assume that anyone running for President has a strong ego.
But how about some of the other attitudes on the list?
Judgmental versus accepting
Vindictive versus forgiving
Adversarial versus accommodating
Entitled versus unassuming
Risk-Inclined versus cautious
Non-Traditional versus traditional
A look at some of these might prove critical and might reveal how well they would get along with others in the workplace or as one might say in the political world.
Let’s start with Hillary. I think it is fair to say that she believes that she has paid her dues and is entitled to be president. Slogans like “Ready on Day One” and “When I am President” suggest a modicum of entitlement. When commenting on the recent, heated debate in South Carolina she said that it was Obama (not her) who came ready for a fight. A bit of adversarial projection? During the debate she used a jutted jaw, finger-pointing, and aggressive statements. The “Washington Post” newspaper on January 23, 2008 has a column entitled “The Fact Checker” which rated some of her statements and gave them “Two Pinocchio’s” meaning “significant omissions or exaggerations.”
A look at Obama suggests a person who may be somewhat risk-inclined and non-traditional and both of these may be a good thing at this time and place in our history. He is not afraid to talk about change. He is not afraid to use boldness in his oratory. This can suggest leadership if the public is ready. Obama’s speech patterns tend to be reflective and non-assertive. He appears to be uncomfortable when attacked and appears to be reluctant to go on the offensive. This suggests that he tends not to be very judgmental or vindictive.
Why is this important? A President cannot know everything. He or she must depend on advisors and must work with Congress to be effective. At times those advisors or representatives are going to say things that are unwelcome. The voter needs to ask if they want a President who has attitudes that are accepting rather than judgmental, forgiving rather than vindictive, accommodating versus adversarial, unassuming versus entitled, cautious and traditional versus somewhat risk-inclined and non-traditional. For more information on workplace attitudes see http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/
Monday, January 21, 2008
Nevertheless, concerning optimism and America, Mr. Schultz was very optimistic. When asked why, he said because every day millions of hard-working Americans went to work, did their job, took care of their children and met their obligations. The simple fact is the vast majority of people do us proud.
As the developer of the Workplace Attitudes Test, I was recently asked, “What percent of employees have problem attitudes?” This is difficult to answer with precision. I would say that usually among a group of job applicants, approximately one out of twenty has shown at least one very high warning signal on the test. This usually comes as a surprise to the interviewer because it is difficult to identify these problem attitudes in a regular job interview.
The anecdotal evidence suggests that there are a lot of turkeys out there. If you drove to work today, you probably witnessed someone honk at you, cut you off, or run a yellow light. You have probably experienced a cashier who was on their cell phone or had some other similar experience.
Most people follow the rules, are invariably polite and easy to get along with. Unfortunately, it is the turkeys that have a disproportionate impact. I sometimes think that it is the job of a manager to reign in the five percent so that the other ninety-five percent don’t get totally disgusted.
There is no question that one problem employee can pollute the workplace. It is even worse if that one person is a supervisor. We have probably all witnessed workplaces that were happy, then with a change in managers they became a neurosis-driven dysfunctional environment.
I am thinking of a sewing and fabric store that had a low-key, tolerant supervisor who was primarily concerned with keeping customers happy. As often happens, this manager was promoted and replaced by an individual with a different agenda. Neatness became the new top priority. In a fabric store, scraps of fabric were not tolerated and employees picked up scraps of cloth while customers were ignored. When the scraps were gone, then everything needed to be folded properly. Complaints increased, employees were blamed, and longtime employees quit. Hello neatness, goodbye profits.
The lesson is that workplaces are social environments. Ninety-five percent of the employees can be good, but that ain’t enough. All it takes is one turkey . . .
Thursday, January 17, 2008
This includes embezzlers, back-stabbers, bad-mouthers, imposters, malcontents and job-hoppers and I also talked to a few people who liked to threaten their former employers with law suits. Individuals in this rouges gallery had bad attitudes in the extreme. These same bad attitudes were generally absent in good or non-disruptive employees.
Turkey attitudes include judgmental, vindictive, entitled, disrespect for authority, undisciplined, egocentric and so forth. Again, to be a turkey, one has to hold at least one of these negative attitudes strongly. If you want to know more about these bad attitudes visit the Workplace Attitudes website at www.workplaceattitudes.com.
These work-related attitudes were discovered from a series of open-ended interviews but one other underlying attitude or characteristic seemed to be present in good workers and absent in problem employees—that is, gratitude.
Gratitude explains a lot. If you decide that a pre-employment test is not for you, you may want to look for gratitude in your job candidates. If you find evidence of gratitude, I believe you may be fairly sure that this person will get along well with others.
Wikipedia provides the following definition: Gratitude, appreciation, or thankfulness is a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratitude
One of my favorite quotes is by Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
Melodie Beattie talks about gratitude as follows:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity . . . It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_gratitude.html
If you’re looking for an employee who will get along well with other people, you can’t go wrong by asking them “What are you grateful for?”
If you want to learn more about research related to gratitude and good health, I suggest that you look at some comments made by Charles Osgood in his Osgood File (CBS Radio Network) The Osgood File (CBS Radio Network): 7/12/02The Osgood File (CBS Radio Network): 12/19/01
Monday, January 14, 2008
I am reminded of a speech given by the president of a gold-mining corporation who stated “Our company must process two tons of dirt to find one once of gold.” An audience member then asked, “How is that possible?” The executive replied, “Well, you look for the gold, not the dirt.”
This is not as obvious as it first appears. For example, the goal of mental therapy is and was to develop well-adjusted happy individuals. Since Sigmund Freud, psychologists and psychiatrists tended to assume that the simple absence of mental illness equated to happiness.
It was Professor Martin E. P. Goldman of the University of Pennsylvania who did empirical research and turned this upside down. He developed a system that showed that happiness is not simply the absence of mental illness, rather it is a proactive phenomena based upon an individual’s beliefs and actions. He did not believe that happiness was the absence of mental illness and he began to look for the factors related to happiness, and a new branch of psychology was born called Positive Psychology. There is more info in his book “Learned Optimism” that was published in 1992.
I suppose it is possible to use Dr. Goldman’s system to identify individuals who score high on the happiness scale and this would likely produce happier workplaces. In fact, this may a good idea but there can be a few legal issues because pre-employment tests must be related to the workplace.
The Workplace Attitude Test focuses on identifying individuals who possess bad attitudes or warning signals that are related to disruption in the workplace and the test looks at a total of nine attitudes.
Without going into great detail, here are three attitudes that I found can be critical problems in the workplace. These include “judgmental” which involves a strong sense of right and wrong; “vindictiveness” which involves a zero-sum approach to relations with customers, fellow employees or supervisors; and “entitlement” which is somewhat self-explanatory. During our research to develop the Workplace Attitudes Test, when problem employees were interviewed it was discovered that these attitudes were almost always present in the extreme. Therefore, these attitudes - judgmental, vindictiveness, and entitlement – are included (among others) when we look for warning signals.
It would be wonderful if we could hire happy well-adjusted individuals every time but a more reasonable goal is to find people who don’t have a chip on their shoulders. For more details on Dr. Goldman’s research, see http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx. For more details about our Workplace Attitudes Test please see http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
This reminds me of a great Saturday Night Live routine called Subliminal Man. Subliminal Man spoke in undertones. In a clear stentorian voice he stated what was expected, then in a quiet staccato voice he said what he really thought. Would it be nice if this is the way job interviews worked?
Let’s see how Subliminal Man does in a typical interview. First assume that the job interview is being conducted by a twenty-something svelte attractive former cheerleader, possibly an imported-wine drinker.
Our optimistic job candidate, with beer gut, has been somewhat happily unemployed for the past two years. His presence at this interview can best be explained by the insistence of his full-time working wife and his recurring back ache from sleeping on the couch. Our Bud man has a decided preference for hunting, fishing and watching football.
Good morning Mr. Johnson.
Oh, sorry, Mr. Johnston.
Oh no problem, it happens all the time. (Subliminal Man kicks in—“What a twit”)
What attracted you to our company, Mr. Johnston?
I saw your ad in the newspaper. (“Actually my wife cut out your ad and put it on my tackle box”)
How much experience have you had driving a semi with a triplex transmission?
Five years, yeah was five years. Now that I think about it, it could have been six. (“None whatsoever, what the hell is a triplex?”)
Did you enjoy over-the-road driving?
You bet, ten-four back at you.
You obviously know your way around trucking.
Thanks (“Yeah, my kid has a little red one, what a dork”)
What are your salary requirements?
I understand that this type of job pays around 45 thousand per year. (“Three paychecks and I got that bass boat sweetie”)
Do you see this as a long term commitment?
Absolutely (“At least until duck season”)
Do you have any questions for me?
When would I start if I got the job? (“What are you doing Saturday night, my wife will be working”)
We should be making a decision within two weeks.
Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you. (“Great, two more weeks on the couch, take your time you wine-sipping twit”)
As you may have guessed, I tend to consider the job interview a somewhat inexact science. That’s why I recommend the Workplace Attitude Test in addition to the interview plus a background check. See http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.