Monthly Archives: February 2012

Your Boss Is Making You Sick

There was an interesting piece in Lifehacker yesterday that summarized a number of studies on the effects a bad boss can have on your life.  Among other sources, it cites a study by Université Francois Rabelais, and published in the Journal of Business and Psychology (but you  can read about it in The Atlantic).  The gist of that study as well as the others they mention is that the effect of having a bad boss can go way beyond the office:

The psychological climate in which you work has a lot to do with your health and happiness. Recent research has found, perhaps not surprisingly, that bad bosses can affect how your whole family relates to one another. They can also affect your physical healthraising your risk for heart disease.

The Lifehacker article goes on to discuss a number of ways in which one can deal with a bad boss including hobbies, meditation, the HR department, leaving, and others. Of interest to me is that they don’t discuss my preferred solution which is not to get yourself working for a bad boss in the first place.

As I’ve mentioned before, the very first question one should ask when discussing a new job opportunity with a recruiter is “to whom do I report?”  Once you have that name, it’s on you to do every bit of research you can to find out if that person is a fantastic supervisor or Miranda Priestly, the bad boss from hell in The Devil Wears Prada.  Talk to contacts at the company or people who’ve worked for/with the boss-to-be.  A nice title, a nice paycheck, and other things should not cloud your thinking about the potential gig if the boss doesn’t check out.

Of course many of us have been in a situation where the boss changes – the dream for whom you went to work is promoted or leaves and working for the new boss is less preferable than sitting at home ripping out your fingernails with a pliers.  Having had that happen to me on a few occasions, I took my own advice and left.  Loved the company, loved my co-workers, loved my job, hated my boss.  No contest.  Is that always the smartest choice?  Yes, as long as your perspective isn’t focused solely on money (and I get that sometimes it needs to be) as these studies show.  It’s definitely not the easiest choice.

What do you think?  Have you ever left a job you loved because of a bad boss?

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I Can Do It All By Myself

For those of you with children (or those of you who can recall when the adults you’ve raised were children), you might remember one of the great parental moments.  It’s the one where the child – probably only 4 or so – realizes that they can do things for themselves.  Maybe it’s pour a drink of water or maybe it’s get dressed on their own.  No matter which of the dozens of tasks we as parents undertook for our kids, at some point we all hear “I can do that all by myself!”

I bring this up because by the time  most folks are old enough to use the web, they can do most things by themselves.  Which is why I can’t understand many sites’ choices to present audio or video elements which aren’t user-initiated.  As someone who used to run a large site that made a fair amount of money based on ad views, I get that showing more ads is a good thing.  But as someone who spends too much time (and more than a second is too much time) finding and closing the pane providing me with an annoying sound or a video that’s running down my laptop’s battery, I can’t help but wonder if web-masters are doing this just to increase their video views, ads served, or audio files played.  They can’t be doing it because users like it.  More importantly, advertisers are starting to ask the same question and about how it affects consumer response to and engagement with their ad.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, auto-initiated content is that which plays automatically when users visit a web pageAccording to SpotXchange, which is a video ad network and market:

 There is a significant difference between auto- and user-initiated video ads, which results in two different user experiences.  An auto-initiated ad plays automatically when a user visits a web page, but the video ad does not block the user from viewing intended content.  User-initiated ads must be viewed by consumers before reaching their desired content, such as a video or game.  Because higher levels of consumer engagement are associated with user-initiated video ads, advertisers are willing to pay a premium for them.

By not letting the user decide what they want to see, publishers may actually be shooting themselves in the foot, since the value of the content displayed is diminished.  We can all do the web all by ourselves and choose what we want to see and hear.  Turns out it’s better business too to let the user decide.  Imagine that!

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Who ARE These People?

I consider myself to be a friendly guy. Maybe my gregarious nature is what helped me to be successful in sales; maybe it’s what helps me play golf or hang out at a party with total strangers and be comfortable. But I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’ve over-reached a bit.  You see, lately when I look at my LinkedIn connections or even some of my Facebook friends, I wonder who they are.  Why that’s a little scary to me is that I’ve really tried over the years to keep Facebook to my personal friends, not business connections or people who know others that I know but whom I’ve never met.  I used to have a LinkedIn policy that I had to have met the connection in person but that went out the window a long time ago.  Still, I try not to accept random people as connections and yet I’ve got a few dozen that I can’t place at all.

Turns out I’m not alone.  This is from the Pew Internet and American Life study:

Social network users are becoming more active in pruning and managing their accounts. Women and younger users tend to unfriend more than others.

About two-thirds of internet users use social networking sites (SNS) and all the major metrics for profile management are up, compared to 2009: 63% of them have deleted people from their “friends” lists, up from 56% in 2009; 44% have deleted comments made by others on their profile; and 37% have removed their names from photos that were tagged to identify them.

That’s less of a big deal to businesses than this:

Privacy appears to be the new preference of social media denizens. The majority of social network users (58 percent) have set their profiles to private, and just 20 percent of adults said their profiles remained public.

Marketers have a vested interest both in networks being large and users being discoverable.  When we all start to contract those networks – who ARE these all these “friends” anyway? – it runs contrary to those interests.

The above two items gave me pause.  You?

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Foolish Consistency

It’s Foodie Friday so let’s begin with one of my favorite quotes from Emerson – a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.  While Emerson was talking about a fear to change one’s views based on new information, I thought of it in the context of a review of Shake Shack in the NY Times Dining section this week.  The reviewer had mostly good things to say about the chain but his primary complaint was the subhead of the article – Shake Shack struggles with inconsistency.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Deutsch: Ralph Waldo Emers...

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You see, in the food business, consistency is never foolish – the quality of the food served and of the service delivered needs to be at the same standard each and every time.  In this case, some of the burgers were perfect while others were “cooked to the color of wet newsprint, inside and out, and salted so meekly that eating it was as satisfying as hearing a friend talk about a burger his cousin ate.”

What does this have to do with your business? Continue reading

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Stubborn Things

Before John Adams became President of these United States (at the time, the job didn’t exist!), he was a lawyer. One of his more notable cases was a defense of some soldiers who participated in The Boston Massacre.  During the trial, he uttered one of my favorite quotes, and one of which I want to remind us all today. Maybe it’s all the rhetoric ramping up as we enter the heart of the political season or maybe it’s a discussion I was having with someone about a business point.  Either way, it’s a thought all of us need to keep in mind:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

I’m sure you’ve seen deleted tweets or Facebook photos that have come back to haunt people – facts rearing their ugly heads.  Maybe you’ve seen a piece of videotape that directly contradicts some politician’s assertion of a statement they made (or didn’t make).  Maybe you’ve also taken the time to check out the “facts” in a news piece, sales presentation, or a co-worker’s excuse for sub-par performance.  I wish more of us did and I wish the noise level wasn’t so high as to drown out the credible sources of information.  They’re out there – it’s on us to find them.

President Reagan tried to quote Adams in 1988 and said “facts are stupid things” – he may have been more right than he knew in that it seems to have set a tone for much of the world that’s come after.  Nevertheless, I think the single most important thing we as businesspeople can do (and as good citizens, frankly) is to be relentless in our pursuit of them.  Be as stubborn as they are!

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The Evil That Men Do

Today’s rant is based on the results of a Harris Interactive study concerning how the public feels about corporations.  Actually, it’s pretty specific when it comes to individual corporate reputations and I think the results are kind of grim.  Let’s see what you think.  You can read the summary document of the study here and I think it’s worth a few minutes of your time.  As with most research, what’s meaningful isn’t so much where the results indicate corporate reputation is at any particular point in time but what the trend lines indicate over time.  In this case, they indicate that the public is paying attention, and it reminds me of Mark Antony‘s speech in Julius Caesar:  “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” Continue reading

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Give Me Back My Space

You might have noticed that I have a “thing” about grammar. That extends to the use of punctuation. Imagine my surprise when I was pulled over by the linguistic police last evening for using a double space after a period. Now for those of you who learned, as I did, to type on a typewriter, that’s not an error. In fact, it’s a mistake if you don’t use two spaces between a period and the start of the next sentence.

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

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Not according to the current AP Style Guide as well as a few others. That second space just wandered off and I didn’t notice. Damn shame, but you know there’s a business point lurking. Continue reading

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