Tag: Career

Stop Multitasking!

We all do it: Texting while walking, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while cooking dinner. In today’s society, doing just one thing at a time seems downright luxurious, even wasteful.

But chances are, you’re not doing yourself (or your boss, or your friends and family) any favors by multitasking your way through the day. Research shows that it’s not nearly as efficient as we like to believe, and can even be harmful to our health. Here are 12 reasons why you should stop everything you’re doing—well, all but one thing—and rethink the way you work, socialize, and live your life.

You’re not really multitasking

What you call multitasking is really task-switching, says Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries. “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount,” he says.

“It’s like a pie chart, and whatever we’re working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviors like walking or chewing gum.” Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity, he says, because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity.

It’s slowing you down

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking doesn’t save time. In fact, it will probably take you longer to finish two projects when you’re jumping back and forth than it would to finish each one separately. The same is true even for behaviors as seemingly automatic as driving: In a 2008 University of Utah study, drivers took longer to reach their destinations when they chatted on cell phones.

“What tends to save the most time is to do things in batches,” says Winch. “Pay your bills all at once, then send your emails all at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get in a groove you should stay there and finish.”

You’re making mistakes

Experts estimate that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity. It can also cause you to introduce errors into whatever you’re working on, especially if one or more of your activities involves a lot of critical thinking.

A 2010 French study found that the human brain can handle two complicated tasks without too much trouble, because it has two lobes that can divide responsibility equally between the two. Add a third task, however, and it can overwhelm the frontal cortex and increase the number of mistakes you make.

It’s stressing you out

When University of California Irvine researchers measured the heart rates of employees with and without constant access to office email, they found that those who received a steady stream of messages stayed in a perpetual “high alert” mode with higher heart rates. Those without constant email access did less multitasking and were less stressed because of it.

And it’s not only the physical act of multitasking that causes stress; it’s the consequences, as well, says Winch. “If you do poorly on an exam because you studied while watching a baseball game on TV, that can certainly trigger a lot of stress—even self-esteem issues and depression.”

You’re missing out on life

Forget seeing the forest for the trees or the glass half full—people who are busy doing two things at once don’t even see obvious things right in front of them, according to a 2009 study from Western Washington University.

Specifically, 75% of college students who walked across a campus square while talking on their cell phones did not notice a clown riding a unicycle nearby. The researchers call this “inattentional blindness,” saying that even though the cell-phone talkers were technically looking at their surroundings, none of it was actually registering in their brains.

Your memory may suffer

It makes sense that if you try to do two things at once—read a book and watch television, for example—that you’re going to miss important details of one or both. But even interrupting one task to suddenly focus on another can be enough to disrupt short term memory, according to a 2011 study.

When University of California San Francisco researchers asked participants to study one scene, but then abruptly switched to a different image, people ages 60 to 80 had a harder time than those in their 20s and 30s disengaging from the second picture and remembering details about the first. As the brain ages, researchers say, it has a harder time getting back on track after even a brief detour.

It’s hurting your relationships

“This is an area where I think multitasking has a much bigger effect than most people realize,” says Winch. “A couple is having a serious talk and the wife says ‘Oh, let me just check this message.’ Then the husband gets mad, and then he decides to check his messages, and communication just shuts down.”

One recent study from the University of Essex even shows that just having a cell phone nearby during personal conversations—even if neither of you are using it—can cause friction and trust issues. “Do your relationship a favor and pay your partner some exclusive attention for 10 minutes,” says Winch. “It can make a big difference.”

It can make you overeat

Being distracted during mealtime can prevent your brain from fully processing what you’ve eaten, according to a 2013 review of 24 previous studies. Because of that, you won’t feel as full, and may be tempted to keep eating—and to eat again a short time later.

Experts recommend that even people who eat alone should refrain from turning on the television while eating, and to truly pay attention to their food. Eating lunch at your computer? Slow down and take a break from the screen to focus on each bite.

You’re not actually good at it

Yes, you. You may think you’re a master multitasker, but, according to a 2013 University of Utah study, that probably means you’re actually among the worst.

The research focused specifically on cell phone use behind the wheel, and it found that people who scored highest on multitasking tests do not frequently engage in simultaneous driving and cell-phone use—probably because they can better focus on one thing at a time. Those who do talk and drive regularly, however, scored worse on the tests, even though most described themselves as having above average multitasking skills.

It’s dampening your creativity

Multitasking requires a lot of what’s known as “working memory,” or temporary brain storage, in layman’s terms. And when working memory’s all used up, it can take away from our ability to think creatively, according to research from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Too much focus can actually harm performance on creative problem-solving tasks,” the authors wrote in their 2010 study. With so much already going on in their heads, they suggest, multitaskers often find it harder to daydream and generate spontaneous “a ha moments.”

You can’t OHIO

No, not the state! Psychiatrists and productivity experts often recommend OHIO: Only Handle It Once. “This is a rule of thumb for many people with ADHD, but it can also be practiced by anyone who wants to be more organized,” says Winch. “It basically means if you take something on, don’t stop until you’ve finished it.”

The problem with multitasking, though, is that it makes Only Handling It Once a near impossibility—instead, you’re handling it five or six times, says Winch. “If you’re going to stick to this principle, you need to be disciplined and plan out your day so that when a distraction arises or a brilliant idea occurs to you, you know that there will be time for it later.”

It can be dangerous

Texting or talking on a cell phone, even with a hands-free device, is as dangerous as driving drunk—yet that doesn’t stop many adults from doing it, even while they have their own children in the car.

It’s not just driving that puts you at risk for the consequences of multitasking, either. Research also shows that people who use mobile devices while walking are less likely to look before stepping into a crosswalk. And in one study, one in five teenagers who went to the emergency room after being hit by a car admitted they were using a smartphone at the time of the accident.

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*Article originally published on Health.

Please Stop Saying These 25 Ridiculous Phrases at Work

At first, euphemisms surfaced in the workplace to help people deal with touchy subjects that were difficult to talk about. Before long, they morphed into corporate buzzwords that expanded and took over our vocabulary until our everyday conversations started sounding like they were taking place on another planet:

Listen Ray, I don’t have the bandwidth for it with everything that’s on my plate, but ping me anyway because at the end of the day it’s on my radar and I don’t want to be thrown under the bus because I didn’t circle back around on this no-brainer.

I understand the temptation. These catchphrases are spicy and they make you feel clever (low-hanging fruit is a crutch of mine), but they also annoy the hell out of people.

If you think that you can use these phrases without consequence, you’re kidding yourself. Just pay close attention to how other people react to your using them, and you’ll see that these phrases don’t cast you in a favorable light.

After all, TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence of more than a million people and one of the biggest need areas for most people is social awareness. Most of us are so focused on what we’re saying and what we’re going to say next that we lose sight of how our words affect other people.

So give this list a read, think of how often you use some of these words, and see if you can catch yourself before you use them again.

Have some fun with it, because at the end of the day if you don’t hit the ground running you can always go back to the drawing board and get the ball rolling…

  1. At the end of the day
  2. Back to the drawing board
  3. Hit the ground running
  4. Get the ball rolling
  5. Low-hanging fruit
  6. Throw under the bus
  7. Think outside the box
  8. Let’s touch base
  9. Get my manager’s blessing
  10. It’s on my radar
  11. Ping me
  12. I don’t have the bandwidth
  13. No brainer
  14. Par for the course
  15. Bang for your buck
  16. Synergy
  17. Move the goal post
  18. Apples to apples
  19. Win-win
  20. Circle back around
  21. All hands on deck
  22. Take this offline
  23. Drill-down
  24. Elephant in the room
  25. On my plate

What phrases are your pet peeves? Please share them in the comments section below –

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*Originally published on Inc.

There Is No “I” In Team, But There Is A “Me”

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In just about any work environment there is always a team you may have to work with. So how do you make yourself stand out above everyone else? While there are undoubtedly many ‘team efforts’, here are some ways you can really show the ME in team:

1. Know Everyone’s Strengths & Weaknesses – Every single person you will ever work with has certain tendencies as well as strengths & weaknesses that they possess. By knowing the strengths and weakness of your teammates you can learn to anticipate their actions/behaviors so that you can act accordingly on the job.

2. Do Not Sit Quietly In Meetings – We have all been in meetings where there are people who talk and people who do not. Contribute any way you can but more importantly, contribute on a high level. When management is in meetings with you, they take notice of the contributors. Leaders are not silent in meetings.

3. Always Offer Ideas & Suggestions – Start with your own job and if you have a way it can be done more efficiently, suggest it. Even if your manager balks at it, keep making suggestions wherever you can. It better to offer ‘rejected’ ideas than none at all.

4. Be Proactive – Anticipate problems that might arise and come up with suggestions to fix them. Do not wait for things to happen and be a “reactive” employee. We all have had those moments where we know we could do more if we wanted to. When you have that moment, come up with a plan and do it (or share it with a supervisor). If you see that something needs to be done and nobody is doing it, DO IT. Even if it is just cleaning up after a potluck lunch or helping with a company party. I am amazed by how few people do this. People who hang back & help out stand out.

5. Do MORE Than What Your Job Requires – Have some down time at work? Fill that time with extra activity at your job. Go above & beyond what is expected of you and show off how proactive you can be. Taking on an extra load of work can really show your managers what you’re made of!

6. Always Offer To Help Others – Become the “go to” person- the person that can be counted on to help. Whatever expertise you may have, other people can certainly benefit from it. If you can help someone else either around the office or on a special project that they’re working on, it will surely go a long way!

7. Become A Part Of The Company – Join a safety committee or a diversity committee or any other group where you feel you can make a great contribution. This will give you a great way to interact with co-workers you may not usually work with. It’s also good to mention around employee review time, or when you’re looking to get that big promotion!

8. Volunteer Wherever You Can – If someone sends an e-mail out asking for volunteers – do it if you can. If someone sends out an e-mail about a new initiative in the company, reply and say, “This sounds great! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. I would love to be a part of this!” Management loves that.

9. Don’t Be Afraid To Take The Lead If You Can – Someone has to be the leader, shouldn’t it be you? If it is not you, still contribute at a high level. Throw out ideas and suggestions. Challenge things that do not make sense. If you do this respectfully, you will stand out. Once again, silence does not get you noticed, it gets you overlooked. Use your voice as a weapon.

10. Lead By (Good) Example – If you want to be a team leader, you must first take the lead yourself. Respect everyone you compete against. Make sure you are presentable every day; your work is at its best, look for ways to grow on the job, don’t ever put your colleagues down & make sure you are a “team” player. Your positive attitude and dedication to greatness will spread to everyone around you.

Do you have any good advice on how to be a good team player? What about how to stand out amongst your team? Please share in the comments section below –

Why You Should Talk To Strangers

Think you’d feel uncomfortable if you had to talk to a random stranger on the train or in the street?

Think again. New research from the University of Chicago shows that it’s a near-painless way to have a happier day.

In a series of clever experiments, researchers Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder found that people assume that talking to strangers on their commute will make for a terribly clumsy encounter — but they end up having the opposite experience.

The Science of Us blog has the write-up of the first experiment, which involved train commuters near Chicago:

Some (commuters) were instructed to have a conversation with whoever sat next to them, some were told to keep to themselves and enjoy their solitude, and some were told to do whatever they normally do. Afterwards, they mailed in surveys describing their experience — both how much they enjoyed the ride and how productive they felt during it. Of the three groups, those in the conversation condition reported the most positive train ride, and those in the solitude condition reported the most negative. Among those who talked, the longer the conversation, the better the ride.

Later experiments further pressed the point.

In the second one, Eply and Schroeder asked commuters to imagine taking part in the first experiment. The commuters said they thought it would be weird to talk to a stranger on the train.

Then, in another experiment, the researchers asked train and bus riders to think about talking with a stranger.

“In general, they expected it to be pretty pleasant,” Science of Us continues. “But when asked about the process of initiating a conversation, they rated the difficulty of breaking the ice at a four on a scale of zero to six, and they guessed that fewer than half of their targets would want to talk back.”

That’s the thing: We think that talking to a stranger will end in catastrophic embarrassment, but it doesn’t in reality. The first experiment is a case in point, since nobody got rejected when they tried to talk to someone they don’t know.

That leaves us with a dilemma.

Why don’t we start conversations, especially in places like New York, where everybody keeps their distance from one another even as they’re crammed shoulder to shoulder?

Psychologists call it “pluralistic ignorance.” As in, everybody would like to talk, but no one thinks anyone wants to talk.

The dread associated with starting a convo defuses would-be connections. But as these experiments evidence, there’s nothing to fear. Epley tells Science of Us that starting a conversation is “like a speed bump at the top of a hill.” All you need to do is compliment their shoes, mention the weather, ask about their day — and then you’re off.

Need further motivation? Consider how jobs, dates, and good ideas come with forging new relationships.

“Human beings are social animals,” Epley and Schroeder conclude. “Those who misunderstand the consequences of social interactions may not, in at least some contexts, be social enough for their own well-being.”

That reminds us of the news about polar bears.

Did you hear about how much they weigh?

Enough to break the ice.

strangers

*Article originally published on News Republic.

Ray Rice Deserves His Job Back!

nfl

The NFL’s history of punishing players in domestic violence cases is as complicated as the legal cases themselves.

Sometimes players were suspended for a game or two. Sometimes, charges were reduced, which also reduced the severity of the NFL punishment. Sometimes, charges were dropped and players’ names were cleared.

Domestic violence now seems to be the football league’s No. 1 off-field issue.

Last month, the NFL announced a new policy against it. Then, this week, running back Ray Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the National Football League on the same day a video showed him knocking out his future wife with a punch earlier this year.

But the league hasn’t always been so assertive about the matter, one expert said. Domestic violence accounts for 85 of the 713 arrests of NFL players since 2000 in a database compiled by USA Today.

At a domestic violence summit in Florida about 15 years ago, “the NFL actually sent a representative who argued, ‘Are you kidding me? They’re giving up two out of 16 paychecks for this issue. Isn’t that a significant enough penalty?’ And back then, they would take that (to the public). Today, it’s a different story,” said Don Yaeger, co-author of the 1998 book, “Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL.”

Here’s how the NFL is handling or has handled punishment in some other cases:

redskins

Ray McDonald (San Francisco 49ers)

Three days after Commissioner Roger Goodell created a new NFL policy against domestic violence on August 28, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested on an accusation of felony domestic violence.

The new policy imposes a six-game unpaid ban for first-time offenders and up to a lifetime ban for second-time offenders.

No charges have been filed in the incident involving McDonald, and the case was still being investigated Tuesday, said spokesman Sean Webby of the Santa Clara County, California, District Attorney’s Office.

McDonald was arrested by San Jose police at 2:45 a.m. at his house, where a party was being held for his approaching 30th birthday. McDonald allegedly became involved in an altercation with his fiancee, who was 10 weeks’ pregnant, a police source told the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Several 49ers players attended the party, CNN affiliate KTVU said.

The fiancee showed police minor bruises on her neck and arms, the newspaper said.

After McDonald posted bail, he stated he couldn’t say much about the case.

“The truth will come out,” he told KTVU. “Everybody knows what kind of person I am … a good-hearted person.”

On Tuesday, San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York said the team was awaiting the outcome of the criminal case against McDonald before determining whether to punish him.

“I think it’s very important that we do let due process take its course,” York told KNBR-AM. “I think it’s very important that we don’t judge somebody before, whether charges are filed or whether anything else happens. We want to make sure that everybody is afforded the right that I think Americans are afforded.”

hardy

Greg Hardy (Carolina Panthers)

Defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted in a bench trial this summer of assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her, both misdemeanors.

Hardy is appealing, and the Carolina Panthers team said last month it wouldn’t discipline him until his appeals are completed, ESPN reported.

The former girlfriend accused Hardy of throwing her on a pile of guns and said he “bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded,” her motion for a protection order said earlier this year, according to The Charlotte Observer newspaper, which posted a copy of her request online.

The woman said Hardy picked her up, threw her into the bathroom, dragged her into the bedroom, choked her, picked her up again and “threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns,” her protection order request said, according to the Observer.

Hardy threatened to shoot her if she went to the media or reported the assault, the court papers said, according to the Observer.

However, the NFL website cites an Associated Press account about 911 tapes revealing a different version of events.

“Hardy can be heard on a call saying: ‘My assistant is trying to restrain her, and she’s trying to break free and hit me with her heel. I’m literally running around the table right now.’ Hardy also alleges that the accuser could be on drugs,” NFL.com reported.

Some sports analysts are urging Goodell to punish Hardy: “With Hardy, as with Rice, Goodell needs to make a statement that the league has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to how men in his league treat women,” ESPN commentator Ashley Fox wrote.

When asked about the criminal case against him in July, Hardy said he disliked how it is a distraction.

“I hate that I have distracted my team,” Hardy said, according to ESPN. “Other than that I can’t answer that question.”

vikings

A.J. Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings)

In November 2013, Minnesota Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson was arrested on a felony count of domestic assault by strangulation, CNN affiliate KARE reported.

His 23-year-old girlfriend claimed to have been in an early morning domestic dispute with Jefferson, who yelled and grabbed her neck, CNN affiliate WCCO reported.

On the day of his arrest, Jefferson was cut by the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL reported. Also, after the arrest, the NFL suspended Jefferson for four games, but Goodell lifted the suspension, the league said. The NFL website didn’t say why.

Jefferson finished last season with the Cleveland Browns before being placed on the injured reserve list because of an ankle problem, according to the National Football Post.

In March, Jefferson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of domestic assault in the 2013 case, WCCO reported. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was suspended to three days times served, The Seattle Times reported. In May, Jefferson was signed as a free agent by the Seattle Seahawks, which won the Super Bowl last season.

reynolds

Robert Reynolds (Tennessee Titans)

A fifth-round draft pick in 2004 by the Tennessee Titans, linebacker Robert Reynolds made the team and played in all but three of its regular season games over his first two seasons.

But 2006 was a different story. In October of that year, Ohio authorities issued a warrant for Reynolds’ arrest on domestic violence and assault charges relating to his now ex-wife, according to The Tennessean newspaper.

After the charges were filed, then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher asked Reynolds to leave the team facility and decided he wouldn’t play that weekend — at least.

The Associated Press reported that Reynolds pleaded guilty later that month to criminal damaging (for smashing a cell phone and punching a hole in a wall) and disorderly conduct after lashing out during a visit to the home of his toddler son and ex-wife, who told police she didn’t want to press charges.

The former Ohio State player has not played an NFL game since, although his court case was not cited as the reason. The Titans waived Reynolds in July 2007 after previously placing him on injured reserve, and no other team picked him up. The Columbus Dispatch reported in 2008 that Reynolds had been suspended for one year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, with his agent adding then that Reynolds would likely retire.

Dez

Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys)

In July 2012, wide receiver Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in DeSoto, Texas, CNN affiliate KDFW reported.

Bryant’s mother called DeSoto police, claiming she got into an argument with her son and that he had assaulted her. Bryant later turned himself in and was charged with Class A misdemeanor domestic violence.

The charge was dismissed in November 2012 on the condition that Bryant undergo anger counseling and that he not be charged with a crime for the next year, ESPN said.

Bryant denied any domestic violence.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Bryant said he would be “a crazy man” to put his hands on his mother, other than to defend himself, and that after she grabbed his arms, he used his hands to remove hers. The magazine, however, cited the police report, which said Bryant grabbed his mother by her T-shirt and hair, bruised her arms and “hit her across her face with his ball cap.”

The NFL didn’t suspend Bryant. It imposed a strict set of conduct guidelines on him, which included a curfew, counseling twice a week and no alcohol, ESPN reported.

In March 2013, Bryant made a surprise appearance at Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ “Men Against Abuse” rally. “I am done with domestic abuse,” he said at the public gathering.

rods

Rod Smith (Denver Broncos)

In 2000, Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith was accused of beating his former live-in girlfriend by throwing her around, banging her head on the floor and choking her during an argument, the Denver Post reported. The girlfriend is also the mother of his two children.

Smith pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of verbal harassment just days before he was to stand trial on third-degree assault and harassment charges, the newspaper reported. A judge sentenced Smith to two years of probation and ordered him to undergo 36 weeks of domestic violence counseling and pay $1,000 in court costs.

The NFL didn’t suspend Smith but did impose a $25,000 conditional fine against him, which he wouldn’t have to pay if he adhered to his probation, the newspaper said.

At the time, Smith denied hitting his former girlfriend, and even before the NFL imposed the conditional fine, he said the league wouldn’t suspend him.

“It’d be different if I did what they originally said I did,” he told the Denver Post, referring to the original charge of domestic violence. “But all those charges were dropped. So I don’t see how they can even take that into account when she said it didn’t happen, under oath, and we have several documents stating that.”

*Original article published on CNN.

Is Being At Work Better Than Being At Home?

In the land that came up with the phrase “Thank God it’s Friday,” and a restaurant chain to capitalize on the sense of relief many feel as the work week ends, researchers made an unusual finding in 2012.

Moms who worked full time reported significantly better physical and mental health than moms who worked part time, research involving more than 2,500 mothers found. And mothers who worked part time reported better health than moms who didn’t work at all.

Working and juggling family responsibilities can be stressful. But can work, despite its demands, be less stressful than the alternative?

Mothers who worked longer hours had more juggling to do. They had more demands on their time and more stress. How could they possibly be in better physical and mental health?

One answer, of course, is self-selection. Mothers who were in better health to begin with may have chosen to work regularly. Researchers Adrianne Frech andSarah Damaske, who conducted the 2012 study, also found that moms who worked steadily had other advantages. They were more likely to have grown up with two married parents, more likely to have completed high school and more likely to be in a stable relationship before the birth of their first child.

But in new research, Damaske argues that another factor might have been at play. It’s a factor that sociologists such as Arlie Hochschild and psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud have examined in the past. Hochschild, for one, found that many people find work to be less stressful than their home lives. Work was, in fact, a haven. Freud once said work and love were two wellsprings of emotional satisfaction in life.

In a study of 122 working men and women, Damaske had volunteers collect samples of saliva throughout the day. The samples were later tested to measure the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Cortisol levels didn’t spike when the volunteers were at work. They soared when the volunteers were home.

“When we looked at the difference between home and work in terms of their cortisol levels — that biological marker of stress — we found that people’s cortisol levels were significantly lower at work than they were at home,” Damaske said. The results “suggested to us that people — at least biologically speaking — had lower levels of stress … at work,” she said.

Low-income people and those without children were especially likely to report lower levels of the stress hormone when they were at work.

The idea that work might be less stressful than home life for many people is mirrored in a nationwide poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health: Health problems, the death of loved ones and juggling busy family schedules often scored among the top sources of stress in people’s lives.

Damaske said there was an important difference between the kind of stress people experience at home and the kind of stress they experience in the workplace.

“No matter how urgent something is at work, you are not as attached to that urgency as you would be to, say, a health scare or the death of a loved one, because we are emotionally entangled at home in a way that we aren’t at work,” she said in an interview.

Besides, she added, most workers have a trump card to play at work, which they may not feel they have in their personal lives.

“You still know that you can quit, you can look for something else, that you can leave — leave your boss and your bad day behind,” Damaske said. “Those aren’t exactly strategies that you have for home, right? Most of us aren’t going to up and leave our families because they’re stressful, although most people’s families are stressful from time to time.”

Damaske said the study offered a different window into why women who work steady jobs might experience better physical and mental health than those who work part time, or not at all. It is still possible that women who are healthier to begin with are more likely to hold steady jobs, but Damaske said it might also be the case that work had positive effects on women’s health.

So why do we hear so much about stressful jobs, bad bosses and difficult demands at work?

One reason could be that people might find it easier to talk about problems at work than to talk about problems and challenges in their personal lives. Social norms, Damaske said, make it acceptable to complain in public about our work lives, but make it difficult to talk publicly about health problems and other stressors in our personal lives.

All this points to one thing. There is pent-up demand in the United States for a new restaurant named “TGIM” — Thank God it’s Monday!

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*Article originally posted on NPR.

Stop Saying That At Work!

Why Workplace Jargon Is A Big Problem

We all have our language pet peeves. Some bemoan like and other conversational hedges, while others are more put off by icky-sounding words like moist or munch.

But there is one corner of the English language that our culture seems to collectively disdain: workplace jargon. At their best, the trite phrases with which we fill our work speech are vapid and convey a false sense of urgency. At their worst, they are flat-out aggressive.

It’d be easy to dismiss empty language like value-add and deep dive as silly turns-of-phrase, but they’re more detrimental than that. Just as thoughts shape language, the language we use has the power to shape our thoughts and actions. That’s right: Empty speaking not only conveys empty thinking, it can promote it, too. George Orwell puts it best in an essay he wrote for The New Republic in 1946, lamenting the state of the English language:

It is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent, and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse… But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.

  

Orwell’s essay outlines the issue with clichés, which he calls “dying metaphors.” While recently coined analogies present us with a visual that can further our understanding of a concept, trite phrases are lazy time-savers that pack a statement with letters but not meaning. He cites toe the line and hotbed as examples, and would surely take issue with the latest crop of fluffy speech padding. Streamline. 360-degree thinking. These phrases might’ve elicited a useful visual image at one point, but no longer.

Orwell goes on to condemn “pretentious diction” — words such as utilize and categorical, which are still very present in the workplace today, and which give “an air of impartiality to biased judgements.” He writes:

The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose…

  

Vague expressions run rampant at work. Brainstorm. Synergy. Paradigm shift. Unlike descriptive (yet still irritating) sayings like low-hanging fruit, these phrases didn’t begin as handy, evocative metaphors. So where did they come from? An article in The Atlantic outlining the origins of at-work sayings states that synergy (once a Protestant phrase referring to cooperation between God and the self) and paradigm shift were both coined by academics in the 60s, inspired in part by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which describes the stages of psychological growth. The phrases were then employed by the consulting industry as purposefully instilled management tactics, and have since become muddied and meaningless. Think about how much more productive a so-called brainstorming session could be if its purpose were laid out more explicitly. “Let’s look at why an article we wrote was successful, and use this information as the basis for new ideas for future articles” is a more pointed task than quickly articulating ideas that pop into our heads.

In addition to preventing clarity, vague language generates less trust. A not-so-shocking study conducted by psychology professors at New York University in 2011 concluded that abstract language leads listeners to believe a speaker is lying more often than concrete language does. This comes as no surprise; abstract language evades facts, and is sometimes intended to confuse. In a roundup of muddled corporate speak, PR Daily listed the following statement as a convoluted way for a company to acknowledge that it is in debt: “We are cognizant that we must address our debt situation and our pending line of credit maturity but we ultimately believe striving to improve our core business is a fundamental component of a solution for all parties in this regard.”

That’s not to say that all jargon-users are liars; some well-meaning language-manglers are just trying to fit in with their contemporaries. But that doesn’t make it excusable. The use of a vapid verbal shortcut is an attempt to convey a point without pausing to consider whether or not the correct point is being conveyed, or whether or not the point is worth conveying at all.

The promotion of thoughtless chatter is noxious enough, but contemporary workplace jargon isn’t always just trite — it can also create an atmosphere of belligerence. Office speak can be aggressive, patriarchal and, when you really consider the language, remarkably unprofessional. Killing it and bleeding edge seem straight out of American Psycho, or at least a hyped-up workplace fueled by caffeine, testosterone and high fives. Offices (well, American offices, anyway) have long employed masculine ways of speaking, borrowed from sporty or militaristic language–consider teamwork, give 110 percent and take it to the next level. Or worse: targeting clients with guerrilla marketing.

A recent article in The Guardian highlights why this is problematic: It’s necessary to use the vernacular of a workplace in order to fit in, but while men are viewed more favorably by colleagues when they speak assertively, women are valued more for speaking warmly and creating harmony. Writes The Guardian, “It is difficult to see how women can talk about “killing the competition” and be warm and inclusive… and because the use of military language is seen as inappropriate for women, women may never feel that they can fully participate in the boisterous exchanges that are part of organizational life.”

Of course, aggressive language isn’t just bad for women — it creates a taxing environment for everyone. And we’ve taken notice. Workplace jargon, be it empty or stress-inducing, doesn’t exactly have a big fan base. See impassioned rants against it here, here, here and here. If these phrases are as demonstrably disliked as they seem to be, why do we continue to use them? Most grumbling about jargon is met with a shrug; what else are we to say? These phrases save time, and we are all just so busy.

Or are we? There’s a good deal of truth to Tim Kreider’s piece in the New York Times about “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” which claims that much of our supposed busyness is self-imposed — a means of validating the importance of the work we’re doing. The language we use at work only imposes it further. Rather than saying “I have some things I’d like to talk about,” we say we must discuss action points; rather than expressing a need to reach an agreed-upon conclusion, we say we have issues we must hammer out. These kinesthetic phrases are just a notch shy of the aforementioned aggressive-speak. They imply that our work must be done quickly, and so we do our work quickly, only to be bothered with more unnecessary tasks, more action points.

When we replace a specific task with a vague expression, we grant the task more magnitude than it deserves. If we don’t describe an activity plainly, it seems less like an easily achievable goal and more like a cloudy state of existence that fills unknowable amounts of time.

A fog of fast and empty language has seeped into the workplace. I say it’s time we air it out, making room for simple, concrete words, and, therefore, more deliberate actions. By striking the following 26 words from your speech, I think you’ll find that you’re not quite as overwhelmed as you thought you were.

  • touch base
  • circle back
  • bandwidth
  • impactful
  • utilize
  • table the discussion
  • deep dive
  • engagement
  • viral
  • value-add
  • one-sheet
  • deliverable
  • work product
  • incentivise
  • take it to the next level
  • hard stop
  • on your radar
  • due diligence
  • 360-degree thinking
  • paradigm shift
  • globalize
  • action item
  • bleeding edge
  • killing it
  • synergize
  • low-hanging fruit

Office

*Article originally published on Huffington Post.

If I Wasn’t What I Am, What Would I Be? (Pt. 2)

Yesterday, I wrote about jobs I’m glad that I don’t have. Today, I thought I’d finish off my list –

  • Cop/Firefighter – I never did like uniforms. Maybe it comes from my secondary elementary school days where uniforms were mandatory, but I’ve never desired to wear the same thing every day, nor have I ever been attracted to a man that has to wear the same thing every day. I will say that at least both of these professions offer great benefits & good retirement. But aside from the obvious danger aspect to these jobs, I hear the hours suck and the pay isn’t really worth the stress.
  •  Scientist/Researcher – Great researchers exist in every generation. Where would we be without Einstein, George Washington Carver or Isaac Newton? But I can’t imagine spending my entire life studying, exploring and experimenting only to not live to see the results. Can you imagine working for 20- 30 years and never seeing any the final outcome of all of your research? Think about scientists who died before any significant accomplishment was made in their field. Great researchers like Gregor Mendel, who was considered by some as the ‘father of genetics’, died before he was ever recognized for his contributions to science. All I know is, if I dedicated my whole life to a particular cause or research and I never got to see the end results that would really suck.
  • Dentist – Anyone who digs in someone else’s mouth is just gross. I’m sorry, I do know how important it is to have good oral hygiene, but I can’t imagine sticking my fingers & my face in someone else’s mouth. Unless I’m about to kiss you, I don’t ever want to be that close to a person. And there are so many different dental procedures, how can one possibly keep up? Everything from root canals to braces, from crowns to fillings, from teeth whitening to bridges, how do dentists keep up with all this ‘teeth technology’?

  • Psychologist – I actually think this is a pretty good occupation. But it’s very stressful & psychologists have high suicide rates. The problem is that I could see myself getting tired of hearing people complain about their lives. In other countries there are people without running water, people who can’t vote and people that make less in a year than what I paid for my car. I know problems are relative but hearing complaints about things that are not life/death would greatly bother me.
  • Engineer – I’m sorry, but this job just sounds boring. Yes, being an engineer is prestigious & you can make very good money but it is not a sexy job. Nobody ever really begs to sit next to the engineer at the dinner table and engineers are never really all that exciting outside of any new project they might be working on. Suffice it to say, this job is probably only interesting if you’re the one doing all the engineering.

Readers, are there any jobs that you’re glad you don’t have?

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If I Wasn’t What I Am, What Would I Be?

I’m sure everyone has thought about what job they would rather have versus what job they actually have. While I enjoy what I do, I would be lying if I didn’t think about doing something else. At the very least, I have given some thought as to what careers I thankfully avoided –

  • Doctor – I could never be a doctor because it takes too long to get through medical school. I don’t have the patience to go through 8+ years of schooling only to have to sit for stressful exams, certifications and licensures.  But if I were to become a physician I would probably be an Ear, nose & throat doctor. It’s not a “sexy” field but it’s certainly not dangerous & probably one of the least stressful fields of medicine. You get to work on exciting cases – like patients who have throat cancer, but you don’t have to see any blood & guts. My second choice would be a chiropractor. You only have to go to school for 4 more years after undergrad, instead of 7-11 more years to become a “real” doctor.
  • Attorney – I’ve heard very frightful things about taking the bar exam. Depending on where you live or if you move during your legal career, you will have to take the bar several times over. Who has time for all that?!   But if I had to be a lawyer I would love to practice criminal law. Even if my client was admittedly guilty it would be a fun challenge fighting for their freedom. And if I lost, oh well – they were guilty anyway!
  • Actress/Model – Like most little girls I really wanted to be a model when I grew up. I used to love to act like my living room was the stage & even made up my own little dramatic walk & strutted in front of the television (which always annoyed anybody trying to watch TV). The problem, though, is that I love food too much. And because I prefer to keep my food down, I will never be small enough to actually be a model.
  • Teacher – Teachers by far have the best working hours of any job out there. While there may be a lot of parent-teacher meetings, school functions to attend, late nights grading papers, office or tutoring hours after class, I can’t think of any other profession that gives you an entire season off to recuperate. (Oh wait, I guess professional athletes get a few seasons off every year also, but I digress.) My problem with teaching is that I don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s bratty kids for 6 hours out of the day. I have a hard time dealing with adults who act like children, so I certainly can’t work with actual children.
  • Accountant – This is a job with good pay and decent working hours. No “extra” schooling is required and you’ll always be in demand (that is until some software program phases you out). From May thru March you’ll live a normal life but I would think that people would start to get really friendly in April because they want help with their taxes.

What about you? Are there any careers you’re glad that you dodged? If so, let me know…..

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