Archive for August, 2011

Should I Say Or Should I Go?

There have been further discussions on Linkmen abut staying in then USAF or getting lot. Here are  a few hard cold thoughts on that score:


“In more and more businesses, the tasks and responsibilities are being piled up on smaller staffs and overworked employees, many of whom find themselves increasingly fed up with top-down management that doesn’t appreciate them.”


Annie Leonard pointed out at the New York Times that Americans work longer hours than people in any other industrialized nation. We work nearly nine weeks more than Western Europeans, and we get far fewer vacations.:… (A recent article in Canadian magazine MacLeans also pointed out that Dutch workers, women in particular, often only work part-time to spend m, ore time with their families—and that the Netherlands consistently ranks as one of the happiest nations on earth.)\


It occurs to me many military members or recent retires may not realize what the civilian workforce is like these days. (Outside civilian contract work for the military.)

So, (unpleasant as my take on this is) it may be well to think carefully if you have  not yet separated. If you do—heed what I have already written in seeking a job that is a fit. And, again… it is a very good idea to have an exit strategy. I’m just saying…


Hiring our Heroes

Reading one of my discussions on LinkedIn and having been asked if I knew any disabled vets, I am reminded that being a vet with a service connected disability can get you a job—for anyone who wants to bid on government contracts.  So I Googled “”hiring” and found this:

“On March 24, 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched its Hiring our Heroes program, a year-long nationwide effort to help veterans and their spouses find meaningful employment. The Chamber started the program in partnership with the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS), to improve public-private sector coordination in local communities, where veterans and their families are returning every day.”

“Over the next year, Hiring Our Heroes will work with local chambers of commerce, the administration, and the National Guard and Reserve to connect 100,000 veterans with more than 1,000 different employers during 100 hiring fairs across the country. The first hiring fair took place in Chicago, bringing together more than 125 employers and 1,200 veterans and their spouses. About 150 of them will end up with new jobs.”

You probably don’t want to do the math on this… 100 veterans per employer. And I don’t suppose it would do for me to address the pretty rhetoric—“valiant men and women…” I am veteran—I am not valiant. I am just a human being doing the best I can. Probably most of us are. I am sorry, but that happy talk rings hollow to me. And how easily they overlook the fact that a huge number of these (admittedly newer) vets have been badly scarred by the long deployments and the asymmetrical wars they have fought.

I am perhaps cynical—this looks like PR to me.

But if you get a job at ne of these “hiring fairs” I hope it is the right one. Remember… these employers, should they hire you, are NOT doing you a favor. They NEED good employees. No company can operate with just bosses. So do your due diligence if you get a job offer. Check on  the company and its culture. If it is a culture of fear—either pass on the job (OK, not realistic!)  or have an exit strategy—I think that is legitimate in this climate. Build a resume but keep an eye out.

And good luck.

Interviews: How to Tell What The Values Of The Company Are

This gleaned from an HR publication: “The interviewing process is rife with opportunities for problems. For example, it’s important to avoid certain subjects, such as conversations about the applicant’s spouse or children. Some brief “small talk” at the beginning of an interview about the applicant’s child playing in the local soccer league may seem harmless, but it can quickly turn into evidence that you didn’t hire the applicant because you were worried she would need to leave work early because of her child’s extracurricular activities. “

(BTW, for the same reason using Facebook to research a candidate is legally dangerous.)

“Another danger spot is interview notes. Remember that any notes you take during the interview could become evidence at trial if the applicant files a lawsuit over your decision not to hire. Therefore, you must be cautious about the types of notes you take and how they relate to the applicant. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take notes. It simply means you should make notes with the understanding that they could appear in letters six inches high in front of a jury.”

Note that the emphasis hear is fear and defensiveness. If you are looking for a job that matches your values you may wish to avoid this company… unfortunately this is the received wisdom” in HR—which is where I got this information! As I mentioned previously, if your interviewer seems preoccupied with their agenda… beware!  Sorry to be so alarmist but this IS the gestalt of Human Resources.

Look for a company that is NOT afraid. A company that is afraid of who will sue them next is NOT lookg for the real values of their “human capital. They are looking  for tier hid oarts– and probably because they have somethig to look out for.

You can do better.

Random Thoughts-Nice Guys Or Girls) Finish Last

I was reading the online ABA Journal (and comments) today. There was an article about salary negotiation tactics. “[the pundit quoted[ offers this example. You are talking to a human resources representative who offers you $75,000. Respond by saying, “I see. So you’re saying that the salary for this position would be $75,000.” Then pause. Sometimes the person who made the salary offer will rush to fill in the silence and offer a higher amount.”

This advice drew scathing scorn from the legal community. My thoughts are, I guess you could follow up with “does that include any stock options” if you think this sounded dumb and the ploy didn’t work. But should you negotiate at all?

A possibly little known fact—studies show men negotiate or a higher salary.. women don’t. “Women working full time earn about 77 percent of the salaries of men working full time, Babcock said. That figure does not take differing professions and educational levels into account, but when those and other factors are controlled for, women who work full time and have never taken time off to have children earn about 11 percent less than men with equivalent education and experience…. In one early study, Babcock brought 74 volunteers into a laboratory to play a word game called Boggle. The volunteers were told they would be paid anywhere from $3 to $10 for their time. After playing the game, each student was given $3 and asked if the sum was okay. Eight times more men than women asked for more money.”

Also, “Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalize women who asked for more — the perception was that women who asked for more were “less nice”. (supra)

So take care—negotiating may well be a bad idea.

Non Toxic Management

I seem to be off a tear about workplace culture. I suspect it is in part because it has been so very long since I was in a good one! I became a lawyer in the 80s when there was still a shred of civility and honor in the profession. Of course, my first job I was pretty thrilled—I had worked VERY hard to get there. But it was nit a bad place to work, although our offices were cramped. The form was three women friends and me and a few secretaries. It was more like a family than most law offices. I learned a lot.


Then I heard that this firm in Los Angeles was hiring. (I got all my jobs through people I knew—often opponents who thought well of me.) I had been doing plaintiff work and this was an insurance defense form—what is now called “captive counsel.” We had a separate office from the insurance side but did not have billable hours. The other attorneys were pretty decent, the hours were reasonable and the location was good. Looking back it seems almost idyllic. (I left for more money and a shorter commute.. and HATED my new job.)

Since then I have not had a law job that was not toxic. So maybe I am prejudices or jaded. But my non law jobs (teaching) have been pretty awful, too. I see corporations placing profit above both employees and customers routinely. So… I think NON toxic workplaces may be the exception. (Anyone reading this who disagrees feel free to chime in.)

Here’s an opinion found on the web: “Meaningful work and a sense of value within the organization are indeed powerful elements of employee engagement. All work is meaningful and valuable (otherwise, why would you be paying people to do it). The trick is for management to help employees see that meaningfulness and personal value, especially during this tough economy and often stressful workplace environment.”

I agree with this chap—but I wonder how many managers do? I know a lot of my military students were in the medical corps, and happy taking care of people. They did not have to worry there about billing or profits, what will they find when they seek employment in the civilian for profit world?

I wonder.

Best Places to Work are Employee Owned—or VALUE YOU!

In the 1990s an Orange County California company (alas, I have blanked on  the name) made a huge profit–which it shared with employees. The company was written up: bosses worked along side the regular workers on  the floor. No one spent their “bonuses” on stupid things–toys. (One employee borrowed a Porsche and drove it to work just to watch everyone’s face—then told them it was a joke.) They paid down their mortgages and debts. This is great place to work.

Elsewhere, a “study shows that the overwhelming success of companies like UK-based John Lewis is due to innovative mechanisms to encourage employee participation and cultivate a culture of ownership. Andrew Bibby explores how this company model of a fully or majority employee-owned business is not only self-sustaining and successful, but is in fact widely applicable.”–en/WCMS_081375/index.htm

In the 90s employees were given “ownership” via ESOPS—a form of stock—but that did not work out all that well, as the airline industry shows. Many have suffered financially despite a degree of “ownership” by employees. Southwest may be an exception: here’s what their blog said in 2009: “Another thing that’s unique about Southwest is its sense of humor,” says Colleen. “We use words that corporate America doesn’t. Our stock exchange symbol is LUV. We give employees a lot of freedom. We don’t want them to be cookie-cutter copies of each other. When most people go to work, they take off their personal demeanor.”

Sounds like a great place to work to me.

Another company rated well by employees: “Treating their workers well was one of the reasons DPR Construction, a national company of 1,200 employees (130 in Orange County), ranked high in the meaning survey. Workers are free to pursue their passions and are cherished by management, said Jim Washburn, the company’s regional leader. The company also landed on Forbes “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2010.

Bottom line.. don’t just work—work for joy and appreciation!

What is the Culture You Want to be Part Of?

You are looking for a job. You have bills to pay; mortgage/rent cell phone cable TV, car loan, groceries, health care if you are not a military retiree with Champus. All rising. Welcome to America! But you will spend a lot of time at that job, so you may want to choose wisely. Alas, most companies seem to be badly run. (There are some military types who have posted on LinkedIn about “toxic managers” as well.) Trust me—these folks can ruin your quality of life. So when you interview the prospective “boss”—and you should—what would you look for? A well run company values its workers—all of them. And is listens to them—not only because it’s the decent thing to do, but because it is good business!

.” Alan Trefler of Pegasystems, “ I have told so many employees over the years, “Don’t expect me to have all the answers, because I don’t. If you think I do, then we’re going to fail, because I need your thoughts and insights to solve this problem.”

“Once you tell everybody that it’s their job to have an informed opinion and, by the way, it had better not be the same opinion as everybody else’s, then you’re sharing some of that responsibility. And you obviously need to be able to listen if you’re going to actually hear those opinions… “

So how do you find this out, in your interview? One way to tell is to watch to see of the interviewer is really listening to you. I have taken many depositions, and “defended” many as well. (A deposition is a very formal interview,) Trust me, the lawyers asking all the questions are almost never really listening. It’s sad. How you can tell is they are looking down at their checklist, they are not making eye contact, and they just don’t seem interested. (They aren’t!)

Another way you can tell, of this seems to be a job you might have a serious shot at, is asking.  “How does this company assess (or gather or evaluate)   employee input to our mission? “How do we asses how well we are doing?” The type of business will make a difference to how you do this, but the companies that do the best (unbeknownst to the majority of “experts”( are the ones who give employees a stake in the business and listen to them. More on that next time! Meanwhile—ask!