Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beauty At Your Finger Tips

Have you ever seen a spray painter at work? In a mere matter of 10-15 minutes you will see a masterpiece being born in front of your own eyes. A spray here, a spray there, smudge, touch, sprinkle, turn, adjust, more spraying... I was captivated and mesmerized  by the whole process when I saw it for the first time in my life. Is it art? Maybe. It is well looked upon art? Doubt so. It is easy to understand, it's right in front of your own set of eyes, but can you do it?

Same with HR. There is the Craft, the Science and the Art of the profession. Just like with anything else. Let's try to visualize the process of a painting creation. You may know the basics of mixing the paints, preparing the canvass, positioning the objects, and the like. You have the Science of the subject matter. Furthermore, you may be good in drawing, creating images, transforming your own ideas into a visual form for others to appreciate. You have the Craft of painting. But does it make you a Raphael or a Picasso? Hardly so - and that is the last element - the Art of the profession.

Obviously, you need all three and all three are there in the society, but they are distributed unevenly. How many HR professionals are out there? If we take the average ratio of 1 HR pro per 40 employees, that is a massive army of HRs out there! How many of them have the Art of the profession? Some. But not all.

Once again, we are coming back to the issue of finding what is it that you are really good at and how do you develop it and capitalize on your strengths. What is easiest/hardest to develop: Science, Craft or Art? How? Everything starts with understanding oneself. Once you have a grasp of who you are, you are much closer to understanding your fellow human beings. You don't need to understand Finance as much, for instance. It will get to to a certain point in your life, but to progress from there a deep insight into the nature of yourself and others is crucial.

I am going to write something about Strengths Finder quite soon. I need to make up my mind about that assessment... will let you know...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nice Standards: Cities as Organizations

I am a social migrant.

I see things from the outside because I don't really belong anywhere. That's why it is easier for me to pick up inconsistencies, things of interest and be much more critical of how life is set up in different places.

Culture is a weird thing. I have been thinking about it a lot. Culture is like Bin Laden: it is there but nobody has ever seen it.

Nice is a city in France on the Cote d'Azur, and it's an homograph with the English word "nice". I felt particularly creative about writing today. Reflecting back on my holidays a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly realized that cities are just like organizations: they have their own corporate citizens, their rules, regulations, and norms (explicit and implicit). Cities go through the same cycles: decline, revival, blooming, and then decline again. How exciting is that? The French Riviera has been a glamorous holiday destination for thousands of French and foreigners for many years. Nearby Cannes and St Tropez can vie with Hollywood for the first place in which city has seen more millionaires per square meter.

What do we see today?

  • any language is spoken but French. How disappointing! Russian, English, Italian, but not French! I go to France to be sneered at, to experience that famous shrug Peter Mayle was writing about, and what do I get instead --- the standard smily irritating American service. 
  • there are four categories of businesses most popular in town: lawyers, doctors (particularly geriatric services), real estate agents, and funeral services. Just the right marketing mix for a holiday destination.
  • people play the accordion on the beach and sing. Maybe I don't understand something, but my idea of high culture is somewhat different. 5% of intellectual elite is our last hope, I guess.
How do you tell a good restaurant from a bad one? The first thing that I always look at is the quality of napkins. When a restaurant opens, they are nice, think and expensive. As time goes by, they become thinner and resemble toilet paper more and more. To me it is an indication that I need to look for a new place to socialize. Same with cities and organizations. Signs of decay, or as Lynda Gratton coins it, "permanent frost" must shun you away like plague. Why do you think Goldman Sachs pays so much attention to recruitment? Because people constitute the culture. Culture is the ultimate driver of any organization.

At the very beginning of this blog post, I mentioned that you can't really see the culture. You are in it, like a pickle in the marinade, and if you are not careful enough, you may just as well get marinated. How do you abstract yourself from what is happening around? How can you keep your immunity to changes happening around you, when they happen for the worse? 

We don't know who discovered the sea, but we are sure that it was not a fish.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Inclusive Language

Aug 16th 2010, 21:02 by G.L. | NEW YORK
VIA Stan Carey's Sentence First we learn that Dennis Baron, professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has long been interested (some might use a stronger word) in the periodic attempts to institute gender-neutral pronouns in English, for those cases where "he or she" feels cumbersome but "they" is numerically inaccurate.
You might have heard of pronouns like "ze" and "zer" created for the purpose of discussing transgender and genderqueer identity. But according to Mr Baron's count there have been "more than 100 attempts to coin a gender-neutral pronoun over the course of more than 150 years", including heeshhsekinvetateyfmzzeshem,sej/ejeeeyhopoaeetheshehannhermaladeghach... the list goes on.
Now, for the benefit of us web-rats, he has condensed the fruits of his research into ahighly entertaining blog post, which includes clippings of newspaper articles on the need for such pronouns, going back to the mid 19th century. See, for instance, this one fromThe Atlantic in 1878:
We want a new pronoun. The need of a personal pronoun of the singular number and common gender is so desperate, urgent, imperative, that according to the established theories it should long since have grown on our speech, as the tails grew off the monkeys.
It's nice to see that a scant 19 years after the publication of "On the Origin of Species", Darwinism was already considered "established", whereas today America seem to be moving in the opposite direction. And yet English-speakers have resisted gender-neutral pronouns as stubbornly as the cosmopolitans of the world have resisted Esperanto.
If we continue the natural-selection metaphor, then, this suggests that if words, or indeed whole languages, have an equivalent of evolutionary fitness (an organism's capacity to get its genes into the next generation), then merely being designed to suit a certain purpose is not enough to ensure fitness. Natural selection operates incrementally, after all; new species don't appear out of the blue, but form gradually as adaptations of existing ones that already have a niche in the ecosystem. Refudiate might catch on, because it's an adaptation. Ghach... forget it. Maybe with time "he or she" could gradually turn into "hershee" and then "hersh", or "s/he" become "sehee" and then "se", but coining them from raw metal won't work.
But if they evolve gradually, they're in an evolutionary arms race with "they". And my money would be on "they". It's more of a leap to introduce new pronouns that are gender neutral than adapt an existing one to be number neutral. As Mr Baron points out, "After all, if you, which is also gender neutral, can serve both for singular and plural, why can't they do the same?"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Language Tricks

“Culture is a like dropping an Alka-seltzer into a glass – you don’t see it, but somehow it does something”

One of my favorite professors at university once said, "As many languages you know, so many times you are a man". By "man", she obviously meant "man" or "woman" as she was no sexist for sure, but the message is quite ponderous: your chances of success in the increasingly globalized society depend on your linguistic ability. It so happened that during my summer vacation I ended up travelling three countries in Europe in three days, which speak three different languages: Spain, Germany and France. That was a bit of a overloading for my poor brain, but overall it was an exciting experience, as I made it a challenge for myself to speak those languages with the locals and refuse to admit that I speak English. The French were the greatest surprise. Their level of English was surprising and slightly frightening, since just a couple of years ago I would be struggling to find anyone there who would produce anything but a string of intelligible mumbling clearly identifiable in the whole world as the French language. Maybe I was travelling in the wrong place (Cote d'Azur, after all, is a highly touristic destination and the service industry adapts quicker than all others to the demands of the global community), but hey - those French waiters and shop assistants spoke perfect English (and some of them even Russian) - something I would have not expected merely a couple of years ago. I was not sure how to take it, as the French are known for their puristic stance on the matter of linguistic identity. So have they given in? It has always been an exciting discussion for me whether a country should yield and submit to English as the language of communication or whether it should preserve its culture and identity by insisting on keeping its language and culture "clean" of external influence, but that is a subject for a separate post.

Linguistic competence has been given a justifiably high weighting in the business world. When you put together your CV, the languages section is obligatory. When you apply for specific jobs, you will be given language tests during your recruitment process. If you are an expatriate, your company will make sure that you learn the language(s) of the country you have been deployed to. Reasons for this importance are obvious - if you want to understand how the society operates, you need to learn the language. I do not want to bore you with the intricacies of the Sapir-Whorf  theory, but in a nutshell, a language defines your thinking and perception of the world. Go back to your working environment and think what sort of language is used at the office. How often do people say "thank you"? What about gender-sensitive words? How do you treat those who do not speak the dominant language? Having answered such questions, you will arrive at realization of what the corporate culture is.

Linguistic failures are frequent and the most spectacular ones are well known. Of the more comical was Ford’s introduction of the ‘Pinto’ in Brazil. After seeing sales fail, they soon realized that this was due to the fact that Brazilians did not want to be seen driving a car meaning ‘tiny male genitals’. Here you will find many more examples of the Marketing Translation mistakes: http://www.i18nguy.com/translations.html (actually some are HILARIOUS!).

So what are the greatest challenges? There are many... the two that immediately spring to mind are:
- there are 23 languages in the EU Parliament with equal status. How can that institution function effectively?
- emerging BRIC countries with very particular and difficult languages. How do we enter those markets?
Seeing the rising importance of such problems I start thinking... should I drop my MBA classes and go back to my Linguistics degree? :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

No Facebook?

How did people let each other know what was happening in their lives before the social networks were created? I mean - how weird must it have been to write long letters and sit for hours over a kitchen table swapping news, rumors and war stories? Nowadays it is so much easier, faster and non-committing. How non-committing it is is a question, particularly in the light of the recent developments in Germany, where Angela Merkel is planning to put a ban on using information contained in personal social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Tuenti) in hiring practices - read the full article here.

However, this is too serious of a topic for a Friday blog post, so have a little fun with this attempt to simulate what Facebook entries might have looked like in the fairly distant past. Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Are we ready to open our minds?

Yesterday I went to see the Fotopres exposition at LaCaixa in Madrid. I have not been more disturbed in a long while. After genuinely enjoying the exposition dedicated to the professional (and partially personal) life of Federico Fellini, I went to the upper level to make it a well-rounded visit to the gallery... like when they put a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to your brownie - you have not asked for it, but it completes the experience... For a moment I wished I never stepped my foot on that floor. As you enter, you are facing several large scale portraits of women, whose faces and bodies were crippled by acid. Other walls tell you about war atrocities in Kenya in 2008, ravages in Lebanon, alcoholism in Mongolia, terror of Caracas slums, etc.

The video installations shed more light on the issues. The victims of social and political calamities in less developed countries flee to Europe not for a longer euro, but to stay alive. Is Europe ready to accept them? I am posing this question not in economic terms but more from the cultural and social angle. Confronted with the question, any educated person would say that they are open-minded and surely victims of humanitarian disasters must be given shelter, protection and possible help. What happens in reality? Every day on my way to school and back home I pass an area under a viaduct where homeless immigrants (I guess from Maghreb or Middle Eastern countries) live. This is the prestigious and posh area of Salamanca! What happens in the suburban areas of Madrid? Other cities? Countries?

One wall with pictures clearly stands out in the entire exhibition. DubaiLand. Pictures of wealth, prosperity and artificiality. Juxtaposed to all the other photographs, they somehow ridicule and challenge the "first world" and its vanity while there is so much violence and cruelty everywhere else.

You cannot NOT choose. All our life is a consecutive chain of choices. Whom do you go to lunch with? Who are your friends? Who are your suppliers? Whom do you hire? Would you prefer to work with people different from you? How different? Would you shake hands with an HIV-positive person? Would you be comfortable if it is a teacher of your children? There are so many questions which would be answered politically correctly... However, when it comes to brass tacks and real life, so often our espoused values are different from values in-use. How do we break this wall? Just like anything else - one brick at a time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How to tell when your boss is lying

Corporate psychology

It's not just that his lips are moving

“ASSHOLE!” That was what Jeff Skilling, the boss of Enron, called an investor who challenged his rosy account of his firm’s financial health. Other bosses usually give less obvious clues that they are lying. Happily, a new study reveals what those clues are.
David Larcker and Anastasia Zakolyukina of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business analysed the transcripts of nearly 30,000 conference calls by American chief executives and chief financial officers between 2003 and 2007. They noted each boss’s choice of words, and how he delivered them. They drew on psychological studies that show how people speak differently when they are fibbing, testing whether these “tells” were more common during calls to discuss profits that were later “materially restated”, as the euphemism goes. They published their findings in a paper called “Detecting Deceptive Discussions in Conference Calls”.
Deceptive bosses, it transpires, tend to make more references to general knowledge (“as you know…”), and refer less to shareholder value (perhaps to minimise the risk of a lawsuit, the authors hypothesise). They also use fewer “non-extreme positive emotion words”. That is, instead of describing something as “good”, they call it “fantastic”. The aim is to “sound more persuasive” while talking horsefeathers.
When they are lying, bosses avoid the word “I”, opting instead for the third person. They use fewer “hesitation words”, such as “um” and “er”, suggesting that they may have been coached in their deception. As with Mr Skilling’s “asshole”, more frequent use of swear words indicates deception. These results were significant, and arguably would have been even stronger had the authors been able to distinguish between executives who knowingly misled and those who did so unwittingly. They had to assume that every restatement was the result of deliberate deception; but the psychological traits they tested for would only appear in a person who knew he was lying.
This study should help investors glean valuable new insights from conference calls. Alas, this benefit may diminish over time. The real winners will be public-relations firms, which now know to coach the boss to hesitate more, swear less and avoid excessive expressions of positive emotion. Expect “fantastic” results to become a thing of the past.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday fun: of Sport and Brain

As Haruki Murakami said in one of his books, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, "Muscles are hard to get and easy to lose. Fat is easy to get and hard to lose." Same logic applies to mind exercise and IQ. It is hard to get smarter and easy to slip on the way and yield to laziness and bad habits. Undoubtedly, we can go into lengthy discussions about different types of knowledge and that it's not that bad, but quoting the same book again, "The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can't be learned at school." Who teaches you determination or will power? Resilience? Humility? Forgiveness?

I started going to the gym last week again. After four years of going to the gym 5-6 times a week, a 4-month break was grueling. My body was crying at first needing its daily fix of exercise, but then it sort of reconciled to the fact that it's not getting any. The battle in my mind was even more fierce: how do I balance the MBA pressure with the need of regular exercise? After my short vacation trip to the South of France beaches I could not postpone joining a local Madrid gym any longer. Since then I have been good with attendance and intensity of exercise. Surely, the muscles were complaining at the beginning but now I am getting back into the routine again. After all, PAIN IS INEVITABLE BUT SUFFERING IS OPTIONAL.

One of the reasons I decided to join IE Business School was to get back into the mind gym routine - precisely the same withdrawal symptoms as with physical exercise. I am not saying that when you work there is no intellectual stimulation, but the levels of abstraction are quite different. I was managing to compensate the lack of academic load as much as I could with books, short term courses and learned talks with people of science, but I did not feel it was enough. Morale of this story is: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Every day, in every situation - your body, mind and soul must be working - stagnation is death. On this inspirational note I am leaving you with a couple of suggestions for intellectual stimulation when you have nothing better to do :)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

How I got to DHL Inhouse Consulting

I am not sure if my career is going to be dominated by yellow and red (remember my previous company was Shell), I just keep my fingers crossed it is not going to be McDonalds in the future.

As you remember, last week I went to Bonn in Germany for an assessment center with DHL Inhouse Consulting. Some of you even sent me messages to find out what that was all about and how to apply, so I figured out I'd rather make the details of the trip public; hope someone finds it interesting and useful.

Everything started on Monday in Bonn with my crude misconstruction of German behavior. Take these three things into consideration: Germany, Monday morning and Germany. Everyone in the office was smiling and greeting me!!! How weird is that? I mean... on a Monday morning it is generally a very BAD idea to talk to me before I had my first cup of coffee. In Bonn people on the streets were greeting me - huh? Well, I allow a possibility that was because I was wearing an awesome Calvin Klein linen suit with a tie and a fresh haircut - still, I was not prepared for that.

What I WAS prepared for is that everything will be measured to the dot and it was. The process ran smoothly according to the schedule, not a minute wasted. I have always admired German punctuality (not when you live with one of them, though), but in general you can check your clock by the German schedule.

The presentations and interviews are done by consultants and project managers, which instantly signals the level of commitment the company places on the recruitment process. As Jack Welch said, recruitment is the single most important activity in any organization. I think Goldman Sachs is another company taking it seriously with up to 60 interviews when you join them.

I have never done a case interview in my life and I should tell you, it's not something you want to go through every day. I used to run assessment centers at Shell, but that was somewhat a different experience... not so stressful I believe. With a case interview you need to think of your feet and lay out your reasoning and calculations there and then. The key (as I see it) is to reveal your thinking and show the ability to look at the problem holistically. Nobody expects you to demonstrate Financial Management knowledge - if that is your biggest asset, probably you should be doing this interview at Merrill Lynch or Lehman Brothers... no... hold on... scrap the latter one... Obviously, you need to pepper your answer with the typical MBA lingo, such as "sustainable development", "win-win solution", "leverage" and the like, but you can only do this much BS - you are expected to give a concrete recommendation at the end of your verbal torrent of business school profanities. The case studies turned out to be relevant real life problems, examples of which can be found on the DHL Inhouse Consulting website. I struggled a little with "getting my hands dirty" and digging deeper into the numbers, but I am aware of my preference to go for the bigger picture. If you demonstrate the ability to think on the fly, you are fine.

The feedback and decision was instant, so walking away from their office three hours later I was given the offer and the details. HR gets involved only at the final stage when it comes to figures and contracts, and it is all polished and smooth, which sort of can be expected from a worldwide logistics leader.

One concern that I still can't get my head around is: if they stress the importance of teamwork so much, why were all the candidates given only individual assignments? Or maybe it's merely because it is only an assessment for an internship, and the "real" assessment will be more grueling, longer and earth-shattering?

Now I have four months before the start and the personal question is what I need to do to get the most of that internship experience and weigh up all the other options. There are electives, there are long- and short-term exchanges, Venture Lab, and surely I can try getting into another company. They say that options are good, they give you the sense of freedom. But when there are too many of them, they give you a headache.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Truth about Expats

The quandary Nokia has found itself in is not uncommon for hundreds of large multinationals. The rule of thumb seems to be: when the proverbial mass hits the fan - call in an expat. Expats are smarter, they don't have ties to the locals (hence unbiased decision-making) and they have a global outlook. This would be true in countries like China, Ghana and 1990s Russia, but Finland does not suffer from lack of local talent, who are capable of running a large multi-billion dollar organization. Obviously, this depends on what you want to do with it. If the long-term intentions are to sell the whole thing, then surely you would need a turnaround manager, who would come and ensure that the company's market value soars. However, if sustainable long-term growth is needed, wouldn't it be a better idea to go for a local?


The curse of the alien boss

Nokia is reportedly seeking an outsider to revive it. Bad idea

INSIDE Nokia, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the company’s CEO, is known as OPK. In the wider tech world he is known as a dead man walking. The business press is buzzing with rumours of his imminent demise. Alas for him, these rumours have boosted his company’s share price.
Mr Kallasvuo took over the world’s largest phonemaker (which is also by far the biggest company in his native Finland) in the summer of 2006. Six months later Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and it has been downhill ever since. Nokia’s shares have tumbled by nearly two-thirds. Its profit margins have withered from 15% to 7%. And the firm has all but imploded in America, despite Mr Kallasvuo’s pledge to conquer the region.
Nokia’s most obvious problem is that it is being squeezed out of the smartphone market. Smartphones are not only lucrative in themselves; they are also the gateway to the even juicier market for services and “apps”. Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android range compete on “cool”. BlackBerry is synonymous with business. But what does Nokia stand for? Mr Kallasvuo argues that the forthcoming N8—an all-singing-and-dancing handset that is due to hit the stores in October after several delays—will “mark the beginning of our renewal”. But previews suggest that the phone is more about catching up than setting the pace. Nokia’s ads tout its “revolutionary” touch-screen technology, built-in camera and GPS. Yet such baubles are already commonplace.
This tardiness is a symptom of two deeper problems. One is technological: Nokia has split its bet on smartphones between two operating systems, Symbian and MeeGo, and has not come up with a hit for either of them. The other is cultural: the centre of gravity of the mobile-phone industry is shifting from Scandinavia (which dominated the field from the late 1980s) to Asia and Silicon Valley. Innovations such as touch-screen navigating are being pioneered in northern California, not northern Europe.
What can Nokia do to turn itself around? If you believe the tech press, the answer is simple: dump OPK and replace him with a troubleshooter, preferably an American. Speculation about possible successors is furious: Andy Rubin, the head of Android at Google, is on many lists. Jorma Ollila, Nokia’s chairman and the CEO in its glory days, is said to have interviewed a couple of big American names. Nokia denies all these rumours.
The speculators may well be right. Mr Kallasvuo is the quintessential product of a company that has grown too cautious and inward-looking—a Nokia lifer who cut his teeth as a company lawyer and visibly wilts in the limelight. Nokia cannot afford to appoint another hidebound insider. But trying to find a saviour from far away is perhaps even riskier.
One of the few things that management theorists agree on is that recruiting bosses from outside is something that you should avoid if you can. Listen to ├╝ber-guru Jim Collins: in “Good to Great”, he observed that more than 90% of the CEOs of his sample of highly successful companies were recruited internally. Or consult Rakesh Khurana of Harvard Business School: in “Searching for a Corporate Saviour”, he described how companies that invest their hopes in a charismatic outsider are usually disappointed. Or read the painstaking studies that come out of the Academy of Management: they show that even companies that are having a hard time are better off sticking with an insider. The curse of the alien boss is particularly potent in the high-tech sector: think of John Sculley’s disastrous reign at Apple or Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard.
Nokia is especially likely to prove allergic to a foreign CEO. For a start, the firm is headquartered in a country that is dark for half the year. That will surely limit its ability to attract the best and brightest. (The rumour mill suggests that one prominent American has already rejected the job because he or she does not want to live in Finland.) To make matters trickier, Finns deem Nokia a national treasure: it accounts for about a fifth of the value of their stock exchange and a huge share of their exports. A foreign CEO would be under intense scrutiny from day one.

Finnished before he starts?
Nokia is also a global behemoth, with 35% of the world’s handset market. Silicon Valley’s finest may be good at high-end innovation. But none of them knows much about running a company with R&D facilities in 16 countries and sales in more than 160. Nokia has led the industry in creating a vast distribution system in emerging markets: it has some 90,000 sales outlets in China, 1,000 customer-service centres and a huge army of sales people, for example. But the assaults from low-cost local companies are relentless. One of the biggest dangers for Nokia is that it will devote so much energy to taking on Apple, Google and Research In Motion (the maker of the BlackBerry) that it will lose its edge in emerging markets.
All is not lost. There are some examples of successful outsiders—most notably Lou Gerstner at IBM—to be set against the more numerous examples of failures. And Nokia has undergone a remarkable transformation before. It was once an industrial conglomerate best known for making rubber boots.
Nokia sells more handsets than its three smartphone rivals combined and enjoys higher profit margins than some of its traditional competitors, such as Motorola and Sony Ericsson. It has the industry’s best distribution system. Unlike Apple, it sells the equivalent of everything from Porsches to Corollas. Nokia has a better chance of producing a successful smartphone than Apple does of penetrating the Chinese and Indian markets. But in looking for a CEO who can take on the likes of Apple and Android, Nokia faces its biggest test since it decided to bet its future on the mobile telephone in the early 1990s.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First MBA months: summary

  First vacation and it's time to think about the four months I have spent at IE Business School. I have written quite a bit about the program and I laid out some concerns earlier, so this is mostly a summary. I am welcoming my classmate to agree or disagree on any of the points, but here they are:

  1. Helping others is bad. Aka "digging your own grave", "spitting upwards" (you know it will land on you sooner or later) or "sawing off the branch you are sitting on". The curve system discourages any desire to help others excel in their learning because a better grade for them might mean a worse grade for you. Thus, crossing teamwork out.
  2. Doing less you will get more. There is an inherent performance management system failure. Some of my classmates outright refused to take part in group activities, focused only on individual studies and got better grades. Important lesson: don't commit.
  3. If you don't bend the system, the system will bend you (and not in a good way). What is best for the school does not necessarily mean it's best for the students. We were lucky to observe that with a number of events (e.g. Segovia entrepreneurial conference or feedback/professor selection processes). Takeaway: watch out for yourself.
One last thought: MBA might also stand for:
   Mediocre But Arrogant
   Mighty Big Attitude
   Me Before Anyone
   My Bogus Achievement
   Master of Bullshit Artist
   Managers By Accident
   Many Brief Affairs
   Massive Bank Account
   Married But Alone
   Married But Available

...and it does not always work that well:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Turkish carpeting: When Your Looks Pay Off

How do you recruit young and attractive employees without getting into litigation complexities related to age and looks discrimination? Face control is not something easy to implement, particularly in the more developed parts of the world. Apparently, in Turkey they have few issues with that as we can see from the article below.

OK, maybe you can get past the recruitment stage. What happens if you take on a couple of kilos? Now you are unfit to work? Another interesting case - all of a sudden, you are 30!!! Start dusting off your CV, as nobody likes being served chicken or beef by an old person.

So far, I believe it is mainly the States who have implemented strict legislative requirements re: discrimination in the workplace. Hence, we get characters like Valerie (Pam Ann show), and American Airlines get renowned for their aging crew :)

Turkish carpeting
Aug 13th 2010, 17:41 by T.P. | LONDON

IS IT any wonder that flight attendants are deploying the emergency-evacuation chute and heading for the hills? With competition in the aviation sector so intense, airlines feel under pressure to promote as glossy an image as possible. The latest carrier to take action is Turkish Airlines, where, according to the management, passenger numbers aren’t the only things growing. Waistlines have also come under scrutiny, and 28 flight attendants have been told to lose weight or lose their jobs.

Turkish Airlines has explained that the height and weight of its attendants are "important both in terms of appearance and the ability to move about" and that all the employees involved had previously been warned about their weight. They have now been placed on six months' unpaid leave. If they don't slim down they will be reassigned to other duties.

As Gulliver has previously noted, many carriers do not embroil themselves in the issue of their attendants’ weight, asking only that they meet the mobility requirements to fulfil their roles safely. To place a heavy emphasis on appearance seems a throwback—today’s commercial pilots are no longer feted as heroes, you are not allowed to smoke and you definitely can’t visit the cockpit. Yet the image of the “trolley dolly” lingers on. It's as if Lee Kuan Yew’s opinion that the "Singapore Girl" (the name-cum-slogan of Singapore Airlines' flight attendants) needed "to stay on the right side of the thirties" in order "to remain attractive" has been taken as an immutable truth.

The issue of airlines reassigning or firing attendants over the approved weight is no longer an unexpected story—even if Turkish Airlines lists appearance ahead of mobility when explaining the significance of its cabin crews' weight. However, an interesting twist to this case is that, in contrast to the ten attendants sacked by Air India in 2009, 15 of the Turkish carrier's crew members are men. Will some of the sympathy shown to the Air India crew also be afforded to Izzet Levi, who weighs in at a burly 106kg (233lbs), and his colleagues?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Who's harassing whom?

It would not be so funny if it were not at least partially true. Only the lazy, the fools and those who are in coma have not jumped onto the sexual harassment bandwagon yet. Irrespective which side of the fence you are on, it is so easy to gain attention cheaply, fast and efficiently if you play the harassment card right. The problem exists: as an HR professional I had to deal with issues like harassment, gender discrimination, workplace romance and the like. It is not a sexy job to do, pardon the pun. There are emotions and careers involved, and at times the stakes are very high. 

Often I saw that the complaining party was clearly after a personal gain (money, promotion, revenge), but the amount of attention such matters command, the imperfect regulatory framework and sensitivity/subjectivity of the problem make things incredibly complicated. Thus, often the management perspective is to satisfy the complaint just not to let all the worms out of the can. Now that is just wrong. You overstep the line once, you are getting hundreds of others running after the same freebies, since the precedent has been created. What are your experiences with harassment matters?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dogs improve office productivity

Amazingly interesting bit of research. Your thoughts?

Animal and human behaviour

Manager's best friend

Dogs improve office productivity

OK. Here’s the plan
THERE are plenty of studies which show that dogs act as social catalysts, helping their owners forge intimate, long-term relationships with other people. But does that apply in the workplace? Christopher Honts and his colleagues at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant were surprised to find that there was not much research on this question, and decided to put that right. They wondered in particular if the mere presence of a canine in the office might make people collaborate more effectively. And, as they told a meeting of the International Society for Human Ethology in Madison, Wisconsin, on August 2nd, they found that it could.
To reach this conclusion, they carried out two experiments. In the first, they brought together 12 groups of four individuals and told each group to come up with a 15-second advertisement for a made-up product. Everyone was asked to contribute ideas for the ad, but ultimately the group had to decide on only one. Anyone familiar with the modern “collaborative” office environment will know that that is a challenge.
Some of the groups had a dog underfoot throughout, while the others had none. After the task, all the volunteers had to answer a questionnaire on how they felt about working with the other—human—members of the team. Mr Honts found that those who had had a dog to slobber and pounce on them ranked their team-mates more highly on measures of trust, team cohesion and intimacy than those who had not.
In the other experiment, which used 13 groups, the researchers explored how the presence of an animal altered players’ behaviour in a game known as the prisoner’s dilemma. In the version of this game played by the volunteers, all four members of each group had been “charged” with a crime. Individually, they could choose (without being able to talk to the others) either to snitch on their team-mates or to stand by them. Each individual’s decision affected the outcomes for the other three as well as for himself in a way that was explained in advance. The lightest putative sentence would be given to someone who chose to snitch while the other three did not; the heaviest penalty would be borne by a lone non-snitch. The second-best outcome came when all four decided not to snitch. And so on.
Having a dog around made volunteers 30% less likely to snitch than those who played without one. The moral, then: more dogs in offices and fewer in police stations.


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