Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The 6 Warning Signs of Low Employee Morale

Low morale at the workplace isn’t just painful for your employees, it hurts your company too. Poor employee morale can have devastating effects on your business’ efficiency, growth and revenue.

1) Increased Absence From Work
The emptiness of a chair yells out to you – Where has Tom been? You begin to wonder if maybe he is okay, because he has been missing 2 days out of every month.

 2) Excessive Complaining Over Seemingly Small Matters
Jerry can’t stand the fax machine, and he gives you an earful about it. The next day it’s his chair, and the day after that it’s the color of the carpeting.

3) Employee Conflicts
Excessive drama and in-fighting can take their toll. It steals energy and attention from employees that would otherwise go towards work performance.

4) Poor or Little Communication with Management
Employee engagement is at a bare minimum. All that is communicated is what is essential, and that’s it. This can be hugely devastating. Employees no longer feel free to input creative ideas that could really help business. Shortened or tense communication can be a sign that something isn’t right.

5) Zombie Employees
If you find your staff is wandering around, groaning, and walking like they’re half-dead, you might have a problem with workplace morale.

6) High Turnover Rate
Having to conduct job interviews and hire new employees to fill vacant spots can be costly in terms of time and resources.

Build Workplace Morale
The good news is that improving employee morale is possible and not that difficult. One way to boost workplace morale is to hire corporate entertainment like a clean comedian, magician, game show, mentalist or humorous speaker.

Bring your employees together and reward them for their hard work and dedication.

Giving them space to relax and communicate outside the confines of the office is a great way to increase communication and break the ice in an informal environment and it gives everyone a shared experience to talk about for months to come.

Is Your Company Turning You Into a Corporate Zombie?

Your company wants to turn you into a zombie. And you might be letting it happen.

Most employees are hired because they have personal vitality, which is a general sense of aliveness, creative thinking, communication style, presence, awareness, intellectual curiosity, and an untamed sense of humor. Then the subtle cultural cues set in as corporate zombie culture attempts to recruit another member.

It becomes clear that those who make it around here focus on efficiency and bottom-line results. They work long hours. They send email at 2 a.m. They answer their work cell phone at any time of the day or night, unless they're on a plane. They get a gold star for working late, skipping the gym, and taking that conference call at 5 a.m. to accommodate people in different time zones.

As they work, they mostly respond rather than get ahead of situations. Their creativity level drops, and they spend less time reflecting. They laugh less. They look more and more like other people in the office. They begin to parrot what the top leaders say, but with less enthusiasm than the leaders. After all, a key to moving up is to not outshine the boss. That sparkle in their eyes dims. They become corporate zombies.

A friend of mine was recently dinged in a performance appraisal for being "too enthusiastic." Translation: be less alive, more like a zombie.

Corporate zombie cultures thrive on brain eating. Not literally, but through reprimands and random firings that instill terror and drive people to sacrifice more, be more loyal, and stand out less.

Why are we talking about this now? Because zombie cultures rise during recessions and jobless recoveries, when the fear of losing a job is at its highest.

So what do we do here?

The first step is to recognize what's happening. Companies send subtle messages, especially to their managers, that conformity and sacrifice of one's uniqueness are good. They are not.

Second, become aware of the cost. Personal vitality is one factor in what colleagues and I call That Which Cannot Be Delegated -- that intangible quality that commands respect and attention, and encourages others to listen to what you say.

That Which Cannot Be Delegated has a lot to do with the leadership. In the movie "The Social Network," Sean Parker had it. Eduardo Saverin did not, which is part of why he was taken out. Zuckerberg did not have it.

Among presidents, John Kennedy had That Which Cannot Be Delegated. So did Reagan and Clinton. Jimmy Carter didn't. Neither did the first Bush. Most people I talk with think the second Bush also lacked it.

How to develop That Which Cannot Be Delegated is the subject of another post. The key here is that if you let the zombie-ification happen to you, chances are, you're giving up That Which Cannot Be Delegated, impairing your ability to lead.

Third, say "hell no!" to zombie cultures. The most effective leaders I know got through layers of management without ever losing their personal vitality, but it was a constant struggle. Do what they did: Draw boundaries and train those around you about your priorities. If you don't answer your cell phone on the second ring, it might be because you have something more important to do. These actions actually increase your levels of personal vitality and That Which Cannot Be Delegated.

Fourth, create a culture of aliveness and innovation. Find and connect with others who have said "hell no!" to the zombie siren song, and build new tribes around them.

Again and again, zombie cultures fail because they are outmaneuvered by people that are still alive and still find joy in their work.

Have you ever seen a zombie culture or been a part of one? If so, I hope you'll share it in an email to me or in the comments below.


How Zombies Are Ruining Your Job And Your Life

Zombies are taking over your company and your life. They want to eat your brain. Here's how to fight back.

The most interesting bit of research I saw last year came from Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer on what really motivates workers. It turns out that the number one factor is a sense of progress on important work. Combine this finding with "decision fatigue" (studied in relation to judges' rulings), and we arrive that by the end of the day, your brain has been eaten by zombies. Each task you do involves a decision, and depletes your mental resources and likely, your motivation. For tasks that give you a sense of progress, let's call these "progress tasks," the well is partially refilled. Let's call tasks that offer no sense of progress "zombies." After a day of working on a "change the world" project, people can keep going. But an hour of TPS reports (the value-less work that plagued employees from the movie "Office Space") means an hour of zombies snacking on your brain.

It gets worse. The more zombies you kill, the more zombies the noise attracts. Try to answer all your email -- all of it. Tomorrow, you'll probably have as many unread emails as you had before you started. Catch up on your paperwork and your assistant probably has another stack he's been keeping for when that's done. Fill out a rebate card and zombies -- direct mail, spam, telemarketers -- will be chasing you for months.

And the really bad news is that they don't just affect individuals, they infest whole groups of people. I wrote last year about the rise of zombie cultures.

There are two things you can do about this zombie infestation.

First, take your routine work and find a way to track your progress. As a test, I woke up yesterday and had 555 unread emails. This was 555 zombies chasing me around. I set up an Excel spreadsheet, noting various times. By 5:48 p.m., when I left for a meeting, I had only 109 unread emails left. What was remarkable about this experience was that the feeling of getting through email felt completely different than the usual "oh crap, look at how many emails I have to get through." As my friend Daniel Mezick says, "make work a game, and you'll get more done and have more fun." His new book, The Culture Game is a great how-to on converting zombies to progress tasks.

Second, reduce the decisions required to get things done. David Allen artfully describes what happens when you look at a piece of paper, a report, an email, or anything else. Your brain asks: "What is this?" You have to make a decision -- increasing decision fatigue. As an example of how to reduce the number of decisions, ask everyone to put the following in the front line of an email message: "FYI," "Invitation," or "To do." An "FYI" means you need to read it but take no action. An invitation means you're being asked to consider doing something, and saying "no" is OK. The decision is simple: yes or no. And a "to do" needs to be put on your to do list or calendar. Notice that you never asked "What is this?" To strain the analogy, this email protocol doesn't cut the number of zombies, but it slows them down and makes them easier to kill. Combine this action with #1 above, and you transform zombies into -- are you sitting down -- fun things to do. My company CultureSync has just started this protocol and we have all been amazed at its impact.

Here are three other ways you can reduce zombies:

1. At the start of every meeting, ask "What do we need to accomplish, and do we agree that once we get that done, we can leave?" Now a meeting isn't a wait-out-the-clock affair, but gives you a sense of progress measured against goals.

2. Every time you deal with a zombie, see if you can prevent that zombie from coming back. Paying bills is zombies; automate that. Next time you see an automated email that adds no value, unsubscribe. Make zombie prevention a game, and you'll get a double bonus -- fewer zombies, and increased motivation. When I answered most of my 555 unread emails, I unsubscribed to 52 lists. Those zombies are gone for good.

3. Play more games. One year, I wanted to lose weight, so I tracked the total number of miles I ran on an Excel spreadsheet. This made it fun. My motivation increased even more because it was cool to see my progress as I tracked the average number of miles per day. I've written in other blog posts about the best time management tool ever, which is 20 minute segments. Commit to a certain number of segments, or miles, or books read, and you'll feel a sense of progress measured against your goals.

Have you found ways to turn zombies into progress tasks? Have you prevented some zombies from coming back? Or is your work life like a day from The Walking Dead? I hope you'll share what you're learning by posting a comment below.

Are You A Shoulder-Shrugger Or Commitment-Keeper?

“The dog ate my homework.”

Even though this famous excuse is rarely used, what it symbolizes is all-too-familiar: an aversion to admit accountability.

What’s more, the urge to excuse one’s blunders rather than shoulder them reveals a bigger issue: a lack of character.

Let’s be honest: No wants to entertain excuses — even perfectly good ones. We value friends who are reliable, we promote employees who are consistent, we love spouses because when they wrong us, they rectify it. Not for nothing did the sign on Harry Truman’s desk proclaim, “The buck stops here!”

Of course, emergencies arise, and we all screw up from time to time. Yet it’s how you fix things that counts, that makes you who you are.

For example, did your car break down? Do what my realtor did when this happened to him while house-hunting with a client: call a cab. “The show must go on,” Morgan explained. No excuses.

How about this well-worn crutch? “I was stuck in traffic… And parking was even worse.” Anyone who’s ever sat behind a steering wheel has bumped into these predicaments. That you didn’t prepare for them indicates a preference to make others wait rather than show up early. No excuses.

Here’s my favorite refrain: “I’ve been busy.” Nope. We make time for what’s important to us. Why not just say you dropped the ball and apologize? And then make up for it. No excuses.

If you say you’ll do something, don’t make your counterpart follow-up for an ETA. If you agree to call at a certain time, don’t make the person on the other end of the line wait. If a request is ambiguous, don’t foist the monkey back; assume the burden, and propose clarifications.

If you’re nodding, you’ll be gratified to know you’re in good company. At Apple, whenever an executive reached the level of vice president, Steve Jobs would deliver a short sermon. Jobs imagined the garbage in his office wasn’t being emptied, and when he asked the janitor why, the janitor shrugged. The locks were changed, and the janitor didn’t have a key.

This is understandable coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. As Jobs put it, “When you’re the janitor, reasons matter.” But when you’re a VP, he continued, “reasons stop mattering.”

What matters, I would add, are commitments.

This Rubicon separates the shoulder-shrugger from the commitment-keeper — or the staffer from the manager, the manager from the VP, the VP from the C suite. To the commitment-keeper, it doesn’t matter who or what’s at fault; an excuse signifies a personal failure. To the commitment-keeper, nothing is more than important than keeping your word, and thus your integrity.

Think of this the next time you find yourself in a hole. Will you dig out with an alibi or accountability? The choice is yours.

No excuses.

Baldness Linked to Increased Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

Apr. 3, 2013 — Male pattern baldness is linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, but only if it's on the top/crown of the head, rather than at the front, finds an analysis of published evidence in the online journal BMJ Open.

A receding hairline is not linked to an increased risk, the analysis indicates.
The researchers trawled the Medline and the Cochrane Library databases for research published on male pattern baldness and coronary heart disease, and came up with 850 possible studies, published between 1950 and 2012.

But only six satisfied all the eligibility criteria and so were included in the analysis. All had been published between 1993 and 2008, and involved just under 40,000 men.
Three of the studies were cohort studies -- meaning that the health of balding men was tracked for at least 11 years.

Analysis of the findings from these showed that men who had lost most of their hair were a third more likely (32%) to develop coronary artery disease than their peers who retained a full head of hair.
When the analysis was confined to men under the age of 55-60, a similar pattern emerged. Bald or extensively balding men were 44% more likely to develop coronary artery disease.

Analysis of the other three studies, which compared the heart health of those who were bald / balding with those who were not, painted a similar picture.

It showed that balding men were 70% more likely to have heart disease, and those in younger age groups were 84% more likely to do so.

Three studies assessed the degree of baldness using a validated scale (Hamilton scale). Analysis of these results indicated that the risk of coronary artery disease depended on baldness severity, but only if this was on the top/crown of the head, known as the vertex.
Extensive vertex baldness boosted the risk by 48%, moderate vertex baldness by 36%, and mild vertex baldness by 18%. By contrast, a receding hairline made very little difference to risk, the analysis showed.

To compensate for differences in the methods of assessing baldness in the studies included in the analysis, the authors looked at four differing grades of baldness: none; frontal; crown-top; combined.
Once again, this indicated that the severity of baldness affected the risk of coronary heart disease.
Men with both frontal and crown-top baldness were 69% more likely to have coronary artery disease than those with a full head of hair, while those with just crown-top baldness were 52% more likely to do so. Those with just frontal baldness were 22% more likely to do so.

Explanations for the reasons behind the association vary, but include the possibility that baldness may indicate insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes; a state of chronic inflammation; or increased sensitivity to testosterone, all of which are involved directly or indirectly in promoting cardiovascular disease, say the authors.

But they conclude: "[Our] findings suggest that vertex baldness is more closely associated with systemic atherosclerosis than with frontal baldness. Thus, cardiovascular risk factors should be reviewed carefully in men with vertex baldness, especially younger men" who should "probably be encouraged to improve their cardiovascular risk profile."