Monday, January 31, 2011

Bad Colleague Stories – The Winner Is...

A little over a week ago I announced a contest. I had planned to run bad colleague stories all week, letting you pick the winner on Friday. Either you all thought it was a really bad idea (my money's on this one), you were just too busy shoveling snow to enter, or you've all been really lucky to work with great colleagues. I only received one entry, and therefore I am declaring that author the winner. 

I promise I'll try to come up with something better for my next contest!

If you're coming for last Friday's post, please check here, and please come back on Friday for my regularly scheduled column.

And now for the guest post by the winner:

Too Busy Kay

"Kay," never actually did ANYTHING. She was protected by her best friend, who was in a director position and who kept Kay on staff, despite her lack of accomplishments.

Kay was good at one thing - brown-nosing. My work group would have to put conference calls on mute to howl with laughter as we listened to her suck up to Vice Presidents and others above us - "Well, Jim, let me just say what an absolute pleasure it is to work with someone who has such great insights as you..." before she shoved her work off onto us and then took credit for it.

We eventually got a new director, who figured Kay out right away. One day, the director assigned Kay a simple task - comparing one list with another and providing an updated copy.

"Well," Kay protested. "I don't know when I'll have time to get to this."

Every week at our group meeting, the director would ask Kay for an update, and Kay would say she hadn't had time yet to finish the important task.

After six weeks of this, I completed the task, so at the next group meeting when Kay said she still hadn't had time, I said "That's ok. I took 5 minutes and did it for you."

Kay got laid off shortly after that.

I think most of us can relate to this story. Kudos to our anonymous winner for attacking the problem in a positive way rather than just complaining about her colleague.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Men Can Cry but Women (Still) Can’t

John Boehner crying to Boy George's The Crying...Image by deepsignal via FlickrUnless you have been hibernating since last fall, you have heard stories about House Speaker John Boehner shedding tears. John Boehner’s crying on election night and on 60 Minutes even prompted this Jon Stewart spoof.

And we can’t help but laugh.

After all, Boehner is a self-professed emotional man. He’s comfortable with his own tears, so why shouldn’t we be comfortable as well?

Emotions demonstrate passion. I, for one, would rather see a leader express emotion by crying rather than pounding fists on tables, raging, or swearing. Crying is a softer expression of emotion, and one that is usually associated with women.

But there is no doubt in my mind that if Nancy Pelosi had teared up as she was trying to get the health care bill passed that it would have severely hampered her efforts. Chances are there would have been tirades and immediate calls for her to step down.

When Hillary Clinton shed a tear on the campaign trail in New Hampshire she was immediately accused of being too weak. Critics asked, “Is this how she’ll talk to Kim Jong-il?” Clinton's challenge during her presidential run was to demonstrate that she was tough enough, according to Anne Kornblut in Notes From the Cracked Ceiling. She couldn’t afford to let her guard down. Clinton’s tears were certainly as genuine as Boehner’s, and gave us a rarely seen glimpse at a softer side of her.

Does our acceptance of Boehner’s tears this mean that we are ready to embrace our female leaders crying in public?

I think not. It’s exactly because we associate tears with women that this discrepancy exists. While we view men who shed tears as having an emotional side (a good thing), we view women who shed tears as weak when we need them to be strong. What do you think?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bad Colleague Stories – A Contest

Last year around this time I held a Bad Boss Story contest here at When Fridays Were Fridays. Following that contest one of you faithful readers suggested I do a contest about bad colleagues, so I decided to switch it up this year and yes – let you dish about the worst colleagues you have ever worked with.

Why share stories about bad colleagues? No, it's not so we can dwell on the past (although last year's contest entrants did mention something about it being cathartic). The real point is to share and learn. 

What defines a bad colleague? Well that’s up to you, but maybe it’s someone who steals your ideas or is perfect when the boss is around but treats everyone else like second class citizens. Or maybe it’s the worker who never pulls his or her own weight.

Here’s how the contest works:

Submit your best (or should I say worst?) bad colleague story (short and to the point works fine). Tell us what happened, and how you handled it.

Enter by sending an e-mail to with your story and the subject line “Bad colleague stories”. Entries must be received by Friday January 28th at midnight (eastern time – but I won’t be watching the clock).

This is about true stories, but please don’t use any real names, and feel free to change a few details about the bad colleague (to protect the guilty).

Finalists will be chosen by the judge (that’s me). Each finalist story will be run as a guest post on this blog during the week of January 31st. All stories will be posted anonymously unless you specifically ask to be identified. (If you do want to be identified I am happy to include a link back to your website.) You must provide an e-mail address that I can contact you at (because you just might win).

The winner will be chosen by you (the readers of this blog), via your votes between February 4th and February 9th. (Check back on Friday February 4th for instructions on how to vote).

Did I mention that there’s a prize? The winner (based on your votes) will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

Ready? You have one week to raise those awful colleagues from the depths of your memory and write a short blog post about them. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Click here to see last year's finalists.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Danielle Chiesi Pleads Guilty in Galleon Case

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21:  Danielle Chiesi, an e...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeBreaking news: This morning, Danielle Chiesi, a central figure in the Galleon insider trading case, pleaded guilty this morning in a New York court, according to NY Times Dealbook.

Chiesi's change of plea comes just weeks before Raj Rajaratnam, the alleged ringleader of the trading ring, begins his trial. Until now she has maintained her innocence, despite guilty pleas by Bob Moffat and others who named her as the informant they provided information to.

My thoughts? Wise decision, Danielle. What do you think?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Squishy Business of Awards – Five Things You Need to Know

“How come my manager doesn’t reward me for my contributions?”

“Why was my award this year so much less than last year when I worked harder than I ever have in my life?” 

“How come Jack got an award for the project we just finished, and I didn’t?”

Monetary awards in the corporate workplace are a squishy business at best. There are often no set rules, budgets can vary dramatically, and managers have very different ideas about how that money should be spent. Here’s what you need to know about awards:

1. It’s not fair. That’s right – this isn’t a family Christmas where the same amount gets spent on each child. Nor is it the junior soccer league where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up. Management systems for determining who should get awards are highly subjective, and vary dramatically depending on the organization. But even more importantly, they aren’t designed to be fair. At any given point in time, you may get exactly what you deserve, less than you deserve, or even sometimes more than you deserve. But it’s not just about what you deserve – it’s also about what the organization can afford.

2. Your organization has an award budget – and it’s discretionary. Monetary awards are harder and harder to come by. Fewer awards are given, and the dollar amounts are lower. Most organizations have a budget for awards, and managers are measured on whether they stick to that budget. But when business is bad bosses still need to balance their budget. What gets cut? Travel, raises, awards – anything discretionary is fair game to be cut.

3. Managers and organizations have different approaches when it comes to awards. If it’s a team project, some managers believe in spreading the award dollars across all team members. Other managers believe in awarding only the top contributors. Your manager’s style may make a difference in what this means to you. This is true for raises and bonuses as well.

4. The big picture matters. Did you get a big award last year? Did you just get a promotion or a raise? Most organizations look at your total salary picture when considering awards. If you just got a promotion with a raise after that last project, an award may be considered “double-dipping”. Managers need to use all the tools they have at their disposal to reward all of their employees, and sometimes that means that you will be skipped over for one reward in favor of another.

5. You need to ask for what you deserve. Many of us don’t like to pat ourselves on the back and bring attention to ourselves. After all, our managers should notice our contributions, right? Usually they do, but managers are also influenced by what they are hearing from their employees. If Jack has been telling his manager every week what he has accomplished, and has made it clear that he thinks he deserves an award, he’s more likely to get it.

And if you’re the manager or team leader proposing the award for a project and you think you also deserve an award, don’t assume that your manager will think to add you to the list. If your name should be on the list, by all means add it yourself!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Want to Make More Money? Get a Job in D.C.

Seal of the District of Columbia.Image via WikipediaWe hear it all the time – women only make 78 cents for every dollar men make. But the wage gap varies dramatically depending on where you live.

According to the US Census Bureau American Community Survey data, both men and women alike make the most money in the District of Columbia (with median annual salaries for full-time workers of 61.9K and 54.6K respectively). Even more notable is the fact that in that state, women earn a full 88.2% of what men earn, a healthy ten percentage points higher than the average discrepancy.

Other states where women earn more per dollar than the average (when compared to men’s salaries) include Arizona and California (each at 82.7%), New York (82.5%), and Nevada (82.2%).

In Connecticut, the state with the second-highest median salary for men (59.3K per year), women earn only 73.9 cents on the dollar as men, with a median salary of 43.9K.

Where do women earn the least when compared to men’s salaries?

Wyoming and Louisiana are the states that have that distinction, with comparative salaries of only 65.5% and 66.4% respectively, followed by Utah (68.1%) and West Virginia (69.2%). There is more than a 22-point spread between the state with the highest comparative salaries for women and the lowest.

Where do women earn the most?

Surprisingly, D.C. stands alone in being able to boast a median salary for women over 50K. The other states where women earn the most include Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey, with median salaries for women between 44K and 45K.