Something small….

I read an article today (at LinkedIn) about a manager refusing to engage in ‘Stack Ranking’ of employees. It was a good article, and although I’d heard of it, I was really unaware of how the practice worked. I work for a state agency, and I’ve heard that it’s been used here (but heck, raises come so infrequently around here, period….that it rarely even comes up!)

But, it made me remember something I used to do when I worked in healthcare administration. I used to like to do the old ‘Memo’ containing ‘Supervisor’s Expectations’ with many of my employees. It wasn’t ‘negative’ per se, or really even meant to be ugly, but now, with many years of life and working under my belt, I’ll say this: I wouldn’t do that kind of crap nowadays….I just wouldn’t. If you’re a good manager, and you know how to motivate people, just through talking and chatting, your people should know what’s expected of them…..without a silly memo.

It’s demeaning and as a minimum, pedestrian, to treat your people like that.

Interesting comment

While reading a WSJ article today about Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf defending the corporations’ actions in recent days, I was struck by a comment left by a reader at the end of the article:

“The legal, safety, environmental and quality control departments in corporations spend a lot of time making sure that high level executives are insulated from the undocumented pressure they put on lower level management to achieve revenue goals by any means. As long as branch managers (low-level scapegoats) get fired instead of people like Stumpf having charges brought against him, the implausible explanations for rampant consumer fraud will continue.

PS: The windows on many older GM SUVs shatter spontaneously (even while parked). Its not a common problem but known in the auto glass industry. GM knows about it. No recall……….  I guess they will wait until a kid in the back seat bleeds to death. I am sure the VP’s and CEO know nothing about the issue.”

Now, that little post-script rant….I’m not sure about that…..but I will say that the first part is VERY MUCH in keeping with my experiences (short-lived as they were) in corporate America are TOTALLY in keeping with that explanation. Everybody is ‘spinning’ to everybody else.

 

Just a small follow up

….to my last post. I wrote briefly about failure (or, more correctly……life’s struggles AND failure)……

So, last night I was listening to ‘Planet Money’…..a great podcast put out by NPR. The topic was top-level web domains…..and how that field has widened. That field has REALLY widened! You can give the episode a listen to learn more, but this stuck out:

A young woman who said she is a tech contractor and works ‘in the basement’ at the Pentagon had an idea to start a top level web domain named ‘.wed’……of course, it would be for people about to get married, or planning their weddings etc. She was smart and sounded gritty and determined. To get ICANN to grant her that top-level domain, she had to fill out loads of paperwork and pay them (take a deep breath): $185,000. This was somewhere around 2012 (roughly). She scraped the money together and did it.

In the interview with her……(she charges $70 for the first year, $70 for the second year and $30,000 for the third year)…..she said she’s only sold about 75 domain names…..my calculator tells me that comes to $5250. That means she’s got about $179,000 left to JUST MAKE HER MONEY BACK!!! I’m not laughing at her bad fortune, far from it actually. If you (like me) tend to think that EVERYONE IS TRIPPING OVER BIG BAGS OF MONEY and you’re not…..I offer this woman as an example. She took a risk and it isn’t working out so great!

On getting older and the related flotsam therein

Many people, even those in their 20’s are known to say, ‘Man, I’m getting old!’ or the old chestnut, ‘Man, getting old sucks.’ But I’ll tell you what’s been on my mind here lately: The realization that I seriously AM getting older.  I’m not quite in my ‘late 40’s’ just yet. But I am at that place where a lot of people find themselves…….haven’t remotely achieved the degree of career success I’d hoped for, don’t have nearly the money in the bank I’d hoped for, my marriage is so-so, my life is way too busily wrapped up in a mixture of tedious logistics and boring drivel. My business card has ‘social worker’ printed on it, but ‘guy who types numbers in little blocks displayed on a computer monitor’ is what it should read.

I honestly don’t feel like I’m in a mid-life crisis (I got that out of the way YEARS ago). I just can’t believe I have so FEW YEARS left to live. In my working life, I’ve tasted of both success and failure (as most have)…..but I’ve sort of flopped down in some sort of gray zone nestled between the two……and, in a manner of speaking, that’s OK with me. ‘Settling down’ is good for child-rearing years and I’m nuts about my kids. Work-wise, my wife is actually going through a much more painful spot that I am…..and I’m perfectly fine just grinding it out for a while so she can re-gain her footing, I really am.

It’s just hard realizing that I’m not that incredible anymore–notably, I probably never was, but for a while I THOUGHT I was (as most young people do)! I mean, I’ll nearly be an ‘old man’ in about 20 years…….20 years!!! How can I be 20 years away from being almost-old?! Geez, I’m rambling.  To be continued……….

Careful what you measure!

Measurement is a big part of the grown-up working world. Companies measure profit vs. loss. Hospitals measure ‘bed days’ and ‘labor expenses’ etc. In some way, accounting has been an integral of ALL organized societies for gazillions of centuries. I worked in the for-profit healthcare area for a long time (and still do, in a moonlighting capacity, but for a MUCH smaller agency than I did in the old days). Back then ‘managing labor’ was HUGE. Admittedly, NOTHING IN THE WORLD can bleed money like a nursing facility or an assisted living center if you don’t keep an eye on staffing-to-patient ratios…..but I digress.

I find most forms of measurement interesting. Statistics is one of the few arenas of mathematics that has (pretty much) always made sense to me. News outlets manipulate statistics all the time…..they’re good at it. I read a bit on the VA-scheduling scandal earlier today and thought I’d put a clip up here:

“In some cases, the system encouraged manipulation even without explicit instruction from supervisors. A manager in West Palm Beach, Fla., sent out laudatory emails touting the shorter wait times the system showed. Schedulers in Harlingen, Texas, reported being berated by supervisors when they booked appointments showing longer wait times for veterans. (It was “not pretty,” one employee said.)” —USA Today 

From a young age, I picked up on how people could be ‘praised’ obliquely…….we say ‘good job’ about this-that-and-the-other all the time…..so human logic figures out quickly that whatever falls outside that is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.  Although I’m a veteran, I’ve never sought 10 seconds-worth of medical care from VA (although I may have to one day). That said, I’m certainly no expert on federalized-healthcare, either. I will say, though, that SYSTEMS develop their own system of values and mores. School teachers know this, they learn it quickly in college. ‘I like how Austin has his books stacked neatly, and is sitting quietly at his desk.’  They learn quickly to praise the desirable behavior…..and it works!  So, when the boss sends out e-mails that say: ‘Whoa, no wait times! You guys are awesome!’, what do you think will happen?!

Companies, hospitals, whomever, whatever, wherever: we have to fall in love with TRUTH, no matter the potential outcomes….and everyone knows….often, the truth hurts!

Are you old yet?

Found this article over at CNN Money today:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/14/news/economy/ozy-old-age-career-45/index.html?iid=obinsite

Read the article if you’d like to, but I was especially struck by a comment following the article….find it below:

“At age 67, I’m still employed and earning a comfortable salary. I also have plenty of freelance clients (I’m a high-tech marketing copywriter and editor). My situation is the consequence of younger employees’ lack of solid language skills. They are almost universally unable to write clear, engaging, properly formulated business content. They are not merely ungrammatical writers; they can’t even sequence concepts coherently. True, many do not speak English as a first language; they get a pass. However even those born to English-speaking families are appalling writers and can’t punctuate their way out of  a paper bag. Executive management keeps me aboard to avoid being embarrassed by howlers on the web site or by incomprehensible brochures packed with meandering sentences and wince-worthy syntax.”

……an interesting take, hmmmm?