Recently, I needed to book a lunch meeting. To help coordinate, I asked Amy to assist and cc'd her on the email. "Amy," I wrote, "please help us find a time to meet. Let's plan for sushi at Tokyo Express on Spear Street." Amy looked at my calendar, found an open time suitable for everyone invited, and booked the meeting. Amy works just like a human assistant, except she's not human. It's an AI bot made by X.ai, a company specializing in scheduling assistants that respond to natural language. Amy is so good at what she does that I find myself thanking her for booking a meeting, forgetting she needs no more thanks than my microwave. It's impossible to ignore all the buzz about AI bots. Last month, Facebook's David Marcus announced that over 30,000 bots have been built since the opening of its Messenger app to bot developers in April. Other companies like Google, Amazon, and Slack are welcoming bot-building developers to their platforms with open arms. Slack even created an $80 million fund to support chatbot projects. As with any tech trend, most companies building bots today won't survive. However, some are bound to have a massive impact and will profoundly change the way we interact with our software and services. The deciding factor between which bots will live and which will die is how well they keep users engaged. After all, if a personal technology isn't habitually used, it is easily forgotten. Since most bot companies are built on other companies' platforms, like Facebook Messenger, Amazon Echo, WeChat, and Slack, they must stay top of mind or they may as well not exist. So what makes for an engaging bot -- one that users come back to again and again? today won't survive. However, some are bound to have a massive impact and will profoundly change the way we interact with our software and services. The deciding factor between which bots will live and which will die is how well they keep users engaged. After all, if a personal technology isn't habitually used, it is easily forgotten. Since most bot companies are built on other companies' platforms, like Facebook Messenger, Amazon Echo, WeChat, and Slack, they must stay top of mind or they may as well not exist. So what makes for an engaging bot -- one that users come back to again and again? Beyond Bots First, it is helpful to expand the scope beyond what most people call "bots" and consider a much larger and more interesting technological shift. Although "bots" has become a buzzword for the artificial intelligence powering many fledgling services, that's only part of the story. It's the way we interact with these bots -- and the way they are designed for those interactions -- that makes them special. An AI Bot uses a Conversational User Interface (CUI) to turn the tediousness of tapping through drop-downs and app menus into the simple act of asking. On a screen, a CUI looks like a text message, an interface anyone with a mobile phone understands. However, it's important to remember that CUIs don't necessarily require a screen at all. CUIs can work beautifully through a voice exchange. In the best cases, communicating with a CUI by just talking should feel like a chat with a good friend or a helpful assistant. In fact, science fiction inspiration like Jarvis, the virtual butler from "Iron Man," or Samantha, the digital companion in the movie "Her," is where enthusiasts hope this technology is headed. Engaging Conversation If communicating with CUIs is going to be as simple as talking to a good friend, we should design them as such. William Rawlins, a professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University who studies friendship, says a friend has three qualities: they're easy to talk to, enjoyable, and dependable. We form routines around turning to important people in our lives in the same way we build habits with our technologies. In my book, "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products," I describe a four-step model that companies utilize to keep users coming back -- a trigger, action, reward, and investment. Hooks are the reason we check our tech hundreds of times per day with little or no conscious thought. Integrating the Hooked model with Rawlins' three qualities of a good friend provides important insights into designing engaging technology that feels familiar and is the key to building great CUIs. The first step to changing habits is identifying what I call an "internal trigger." Internal triggers are the momentary psychological pain we feel right before we use a product. It's why we check Facebook when we're lonely, why we Google when we're uncertain, and why we watch YouTube videos when we're tired after work. These services have bolted themselves onto frequently felt negative emotions. The same goes for calling upon a friend and, by extension, using a CUI. For example, Sensay.co uses an AI bot to put strangers in touch with one another. The company serves over 1.5 million people across messenger services and SMS. CEO Ariel Jalali told me the company wants to "be the first place people go to when they feel bored or indecisive and want to connect with someone with relevant experience." Whether it's looking for a quick recommendation or a lengthier conversation with an anonymous new friend, http://Sensay.co wants to serve users whenever they feel the frequently occurring need for a social connection. http://Sensay.co is an example of a company that uses people, combined with a back-end AI bot, to scratch its users' itch with a simple, conversational interface. Easy To Talk To The next step of the Hooked model is the "action phase" -- a simple behavior that might yield a reward,like scrolling the feed on Facebook. Like a friend, a CUI needs to be easy to talk to. It's in the action phase that well-designed CUIs can surpass their traditional app cousins. CUIs can present information and functionality exactly when it's needed, without requiring the user to tap through complicated menus and options or exit one app, like email, to get the task done somewhere else, like a calendar. For example, as part of the recent fanfare around Google's new Pixel phone, the company showcased how the Google Assistant provides helpful information at just the right time by integrating with different services. If two people text about a restaurant, the Google Assistant can provide directions with Google Maps and make a reservation through OpenTable, all from within the conversation. By anticipating what's needed and bringing disparate services together, the CUI makes communication a breeze. Enjoyable Next in the Hooked model comes the reward. The reward gives users what they came for, scratching their itch, and yet leaves them wanting more. Just as we keep engaging with friends who are fun to be around, a good CUI keeps us on our toes. For example, one of my daily habits is using Quartz, the news service that looks like a simple conversation. Quartz is both enjoyable and easy to talk to in a number of ways. First, Quartz inserts funny quips and gifs to keep me engaged while I read the news. However, Quartz doesn't ask for too much. The CUI gives me the news in quickly consumed tidbits without forcing me to click through to an article to get the most important information. Unlike other news sites, Quartz doesn't care if I read the entire article and understands I just want to know the gist of the top stories. If I want to get the entire story, I can follow the link, but I rarely do. Furthermore, while other news sites try to keep me scrolling through articles forever so they can rack up ad revenue, the Quartz CUI literally tells me to go away when it's done giving me the most important stories, saying, "You're all caught up! Check back later." By giving me a sense of completion that I'm caught up on the day's news, Quartz gives me exactly what I want. While other news sites feel like a nagging librarian telling what I should be reading, Quartz is easier to talk to and more enjoyable because it demands less of my time and attention while keeping me engaged with humor and surprise. Dependable Imagine you meet your friend for lunch. You sit together and as you enjoy your meal, you tell each other about what's happening in your life. You open up and make yourself a bit vulnerable. Being vulnerable brings people closer together and you leave the lunch thankful for the relationship. Now imagine that the next time you see your friend, they don't remember a word you told them. Everything you disclosed seems to have vanished from their memory or, worse yet, they didn't pay attention to what you said in the first place. Unless they suffer from amnesia, this is not the kind of friend you'd like to keep around. According to Rawlins' research, a good friend is dependable. Relationships can't grow unless people invest in each other. We expect our investment to yield a return in the form of shared information and a history -- which make us more efficient at understanding and anticipating our friends' wants and needs. The same is true of our technology. The fourth and final step of the Hooked model is the "investment phase." This is where, like in a friendship, we put something into the service in expectation that it will improve over time. Far too many products don't ask for investment or they don't reward it, collecting but never reinvesting the information that users share. But the CUI makes asking for and integrating user investment much easier and more useful. For example, the more I use Pana, a travel service utilizing a CUI, the better it becomes. (Full disclosure: I loved the service so much, I invested in the company.) Pana remembers my preferences every time I use it. Where do I like to sit on the plane? What's my frequent flyer number? Which credit card do I use for business versus personal travel? The list goes on. However, unlike a traditional app or website that would ask for all this information up front, Pana asks for it as needed, but remembers it for life. Like a good friend, Pana doesn't ask me to repeat myself. With all that information, Pana can be helpful in ways no other travel service can. Pana can tell me, for example, when I should buy a ticket with points versus cash and handles the transaction for me. Another case in point: Last week, on the way to Phoenix from San Francisco, I noticed I'd forgotten to enter my TSA Precheck number into my flight reservation. Instead of having to call the airline, wait on hold, and negotiate with the representative, I sent a quick text to Pana and it was done for me. CUI + You = BFF Amy, the AI bot that booked my lunch meeting, is an example of a CUI that saves time by doing things that a traditional interface of menus and buttons can't. The proof of Amy's helpfulness is that, although she's not human, I can't help interacting with her as if she were. Amy and the other examples above are just the beginning. In the years to come, CUIs are going to change our lives for the better by treating us like friends. Of course, friends must help each other. Likewise, the service provided by a new technology must be genuinely helpful. As my friend Amir Shevat of Slack told me, "no matter how good the bot or CUI is, it cannot compensate for a shitty service." But when built well, CUIs can leverage the four steps of a habit-forming product and create bonds between the user and the technology. By designing services that are enjoyable, dependable, and easy to talk to, companies can build products that feel familiar even when we are using them for the first time. Nir's Note: This article is co-authored by Nir Eyal and Alexis Safarikas. Nir Eyal is the author of "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products" and blogs about the psychology of products at NirAndFar.com. Alexis Safarikas is a digital strategist at Springbok. You may also enjoy reading ... Die Dashboards, Die! Why Conversations Will Reinvent Software Human + A.I. = Your Digital Future Why 'Assistant-As-App' Might Be the Next Big Tech Trend Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and blogs about the psychology of products at NirAndFar.com. For more insights on changing behavior, join his free newsletter and receive a free workbook. This article was originally published on NirAndFar.com -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Posing as a British solicitor, a con man sought information on the operatives' plans to attack Trump.
Who makes up a family? For most Americans today, family includes a range of loved ones--from children, parents and grandparents to spouses, significant others, siblings and close friends. However, the most prevalent family definitions in law and policy leave out many of these important relationships. All too often, policymakers define family narrowly, based on an outdated 1950s conception of a married husband and wife and their biological children. Fortunately, recent paid sick days victories in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Chicago, as well as executive action by the White House, embrace a more realistic and inclusive definition. According to the U.S. Census, nearly 80 percent of households in the U.S. depart from the "nuclear family" model of a married husband and wife and their children. Many family trends contribute to this fact. For example, approximately 57 million individuals in the U.S. live in multigenerational households, double the 1980 figure, and about 20 percent of households with children include non-relatives or extended family. Americans are also waiting longer to marry and are living with significant others at higher rates than in past decades. And surveys show that LGBTQ individuals, who are too often forced to leave home and build their own support networks, are more likely to rely on close friends for emotional support, caregiving needs and help in an emergency. This month, the country's second and third most populous cities took a big step forward in recognizing that families come in all shapes and sizes. Beginning on July 1, 2016, workers in Los Angeles will be entitled to earn a minimum number of paid sick days that can be used to care for personal or family health and safety needs. Workers in Chicago will gain this same right on July 1, 2017. The L.A. and Chicago paid sick days laws both cover a broad set of family relationships, including children, parents, spouses, domestic partners, parents of a spouse or domestic partner, grandparents, grandchildren and siblings. Yet both laws also set an important new standard for the growing paid sick days movement by including "chosen family"-- an individual with whom the worker has such a close relationship that the individual is equivalent to family, even absent a blood or legal relationship. These new laws will have enormous practical benefits for workers. For example, a 2007 Los Angeles County Health Survey found that 1.2 million residents in L.A. County provide informal, unpaid care to aging, ill or disabled adults. Of these caregivers, more than 23 percent -- or approximately 284,000 people -- reported that they provide care for close friends or extended family members (family members other than a child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, domestic partner, grandparent or sibling). Many of these caregivers struggle to combine their work responsibilities with the need to care for loved ones, and employer-provided leave policies, when they exist at all, often fail to recognize these extended and chosen family members. The L.A. paid sick days coalition raised awareness about this need and worked with lawmakers to pass a paid sick days law that reflects the true nature of family and caregiving relationships in the city. Fortunately, we have a long-standing model for this definition. Our country's largest employer, the federal government, already allows more than 2 million federal employees to use paid leave to care for chosen family. The government's broad family definition has existed in personnel rules for more than five decades, and has repeatedly been expanded and applied more broadly without issue. The model is also being adopted in other contexts, including a presidential Executive Order that will guarantee paid sick days to employees of federal contractors. And last month, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to expand the FMLA's limited family definition to include new relationships, including chosen family. Other places are modernizing their family definition as well. Minneapolis recently passed a paid sick days law that is the first in the country to cover all members of the employee's household. When sick or during a medical emergency, we often seek care from those who are both emotionally and physically closest to us. Roommates, significant others, and additional members of the household -- whether extended relatives or close friends -- provide a critical care and support system. Minneapolis' new paid sick time law acknowledges the importance of these relationships. We are fortunate to work with national, state and local partners across the country who are fighting for policy change, collecting stories, and raising awareness about the need to expand family recognition. From Oregon, Montana and Arizona to New Mexico and Washington D.C., social justice advocates are pushing lawmakers to adopt broad family definitions that include chosen family. Cities as diverse as L.A., Minneapolis and Chicago have recognized that families today are incredibly varied and dynamic. It's time for other cities and states to follow their lead. Wendy Chun-Hoon is the D.C. Director of Family Values @ Work. Jared Make is a Senior Staff Attorney at A Better Balance. Together, the authors created an LGBTQ/Work-Family Project that is working across social justice movements to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ workers and expand family definitions in law and policy. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
In some workplaces, reorgs and personnel changes are constant, which means that you might be getting a new boss every few months. How do you develop an effective relationship with your manager when the person filling that role keeps shifting? How much of an investment should you make? How can you get what you need to succeed and grow in your role? And is maintaining continuity your responsibility? What the Experts Say Managing your relationship with your boss is challenging enough as it is. When that person changes every six months, the task becomes a lot more difficult—and time-consuming. “There’s a big part of work that is relational,” says Reb Rebele, an instructor in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of “Collaborative Overload”. “You’re dealing with people on a regular basis, getting to know them, establishing norms, and establishing patterns. If your manager is constantly changing, you’re doing a lot of extra relational work and it’s a much bigger investment of your time and energy.” Priscilla Claman, the president of Career Strategies, a Boston-based consulting firm and a contributor to the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job, agrees that having to cycle through new managers is “one of the world’s most frustrating things.” Your “impulse may be to duck and hide,” she says, but you must instead be proactive. It’s never easy to have several bosses in as many years, but there are ways to make this challenging situation more tolerable. Here are some tips. Schedule an “interview” Let’s not sugarcoat this. A new manager can be “very dangerous” to your career prospects, says Claman, because “the person who hired you will always love you more” than someone who inherits you. You must therefore “do the best you can to make it seem as though you’re being hired by the new boss.” Schedule an appointment to meet her one-on-one and bring a copy of your resume. Speak about your accomplishments as you would in a job interview. “Talk about who you are, how you work, your strengths, and your goals,” Rebele adds. It’s important to “spend this early time with your new boss having those kinds of conversations” particularly if it’s a volatile time at your organization. Think of it as a “co-onboarding process.” Discover the new priorities Next, do a little detective work. “You need to find out the reason why this boss was appointed and what it means” for your organization and your career path, says Claman. “It may have something to do with the failures of the previous manager, but it’s more likely that the new boss signals a change in the organization’s direction or a shift in its mission.” To find out, talk to your peers, your colleagues in other departments, or your boss’s boss. Get involved in your new manager’s orientation process. Then, either “align yourself with the new priorities” or, “if your company is heading in a very different direction, think about whether you still want to be associated with it.” Modify and adjust One of the most challenging things about dealing with these frequent changes is that “it’s hard to get into a rhythm,” says Rebele. “The benefit of working with someone over time is that you know what to expect and there’s a lot of predictability.” When the org chart is in flux, however, you need to regularly “update your mental models” and modify your behavior and work style. Claman says it helps that you “not think of these people as your bosses,” but instead as “very important clients,” each with “his own quirks and special needs.” You need to “adapt and change” and accommodate. Ask each new boss how he likes to communicate. Ask how often he wants status updates. And find out how much detail he wants in those updates. After a month or so of the new normal, “ask for feedback about how you’re doing.” Invest in the relationship, even if it’s temporary Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you don’t need a strong relationship with a new boss who may soon be replaced, says Claman. “You need to make a big investment” no matter how short you expect the person’s tenure to be. This is as much for you as them, Rebelle notes. “Having good relationships with colleagues and your boss makes your workday more enjoyable” and efficient, he explains. “You don’t have to be best friends” with a new manager, but it’s a good idea to make an effort to get to know her. Ask about her hobbies, her weekend plans, and her family. Be open and curious. If those conversation topics go nowhere, default to work. Focusing on learning Even in the best professional situations, you shouldn’t “rely on your boss for all of your development needs,” says Claman. But a new manager will almost certainly have something useful to teach you. Perhaps he’s a sales whiz, a brilliant marketing strategist, or has great technical chops. Transient bosses may not be in the best position to mentor and coach, especially when it comes to navigating the organization, but Rebele points out that they do often bring “novel information—a new background, new experiences, and new perspectives.” They can allow you to “see your work with fresh eyes,” he says. So take advantage of the “opportunity to learn.” Check your attitude You may find that you don’t like or respect your new boss as much as your old one, but don’t dwell on the negative. Rebele suggests you “focus your attention and energy on areas you do have control over and things you can do to improve the situation” like being a “helping contributor.” Claman concurs. “If you start thinking, ‘I’m the only one here who knows what’s going on; these people are clowns,’ that will come through in your work,” she says. Similarly, don’t moan to colleagues about your new-boss whiplash. If you need to vent, talk to your spouse or your friends (provided they don’t work at your company). Seek out people who will give you honest feedback about the validity of your complaints. Maintain relationships One bright spot of the frequent management switches: the number of senior managers who can vouch for your work increases. That’s why it’s smart to treat even short-term bosses as part of your growing professional network. “Our networks can be helpful to us down the road in ways we can’t always foresee,” Rebele notes. Even if you decide it’s too much work to stay in touch with all of them, “never badmouth your current boss to your old boss,” Claman adds. “Not only could it mess up your relationship with your new boss, it might also taint the feelings your previous boss had for you.” Principles to Remember Do: A little digging to find out the reason why this boss was appointed and what it means for your organization and your career path Be willing to adapt and change your style and behavior to accommodate your new manager Make an effort to get to know your new boss on a personal and professional level just as you would any new colleague Don’t: Dwell on your annoyance. It’s better to focus your energy on things you can do to improve the situation Assume that your new boss has nothing to teach you. Instead, think about what he knows that you don’t Badmouth your current boss to your old boss. It could harm your relationship with your new boss and spoil your previous boss’s regard for you Case Study #1: Accommodate your new boss and stay in touch with your old one Mark Scott, the chief marketing officer at Apixio, the digitized medical records company, has experienced his fair share of organizational changes over the course of his career. In one job alone, he endured six consecutive corporate reorgs and had five different bosses in two and half years. It was frustrating for Mark, especially since he had joined the company in the first place to work for Claudia, his original hiring manager. “She impressed the heck out of me,” he recalls. “She was a super smart, strategic thinker, and I thought I could learn a lot from her. [But] eight months into my job, she got promoted [and moved on].” Mark reported to no one for a “painful few months.” The quality of his work life declined even more after the company’s leadership appointed a “corporate person who had no foundational experience whatsoever in marketing,” as his manager. His new boss was based at the company’s Ohio headquarters, while Mark ran a team of 38 people in San Diego. Mark had “very little support from” his new manager and for a while, he kept his head down. But when his third boss—we’ll call her Regina—started making decisions about his department and team without consulting him, Mark realized he needed to do more to cultivate a relationship. He flew to Ohio to meet with her in person. “I wanted Regina to see me as a resource and [as a source of] positive energy,” he says. “I told her how I like to work, how I like to receive information, and how I process it. I explained to her how past decisions were made. And I asked her: ‘How do you like to work? And how can I help you?’” Regina told Mark that she wanted to be more involved in his team’s decision-making process. Mark—who says he is someone “who likes to move quickly”—modified and adjusted his style to accommodate Regina. He sent status updates and project reviews each week; before any new product launch or initiative, Mark made sure Regina had all the relevant information in her inbox 48 hours in advance. It was tedious and “time-consuming” but the new process “improved the dynamic” between them. “It gave Regina an understanding of everything that was going on and also gave her the opportunity to provide input.” Mark also made a concerted effort to build a more personal relationship with Regina. He chatted with her before meetings and whenever she was in town from Ohio. Today Mark is not in touch with Regina, but he remains in contact with Claudia. “We speak on the phone from time to time and ask each other for advice,” he says. “We have a good relationship.” Case Study #2: Determine why the new boss was appointed and what it means Alex Roman (not his real name) had been in his job as a product manager for a retail marketing company for less than a year when his boss got promoted to a new position in the company; his second boss lasted about six months in the post, and by the time his third boss was appointed, Alex was annoyed—and worried. “I felt like my team and my product were being passed around,” he says. “With the management changes, it seemed as though the company wasn’t invested in what we were working on.” Once his new boss—we’ll call her Pam—was installed, he went on a mission to determine the reason behind the constant reorganizations. He talked to his colleagues in other units, and he inquired about the company’s strategy with his manager’s manager. “As it turned out,” he said, “the company was shifting away from mobile products—where my expertise was—and instead putting more money into what had been our core business.” Alex realized he didn’t have much of a future career with the company—nor did he want one. He started to discretely look for new work. “After I grasped that my company was heading in a new direction, I saw that my role was no longer critical to the organization, nor was it valued,” he says. “I had to move on.” But in the meantime, Alex needed to make the best out of his situation. He scheduled a one-on-one meeting with Pam where the two made a plan about how they would work together. He tried to stay positive and focused on ways he could help Pam get acclimated in her new job. Alex also got to know Pam on a personal level—they both had daughters the same age so they bonded over toddler tantrums. While he wasn’t going to stay long at his company, he also realized that he could learn from Pam. “She had almost encyclopedic knowledge about how retail promotions work,” he says. “I still think back on how much I learned from her.” In the end, Alex’s hunch was correct. He and his team were let go only six months after Pam took over. “I am just glad I already had a job search up and running,” he says. Alex was lucky to find a new job in mobile products that suited his interests and expertise. Happily, he has reported to the same person ever since he was hired.
Research shows there are a large number of narcissists who become leaders. If you’re unlucky enough to have one of these people as a manager, it may be no consolation that you’re in good company. So how do you stay sane? What’s the best way to reduce the impact of your boss’s self-centered behavior? What the Experts Say It’s easy to be fooled by a narcissist—at least at first, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, the CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, a professor of business psychology at University College London, and a faculty member at Columbia University. “A narcissist comes across as charming, charismatic, and confident,” he says. “He seems like the kind of person you want to work for—it’s only later that you see the dark side.” And the dark side isn’t pretty, says Michael Maccoby, president of The Maccoby Group and author, most recently, of Strategic Intelligence: Conceptual Tools for Leading Change. Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of entitlement and require constant admiration. They are quick to claim credit for others’ achievements and blame colleagues for their own failures. They care only about their own success, and they’re willing to take advantage of others to get what they need. In short, they’re incredibly difficult to work for. If you’re stuck with one of these bosses, here are some strategies that might help. Know what you’re dealing with Don’t just label your egotistical boss a “narcissist.” “There’s a difference between someone who’s an egomaniac and puffed up with self-importance and someone who has narcissistic personality disorder,” says Maccoby. When you’re dealing with the latter, it’s helpful to get a handle on what makes him tick. Read up on this personality type. After all, says Maccoby, “the more you understand people, the better your relationships will be.” Narcissists, he says, have a “strong ego ideal—a vision of who they think they should be. They are controlled by the shame of not living up to this ideal.” Productive narcissists are often creative strategists who see the “big picture” and find meaning in the risky challenge of changing the world and leaving behind a legacy, he says. It will serve you in the long run to make an effort to “understand who your boss wants to be” and take steps to “help him live up to that ideal,” he says. Tend to your self-esteem One of the most important things you can do in this situation is take care of yourself. After all, working for a narcissist can be a demeaning and stressful experience. You’re in the mode “of self-survival,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. To cope, you need to find outlets outside your job that bring you pleasure and give you a sense of self-worth. “You can’t put all your marbles into this relationship,” says Maccoby. “It’s too damaging to your self-esteem.” Join a musical group; take up distance running; or start working on a book. “You need a basis for [deriving personal value] that’s independent” of your job, he says. “That’s generally true in life,” but it is especially important when your boss is a narcissist. Stroke their ego At the same time, you need to figure out how to work effectively. When dealing with a narcissist, flattery will get you everywhere. “They want people to love them, and they will believe any compliment you offer,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. Which is why, he says, pretending to admire your narcissistic boss “and sucking up will generally be effective,” he says. “Compliment your boss subtly and do it when you two are alone,” so as not to alienate other colleagues. If complimenting your narcissistic boss or praising him to others feels overly obsequious, don’t do it. “But at least be neutral and diplomatic,” he says. Another way to gain your manager’s favor is to make him look good in front of his boss. “Put in a good word for him and enable him to take some of the credit for your work,” he says. Become your manager’s advocate and his supporter. It might feel disingenuous to play politics in this way but, says Chamorro-Premuzic, try to remember that your goal here is a “selfish one: to advance your career. It’s difficult, but it’s ultimately to your benefit.” Emulate certain characteristics You may not learn how to be a good boss from your self-obsessed manager, but “many productive narcissists can teach you a lot,” says Maccoby. Watch and learn. Distinguish between his bad behaviors and more admirable skills. “Observe how your boss makes impressions on others. Pay attention to his charisma and how he is eloquent under pressure,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. “In addition, narcissists are often good communicators and tend to be quite visionary,” he says. “They have an ability to inspire others, and this skill can be emulated.” Challenge carefully “The worst thing you can do to a narcissistic individual is to criticize, challenge, or undermine him,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. “If you do, he will react in an aggressive and combative way. And he will seek revenge.” If you need to make a particular business case, Maccoby suggests framing your argument around what is good for your manager’s image and career. “Your boss doesn’t care what is good for the company,” he says. However, if you’re able to demonstrate that a certain strategy portends a disaster (or a victory) for your boss, you’re much more likely to win him over. “Narcissists are constantly trying to figure out, what does this mean for me?” Don’t gossip Indulging in workplace gossip is rarely a wise move. When your boss is a narcissist, it can be dangerous. “Be very careful,” says Maccoby. “These people tend to be paranoid and see enemies everywhere.” Anything you say will likely get back to your boss, says Chamorro-Premuzic. “Narcissists are constantly trying to collect information about what other people think of them.” If you need to vent, talk to your therapist, spouse, or a friend—provided they don’t work at your company or in your industry. Be as “neutral as possible” when your boss’s name comes up in conversation and “never put anything in email,” he says. Weigh the pros and cons of staying Even if you successfully employ the above tactics, chances are that working for a narcissist will take a toll on your satisfaction at work. Carefully consider whether you want to continue working for this person. Of course, quitting your job or getting a new boss isn’t always possible—or the answer. “It’s a personal decision, and some people are more tolerant than others,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. If you’re otherwise engaged in your job, find the work stimulating, and see the possibility of advancement within two or three years, it might be worth “the sacrifice” to stay, he adds. But if you find you’re working for a “narcissist with a destructive philosophy of domination and control,” Maccoby has one piece of advice, “Get out!” Principles to Remember Do Get a handle on narcissistic personality disorder and deepen your understanding of what makes your boss tick. Watch and learn—certain things at least. Observe how your boss makes impressions on others, and try to emulate his ability to inspire. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of staying. If you’re otherwise engaged and challenged by your job, it might be worth it to stay. Don’t Neglect your emotional wellbeing. Find an outlet outside your job that gives you a sense of self-worth. Challenge your boss. If you need to make a business case, frame your argument around what’s good for your manager’s career, rather than what’s good for the organization. Gossip—whatever you say will likely get back to your Case Study #1: Find an outlet to manage your stress Karlyn Borysenko says that one of the hardest parts of working for a narcissist was coming to grips with the fact that her boss was not the person she thought she was. “When I [interviewed], she seemed like exactly the type of boss I had been looking for: confident, capable, and driven to succeed. I thought she would be a mentor that I could really learn from,” she says. “She convinced me to take a 25% pay cut to work for her, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to do it.” Only a few months in to her job as a communications director for a media organization, Karlyn recognized that her boss had the traits of a narcissist. “Nothing was ever good enough, and God forbid if I ever did something right, she would always claim credit,” she says. Karlyn did her best to keep her head down. “Every day, I would tell myself that it wasn’t about me, it was about her,” she says. “I had a mantra on a sticky note at my desk as a constant reminder that read ‘Act with integrity. Have compassion and empathy, even when others don’t.’ Whenever things got bad, I would just go to my desk, breathe, and repeat it.” To help manage the stress, Karlyn saw an acupuncturist and also took up weight lifting. “Lifting was great because it was such an empowering thing to do each morning before I went into work to really feel like I had control over myself, if nothing else,” she says. She also started making exit plans. “There was a light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “If I hadn’t known [the job] was temporary, I probably would have fallen into a sea of depression.” After she left her job, she started Zen Workplace, a coaching and consulting firm in New Hampshire. She says the experience reporting to a narcissist helps her identify with clients who work in toxic environments. “I consider myself lucky now because not only do I get to work with people in those situations and help them move on, I also get to work with leaders who understand that culture is important and that when their employees are happy, the organization sees returns in its bottom line,” she says. “It’s one of the most fulfilling things I can imagine doing.” Case Study #2: Stay on your boss’s good side—but know when enough is enough Jesse Harrison says he’s dealt with a lot of narcissistic bosses over the course of his career, but one in particular—we’ll call him Sam—stands out. “Sam was a radiologist who had started his own business after his medical training,” says Jesse. “I admired him for that.” But as Jesse got settled into his job, he realized Sam was a narcissist and quickly adopted strategies to deal with him. Because of Sam’s volatile and paranoid personality, Jesse knew he needed to stay on Sam’s good side. He discovered that complimenting Sam accomplished this goal. “I tried to make him feel good about himself,” he says. “Being an narcissist, Sam believed the world revolved around him. So my goal was to make him happy and make every conversation about him.” Jesse says he’d look for opportunities to compliment Sam based on “skills he was excessively proud of.” For example, Sam used to boast about his superior reasoning abilities and his technical competence. “So every time I was presented with the opportunity, I would show my appreciation for his logic and his [facility] with computers. It fed his ego.” The compliments were highly effective, but working for Sam grew increasingly tiresome. Jesse says he ate “lots and lots of junk food” and went on long runs to manage the stress. Ultimately, though, Jesse lasted only six months at the company. “Every experience in life—even negative ones—makes you grow,” says Jesse, who recently founded Los Angeles-based Zeus Legal Funding, a startup that helps plaintiffs pay their legal bills. “Most important, I learned to associate myself with positive people more.”
Some well-seasoned advice from family and friends provides the nostalgic backdrop for this week’s satisfying and simple lentil stew with a welcome aniseed kick of fresh fennel and the rustic meatiness of Italian sausagesLast week I cooked with my almost mother in law. She showed me how to make something called falso magro, which translates as “false lean” – a stout roll of beef stuffed with a hard-boiled egg, prosciutto and vegetables that is then simmered in tomato sauce. I watched, poised to help, but mostly apologised for the inadequacies of my kitchen; no metal tongs, a blunt knife, no kitchen roll, no meat basher, the handle on my pan in the wrong position, my salt too coarse, my pepper grinder too tight. Realising my hovering was as annoying as my grinder, I sat at the table and made notes. I noted the recipe of course, even though much of it was in “qb” – quanto basta – which means however much is enough, or “use your common sense!”Much more interesting though, were the commentary and the idiosyncratic touches that Carmela and time had brought to the dish. There was very specific bashing out of the meat and snipping away of any muscles or fibres that might make it curl, and a lament about butchers today. There was also advice about the arrangement of the carrot and celery around the egg accompanied by another lament, this time about arthritic fingers. There were instructions on chopping shallots and the rinsing of the tomato jar along with a story about conserving tomatoes in Sicily, and the reel of cotton pulled from her handbag, unreeled into lengths (my job) that was then used to secure the beef roll. Finally there was the oregano, la morte sua, which means the death of the dish (in the best possible way – remember the vinegar last week). I didn’t have any oregano! A kitchen without oregano: how was that possible? It was the death of it all, in the worst possible way. Continue reading...
Too many companies bet on having a cut-throat, high-pressure, take-no-prisoners culture to drive their financial success. But a large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that not only is a cut-throat environment harmful to productivity over time, but that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line. Although there’s an assumption that stress and pressure push employees to perform more, better, and faster, what cutthroat organizations fail to recognize is the hidden costs incurred. First, health care expenditures at high-pressure companies are nearly 50% greater than at other organizations. The American Psychological Association estimates that more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress, and 550 billion workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job. Sixty percent to 80% of workplace accidents are attributed to stress, and it’s estimated that more than 80% of doctor visits are due to stress. Workplace stress has been linked to health problems ranging from metabolic syndrome to cardiovascular disease and mortality. The stress of belonging to hierarchies itself is linked to disease and death. One study showed that, the lower someone’s rank in a hierarchy, the higher their chances of cardiovascular disease and death from heart attacks. In a large-scale study of over 3,000 employees conducted by Anna Nyberg at the Karolinska Institute, results showed a strong link between leadership behavior and heart disease in employees. Stress-producing bosses are literally bad for the heart. Insight Center How to Be a Company That Employees Love Sponsored by Citrix GoToMeeting It takes a careful mix of mission, management, and culture. Second is the cost of disengagement. While a cut-throat environment and a culture of fear can ensure engagement (and sometimes even excitement) for some time, research suggests that the inevitable stress it creates will likely lead to disengagement over the long term. Engagement in work — which is associated with feeling valued, secure, supported, and respected — is generally negatively associated with a high-stress, cut-throat culture. And disengagement is costly. In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time. Importantly, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100% more job applications. Lack of loyalty is a third cost. Research shows that workplace stress leads to an increase of almost 50% in voluntary turnover. People go on the job market, decline promotions, or resign. And the turnover costs associated with recruiting, training, lowered productivity, lost expertise, and so forth, are significant. The Center for American Progress estimates that replacing a single employee costs approximately 20% of that employee’s salary. For these reasons, many companies have established a wide variety of perks from working from home to office gyms. However, these companies still fail to take into account the research. A Gallup poll showed that, even when workplaces offered benefits such as flextime and work-from-home opportunities, engagement predicted wellbeing above and beyond anything else. Employees prefer workplace wellbeing to material benefits. Wellbeing comes from one place, and one place only — a positive culture. Creating a positive and healthy culture for your team rests on a few major principles. Our own research (see here and here) on the qualities of a positive workplace culture boils down to six essential characteristics: Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends. Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling. Avoiding blame and forgive mistakes. Inspiring one another at work. Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work. Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity. As a boss, how can you foster these principles? The research points to four steps to try: 1. Foster social connections. A large number of empirical studies confirm that positive social connections at work produce highly desirable results. For example, people get sick less often, recover twice as fast from surgery, experience less depression, learn faster and remember longer, tolerate pain and discomfort better, display more mental acuity, and perform better on the job. Conversely, research by Sarah Pressman at the University of California, Irvine, found that the probability of dying early is 20% higher for obese people, 30% higher for excessive drinkers, 50% higher for smokers, but a whopping 70% higher for people with poor social relationships. Toxic, stress-filled workplaces affect social relationships and, consequently, life expectancy. 2. Show empathy. As a boss, you have a huge impact on how your employees feel. A telling brain-imaging study found that, when employees recalled a boss that had been unkind or un-empathic, they showed increased activation in areas of the brain associated with avoidance and negative emotion while the opposite was true when they recalled an empathic boss. Moreover, Jane Dutton and her colleagues in the CompassionLab at the University of Michigan suggest that leaders who demonstrate compassion toward employees foster individual and collective resilience in challenging times. 3. Go out of your way to help. Ever had a manager or mentor who took a lot of trouble to help you when he or she did not have to? Chances are you have remained loyal to that person to this day. Jonathan Haidt at New York University’s Stern School of Business shows in his research that when leaders are not just fair but self-sacrificing, their employees are actually moved and inspired to become more loyal and committed themselves. As a consequence, they are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees, thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle. Daan Van Knippenberg of Rotterdam School of Management shows that employees of self-sacrificing leaders are more cooperative because they trust their leaders more. They are also more productive and see their leaders as more effective and charismatic. 4. Encourage people to talk to you – especially about their problems. Not surprisingly, trusting that the leader has your best interests at heart improves employee performance. Employees feel safe rather than fearful and, as research by Amy Edmondson of Harvard demonstrates in her work on psychological safety, a culture of safety i.e. in which leaders are inclusive, humble, and encourage their staff to speak up or ask for help, leads to better learning and performance outcomes. Rather than creating a culture of fear of negative consequences, feeling safe in the workplace helps encourage the spirit of experimentation so critical for innovation. Kamal Birdi of Sheffield University has shown that empowerment, when coupled with good training and teamwork, leads to superior performance outcomes whereas a range of efficient manufacturing and operations practices do not. When you know a leader is committed to operating from a set of values based on interpersonal kindness, he or she sets the tone for the entire organization. In Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant demonstrates that leader kindness and generosity are strong predictors of team and organizational effectiveness. Whereas harsh work climates are linked to poorer employee health, the opposite is true of positive work climates where employees tend to have lower heart rates and blood pressure as well as a stronger immune systems. A positive work climate also leads to a positive workplace culture which, again, boosts commitment, engagement, and performance. Happier employees make for not only a more congenial workplace but for improved customer service. As a consequence, a happy and caring culture at work not only improves employee well-being and productivity but also improved client health outcomes and satisfaction. In sum, a positive workplace is more successful over time because it increases positive emotions and well-being. This, in turn, improves people’s relationships with each other and amplifies their abilities and their creativity. It buffers against negative experiences such as stress, thus improving employees’ ability to bounce back from challenges and difficulties while bolstering their health. And, it attracts employees, making them more loyal to the leader and to the organization as well as bringing out their best strengths. When organizations develop positive, virtuous cultures they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, productivity, and employee engagement.
In 2012, 986 mass shootings ago, I wrote these words: ""In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it's easy to talk about guns. But it's time to talk about mental illness." Now it's time to talk about guns. In the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting, I had the unenviable task of appearing on CNN to defend the shooter's mother, Laurel Harper, for sharing an entirely legal interest in firearms with her son. Legal, but stupid. Should Harper be blamed for her son's actions? Of course not. Millions of parents share an interest in guns with their children. Harper did not have a crystal ball that could predict her son would become a mass shooter; in fact, it could be argued that mothers are the worst people to ask about their children's weaknesses, because we prefer to focus, like Harper did, on our children's strengths. Harper, who is grieving the loss of her son, the tenth victim of the shooting, couldn't predict a mass shooting any better than anyone else can. But was Harper irresponsible in how she owned and stored her guns? The clear answer is yes. Not because her son had a mental illness. Because all parents who own and store guns in their homes are irresponsible, regardless of whether anyone in the family has a mental illness. What causes mass shootings? The same thing that causes 61% of all deaths by gun violence (suicides): easy access to guns. If no one in your family has suffered the negative effects of gun ownership, it's not because you are a "responsible gun owner." You are just lucky. The research on guns and gun ownership is clear. Having firearms in your home makes everyone who lives there more likely to be a victim of gun violence, period. That's irresponsible parenting. In the wake of other clear public health risks, Americans have acted rationally. For example, seatbelts save lives, so we pass laws that require car drivers to buckle up, and accident-related deaths go down. But guns? Pry them from our cold, dead fingers. I live in Idaho, a state where the Second Amendment is revered only slightly less than the Bible. I have enjoyed shooting as a sport; in fact, my brothers taught marksmanship at Boy Scout camps for years. I also enjoy hunting, and many of my friends provide food for their families by heading to the hills with their .22s each October. But as I've learned more about the risks of storing guns in the home, my views on gun control have evolved. I've avoided talking publicly about guns for this simple reason: I am afraid one of my Second Amendment-worshipping, gun-toting neighbors will shoot me. As I wrote this essay, my husband, reading over my shoulder, said, "Let's update our wills before you publish." But our fear speaks volumes about why we need to talk about guns. In fact, we all are afraid--to go to the store, to the movie theater, to school. It's time to face that fear head on and do something about it. I believe that Americans should be allowed to own any type of gun they want to--as long as they are stored in locked cases at gun clubs. Want to shoot a semiautomatic and feel like an action movie hero? Knock yourself out--at the gun club. Want to take your kids hunting for the weekend? Check out your hunting rifles--from the gun club. If Adam and Nancy Lanza had bonded over guns at a club instead of at home, 20 children would likely be enjoying fourth grade this fall. If Laurel Harper and Chris Mercer had bonded over guns at a club instead of at home, 10 people would likely still be alive today and turning in their midterm writing assignments. If guns were stored at a gun club instead of at home, more than 19,000 people who died by suicide might have had a chance to get the mental healthcare they desperately needed. Our Founding Fathers were reasonable men. They surely never imagined a country where an amendment designed to keep the British from invading, at a time when guns could only fire one shot at a time with questionable accuracy, would lead to almost weekly mass shootings of innocent citizens. I hope that Laurel Harper will join moms across America in demanding action from Congress on gun control. I'm one of those moms. Please don't shoot me. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
GOLD STAR MOTHER'S AND FAMILY'S DAY, 2015 - - - - - - - BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION At every crossroads in the American story, courageous individuals of all backgrounds and beliefs have answered our Nation's call to serve. Today, the sacrifices of our fallen heroes echo in safer towns and cities, countries and continents -- resonating throughout a world they forever made freer. Their legacies are solemnly enshrined in the history of our eternally grateful Nation, as well as in the hearts of all who loved them. Today, we honor the Gold Star Mothers and Families who carry forward the memories of those willing to lay down their lives for the United States and the liberties for which we stand. The proud patriots of our Armed Forces never serve alone. Standing with each service member are parents, spouses, children, siblings, and friends, providing support and love and helping uphold the ideals that bind our Nation together. While most Americans may never fully comprehend the price paid by those who gave their last full measure of devotion, families of the fallen know it intimately and without end. Their sleepless nights allow for our peaceful rest, and the folded flags they hold dear are what enable ours to wave. The depth of their sorrow is immeasurable, and we are forever indebted to them for all they have given for us. Despite their broken hearts, the families of these warriors are full of love and they continue to serve their communities and comfort our troops, veterans, and other military families. Our country is constantly inspired by their incredible resilience, and in their example we see the very best of America. On this day of remembrance, we honor our Gold Star Mothers and Families by living fully the freedom for which they have given so much, and by rededicating ourselves to our enduring obligation to serve them as well as they have served us. The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1985 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mother's Day." NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 27, 2015, as Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day. I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this special day. I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a public expression of our Nation's gratitude and respect for our Gold Star Mothers and Families. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth. BARACK OBAMA
By EconMatters In June, I did three posts discussing some of the things in Corporate America, either from personal observation or first hand accounts through friends, readers, or colleagues. (Read: Getting Hired Now Takes Longer; How Some Companies Are Scamming Job Applicants; How Companies Are Using PIP To Humiliate and Get Rid of Workers. Today, I'm going to talk about something I learned just this week. One of my friends recently went through a job application and interview process with a U.S.-based leading oil and gas midstream pipeline company (~ 22,000+ miles of pipeline and 1.4 million retail customers, on 2015 Fortune 450 list). At the end my friend did not get an offer, so my friend asked me for a postmortem and shared with me all relevant information including job posting description, back-and-forth emails and voice mails between the Human Resource (HR) "Talent Acquisition" person and the "Hiring Manager". Below is a recap of what had transpired in the two months after the initial job application. From Routine To Bizarre My friend has a very strong background in market analysis and in May, applied for a non-managerial Senior Analyst position with this pipeline company. Initially, everything was pretty routine from the phone screening interview to in-person on-site interview with 3 managers. Then things took a bizarre turn. "Bring You On Board" - What Else Could It Mean ? After 4 weeks of non-communication post-in-person interview, my friend suddenly received a voice mail at 7pm on a Friday evening from the HR person apologizing that he had been on vacation, but the Company is ready to move to the "next steps" to bring my friend "on board" the following week. My friend of course immediately returned the call to the HR person confirming what he said on the voice mail. (Well, this is weird to begin with, if anybody needs to work at 7pm on a Friday, it'd NOT be HR.) Then, the following week came, gone and silence, my friend followed up with an email to the HR person. The HR person left yet another voice mail reiterating the Company is still looking to bring my friend "on board" but due to some delay in the internal approval process, my friend should hear back the following week. (I listened to both voice mails, there's zero possibility of a "mis-understanding" or a "mis-communication"). Then the following week (this is two weeks after the bizarre 7pm Friday voice mail), my friend received a call from the same HR person inquiring about the current compensation info which was already reviewed during the initial phone screening process, except that the "salary range" of the position had gone down by 15% from the initial conversation with the very same HR person. Nonetheless, my friend was professional enough not to say anything. The HR person still ended the phone conversation with "I will talk to the Hiring Manager and reach out to you soon". What's Up With "Next Steps"? After the phone conversation, my friend got a notification that the same position was re-posted at the Company's Careers site. Realizing salary seems an issue, my friend immediately sent a short email directly to the Hiring Manager and cc the HR person reiterating the interest in the position and pay flexibility. The Hiring Manager replied "Thank you for your email. [HR person name] will be reaching out to you soon to discuss next steps." Well, at this stage, by any logic, there is NO "next steps" to "discuss" except reviewing and negotiating offer. Two hours after this reply email from the Hiring Manager, the newly posted position was taken off the very same day it was put up, while my friend got a generic rejection email -- ".... After careful consideration, we have decided to extend an offer to another applicant whose qualifications more closely align with this position. ..." Again, I read the emails, above are the direct quotes from original email communications. Postmortem First of all, judging from the job description, there is very little possibility that the hiring company could have found another better qualified candidate for such a niche expertise area, and zero possibility the company could have found the right candidate in one day (Remember how the position re-post was taken off in less than one day?) Secondly, from what I can tell, the hiring company most likely was stalling and stringing my friend along for two months, perhaps trying to find a cheaper alternative (It does not take two months to figure out a candidate is not a good fit, not to mention the excuses and weird communications in between). I see this as bizarre, utterly unprofessional and unethical. I'm quite surprised to see this kind of recruiting practice from a Fortune 450 company, and can only imagine what goes on in smaller outfits all over. Work Sample - No Copy Should Be Left Behind Of course, my friend made a typical mistake of any eager job seeker -- leaving a hard copy of two "work samples" believing they'd showcase skills and capabilities. My understanding is that one of the work samples gives the complete layout and format of a deliverable the Hiring Manager had no clue and prior experience. There was some 'phishing' questions started in the initial phone interview already which was why my friend provided a work sample at the in-person interview. I can only imagine the Hiring Manager probably showed that sample to all other applicants to finally find a taker. A New World Order of Corporate Recruiting? Again, as I discussed before, this is how some companies are scamming job applicants. To my previous points, in this case, both the Hiring Manager and the HR person are Gen Y, the new royalty in Corporate America, whose recruiting priority is getting a "team member" with similar age and 'years of inexperience', instead of best talent for the job and responsibilities to deliver quality and value for the greater good of the corporation. Fortunately in this case, my friend is still gainfully employed, but this little experience does not bode well for the self-confidence. Again, this is one more example to add to the NWO of Corporate America Recruiting.
Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins shaking hands with steel workers in Homestead, Pennsylvania in July 1933. Perkins stands behind President Franklin Roosevelt as he signs the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935. A recent poll found that 63 percent of Americans support a federal minimum wage of $15-an-hour. Despite attacks from conservatives, Social Security is overwhelmingly popular. Most Americans take for granted the idea that employees shouldn't be forced to work more than 8 hours a day without overtime pay and that the government should protect workers from unsafe and unhealthy work places. Surveys show that a majority of Americans believe unions are good for the country. A significant majority of working people support the right of workers to unionize. Once considered radical, these ideas are now considered common sense. And noone was more instrumental in shaping these laws than Frances Perkins, a progressive activist who became President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor. Perkins, who died 50 years ago this month, is one of our nation's greatest heroines. Her remarkable life should inspire us to continue the battles she fought. Many of the issues she worked on -- including wage theft, discrimination against women workers and the rights of immigrant workers -- remain problems today. Anyone who fights for social justice stands on her shoulders. Born in 1880, Perkins grew up in a comfortable middle-class Republican family in Worcester, Massachusetts. At Mount Holyoke College, she was deeply influenced by an economic history course that required her to visit factories in the nearby industrial city of Holyoke and interview workers about their working conditions. She was also affected by reading How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis's exposé of New York's slums. In February 1902, during her senior year, Perkins attended a campus talk by Florence Kelley, head of the National Consumers League. Perkins was impressed by Kelley's fiery speech, her combination of radicalism and pragmatism, and her nonconformist lifestyle as a divorced woman with three children working to save the world. Eventually, Kelley, who also came from a middle-class Republican family, became Perkins's role model and mentor. After graduation, Perkins took a series of teaching positions in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Chicago. In her spare time, she volunteered at settlement houses in each city, including Hull House. One of her duties was to try to collect wages for workers who had been cheated by their employers, a responsibility that took her into the homes of the city's poorest residents. In Chicago, she gained more firsthand exposure to dangerous factory conditions and slum housing. In 1907, she took a $50-a-month job with the Philadelphia Research and Protection Association, a Progressive Era reform group. Backed by church and philanthropic groups, the group helped immigrant white girls from Europe and African-American girls from southern states who were then arriving in Philadelphia in great numbers, hoping to find work, but often preyed upon or robbed. Perkins exposed the exploitation of young immigrant and African American women by bogus employment agencies that promised good jobs but lured them into prostitution. She applied for jobs herself to uncover the agencies' practices. She visited fleabag lodging houses and terrible factories, supplying information to the press and city officials. Perkins moved to New York in 1909 to study at Columbia University. The city was bursting with protest and with a growing progressive movement that included union activists, clergy, muckraking journalists, socialists and even upper-class women (including the wives of some of New York's wealthiest men), feminists who cared about the problems of working women. After earning her master's degree in economics and sociology in 1910, Perkins spent the next two years as head of the New York Consumers League. In that capacity, she conducted studies of unsafe and unsanitary workplaces, such as cellar bakeries, that exploited women and children, forcing them to work in dangerous conditions. She became an expert in workplace dangers and firetraps. Collaborating closely with Kelley, she lobbied the state legislature for a bill limiting the workweek for women and children to 54 hours. She also became active in the women's suffrage movement, marching in suffrage parades and giving street-corner speeches. On March 25, 1911, Perkins was having afternoon tea with her friend Margaret Morgan Norrie, a wealthy New Yorker descended from two signatories to the Declaration of Independence. They met at Norrie's elegant redbrick townhouse overlooking Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. But their conversation was interrupted by the sound of fire engine bells. A big fire had erupted on the other side of the square. From the townhouse, they could see flames engulfing the top floors of a ten-story building. Holding up her long skirt, the 30-year-old Perkins ran to the fire scene and realized that the building housed the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, one of the city's largest garment factories, which employed immigrant girls in miserable, overcrowded conditions. Perkins saw workers huddled on the top floors unable to escape because the exit doors had been locked and there were no fire escapes. She saw other workers hanging from the windows by their hands, clinging desperately. She noticed that the city fire trucks' ladders could not reach the top floors, and she witnessed the awful sight of workers jumping or falling to their deaths from the eighth and ninth floors. In total, 146 workers, most of them young immigrant women, died in the Triangle Fire. The experience of witnessing that tragedy, Perkins later explained, "seared on my mind as well as my heart -- a never-to-be-forgotten reminder of why I had to spend my life fighting conditions that could permit such a tragedy." Following the Triangle Fire, and in response to the outcry, New York Governor John Alden Dix created the Factory Investigating Commission, a pioneering body with broad subpoena powers and teams of investigators. Its leaders, legislators Robert F. Wagner and Al Smith, asked Perkins to lead the investigation of mercantile shops. As Perkins recalled: We used to make it our business to take Al Smith, the East Side boy, to see the women, thousands of them, coming off the ten-hour night shift on the rope walks in Auburn. We made sure that Robert Wagner personally crawled through the tiny hole in the wall that gave egress to a steep iron ladder covered with ice and ending 12 feet from the ground, which was euphemistically labeled "Fire Escape" in many factories. We saw to it that the austere legislative members of the Commission got up at dawn and drove with us for an unannounced visit to a Cattaraugus County cannery and that they saw with their own eyes the little children, not adolescents, but 5, 6, and 7-year olds, snipping beans and shelling peas. We made sure that they saw the machinery that would scalp a girl or cut off a man's arm. Perkins recognized the importance of employees having their own organizations to advance workers rights. She also understood the necessity of forging coalitions to push for progressive legislation. Many of Perkins's upper-class friends provided financial and political support for the causes she worked on. She also forged friendships with politicians, even those she disagreed with, because she knew they could someday be helpful in passing reform legislation. One of those politicians was Smith, the state assemblyman who surprised many New Yorkers by successfully pushing for factory reforms after the Triangle Fire. After he was elected governor in 1918, Smith appointed Perkins to the State Industrial Commission and named her its chair in 1926. Three years later, Franklin Roosevelt (who served as New York governor from 1929-1932), named her the state's industrial commissioner. In that capacity, she visited the United Kingdom to see if that country's unemployment insurance and old-age assistance laws could be adopted in the United States. She expanded factory investigations, reduced the work week for women to forty-eight hours, and championed state minimum wage and unemployment insurance laws. Perkins stands next to a fire escape as part of her investigation of working conditions for the NY Factory Investigating Commission in around 1912, following the Triangle Fire. As Secretary of Labor in 1940, Perkins descends into a mine shaft in Missouri to investigate working conditions. Perkins with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1961 at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Triangle Fire. After FDR's victory in the 1932 presidential election, many progressives, including his wife Eleanor and Jane Addams, urged him to appoint Perkins his Secretary of Labor, but many Americans doubted that a woman could handle such a demanding job. Even Al Smith, her former boss and admirer, remarked that "men will take advice from a woman, but it is hard for them to take orders from a woman." The first woman appointed to the Cabinet, proved her opponents wrong. She served as Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945. She and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes were the only original members of FDR's cabinet to serve for his entire presidency. Perkins drew on New York State's experience as the model for new federal programs. She was determined to create a safety net for a Depression-scarred society and to use the government's power to create jobs for the jobless. She helped secure a remarkable array of benefits for American workers, including jobs program (the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and its successor the Federal Works Agency, and the National Industrial Recovery Act). Within FDR's inner circle, she was the strongest proponent of the landmark National Labor Relations Act, sponsored by Senator Robert Wagner (the same politician she had worked with after the Triangle Fire). Passed in 1935, it gave workers the right to unionize. She led the fight for the 1935 Social Security Act, which established unemployment benefits, pensions for elderly Americans and financial aid for the poorest Americans. She was also the prime mover within the Cabinet for the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, which created a federal minimum wage, established a 40-hour work week, guaranteed time-and-a-half for overtime in certain jobs and prohibited most employment of minors in "oppressive child labor." Perkins excelled at the "inside/outside" game. She was one of a handful of FDR's close inner circle advisers with regular access to the president. FDR trusted Perkins's political judgment and her lobbying skills. She was effective at out-maneuvering and out-arguing some of the president's more conservative advisers. She was also adept at working with labor and consumer groups, advising them on which Congress members to lobby, what arguments to make, and when to resort to protest and rallies to draw attention to issues and help push legislation over the finish line. Perkins consistently supported workers' right to organize unions and to pressure employers. For example, in May 1934 about 130,000 San Francisco workers -- printers, streetcar operators, bakery-wagon drivers and others -- stayed home from work to show their solidarity with the city's longshoremen's union, led by Harry Bridges, who were on strike against the big shipping companies. The city's business leaders, as well as state and city officials, implored Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who was standing in for FDR while the president was out of the country, to mobilize federal troops to quell the general strike. Hull agreed with them. FDR's attorney general, Homer Cummings, told Perkins that a general strike was tantamount to an attempt to overthrow the government. The unflappable Perkins rushed to a naval communications facility to get a message to FDR before he heard from Hull or Cummings. He not only sided with Perkins -- saying the strike should be settled through negotiations, not military force -- but he also made it clear to the other cabinet members that she was in charge of handling the crisis. As Perkins predicted, the workers returned to work within two days, the employers and the union negotiated their differences, and the workers won better wages, working conditions, and a union-sponsored hiring hall. As Perkins said, "I have come to the conclusion that the Department of Labor should be the Department for Labor, and that we should render service to working people." During the Depression, 6.5 million people were 65 or over. Few had money set aside for old age. Many who had put away a nest egg for retirement saw it disappear when the economy crashed. Only about 300,000 Americans had public pensions, 150,000 had pensions from private employers or unions, and 700,000 had federal relief. The rest were on their own. Among FDR's closest advisors, Perkins was the major advocate for unemployment insurance and Social Security. A year into FDR's presidency, Perkins made her move. As Kirstin Downey describes in her biography of Perkins, The Woman Behind the New Deal: "She nagged the president to get it started. 'It is probably our only chance in twenty-five years to get a bill like this,' she told Roosevelt." She knew that the dire conditions of the Great Depression were the only hope for passing something so radical: "Nothing else would have bumped the American people into social security except something so shocking, so terrifying, as that depression," Perkins later said. FDR named Perkins chair of the Committee on Economic Security, established to investigate social insurance and report on its findings in six months. The report recommended that the country adopt programs for unemployment insurance and old-age insurance. Downey explained: "In a meeting with Roosevelt present, she went around the table and extracted from each of the major members of her committee a pledge to support the program being prepared by the committee. Publicly obligated, they could not back down later." Frances later called committee leaders to her home, "led them into the dining room, placed a large bottle of Scotch on the table, and told them no one would leave until the work was done," according to Downey. With Perkins at the helm, they crafted a bill. She smartly tied together several key ideas. Unemployment insurance would tide over the jobless workers who were the primary source of support to children. Social Security would provide old people with pensions so they could retire without falling into desperate poverty. She also included financial assistance for the handicapped (which today is called disability insurance) and for widowed women with children, because many women earned so little money that when their husbands died they often had to put their children to work or put them in orphanages. But then the president got cold feet, pressured by conservatives within his Cabinet and Congress, and decided it would have to wait. As Downey explained: "Perkins hit the roof. 'That man, that man!' she muttered. She ripped over to the White House. The next day, FDR told the press conference that he was 'tremendously' for the bill." FDR explained that his plan would provide "security against the hazards and vicissitudes of life." But conservatives and business lobby groups, and many newspaper editorial writers, continued to oppose the bill. A March 30, 1935 headline in the New York Times declared "Hopes Are Fading for Security Bill." But Perkins would not give up. She recruited 50 prominent people to sign a letter urging Congress to pass the bill. With unions and other progressive groups weighing in, too, the House, and then the Senate, passed the bill. FDR signed the bill into law on August 14, 1935. Perkins said it was "one of the most forward-looking pieces of legislation in the interest of wage earners." Not surprisingly, Perkins became a target of business and conservative groups, who hated public works and social net programs, the minimum wage, and, more than anything, labor unions. One of their staunchest allies in Congress, Martin Dies, headed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which accused Perkins of supporting communists. She had refused to support efforts to deport Bridges, the West Coast longshoremen's union leader, whom the shipping industry detested. Another right-wing Congressman, J. Parnell Thomas, introduced a motion to impeach her. Her opponents resorted to various lies and dirty tricks, accusing her of having an affair with Bridges, of being a lesbian, and of being born a Russian Jew. FDR refused to fire Perkins, although he did little to defend her from the right-wing attacks. Eventually, HUAC unanimously concluded that the impeachment charges were not warranted. Even so, 10 Republicans issued a minority report saying she should be censured. After FDR died in 1945, Perkins resigned from her position as labor secretary to head the U.S. delegation to the International Labor Organization conference in Paris. President Harry S. Truman subsequently appointed her to the Civil Service Commission, a job she held through 1953. In the last years of her life, she taught at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. In 1962, at the age of 80 she gave a memorable speech to the employees of the Social Security Administration on "The Roots of Social Security," which is still worth reading. The headquarters of the United States Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. is called the Frances Perkins Building. But it is likely that many people who pass by that edifice have no idea who Perkins was. To learn more about Perkins' remarkable life and times, here are some sources: Adam Cohen, Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. Kirstin Downey, The Woman Behind the New Deal: Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience. New York: Doubleday, 2009. Richard Greenwald, The Triangle Fire, the Protocols of Peace, and Industrial Democracy in Progressive Era New York. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005. Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew. New York: Viking Press, 1946. David Von Drehle, Triangle: The Fire That Changed America. New York: Grove Press, 2003. Triangle: Remembering the Fire, a documentary film directed by Daphne Pinkerson. 2011. Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. Frances Perkins is one of the people profiled in that book. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
All managers would like their teams to be more productive. Yet most companies are using the same old methods: strategic plans, goal-setting, streamlining operations, reducing inefficiency. Others are offering employee perks, such as on-site food, daycare, or gyms. Others are offering bigger bonuses or flexible schedules. Kim Cameron and his colleagues at the University of Michigan, however, have discovered a way to improve performance that has nothing to do with dishing out benefits or deploying new processes. In a research article published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science Cameron and his coauthors found that a workplace characterized by positive and virtuous practices excels in a number of domains. Positive and virtuous practices include: Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends. Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling. Avoiding blame and forgive mistakes. Inspiring one another at work. Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work. Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust & integrity. Cameron and his colleagues explain that there are three reasons these practices benefit the company. Positive practices: Increase positive emotions which broaden employees’ resources and abilities by improving people’s relationships with each other and amplifying their creativity and ability to think creatively. Buffer against negative events like stress, improving employees ability to bounce back from challenges and difficulties. Attract and bolster employees, making them more loyal and bringing out the best in them. There are bottom-line benefits as well. Summarizing the findings, Cameron explains that: “When organizations institute positive, virtuous practices they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, and productivity … The more the virtuousness, the higher the performance in profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.” So how do you implement positive practices in your company? The research team found four main ways: Leadership: Needless to say, it is difficult to implement positive practices without support from the top. A leader must stand by and exemplify the values he preaches. Steve Schroeder, founder and CEO of Creative Werks, a packaging company based in Chicago that has repeatedly appeared on Crain Chicago’s “50 Fastest Growing Companies” list, attributes much of his company’s success to a positive culture. In addition to providing the usual perks (bonuses and professional development opportunities), Steve makes sure his employees are happy. As a longtime student of the Dalai Lama, Steve often quotes the Dalai Lama’s saying that “everybody wants to be happy.” He ensures that his company’s culture is both positive and supportive. “Caring” is a quality he looks for when he interviews new employees. “Caring people never let their colleagues or the clients down,” says Schroeder. Creative Werks’ core values are not just client and product-focused. They also include also include “balance” referring to employee well-being and illustrating the importance of a positive and supportive workplace. Culture: Because culture trumps strategy in predicting performance, culture change initiatives are also important. Jim Mallozzi, CEO of Prudential Real Estate and Relocation, consulted with Cameron during a difficult merger of two companies and during a time when his company was undergoing severe financial loss. He found that implementing positive practices shifted the company culture and helped turn these challenging times into great successes. He mentions one exercise in particular: “Select three people, one at a time, and tell those people three things you value about them. In corporate America, and in most places in life, people usually tell you, ‘Here are the three things that you need to change.’ Rarely do they tell you, ‘Here are the three things that you’re fabulous at.’ When you do that, the energy just goes up. So that was the start. Okay, we’re off the beach. Nobody’s dying any more. The body parts have been buried. We’re now saying, ‘Okay, let’s start with what we have, because we have some fabulous attributes.'” Small steps: Small changes can produce large effects. Some firms that consulted Cameron have simply asked all employees to keep gratitude journals each day, or to positively embarrass someone each day, or spend 30 minutes per day making a contribution to someone in need. Within weeks and months, the companies have noticed visible improvements in performance. Shubhra Bhatnagar is a former successful investment banker who became a social entrepreneur. She founded KarmaLize.Me, a health food distribution company which donates over 50% of profits to charities. In the intense field of investment banking, she had found that employee well-being was neglected. For this reason, despite the equivalent pressures of running a startup, she makes sure that her staff engage in well-being activities such as meditation: “We make sure that the stress of a startup business does not hamper the happiness quotient of our team or impacts our core business values. We use a meditation app (Sattva) to help us reconnect with ourselves and each other and to create a more positive atmosphere in our office.” Retreats and workshops: Changes and improvements can occur as a result of retreats, executive programs, or workshops where employees have a chance to think deeply and strategically about positive leadership and positive practices. Corporate workshops is what Audible’s Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Louis Gagnon, opted for. The two-day TLEX retreat in upstate New York started with an exercise where 18 of Gagnon’s leaders split into groups to define “what is leadership.” After collating the results, the group realized that 95% of all attributes referred to “soft,” not “hard” skills. Gagnon reports that this staff was pleased to hear that for 2-days, soft skills is exactly what they would be focusing on – no corporate goals, no strategy, no alignment – but mindfulness, personal mastery, connectedness and collective action. At the heart of the curriculum: breathing exercises. “Our team was engaged, opened and excited to have the rare luxury to focus on themselves as individuals — individuals as a conduit and lever to ourselves as a team. We all felt deeply rejuvenated and at peace with each other. That, ultimately, built trust – the ultimate ingredient to teamwork.“
"There is not a single column you write that I agree with," and other views from the readership.
Outlook So it's exit stage west for Clive Cowdery and his mini-me John Tiner. The shiny-suited salesman and his gamekeeper-turned-poacher pal (he used to run the financial watchdog) have bid goodbye to the beast they created. Beast? Well that's what it was supposed to be anyway. Mr Cowdery convinced some of the City's top institutions he could create a £10bn super-insurer using Friends Provident as his platform.
Submitted by F.F. Wiley of Cyniconomics blog, Do you wonder what to make of America’s soaring government debt and what it means for the future? Or, if you already have it figured out, are you interested in research that might challenge your position? Either way, you might like to see the results of this exercise: Take each historic instance of government borrowing rising above America’s current debt of 105% of GDP. Eliminate those instances in which creditors received a lower return than originally promised, due to defaults, bond conversions, service moratoriums and/or debt cancellations. Of the remaining instances, consider whether and how the debt-to-GDP ratio was reduced. In other words, let’s see what history tells us about today’s debt levels and what comes next. You may find the answer surprising. I’ll start with 63 episodes of debt reaching the 105% threshold, as shown in the table below. These are drawn from Carmen Reinhart’s and Kenneth Rogoff’s widely used debt database, with just a few eliminations that are explained in the notes at the bottom. You’ll see that in addition to screening for breaches of 105%, I needed to establish the end of each episode as well. For this, I used a 90% threshold to make sure that I’d identified periods of genuine debt ratio reduction. With each episode beginning at 105% and ending after debt falls below 90%, there’s a reasonable improvement from start to finish. Recent struggles with high debt in which debt-to-GDP remains above 90% (and there are many of them) are excluded from the analysis. I also recorded the peak debt ratio on every path from 105% to 90% and used this figure to sort the rows in the table. After narrowing the data set as I’ll describe below, I’ll focus mostly on time periods of debt ratio reduction – from the peaks to the end of each episode. My next step is to remove the episodes that included a credit event, which could be a default, bond conversion, service moratorium or debt cancellation. These are listed in a separate “technical notes” post. In a large majority of cases, the credit event was needed to bring debt-to-GDP under control. Once they’re removed from the initial data set, I’m left with 11 episodes, all of them showing a reduction in the debt ratio without any recognized creditor haircuts. But then I add three episodes back in – the Netherlands from 1814 to 1873, the U.K. from 1918 to 1965 and Egypt from 2003 to 2007. These stand out because there was significant debt reduction well after the respective credit events, although I also considered the global importance of each of their debt battles. With the three additional episodes, I have 14 instances of relatively successful debt reduction. Note that 12 of them occurred in economies considered today to be developed, with only one (Egypt) occurring in an emerging economy and one (South Africa) being something of a hybrid. My last step is to consider how the debt ratios were reduced. I’ll look at large and small countries separately, using a rule that’s sure to anger the Walloons but seems reasonable: Any country with an economy equal to or bigger than the Netherlands is large, while small means that a country’s output is similar to or less than Belgium’s. The large countries tell us to stop running deficits There are nine episodes in the large country group, as shown in the chart below. I discussed five of these in a post earlier this year, where I set the debt threshold considerably higher at 150% of GDP. I argued then that we should be wary of claims that massive debt ratios are no big deal because some countries have been there before. In all the cases I considered, countries that recovered from huge debt totals enjoyed advantages that no longer exist. In the 19th century, circumstances included resource-rich colonies that the British and Dutch exploited to ease budget pressures. And then after World War II, debt proved temporary largely because the combatants ran large non-defense surpluses and only needed to bring their soldiers home to restore budgetary discipline. I also argued in my earlier article that inflation isn’t the solution that many make it out to be. Without fiscal measures and financial repression, inflation only takes you so far in resolving a serious debt problem. In extreme cases, it can make the problem worse. It turns out that these findings are only slightly weaker when I lower the threshold to 105%. But the particular results that stand out this time are from the last three columns of the table below. The third-to-last column shows the average budget balance from the year after debt-to-GDP peaked to the year it was reduced below 90%. The last two columns show the number and percentage of years in which there was a surplus. Together, the figures tell us that every one of the large countries that reduced debt without a credit event did so by balancing its budget. Put differently, the large country history suggests that the only reliable way to solve a debt problem is to stop running deficits. Long ago, policymakers would have regarded this finding as common sense. But current perspectives are distorted by years of bad ideas in economics. Keynesian economists, in particular, often preach that deficits are nothing to be concerned about. The U.S. has run deficits in all but two years since Keynesians began to dominate policymaking in the 1960s. And not surprisingly, every one of the episodes listed above predates our 63-years-and-counting of chronic budget shortfalls. Needless to say, history doesn’t reflect kindly on present attitudes about budgeting. It shows that the pre-1960s belief in fiscal discipline may have had some value after all. Without it, we may have never witnessed a large country recovering from today’s debt levels without first slamming its creditors. The small countries reduced debt in a variety of ways But what about the small country history? Do the little guys offer a different solution? There are five episodes in this group, as shown in the chart below. I’ll address them in chronological order. South Africa, 1932-1935 (peaking in 1932) Debt ratios in 1930s South Africa were reduced not by balancing the budget but through rampant growth. Nominal GDP jumped over 13% annually between 1932 and 1936, while inflation was close to zero. And the trigger for the boom was the U.K.’s September 1931 decision to abandon the gold standard and devalue its currency. The South African pound devalued at the same time because it was legally tied to the British currency. Why was the GDP boost so large at a time of depression in most of the world, including other countries that severed their links to gold? The answer is that the devaluation provided not just a gain in global competitiveness but a revaluation in South Africa’s most valuable assets – its wealth of underground resources and particularly gold. As a small country producing half of the world’s gold, there was nothing more important to its economy than the price of its gold reserves. And once those reserves were revalued upwards, it was off to races. Multiplier effects from the gold mining boom rippled through the economy, pushing GDP higher and debt-to-GDP lower. Belgium, 1946-1948 (peaking in 1946) Like 1930s South Africa, Belgium didn’t attempt to balance its budget after World War II. Rather, the Belgian debt ratio was reduced in two ways: Reconstruction of the economy after it was left in tatters by the German occupation. Help from friends. From post-war lows in 1946, GDP bounced back in the next two years at an annual rate of 13% in real terms and 24% in nominal terms. Fiscal challenges were also mitigated by Marshall Plan assistance from the U.S., beginning in 1948, and some war debt forgiveness before that. And with debt growing much more slowly than the economy, debt-to-GDP was cut from 118% to 75% in just two years. Ireland, 1986-1990 (peaking in 1987) and Belgium, 1987-2006 (peaking in 1993) Here are a few data points describing each of these European debt battles, dividing the Belgian experience into two sub-periods with slightly different characteristics: And here are my observations: Strong growth explained the rapidity of Ireland’s debt ratio reduction, while steady Belgian growth also contributed to falling debt ratios, especially in the 1990s. Belgium achieved the second leg of its debt reduction, from 2001 to 2006, by reducing its budget deficit to 0.4% of GDP. Strong primary balances were a critical ingredient in each instance. The Ireland and Belgium experiences seem to validate the idea that it’s okay to run a deficit as long as the primary balance shows a large surplus. We know this approach to be valid mathematically and it worked in these instances. The challenge is that it’s extremely difficult to maintain such a delicate balance through cycles of business, politics and war. Moreover, both Ireland and Belgium exploited unique advantages: Ireland’s generous support from the EU via structural funds, which averaged nearly 2% of Irish GDP in the latter half of the 1980s, and Belgium’s status as Europe’s Washington D.C., with much of the Brussels economy driven by the EU and, to a lesser extent, NATO. Before extrapolating their debt battles to the U.S., there are three points to consider. First, America’s highest decade-average primary surplus in the six decades since World War II is 0.9% in the 1950s (as shown here). That’s nearly 4% lower than the Ireland and Belgium figures above. Second, at current interest rates, the U.S. would need to fully balance the budget in order to match the Irish and Belgian primary surpluses. In other words, a large primary surplus is basically the same thing as a balanced budget in the U.S. today. Third, over a more complete credit cycle, Irish and Belgian debt reduction appears to have been temporary. As of early 2013, IMF estimates placed general government debt at 117% of GDP for Ireland and 100% for Belgium. Egypt, 2003-2007 (peaking in 2005) Egypt’s high debt episode in the period just before the global financial crisis was mitigated by three IMF programs in the 1990s and a 1991 restructuring, which eased repayment terms while creating “blocked accounts” earmarked for lenders. I’ll set these advantages aside, though, and share figures for budget balances, growth and inflation: The good news is that Egypt offers another example of debt ratio improvement without balanced budgets, and without even a primary surplus. What’s more, the path from 105% to 90% didn’t require the double digit real growth rates of 1930s South Africa or 1940s Belgium. Growth was certainly strong, but inflation was even higher and outpaced interest rates on government debt (not shown). Therefore, Egypt reduced its debt ratio largely through a combination of high real growth and low real interest rates. And now for the bad news: We all know what happened in the years after 2007, and it had at least something to do with the very inflation that helped to erode government debt. Conclusions Getting back to the question of whether the small country group tells us anything we didn’t learn from the large countries, here are the four approaches that succeeded without a credit event: Strike gold and devalue. (But for an economy as large as the U.S., we’d need to discover hundreds of Fort Knox’s.) Be conquered by an evil, genocidal dictator. (And then grow strongly with the help of some friends after your liberation.) Run a huge primary surplus. (Nearly 4% higher than the U.S. has averaged in any post-WWII decade.) Be like modern Egypt. (Do I really need a qualifier for this one?) So maybe the smaller countries don’t really show us the way? Which brings us back to the approach followed by the large countries in the database: Balance the budget. These countries weren’t satisfied with marginal improvements that still leave gaping deficits. (Think about the celebratory “all clears” that were declared this past May after the CBO dropped its deficit forecast to “only” 4.2% of GDP.) They didn’t claim victory after reaching the standard EU target of a 3% deficit. More importantly, their debt battles predate the use of Keynesian economics as an excuse for profligacy. I’ll say it once more: Balancing the budget is the only way that a large country has ever wound down a 105% debt-to-GDP without haircutting its creditors. Not for the first time, the common sense solution is the only approach that’s worked. (Click here for credit event detail and the calculation of today’s 105% debt-to-GDP.)
iOS 7 (AAPL +2.3%) is now available for download, flat icons and all. Also being released is iTunes 11.1, which adds iTunes Radio and a new Genius Shuffle feature.Developers have been busy making their apps iOS 7-friendly. Apple blogger/fan Pixel Envy has provided a very comprehensive review of the OS.A U.S. carrier source tells Reuters iPhone 5C pre-orders haven't been "overwhelming," and that supply for both the 5S and 5C has disappointed. Multiple reports emerged yesterday of tight 5S inventories.Hit-and-miss Digitimes reports the 5th-gen iPad and retina iPad Mini will join the iPhone 5S in having sapphire home buttons (presumably with fingerprint sensors underneath), and that iPhone 6 will "possibly" feature sapphire touchscreen cover glass.Sapphire is thinner and more scratch-resistant than current cover glass solutions such as Gorilla Glass, but is also much more expensive.Also: Apple chairman and former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson has agreed to become the CEO of (and an initial investor in) Calico, a Google company set to work on anti-aging technology. Tim Cook provides some high praise for Levinson in the PR.Earlier: iPhone 5S/5C reviews, Morgan Stanley note 7 comments!