VA Secretary David Shulkin's chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, retired Friday morning amid allegations that she altered an email to allow Shulkin's wife to accompany him on a European trip at government expense.Wright Simpson, a 37-year VA employee, was the third-ranking official at the agency. An inspector general's report released Wednesday found she altered a document to say that Shulkin was to win an award at a dinner during a meeting in Copenhagen last summer. Under VA ethics rules, receiving an award would have been an acceptable reason for the government to pay for Shulkin's wife, Merle Bari, to accompany him.Shulkin has repaid Bari's $4,300 flight costs to the Treasury, he told a Hill committee Thursday. She did not charge the government for any other expenses. He also paid the Treasury for Wimbledon tickets a friend provided him and Bari, which were also scrutinized by the VA inspector general's report.Shulkin said he had known nothing about the allegedly doctored email. He said that Wright Simpson denied sending it and told him her account had been hacked in recent days. Asked Friday whether he viewed her retirement as an acknowledgment of responsibility, Shulkin told POLITICO he could not speak for her now that she had retired.Reached on the phone Friday morning, Wright Simpson declined to comment.Shulkin, the lone Obama administration holdover in the Cabinet, told POLITICO on Wednesday that the inspector general report contained false allegations and was part of an attack on him by internal foes."There are people within my organization who are not happy with the progress we’re making and the direction of the organization, who are deliberately undermining me,” he said. The Koch brothers-backed Concerned Veterans for America, which has allies in the White House and at the VA, wants a harder push to privatize VA health services and views Shulkin with suspicion. VA spokesman Curt Cashour, who worked for a congressman close to Concerned Veterans before joining the agency last year, has put out information that sometimes conflicts with Shulkin’s comments.On Wednesday, for example, after Shulkin denied the accusations in the IG report, Cashour released a statement saying, “Accountability and transparency are important values at VA under President [Donald] Trump, and we look forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations in more detail before determining an appropriate response.”
House Veterans Affairs Committee members largely gave VA Secretary David Shulkin a pass over a scathing inspector general's report on his visit to Europe last summer after Shulkin promised to repay the VA for his wife's airfare and other trip expenses.At a hearing on the administration's $198 billion VA budget proposal, members on both sides tut-tutted over the $122,000 cost of the trip but treated it as a distraction that they urged Shulkin to clear away so he could deal with substantial problems like paying for veterans care by community providers, EHR modernization, unused VA assets and streamlining benefit appeals."I believe your intentions to serve and care for our nation's veterans are clear," Chairman Phil Roe said in an opening statement. "I encourage you to take every step to address the findings of this report, and to make any changes necessary.""Trust on this committee is strong," added ranking member Tim Walz. He said he was prepared to ask the Department of Justice to examine allegations Shulkin raised in a POLITICO interview that a hacker might have sent an email from his chief of staff that altered information about the purpose of his visit.The email falsely suggested Shulkin was receiving an award in Denmark, which, under arcane ethics regulations, meant the VA could pay for Shulkin's wife's trip expenses. Shulkin said he had already repaid the Treasury for his wife's $4,300 airfare and for the price of two Wimbledon tickets that a friend provided Shulkin and his wife before an annual military summit in London."I do recognize the optics of this are not good," he said. "I accept responsibility."Mike Coffman, the only committee member who has called for Shulkin's resignation, responded: "It's not the optics that are not good. It's the facts that are not good."
Quest Diagnostics (DGX) gains in Q2 banking on the acquisition of Med Fusion and ClearPoint.
Британский страховщик Aviva заявил, что продаст фирму Friends Provident International за 340 млн фунтов стерлингов ($437,9 млн), при этом в роли покупателя выступит компания RL360 Holding, являющаяся подразделением International Financial Group. Aviva отметила, что RL360 не играет значимой роли в реализуемой в настоящий момент стратегии по фокусированию бизнеса на небольшом количестве рынков, на которых компания имеет развитый бизнес, успешные результаты и значимые конкурентные преимущества. Ожидается, что сделка, подлежащая одобрению регулятивных органов, будет завершена в начале 2018 г.
Британский страховщик Aviva заявил, что продаст фирму Friends Provident International за 340 млн фунтов стерлингов ($437,9 млн), при этом в роли покупателя выступит компания RL360 Holding, являющаяся подразделением International Financial Group. Aviva отметила, что RL360 не играет значимой роли в реализуемой в настоящий момент стратегии по фокусированию бизнеса на небольшом количестве рынков, на которых компания имеет развитый бизнес, успешные результаты и значимые конкурентные преимущества. Ожидается, что сделка, подлежащая одобрению регулятивных органов, будет завершена в начале 2018 г.
Insurer continues non-core disposals with sale of lossmaking unit to specialist RL360
Authord by Jeremy Beaman via TheCollegeFix.com, Therapy dogs, chocolate, Play-Doh, video games: Today’s college students are offered a variety of ways to cope with the stress of final exams. At the University of Pennsylvania, for example, several different student groups offered various study breaks, including a Zumba class, a video game stress reliever, and a “Chocolate and Chocolate Labs” event, the Daily Pennsylvanian reports. Student organizers did not respond to The College Fix’s request seeking details. An annual tradition at the University of Illinois offers students a “Reading Day.” “In place of classes, the university hosts a variety of non-mandatory events aimed at helping students study and de-stress,” the Daily Illini reports. Penn State’s “De-Stress Fest” included origami folding, Wii gaming, “brain massage music” and more, according to the university’s website. The University of Michigan offered Play-Doh and more in an event billed as a way to de-stress before final exams, according to its Facebook page. Other relaxers at the event included glitter bottles, Legos and dominoes. At Temple University, its Student Activities group put together an all-inclusive “camping” event called Camp TU. Students had the chance to participate in de-stressing activities by zip-lining, scaling a rock wall, watching the movie “Anchorman,” or eating from one of seven food trucks, The Tab reports. Christopher Carey, director of student activities at Temple University, told The College Fix via email that the offerings aided students in several ways. “It’s a great opportunity for students to enjoy the spring weather and have fun with their friends prior to finals week. The second benefit is that we partner with a class in the School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management so that those students gain some practical event planning experience,” he said Carey said Camp TU was a success. “The event went very well. While we don’t have an exact total, we are estimating around 2,000 students. I can say with certainty that students had a lot of fun. If having fun helped them relieve some stress or unwind a bit, that is great, too,” he said. Meanwhile, students at Montana State University were invited to the library to de-stress by playing with furry friends provided by Intermountain Therapy Animals, including a group of dogs and a 900-pound donkey named Oliver, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported, added that a survey taken from participating students shows it did relieve stress. “Students were encouraged to place a marker on a large board to show their level of stress, ranked 1 to 5, before petting the animals. On their way in, students tended to rank themselves a 4 or 5. On the way out, students seemed more at ease, giving themselves a 1 or 2,” the Chronicle notes. Hope College and St. Cloud University also offered dog de-stress therapy, with St. Cloud noting the event is not just for students, either: “Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) says the dog de-stress event is open to students, faculty and staff,” KVCS news reported.
По сведениям из осведомленного источника, британский страховщик Aviva планирует продать подразделение Friends Provident International, специализирующееся на обслуживании состоятельных клиентов в Азии и на Ближнем Востоке, за $750 млн. Стоит отметить, что Aviva приобрела Friends Provident International в апреле 2015 г. в рамках сделки по покупке Friends Life Group. В комментариях к финансовой отчетности за год, Aviva отметила, что подразделение выходит за рамки его стратегии. Также стоит учитывать тот момент, что операционная прибыль Aviva в Азии снизилась в 2016 г. на 4% г/г, в то время как в среднем по миру показатель увеличился на 12% г/г. Как сообщает источник, Aviva уже получила несколько предварительных предложений, хотя официальных заявок еще не поступало, в частности, интерес проявили китайские компании Fosun Group и HNA Group, который отказались комментировать данную информацию.
Британская страховая компания Aviva PLC изучает варианты продажи своего подразделения Friends Provident International, которое специализируется на обслуживании состоятельных клиентов в Азии и на Ближнем Востоке. Об этом со ссылкой на собственные источники сообщает The Wall Street Journal, уточняя, что сделка может принести родительской компании до $750 млн.Aviva готова продать Friends Provident менее чем через пару лет после его выкупа в составе Friends Life Group. То поглощение обошлось Aviva в £5,6 млрд и позволило компании стать крупнейшей страховой организацией Великобритании. Однако, согласно последней финансовой отчетности, Friends Provident перестало приносить должный уровень прибыли: по итогам прошлого года валовая прибыль от основной деятельности Aviva в Азии сократилась на 4%, в то время как глобальный показатель вырос на 12%. По…
American Airlines and United Airlines recently joined Delta in offering passengers a lower-priced option to fly: basic economy. Want to save a couple of bucks on your next flight? Consider making a few sacrifices, which vary by carrier, such as paying fees for checked and carry-on luggage, having the airline (instead of you) select your seat, boarding last, or surrendering the opportunity to make flight changes. On many Delta domestic flights, passengers can now choose from four different fare classes, each with unique amenities: basic economy, main cabin economy, comfort+, and first class. At first blush, it’s difficult to see how a further degradation of airline service can enhance profits and attract customers. But in fact, rolling out a lower-priced, no-frills version is a powerful strategy that can deliver benefits to both companies and consumers in the following four ways: Defensive Precision Discounting A lesson all companies can learn from basic economy is that employing a stripped-down version can combat discount rivals. It’s common for discount upstarts to enter well-established markets. Their value proposition is typically along the lines of, “We don’t have all of the frills of incumbents, but we’ll save you money.” This has been occurring in the airline industry for decades (Southwest was founded in 1967), but the discount segment has increased recently, as Spirit and Frontier have been siphoning price-sensitive customers from established carriers. To fend off discount rivals, higher-frill companies often cut prices to remain competitive. While this retains price-sensitive customers, the downside is that it extends discounts to those who don’t need them. Losing, say, 15% of your customer base to a discount rival sounds painful, but it’s important to remember that 85% of your customers continued purchasing at full price. These loyalists decided the fewer-frills-for-a-discount trade-off isn’t worth it for them. So, really, only 15%, the “at risk” customers, need discounts. The beauty of employing a stripped-down version is that it allows budget-conscious customers to raise their hands to credibly say, “Price is important to me.” The reduction of frills serves as a hurdle to screen out the posers (“Sure, I wouldn’t mind a discount”) from the truly price sensitive (“I’m not going to buy unless the price is lowered”). I mean no disrespect to the posers, because I’m one myself. While I love saving money, basic economy’s stipulation of boarding last (“Final call for Zone Z”) is a deal breaker for me. Offensive Precision Discounting The aim of discount companies is to both steal customers from incumbents and serve new customers by growing the market. Airlines with rock-bottom prices, for instance, have grown the air travel market by attracting travelers who would not have taken a trip as well as those who would have driven. In a similar fashion, a no-frills discount option by an established carrier cultivates growth by targeting a new price-sensitive market while not cannibalizing profits from existing customers who prefer ample amenities. What makes a no-frills version so powerful is its versatility. It can be used defensively to retain price-sensitive customers as well as offensively to grow by being more affordable to new patrons. Another key benefit is that no-frills versions often can be turned on and off based on demand. During popular travel periods, for instance, basic economy tickets can be turned off (“sold out,” “not available”) since there’s no need for companies to offer a discount option during those times. Supporting a Price Increase Rolling out a price increase is stressful; there’s always concern over potential customer backlash. Offering a stripped-down version reduces this risk in two ways. First, it provides a cheaper alternative for price-sensitive customers to purchase. It’s also more consumer friendly. Providing customers with the choice to pay higher or lower prices is preferable to a “take it or leave it” price hike ultimatum. Spotlighting Value Many companies only offer one option — the best — which includes a wide gamut of services or products. Often, so many attributes are packaged with a product that consumers become overwhelmed. As a result, they can’t fully value all of the included benefits, which means companies aren’t able to charge their product’s true worth. A stripped-down version sets a “base” from which to upsell. The distinctions between versions make it easier for consumers to understand and determine their value of additional attributes. After this scrutiny, they select the option that provides the best value to them. This doesn’t automatically mean the lowest price. Delta reports that roughly half of its customers who look at the restrictions of basic economy opt to pay more. Both businesses and consumers benefit from a no-frills, lower-priced option. Businesses gain the powerful ability to target discounts to only the price sensitive. Just as important, the options garnered from unbundling a product enable consumers to select the price or product combination that works best for them.
A real best friend provides unconditional honesty when it comes to matters big, small, and ― in the case of Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King ― bejeweled. King got some hilariously unexpected fashion advice from her bestie after wearing a seriously festive necklace on television Wednesday. “Note Oprah sent to my [assistant] this am ‘Plz tell Gayle I’m on treadmill & it’s hard to focus w/the circus around your neck,” she captioned a photo of herself wearing the necklace in question, asking her 268,000 followers for their thoughts. Note @oprah sent to my asst this am "plz tell Gayle I'm on treadmill & it's hard to focus w/the circus around your neck" I think she's WRONG thoughts? A photo posted by Gayle King (@gayleking) on Dec 6, 2016 at 1:01pm PST There are so many things to love about this exchange, including the visual of Winfrey pausing her treadmill mid-workout to compose this amazing note and the relatable honesty between two real friends. Just to prove that they’re not really that much like us, though, King revealed later that the whole debacle became a subject of conversation on Entertainment Tonight. Our sartorial disagreements live mostly in group text messages. @entertainmenttonight @CBS to discuss necklace-gate after @oprah accused of throwing major shade! Hilaaarious l still love it- she "don't" all good! ET tells all tonite A photo posted by Gayle King (@gayleking) on Dec 7, 2016 at 12:56pm PST Lest you think O is the only one who dishes out style judgment in the relationship, King once kicked off an interview by making a remark about Oprah’s hairstyle. “Gayle doesn’t like my hair, but that’s okay ‘cause I do,” Winfrey said. Feeling empowered to give your opinion, but knowing that at least when it comes to style, it doesn’t really matter? That’s true friendship right there. type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related... + articlesList=57882982e4b03fc3ee503832,55ca2ee6e4b0f73b20bab779,5739f996e4b08f96c183aee8 -- 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.
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.