Last May, suffering from a back problem that would require surgery by early July, and facing the prospect of climbing up long and steep steps to board a British Airways 747 flight from London to San Francisco, I requested assistance. I didn’t get any help boarding the flight—not even someone to help me haul my carry-on up the stairs.
Americans are a positive and optimistic lot, emphasizing that people need to go out and solve their own problems. That’s why there are myriad stories about Detroit’s comeback. And that’s why there are narratives like the following: “technology companies have contended that their virtual marketplaces, in which people act as contractors and use their own possessions to provide services to the public … afford workers flexibility and freedom,” writes The New York Times.
Of course, the California Labor Commissioner’s recent ruling that Uber drivers should be classified as employees has sparked renewed discussion as to whether being a contractor—and having access to no benefits, ranging from unemployment compensation, to worker’s compensation, to employer-provided health insurance—is actually such a good thing for workers.
A few years ago, when I had a hideously bad auto repair experience, I posted a negative rating on Yelp. And then soon the rating disappeared from the first page as positive ratings poured in. That experience made me suspicious about what has come to be called the reputation or ratings economy.
Over the ensuing years, ratings and ratings websites have proliferated. Everyone and everything from mental health providers to, as Times columnist Maureen Dowd humorously noted when she had trouble getting a ride, Uber passengers now get rated.
McDonald’s recent decision to raise the pay for workers at company-owned restaurants to an average of $9.90 an hour and provide employees, once they have worked a year, some paid time off made news for what that action says about the tightening labor market and the campaign to get low-paid people a living wage.
But pay levels and other working conditions such as vacation and paid sick days affect more than just standards of living. People spend a lot of their time at work and, unsurprisingly, what happens in the workplace profoundly influences people’s mental and physical health. So if you think your job may be killing you, recent research suggests you just might be right.
Although all rankings are invariably imperfect and subjective, figuring out who the best leaders are might be the most difficult task of all.
We love leaders and leadership. That’s because we ascribe leaders with all sorts of mythical powers to improve performance and change the world—a phenomenon that the late business school professor James Meindl referred to as the “romance of leadership.” It turns out that research on the effects of leaders is much more equivocal than the popular mythology might lead one to believe. That’s because leaders operate under constraints—the limits imposed by economic circumstances, history, and other people.
Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the U.K.’s The News of the World and The Sun, confidante of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and a favorite of Rupert Murdoch, is back. Acquitted of phone hacking and three other charges last summer, recent reports suggest that she may be returning to News Corp to take on an executive role, leading the media company’s digital initiatives.
Profiles of Brooks, who rose from being a secretary to one of the most powerful people in British journalism, invariably mention her toughness, willingness to bend if not break the rules, her networking ability, her capacity to manage up, and her combination of “charm, effrontery, audacity, and tenacity.” She displays confidence and is not afraid to use profanity and exact revenge against those who cross her. In short, she seems to behave in ways that defy common stereotypes about women.
Justine Sacco, Lindsey Stone, and Alicia Ann Lynch all lost their jobs and suffered tremendous emotional distress from the vitriol unleashed in the social media world on each of them. Their “crime”: some tasteless posts on Twitter or Facebook.
Around the same day that several stories of Internet harmsurfaced, we learned that Dominique Strauss-Kahn—who after being accused of assaulting a New York hotel maid was allowed to address the French parliament and was appointed to a bank’s board of directors—was about to have charges dismissed related to his participation in orgies involving prostitutes. At Stanford University, since 1997, only 25 sexual assault or harassment caseshave made it through the university’s disciplinary process, with just 10 students found culpable, only one of whom was expelled. People who post inappropriate social media posts appear to face more opprobrium than those who engage in sexual assault.
In the last few days, the world has been surprised and seemingly horrified to learn that NBC news anchor Brian Williams embellished an account of an episode involving him in a helicopter in Iraq years ago. His career hangs by a thread as NBC News has opened an investigation into the incident, Williams has taken a temporary leave from the newscast, and as many people call for him to lose his job.
It’s a new year—time for those resolutions.
Even the U.S. government is getting into the act by providing a list of the most popular resolutions and tips on how to achieve them. Some 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, according to Statistic Brain. The most popular are losing weight and getting organized.
So, in the spirit of the New Year, here’s one resolution that, if you make and keep, will make you happier, more powerful, and help others around you develop their potential more completely. The resolution: become less judgmental, particularly about people, but also more generally.
Without for a moment denying the technological, competitive, and customer challenges that newspapers face, much like many brick-and-mortar retailers, such traditional print media companies have consistently made decisions that worsen their fates.
You might think that an industry that has spawned a website listing the newspapers that have closed, curtailed frequency, or moved to a solely online model; an industry where 39% of subscribers have cancelled a subscription in the past five years; and an industry facing circulation that has declined by 10% in the last decade and advertising revenues that have fallen by half just since 2006; would also be an industry that might want to take good care of the 56% of American adults who still prefer a printed paper and have remained subscribers.