Taking a Knee and Taking a Stand

Earlier this season, four players from the Miami Dolphins made headlines when they knelt during the National Anthem. According to VOA News, the protests started when Colin Kaepernick, a backup quarterback for San Francisco, took a knee while the Star Spangled Banner played before a preseason game. Kaepernick’s reasons for kneeling, VOA news reports,  to raise awareness about the continuous oppression of blacks and minorities in the U.S. While some respect his actions and commend him for taking a stand in this way, others disagree. It’s been a topic for discussion and debate since it happened, and whether people find it offensive or admirable, one thing is certain: Kaepernick is getting the conversation started, which has been his – and others’ – goal all along. These men used their statuses as professional athletes to make a statement, in a very public setting, to spark a discussion about relevant issues that many have chosen to ignore.

This is definitely something to consider: every so often, celebrities or professional athletes use their positions to take a stand on something they feel passionate about. They’re aware of the influence they have, of the fact that their voices can reach millions, and they take the opportunity to advocate for change.

Colin Kaepernick showed us that even the smallest actions can spark important discussions that lead to serious change. We all have the power to make a difference – it’s just a matter of choosing how we want to start the conversation. But most of us aren’t famous celebrities or highly-paid athletes. Many of us would fear losing our jobs if we used our position as a means to promote issues we feel strongly about. Celebrities are more inclined to take a stand on hotbutton issues, since their livelihood is more likely to survive a fallout. As a society we give a pass to people like Kaepernick, who some view as disrespectful, whereas the person in the office next to us couldn’t “get away” with similar behavior. We aren’t all in a position to start a national coversation, so be inspired by people like Kaepernick, but be aware and tactful while spreading your message at work.

We can start meaningful conversations no matter who we are, or what we do for a living. For those of us in an office, we can choose to support missions that mean a lot to us- but choose carefully and keep polarizing activities out of the office. For example, if global warming is something you’re passionate about, you could start a recycling plan at work, or attempt to have your workplace go green. Caution on ultra hot-button topics like elections. I think we are all painfully aware that those conversations are better saved for outside the office.



Election Tension at Work

There’s no doubt that this Presidential election has caused a great amount of tension in almost every setting. Talking about politics and which candidate you do or don’t support can get pretty heated, and make for some strained conversations. This election in particular, it seems, has sparked an immense amount of debate among nearly everyone: according to a poll taken by The Wall Street Journal, over 50% of HR managers said that they believed workplace tension was higher this year than it has been in any other election year. The stakes are high for our country, and many have strong opinions on who should be responsible for a lot of the big decisions and changes that need to be made in the upcoming years. Since Donald Trump has been declared President Elect, the debate has people all the more polarized.  Political talk is something you just can’t get away from recently, no matter where you are – including in the workplace.

The Wall Street Journal reports that workplace tensions have been running high due to talk of the election – employees have threatened to quit, entire departments have fought against one another, and bosses and HR managers are caught in the middle of it all. But what are they to do about this issue? Clearly, opinions over our country’s future has torn some workplaces apart. However, managers can’t just ban all talk of the election. Not only would that violate some basic civil rights, but it would also be nearly impossible to implement.

It seems, then, that the best way to go about the election tension at work is to manage the conflicts that arise as best as possible. The election is something that is too current and relevant to attempt to suppress conversations about while at work. Some employees have already taken the initiative on this, and have ceased to give their opinions on political matters while on the clock, according to The Wall Street Journal. Although it may not be typical for some to keep quiet about these things at work, they feel that it is most likely for the best if conflict is to be avoided.

So what’s a manager to do? Sensitivity training isn’t just about race, sex, and religion. If your workplace is suffering from this polarizing presidential election leadership first and foremost should keep their opinion out of it and, much like our elected officials, focus on uniting the workforce and encouraging an environment of respect and discresion. Even providing sensitivity training focusing on disengaging from volitile conversations and respecting eachother can make a difference. The old addage “if you don’t have something nice to say keep your comments to yourself” is a nice reminder of appropriate office decorum. And rememeber, regardless of the party you support we are all Americans, brothers and sisters under the same flag, and deserve to feel safe and respected in the workplace.



What to do When Leaders Implode

Written by Jessica Kent

In late June, Republican nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, in efforts to conduct a large strategic shift as they headed further into the presidential election. This took place just one month before Trump secured his nomination officially at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. There were concerns from campaign donors and even Trump’s children whether Lewandowski would be able to conduct a strong battle against Hilary Clinton. As expected, Trump’s decision was met with a lot of worry – was it the right  choice to fire someone who was so central to the campaign at such a crucial time? Had he made the correct decision, or was he making a big mistake?

Whether you whole-heartedly like your boss or not, everyone comes to rely on their superiors for guidance and support. They’re often the force behind of any company or business. If one day they were to be fired, this most likely directly disrupts your workflow and potentially performance in your job. Many people face an immediate panic if their superior is let go – hence the controversy surrounding Trump’s decision. The dismissal of someone who plays a crucial role in any organization will surely cause havoc before relief.

Companies can decide to change management for a number of reasons. One of which would be to change the direction the company is going in, and that starts at the top. To introduce a real difference in any organization, leaders must be evaluated, adapt to changes, or be released. When leaders are let go, the whole atmosphere of the company is shaken up and everyone is forced to adjust in some way. The existing leadership are required to comfort the remaining staff; provide a sense of stability. If done correctly, surviving the turnover can be a strengthening experience. If not, a cultural crisis can begin that is hard to come back from, not to mention high turnover and in some cases poor publicity.

There could be a great amount of work added to other employees to make up for the loss of a high positioned team member. When considering firing a leader, it’s important to reflect on company core values, the state and strength of the supporting workforce, and the measures that can be taken to protect morale and company culture.

Expecting Ethics: Wells Fargo and Cheating the System

Recently, Wells Fargo admitted to firing 5,300 employees for creating fake email accounts and fake PIN numbers. CNN Money reports that employees were transferring money to these fake accounts from customers’ real accounts – without customers knowing – resulting in millions of people wrongly paying overdraft fees. As expected, people are outraged: Wells Fargo is a billion dollar corporation, one that has been trusted by its customers for years. This unethical behavior is no doubt alarming, and raises some questions about just how moral businesses feel they are compelled to be. Are all managers and employees of big corporations only looking out for themselves and their best interest, no matter what the consequences for the customer, or are some aware that this behavior is completely simply wrong?

In the case of Wells Fargo, it appears that the latter is true. After the scandal went public, former Wells Fargo employees came forward to tell what became of them when they tried to put a stop to the unethical conduct: they were fired and ignored by the company’s ethics hotline.

Certainly, this is not what you expect from a trusted and established leader in any industry, least of all in finances. After all, aren’t ethics hotlines and HR departments implemented so that incidents like this don’t happen in the first place – or, so that if they do happen, they can be stopped immediately? It’s a scary thing when corporations engage in practices that are immoral, but it’s even scarier when employees are penalized for refusing to participate in such practices. Is it naïve to think that most businesses follow a code of ethics and hold their employees to a certain moral standard? Is that not the way the corporate world works?

The Wells Fargo scandal isn’t the first time a large corporation has acted unethically. The ENRON embezzling scandal and the incident of Tyco’s CEO and CFO stealing unauthorized bonuses for themselves demonstrate exactly what big businesses are capable of doing. And yet, despite past examples, the immoral behavior of corporations like Wells Fargo still shocks and upsets us – as it should. It is the opinion of many people that large companies like these, which have the well-being of millions of customers and employees at stake, should hold themselves to a higher moral standard. Ethics apply to every level in the corporate world, including the big bosses. It isn’t naïve to believe that corporations and large companies should act morally and justly – it’s what should be expected.





Allo and Technology in the Workplace

Recently, Google launched its new smart messaging app Allo, which, along with the features that regularly come with a messaging app, includes suggested text that matches your personality and Google assistants who can answer any question you may have. It’s impressive technology, and it shows just how far we’ve come in terms of communication. It also introduces another means of talking and interacting that doesn’t involve face-to-face conversation – a lasting trend that has changed all areas of our lives, including our lives at work.

In the workplace today, it would be very rare to come across someone who doesn’t have a smart phone on them at all times. Even up until a few years ago, the idea that a doctor, a CEO, or anyone in a professional setting would be carrying a device like that around with them at work was unheard of; now, however, it’s the norm. Your smart phone has everything you need: it’s the easiest and the most-used form of communication, it holds a world of information that’s available with just a few taps of the finger, and now, thanks to Google, it can detect your texting style. It’s true that smart phones and other devices have become essential to the workplace, but does that mean that they have fully replaced person-to-person conversation? Not necessarily, but they have definitely changed the way we relate to each other both in and out of the office.

Some may argue that the introduction of this kind of technology in the office has only negative effects on productivity and communication. They believe that smart phones and tablets only serve to distract people from the work they need to get done, and with apps like Allo out there, what is the need for talking to coworkers and managers in person?

New technology can be a distraction from traditional, personal communication. Apps like Google’s Allo are innovating the way we talk to one another. Rather than hindering communication between coworkers and managers, technology like this enhances it: there are now more ways than ever to get in touch with the people you work with, and thus more ways to collaborate and delegate tasks. At fast glance, Google’s Allo is just another messaging app, but it’s much more: it’s a reflection of the future of communication and workplace technology that is surely here to stay.



Telling your Boss about Mental Illness

In recent years, the stigma that surrounds mental illness has started to fade. People are recognizing that having a mental illness doesn’t always mean what they think it does, and that it’s much more common than they might realize.

However, when it comes to their jobs, many Americans still struggle over whether or not they should tell their employer that they have a mental illness. Mental disorders in the workplace certainly aren’t a small issue: American employees miss 200 million work days a year due to depression alone. Despite the strides we’ve made in becoming more open about mental illness,  stigmas continue to follow these conditions and they can be detrimental to someone’s career. Employees may be seen as unreliable or they may be passed over for opportunities. This is why many choose to stay silent although they may be suffering: the risks are just too great.

But are the risks just as great – or perhaps even greater – if someone doesn’t disclose their condition to their employer? Billions of dollars in revenue are lost every year because of employees staying out of work due to mental illness. If employers were made aware of the problem, couldn’t they adjust the workplace or the workload to accommodate employees with mental disorders? 52% of employees say their employer doesn’t do enough to promote employee health, but maybe part of the problem is that not enough employees are saying what they need from their employers.

Research shows that disclosing a mental health condition to an employer can, in most cases, actually do more good than harm: a report from 2009-2010 found that companies with effective health programs had fewer absences per employee and also achieved 11% more revenue per employee. Once an employer knows about the underlying issues someone has, they can ensure a suitable work environment for them – whether that be allowing them to work shorter hours or simply understanding when an employee can’t make it to the office.

Of course, not all employers will understand, and disclosing a mental illness comes with all kinds of legitimate anxieties and concerns. But the fact of the matter is that it’s a problem in the American workplace, and the longer we ignore it or keep quiet about it, the less likely the issue will be resolved.


The Dangers of Sitting All Day at Work

If you work in an office, as many Americans do, then you probably sit for the majority of your day. Most people know that sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for you, and yet millions do it every day. But just how bad is it to sit at a desk for hours at a time? If you’re working out regularly, surely sitting at work can’t be doing that much damage to your health, right?

Sitting down all day can result in grave physical problems – even if you’re engaging in other kinds of physical activity during the day. A study of over 200,000 people found that sitting for more than 11 hours a day can increase chances of dying within three years by 40%. We’ve all heard about the dangers of prolonged sitting, but this statistic is alarming nevertheless. But what can be done?

One possible solution, it seems, is to start standing more at work with the introduction of standing desks – an idea that some people and some companies like Google and Facebook have already implemented. Standing instead of sitting at work can certainly have some great benefits, like an increase in calorie burn throughout the day and a decrease in the back pain that often comes from hunching over a desk all day.

But standing all day at work can also have some negative effects on physical health, especially when it comes to the knees or the lower back. So if sitting all day isn’t good for you, but standing all day isn’t much better, what is the solution the issue?

The obvious answer is for employees to take breaks from sitting throughout the day to split their time between sitting and standing. Even doing little things like walking to get a drink of water or getting up to talk to a coworker will help to reduce the negative effects of sitting down for hours at a time. Another option would be to take stretching breaks at certain points during the workday. If you’re feeling restless or you feel you’re losing momentum at work, taking a break to move around a little bit is a good way to boost energy, increase productivity, and, as research has shown, it just might save your life.





How to Manage Conflict at Work

Where there is a pool of thoughts, passion, and a sense of duty- personalities are bound to collide. Conflict at work is inevitable.  As much as we’d like to think that it will never involve or concern us, or that workplace conflict can be solved by simply ignoring that there’s an issue in the first place, it simply isn’t the case. Workplace conflict is bound to happen when you spend that much time with people in a place where performance is almost always essential. Ignoring any signs of conflict will only exacerbate the issue, whether you’re a manager or an employee. Therefore, it’s important to know what to do in order to handle conflict in the workplace.

Make sure people know what’s expected of them.

Let employees and coworkers know how they need to behave in the office and set an example. You don’t have to be their babysitter, but making sure that they know that they will be held to a certain standard while at work will make them more conscious of their actions. Conflicts can be avoided when employees are clearly told what will and what won’t be acceptable during work.

Don’t ignore conflict when it happens…

The best way to resolve conflict and to prevent it from happening again in the future is to resolve and talk about it, which is very hard for some people to do. It’s understandable to want to simply bury some problems under the rug and forget that they exist, but the results are even more detrimental to the workplace than if you had addressed them head-on.
…but don’t create it out of nothing, either.

A peaceful environment is one in which everyone thrives, so keeping the peace whenever possible is necessary. People like to work in peace- don’t “shake things up” if it’s not necessary.

Understand that conflict can be a good thing.

Although conflict stirs up the workplace, it’s good for employees and managers to experience: you come face-to-face with someone else’s views on something, and you have to absorb and take it all in. Workplace conflict, in this way, can actually bring employees and managers together, rather than drive them apart. Understanding why people feel the way that they feel about certain things can tell you a lot about their personalities.

It’s important to recognize why conflict happens- because people care. Conflict can be an opportunity to grow.

Benefits of Healthy Work Relationships

Written by Jessica Kent/ Tyng Pan, Research

You see them nearly every day and you spend most of your time with them, but how necessary is it to form strong relationships with – or even strong friendships with – your coworkers? Are there any real benefits to befriending the people you work with other than being able to chat for a few moments a day and make the time feel like it’s going by faster? You bet! Socializing in a healthy way at work can increase your motivation to perform well at work, as well as build your ability to work on teams.

Increased engagement.

According to a 2012 survey, 50% of respondents who had a best friend at work said they had a strong connection to the company they work for, as compared with just 10% of those who said they didn’t have a best friend at work. Thus, it can be assumed that having a work bestie, or even a cordial friend at work will increase your motivation to do well. If you know someone personally who is working for the company or organization you’re working for, then you’ll be more inclined to follow rules and basic courtesy.

Collaboration creates teamwork, not hostility.

When people are friends with those they work with, it creates an atmosphere of ease and effortlessness. The stress is reduced because you’re more inclined to work to accomplish a common goal rather than feel an internal competition, or competition is used publically in a friendly way to reach a goal. Altogether, this creates a much less chaotic workplace, one in which employees can be productive and work as a team.

Social and emotional intelligence are built.

If you’re able to forge friendly, work-appropriate relationships with the people you work closely with, a sense of emotional and social intelligence often develops. You start to decipher what people are thinking and feeling and what they mean. This contributes greatly during collaborative efforts where understanding what someone is trying to convey can be an important time saver.

There are benefits to befriending your coworkers as long as your work friendships are kept relatively professional and you n

urture the relationships you have outside of work.



Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Written by Jessica Kent/ Tyng Pan, Research

We want to believe that in 2016, incidents of sexual harassment at work are few and far between; that the era of overt, explicit harassment in the office is a thing of the past. After all, women now make up a significant portion of the workforce – it makes sense that sexual harassment would be a thing of the past, right? Isn’t this an antiquated problem?

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Sexual harassment is still a prominent issue in the workplace. In fact, a 2015 survey found that one in three women had been sexually assaulted at work – and 71% of women didn’t report it. Clearly, there’s a problem, and the fact that it often goes unaddressed only makes matters worse.

So why do so many women stay silent about harassment? Part of the reason, it seems, is that it often isn’t blatant and obvious – instead, it’s not always clear that what you’re experiencing is indeed considered harassment. In today’s digital world, workplace relationships are becoming increasingly relaxed and casual. You might be Facebook friends with your coworkers, you might have their cell phone numbers, or you might socialize with them outside the office. The lines are blurred, so it’s harder to determine if what you’re experiencing is just typical behavior among coworkers, or if it crosses the line.

What constitutes harassment is anything that interferes with someone’s job performance –anything that makes you feel like you can’t focus at work, anything that makes you feel uncomfortable while at work, or anything that makes you feel like you should leave your job. The lines may be getting blurrier, but what consists of a good work environment doesn’t change. It may be difficult to admit or address, but sexual harassment is happening in the workplace – and it’s something that cannot be excused or ignored.