April 24, 2015

The lighter side: 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings

"If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.'" So says American humorist Dave Barry, who wrote a classic humor piece on How to Attend a Meeting. It's an older column, but some things never change.

Here's what a few other people had to say about business meetings:

"People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything."
Thomas Sowell

"A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost."
James T. Kirk

“Our meetings are held to discuss many problems which would never arise if we held fewer meetings”
Ashleigh Brilliant

Love 'em or hate 'em, meetings are a fact of life in most organizations. Here are 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, an amusing feature from The Cooper Review - see an excerpt below.


Related from the archives

The Expert

Conference Call in Real Life

The problem(s) with meetings

April 6, 2015

The Lighter Side: How your up-and-coming employees view the workplace

Meet your future workforce. These hilarious and adorable clips are written and read by kids and enacted by adults. They show how kids envision various on-the-job scenarios, with a heavy emphasis on recruitment. They seem pretty accurate to us! Be sure to see the kids themselves who make appearances at the end of each clip.

If you enjoyed these, we posted a few other job-related clips in a prior post:
The Lighter Side: Kid Snippets - Job Interview

"Career Day"

"Late to Work"

"Job Applicant"

"Boss John"

"Conference Call"

July 26, 2014

Lighter side: Corporate jargon watch

There are two items on corporate-speak that came to our attention this week and we think both are worthy of note. The first is an article by Josh Kovensky on The Most Absurd Job Titles in America. Hint: "Digital Prophet" isn't even the worst one.

In the intro to his offering of 15 job titles, Kovensky says:

"In a bid to achieve maximal hipness and happiness, companies, particularly in the tech world, have collectively begun to create bizarre new positions or to attach peculiar names to the same old corporate paper-pushing nine-to-fives. A lot of these jobs have a bizarrely spiritual flavor—“evangelists” and “prophets”—while others try and infuse excitement where there is none—“Jedis” and “heroes.” Much of this might be a way of skirting around the grim reality that life in a cubicle is neither exciting nor godly, or that work on the retail line often lacks excitement and moral stakes."

The next item is a musical entry. "Weird Al" Yankovic's new album features Mission Statement -- an anthem for our times that shows Al is quite conversant in the latest corporate lingo.

July 5, 2014

Holiday weekend humor: The Expert

OK, we've all been there ... frustrating meetings, impossible demands. A professional expert learns the importance of a "can do" attitude to solving business problems.

And if you haven't yet seen it, check out our prior related post: Conference Call in Real Life.


ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

January 24, 2014

The Lighter Side: Conference Call in Real Life

Who hasn't experienced it - the annoying conference call? In a short video clip, Sketch comedy duo Tripp & Tyler feels your pain - they offer a humorous take on what A Conference Call in Real Life would look like.

Pretty amusing, but here are some tips for running a good meeting.

17 (+4) Tips For More Productive Conference Calls

10 Conference Call Etiquette Tips You Should Strive To Follow

10 Tips for Making Your Conference Calls More Productive

December 20, 2013

Employment Law and Santa Claus

Illustration: Sam Glynn

We haven't taken a good close look at Santa in the last few years so we are updating a past post on his dual roles as an employer and an employee.

Let's consider that first and foremost, Santa is an employer. He runs a massive offshore toy manufacturing enterprise and a global fulfillment and delivery service. His operations perform a very important social function, but the work fraught with pressure and unforgiving deadlines.

It pains us to bring this up, but there is no getting around it—no matter how beloved he is in the world at large, as an employer, Santa leaves something to be desired. The people at Forbes have painted him as little better than a sweat shop operator, forcing his elves to work long hours at low pay.

"At issue is Claus’ treatment of his large elvish work force, which annually produces some 700 million toys with a market value in excess of $14 billion. Critics claim that the elves work long hours for low pay under hazardous conditions. Particularly at issue is Claus’ adamant refusal to give the elves any sort of health insurance and his stubborn insistence on keeping his manufacturing operations at the North Pole, where governmental oversight is nonexistent."

Law firms both here in the U.S. and abroad note that Santa plays fast and loose with a host of employment laws, risking everything from workers comp claims to class-action suits for hiring discrimination. Some attorneys weigh in with their thoughts on these and other potential legal risks that Santa faces.

Now we are very fond of Santa, but frankly, some of these employment practices stink. So Santa, if you are listening, give us a call—we'd be happy to enroll you in our online Management Academy free of charge. We'll gladly throw in some stress reduction counseling, too!

Santa is also an employee
While Santa is most famous in his role as an employer, he also moonlights as an employee. In the months running up to his busy season, he often takes jobs in department stores. This gives him a chance to earn a little extra cash while engaging in some hands-on market research with his primary customer base. The department store gig is not an easy job. Although it pays pretty well, the uniform is uncomfortable, there's a high exposure to germs, and many of the customers are disgruntled.

Now a word to the wise for the department store hiring managers: Maining best hiring practices is important - don't cut corners just because you are hiring a seemingly trustworthy guy like St. Nick. Given his exposure to the public, it might be worth running a background check for arrest warrants, sexual offenses and other criminal matters to protect your organization from potential liability. And once you've hired Santa, the job is not complete—meticulous on-the-job training is vital. Plus, you may want to conduct an ergonomic assessment of his job—the nature of his work presents lot of potential for on-the-job injuries. And you will definitely want to refer him to your EAP program—a recent survey reveals that Santa's job can be very stressful!


esi.JPGWhen Holiday stress gets to be too much, an EAP can be a lifesaver. Learn how ESI Employee Assistance Program can help address your employees' wellbeing issues - from a wellness benefits and help for everyday work-life matters to comprehensive assistance for a wide array of potentially disruptive issues and problems. To learn more about how ESI EAP can help, give us a call: 800-535-4841.

November 15, 2013

The healing properties of laughter

Laughter is a great stress buster and tension reliever - so much so that many medical professionals point to laughter and humor as having pain reduction and healing properties. Like yawning, it also seems to be contagious. There's no doubt that it's social - we see examples every day of how one person's laughter can spread from person to person, even to a large group.

The non-profit HelpGuide.org offers a great article on the health benefits of humor and laughter: Laughter is the Best Medicine. They list the following benefits to laughter.

Physical Health Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits:
  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Enhances resilience
Social Benefits:
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

This excellent article also includes tips for adding more humor and laughter into your life, developing your sense of humor, using humor and play to overcome challenges and to enhance your life. Check it out.

Meanwhile, we offer a video clip on laughter to get you started.

LAUGHS! from Everynone on Vimeo. Directed by Daniel Mercadante, music by Lullatone. This was made completely of clips found on the web.


ESI EAP offers 24-7 access to counselors and a wide variety of support resources for employees and family members who are facing difficult health challenges. We also offer wellness benefits and health risk assessments, including discounts for weight loss programs, exercise and nutrition programs, and stop smoking programs. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

July 27, 2013

The Best Resignation Letter Ever Written

Many writers take jobs to make ends meet while they pursue their true calling in off hours. Such was the case for author Sherwood Anderson who worked as a copywriter at a Chicago ad agency. When he reached a point that he was ready to devote himself to his writing full time, he penned an amusing letter to his employer - surely one of the best resignation letters ever written.

William Faulkner worked as a postmaster for a few years and was apparently rather a shirker. On being forced to resign, his letter was short and to the point. Contrast that with the folksy and amusing resignation from another postmaster, humorist Bill Nye, which he submitted to his boss, U.S. President Chester Arthur.

Among other resignation letters we've enjoyed is this sweet missive, a tasteful way to resign indeed. We also liked this song delivered in video format by a Microsoft employee to her team.

Should you be on the receiving end of a letter of resignation, here are some tips:


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

July 20, 2013

The Lighter Side: Kid Snippets - Job Interview

"Kid Snippets" is an imaginative and fun series of short web videos in which kids write and read the scripts and adults then act them out... the clips are imaginative in the inimitable manner of kids and the adults do a great job getting in touch with their "inner kids" to act them out - most amusing.

In this episode, children imagine the job interview process -- HR people, you'll have to watch to see how accurately they get it!

A new episode comes out every Monday - covering such varied topics as blind dates, the library and tooth fairies. Here are a few more workplace scenarios - the bank, airline pilots, and a salesman. If only work was always this fun!

July 5, 2013

Summer jobs of future presidents

Are you working today? Independence Day week is a popular vacation week. And many who don't take the entire week off are taking today off to make a long weekend. But if you are one of the diligent people holding down the fort and keeping the world running smoothly while others enjoy pool parties and barbecues, thank you! We lift our lemonade to you!

In honor of this week's patriotic celebration, we are offering a just-for-fun trivia feature that we enjoyed and think you will too: The Summer Jobs of 14 Future Presidents. So as you supervise your summer and first-time workers this year, do a good job -- you may be shaping the next president!


And remember - if you do rely on part-time seasonal workers over the summer, it's critical to provide training. Young and first time workers are green and not yet work hardened - many get injured every year. See our 10 quick tips for keeping teen workers safe.


ESI-Logo.jpg Does your EAP measure up? If you'd like to learn more about turbocharging your employee benefit package, reducing absenteeism, and enhancing productivity, call us today: 800-535-4841.

March 15, 2013

Friday fun: work bloopers

However badly your work week may have gone, we have a little something that may make you feel better about yourself - if just by comparison.

We all make mistakes, we're all human. But some mistakes seem particularly full of "fail." There's a popular photo blog circulating now that is called "You Had One Job!" which highlights some mind-boggling work bloopers. You can kind of understand how some of these mistakes happened - but it's hard to understand how they weren't immediately spotted and fixed. We've pulled out a sampling of our favorites -- you can click to You Had One Job! for more.




July 24, 2012

Hiring Managers Share Tales of Memorable Resumes

CareerBuilder's latest survey invited HR Managers to submit real-life examples of resumes that stood out for the right – and wrong – reasons. We've listed a sampling of picks for "things not to do" - most fall in the category of "sadly funny" -- but funny nonetheless.

  • Candidate applying for a management job listed "gator hunting" as a skill.
  • Candidate's resume included phishing as a hobby.
  • Candidate specified that her resume was set up to be sung to the tune of "The Brady Bunch."
  • Candidate highlighted the fact that he was "Homecoming Prom Prince" in 1984.
  • Candidate's resume was decorated with pink rabbits.
  • Candidate applying for an accounting job said he was "deetail-oriented" and spelled the company's name incorrectly.
  • Candidate's cover letter contained "LOL."

The examples of what worked to impress hiring managers include some very creative approaches, such as a job candidate who sent his resume in the form of an oversized Rubik's cube in which tiles could be manipulated to align the resume or the candidate applying for a food and beverage management position who sent a resume in the form of a fine-dining menu and was hired.

CareerBuilder also offers a list of deal breakers in response to a question about pitfalls that would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration. Click to see how closely your answers for the top 9 deal breakers would align with yours.

If you can't get enough, we searched our files for more and found these from 2007:

If you've been working in HR for more than about a week, you have probably seen your share of blunders and "creative" statements on resumes. CareerBuilder.com offers their list of the top 12 resume disasters. We'd have to agree that these represent some definite yellow flags but they make for an amusing list. We have found a few other compilations on the web that we've enjoyed. But if we are going to poke fun at the applicants, then turnabout is fair play. Some students compiled the top 100 most annoying questions asked in job interview - a very instructive list.


ESI-Logo.jpg Humor aside, hiring people is one of the riskiest things that an employer does. ESI EAP offers discounted background checks and pre-employment screening to member employers. For more information, call 800-535-4841.

June 23, 2012

Darkly clever ad tackles work excuses

A darkly humorous spot for South American job search website, Zonajobs presents a circumstance that many HR managers will relate to.


June 15, 2012

Office Safety, 1944 style

This "humorous" instructional video offers a fascinating glimpse into the 1944 workplace. Note the way that women are portrayed - oh my!

June 1, 2012

Will humor help your recruitment efforts?

Courtesy of HR Lori, we offer this ridiculous and amusing recruitment video from social media giant Twitter. It is self-described as the "best/worst recruiting video of all time" and features good-sport CEO Dick Costolo. After its release at the end of January, the video gained more than a half-million views in the first few days and was highlighted by major tech media and blogs - whose readers would be just the type of job candidates the company might hope to attract. What prompted this off-beat approach? This video was developed during something that Twitter calls Hack Week, "...a week-long event where employees from across the company are given time away from their desks to hack Twitter, coming up with new tools, ideas and designs to make the Twitter experience even better." Great idea. What is your organization doing to foster and promote employee innovation?

March 19, 2012

In the "What were they thinking" department: Job interviews run amuck

Most employers and career HR specialists have tales to tell about job interviews gone awry or signs that the employee might not make a good hire. CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive recently surveyed more than 3,000 employers and compiled a list of the most-cringeworthy interview mistakes. Employers and would-be employees alike can learn from the most-frequently cited mistakes. There's also some good advice for job candidates.

Here are a few of the more unusual experiences recounted:

  • Candidate put the interviewer on hold during a phone interview. When she came back on the line, she told the interviewer she had a date set up for Friday.
  • When a candidate interviewing for a security position wasn’t hired on the spot, he graffitied the building.
  • Candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
  • Candidate was arrested by federal authorities during the interview when a background check revealed the person had an outstanding warrant.
  • On the way to the interview, candidate passed, cut-off, and flipped middle finger to driver who happened to be the interviewer.
  • Candidate referred to himself in the third person.
  • Candidate took off shoes during interview.
  • Candidate asked for a sip of the interviewer’s coffee.

Related -
Ten Dumb Things Said During Job Interviews
Candidates Most Unusual Interview Mistakes, 2011
Employers Reveal Candidates’ Most Unusual Job Interview Behavior, 2010

ESI-Logo.jpg Hiring people is no laughing matter, and it's often one of the riskiest things that an employer does. ESI EAP offers discounted background checks and pre-employment screening to member employers For more information, call 800-535-4841.

January 8, 2012

The lighter side: The Employment (El Empleo)

The Employment (El Empleo) is a 6 minute animated clip by Argentinian animation studio Opusbou and director Santiago 'Bou' Grasso that has won more than 100 international awards. It offers quite a cynical but amusing view of the workplace!

December 21, 2011

Holiday cuteness: singing hedgehogs

Holidays can be hard on hedgehogs - who knew? This is a cute interactive feature that we couldn't resist sharing!

October 31, 2011

Just for Halloween...

The Mummy Meets Human Resources...

Also: see Ray Villafane's awesome pumpkin gallery

It's not too late to remind your employees about safe driving on their way home tonight because a lot of little kids might be out and about right around commuting time. Why not send them a link to this: At-Home Safety: Brake for Ghosts and Goblins this Halloween

October 1, 2011

Adapting to change: Bronze Age Orientation Day

Some people have more trouble adapting to change and new technologies than others. A few weeks ago, we brought you the Medieval Help Desk. On a similar theme, we the offer "Bronze Age Orientation Day."

When your organization introduces major changes, some of your employees will be early adopters and some will be laggards - see the Rogers Innovation Adoption Curve. Whether the changes are technological, organizational, or even a more simple change like a change in routine, some of your workers may struggle to adapt. This article offers some good principles for managing change in the workplace. (PDF)

September 23, 2011

An HR Time Capsule


The 1943 Disney Handbook is a fascinating workplace time capsule from an era when women were apparently delicate creatures who were allocated twice as much sick time as the guys. But on the other hand, the guys had exclusive access to the Penthouse Club - "Men only! Sorry gals..."

It's a fascinating glimpse into a workplace of yesteryear. It's interesting to see how times change. Wartime is also a permeating theme in the document, from car pools to help ameliorate gas and tire rationing, to violation of the US Espionage Act as grounds for dismissal.

Hat tip to Ohio Employer's Law Blog for pointing us to this fun artifact.

August 19, 2011

HR humor for a Friday afternoon

It's Friday afternoon in August - and we haven't made a silly posting in quite some time. We're overdue! Our first clip is offers some amusement for anyone who has ever tried to teach someone about new technologies. And the second clip - well, it's funny - but ouch - let's hope this isn't the HR reputation with employees!

May 13, 2011

When I grow up, I want to build leadership bench strength...

In hunting for something in the archives, we stumbled on this amusing video and thought it was just the perfect thing to revisit on a Friday the 13th. Relive all the reasons you wanted to get into the Human Resource in the first place!

January 22, 2011

Which superhero would you be & other oddball job interview questions of 2010

Glassdoor culled through tens of thousands interview questions that job seekers from around the world shared over the past year and pulled out the strangest for a top 25 oddball interview questions for 2010. They list the company that asked the question and provide links to other questions.

If you can't get enough of these, look back at their list of strange interview questions from 2010

For a range of more traditional questions that might help you to prepare for interviewing your next batch of job applicants, see our prior post Interview Question-Palooza.

And then, there's always this classic from Monty Python.

January 14, 2011

How managers roll

For an end of the week make-you-smile break, we bring you Marc Johns' amusing post-it note drawings about management. These were created as part of a 20-artist Swiss exhibit on the theme of We Managers - (Managers R Us?). Never mind the translation, some concepts are universal across all languages.




October 1, 2010

Friday diversion: The Promotion

If you can relate to this amusing film by Patrick Biovin, you may need a new job. This 4 minute clip takes a dark but humorous look at organizational structures and politics. "Being efficient isn't enough; you have to be prepared for a PROMOTION..."

July 18, 2010

Is it getting crowded in here?

Yet another reason to be concerned about the collective expanding waistline of the workforce. According to a cool infographic and item entitled Size matters In Metropolis, a magazine about architecture and design, the average real estate of corporate cubicles is getting smaller while the average employee's "footprint" is expanding. At its introduction in 1968, the average cubicle size was 10' by 10' - but by 2006, it had shrunk to 6' by 6.' Over the same period, men have gained an average of 28 pounds and women have gained 24 pounds - so we are all squeezing more bulk into less space. (See our prior post when gyms and offices collide for some ideas to make the cubicle a less stagnant, more active place)

While weight is an issue we've discussed before, the flip side of this equation is the cubicle itself. Even the cubicle inventor came to question his invention, calling it "monolithic insanity." You can lean more about its checkered past and view a slideshow of historical images in Cubicles: The great mistake, an entertaining historical overview that Fortune featured a few years ago.

Will the cubicle culture ever die out? Probably not, but the nature of where we work is indeed changing. Sue Shellenbarger of Wall Street Journal has a blog called The Juggle, in which she writes about tradeoffs and choice people make juggling work and family. In a recent post entitled Beyond the Cubicle she talks about alternative places - and oddball places - that people work.


October 16, 2009

"When I Grow Up"

Relive all the reasons you wanted to get into the Human Resource field in this cute video from HR.com. Thanks to HR Lori for the pointer.

August 16, 2009

Big-haired, smelly people who wear bells on their shoes: co-worker annoyances

It may not be the big things that send people over the edge at work, it may be the little things. In his poem, The Hollow Men, poet T.S. Eliot says that "This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper." When asked "what bothers you the most about co-workers" in a recent survey of 2600 hiring managers conducted by Career Builder, respondents revealed a quirky litany of petty annoyances and grudges ... from colleagues who "eat all the good cookies" and breathe too loudly to those with disconcerting habits like having big hair, checking co-workers for ticks or wearing bells on their shoes.

The list is amusing - it is easy to imagine the shudders and eye rolls that accompanied these statements. But are we wrong in wondering why many of these complaints seem singular rather than universal? Where were some of the stereotypical and ubiquitous cringe-worthy souls like the whistler, the bootlicking toady, the space invader, the loud talker, the loud eater, and the taker of the last cup of coffee without making more? We went looking for other surveys about co-worker complaints and found those and other petty grievances.

In a Forbes survey, noisy colleagues featured prominently in a list of top annoyances - loud office talkers, people with annoying ring tones, and those who talk on speakerphones. The kitchen is another source of contention: people eating smelly food, leaving dirty dishes or messes for others to clean up, or people who hog the best treats while never bringing in their own. In some "arm's length" research conducted by Brianna Raymond of Pongo Blog, gossip and eavesdropping were among the top coworker annoyances, along with "gross" behavior such as publicly clipping fingernails (or toenails) at the desk or sharing too much information about medical issues. Among those commenting on her post, there seemed to be a fair amount of coworkers who tell "poop jokes," and the consensus was that "poop jokes" are indeed annoying and don't belong in the office.

David R. Butcher of Thomasnet helpfully categorizes these annoying people into 13 Types of Irritating Coworkers. Where do you fall on the scale of things? When people think "annoying co-worker" does your name come to mind? Take the am I the annoying co-worker quiz to find out where you land on the scale of people who drive other people crazy. A few weeks after his list of 13 annoying coworker types, Butcher issued a second list: 13 Types of Coworkers We Like, with many traits we should all aspire to. Meanwhile, if in your role as HR manager some of these crazy-making behaviors wind up in your lap, John Baldoni of CIO suggests three tips for nipping workplace annoyances in the bud - being direct and specific in confronting the behavior, asking the offender to participate in helping to identify the solution, and following up to ensure resolution.

March 27, 2009

The lighter side: creative work excuses

Recently, HR Morning featured an item about excuses for being late. If you've worked in HR for long, you've certainly heard many "creative" excuses for being late or calling in sick.

And while on the topic of work excuses - The Washington Post runs an enjoyable reader participation column called the Style Invitational. Several years ago - April 1994, to be exact - they ran a column in which they invited readers to submit their suggestions for the best excuses to miss a day of work. The results were pretty funny. We can't locate the exact archive online, but we had kept a copy, which we pass along for your amusement.

Best excuses to miss a day of work

  • If it is all the same to you, I won't be coming in to work. The voices told me to clean all the guns today.
  • When I got up this morning I took two Ex-Lax in addition to my Prozac. I can't get off the john, but I feel good about it.
  • I set half the clocks in my house ahead an hour and the other half back an hour Saturday and spent 18 hours in some kind of space-time continuum loop, reliving Sunday (right up until the explosion). I was able to exit the loop only by reversing the polarity of the power source exactly e*log(pi) clocks in the house while simultaneously rapping my dog on the snout with a rolled up Times. Accordingly, I will be in late, or early.
  • My stigmata's acting up.
  • I can't come in to work today because I'll be stalking my previous boss, who fired me for not showing up for work. OK?
  • I have a rare case of 48-hour projectile leprosy, but I know we have that deadline to meet...
  • I am stuck in the blood pressure machine down at the Food Giant.
  • Yes, I seem to have contracted some attention-deficit disorder and, hey, how about them Hoyas, huh? So, I won't be able to, yes, could I help you? No, no, I'll be sticking with Sprint, but thank you for calling.
  • Constipation has made me a walking time bomb.
  • I just found out that I was switched at birth. Legally, I shouldn't come to work knowing my employee records may now contain false information.
  • The psychiatrist said it was an excellent session. He even gave me this jaw restraint so I won't bite things when I am startled.
  • The dog ate my car keys. We're going to hitchhike to the vet.
  • My mother-in-law has come back as one of the Undead and we must track her to her coffin to drive a stake through her heart and give her eternal peace. One day should do it.
  • I am converting my calendar from Julian to Gregorian.
  • I am extremely sensitive to a rise in the interest rates.
  • I can't come to work today because the EPA has determined that my house is completely surrounded by wetlands and I have to arrange for helicopter transportation.
  • I prefer to remain an enigma.

December 22, 2008

The unique work challenges of being Santa

As these short clips attest, not just anyone can be a Santa - rigorous training is involved. But even with the best training, things can go unexpectedly wrong at work - from dissatisfied customers to assaultive business partners.

Just like any of us, Santa can find himself the victim of unreasonable work demands. He has to keep track of an elaborate set of international protocols, schedules, and languages - a little known fact is that his travels require numerous wardrobe changes. And he is subject to some unusual risks and health hazards on the job, too.

And as if all that didn't make his job tough enough, he is also feeling the effects of the bad economy. In a recent letter to his constituents, Santa explains that times are tough all over: the North Pole is melting and Rudolph's been suspended - he's thinking he may need to change his trademark greeting from "Ho, ho, ho!" to "Oh, oh, oh!"

And you thought your job was tough! You might want to bake Santa some extra special cookies this year.

November 26, 2008

Our pre-Thanksgiving "amusing diversions" edition

Normally, we'd be celebrating sarcastic Wednesday today, but since everyone seems to be wearing their party hats already for the Thanksgiving holiday, we thought it might be a good time to bring you a few of the items from the lighter side that we've been collecting for just such an occasion.

A few items from the "we've come a long way" department:
First, we take a look at women in the workplace, 1943-style - a few helpful tips on hiring women transportation workers. We particularly like the advice to make allowances for womanly psychology by giving sufficient breaks so that women can tidy their hair and apply fresh lipstick several times a day.
Next, we have this rather disturbing account about a treatment for depression in England around the 16th or 17 century. Hint: it involved blacksmiths.

From the "while you were away" department, another reminder that when you are vacationing, your cubicle is at the mercy of your coworkers and subject to their creative excesses.

From the why I got fired department.

And a few holiday diversions:

November 16, 2008

Employees from hell

Did you hear the one about the nude bartender? In this case, it's not the set-up for a joke but an entry in Career Builder's Worst Employees of the Year list. And for nostalgia, you can revisit the terrible 10 picks for 2007.

As long as we're airing our gripes about bad employees, you may want to see if you agree with this essay on The 10 Worst Types of Employees a Boss Can Have. Don't miss the comments, where readers add their thoughts and real-life stories.

Turnabout is fair play
Lest you think we're being too harsh on employees, we point you to the My Bad Boss Contest and invite you to take the Is your boss a psychopath? quiz. You may also enjoy our prior post on bad bosses on film and in TV

October 31, 2008

No tricks, just treats

We've been saving up a few items from the lighter side for a Friday, and what better Friday than Halloween?

Looking for ways to inspire your work force? Here's a bit of a cynical twist on those ubiquitous motivational posters.

Communicate effectively. It's not only important to communicate clearly but also to ensure that the message is actually heard. Otherwise, work projects can run amuck.

Keep day-to-day conflicts down. If you don't already have one, here's a good template for an office refrigerator policy. But if conflicts do occur, remember to consult your EAP. This short video clip illustrates the importance of properly mediating work conflicts.

Look for problem-solving employees who will take the initiative when faced with unusual work challenges.

Raises might be difficult to come by this year with the tough economic climate. Maybe in lieu of a raise, you could negotiate with your boss for some office perks to make your day a little easier ... such as a new ergonomic work chair.

October 25, 2008

How not to make a PowerPoint presentation

June 22, 2008

Business jargon watch

There's nothing quite like work jargon, but we can't blame it all on U.S. business. It seems to be a global phenomenon, as the recent compilation of 50 phrases you love to hate in the BBC news attests. And be sure to play along with the Boss Speak Bingo Card (PDF). There aren't any prizes beyond the satisfaction of "gotcha" and you may want to keep that to yourself. The BBC seems to be on a quest to rid the world of the phrase going forward, which really seems to get under their skin.

If you want to keep your ear to the ground for new jargon, you might try MBA Jargon Watch. Most of the phrases in the list sound painfully familiar, but there are a few new fingernails-on-the-blackboard contenders, such as "eat your own dogfood" and "boil the ocean." Ouch, my ears! When it comes to office speak, I think we need to leapfrog into a paradigm shift - can I get any buy-in on that?

April 4, 2008

On the lighter side

A few humorous items that have passed by our desk of late:

February 22, 2008

Hilarity break, or how to liven up the workplace

In the past, we've talked about various innovative ways to keep your sedentary workers fit - from treadmill desks to exercise ball chairs. Now, we have yet another alternative: You may have seen the infomercial for the Hawaii chair (video clip), which bills itself as a way to get fit while you sit. Could this be the key to a new healthier work force?

The verdict is in, it would definitely enliven your workplace. Watch as Ellen Degeneres reviews the Hawaii chair (video clip).

January 18, 2008

The lighter side: retirement, balloon hats, bureaucracy, and more

Every HR manager deals with it: the retirement of a long-valued employee. But what happens when it's the company CEO? To get a window on what that's like, here's a short video case study: Bill Gates' last full day at work. Hat tip to HR Lori for the link. Lori often has very useful advice. We particularly liked her method for determining when a meeting has run it's course.

This story may start your weekend with a smile. Addi Somekh and Charlie Eckert have traveled more than 10,000 miles visiting more than 34 countries, all with one purpose: to take pictures of people wearing silly hats made out of balloons. And the purpose? Simply to make people laugh and have fun. We ascribe to that philosophy!

Who can't relate to this? Just another day at the office...

Ever feel that bureaucracy has you running around in circles? If so, here's a brilliant piece of artwork for your desk.

And in the indispensable online tools department, we give you the Bureau of Workplace Interruptions.

December 21, 2007

Santa Claus considered: as an employee ... and as an employer

Santa, the employee
Employee background checks are important. Even when hiring a seemingly trustworthy guy like St. Nick, it might be worth running a check for arrest warrants, sexual offenses and other criminal matters to protect your organization from potential liability. And once you've hired Santa, the job is not complete—meticulous on-the-job training is vital. Plus, you may want to conduct an ergonomic assessment of his job—the nature of his work presents lot of potential for on-the-job injuries. And you will definitely want to refer him to your EAP program—a recent survey reveals that Santa's job can be very stressful!

Santa Claus as an employer
It pains us to bring this up, but there is no getting around it—no matter how beloved he is in the world at large, as an employer, Santa leaves something to be desired. The people at Forbes have painted him as little better than a sweat shop operator, forcing his elves to work long hours at low pay. And law firms both here in the U.S. and abroad note that he is playing fast and loose with a host of employment laws, risking everything from workers comp claims to class-action suits for hiring discrimination. Some attorneys weigh in with their thoughts on these and other potential legal risks that Santa faces.

Now we are very fond of Santa, but frankly, some of these employment practices stink. So Santa, if you are listening, give us a call—we'd be happy to enroll you in our online Management Academy free of charge. We'll gladly throw in some stress reduction counseling, too!

November 18, 2007

The lighter side: bad day at the office

Having a bad day? This short video clip (sound alert) compiles some of the classic "bad day" moments that have been circulating on the web. Clearly, some of these workplaces could benefit by anger management training—time to call your EAP! Also on the "bad day" theme, there are also a series of short ad spoofs about work frustrations that have been viral in their popularity: the attack of the pen, the attack of the envelope, and the attack of the elastic. These spots are reminiscent of the popular when office supplies attack page.

When all that work frustration just gets to be too much, here's a small antidote from some experts: the definitive guide to making paper planes.

October 14, 2007

The lighter side: HMO rap, soul-crushing jobs, fantasy work stations

HMO rap - Health care benefits are increasingly complex. Explaining health care plans can pose a challenge to benefits managers everywhere. But take heart, now there is the HMO rap.

Soul-crushing jobs - Do you ever have one of those days where you feel like an insignificant little cog in a wheel? This photo essay on endless assembly lines and giant cafeterias in China might help to put things in perspective.

Still feeling badly about your job? Check out The Worst Jobs in Science, 2007. Popular Science issues this list annually as a salute to "the men and women who do what no salary can adequately reward." Next time you are having a bad day, you can console yourself with the fact that your career path did not lead you to whale-feces research or serving as a gravity research subject.

Fantasy work stations - Does your work station need a bit of a face lift? Maybe this ergonomic chair would help ease that back strain a bit. Although this nifty litle workstation is nice, too. Decisions, decisions.

June 29, 2007

The lighter side: bad resumes, annoying interview questions

If you've been working in HR for more than about a week, you have probably seen your share of blunders and "creative" statements on resumes. CareerBuilder.com offers their list of the top 12 resume disasters. We'd have to agree that these represent some definite yellow flags but they make for an amusing list. We have found a few other compilations on the web that we've enjoyed. But if we are going to poke fun at the applicants, then turnabout is fair play. Some students compiled the top 100 most annoying questions asked in job interview - a very instructive list. Many people seem to take a visceral dislike to the "where do you want to be in X years" question. This applicant offers an honest response.

June 22, 2007

Has your organization gone to the dogs?

Sorry to be bringing you this news so late, but we've just learned that today is the official Take Your Dog to Work Day. This annual event is sponsored by Pet Sitters International and scheduled for the first Friday after Father's Day. The underlying purpose is to extol the benefits of bringing people and pets together and to remind people that dogs make great companions—so great that maybe all you non-owners might be moved to adopt one.

According to a 2006 survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, nearly one in five companies already allow pets in the workplace. Pets-at-work proponents cite an increase in employee morale and a decrease in stress.

Mercedes Medical, a medical supply distributor in Sarasota, Fla., thinks that allowing pets at work increases loyalty and may even bolster employee retention because workers might no be able to bring a pet to work at a new job. The company has 35 employees, and about 6 to 10 visiting canines at any given time.

At Replacements Ltd., a 500-employee china and silverware retailer, it was owner Bob Page's idea to allow dogs at work, and he thinks it is a perk that pays off in productivity and enhanced employee satisfaction. According to the previously cited survey, 46 million Americans said they would work longer hours if they were allowed to bring their pets to work.

The types of establishments that allow pets can run the gamut from colleges and IT shops to tire shops and design/build firms.

If you are wondering whether a pets-at-work policy might be beneficial to your workplace, Partnership for Animal Welfare (PAW) offers some guidelines for taking pets to work, which includes some sample policies. The San Francisco SPCA offers additional pets-at-work benefits, guidelines and policies. Since dogs at work are part of the Web behemoth's work-life program, you can also read Google's Dog Policy. But not everyone thinks that the idea is problem-free. Naysayer Ethan Winning lays out some of the HR issues that should be considered.

If you plan to bring your pets to work today, be sure to have them read these 5 rules for doggy etiquette at work. First and foremost, don't bite the boss—a good rule for pets and humans alike.

The cuteness factor: Pictures of working pets
What pet story would be complete without some winsome pet pics? We don't want to disappoint so we've found some photos of working pets to share.

Animal Hubub has some sweet pics of pets at work. But they don't show you the potential downside.

Shop Cat profiles cats that work in stores, libraries, hotels and many more places - you can even search by state to find working cats near you.

Dogs at work are often more than just pets. There's a long tradition of working dogs and some of these hard-working creatures perform a wide range of very important services.

And OK, because it's Friday we hope you will forgive us for including a link to our favorite animal site, even though most of the animals depicted have nothing to do with work. Cute Overload delivers what are arguably the most adorable pictures of puppies, kitties, bunnies and assorted animals on the Web. If you can't have pets at work, a daily visit to this site can be a real stress reducer. But be warned—it's addictive!

May 11, 2007

Friday fun: bad bosses on film

Employment law Hollywood style—Take the Labor Law in the Movies Trivia Quiz. There are ten questions about films that featured employment law issues. Here's a sample question:

In the 1980 film, 9 to 5, sexual harassment and sex based discrimination were the normal operating procedure. Name the trio who kidnapped their boss. Extra points if you can name his character and the actor who portrayed him.

Answers can be found here —scroll down the page about half way.

And while we're at the movies—Here are some nominees for Worst On-Screen Bosses Ever. And here are 10 more movie bosses—which one do you work for?

TV bosses aren't much better—You don't need to go out to the cinema to find bad bosses—just flip on the TV. Here's a list from John Challenger about the top tyrants on TV. Take the TV Bosses from Hell poll to vote for the boss you would least like to work for. Surprisingly, the Pointy Haired Boss didn't make either list.

And from the "bad bosses in real life" file—This British company is our nomination for bad employer of the week. That's a pretty cold way to deliver hot news.

And since we mentioned the law—If bad bosses or shoddy employment practices force you to seek legal assistance, this little ditty will explain a lot about what you can expect from your attorneys. (YouTube and sound alert.)

April 20, 2007

Friday tomfoolery

Looking for some ways to shake up your organizational chart? Maybe changing job titles is the way to go. Does your organization need a "Director of Chaos," a "Director of First Impressions," or an "Upward Mobility Bigshot?" Jacked Up Job Titles from last November's Forbes offers some creative ideas. Be sure to click on the "In Pictures" slide show.

OK, since you work in HR, you should be good at this game: Find Frank a Job.

Ever have one of those days where you feel pulled in few different different directions? Well relax because, yes, it's Friday.

March 23, 2007

The lighter side: job of the week, messy desks, fun at work, office pranks

Model job of the week - literally!

Are you a slob? Congrats, you're more productive - a new book is touting the benefits of messiness, claiming that "neatness is overrated, costs money, wastes time and quashes creativity." But the jury is out as to whether messiness hinders or helps your career. While one study says that messy-desk people tend to have higher salaries than neatniks, other experts caution that messiness might affect your upward mobility.

Here's a group of dentists that understand the benefit of having fun on the job. Funmeister Bernie DeKoven would approve - he's a big proponent of the benefit of fun and creative play at work. His site is a treasure trove for creative fun and games well worth exploring - there's a lot there about fun both on and off the job - be sure to see his work archives.

Office pranks and hi-jinks are another matter. Here are some creative things to do when your colleague is away. Or here's a before and after case study. Sometimes these plots can be quite elaborate (PDF).

And speaking of fun, here's a desk toy designed to defuse frustration with the boss - who knows, it might prevent a needless office outburst. (video clip)

February 23, 2007

You think your job is bad? Check out the worst jobs in history

You might want to bookmark this post and return to it anytime you have a bad day at work. As we've noted before, things could always be worse.

We were recently reminded how bad jobs could be when we stumbled on an amusing site featuring the Worst Jobs in History. The site is a companion piece to a British television series by the same name that ran through 2,000 years of horrifyingly bad jobs. You can learn about the jobs your ancestors held - Medieval leech collector, a Tudor groom of the stool, an Anglo-Saxon Guillemot egg collector, a Stuart plague burier, or a Victorian tanner. If you want to see which job you might have held had you lived 1,000 years ago, take the quiz in the career center.

Of course, you don't need to travel back in time to find some frighteningly bad jobs - there are many contemporary contenders for the titles. Here's a few nominations that we've found:

Business Week: Worst jobs with the best pay

Edugree: 5 worst jobs of 2006

Pop Science: Worst jobs in science

USA Today: 10 worst jobs in sports

CNN Money: America's most dangerous jobs

CNN Money: 5 Most dangerous jobs for teens

February 9, 2007

A few items from the lighter side to end your week

What's in a name? - here's the most interesting new job title we've seen in awhile.

Grumpy workers rule! - you may want to think twice about telling people to improve their attitude in your next round of performance reviews. New research show that grumpy workers may be your most creative problem solvers. "It's the happy, cheerful folks who tend to think things are going well and that there are no problems to be solved, she said. They're less likely to be pondering potential pitfalls and often don't see problems until there is a crisis."

What about grumpy bosses? - This Inteview with an honest boss may shed some light.

Work environments - is your workplace a trifle too stodgy? Are you looking for a bit of an office pick-me-up to create a more stimulating environment for your employees? Here's an idea from London.

I see London, I see France... Too Much Skin 10 Taboos for Office Attire

Questions of the day - what every worker wants to know. Is it Friday? and is it 5:30?. Bookmark these vital links in case you get confused.

January 4, 2007

HR humor: work excuses, cheap bosses, on-the-job exorcisms, and statistics

When it comes to work absurdities, we ascribe to an equal opportunity philosophy - so in today's post, we are highlighting some stories that take both bosses and employees to task.

"I accidentally flushed my keys down the toilet" - Heard any good excuses for why an employee can't come to work lately? We're sure you have. Kathy Gurchiek compiled some of the best excuses that hiring managers polled by SHRM heard in 2006 in an article entitled Runaway horses, charging buffalo kept workers home in '06. The list is amusing, with excuses ranging from being locked in a restroom stall to being cornered by a snake. But some seem almost reasonable. For example, post-holiday, I can definitely relate to this one: "I'm too fat to get into my work pants." Have you heard any unique excuses lately? Feel free to add them to the comments.

Bah, humbug - We missed Slate magazine's pre-Christmas announcement about the winners in the Corporate Scrooge Contest, but think the article about America's worst office Christmas parties, gifts, and bonuses is worth posting even at this late date. Maybe some of the winners can have a second chance to show their employees some love on Valentine's Day.

A word to the wise - Workplace Prof Blog offers this sensible advice: Don't perform exorcisms at work ... anointing your demonically-possessed colleague's cubicle with olive oil might get you fired, and the courts are unlikely to be sympathetic to your religious discrimination suit.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics - Need some statistics for your boss that just don't seem to exist? No problem - eSolutions data lets you create your own. You might want to test your luck out with these HR manager salary statistics in your next job review.

December 18, 2006

Holiday humor to get you through the week

There may be those among us who can sympathize with this HR director who is attempting to stage a politically correct holiday Party. Celebrating the holidays at work can be tricky. Last year, the Guardian conducted a "Campaign for a Real Office Christmas (CROC)" and invited readers to submit photos from their office celebrations - the results were amusing. They also offered some cut out and keep holiday decorations for your cubicle. And speaking of decorating cubicles, do you encourage creativity from your employees?

Home or office, some people really go all out when it comes to decorating (sound alert). If you're in the mood for decorating on a more modest scale, here's a tutorial for getting some help: Tree Decorating 101. But if you aren't into decorating cubicles or trees, you may want to turn your favorite employee or your boss into an elf. As its holiday gift to you, Office max is sponsoring Elf Yourself (warning: sound)

Just remember. Not everyone finds the holidays fun.

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