Are you a “People Person”?

I was listening to an executive the other day talk about what he needed in an employee. Of course, there were the job skills and competencies, formal education was one, and then that magical phrase came, “Oh, and the candidates better be a ‘people person’!”

A People Person.

What the living hell does that even mean?

A People Person: A person who enjoys and is particularly good at interacting with others. 

Oh, so like a normal person who isn’t an asshole?

The skill of being “A People Person” might be the most over-valued skill of all time. And not because it’s not important, not one wants you to hire an asshole, but because have you ever met someone who when asked said, “You know, I’m just not A People Person!” No! You haven’t! Everyone, from the beginning of time, says they are A People Person!

The reality is, we ask for it because we know the truth, most people don’t enjoy interacting with others. We put up with idiots we run into every day, some of us are better at than others, no profession really does better than another.

In HR, we like to say, “We the People Person People”, but I find it’s actually the opposite. Most HR pros I run into might have the worst People Person skills, but they are paid to do a job, so put on the act fairly well. Once in a while, you find that true kind soul who seems, almost naively, to get along with everyone. “Oh that Mark, he’s a stinker, but you know he once opened a door for me, he’s good people!” Those people might be only real people persons in the world.

I’ve been labeled A People Person in my career. The reality is I’m an inch deep and a mile wide in terms of my interest, so I just have a skill of finding those few things I have in common with people I meet, so conversation comes easy for me when I meet new people. But, I dislike people at the same rate as others. I would consider myself as much of an asshole as most people, I might just hide it better at the right times.

Maybe that’s the true real skill of A People Person. Not being an asshole at the wrong time. Or at least limiting those times you’re an asshole.

Here’s the thing: The next time you hear someone say or ask for A People Person, just smile and chuckle a bit on the inside, because what they are really saying is “I just want someone who isn’t that much of an asshole” but saying “A People Person” sounds so much more professional!

 

A 30-Minute Commute is All Most People Are Willing to Take!

We all kind of know this fact. Once you get more than 30 minutes away from your job, no matter how you actually come into work, it starts to feel like a chore. You begin to hate the commute. Doesn’t matter if you drive, take a train, walk, etc. 30 minutes, one-way, is our max!

It’s called Marchetti’s Constant: 

Marchetti’s constant is the average time spent by a person for commuting each day, which is approximately one hour. It is named after Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti, though Marchetti himself attributed the “one hour” finding to transportation analyst and engineer Yacov Zahavi.[1] Marchetti posits that although forms of urban planning and transport may change, and although some live in villages and others in cities, people gradually adjust their lives to their conditions (including the location of their homes relative to their workplace) such that the average travel time stays approximately constant.

I can’t tell you how many times, as a Recruiter, I was talked into believing this wasn’t true by a candidate that then screwed me by ghosting on an interview after driving to the location and seeing it was too long, declining an offer late, started the job but then quickly left because the commute was too long, or we had to over-compensate to make up for the time the person spent on the commute.

Probably one out of one hundred people can actually take a longer commute and live with it. 99% of people will eventually crack if the commute is over thirty minutes. So, what does this mean for us trying to attract talent to our organizations? There are certain locations in the U.S. that are much easier to have a thirty-minute commute than others:

On average, large metro areas with the shortage commute time:

  1. Grand Rapids, MI
  2. Rochester, NY
  3. Buffalo, NY
  4. Oklahoma City, OK
  5. Salt Lake City, UT
  6. Kansas City, MO
  7. Milwaukee, WI
  8. Louisville, KY
  9. Hartford, CT
  10. Memphis, TN

All of these metro areas have the majority of their citizens with a commute time under 30 minutes.

Who have the worst commute times? Think about the largest metro areas, even when you take into account their transit options: New York, San Francisco, D.C., Philly, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, etc.

So, it’s thirty minutes one-way or one hour per day, or five hours per week that the average person is willing to commute. I wonder if this plays itself out when you begin to factor in work from home options?

Let’s say you ask someone to commute one hour each way, two hours per day, but you let them work from home two days per week. Total commute time is still more at six hours per week, but would that make a difference enough to retrain and attract more talent to your organization? I have a feeling it would. It’s worth a test for those who have longer commutes at your work location.

Also, I have seen this done by any company, but I would love to see turnover data by commute time! I have seen data on hourly worker turnover and it’s amazing to see the differences by miles from a worksite in a radiant pattern. Every mile you get farther from the work site, the turnover increases exponentially until you get to about five miles where it skyrockets. So, we know if you hire hourly, low-skilled workers, your best bet for retention is less than five miles from your location (this also is about a 15-minute commute – car, public, walking, bike, etc.).

So often we want to focus on the stuff we control, versus stuff the candidate or employee can control, but we think it’s ‘their’ decision. The problem is, we allow people to make bad decisions and don’t think it will affect us, but it does in high turnover. All things being equal, or close to equal with candidates, take the one with the shorter total commute!

What’s the Secret to a Great Marriage? The Sackett Rules!

I’m on vacation this week with my wife. It’s our 27th wedding anniversary. Yes, it was a child marriage, don’t judge us. When I tell people I’ve been married 27 years I frequently get “the question”! So, tell us, what’s the secret to a great marriage!?

I like to answer that very straight forward, and while staring at the opposite spouse or partner who asked the question, I say directly into their eyes:

“Great sex!” 

Their immediate reaction to that answer tells me everything I need to know about their relationship.

Kidding! I don’t do that, but I should! That would be fun, but I think most HR ladies would be offended because they aren’t having great sex! 😉

Okay, why has my marriage lasted 27 years in no particular order:

– My wife holds it all together and has made me a million times better person than I would without her.

– My wife is exceptional at managing home finances, which has made our life a million times easier because we have very few disagreements over money. I let her buy anything she wants, and she takes an extremely long time to make up her mind on what to buy. It works!

– I put my wife first, in front of my kids, my family, my friends, my work, and well, maybe not my dog. I’ve told my three boys since they were little, I can make another one of you, I can not make another one of your Mom. (Honestly, I’m not perfect at this – sometimes any of these others get pushed ahead of my wife, but she knows, push comes to shove, whose team I’m on!)

– We have separate passions that we are free to explore, but we also have things we love to do together. I love to fish and golf, she doesn’t. She loves photography and scrapbooking, I don’t. We love to go to movies and to shop. You need alone time and you need together time. All of either doesn’t work.

– I’m a child of divorce, my wife is not. She had to fight like hell to get my head around just because you have a fight or don’t see eye to eye on something doesn’t mean you just walk away. Marriage isn’t easy, but it also shouldn’t be hard.

– My crazy fits her crazy. She constantly will say, “Do you think other people talk like this to each other!?” G*d I hope not for the sake of the world! My humor can be a bit dark, and while she is not that way, I think she secretly likes it.

– I agreed to never write about her on my blog. Okay, to be fair, when we got married I didn’t have a blog! So, just understand that you’ll constantly be renegotiating what you can and can’t do in marriage until you die!

What are your secrets to a great marriage?

 

Is work fun?

What do you think? Is work fun?

It’s really the question that keeps getting asked when we talk about the future of work, and employee experience, and employee engagement, etc. Do you believe that your work is “fun”?

Fun?

That’s the first problem, we really have to define what fun is. I mean if we are doing this all official HR-like, right!?! Let’s over-process and over-think this! What is fun? Is a scale for all of us. Is doing an employee file audit fun? Maybe not for you, but you know some of us like to get freaky, so no judgement on what you call fun!

Tyler Cowen has a new book coming out titled “Big Business” and in one section he asks this question: Is work fun? Here’s part of that section from the book:

To oversimplify by only a bit, they have to pay you to do it. And that suggests work is not in every way fun. Furthermore, for most people work is the main way that they interact with business on a daily basis, which means that business is associated with the activities that take some of the fun out of our lives. Bits of fun are drained on a very regular basis, often five days a week, but the paychecks arrive less frequently in most cases and often by the less visible means of direct deposit. So the stresses and tedium of the work are for many people more vivid than the wages they earn. And that in sum is one reason business is not entirely popular with the American public—or, indeed, with the public elsewhere in the world. Business is like the parent who tells you that you can’t have everything you want all the time.

Some recent studies and surveys illustrate the potential burden of work. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and economist Alan Krueger measure our “daily affective experiences” by having people wear beepers that go off at irregular intervals, at which time the people record what they are doing and their feelings. You can think of this as a technique for measuring moods. But the researchers ask about more than just the subjects’ feelings at a given point in time; they also ask how happy people are with various aspects of their lives. The study thus considers both momentary pleasure and the overall feeling of satisfaction from a life well spent, because happiness isn’t just a single thing with a unidimensional scale. For this study, the researchers recruited 909 employed women with an average age of thirty-eight and an average household income of $54,700.

And what did the researchers find? The highest-rated activities, from most favored to less favored, were intimate relations, socializing, relaxing, and prayer/worship/meditation. In the middle of the list were watching TV, preparing food, and talking on the phone, among other mundane activities. The bottom five were childcare, computer/email/ internet, housework, working, and—dead last—commuting.

So working is next to last in terms of producing a positive mood, and that is sad news. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like work; it only means we like other things better. And in fact, when you drill down, the ratio of people who have positive feelings about work to those who have negative feelings is just over 3.5 to 1. (That’s not as good as the 5.10 to 0.36 positive-to-negative ratio for intimate relations, but sex always was going to beat out work anyway.)

I love the concept of because we get ‘paid’ to work, that in of itself tells you that work isn’t fun, because in almost all cases people don’t get paid to do things that are ‘fun’. No one is getting paid to take vacations to Disney World. No one is getting paid to sit on the beach and sip frozen cocktails with zero responsibilities.

Now, I know a lot of people who get paid to do some fun stuff as part of their job, but that’s a small portion of their job, not their complete job.

I think for most of us, there are some aspects of our jobs that are fun. It’s a balance between some truly fun stuff and some stuff we are just getting paid to do, which if given a choice we would not choose to do if we weren’t being paid.

Does this then lead us down a path as leaders and HR pros to how do we add little bits of fun into work?

I think it’s something to test in our workplaces. Not forced fun. That’s the opposite of fun. But true, in the moments bits of fun. That’s the hard part, right? How do we free our leaders, or teach them, to have fun with their teams in the moment? If we figure that out, that probably unlocks a ton of positive outcomes for our employees and our organizations!

Are you ‘Manager Shaming’? #WorkHuman

Do you know what’s wrong with companies and organizations?

I know the answer because I go to a lot of conferences and listen to a lot of speakers. All of them will tell you exactly what’s wrong with your organization and every other organization. Turns out we all have the exact same thing wrong! Which is comforting in a way.

Our Managers Suck!!! 

Yay!! We figured it out!! We all agree!! Good for us!!

Can I tell you something? I hate Manager Shaming!! HATE IT!

Almost every speaker, at every conference, who speaks about the employee experience or employee engagement, or just about anything to deal with people blame managers. It’s lazy analysis for the most part. Let’s find someone or something everyone loves to hate and then we’ll blame them for everything, and then I’ll give them some great plan that you can’t possibly pull off, filled with funny little stories about my kids.

Look, I get that we have managers that are struggling, but the reality is we put them in a position to fail and now we just want to shame them and blame them for every single ill we have in an organization.

We have to be better than this. We were the idiots who put these folks in charge, didn’t teach them to properly lead people, or hold them accountable to properly lead people, or actually select them based on who had the right DNA to lead people, and not who is the best individual contributor but truly has no ability to lead people. It’s so stupid.

I want us all to start calling out Manager Shaming at conferences.

Cool tell me all my problems are my terrible managers, but you better be super quick to help figure out how to solve this or we get to throat punch you right on stage! If I hear about one more ‘study’ on how they found out managers suck and this is the ‘real’ problem with helping our organizations be successful I’m going to vomit.

So, how do we stop “Manager Shaming”:

1. Understand we are all part of this problem. It’s not ‘managers’, it’s all of us. We all suck because we all allowed this to happen. Also, most of us are managers.

2. Stop picking people to be managers based on they were the best at something, that has nothing to do with actually managing or leading people!

3. Build a leadership program that not only teaches and mentors employees on how to be effective leaders, but then hold them accountable to be that person.

4. Stop blaming and start fixing. It’s not a ‘manager’ issue. If it’s broke. If you are not successful. That’s an organizational issue. We all own that.

5. Move people out of management roles who are unable to lead people. You know who they are, just make the move.

6. Celebrate, publicly your great managers, and be very specific about the behaviors you are celebrating.

Select, educate, measure, reward, repeat. We aren’t trying to launch the space shuttle. We are trying to do something way, way harder. We are trying to lead people!

Stop Manager Shaming!

IN 2025, APPLICATIONS WILL BE accepted for the job of a lifetime—literally!

Swedish artistic duo Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby recently announced their next project which they are calling “Eternal Employment”. The project is fully funded and they have even started to write a job description for this ‘artistic’ endeavor.

What is “Eternal Employment“?

“A fair starting salary, with annual wage increases that match those for Swedish government workers, vacation time, even a pension, and the job is yours for as long as you do it. So what’s the job? Anything you want.

Each morning, the chosen employee will punch a clock in Korsvägen train station, currently under construction in Gothenburg, Sweden, which will turn on a bank of bright fluorescent lights. Other than that, “the position holds no duties or responsibilities besides the fact that the work should be carried out at Korsvägen. Whatever the employee chooses to do constitutes the work,” reads the job description. The employee can also choose how publicly visible or anonymous they would like to be while on the clock.”

So, how is this art?

“As Gothenburg’s working class finds itself marginalized, Goldin and Senneby see a job that gives total control to the worker as an act of economic imagination.”

It’s an interesting concept, even more so as we move into the world of A.I. knowing so many tactical jobs we do now will go away and many economists are already talking about these concepts of people being given a living wage to basically just live, but not work.

This is truly art potentially mimicking life. We can already foresee a time when we don’t need most of the workers we have today, yet we still have to provide for the population and understand a new kind of productivity when ‘work’ isn’t apart of the equation.

So, what would you do in this job?

It’s a great question to think about. If you didn’t have to worry, every, for the rest of your life, about finances, and you couldn’t be fired. What would you do in this train station each day on your shift?

I want to hope that I would find ways to brighten the day of others. To welcome them to the day, to wish them the best on their way home, and everything in between, but it’s such a far-out concept it’s really hard to even imagine.  It kind of reminds me of the movie with Tom Hanks, The Terminal. While he had to stay in the airport and couldn’t leave, he basically had to figure out how to spend his time in this pass-through public space.

I have a feeling this ‘job of a lifetime’ would probably get super boring for most people. Most of us would start out with the best intentions, but eventually, fall into the trap of not really doing anything productive. Maybe that’s part of the “art” to select someone who actually would take full advantage of this opportunity. I would love to be on the selection committee!

What would you do if you were given this job? Hit me in the comments.

 

Welcome to the Real-World Tesla Employees!

You probably saw this last week but it came out that Tesla employees fear for their jobs more than any other technology company, of over 8000 tech workers surveyed:

A survey by workplace chat app Blind shows that out of all the major tech companies, Tesla’s employees most fear being laid off.

Blind surveyed 8,230 tech workers over a week at the beginning of this month. Overall, 35.9% of users surveyed said they were worried about layoffs at their current company, while 64.1% have job security.

Tesla had the highest percentage of fearful employees, with 77.2% saying they are concerned about job cuts. It was followed closely by eBay and Snapchat, with 71.9% and 71.3% respectively.

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but Tesla isn’t a ‘tech’ company. Tesla is a manufacturing company. They make cars and other stuff that has to be built in factories.

For the millions of other employees who work for manufacturing companies, the fear of being laid-off is super real!

Why?

  • Sometimes we design and market stuff that doesn’t sell.
  • Sometimes the Chinese steal our designs and tech and make our stuff cheaper and sell it back to us.
  • Sometimes economic conditions make it so people don’t have enough money to buy our stuff.

Layoffs happen.

The big joke here is that the company who did the survey actually thinks Tesla and Google are the same type of company. They aren’t. They are both super hot ‘brands’, but they are both not technology companies.

Sure the Tesla is loaded with technology, but so it every other vehicle on the planet right now, and it’s increasing in every model from every manufacturer.

Also, fear of layoff is real in every company, in every market, in every industry. Sure many technology companies are hot right now and need workers desperately and it looks like that will be the case for a long time, but that’s isn’t a guarantee. Blackberry was on top of the world for a hot minute, then they weren’t. (Oh, I loved my first Blackberry!)

Turns out, if you make crap no one wants to buy, or can’t afford to buy, jobs will be lost! I think people who buy Tesla’s love Teslas! I hear nothing but great things. Also, for many, a full electric car just isn’t practical, yet. And, they are super expensive. And quite frankly, Tesla isn’t very good at being a manufacturing company. Tesla is not Toyota.

After the Great Recession we have an entire Generation coming into the workforce that will place job security much higher than the generations before them. None of us wants our employees to be fearful for their jobs, when it’s not performance related. It’s an awful feeling and a culture killer.

It’s also part of business. Capitalism isn’t perfect, but I prefer it to the alternatives.

No pay! Do you come to work?

I’ve seen some messages on social media by folks being negative about the TSA workers they’ve run into during the government shutdown. I’m always perplexed by this because here are people who are forced to come to work, and not getting paid.

I would bet that these folks who have negative comments would almost all not even show up to their job if their boss told them, “Hey, yeah, well guess what? I need you to come to work tomorrow, but I can’t pay you.” Yeah, thanks, but no thanks, buddy!

I think there are some folks who would for a while. Healthcare workers I could see many of those folks working for free for a bit and understanding the importance. Most first responders would do this based on their oaths. But, that’s probably about it.

I traveled this past week and I went out of my way to thank every TSA employee I ran into. It completely sucks to be forced to work and not get paid, and while I can’t pay them, I can let them know that I appreciate what they are doing to help keep my life safe.

By the way, I also saw many, many people who were complete jerks to the TSA agents because the wait was too long, or they had to take their hat off, or all kinds of stupid stuff. Turns out, some people are just jerks. Look, jerks, these people are working for free, have some compassion!

Our government, all of them, fail these people in such a colossal way it makes me sick to my stomach. Employees, government, public, private, etc. are not pawns in a game. These are real people and our elected officials could care less.

What I think is most people wouldn’t come to work if they weren’t getting paid. Many of these federal government employees have been told you come to work or you get fired and you won’t be hired back. These are good jobs, hard to come by jobs, so most come to work without pay.

The question is for how long? Like, yeah, I want this job because it has good pay and benefits, but once that stops happening, I no longer want this job!

So, what do you think? How long would you come to work knowing you will not be paid?

Co-Managing with an A–hole!

In the modern work world, we are often tasked as leaders to co-lead, co-manage a team, a function, a location, etc. The challenges to this are many, but none is more difficult when you have to do that and the other person is a complete a-hole!

What I find is that most a-holes have no idea they’re an a-hole, or they know they’re an a-hole but some broke in their brain to make them believe their actually a better person/leader as an a-hole versus a normal person.

What are the jerk, a-hole leader behaviors? Being condescending to the employees they lead. Talking behind the back of those they lead to others on the team that are a peer of that person. Not supporting their co-leader on things that were previously agreed to, etc. You know what I’m talking about!

I’m lucky that I haven’t had this issue for a while but I see it happen all the time in organizations I support, and it’s one of the most talked about issues I hear from friends and peers that work in corporate gigs. Here’s some of my advice for co-managing with an a-hole:

– A–holes hate being put in a box. Put them in a box. Get agreements on things, then get written confirmation of those agreements. I find a-hole leaders will work not to confirm via email or written communication, especially if they don’t really agree with the direction and plan to screw you later!

– Always stay above the line in front of those who report to you and your peers. “Above the line” means you never allow yourself to do or have the same bad behaviors as your co-manager. You take the high road, always. Trust me, in the end, you’ll benefit greatly from this!

– Be brutally honest in your assessment of your a-hole co-manager. I find most a-hole leaders are never told by a peer that they’re being an a-hole with real specific examples. Most if told, will actually try to change those behaviors. Some are truly just a-holes and they won’t change, but it will make you feel better to address it. Also, don’t stop addressing it! Every time it happens, call them out. That is actually an “above the line” behavior by you calling them out!

As a leader dealing with this situation will probably be the most challenging you’ll have in your career, but ignoring it, complaining to your boss, to matching their behavior are all losing propositions that take your career nowhere.

I love killing a-holes with kindness! It doesn’t happen often to them, they are used to getting the opposite reaction from their behavior, so extreme kindness to them really throws them off guard and unsettles them which can be quite funny!

Are Work Friends, Really Friends?

So, I get pimped on the daily by PR firms to share their stuff with you guys and I rarely do! But, every once in a while a PR firm gets that I only read the headlines and sends me a good one! Like the one above!

So, this is the juice from the study

“Only 15% of people believe they have a ‘real’ friend at work.” 

Okay, the full breakdown was actually this:

  • 41% are just Coworkers. We work together. We get along. But we never hang.
  • 22% are Strangers. They work in the same place I do, but I have no idea who they are.
  • 20% are Only At Work Friends. We sit at lunch together, we talk about our families, but after work, we have separate lives.
  • 15% are Real Friends. These are my people. We work together, but we also vacation together, go for drinks, play on the same softball team, etc.
  • 2% are Enemies. I spend most of my waking hours searching or ways to ruin their lives.

The Gallup friend research from two decades ago showed us that one critical component of having an engaging work-life is if you have a “Best Friend” at work. In hindsight, I’m guessing Gallup was probably talking about this ‘real friend’ category. Someone you actually have a relationship with outside of work, someone you look forward to seeing when you go to work, etc.

For me, this really brings up the entire concept of Friendship. I’m a middle-aged dude. I’ve got a wife and kids and a dog. Middle-aged dudes and friendships are weird. I’ve got people I would consider super close friends that I’ll go weeks without communicating to. Some of my closest friends I only see a few times a year in person. So, when you ask me if I have a ‘real friend’ at work I need some defining traits about what that really looks like.

For me a ‘real friend’ probably has one or more of these characteristics:

– I’m willing to share personal stuff with them and know they won’t break my confidence.

– They’ll come and help me move to a new house/apartment/etc. Let’s face it that’s a real friend!

– We spend time together outside of work on stuff not associated with work because we enjoy being around each other.

– The friendship is two-way, meaning, we both think about and do stuff that is important to each other.

– The friendship would not go away if you stop working with each other.

That last one is the real defining characteristic of a real friend vs. a friend at work, right? We have so many people that we actually enjoy working with and we would introduce them as ‘friends’ but if we stopped working with them each day, we would probably just become Facebook friends and maybe never see them again!

So, I’ll ask you to think about all those people you work with right now and determine do you have a real friend at work? The study says 85% of us don’t! What do you say?