The week@work – Stock market volatility, workplace violence, effective hiring tactics and the best jobs require you to be a ‘people person’

This was probably not the best week@work with stock market volatility and one of the most horrific incidents of workplace violence broadcast live on the morning news.

The first shock of the week came in the global stock market and created an opportunity for one corporate leader to step out from the cable news apocalyptic babble.

In response to the crisis in world financial markets, Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz sent a email to his employees both to ease worries about the impact on Starbucks’ business and encourage them to understand the mood of their customers. The email was met with mixed reviews outside the Starbucks organization, but was consistent with the Shultz’s style and the culture of ‘servant leadership’.

“Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and–as you always have–remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.”

The second shock of the week arrived with breakfast, in Roanoke, Virginia. Two journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward were murdered @work early Wednesday morning, doing what they loved. Their deaths will be added to the global total of 42 journalism deaths since the beginning of the year.

CNN political commentator, Errol Louis responded with a thoughtful opinion piece, ‘The real issue behind on-air killings of journalists’.

“According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency, while workplace violence has dropped in recent years, it is still startlingly frequent. Nearly a decade ago, according to the agency, 20 workers were murdered every week. A more recent report shows the tide of violence declining, but as of 2009, 521 people were killed on the job and 572,000 non-fatal violent crimes took place, including rape, robbery and assault.”

“…we have to stop treating workplace killings as sporadic, one-time bursts of irrational behavior.”

Workplace safety has to be a priority for CEOs. It effects all aspects of organization culture, beginning with the ability to attract and retain talent.

Two additional stories from the week@work focus on talent@work: finding it and nurturing it.

How do you find people who will be successful in your organization? CEO Richard Sheridan of  software design firm, Menlo Innovations, shared his company’s approach.

“Menlo hires people in mass auditions conducted several times a year. The process is designed to mimic the company’s operations. Our staff spends their days working in pairs, with each pair collaborating on a distinct task, sharing a single computer. So when applicants show up for our auditions, we pair them up and give each pair a single sheet of paper and a pencil. Then we set them to work on a task, Menlo style.”

“Candidates who make the first cut return for a test of skills that–like the mass audition–is an immersion in our process and culture. The candidate comes in for a full paid day working on real projects. She pairs with one Menlonian in the morning and a different Menlonian after lunch. If both give her a thumbs-up, we offer a three-week trial contract. We make special arrangements for those who can’t risk taking time away from their current situations.”

The selection and retention of candidates who become contributing members of an organization’s community is a major challenge for leadership. Each week you can find articles on creative ways to recruit. In a world of algorithmic forecasts, maybe it’s time to get back to basics and invite candidates into the reality of the workplace with the first interview.

Andrew Flowers reporting for ‘The FIveThirtyEight Economics’ finds ‘The Best Jobs Now Require You To Be A People Person’.

“To land a lucrative job today, hard skills in math and engineering, for instance, may not be enough. As technology allows us to automate more technical jobs, new research shows that people skills — communicating clearly, being a team player — matter more than ever. And women appear to be the ones capitalizing on this shift in the workplace.

“The days of only plugging away at a spreadsheet are over,” David Deming, an associate professor of economics at Harvard, told me. Deming is the author of a new working paper, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market,” which shows how today’s high-skill, high-paying jobs — like consultants and managers — increasingly require interpersonal skills.”

You can’t land your first job and relax. It’s the beginning of a lifelong learning experiment interacting with customers, investors and colleagues. And you will need an array of communication skills to advance. Which brings us back to the first story of Starbucks founder Howard Schultz. It’s his emotional intelligence combined with his business savvy that has led to his success and ability to influence the national conversation on work and workers.

The Saturday Read – Best of the summer for Labor Day reading

It’s the last long weekend of summer and one more opportunity to get lost in a story – in a beach chair, a park bench or your favorite comfy spot at home. I am suggesting four books from the archive of ‘The Saturday Read’. The narrators of these stories include the founder of the world’s first empathy museum, a management consultant turned pilot, a political writer and surfer and an oral historian with floppy ears. Pick the one that fits your mood or motivation.

If you’ve decided it’s time to rethink your career, ‘How to Find Fulfilling Work’ by Roman Krznaric is my pick. He suggests “We have entered a new age of fulfillment, in which the great dream is to trade up from money to meaning.” Think about that. He is proposing that meaning has more value than money.

His goal is to encourage the reader to stop thinking about taking action and actually get out and do something. The book is essentially an answer to two questions:

“What are the core elements of a fulfilling career?” and “How do we go about changing career and making the best possible decisions along the way?”

The best ‘travel’ book of the summer and best book about work is ‘Skyfaring’ by Mark Vanhoenacker.

What do we know of the work lives of pilots? These are the folks we trust to transport us across oceans, continents, cities and deserts. Our only contact through hours of flight is a welcome message, flight status update or a ‘thank you for choosing our airline’.

Turns out, pilots can be very interesting people. And, like many of us, they arrive at their ‘dream job’ after trying out other options. Mark Vanhoenacker’s career began in academia and management consulting. He started his flight training in 2001 after realizing all those plane flights were constant reminders of what he really wanted to do with his life.

“Is flying something I have always wanted to do? Have I ever seen anything “up there” that I cannot explain? And do I remember my first flight? I like these questions. They seem to have arrived, entirely intact, from a time before flying became ordinary and routine. They suggest that even now, when many of us so regularly leave one place on the earth and cross the high blue to another, we are not nearly as accustomed to flying as we think. These questions remind me that while airplanes have overturned many of our older sensibilities, a deeper part of our imagination lingers and still sparks in the former realm, among ancient, even atavistic, ideas of distance and place, migrations and the sky.”

What if your life passion is surfing, but your ‘day job’ is war reporter and international correspondent? If you wrote a memoir, would your work be taken less seriously? Apparently not, as my third pick for the upcoming weekend, ‘Barbarian Days’ by William Finnegan debuted on The New York Times hardcover non-fiction list at number five.

He first wrote about surfing in ‘Playing Doc’s Games’, profiling Mark Renneker for The New Yorker in 1992. Twenty three years later Doc returns along with a global cast of supporting characters inviting the reader to go out with them on the water.

Why should a non-surfer invest in a memoir subtitled ‘A Surfing Life’? Because it’s an everyman’s story of reconciling passions.

“Yes, I had been bewitched by surfing as a kid – trotting dreamily down a path at dawn, lit by visions of trade-blown waves, rapt even about the long paddle to Cliffs. The old spell had been broken, at times, or seemed to be. But it always lay there, under the surface, dormant but undestroyed while I knocked around the far world, living in waveless places – Montana, London, New York.”

“Here I was writing, often contentiously, about poverty, politics, race, U.S. foreign policy, criminal justice, and economic development, hoping to have my arguments taken seriously. I wasn’t sure that coming out of the closet as a surfer would be helpful. Other policy wonks might say, Oh, you’re just a dumb surfer, what do you know?”

The last recommendation is my favorite book of summer  This year marks the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo. A number of books have been published to coincide with the anniversary, but it’s the unique storytelling of author Leona Francombe in ‘The Sage of Waterloo’ that gives us a very different view of the conflict.

The story begins when a French drummer boy releases a white rabbit into the Hougoumont gardens during the battle on June 18, 1815. Our narrator, William, is guided on his journey by his grandmother, Old Lavender and a wise researcher, Arthur. He invites us to join him along the route the rabbits call the ‘Hollow Way’:

“There are many soft hillocks and hollows along this part of the Way on which one can rest and look back, and I suggest that you do this, too, because the view behind is as clear as the view ahead, and offers some valuable lessons besides.”

Yes, we are talking bunnies. Or, the bunny is talking to us. And along his path we join the Battle of Waterloo.

“Waterloo is small as battlefields go…the Hougoumont part of it even smaller. How extraordinary, then, that my farm – my tiny corner of Belgium, which even today people have difficulty locating on a map – should have made history in just a few hours.”

This small novel is a unique oral history of the Battle of Waterloo. Blending historical fact with fiction, author Francombe creates an unlikely ‘sage’ to carry the “collective memory…and resonance.” And reminds us to “feel what still hangs in the air” when we visit historic sites.

‘The End of Summer’ a poem by Rachel Hadas

It’s only a week until the ‘unofficial’ end of summer, the Labor Day holiday, celebrated in parades and barbecues. As the gravitational pull of work strengthens, resist for one more moment in the poetry of translator, professor and essayist Rachel Hadas

The Friday Poem this week is ‘The End of Summer’ from her collection ‘Halfway Down the Hall: New & Selected Poems’.

The End of Summer

Sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—
an early warning of the end of summer.
August is fading fast, and by September
the little purple flowers will all be gone.

Season, project, and vacation done.
One more year in everybody’s life.
Add a notch to the old hunting knife
Time keeps testing with a horny thumb.

Over the summer months hung an unspoken
aura of urgency. In late July
galactic pulsings filled the midnight sky
like silent screaming, so that, strangely woken,

we looked at one another in the dark,
then at the milky magical debris
arcing across, dwarfing our meek mortality.
There were two ways to live: get on with work,

redeem the time, ignore the imminence
of cataclysm; or else take it slow,
be as tranquil as the neighbors’ cow
we love to tickle through the barbed wire fence
(she paces through her days in massive innocence,
or, seeing green pastures, we imagine so).

In fact, not being cows, we have no choice.
Summer or winter, country, city, we
are prisoners from the start and automatically,
hemmed in, harangued by the one clamorous voice.

Not light but language shocks us out of sleep
ideas of doom transformed to meteors
we translate back to portents of the wars
looming above the nervous watch we keep.

Rachel Hadas, “The End of Summer” from Halfway Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems, 1998

Workthoughts from outside the margins

Was anyone working yesterday? As social media and cable news forecast the financial apocalypse, I escaped to my ‘go to’ twitter account of Tony winning composer, lyricist and actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda. (For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past year, he is the leader of the merry band of actors who have been recreating the life of Alexander Hamilton on Broadway in nine performances per week this summer.)

And for those of you who think Twitter is an intellectual wasteland, time to get on board. You are missing out on at least one connection with an innovator who is truly transforming the American musical.

Innovation is one of our most overused words, but John Kander, composer of ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago’ used that exact word to describe Mr. Miranda earlier this month in a New York Times profile.

“Innovators are usually synthesizers — they synthesize everything they know and add their own personal talents, and out comes something new,” Mr. Kander said. “What Lin is is a refreshing and healthy contemporary synthesist of everything he’s known before.”

But I digress. Back to Monday and Twitter and @Lin_Manuel. Let’s just say he has a high level of interaction with his followers. And one of those followers, @jjaxtweets, posted ‘My annual back to school post’, which #YayHamlet retweeted. And here is the message.

“Keep an eye out for that kid in the back of your classroom, scribbling in the margins. He or she is dreaming of worlds we haven’t yet imagined, scribbling toward a place we haven’t yet seen. Engage those kids, get them out of the margins, and there’s no telling where they may lead you.”

This is where a career begins. A parent, a teacher taking time to engage the child scribbling in the margins.

How do you get to Broadway or whatever your dream might be? You really, really need to love what you are doing. Check out the YouTube videos of the Ham4Ham performances between shows for those in the ticket lottery line and you get the idea.

Infuse your dream with the essence of those first scribbles, and the relationships you build over time.

Connect the dots and synthesize everything you know. Constantly nurture your talent. Lifelong learning has no expiration date.

Work really, really hard and have fun.

I think the ‘kid in the back of the classroom’ was Lin-Manuel Miranda. Or was it you?

The week@work – The time we spend @work, unpaid interns@the UN, no union for college football and the value of one good friend

Sarah Boseley reported on Wednesday on the health risks of working long hours for The Guardian newspaper in the UK.

“The largest study conducted on the issue, carried out in three continents and led by scientists at University College London, found that those who work more than 55 hours a week have a 33% increased risk of stroke compared with those who work a 35- to 40-hour week. They also have a 13% increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The findings will confirm the assumptions of many that a long-hours culture, in which people work from early in the morning until well into the evening, with work also intruding into weekends, is potentially harmful to health.”

During a discussion of these findings on CBS This Morning, co-anchor Charlie Rose turned the conversation to a discussion of how we define work.

“For some people reading a lot is play and pleasure. For others it’s work. It’s part of what they do and how they spend their time. It’s one thing to be on an assembly line, I think, and another thing to be reading a novel in preparation to interview someone. 

Where do we draw the line? Is there a line? That is the topic of the next article this week@work.

The New Yorker writer, Tim Wu thinks ‘You Really Don’t Need To Work So Much’. He questions why we have allowed ourselves to become players in “a football game where the whistle is never blown”. His solution, work should fulfill society’s needs with minimal effort. Let the workaholics have their fun, but not at the expense of the rest of us.

“The past fifty years have seen massive gains in productivity, the invention of countless labor-saving devices, and the mass entry of women into the formal workforce. If we assume that there is, to a certain degree, a fixed amount of work necessary for society to function, how can we at once be more productive, have more workers, and yet still be working more hours? Something else must be going on.”

“…in white-collar jobs, the amount of work can expand infinitely through the generation of false necessities—that is, reasons for driving people as hard as possible that have nothing to do with real social or economic needs.”

“The antidote is simple to prescribe but hard to achieve: it is a return to the goal of efficiency in work—fulfilling whatever needs we have, as a society, with the minimal effort required, while leaving the option of more work as a hobby for those who happen to love it.”

Does society need more unpaid interns? Apparently the United Nations thinks so and has grown their ‘volunteer workforce’ from 131 in 1996 to over 4,000 worldwide this year. ‘The Economist Explains why the UN doesn’t pay it’s interns’.

“The story of an unpaid intern living in a tent in Geneva did not make the United Nations look good. David Hyde, a fresh-faced 22-year-old from New Zealand, said he set up camp on the banks of Lake Geneva because he could not afford the Swiss city’s exorbitant rents while working for free. The news stirred up public outrage as well as sympathy from Mr Hyde’s colleagues: scores of UN interns in Geneva walked off the job on August 14th to protest against his plight. That same day a cluster of “interns’ rights” groups penned an open letter to the UN’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, pointing out that the practice of not paying interns sits awkwardly with Article 23 of the organisation’s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity”). So why doesn’t the UN pay its interns?”

“They fear that paid internships may become a back door for recruitment and increase competition for coveted low-level “professional” positions.”

Excuse me, isn’t that why you do an internship? Isn’t this the apprenticeship that may one day lead to a full time job?

And while we are on the subject, let’s turn our attention to another group of unpaid collegians in the news this week, college football players. On Monday the U.S. National Labor Relations Board dismissed a petition from Northwestern University football players to form a union.

Ben Strauss reported on the board’s rationale in The New York Times:

“The board did not rule directly on the central question in the case — whether the players, who spend long hours on football and help generate millions of dollars for Northwestern, are university employees. Instead, it found that the novelty of the petition and its potentially wide-ranging impacts on college sports would not have promoted “stability in labor relations.”

Citing competitive balance and the potential impact on N.C.A.A. rules, the board made it clear that it harbored many reservations about the ramifications of granting college athletes, much less a single team, collective bargaining rights.”

For some college football players, their teammates are their best friends. And it may explain why many are so resilient.

Melissa Dahl described recent research in the UK for New York Magazine, ‘Having Just One Good Friend Strengthens Kids’ Resilience’.

“Let’s take a moment to praise the wonders of the true-blue best friendship, an especially powerful thing during the teenage years. A new study, published earlier this summer in the British Journal of Psychology, looked at this idea specifically among kids from low-income neighborhoods, and found that kids with just one solid, supportive friendship also tended to show signs of greater resilience when facing adversity than the kids with lower-quality friendships.

In their analysis, the researchers found an association between higher-quality friendships and greater resilience, likely, they theorize, because of the emotional support and the sounding board a real best friend provides.”

Here are a few more articles from the week@work that you may have missed.

The Future of Work and Workers – The Pacific Standard began a series this week exploring “What worries you most—and/or excites you most—about the future of work and workers? Put another way: What will be the most consequential changes in the world of work and workers, and what anxieties and possibilities will they produce?”

What the First Female Rangers ProveElizabeth Samet for Bloomberg View “Access to Ranger School, and combat units, is really about access to leadership opportunities. Of the 12 four-star Army generals currently on active duty, all are men. Eleven began their careers in the infantry or armor branch. Ten wear the Ranger tab. In other words, if you want a chance of running the Army, you would do well to go to Ranger School.”

To Quit Or Not To Quit? This Flowchart Tells If It’s Time George Mortimer for Lifehack “Changing jobs or careers is something many people think about, but never seriously consider until it’s too late to change. The use of this flowchart makes it easier for you to determine if your current job satisfies your lifestyle. In basic terms, if your job isn’t making your life better you’re probably better off finding a new one.”


The Saturday Read – Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman ‘A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life’

Are you curious about the people who work for you? Academy award winning producer Brian Grazer thinks you should be. He manages his organization with curiosity, by asking questions. His book, ‘A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life’ was released earlier this year and is a memoir of his success and it’s source, listening to the answers.

“If you’re the boss, and you manage by asking questions, you’re laying the foundation for the culture of your company or group. 

You’re letting people know that the boss is willing to listen. This isn’t about being “warm” or “friendly”. It’s about understanding how complicated the modern business world is, how indispensable diversity of perspective is, and how hard creative work is.”

The initial reviews of the book focused on the ‘curiosity conversations’ Grazer has utilized throughout his career to network with a variety of folks in his unique quest for lifelong learning. But in the acknowledgements at the end of the book he addresses the reader directly on his purpose in writing ‘A Curious Mind’.

“a book not about my curiosity, but about what curiosity has enabled me to do, about what curiosity can enable anyone to do…”

“I didn’t want to write a book about all the people I’d had conversations with – I wanted to write about the impulse to have those conversations. I wanted to use the conversations to tell a story: the story of my steady discovery of the power of curiosity in my own life.”

For Grazer, it’s not just a hobby, but a commitment to intentionally integrate questioning into both his work and life outside of work.

“For it to be effective, curiosity has to be harnessed to at least two other key traits. First, the ability to pay attention to the answers to your questions – you have to actually absorb whatever it is you’re being curious about…The second trait is the willingness to act.”

In the early chapters he describes the power of curiosity to motivate, spark creativity, and build confidence. He is the ‘bard of curiosity’ sharing his career story intertwined with his capacity for discovery. But it’s in chapter five where the storytelling turns to management advice. “…the human connection that is created by curiosity…Human connection requires sincerity. It requires compassion. It requires trust.”

“Can you really have sincerity, or compassion, or trust, without curiosity?

“I don’t think so. I think when you stop to consider it – when you look at your own experiences at work and at home – what’s so clear is that authentic human connection requires curiosity.”

Here is the ‘gem’ of the book.

“To be a good boss, you have to be curious about the people who work for you.”

How many of you have a BA in business, an MBA or certificate from a prestigious executive management program? Has anyone ever suggested management by curiosity? We have all been taught to listen. And we don’t. But no one ever explained in this way, how critical the right questions are to getting to the fundamentals when decisions are being made.

“I use curiosity every day to help manage people at work…as a tool to build trust and cooperation and engagement.”

“And curiosity is the key to connecting and staying connected.”

Reading ‘A Curious Mind’ reminded me of a quote buried in dialog in the 2012 novel by Mark Helprin, ‘In Sunlight and in Shadow’:

“It’s a defining difference, curiosity. I’ve never known a stupid person who was curious, or a curious person who was stupid.”

‘To David, About His Education’ a poem by Howard Nemerov

As students return to school, the conversation once again turns to the value of education. Sitting at your desk you may look back and wonder why you had to take courses that seemed to have no relevance to your current position. Or you may have figured out that all disciplines are linked, even if those connections lie just beneath the surface.

This week’s ‘Friday Poem’ comes from Harvard alum, poet laureate, and photographer, Diane Arbus‘ big brother, Howard Nemerov. It answers the question, what will you have to learn to become one of the grownups?

To David, About His Education

The world is full of mostly invisible things,
And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,
Or its nose, in a book, to find them out,
Things like the square root of Everest
Or how many times Byron goes into Texas,
Or whether the law of the excluded middle
Applies west of the Rockies. For these
And the like reasons, you have to go to school
And study books and listen to what you are told,
And sometimes try to remember. Though I don’t know
What you will do with the mean annual rainfall
On Plato’s Republic, or the calorie content
Of the Diet of Worms, such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their turn.

Howard Nemerov, “To David, About His Education” from ‘War Stories: Poems About Long Ago and Now’.

What if you lost 25% of your organization on one day?

When we talk about corporate culture today we talk about change. What would you do if you lost 25% of your population in one day? In three months you can expect replacements for the 25% to arrive at your doorstep. The only complication is that the newbies lack the experience of the folks who left. One more thing. An increasing number in this group will never visit a physical location of the organization, communicating solely online.

Shall we have a conversation about ‘disruption’? What resources would you require to manage the scale of change?

This is the continuous management challenge for colleges and universities. And yet, those on the corporate side often discount the ‘unreality’ of the campus workplace, while those working in academia are suspicious of those in ‘the real world’.

Today is a good day to imagine this scenario as thousands of freshman arrive on campus or sign in to their first online course.

It’s time for business schools to take a look at what’s happening on their campuses and take the lead to cross-pollinate the lessons learned across the great academic – corporate divide.

When we talk about the 25% we are talking students. It doesn’t include the annual turnover in faculty and staff.

How do you manage the expectations of this diverse group that the organization (college) is hesitant to refer to as customer, many of whom have a team of consultants (parents) directing every move? How do you create a culture that is sustained through significant population shifts?

Start with the leaders?

The academic career path that leads to the university ‘C Suite’ rarely includes leadership training. The more enlightened college presidents invite the feedback of consultants, but the majority rely on the belief that they have always been the smartest person in the room and lead accordingly.

The realities of economic viability challenge the most effective leader to balance donor pressures with cultural continuity.

The job description has changed. It’s not just faculty and students anymore. The leadership portfolio may include a multi-million dollar entertainment complex (football), a multi-billion dollar health care campus, major real estate redevelopment and significant political lobbying.

College presidents once occupied a place of influence in the national conversation. They have been replaced by political voices who view universities as the sanctuary of the elite.

University presidents are running cities within cities. They are the guarantors of our civic future with their link to generational and social change.

I have worked in both corporate and academic environments. I am aware of the wall of bias that separate the two worlds. No one benefits from this insularity. Each could gain from the leadership lessons of the other.

The week@work – The pressure to succeed @school, @work and @amazon

This week@work includes articles that echo a growing concern that we are not adequately preparing our children for the future @work, millennials expectations @work, and Amazon’s culture that just may be more in line with those expectations.

Are we teaching our children to fear failure? Contributing Atlantic writer Jessica Lahey answers the question by narrating a parent – teacher conversation. The parent is expressing a concern about a child who is achieving academically but losing the desire to learn.

“The truth—for this parent and so many others—is this: Her child has sacrificed her natural curiosity and love of learning at the altar of achievement, and it’s our fault. Marianna’s parents, her teachers, society at large—we are all implicated in this crime against learning. From her first day of school, we pointed her toward that altar and trained her to measure her progress by means of points, scores, and awards. We taught Marianna that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to come home proudly bearing As, championship trophies, and college acceptances, and we inadvertently taught her that we don’t really care how she obtains them. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfect record. Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.”

Innovation is the product of failure. At a time when global competition is intense, there is a shortage of the curious, the questioning.

It’s time to reevaluate our priorities and help “kids rediscover their intellectual bravery, their enthusiasm for learning, and the resilience they need in order to grow into independent, competent adults.”

What happens when these adults move into the workplace? What are their expectations?

In 2007 the Gallup Management Journal published the results of a poll of job seekers asking what was important to them in their job search.

“Nearly half of job seekers say the opportunity to learn and grow, the opportunity for advancement, and earning promotions based on merit are extremely important when looking for a job”

It follows that the quality of management and the relationship with ‘the boss’ are critical factors in recruitment and retention.

“Companies know they must offer competitive compensation packages when fighting for talented employees, and they must offer the right types of work for those seeking jobs. If they don’t revise their recruiting pitch to include concrete examples of great management, and if they don’t have great managers in the first place, then job seekers will listen to companies that do.”

Hopefully great managers will allow employees to fail. But apparently not, according to the next story about the generation we continue to label as millennials.

In a post for Inc. Chis Matyszczyk gives us four reasons these folks are leaving their jobs.

“They’ve seen what corporate life did to their parents, so they’ll take it just in small doses, thanks. They see through their bosses (and their bosses hate them for it). Millennials look at the corporate world and understand how uncertain the future is. Most of their role models got rich quick.”

If the expectation is to take corporate life in small doses, perhaps a resume should include some time at the world’s biggest retailer.

Welcome to orientation at Amazon. The ‘above the fold’ story in The New York Times today describes the corporate culture at Amazon. As all things Amazon the culture reflects the values. leadership principles and vision of Jeff Bezos.

“Amazon may be singular but perhaps not quite as peculiar as it claims. It has just been quicker in responding to changes that the rest of the work world is now experiencing: data that allows individual performance to be measured continuously, come-and-go relationships between employers and employees, and global competition in which empires rise and fall overnight. Amazon is in the vanguard of where technology wants to take the modern office: more nimble and more productive, but harsher and less forgiving.”

Key to Amazon’s success is Jeff Bezos’ realistic view of the new employer-employee contract – one based on mutual utility.

“…he was able to envision a new kind of workplace: fluid but tough, with employees staying only a short time and employers demanding the maximum.”

A few additional articles from the week@work:

‘Design As Strategy’ Adi Ignatius for The Harvard Business Review, September 2015 issue: “…illustrates some of the ways design thinking is starting to power corporate strategy.”

The Perils of Ever-Changing Work Schedules Extend to Children’s Well-Being‘ Noam Scheiber for The New York Times, 8/12: “A growing body of research suggests that children’s language and problem-solving skills may suffer as a result of their parents’ problematic schedules, and that they may be more likely than other children to smoke and drink when they are older.”

‘The Makeup Tax’ Olga Khazan  The Atlantic 8/5  “Years of research has shown that attractive people earn more. Thus, the makeup tax: Good-looking men and good-looking women both get ahead, but men aren’t expected to wear makeup in order to look good.”

The Saturday Read – Tom Wolfe, ‘I Am Charlotte Simmons’

When this week’s selection for ‘The Saturday Read’ was released in 2004 the reviews were brutal and unusual for a writer with the reputation of Tom Wolfe. In hindsight, with the headlines from college campuses in the past year, the author might have been more in tune with campus life 11 years ago than reviewers acknowledged.

‘The Saturday Read’ this week is ‘I Am Charlotte Simmons’.

I recommend this novel for both students heading off to college and the parents left behind. In his dedication, author Wolfe acknowledged the contribution of his then college age children who provided input on authenticity throughout his writing process.

“You have been a joy, a surprise, a source of wonderment for me at every stage of your young lives. So I suppose I shouldn’t be astonished by what you have done for me and this book; but I am, and dedicating it to you is a mere whisper of my gratitude.”

“What I never imagined you could do – I couldn’t have done it at your age – was to step back in the most detached way and point out the workings of human nature in general and the esoteric workings of social status in particular.  I say “esoteric”, because in many cases these were areas of life one would not ordinarily think of as social at all. Given your powers of abstraction, you father had only to reassemble the material he had accumulated visiting campuses across the country. What I feel about you both I can say best with a long embrace.”

I include the dedication to remind parents that their children will return home surprisingly different, but recognizable. They may even amaze with their insight. And they will always welcome a long parental embrace.

Now back to Charlotte. She comes from a small Appalachian town in western North Carolina and arrives as a scholarship student at the elite Dupont University. Her acceptance was reported as the lead story in her hometown Allegheny News.

Charlotte is seeking a life of the mind but ends up with popularity and prestige linked to her relationship to a star basketball player. Her journey registered with a number of readers in college at the time of the book release.

The Yale Alumni magazine published comments from undergraduates to find out if alumnus Wolfe’s fictionalized view aligned with the student experience. Here is a sampling from three respondents.

“It’s possible! I certainly identified with Charlotte through much of the book. I came to Yale, I’d led a very sheltered life in a little suburb and couldn’t fathom what I’d find here, and it was shocking to me. In high school, none of my friends drank or smoked, so I was wide-eyed at the party scene here. While I think at times Wolfe took it too far, there were times when he was spot on. The other characters were somewhat stereotypical, but I did think that Charlotte was really complex, especially towards the beginning of the book.”

“I’m from a very small town in Ohio and though by no means was I as naïve as Charlotte, I identified with some of the class issues. There was definitely a difference between my life and the lives of my roommates, who were mostly from New York. I never felt the kind of shame that I think Charlotte does about her family, but it was definitely kind of funny when my dad, who’s a farmer, was hanging out with my friend’s father, who was a VP at Goldman Sachs. I do think that that’s an element that was portrayed very well in the book, when Charlotte’s father suggests to her rich roommate’s parents that they all go to the Sizzlin’ Skillet for dinner.”

“It’s almost like it was hard reading the book because it’s about us. I think he’s dead on with some of the observations.”

For Charlotte the college experience was transformational. And that’s why you go to college; not to get a job in the short term, not to be the same person you were on the first day of class, but to engage in the experience and grow into an ever curious, contributing member of society who will cause continual ‘surprise and wonderment’ in your parents.

Why read the book if you are not a college student or parent? ‘Charlotte’ is a narrative of change and sometimes startling interactions with a new environment. Our global workplace is one characterized by volatility and often unwelcome transition. Spending time in a fictionalized version of our reality provides an alternate narrative to explore. And it’s a good story, with good writing.