It's the Chinese New Year and there seems to be a flurry of articles and blog posts about what it's like to be an American working in China.
Geoffrey Fowler of The Wall Street Journal(subscription required) has a great article about the Chinese working culture,
"I was riding the elevator a few weeks ago with a Chinese colleague here in the Journal's Asian headquarters. I smiled and said, "Hi." She responded, "You've gained weight."
I might have been appalled, but at least three other Chinese co-workers also have told me I'm fat. I probably should cut back on the pork dumplings. In China, such an intimate observation from a colleague isn't necessarily an insult. It's probably just friendliness."
Fowler reports that many offices have a tea lady who constantly makes teas and heats up lunches for employees. Fowler describes this job as being like an office nanny. And, while American women may wear their tennis shoes to work and then change into their designer shoes for the office. Chinese women do the exact opposite -- wearing their stilettos on the street and slipping into slippers in the office.
While many of us have the impression that working conditions in China are abysmal, for at least one industry the working conditions in China are an improvement over life in the USA.
Dvorak Uncensored has a post about a game programmer who has opted to move to China to gain some work-life balance.
"He soon learned that China has laws in place that make such work
conditions as he was enduring at home illegal. Work days there can be
no longer than 11 hours, and employees are only legally allowed to work
36 hours of overtime a month. “There are places in the US games
industry where the base work week is 50 hours and that doesn’t even
start to account for the extended periods of ‘crunch time”, he says.
“In China, you couldn’t legally run a shop that way. And heck, who
wants to live their lives that way?”
Some of the work perks include:
“We will have an onsite chef for breakfast, lunch and dinner”, he boasts. Massages, dry cleaning, company supplied drivers, language and cultural tutoring (English or Chinese), haircuts, fitness memberships, car washing and maid and grocery services are just some of the other perks Balanced Worlds have in store for their development staff".
While Americans may be moving to China for the shorter work week, young Chinese say they are working to shop.
If you don't have the time to listen to the entire program, take the seven minutes to listen to Marti Nixon's experience at a product placement company.
Marti Noxon used to work for a company that did "product placement" for
the movie industry. And when some auditors came to check that clients
were being correctly billed, the company's bosses took unusual steps.
Namely, they hired actors to play the employees who were supposedly on
the payroll. (7 minutes)
If you listen to the entire program, you will hear from an artist who was scammed out of $40,000 -$50,000 from his first "show" in NYC, as well as from a suburban dad who decided the best way to make money was to rob banks.
My favorite story from this particular episode is called That Guy. Here is how This American Life describes the piece.
Cook investigates that moment when you realize you've become "that guy" you've always hated, and how the simple act of purchasing deodorant can lead to that moment. (9 minutes)
It is a story about individualism and the power that advertising messages have on our choices and loyalties.You have a couple of choices when it comes to listening to the program. You can listen on the website. This requires some navigational skill. First, go to their home page .Look at the left navigation bar for a link to the Complete Archive. It instructs you to START HERE.
When you get to that look for the 9/8 episode for 2006.Just click and listen.
If you subscribe to Audible.com you can download episodes on your iPod. That's my preferred listening method. It has become part of my weekend ritual. I walk Uma Thurman along the Mississippi, across the Stone Arch Bridge and listen to This American Life. It doesn't get better than that.
In the spirit of full disclosure.
Some people dream of careers writing for The New York Times, or becoming a network correspondent. Not me. My goal is to become a contributor for This American Life.
That's my confession. It's my time of year for confessions. I have This American Life envy.
What do you do when it's not the camper who is miserable, but the counselor?
Back in April,we called it her "dream" job. On paper it sounded perfect.
Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh.
Here I am at Camp Granada.
Camp is very entertaining,
And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining.
As a tween she had gone to overnight camp and loved it. She particularly enjoyed her relationship with her counselors.
As a teenager, she is an enthusiastic babysitter( okay the lucrative $10 an hour is an incentive but she truly loves playing with kids.)
Unfortunately, when you add up "loved camp" +"love babysitting" you don't get " I'll love this job."
What we had not considered when we were talking about her spending the summer as a camp counselor was well, the "job". It is not an ideal job for a kid who relishes her "down time". Who knew camp counselors don't get any down time.
As she tearfully explained, " I'm always with the kids."
Except ,of course ,when she's in the bathroom on her cell phone talking to me. By this time the camp must think she has a serious lower tract condition.
I went hiking with Joe Spivy.
He developed poison ivy.
You remember Leonard Skinner...
He got ptomain poisoning last night after dinner.
All the counselors hate the waiters,
And the lake has alligators,
And the head coach wants no sissies,
So he reads to us from something called "Ulysses"
If she could, she would definitely quit. She wants to quit. She wants me to say it's okay to quit. I won't say that. And even if I did say it was okay, she wouldn't quit. She just wants to vent and to make absolutely, completely certain that I am totally aware that she is suffering an incredible hardship.
I got the message.
As miserable as she is (and in all of her 17 years, I can honestly say my daughter has never been this over the top, this distraught, this miserable in her entire life. ) We both know that quitting is not an option. Ranting is.
Being a camp counselor is a tough job to quit. It's a temporary job that doesn't pay well. It required a week of training and well, she gave her word that she would work there for the summer. So while she really hates this job, she knows she has to stick it out. And that makes her hate the job even more.
Now I don't want this should scare ya,
But my bunk mate has malaria.
You remember Jeffrey Hardy...
They're about to organize a searching party.
Take me home, oh Muddah, Fadduh,
Take me home, I hate Granada!
Don't leave me in the forest where
I might get eaten by a bear.
It is a day camp. Typically she goes to work in the morning and comes back at night. Except this week.On Friday she started her week as an overnight counselor. If she didn't like her job as a day counselor, being an overnight counselor is much worse.
It's 100 degrees in Minnesota .The cabins don't have airconditioning. Everyone spent the first two nights sleeping on the floor in the one big room with AC. Did I mention this is a kid who really appreciates air conditioning , doesn't like sleeping on the ground and oh, yeah, she really likes her down time?
Take me home, I promise I will not make noise,
Or mess the house with other boys.
Oh, please don't make me stay,
I've been here one whole day.
Dearest Father, darling Mother,
How's my precious little brother?
Let me come home if you miss me,
I would even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss me.
On Saturday she went to her boss and told him she didn't think she could make it. He told her she had to make it through the night. She did.
Yesterday she txted messaged me to say she had 96 hours left. Things are improving.
Wait a minute, it stopped hailing,
Guys are swimming, gals are sailing.
Playing baseball, gee that's betta,
Muddah, Fadduh, kindly disregard this letter!
While the words are in the form of a letter, narrating a summer camp experience that alternates between horrifying for the child, and horrifying to the parents, the tune is the sprightly "Dance of the Hours" by Ponchielli, as seen dramatized with dancing ostriches, hippos, elephants and crocodiles in Walt Disney's 1940 classic Fantasia.
The contrast between Sherman's everyman voice, the banal choice of
topic, the hilarious imagined situations, and the dignified classical
music has kept the tune alive in memory even now, over 40 years later.
Unlike most song parodies, "Hello Muddah" seems to have crossed
language and culture boundaries. Cornelis Vreeswijk's Swedish version,
"Brevet från kolonien" ("The Letter from Camp"), has passed into
folklore, and is still sung by and to children all over Sweden. In
Norway, it's known as "Brev fra leier'n", as recorded by Birgit Strøm
("Titten Tei") in 1967. The song has also been translated into Esperanto
and other languages, like Dutch (where it took the form of a letter
from a soldier abroad and an equally silly answer from his parents).
"Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" has also been used as the title for a 2003
travelling theatrical revue of Sherman's works.
What's wrong with this picture?
The cartoon was featured as part of a recent article in Work/Life Today,which bills itself as "the newsletter for work/life professionals".
In my version of this cartoon instead of the man in the flowered swimming trunks there would be a mom in an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini on the surfboard with laptop, cellphone(wireless ear piece-natch), rubbing SPF 40 suntan lotion on a small child while giving them a Ziploc bag full of cheerios.
Am I missing anything? Perhaps the pet dog is on the back of the surfboard too.
The article was in response to Expedia's sixth annual survey on the vacation habits of work prone Americans. According to the survey, which was released shortly before the 4th, Americans are forfeiting 574 million vacation days.
When you realize that Americans have the smallest amount of vacation to begin with,(France has over 30 days a year)the reality of those four days left in the office is magnified. As Nina at Queercents
wrote in her post on the issue....
Jo Bronson at Time recently penned a commentary about Americans and their inability to relax. He believes that we have begun to prefer brief snippets of what he calls “stolen time” to the long stretches of authorized vacation.
He notes, “According to travel agents, the growth trend in travel is the half-week sneak-away built around a weekend. Families still hit Disneyland and Paris, but we cram the experience into three or four days. We don’t get to relax, but we come away feeling as if we got a bargain for our precious time. Fewer workdays off means less catching up.”
Why are so many Americans not taking their vacations? He concludes, “One of the top reasons given for not taking a vacation is that it’s too much extra work. We have to get ahead of our workload in order to leave, and then we have to catch up on our workload upon our return. The longer the vacation we take, the bigger the stumbling blocks appear. So only 14% of Americans will take a vacation two weeks or longer this summer. Bottom line: it’s simply become too stressful to relax.”
The technical term for this growing trend is Vacation Deprivation. According to the folks at Word Spy:
Foregoing vacation days because of busyness at work.
In addition to providing citations of how the term is being used, Word Spy also lists the earliest citation it could find. Turns out that honor goes to The Dallas Morning News on October 29, 1995.
While many of us fret over the vacation days we leave at the office, Tula Connell who blogs for the AFL-CIO puts the entire vacation deprivation issue into perspective
The survey cites 14 days as average for an American worker, a number that doesn’t include federal holidays. But citing 14 days as an “average” figure also minimizes the extent to which millions of workers get no paid vacation, even while working two or more jobs.
In fact, 25.5 million private-sector workers in the United States do not have paid holidays and 22.2 million private-sector workers have no paid vacation, according to a survey of benefits by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Work at Avis car rental? No paid vacation. Tend to our elderly in many of the nation’s nonunion nursing homes? No paid vacation.
In this corporate mind-set economy, where workers are getting further behind even as they work longer hours, musing about the “vacation gap” may seem like fretting over not having a garden when you can’t even afford a house."
When you are dubbed the "most hated man in Corporate America", the news of your untimely death at a ski resort a day after Independence Day will inspire conspiracy theories, good riddance wishes ,and the nagging thought in many that he "got off too easy".
As expected, the blogosphere is debating, Did he fake his death? From Bitch Ph.D
have hard evidence that Ken was killed by the Freemasons because he was
about to reveal secrets about the Illuminati and the New World Order.
It was made to look like a heart attack by the same people who tried to
cover up the UFO crash at Roswell.
I also have passages from the Bible that show exactly how this incident will effect global warming.
I was leaning toward Bigfoot, but yours is much more plausible."
Some reactions were surprising, as Barbara Walters announced the news on The View, she offered up her perspective on the cause of death, and as Jossip so aptly noted, she used The Breaking News to transition to a segment on the stress of having dads in the delivery room. Perhaps the stress of the Star Jones pleasantries is clouding her better news judgment.
However, it's the news being reported in the Wall Street Journal ( I would link but it's a subscription publication) that is apt to really goad the thousands of employees and investors who saw their life savings evaporate because of Lay's lies.
For many, there was some comfort that he would have to spend the remaining days of his life in prison.Turns out that since Lay died before his case could be appealed, his criminal conviction is likely to be expunged.
Mr. Lay's death likely will erase his conviction. Under prior decisions by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals -- which includes Houston, where he was convicted -- a person who dies before his appeal is completed isn't considered convicted.
His death also likely will end the efforts of prosecutors to seize through the criminal proceeding Mr. Lay's remaining assets, since he may no longer be considered a felon, said Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning. Kathryn Ruemmler, one of the lead prosecutors in the criminal trial of Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling, declined to comment.
However, existing civil suits by the Securities and Exchange Commission and attorneys representing Enron investors can presumably continue against Mr. Lay's estate. Whether those civil cases can extract much is unclear. Mr. Lay claimed during trial that his fortune, which once was estimated to be several hundred million dollars, had largely been wiped out. Much of his holdings had been in Enron stock, which fell to pennies a share after the company's bankruptcy.
They focused on the fact that Comcast fired the poor technician, who after waiting on hold for an excruciating and obviously mind numbing 90 minutes to his own office,took a nap.
The technician napping, wasn't the issue.
Comcast's horrible customer service was supposed to be the butt of the joke. Unfortuneately, Comcast's knee jerk reaction was to focus on the fact that the technician nodded off.
Who wouldn't fall asleep after 90 minutes on a Cozy Couch?
The Comcast technician didn't deserve to get fired any more than John at AOL deserved his firing earlier this month.
What he deserved was a Gift card to Starbucks.
A couple of weeks ago,I encountered the working conditions of a Comcast technician. I had offered to greet the Comcast technician at my friend Myrna's house while she visited her dad in the hospital.
He was working in her bedroom. I was downstairs.
After 45 minutes I went in to check on his progress. There he was, sitting on the floor with the phone cradled in his neck..on hold with Comcast.
At the time I found it amusing.While I was used to being put on hold for technical support as a customer, I had no idea that the internal folks were treated the same way.
What's with that?
We chatted. He said he always was put on hold for long periods of time.It was just part of the job.
The guy who posted the video--Brian Finkelstein(who created his blog Snakes On A Blog for the sole purpose of being invited to the premiere of Snakes on a Plane) wasn't upset with the technician. He was upset with Comcast. That message got lost in the humor of the napping technician video. As he said on his blog,Snakes on a Blog,
At one point Comcast sent a technician to replace my cable modem/wireless router. This should have taken five minutes. Instead, when he called Comcast to activate my new modem, he was placed on hold for nearly 90 minutes. When I asked him why he was on hold for so long, he told me that phone reps were busy filling out customer service surveys. Then he fell asleep on my couch. I could have made a few suggestions for their survey.
Anyway, after they missed two appointments in the last 24 hours, I’ve finally lost all hope of Comcast actually getting my internet connection working. To commemorate my miserable experience, I made this video (including footage of the technician asleep on my couch)
As expected,Comcast fixed the problem. Turns ot it was quite complicated and took at team over 5 hours to finally get his interent working.
Jim Durbin, at Brandstorming
also thinks that Comcast missed the point recommending that if they had had a blog they could have alleviated the bad press.
1) Link to the video from the Comcast blog. Comcast screwed up, and admitting it is the first step to take. Link the video, admit how embarassing it is, and call up Brian to personally apologize. Give him six months worth of free service.
2) Work to correct the problem. The problem is not the poor tech. It's the fact that cable service is a mockery, and everyone from sitcoms to comedians to average customers make fun of the service of cable guys. They even made a movie about it!
3) Don't fire the tech. Make him into a commercial where he drinks a lot of coffee. Turn this around. Use the guy as an example of how they are improving.
4) Highlight your successes by tracking progress. Highlight your successes. Make your improvements public.
5) Focus on other positive ways you can use blog marketing.
There's another aspect to this story. Instead of punishing the technician for taking a nap , Comcast should be applauding him --at least that's the belief of Camille & Bill Anthony of The Napping Company who are tiredlessly (because they nap) campaigning to promote work- time napping. More on that at another time -- but their point is that napping increases productivity. I hope to have an interview with them later this week.
So in addition to the Starbucks for a year card, I think Comcast should also become a sponsor of National Napping Day --which always falls on the Monday after Daylight Savings starts.
Meanwhile, Comcast and AOL should rethink their firings, apologize to the booted technicians and yes, apologize to their customers.
First Impressions .When you think of the impression that a group of Irish students have about the place where they are working in America for the summer, what would you hope their take-away would be ?
That we are fair? Hard-working? Welcoming?
At least for the students I met on the BART going from the San Francisco Airport into the city, their impression is this:
Costco sells caskets.
The Irish students are working as food samplers at Costco. They were quick to tell me they were not working for Costco but in Costco. We started chatting because they had noticed me on the transit platform asking another passenger whether I was in the right place for the train into San Francisco. They asked me where I was going ,double checked their map ,and then advised me that I should get off two stops after them.
They have been in San Francisco three weeks. They are living in Berkley for the summer,staying at a Frat house with
25 Irish Students and a handful of Americans.They work Thurs-Sunday and
each week are sent to different Costco's to feature different food.While there is a lot that amazes them about the Costco -- "It's so cheap and everything is in bulk,"The thing that amazed them the most was the caskets.
Speaking to her compatriots, one of the four said in the freshest of fresh Irish Brogues,"Did you know you can buy caskets in Costco?"
They all acknowledged they were aware of this oddity and went into fits of laughter over the fact they were handing out food samples at a place where you can also shop for your casket.
They were also a bit impatient with Americans who tried to guess where they were from and either guessed Scotland or England. Their retort, " You Canadians are so funny."
Just moments before they started dissing Americans who couldn't tell an Irish brogue from a Scottish accent, I had fortunately guessed Irish , asking, " Are you from Ireland?" I made a mental note to self,"Don't guess about accents anymore, you could be insulting someone without knowing it."
According to the students, Ireland doesn't have anything like a Costco. "We have supermarkets," explained one of the girls, but we have separate stores for food, tires, computers and of course,caskets."
"So what food were you sampling today?"
I didn't get a chance to ask them if this All -American Snack food was popular in Ireland because they shared that after a day of handing out chips & salsa they never wanted to look at it again.
The conversation ended there. They got off the BART but they left me their map.
On another note today is the second anniversary of this blog. One of my earliest posts,Open -Toed Shoes is still the most popular, but Tattoo Lady is also a favorite.
To everyone who stops by, reads a post or two and shares some thoughts, thank you. I'm still having fun.
It was with eager anticipation that I waited for my son Noah to call me last week to hear about his first day on the job. He was walking to the subway when he called.
"How did it go?" I asked "Great. I get 21 vacation days and we close down between Christmas and New Year's so I can come home without using any vacation days."
Perks matter. When you've just graduated from college and are used to about 20 weeks of vacation-- the most important perk is usually time off.
But, for the more seasoned employee, companies need to do more than offer days off that the employee doesn't feel they can take because there is too much work to do.That's where the massage chair comes in. Seems like corporations are tripping over themselves to offer employees a 10-15 minute soother. As promoted, at the Relax & Rejuvenate website corporate massages,
makes an ideal reward for your staff and a great idea for employee appreciation week. Whether stress-relieving seated ; chair massage or time-saving manicures, bringing wellness to your
; employees will improve productivity, boost morale and reduce health
; care costs and turnover. The morale boosting effect extends to the
; entire office in seeing their co-workers rejuvenated!
Note to marketing department: you lost me at morale boosting effect. Call me selfish, small, and a terrible team player--but the only way my morale would be boosted is if I'm the one sitting in the massage chair.
Nevertheless Relax & Rejuvenate does list their impressive corporate client list.
Advisory Board Co. Verizon
Patton, Boggs LLP Drexel University Timberland
St Jude Medical Price Waterhouse Coopers
Wachovia Securities Celera Genomics
On theThe Dynamist blog,Virginia Postrel is previewing an excerpt of her first column for The Atlantic she's written for the July-August edition of the Atlantic. It's all about the trend in massages including massage chairs at car washes, airports and yes within the workplace.
One of the most important factors in the spread of massages was theinvention of the portable massage chair. I tracked down the inventor
In 1982, he was running a San Francisco massage school
and worried that not enough graduates were finding jobs. If massage was
so great, why didn’t more people want it?
In March, Dr.Deborah Serani wrote a post about the benefits of massage. She is a psychologist specializing in trauma and depression. While the post has some good information and links to more information about massage therapy, the most interesting aspect of the post is that it has over 40 comments.
previous work place actually pays a professional masseuse to come in
for two days every week. Everyone was allowed one free massage a month
but often people got two or three.
My new work place offers similar but you pay $10 towards a half hour session work pays the rest.
they have seen the benefits of having a relaxed staff. Now its just
getting me to one, Im like fallen angels and can't do body work at all.
Not surprisingly, theBureau of Labor Statistics says the outlook for massage therapists is better than average.
Employment for massage therapists is expected to increase faster than average
over the period from 2004 to 2014 as more people learn about the
benefits of massage therapy. In States that regulate massage therapy,
therapists who complete formal training programs and pass the national
certification exam are likely to have very good job opportunities.
Because referrals are a very important source of work for massage
therapists, networking will increase the number of job opportunities.
Joining a State or local chapter of a professional association can also
help build strong contacts and further increase the likelihood of
Massage is an increasingly popular technique for relaxation and
reduction of stress. As workplaces try to distinguish themselves as
employee-friendly, providing professional in-office, seated massages
for employees is becoming a popular on-the-job benefit.
So my only question is, what are the job titles of folks who go corporate? Health &Wellness Leader? Corporate Stress reducer? Corporate Masseuse?
Later this afternoon I'm taking my son Noah to the airport. He's moving to New York City where he starts his first job on Monday. Besides their first month's rent, spending money and other assorted items, what is a great gift to give someone who is starting their first professional job?
Evidently it is not a Montblanc,Waterman or Pelikan pens. Fortunately for me I asked some people before I went shopping. I first asked my neighbor Judy who works in HR for a Fortune 500. We were walking along the Mississippi when I asked if a lovely pen would be a good gift.
She was diplomatic. " You know I had a Montblanc in the 80s. I lost it," she said, adding, " I think it might be a bit old-fashioned now."
I let it sink in. I too have had a Montblanc since the 80s. I use it in meetings during the rare times I use pen and paper --my typical mode is to thumb notes on my Blackberry. But, I still love my Montblanc and until Saturday thought it was a lovely business accessory.
It didn't bother me that she was saying a designer pen was no longer an appropriate gift I was bemused at myself because I was clueless.
Here I have wantonly appeared at meetings, strategically putting my Montblanc on the table, and instead of saying "this is a woman who understands business culture, I might as well have put a neon sign on my head saying "OLD SCHOOL".
Hoping this Montblanc hostility might just be Judy's personal issue, I emailed a good friend who happens to be an executive in New York. I posed the pen question to her.
Her response was "NO PENS".
I didn't need a third opinion.
When did this happen? Was it prior to Y2K? Did designer pens lose their cache when corporations decided to relax their dress codes?
As businesses revert back to more formal business attire could we see the day when a designer pen doesn't say old-fashioned ?
So I'm cool. No pens. But when I asked what business accessory I should get Noah...the only thing anyone could come up with was an iPod for the subway.
Now, I may not have known that pens were so last century but I do know this,--anyone who is graduating college and starting a job who doesn't already have an iPod probably would not appreciate one. NOTE: Judy is a pseudonym. She is my neighbor and she definitely works in HR.