Monday Mornings with Madison

Monthly Archives:
October 2017

Professional Correctness is the New PC

Recently, CBS fired a legal executive in their organization over comments she posted on Facebook after the tragic incident in Las Vegas. The executive, who is an attorney and was Vice President and Senior Counsel in Strategic Transactions at CBS, posted her comment just hours after the tragedy. Without reposting what she said or opening the can of political worms related to her comment, suffice it to say that what she wrote was deemed by many to be emotionally-charged, callous and politically-volatile, and – of course — it quickly spread on social media and through online news outlets. Shortly thereafter, the executive was fired from her job. She had been employed by CBS for about a year. A CBS spokesperson said that “Her views as expressed on social media are deeply unacceptable to all of us at CBS.”
This begs the question, can the things that employees say or do in their private lives affect their employment? Given the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech, can an employer terminate an employee for a comment made on his/her own time on his/her own personal social media page? Is there a separation between personal and professional? The answer to all of these questions is basically yes. Yes, the CBS executive’s comment on social media is protected by the First Amendment and she cannot be arrested or punished by the government for her comment. And, yes, there is a line that separates personal from professional, but thanks to social media, that line is more blurry. Her freedom to speak her mind does not protect her from being fired from her job for violating professional standards of conduct, especially if she had an employment contract and was upheld to certain professional standards as an attorney. For those that bristle that this is just “political correctness,” it’s not. This is about being “professionally correct,” not “politically correct.” Thanks to social media, professional correctness is the new PC. So what exactly are the rules for being professionally correct and are those rules hard and fast regardless of a person’s position and employer? Are the professional standards of conduct the same for everyone? Continue reading

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Helping Underperforming but Unwitting Employees Improve Skills

A study of high-tech firms found that 32-42% of their software engineers rated their skills as being in the top 5% of their companies. This is mathematically impossible. A study at the University of Nebraska found that 68% of the faculty rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability, and over 90% rated themselves as above average, which is another mathematical impossibility. A study of medical technicians found that they consistently overestimate their knowledge of real-world lab procedures. This problem is not restricted to just employees. Studies also found this phenomenon in college students. Students in the bottom quartile of a number of tests on grammar, logic and humor grossly overestimated their ability. Those who tested in the bottom 10% for grammar actually thought they were in the top 33%. That’s a huge gap between perception and reality. And given that a study of over 30,000 employees found that fewer than half said they didn’t know if they were doing a good job while most managers believed their own performance was above par, then this phenomenon seems to also apply to those in management and leadership whose job it is to assess and communicate employee performance.
According to countless studies, many people have an inflated sense of their own skills and abilities. A large percentage of people are less skilled than they need to be in their work while their own perception of their skills is significantly higher than their actual skills. It is a common phenomenon. And, for employers, it is also a significant problem. Not only do most companies have many employees whose skills are subpar and thus aren’t doing their jobs well, but these marginally-skilled employees have no idea that they aren’t performing well. In fact, they usually think that their work quality is above average. This problem is not only widespread, but it is one that seriously hurts productivity and service delivery. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. But what is an employer to do when an employee’s opinion of his skills and performance don’t align with what is needed and expected for the job? Is there a way to help underperforming but unwitting employees improve their skills? Continue reading

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Making Time to Sharpen the Saw

Most people are familiar with the late Stephen Covey’s famous book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. First published in 1988, the business / self-help book offered an approach to being more effective in achieving goals by aligning oneself to what Covey referenced as the “true north” principles. He saw those seven principles as universal and timeless. Later he added an eighth principle. By far his best-known book, Covey’s Seven Habits have sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide. The audio version became the first non-fiction audio-book in U.S. publishing history to sell more than one million copies and has now sold over 1 ½ million audio copies to date. More recently, Covey’s son wrote and published a simplified version of the book titled The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. The Seven Habits philosophy lives on with Millennials and iGens.
So why was this book so successful? Because Covey’s approach helped people shift their focus to habits that improved their personal and professional lives by making them more “effective”. At its core, Covey believed that people were meant to evolve from dependence to independence and, ultimately, to interdependence. And for a person to remain truly effective, he had to invest in balanced self-renewal. Covey called it “sharpening the saw.” He said that to be effective, one needed to preserve and enhance his or her greatest asset: the self. So, as we approach the 30th anniversary of this philosophy, what does saw sharpening look like today? And what happens when we sharpen the saw? Continue reading

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Making Content Contagious

In the medical world, a virus is an infective agent that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and replicate. Most viruses are harmful. In the digital world, a virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect. But in the marketing world, when a piece of content such as a video, image or ad goes ‘viral’ – circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another – that is cause for celebration. It is the most desired, but also most elusive, outcome for any marketing effort.
While many have tried creating content that goes viral, it is like baking the perfect soufflé, writing a hit song or painting a masterpiece. Many try but most fall far short of the mark. Yes, there are many videos that have gone viral, but that number is actually quite low in comparison to the amount of content that is created and posted daily. There is a continually growing stream of digital activity flowing through cables and airwaves across the world. Every minute, giant amounts of content are being generated from phones, websites and applications across the Internet. And the unspoken competition for content to “go viral” is fierce. What causes some pieces of content to go viral while so much other content is barely noticed? While many speculate and guess, there is current marketing research that examines what makes online content go viral. Just remember that what is true today may not necessarily be true next month and will likely not be true next year. Continue reading

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