Home/Tag: work

The toxic office.

First, a toxic worker isn’t necessarily a lazy worker. In fact, they tend to be insanely productive, much more so than the average worker.


The second characteristic is a bit more obvious. They tend to have what’s known as high “self-regard” and a lower degree of “other-regardingness.” Or put more simply, they’re selfish. “All things equal, those that are less other-regarding should be more predisposed to toxicity as they do not fully internalize the cost that their behavior imposes on others,” the [study’s] researchers wrote. This characteristic was teased out in the job screening program by asking applicants questions like this one that makes them choose between two statements: “I like to ask about other people’s well-being” or “I let the past stay in the past.” Selecting the first would give them a higher other-regarding score.

Third, the toxic employee also has an tendency to be overconfident of his or her own abilities — a trait believed to lead to unreasonable risk-taking. “Someone that is overconfident believes the expected payoff from engaging in misconduct is higher than someone who is not overconfident, as they believe the likelihood of the better outcome is higher than it really is,” the researchers explained.

Finally, if a person is dead-set on following rules, there may be reason to worry. Even though it seems counterintuitive, Housman and Minor said that those employees who claimed in the questionnaire that rules should always be followed with no exceptions (as opposed to those who said sometimes you have to break rules to do a good job) were the most likely to be terminated for breaking the rules.


The consequences of employing such people can be enormous for a company. The researchers calculated that these workers can cost $12,489 due to the need to replace other workers who leave due to their behavior. That’s an almost two-to-one return as compared to their estimates for what a company gains from a superstar employee in the 1 percent of productivity — an increase in $5,303 in value.

Harvard researchers studied just which coworkers suck the worst.

2018-04-27T13:58:51+10:0014th May, 2016|Tags: work|

It’s not you, it’s your job.

Yoga classes won’t do squat to fix stress when the problem is toxic work expectations.

When I was managing staff, I had a mix of people who were strict 9-to-5ers and those who were manic 12-hour-days-plus-2am-on-Sunday-remote-login types. The thing that always struck me is that the people who worked longer hours–in a few cases, obsessively long hours–weren’t actually necessarily more productive than the people who did their 40 hours and left it at that.

The difference seemed to be that the overworkers used to be very good at finding work to fill in their time. That is, they’d obsess over tiny details in one project or work-and-rework something ad infinitum. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this is exactly the skill you need. And sometimes it’s just self-directed makework. Meanwhile, the 9-to-5ers tended to be very focused on delivering to the scope of whatever specific task they were delivering on; no tangents, no obsessive rehashing the same thing over and over. And obviously this is one observation from one team, but… yeah. I found it interesting, at any rate.

2016-02-22T16:49:14+11:005th March, 2016|Tags: work|

Just an observation on workplace culture…

It seems to me that one of the biggest culture gaps in the workplace between Baby Boomers and Millennials is how they deal with dissatisfaction.

If Boomers are unhappy with their job or their employer, they want to change the system from within. Boomers are Union reps and they’re the ones who’ll walk into a manager’s office to give Their Thoughts On Workplace Relations. Savvier Boomers will become managers. Less-savvy ones will be That Guy. You know, Larry? He’s been there for, like, a million years and he never does anything yet can’t be fired. How does that even work?

Boomer workplace culture, in other words, is the office version of the 1960s and 70s counterculture protest; scream loud enough and long enough and eventually The Man will stop the war, then it’ll be Peace and Love forever.

Millennials, meanwhile, are the product of that failed revolution; they’re the ones who saw the Boomers grow out of flares and into suits, saw them take up the reins of the very institutions they once opposed. Moreover, Millennials saw that those institutions changed under Boomer influence… and not for the better.

Workplace Millennials know the revolution isn’t coming, at least not in any way that helps. Power is corrupt and institutions are unchanging. In the workplace, we know we’re infinitely replaceable. So, if we’re unhappy, we just leave. If everywhere is terrible, at least we can choose to escape to a new kind of terrible when we have to.

Boomers want to change the system. Millennials want to change themselves.

And it’s interesting, because I think the Millennial attitude reads as flighty and self-interested to Boomers, while the Boomer attitude reads as naive and counterproductive to Millennials. And getting the two groups to meet in the middle? Yeah. Good luck with that…

(Or, in other words: hey everyone, I got a new job!)

2015-12-02T07:59:02+11:008th December, 2015|Tags: work, xp|

Do what you do, not just what you love.

The idea that Your Work Should Be Your Passion seems empowering on the surface. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could get paid to do something they really love? How great would it be if you could spend most of your day actively making the world a better place, or whatever it is you care about most?

But if your work is your passion, then it won’t matter so much that it doesn’t pay that well…right?

–Miri Mogilevsky on the passion trap.


2019-07-31T09:29:28+10:0021st November, 2015|Tags: publishing, work|

Technical interview suck.

Interesting look at two very, very different experiences from one guy applying for two different jobs: one technical, one management.

Aggressive interviews suck. Not only do they suck, but they’re generally the sign of a poor or inexperienced interviewer,1 which I know because I’ve done it.

This is one of those One Percent Advice things–the current job market means that most people don’t have this sort of freedom–but, as a general rule, you also probably don’t want to be working for anyone who makes you feel like insignificant pondscum in an interview. That chances of them moving on from that to being a good supervisor/manager are… not great, hey.

  1. In some very, very senior positions they’re used intentionally, but not as much as you might think. They were also fashionable for a while, like, twenty-plus years ago, so someone using this as a “technique” might just be a Job Interview Dinosaur. []
2018-09-05T13:12:43+10:0027th September, 2014|Tags: work|

“Growth hacking”? Really?

When women do it, it’s marketing. When men do it, it’s growth hacking. The masculine re-branding of marketing work as a technical skill — “hacking”, the implication of a more analytical or mathematical focus — is disingenuous, ahistorical. Marketing has always involved analytical and mathematical skills, and in technology, it has always required technical literacy and competency.

–On the gendering of work [original Medium article sadly deleted].

2015-04-10T08:07:26+10:002nd December, 2013|Tags: culture, work|