Most Americans Face Hostile Work Environments, According to Survey

According to a new survey, most Americans face a hostile work environment.

Photo: Shutterstock

A recently released survey from the RAND Corporation, Harvard Medical School, and UCLA revealed some pretty disturbing findings about the current American workplace: many employees are under constant stress, workplaces are often hazardous, and social environments are frequently hostile, especially for women.

The survey was given to about 3,000 workers, and while not all of the information gleaned was negative, much of it does give reason for pause:

  • More than one in four American workers say they have too little time to complete their work. This complaint was most frequent among white-collar workers.
  • More than half do some sort of work outside of their workplace, impacting their ability to spend quality time with their friends and family.
  • More than half of those surveyed reported that they are exposed to unpleasant and even hazardous working conditions, including hostility and threats.
  • About 62 percent of American workers reported their work tasks are typically monotonous and unenjoyable.
  • Only 38 percent reported opportunities to advance within their employment.

It’s not all bad news, though. The survey revealed some positive traits of the modern workplace, too:

  • Four out of five Americans said their jobs met at least one definition of “meaningful” most of the time.
  • Eight out of ten American workers said their job is steady and predictable.
  • The majority of those surveyed said they saw “solving unforeseen problems” and “applying [their] own ideas” as important parts of their work.
  • Many reported a certain degree of autonomy and confidence about their skillset.
  • More than half of the surveyed workers (58 percent) said their boss is supportive, and 56 percent said they have good friends at work.

“There’s a message for employers here,” said the study lead author, Nicole Maestas. “Working conditions really do matter.”

This was the first survey of its kind, focusing on American workers ages 25-71. The RAND Corporation and its partners intend to collect data again next year to compare American and European working conditions.

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New Ways to Show Employees Some Love

Check out these three new ways that employers are showing their appreciation.

There are many ways to show employees you appreciate them. Photo via Pixabay

Whether it’s providing employees with a stake in the company, creating an intranet system of recognition, or rearranging a profit-sharing plan so that it takes into account age (and thereby rewards employees who have been with the company longer), the business world continues to create new ways to show its appreciation for hardworking individuals.

Gardner Denver

In May of this year, Gardner Denver, an industrial company based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, made a bold move toward showing appreciation for its employees…to the tune of $100 million in stock.

“It makes our companies stronger and more effective,” explained Pete Stavros, the KKR executive who represents KKR’s investment in Gardner and is also chairman of the Gardner board. He added that this sort of incentive helps motivate employees and encourage engagement.

More than 6,000 Gardner employees will be receiving stock as part of Gardner’s recent IPO. The shares will be worth up to 40% of their annual salaries.

“We have big aspirations for Gardner Denver,” said Stavros. “We hope a significant portion of the [employees] will see what we see—that there’s a lot of room to run.”

Jostle and Bonusly

This month Jostle and Bonusly teamed up to offer their employees a new sort of benefit: an easier way to receive recognition from their coworkers. The new intranet is set up to encourage employee engagement via a point system. When employees leave notes about the good things they’ve seen or experienced each other doing, the person on the receiving end gets points that can be redeemed for small rewards.

Called the People Engagement platform, this intranet has already had a positive effect n the various companies like Bonusly and Jostle who use it.

“What we have created is a framework for post hoc recognition,” explains Raphael Crawford-Marks, co-founder and CEO of Bonusly. “People want to be able to give praise and recognition in the workforce, but they often don’t have a venue to do it. That is what we provide.”

Cross-Tested Plans

For small professional firms looking to reward long-time employees, a cross-tested plan allows managers to divide workers into groups when it comes to determining contributions to their retirement plans. That means older employees can get bonus contributions as an extra thank you for all their years of service. Small physicians’ offices, law firms, and engineering companies often take advantage of this setup.

“This [program] takes age into account, enabling the contributions allocated to older employees to be larger than those made to younger employees” because older employees have a shorter time to go until retirement, says Rob Massa, Director of Retirement at Ascende Wealth Advisors in Houston, Texas. This year, the maximum that can be contributed is $54,000.

A cross-tested plan can help with employee retention—not to mention giving a big thank you to the dedicated workers who have helped build a company over the years.

All three of these options are great ways to show employees that their work is valued—and that it will be rewarded, both in the long term and the short term.

An Inside Look at the Equestrian Business

A photo of a man riding a horse.

Jürgen Gabler (photo: A. Moser).

A business that one doesn’t hear much about (unless you are in the equestrian world) is horse training.

It’s actually somewhat of a lucrative market, considering that wherever there are horses and people riding them, there are horse trainers. I spoke with Jürgen Gabler, a horse trainer in Hannover, Germany, to find out more about the business.

Gabler explained that the primary purpose of a horse trainer is to teach the horse to perform specific behaviors. Most often, these behaviors are related to riding, racing, or therapy. It’s important to understand that a horse’s first instinct is to run, especially when someone is on its back. A good trainer will help a horse relax and be attentive to the rider’s needs.

Gabler started out as a horse farmer (Pferdewirt in German). He began training horses at the young age of 16. He went on to study breeding and stock (the handling of horses and their young) and then became a veterinarian’s assistant. After his Abitur (end of high school degree), he pursued a degree in veterinary medicine but dropped out due to financial reasons.

He then started riding full-time on a professional basis. He noticed that there were many problematic horses. But he also noticed that he had a knack for training them and smoothing out the issues, bringing the rider and the horse back to a harmonious relationship. This led to full-time horse training becoming his main form of income.

However, on a long-term basis, he feared that if he suffered a serious injury (a very real and common occurrence in horse training) he needed an additional activity to ensure that he would have a steady stream of income. So he obtained the necessary licenses to transport horses: driving a trailer and livestock transportation. This is also an activity he can pursue when he is too old to continue training horses.

His customers include horse owners from all over the world, and he often crosses European borders. He also holds a teaching license that allows him instruct riding courses.

Gabler also participates in the equestrian sport of dressage and frequently enters championships. In dressage, the horse and rider perform a series of predetermined movements from memory, which include specific gait sequences. Gabler reached the “M**” level, which is just two levels below the “last championship” stage.

Just recently, yet another happy horse rider said of him: “Without Jürgen, I would not be riding any longer, or [even] have my lovely horse. I was so frightened of riding him, and he was so confused. He [Jürgen] got us back together, built our trust in each other, and we are a great team again.”

This is Jürgen’s goal: to help riders and their horses work as a team.

Study Shows That People With ADHD Add Value to Business

A clipboard that reads "ADHD." There are several prescription medications and medical devices surrounding it.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

There are numerous traits associated with entrepreneurial success, including risk taking, passion, persistence, and time commitment. But these traits are also associated with something else: ADHD. Most of us are used to hearing ADHD discussed as a problem, making it hard for students or workers to focus. But that’s only because we’re used to discussing ADHD in the context of structured environments that expect the same thing from everyone.

New evidence gathered from an international study found that, “some of the symptoms of ADHD resemble behaviors commonly associated with entrepreneurship—in a positive sense.” Some of the symptoms even had “a decisive impact on the subjects’ decision to go into business and on their entrepreneurial approach.”

These symptoms include impulsiveness, which allowed the study participants to make decisions without getting bogged down by details and concerns. Additionally, their boredom with their jobs often led them to start their own businesses. Hyper-focus allowed them to hone in on a task and really go after it, which contributed as well to their high activity level. But all of these pros could just as easily become cons, such as when impulsiveness makes it difficult to focus on routine tasks like bookkeeping.

It’s worth nothing that not all ADHD participants were successful, and sometimes their businesses failed, but so do a lot of business, regardless of who starts them. What this study does is gives us a new light in which to look at both entrepreneurship and ADHD, which should help us develop better understandings of both.

The markers by which we measure the success of a business might not be telling us everything about what makes a successful business, or who should start one. And by finding these connections to their symptoms, we can take a more positive look at ADHD as something other than a problem. It’s not something that needs to be treated or cured, but something that people need to learn how to make work to their advantage.

Broke? You Can Still Start a Business

Man behind counter of convenience store

Starting your own business without capital can be done.
Image: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr CC

Starting a business can be difficult and, above all, expensive. For people who want to be entrepreneurs but lack startup capital, getting a business going can be daunting. But there are a lot of tricks that allow you to get a business underway without needing a significant next egg. Starting a business, whether you have capital or not, begins at the same place: finding something you can offer.

The easiest place to start is to think of a problem that you can help address. Whether that’s a serious issue like testing water for contaminants or a “first world problem” like finding somebody to walk your dog at the last minute, there are a myriad of issues out there that people need help with–and they’re willing to pay other people for that help. Once you know what problem you’re trying to address or what product you want to create, take a step back and think about ways that you can approach that problem using the skills and resources you have at hand.

Maybe you can start by walking dogs, using a website and flyers to generate business before you try to develop a mobile phone app. Maybe you’re a great editor who can freelance while you figure out how to turn that into a business. The key here is to use the tools you already have in order to get your business ideas rolling. As you work in whatever field you’ve chosen, you’ll be able to find out what niches there are within that field that you can try to fill with a subsequent business model or product.

It also gives you more experience in the field in question, which will be more impressive to potential investors. Whether you seek out crowdfunding or more traditional investments, people are going to want to know that you have a good idea of what you’re doing before they give you their money.

Are Video Games Finally Starting to Reflect Their Audience?

Woman with video game controller

Video game producers are becoming more aware of their audience, including women both playing video games and those in them.
Image: Flickr CC

The video game industry hasn’t done a great job with women, either in the audience or in the games themselves. The sexualization of female characters is pretty well documented, but it’s actually trending down, at least for playable characters. A recent poll found that games featuring playable women characters–not secondary or background characters–are treating those women as characters and not as sex objects. They looked at games published between 1983 and 2014 and found that sexualized playable women peaked in the 1990s, the hey-day of the old Tomb Raider games, and has been declining since 2007. The recent Tomb Raider games, in which Lara Croft isn’t treated as a sex symbol, are an excellent example of this.

So what difference does this make? Well for one, it’s probably pushing sales. Women make up about half of the game buying market, a fact which makes the near constant marketing of games to young, straight white men ludicrous. A move toward more realistic and well-rounded women characters is bound to draw in more women to buy those games, especially if they’re tired of playing grizzled white men, which are pretty much the default protagonists in mainstream video games.

The study didn’t find that women who aren’t playable, whether they’re allies, enemies, or damsels in distress, are any less sexualized, though, and that’s not going to help sell those games to women. The Grand Theft Auto franchise, for example, includes plenty of strippers and prostitutes, but has yet to include a single playable woman character. Fighting games like Dead or Alive or Street Fighter remain the bastion of sexualized playable characters, with an audience that seems to be predominantly male, but probably isn’t in reality.

As the reality of audience demographics finally sinks in for various publishers, chances are the industry will continue to take note and continue taking steps toward games that appeal to a wider portion of their audience.

Clinton Appoints Small Business Advisor

Businessmen talking in front of window

Hillary Clinton has hired Rhett Buttle as a Business Outreach Director focusing on small businesses.
Image: Flickr CC

Most organizations that focus on small business, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Business, tend to be on the conservative side, and usually throw their lot in with Republican candidates and policies. However, considering Trump’s record in dealing with small businesses and the economic mess Mike Pence dragged Indiana into, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if more small businesses turned away from the Republican Party.

For those that do, they’ll have Hillary Clinton to turn to instead. Last year, Clinton said she wanted to be a small business president, and she has since outlined a few modest steps toward improving the lot of small business, like forcing large corporations to pay smaller suppliers promptly.

Recently, she appointed a Business Outreach Director who will focus on small business: Rhett Buttle, who has spent some time as the Small Business Majority’s President and their Managing Director. Small Business Majority is a liberal answer to the usually conservative organizations that aim to promote small business. They also don’t have a member base because, according to their founder, John Arensmeyer, that would result in their being beholden to certain businesses over others, and their goal is to help small business overall. To that end they’ve run numerous webinars and other events to work with local businesses and business organizations. To date they’ve worked with over 6,000 organizations and 15,000 businesses, which are some pretty impressive figures for a group that’s only about a decade old.

It’s unclear if Buttle will continue to serve under Clinton if she gets elected, but it is safe to say that in a Clinton presidency, Small Business Majority would likely have significantly more pull and reach than they have in the past, and that could provide a nice counterpoint to the overwhelming pull that large corporations have with the government.

Technological Highlights of the 90s

Desk with Mac computer, keyboard, and tablet

The tech development in the 90s has brought us to today, when business and tech are even more intertwined.
Image: Unsplash

The tech industry is known for developing businesses that rise incredibly fast.

In the 1990s, there was an economic boom that saw billions of dollars in venture capital poured into technology companies in hopes of finding the “next big thing.” It was a time when the world witnessed some of the greatest scientific findings and technological inventions.

Fast-forward to 2016, and we now have advanced computers, mobile phones, satellite mapping, advanced software, and more.  The scope of technological advancement has significantly increased and remains exponential.

What were some of the major technological highlights of the 1990s? Let’s take a trip down memory lane:

Revival of electric cars
The American government enforced the Clean Air Act in 1990, which requested automobile companies to create cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars. The energy crisis and environmental concerns regarding pollution in the 1970s resulted in the revival of public interest in electric cars. Electric cars came into existence in the mid 1990s and continue to gain popularity. The 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show marked a milestone in the electric car industry.

The rise of Yahoo! and Google
Founded by David Filo and Jerry Yang in 1994, Yahoo! started as a collection of informative web pages, later becoming an online searchable directory. Led by Thom Weisel, Montgomery Securities, one of the largest investment firms at that time, helped manage Yahoo’s IPOs during the rise of tech stocks. During the dot-com bubble, the company’s stock price skyrocketed to an all-time high of $118.75 USD in 2000.

Considered one of the biggest inventions of all time, Google happened in 1998. Started as a research project by two scholars at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced the concept of page rankings in search engines. Google served over 10,000 search queries a day and quickly gained a reputation as a trustworthy source of information. By 1999, it was serving 500,000 queries a day.

Apple’s iMac
The iMac was launched in 1998 and was known for its innovative computer experience and unique design. During that time, personal computers were dull beige boxes involving minimal artistry. Apple took this opportunity to reinvent the computer with bold designs and outlandish colors.

Apple’s vision for computers hasn’t changed in the last 30 years, when the first Mac ads told people to “try the computer you already know how to use.”

Bluetooth 1.0
Mobile wireless file sharing was introduced in 1999 with the invention of Bluetooth technology, allowing electronic devices to communicate wirelessly. Portable personal computers and laptops were the first devices to use Bluetooth technology; it’s now a standard feature in all smartphones.

The tech industry continues to impress and innovate today with a constant stream of impressive new items designed to make our lives simpler and more plugged in. Since the 1990s, the technology sector has been a great place for a business to be. What will they think of in the next 30-odd years…?

Herbalife Settles, Isn’t Officially a Pyramid Scheme

Herbalife building front

Herbalife is settling a lawsuit against it which called the company a pyramid scheme.
Image: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

A pyramid scheme is generally recognized as being a system wherein you are rewarded more for bringing in additional distributors than you are for selling products. So you buy products and get more people to buy products and work as distributors rather than selling the products yourself. People lose money on these schemes, and whoever is running the scam makes a mint.

This is pretty much how Herbalife has been running their business for years, but the term “pyramid scheme” wasn’t used in the recent lawsuits against the company. Two years ago, an investor accused Herbalife of running what amounts to a pyramid scheme, which caught the FTC’s attention. While the FTC didn’t term the business model a pyramid scheme, which would have made Herbalife illegal, they did label the compensation system as unfair.

The investigation just closed with an agreement by Herbalife to pay $200 million to reimburse consumers and to change its business practices. Among those changes is paying for an independent observer for the next seven years. They also have the compensate their “members” for products sold, not for distributors recruited.

Herbalife, of course, is happy to see the investigation end and more than willing to pay the settlements in order to make the bad press go away. They have not, however, admitted to any wrongdoing, instead claiming that their business model is solid and legal and that the settlements somehow prove that. That solid business model, however, is going to be undergoing some rather significant changes.

But for investors it’s good news because their shares are going back up. That would have been a lot harder, had the FTC actually charged them with running a pyramid scheme.

Is Trump’s Running Mate Bad for Business?

Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and their families

Could Trump’s running mate Mike Pence be bad for business?
Image: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

Donald Trump has made a name for himself as a businessman, but he’s had a lot of failures and even declared bankruptcy a few times. All of this is well-known information that has come to light again, thanks to his presidential run. Now he’s made another problematic business decision: he has chosen Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate.

You may remember Pence as the governor who helped push though the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in March of 2015, which allowed businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians because of “religious belief.” You also probably remember the resulting uproar, as many saw that move as simply a way to enshrine homophobic discrimination. In the end, many businesses pulled out of the state, including Elli Lily & Co. and Cummins Inc. The state’s largest employers argued that they needed to attract new workers to Indiana, but that they wouldn’t be able to, since the state banned same-sex marriage and had legalized discrimination. Moody’s Investors Services announced that Pence’s choices threatened the health of the Indiana economy, in particular tourism.

Pence went on to fail in stopping United Technologies Electronic Controls and Carrier Corp. from removing 2,100 jobs from the state, further weakening the economy. His decision to back the Religious Freedom Restoration Act also resulted in Salesforce.com cancelling its upcoming events in the state. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, unsurprisingly, cancelled their events as well.

“The decision by Salesforce.com to cancel events in Indiana reveals how detrimental these laws can be to state economies,” said NGLCC co-founder and President Justin Nelson.”Companies will have very tough decisions when determining if it is feasible to do business in states such as Indiana, where employees are subject to discrimination.” The NGLCC event alone accounted for $1.4 million in economic impact for the state.

But it’s not 2004 anymore, and running on an explicitly homophobic platform isn’t a surefire way to win. Business has changed the way it looks at the LGBTQ+ community, and while you can still find politicians and preachers who are eager to tell you about the evils of homosexuality or transgender people, finding voters to support them is becoming more difficult.

Discrimination has been shown to be bad for business, which makes Trump’s choice of running mate problematic, to say the least.

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