"Here’s your ‘buzzword bingo’ card for the meeting,” Wally says to Dilbert, handing him a piece of paper. “If the boss uses a buzzword on your card, you check it off. The objective is to fill a row.”
They go to the meeting, where their pointy-haired boss presides. “You’re all very attentive today,” he observes. “My proactive leadership must be working!”
“Bingo, sir,” says Wally.
This 1994 comic strip by Scott Adams is a perfect caricature of office speak: An oblivious, slightly evil-seeming manager spews conceptual, meaningless words while employees roll their eyes. Yet, even the most cynical cubicle farmers are fluent in buzzwords. An email might be full of calisthenics, with offers to “reach out,” “run it up the flagpole,” and “circle back.” There are nature metaphors like “boil the ocean” and “streamline,” and food-inspired phrases like “soup to nuts” and “low-hanging fruit.” For the fiercest of office workers, there’s always the violent imagery of “pain points,” “drilling down,” and “bleeding edge.”
Over time, different industries have developed their own tribal vocabularies. Some of today’s most popular buzzwords were created by academics who believed that work should satisfy one’s soul; others were coined by consultants who sold the idea that happy workers are effective workers. The Wall Street lingo of the 1980s all comes back to “the bottom line,” while the techie terms of today suggest that humans are creative computers, whose work is measured in “capacity” and “bandwidth.” Corporate jargon may seem meaningless to the extent that it can only be called “bullshit,” but it actually reveals a lot about how workers think about their lives.
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Retail sales just notched their best month since 2012 and the industry has added almost one million jobs since 2010. But the rosy headline stats obscure a more complex and potentially troubling story in retail—particularly for its employees.
The business of selling stuff is becoming much more efficient. Sales-per-employee have gone from $12,00 to $25,000 in the last two decades. That means that even as consumers spend more, we need fewer workers to stock shelves and process orders.
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Sweden’s Stadsmission has become the H&M of charity work.
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Employers want their workers to be healthy—both for insurance-cost and humane reasons—but aspects of those very jobs can make workers sick. A study published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that workers who toiled for more than 40 hours per week or were exposed to a hostile work environment were significantly more likely to be obese.
Both of those are fairly intuitive—long hours at the office can make it hard to squeeze in exercise, and dealing with, shall we say, “a strong personality” all day can make it tempting to indulge in an extra helping of curly fries. (A more tragic explanation would be that people who are already obese are more likely to be harassed at work.)
But surprisingly, the researchers also found that certain industries and occupations in and of themselves correlate with higher obesity rates, even when controlling for the demographic makeup of those jobs.
Instead of following traditional paths, women are using their science, technology, engineering, and math degrees to create new careers.
Read more. [Image: Jessica Hill/AP Photo]
Why do women still earn less than men? No seriously, why? The gender wage gap has been a problem ever since I Love Lucy was a primetime hit, and we still don’t have a complete explanation.
"Because sexist bosses," is the knee-jerk explanation, but it’s actually far more complicated than that.
New research out this week from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a feminist think-tank, reveals some surprising, and dismaying, trends that perpetuate this disparity.
Women who worked full time in 2013 made 82.1 percent as much as their male counterparts, an increase of about one percent from last year, the IWPR reported.
That’s a major improvement from a few decades ago. In 1980, for example, women made just 63.9 percent what men did—$565 a week (in 2013 dollars) to men’s $885. The gender wage gap shrank rapidly from there because women started to earn more and more each year. Last year, women made $706 a week on average.
Men’s earnings, meanwhile, “fell, rose, fell, and rose again,” the organization writes, and ultimately stagnated. Last year they made $860—less than they earned in 1980. That is to say, the gender wage gap persists not because men keep earning more, but because women’s wages aren’t rising fast enough.
Read more. [Image: Christian Lutz/AP]
Web developers and engineers on the spammy economics of tech recruitment.
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After five years of bitter partisan combat, President Obama warned Congress Tuesday that he will move forward on his economic agenda with or without their help, threatening to make an end run around legislative gridlock through a series of new executive actions designed to lay the groundwork for liberals’ newly declared war on income inequality.
Although he didn’t mention them by name in last night’s State of the Union address, one of the president’s more ambitious ideas to address economic instability is a plan to create “Promise Zones” in low-income communities, where the government would target federal investment to reduce poverty in select neighborhoods.
Obama actually introduced the initiative in last year’s State of the Union address, but earlier this month, he finally got around to selecting the first five zones—in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The plan, he said, is to expand the program to 20 neighborhoods by the end of his second term. “Your country will help you remake your community on behalf of your kids,” he told a White House audience on January 9. “Not with a handout, but as partners with them every step of the way.”
Read more. [Image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]