Weekly Wrap: Malcontents at Work, Gossip in the Office, Jobs Gets a C+

Gossip in the workplace is a problem for HR managers everywhere. (Photo by istockphoto.com).

If it’s Friday, it’s time for TLNT’s Weekly Wrap.

It’s a way to quickly catch up on things that might have slipped by in the deluge of e-mails, tweets, and posts on your Facebook or Linkedin home page. I try to highlight some of the most interesting news items that may have zipped by in the flood of electronic messages and alerts coming your way.

I‘ve been getting a little feedback on this weekly feature – positive mostly, with the occasional snarky comment thrown in — but would dearly love to see a lot more. Please feel free to leave one as a comment here, or send it to me directly via e-mail.

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Yes, this is yet another dose of news, trends, and all manner of information from the world of HR and talent management that I found interesting this week. I round them up so you don’t have to:

  • Malcontents at work cost companies money. I’m pretty tired of the obsession over bully bosses in the workplace (I hate ‘em, as you probably do too), but here’s a little different twist. According to the Des Moines Register , it’s not just about bullies but incivility and bad behavior up and down throughout an organization that’s the problem. The newspaper quotes Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, authors of “The Cost of Bad Behavior,” who point out that businesses everywhere try to cut costs, but miss a significant expense caused by bad behavior up and down the line that’s estimated to cost American businesses billions annually.
  • Steve Jobs leadership performance? It only gets a C+.  The Apple CEO may be a great businessman, but he’s also known as a legendary jerk/asshole and now, as a mediocre performer. The Washington Post’s “Post Leadership” blog zinged him for his efforts at last week’s press conference to address complaints about the iPhone 4’s poor antenna design, one in which Jobs seemed to soft peddle Apple’s problem by claiming that every other phone manufacturer had the same issue. According to the Post, “(Jobs) invokes a defense more common among six-year-olds than distinguished leaders: Everyone else is doing it, too.”
  • What gossip does to the workplace. It’s human nature to gossip, and of course, gossip makes its way into every kind of human endeavor. The Houston Chronicle talked this week to experts who have studied the effect of gossip in both social and workplace settings. What did they find out? That “gossip is a string in a larger chord for workplace interactions that have consequences even though they are outside the scope of the official rules and regulations,” according to Indiana University sociology professor Tim Hallett.
  • Big boom in background checks. More and more employers are using background checks to screen workers, it seems, and the Chicago Tribune points to a SHRM survey that shows that “60 percent of employers are using credit checks when filling at least some of their openings. Only 35 percent reported checking credit in a 2003 survey, and only about 13 percent did so 1996.” This is a controversial topic for some, and the story gets into the debate, noting that the union Unite Here “has been active in a recent push for laws to greatly limit employer’s use of the credit reports in hiring decisions.”
  • Building an office with employees in mind? I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a sign of the times, but this story from The Charlotte Observer about Duke Energy’s new office tower talks about the great lengths the company went to in making it employee friendly. The company hopes their efforts help “increase productivity and accommodate a work environment that’s more collaborative, more collegial,” according to Dennis Wood, Duke Energy’s vice president for real estate services. Why the employee focus? Wood says it is because “you just get people who feel better about the work they’re doing and their place in the company.”
  • The perfect website for those who like Playboy.com at work. Your workforce probably knows they’ll get disciplined (or fired) if caught looking at Playboy.com on the office computer, so here’s a new way around it. Playboy just launched a new website without nudity called TheSmokingJacket.com that is “Playboy Enterprises’ entry into a war of diversionary tactics ostensibly aimed at the cubicle set chained to desks during peak Internet usage hours,” writes Phil Rosenthal in the Chicago Tribune. “It’s a bid to snag a share of the Web audience for whom workplace decorum, a Web filter or the threat of a harassment lawsuit or job loss discourages ogling the R-rated content and nudity of Playboy.com at work.”


John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.