Is Your Boss a Bert or an Ernie?

Navigating office politics can be difficult. Even in workplaces without backstabbers and manipulators, we all have days when it can be, well, shall we say, difficult to play well in the sandbox with others.

The best piece of advice I ever received when it comes to getting along with others is to remember that not everyone thinks like I do. Of course, I know that this is true. But even the obvious can be easily forgotten. There is a novel way to keep it mind, though.

If you want to manage your workplace (or other) relationships better, try starting with a personality analysis. And Muppet Theory may be the analysis you’ve been looking for. Muppet Theory, in short, proffers that everyone can be classified as either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet.

As the creator of the Theory, Dahlia Litwick, writes on Slate:

Chaos Muppets are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. They tend toward the blue and fuzzy. They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom of food crumbs, small flaming objects, and the letter C. Cookie Monster, Ernie, Grover, Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and–paradigmatically–Animal, are all Chaos Muppets. So, I must tell you, is Justice Stephen Breyer.
bertandernie200x200.jpg

Order Muppets–and I’m thinking about Bert, Scooter, Sam the Eagle, Kermit the Frog, and the blue guy who is perennially harassed by Grover at restaurants (the Order Muppet Everyman)–tend to be neurotic, highly regimented, averse to surprises and may sport monstrously large eyebrows. They sometimes resent the responsibility of the world weighing on their felt shoulders, but they secretly revel in the knowledge that they keep the show running. Your first grade teacher was probably an Order Muppet. So is Chief Justice John Roberts.

Litwick goes on to explain that you can determine which type of Muppet your office mate is by the workspace that he or she keeps. She likens a Chaos Muppet’s desk to Oscar’s garbage can. But Chaos Muppets aren’t all bad, she reminds us–too many Order Muppets means no cookies for anyone.

You may find that the quirky behavior of that coworker who drives you buggy is a little less quirky when think of him as an Ernie instead of a Bert. Go ahead and try it. Then have a cookie.

And, in case you are wondering why the reference to two Supreme Court justices, Litwick writes about the law and courts for Slate, which just confirms for me that she’s totally awesome, as if her Muppet Theory didn’t do that already.

Employers, Are Your Employees Minding Their Own Business?

Employees send a lot of emails at work. Goodness knows, the emails in my inbox never seems to stop piling up. And I think we can all agree that emails we send at work aren’t always work related. So what do we talk about when our emails are not strictly business?

A pair of Georgia Tech researchers have published their take on the answer–but you may not want to know what they found. According to Tanu Mitra and Eric Gilbert, in their paper, “Have You Heard? How Gossip Flows Through Workplace Email” (PDF), found that more than 1 in every 7 emails sent at work contains workplace gossip.

The study evaluated more than 500,000 emails sent by Enron employees and looked for The authors define email “gossip” as an email in which an employee is mentioned in the body of the text but not included as a recipient. The study has lots of juicy findings:

1. Who Engages In Email Gossip?
Workplace gossip is common at all levels of the organizational hierarchy. [No big shock here.] Employees are most likely to gossip with their peers and employees at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy are responsible for a large portion of email gossip.

2. What Types of Emails Include Gossip?
The study concludes that gossip appeared as often in personal exchanges as it did in formal business communications. Emails that are targeted to a smaller audience are more likely to contain gossip.

3. How Gossip-y is the Gossip?
Negative gossip appeared in emails 2.7 times more often than positive gossip. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is not a good finding for employers. If true, it would mean that, not only are employees wasting lots of time with gossiping emails but that they’re probably doing some real harm to workplace morale. Employers, how much are you spending to pay employees to stir the pot? Nobody likes a pot stirrer.

4. And, a random but fascinating finding:
Mid-level in-house lawyers contribute the second-highest amount of downward-flowing gossip. Yikes! I won’t even attempt to rationalize this finding. I’d say that I will take a harder look at my own practices but I never send non-work-related emails during working time. [Particularly when my boss may be reading this post!]

It’s a fascinating subject matter and an equally fascinating paper.
[H/T Workplace Diva]

HR’s Worst (and Most Costly) Mistake

What is the most expensive mistake regularly made by front-line managers and supervisors? Well, it depends. At least that’s the answer you’ll get when you ask a panel of lawyers. Ask 4 lawyers, get 4 different answers, each right in different ways. Here’s the short version:

(1) Failure to engage in the interactive process required by the ADA;
(2) Failure to maintain the public-access file for H1B determinations;
(3) Failure to limit who knows of a complaint of discrimination; and (4) Failure to document.

For the full version, check out the BLR article, HR’s Worst–and Potentially Mosts Expensive–Mistakes.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Brillant: An Employee’s Tale

Most supervisors have dealt with an employee who believes his work performance is better than what it actually is. It’s a minority of employees who believe they are less than a “four-star” performer. But an employee who is so convinced of his personal value that he sues his employer for $75 million is a rarity, indeed. Yet, rare or not, that is precisely the case in Berry v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, LLP.

According to Berry, he had a “distinguished” and “remarkable” career in the technology sector. Having “conquer[ed] Silicon Valley,” he decided to turn his talents to the legal profession, abandoning his technology endeavors to attend the prestigous University of Pennsylvania Law School. Upon graduation, he accepted a position with an equally prestigous law firm, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. Ready to conquer the world of private practice, according to Berry, he “immediately began doing superlative work,” and “repeatedly found ways to improve the efficiency of work, or even the outcome of cases.” Unfortunately, though, he feels his genius went unappreciated.

Berry claims that he was terminated after he sent an email to the firm’s partners requesting additional work. In the email, Berry stated that it had “become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met.” Interestingly, prior to sending the email, Berry had been expressly warned not to “be so arrogant.” Apparently, he did not heed that advice.

Upon termination, Berry was presented with an “unconscionable” Separation Agreement, which he signed only under “economic duress.” Under the agreement, Berry received two months’ salary in exchange for a complete waiver of claims. Notwithstanding having executed the waiver and release, Berry sued filed suit, alleging 14 causes of action.

The lesson for employers? Beware the employee who is, perhaps, a bit to aware of his own “superlative” work.

Top 100 Employment Law Blogs

For the third year in a row, I’m thrilled to submit to our readers what I consider to be the best of the best when it comes to employment law blogs.  Since this is the third year I’ve published this list, and practice does make perfect, I’ve imposed a few more rules this time around.  The “rules” and more details about those on this year’s list are found below but, first, . . . drumroll, please. . . the winners . . .

 

Group 1

1. Alaska Employment Law

2. Arkansas Employment Law

3. Connecticut Employment Law Blog

4. Daily Developments in EEO Law

5. Defending the Digital Workplace

6. Delaware Employment Law Blog

7. HR Lawyer’s Blog

8. Lawffice Space

9. New Jersey Employment Law

10. New York Public Personnel Law

11. Ohio Employer’s Law Blog

12. San Antonio Employment Law Blog

13. Strategic HR Lawyer

14. That’s What She Said

15. The Laconic Law Blog

16. Thoughts from a Management Lawyer (CA)

17. What’s New in Employment Law

18. Wisconsin Employment & Labor Law Blog

Group 2

19. Adjunct Law Prof.

20. Alabama Employment Law Report

21. All About Information

22. Atlanta Employment Lawyer Blog

23. California Wage Law

24. California Workforce Resource Blog

25. Canadian Privacy Law Blog (CA)

26. Charles A. Krugel

27. Colorado Employment Law Blog

28. Employment Law Matters

29. Employment Lawyer Blog

30. Fair Competition Law Blog

31. Florida Employment & Immigration Law Blog

32. Iowa Employment Law Blog

33. Juz the Fax

34. Legal Developments in Non-Compete Agreements

35. Maryland Employment Law Developments

36. New York Labor and Employment Law Report

37. Overtime Advisor

38. Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Law Blog

39. Smooth Transitions

40. Social Networking Law Blog

41. Tennessee Employment Lawyer Blog

42. Texas Employment Law Update

43. Texas Non-Compete Law Blog

44. Virginia Non-Compete Law Blog

45. Wage Law

46. Wait a Second! (2d Cir. Civil Rights)

47. Work Matters

48. World of Work

Group 3

49. Alabama HR Law

50. California Employment Law Report

51. Digital Workplace Blog

52. Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog (CA)

53. Drew Capuder’s Employment Law Blog

54. EBG Trade Secrets & Noncompete Blog

55. Employee Benefits Legal Blog

56. Employer Law Report

57. Employers Law Blog

58. Employment Essentials

59. Employment Law Bits

60. Employment Law Watch

61. Executive Counsel Blog

62. Fair Labor Standards Act Law

63. Federal Sector FMLA Blog

64. Florida Employment Law Blog

65. FMLA Law Blog

66. George’s Employment Blawg

67. Gruntled Employees

68. Healthcare Employment Counsel

69. Human Rights in the Workplace (CA)

70. Jottings By An Employment Lawyer

71. Labor & Employment Law Blog

72. Labor & Employment Law Blog

73. Labor Relations Counsel

74. LawMemo Employment Law

75. Manpower Employment Law Blog

76. Massachusetts Non-Compete Law Blog

77. Michigan Employment Law Connection

78. Minnesota Employment Law Blog

79. Nevada Employment Law Blog

80. New York Employment Lawyer Blog

81. OFCCP Blog Spot

82. Overtime Law Blog

83. Overtime Lawyer Blog

84. Prima Facie Law Blog

85. Privacy & Information Security Law Blog

86. Privacy Law Blog

87. Public Sector Law Blog

88. The FMLA Blog

89. The Proactive Employer

90. Trade Secret / Noncompete Blog

91. Trading Secrets

92. Transgender Workplace Diversity

93. Wage & Hour Coun
sel

94. Wage & Hour Defense Blog

95. Wage & Hour Development & Highlights

96. Wage & Hour Law Update

97. Washington DC Employment Law Update

98. Workplace Privacy Counsel

99. Workplace Prof Blog

100. Wyatt Employment Law Report

Up & Coming

101. Delaware Noncompete Law Blog

102. FLSA Cases

103. Hawaii Labor Law

104. Iowa Employer Law Blog

105. The Word on Employment Law Blog

*    *    *   *

Update (Dec. 20, 2010, 12:50 p.m.)

Thanks to the readers who noted some of the excellent blogs (current and up-and-coming), that I failed to include.  Be sure to add these to your feed reader, as well:

FMLA Insights, by Francezek Radelet

Labor Relations Today, by Seth Borden, @LRToday

The BELG Blog, by Hirsch Roberts Weinstein, LLP

Additions to the “Up & Coming” Group:

Castronovo & McKinney, LLC, Tom McKinney

Colorado Employer’s Law Blog, Jennifer Gokenbach at Ogeltree Deakins

Employment and Labor Insider, Robin Shea, Constangy Brooks & Smith

*    *    *   *

The “Rules”

First, employee- and employer- side blogs were eligible, as they have been in the past.  And you’ll notice that some excellent employee–side blogs have made it into the list. 

Second, I did include Canadian blogs but made the standard a bit higher for our blogging brothers and sisters to the North so as to keep the list as U.S. focused as possible.

Third, and this was the hardest, I only included blogs that have posted in the last two months. There were some blogs that I really wanted to include that had not posted since the summer.  So, to be fair, I excluded them from the list–this year only, of course–they’re eligible now to be included next year. 

And, fourth, I only included blogs written by lawyers, legal professionals, or from a legal perspective.  Non-lawyer consultants account for less than 10 of the blogs on this year’s list and each of those write consistently on legal issues. 

The Importance of Sharing (i.e., What the “Groups” Mean)

This year, I also decided to take a stand on something that drives me slightly buggy–blogs without blogrolls.  I’ll be honest, I think it’s a little selfish.  Ok, so there, I said it.  I think it’s selfish for a blogger to ignore the community that is the blogosphere by not recognizing his or her fellow bloggers via a blogroll.  I do realize that the decision often belongs to the firm and not the individual blogger–some firms are reoffenders in this department–and so I don’t want to place all the blamed with just the blogger.  Which is why I didn’t make having a blogroll a criteria for inclusion.  Well, that, and I wouldn’t have even close to 100 blogs!

So, what you’ll see below is the list of the top 100 (plus a few), separated into 3 groups.  The first group includes blogs that have a blogroll that includes DELB.  The second group has a blogroll that, in my opinion, is missing one (namely, us!).  And the third group includes those blogs that, for whatever reason, don’t have a blogroll. 

And, one last thing.  I wanted the list to be as readable as possible but, at the same time, wanted to give readers the name of the blog author and firm and, where applicable, the author’s Twitter handle. But that was just too much information to put on a single (readable) page.  So, as a compromise, I’ve listed the name of the blogs below, which are hyperlinked to the blogs themselves.  Then, I’ve attached a spreadsheet (pdf) containing all of the data, including the blog name, author name (hyperlinked to their Twitter handle if available), and the firm name. 

Up & Coming

There are 4 blogs I that I thought worthy of mention but that have not been around long enough to make the official Top 100.  For those long-time readers of The Word on Employment Law, don’t be confused that I have that listed in this category.  Many of you may know that our beloved John Phillips, Jr., accepted an in-house counsel position earlier this year and that his former colleagues have stepped into the role of blogger at The Word.  So, although the blog itself is hardly new, without John’s voice, it is certain to be a different, albeit surely wonderful, blog.

Didn’t Make This Year’s List?

If you’re not on the list, don’t be shy–leave your blog’s info as a comment.  I’ll add it to my feed reader and hopefully add it to next year’s list. 

And One Last Thing. . .

image

If you haven’t already voted in this year’s ABA Journal’s Top 100 Blawgs, there’s still time left.  You’ll find all five of the honorees in the In Labor category, including Delaware Employment Law Blog, on the Top 100 Employment Law Blog list.

 

So be sure to jump over to the ABA Journal, register, and vote for your favorite–particularly if your favorite is us! 

Congratulations to all 100 of this year’s best employment law blogs!

Congratulations All Around

I am pleased to announce that the Editors of the ABA Journal have again selected Delaware Employment Law Blog as one of the top 100 best law blogs. imageThe recognition means a lot to us–almost as much as the recognition that our readers show us each time they read our humble blog.  Readers are being asked to vote for their favorites in any (or all) of the 12 categories–DELB is one of five blogs in the “In Labor” category. 

We are in excellent company this year, to be sure.   To vote, please visit The 2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100. You do need to register to be able to vote but registration is free. If you are already registered, all you have to do is sign in and vote. Voting ends at close of business on December 30, 2010.

Although we do greatly appreciate each and every vote, we are most appreciative for those of you who so loyally visit our blog, share your thoughts and comments, and work hard year round to improve workplaces everywhere.  Thank you for your support!

Workplace Bullies Are Just Big Babies

In a post titled, Create a Bully-Free Workplace, Nathanael Fast writes about the findings of a study he and Serena Chen conducted on workplace bullying. He reports some interesting findings from the study.  For example, he links bullying to significant costs to organizations.  Specifically, he says that bullying causes reduced creativity, low morale, and increased turnover, “all factors that weigh heavily on the bottom line.”

But what I found most interesting were his conclusions on the reasons for bullying-why bullies act like such, well, bullies. He concludes that the “simultaneous pairing of power with feelings of inadequacy” is what led bosses to become bullies.

In our studies, the power holders who felt personally incompetent became aggressive, not because they were power hungry or had domineering personalities but because they were trying to overcome ego threat. Put simply, bullying is a cheap way to nurse a wounded ego.

In other words, big babies who don’t like themselves take it out on others.