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Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

The Stubborn Problem of Ageism in Hiring

As traditional pensions disappear and lifespans get longer, older Americans are worried about not being able to retire, or burning through their 401(k)s to make ends meet. More people 65 and over are continuing to work: 18.8 percent, as opposed to 12.8 percent in 2000. Given the size of the Baby Boomer generation, that’s a lot of people (almost 9 million), and the number will likely keep growing.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits employment discrimination based on age for people 40 and older. But that hasn’t stopped it from becoming pervasive. Nearly two-thirds of workers aged 45 to 74 say they have experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according to a study by AARP, and 92 percent of those who did said it was common. And bad news, Millennials: One expert believes it can kick in as young as 35

large-scale study found that younger job applicants were much more likely to get a callback than people in their mid-60s with similar experience, and that discrimination against older women, particularly, is rampant. Employers value older workers’ knowledge, but may view them as less flexible, less willing to learn new...

Linguistics Can Help Conservatives and Liberals Agree on Objective Reality Again

In highly polarized moments, we tend to recycle the same words over and over again rather than have original thoughts. Phrases like “Make America Great Again” and terms like “alt-right” are representative of hand-me-down political terminology that serves no discursive purpose. But it’s not that we lack ideas to voice: It’s that we’ve gotten lazy about voicing them.

The problem with fixed speech patterns is that they don’t scrutinize the issue at the heart of their subject. Some of the most common terms of the day such as “Muslim ban” and “the Russians” obscure, rather than illuminate, the issues they claim to represent.

That’s because the constraints of virality demand we speak without saying much. We chant slogans and deploy buzzwords. We mindlessly share withering memes and oddball GIFs. We like articles without actually reading them and settle debates with retweets. In short, we have become overreliant on second-hand discourse.

Now, more than ever, we need to pay special attention to the words we are using. Sloppy terminology is dangerous for two reasons. First, it can be turned back against us. A prime example of this is the term “fake news,” which originally conjured the...

How to Cope With an Anxiety-Provoking Boss

I’ve encountered all kinds of bosses in my career—introverts and extroverts, friendly ones and short-tempered ones, laid-back types and control freaks. But the five worst years of my life involved working for two bosses who were insecure.

Each one systematically degraded the team by hiring weak people they thought they could control. Each treated my success as a plot to embarrass (or even overthrow) them. Eventually, they had me questioning whether it was me who wasn’t cut out for the organization.

Indeed, when I survey employees in my work as an organizational psychologist, they say that even a consistently mean boss is preferable to the wild mood swings of an insecure one. Catch your insecure boss on a good day when he’s leading from a feeling of strength, and you are lulled into a false sense of security. Then, wham—a stray comment from the CEO taps into his anxiety, and suddenly he’s defensive, vindictive, and petty.

The worst part about working for an insecure boss is that you never know what to expect. I learned how to survive the hard way. But if you’re in a similar position, you may not have to...

Five Lessons Donald Trump Could Learn From Abraham Lincoln

How will Donald Trump observe Presidents Day?

Will he have the inclination or take the time to read about or reflect on the qualities of our greatest leaders?

Given how busy Trump is issuing executive orders, fighting with the judiciary, managing the scandal surrounding the dismissal of his national security advisor, becoming acquainted with world leaders and tweeting, the answer is probably no.

As a historian who has studied presidential leadership for decades, perhaps I can save him some time by suggesting a few things he might learn from the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

Lesson 1: Grow a thick skin

Lincoln was more reviled than any American president. The opposition press described him as a “fungus from the corrupt womb of bigotry and fanaticism,” a “worse tyrant and more inhuman butcher than has existed from the days of Nero” and “a vulgar village politician without any experience worth mentioning.” Even Lincoln’s now-classic Gettysburg Address was derided as a display of “ignorant rudeness.”

These attacks stung, but Lincoln refused to take the bait. “No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention,” he wrote. “Still less can he afford to take all the...

Proof That All People in Power Should Get a Good Night's Sleep

Donald Trump does not believe in a good night’s sleep.

He fires off tweets at all hours and reportedly once called his national security advisor at 3am to ask a routine economic question. In an interview on Fox, Trump said he’s routinely up past midnight before waking at 5 am. That actually may be an improvement for him: at a 2015 campaign appearance, he boasted he got by on only three or four of sleep. “You know, I’m not a big sleeper, I like three hours, four hours, I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what’s going on,” he said.

We know intuitively that we function better with more rest, and there’s scientific research to support that most people are less effective if they don’t get at least seven hours of sleep. And sleep deprivation costs the economy billions of dollars.

Now, a new study suggests lack of sleep makes it harder to regulate negative emotions, and could make managers and bosses (and presidents) more likely to lash out and be overly punitive. The paper, from a team of professors at the universities of Washington and Virginia, examined the sentencing...

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