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Burned Out? Take a Sabbatical

According to a recent report called Calculating the True Cost of Voluntary Turnover, the average turnover rate across the workforce is 13 percent. If an organization has 30,000 employees and that rate of turnover is assumed, the report authors estimate the cost to the organization would be a staggering $427 million per year.

We know that turnover is expensive and that job tenure is low, with a median employment length of less than five years. What’s surprising is that most employers haven’t done anything to address retention, except to keep recruiting and replacing. 

The U.S. Navy is different. Several years ago, its leaders sought to understand why people were quitting, and learned that it wasn’t because they didn’t like the Navy. Rather, it was because a lifelong naval career required sacrifices that some employees weren’t willing to make.

The Navy’s leadership realized a simple fact: If you have a known entity—someone who is a strong, trusted contributor—you want to keep them. And you can do that by giving them choices.

In 2009, the service established the Career Intermission Program to address its sailors’ work/life challenges. Since then, every year...

Don't Be a Seagull Manager

Donald Trump crashed headlong into the plans of Congressional Republicans Tuesday, demanding they hurry up and repeal Obamacare, with or without a replacement plan.

Forgive the GOP leaders if they roll their eyes at yet another inconvenient outburst from the incoming commander-in-chief. While they’re hip-deep in intricate legislative maneuvering—they want to follow up on their election pledge, while keeping nervous senators in the fold—Trump has again made a mess of their work.

There’s a term for this kind of boss: a seagull manager. First coined by management gurus Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson in their book The One-Minute Manager, they wrote that “seagull managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly out.”

Other writers on management have adopted the concept, and fleshed out the characteristics of the seagull manager:

  • Fly in: They avoid involving themselves in the details of a project, but at the first sign of trouble, swoop in and attempt to play hero.
  • Make a lot of noise: They frequently overreact, feign shock, send mass emails (or frequently in Trump’s case, tweets) and offer little more than formulaic advice.
  • Dump on everyone: They’re quick to criticize...

When It Comes to Bosses Who Don't Listen, Every Country is the Same

When you’re working overseas as an expat, or in your native country under a foreign-born manager, it’s tempting to blame friction between you and your boss on cultural differences.

Management theory has supported this perception. A statistic often cited in business school textbooks claims that 50% of the differences in employees’ characteristics can be explained by cultural differences. That idea, which originated with Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede, author of the classic text, Culture’s Consequences, has hung on since the 1980s.

Intuitively, the idea can feel true. As humans, we’re wired to be susceptible to theories that reinforce our separate social identities and beliefs about in-group versus out-group traits and behaviors. We’re also fascinated by cultural differences, the way executives in one country bow to each other, for instance, while others smile and shake hands.

However, a University of Missouri business professor, Arthur Jago, has demonstrated that we make way too much of culture as a force behind an employee’s— and by extension, a leader’s— behavior. In his recent paper, published in European Management Journal, Jago revisits data gathered from 14 countries in the 1980s and 1990s, and measures the levels of “participative...

The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy

What is happening to America’s white working class?

The group’s important, and perhaps decisive, role in this year’s presidential election sparked a slew of commentary focused on, on the one hand, its nativism, racism, and sexism, and, on the other, its various economic woes. While there are no simple explanations for the desperation and anger visible in many predominantly white working-class communities, perhaps the most astute and original diagnosis came from the rabbi and activist Michael Lerner, who, in assessing Donald Trump’s victory, looked from a broader vantage point than most. Underneath the populist ire, he wrote, was a suffering “rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.”

That cuts right to it. The modern economy privileges the well-educated and highly-skilled, while giving them an excuse to denigrate the people at the bottom (both white and nonwhite) as lazy, untalented, uneducated, and unsophisticated. In a society focused on meritocratic, materialistic success, many well-off Americans from across the political spectrum scorn the white working class in particular for holding onto religious superstitions and politically incorrect views, and pity them for working lousy jobs at dollar stores and...

Donald Trump and the Legacy of Andrew Jackson

Steve Bannon, the media executive and soon-to-be White House strategist, has been describing Donald Trump’s victory as just the beginning.  “Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism,” he told the Hollywood Reporter, “we’re going to build an entirely new political movement.”

Newt Gingrich has compared Trump to Jackson for some time. Rudolph Giuliani declared on election night that it was “like Andrew Jackson’s victory. This is the people beating the establishment.” That may seem a comforting comparison, since it locates Donald Trump in the American experience and makes his election seem less of a departure.

Is Trump’s victory really like Jackson’s? On the surface, yes: In 1828, an “outsider” candidate appealed directly to the people against elites he called corrupt. A deeper look at Jackson’s victory complicates the comparison, but still says much about America then and now. 

Jackson’s road to victory began with a defeat. He was a Tennessee politician and plantation owner turned soldier, a man who, unlike Trump, had deep experience in government. As a general, he became the greatest hero of the War of 1812, and capitalized on his fame by running for president in 1824. But the electoral votes were...

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