Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.
ARCHIVES

Is Multitasking Slowing You Down?

Seven open browser windows, a chiming smart phone, and an ongoing Skype call: these are the hallmarks of the modern-day, multitasking employee. “Organizations are becoming more complex and information technology is becoming more prevalent,” says Nicola Persico, a professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School of Management. As such, workers are often asked to do more in the same amount of time—a challenge that invariably leads to doing more at the same time.

But should it? There are, of course, costs to such a strategy. “The idea that working on many things at the same time can actually slow you down—it’s not a new idea,” says Persico. In recent years especially, the downsides of multitasking have been broadcast far and wide. “Don’t Multitask: Your Brain Will Thank You” warns an article in Time. “Break the Multitasking Habit” encourages USA Today. Most of the warnings have focused on our limited cognitive resources: We can only do so much at once before everything starts to suffer—and there are mental costs associated with pivoting between projects too.

But Persico—along with Decio Coviello of HEC Montréal and Andrea Ichino of the University of ...

The Complete Guide to Structuring Your Ideal Work Day

Optimizing your work day to maximize your productivity and happiness admittedly isn’t a hard scienceDifferences in body chemistry, sleep routine, personality, profession, and office culture mean that one person’s ideal day is another’s productivity nightmareBut there are some evidence-based guidelines you can follow to get yourself on the right trackHere’s our take on a top-notch schedule:

When you first wake up

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say exactly when one should wake to start the day right. Adults need seven to nine hours sleep, but your exact wakeup time just needs to be consistent. Do you like waking up before the rest of your household, and spending a few hours on your own? Great, but try to do so every day. The same goes for those who are hitting the snooze button until it’s time to rush out the door. If you’re used to waking up late every morning, the day you decide to rise at dawn will be an unpleasant one.

If at all possible, resist the urge to inhale a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Instead, wake yourself up with a shower and a light breakfast ...

Are Your Employees Incompetent? 4 Reasons Why

Why are my employees incompetent? I’ve heard that question from a lot of over-stressed federal leaders and managers. When the fire hose is on full force and the scrutiny is increasing, having a team that can’t produce is a killer. I sympathize and I think there are at least four possible reasons why.

1. They actually are incompetent.  Or more likely, a few of them might be. The reality is that not all of your people are incompetent. It’s a minority and if you feel like everyone is, see numbers 2 and 4 on this list. But every organization has at least a few people over time who just can’t get there, no matter what you do. So here’s my advice: stop spending time on them. Identify your good people and figure out what it is they need to be successful. You have eight to 10 hours a day, and spending the bulk of that time motivating people who can make things happen is a lot more productive then spending it trying to remediate the few who will never get there.

2. You’re making them incompetent. Given the pressures from above and outside, some ...

4 Ways the Workplace Has Become More Dangerous

Disgruntled employees, workplace bullies, active-shooter situations, illegal drug use, ex-spouses and dissatisfied clients—all can be found in a random sampling of the 2 million people affected by workplace violence in the United States, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Of course, of the millions of reported cases, there are many more that go unreported. Workplace violence includes any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site,” says Timothy Dimoff, a personal and corporate security consultant who has worked with the U.S. Army, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, corporations, universities and nonprofit groups.

“From demeaning jokes to sexual innuendos to genuine fear of shots fired at work, hiring managers and their bosses need to understand these problems of human nature and know how to react,” says Dimoff, founder and president of SACS Consulting and Investigative Services Inc. “In my decades of experience with law enforcement and as a security entrepreneur, I’ve seen the evolution of workplace violence and management often does not know how to respond.”

Dimoff offers a path for conflict resolution and prevention in four volatile situations:

1. Inadequate use of hiring ...

The Confidence Gap

For years, we women have kept our heads down and played by the rules. We’ve been certain that with enough hard work, our natural talents would be recognized and rewarded.

We’ve made undeniable progress. In the United States, women now earn more college and graduate degrees than men do. We make up half the workforce, and we are closing the gap in middle management. Half a dozen global studies, conducted by the likes of Goldman Sachs and Columbia University, have found that companies employing women in large numbers outperform their competitors on every measure of profitability. Our competence has never been more obvious. Those who closely follow society’s shifting values see the world moving in a female direction.

And yet, as we’ve worked, ever diligent, the men around us have continued to get promoted faster and be paid more. The statistics are well known: at the top, especially, women are nearly absent, and our numbers are barely increasing. Half a century since women first forced open the boardroom doors, our career trajectories still look very different from men’s.

Some observers say children change our priorities, and there is some truth in this claim. Maternal instincts ...