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How to Quit Your Job and Keep Your Cool

Everyone loves a good quitting story. The time when an account manager at your old job who’d been passed over for a raise stormed out, shouting about the patriarchy. The time when your cousin smashed every dish she was carrying to the bus tub when a customer called her “sweetheart.” And of course, all of those times that you’ve rehearsed telling you manager right to his stupid face exactly where he can shove it.

You may fantasize about quitting in a dramatic fashion. But while zany antics may be cathartic, they won’t help you pay your rent.

In general, there are a few stock rules of politeness and professionalism that tend to go a very long way when it comes to leaving a position without getting blacklisted.

DO: Tell your boss in person, if possible. If you’re especially close with your direct supervisor or you work for a fairly small company, try to get some face time—a lunch works well—to tell her directly.

DO NOT: Worry if you have to do it over email or the phone. Look, not everyone can get a one-on-one with a manager, especially if you work at one of...

Agencies Should Celebrate Their Accomplishments

The reports of performance problems make the headlines but it’s rare to find success stories reported any place. It’s surprisingly difficult to find positive stories of government. There have been a couple of articles looking at the “greatest achievements” over the past half century but apparently nothing good has happened recently. It’s normally good to be humble, but the silence makes it much more difficult to rebut the “government is the problem” argument. The reticence has implications for public opinion as well as for staffing and the level of employee engagement.

In a related problem, the percentage of millennials in government has dropped to its lowest level in five years, according to a recent article in The Washington Post. The numbers are not just low, they are dangerously low — and dropping. Focusing on recent graduates (under age 25), the problem is even worse — those young workers account for 0.9 percent of the federal workforce. Those are the same individuals who reportedly want to give back to society, support causes that align with their personal beliefs, and help those in need. Their decision to bail out of government says a lot about their work experience and their...

The Secret Suffering of the Middle Manager

When researchers try to determine the types of workers who are most prone to depression, the focus is usually on the misery of those at the bottom of a company’s hierarchy—the presumed stressors being the menial duties they're tasked with and their lack of say in defining the scope of their jobs.

But it turns out that middle managers have it worse. In a new study from researchers at Columbia University, of nearly 22,000 full-time workers (from a dataset from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions), they saw that 18 percent of supervisors and managers reported symptoms of depression. For blue-collar workers, that figure was 12 percent, and for owners and executives, it was only 11 percent.

The researchers had a hunch about the woes of middle management because it occupies what they call a “contradictory-class location”: Middle managers have higher wages and more autonomy than the workers they manage, but they earn less than their superiors and don’t get to make big decisions. Middle managers often have to enforce strategic policies from the top—ones they didn’t develop—on subordinates who might object to those new policies. Basically, middle managers...

NASA’s 20-Year-Old Astronaut Hiring Procedures Still Work Today

In 1978, NASA was just beginning its space shuttle program and Dr. Terry McGuire was responsible for assessing the psychological fitness of astronauts in preparation for NASA missions. It was a daunting task. Putting several extremely talented, smart and confident people into space together requires the ultimate in teamwork, physical and mental toughness, and psychological agility. McGuire’s key concern was an astronaut’s ability to manage his emotions, communicate effectively with others and handle stress.

It was during this time that McGuire was introduced to Dr. Taibi Kahler, a psychologist from Hot Springs, Arkansas who had discovered a process to assess human interactions second by second and determine the productivity of the communication.

Kahler sat in on several neuropsychological assessment interviews as part of the astronaut selection cycle. About 10 minutes into each one, he would make some notes on a piece of paper and place it on the floor. Several hours later, when McGuire had concluded his testing and interview, he and Kahler would compare notes. Kahler’s assessments after just 10 minutes of observation aligned with McGuire’s with astounding consistency and predicted how the rest of the interview would play out with eerie accuracy.

McGuire and...

The High Professional Cost of Your Inability to Trust

“Trust involves the juxtaposition of people’s loftiest hopes and aspirations with their deepest worries and fears.” –Jeffrey A. Simpson

Trust is one of those terms that is casually tossed around in business conversations and management literature, yet for each and every one of us, the decision to trust someone is a deep and difficult personal decision. It grows even more complicated when we are challenged to operate as a team or develop a team.

I remember resenting an accusation leveled by our chairman when he suggested the reason we weren’t executing our strategy effectively was because the senior management team members didn’t trust each other. He was right.

There are two possible outcomes when we choose to trust someone. We’ll either find our trust vindicated by the actions of the other party, or we’ll be disappointed and hurt when our trust is abused. The fear of the latter for many of us overwhelms the potential for reward from the former. Roughly said, the cost of having our trust abused exceeds the potential gain from it being treated with care and respect.

While the root causes of our propensity to trust or distrust may be found...