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How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone Else At Work

Years ago, I had a boss I disliked; he got under my skin so badly that his ghost haunted me years after I’d quit working for him and started my own company. I didn’t realize how thoroughly he’d occupied my unconscious mind until I woke up, five years into running my business, and saw the signs everywhere that while I thought I’d built a company that reflected my personal values and priorities, I had made many of my decisions in an absurd, belated rebellion against him. Where he had been relentlessly self-promotional to the point of arrogance, I resisted marketing. Where he had bought into rapid, exponential growth as the only path to business success, I refused to hire help even though I was working myself to the bone.

A decade after my wake-up call, I hear echoes of the same “comparison-itis” in the entrepreneurs and creative professionals I coach and advise: Entrepreneurs stifling their marketing attempts out of a terror of being “that guy.” Dislike of a particular colleague’s sales approach turns into a rejection of the entire notion of developing a sales system. And I can’t count the number of musicians I ...

There’s a Huge Hidden Downside to Standing Desks That No One Told Me About

It wasn’t fear of cancer, heart attacks, diabetes or even early death that did it. The reason I switched to a standing desk was, simply, to find a reprieve from pain. Since I graduated from college, back pain and its cruel confederates—neck, shoulder, and hip pain—have been unshakable facts of life. I’m not talking about the odd lumbar throbbing after a late night at the office; low-grade agony was pretty much a given, flaring into something more blinding a few times a month. Workday, weekend, vacation—it didn’t really matter, nor did the number of treadmill miles or chaturangas I’d banked that month.

Then in May, I read about how a standing desk helped allay a blogger’s chronic back woe. I was sold. I set my iMac on top of a small table on my home desk and put in a request for a standing desk at work. Vindication was almost instant. Within a week, my back pain started receding; a month on, and I’d almost forgotten about it. Aside from a weird hip glitch in August, the back pain is still mostly gone.

But in its place came something new. Fetching ...

We Drafted Our Own Dream Team to Tackle Government's Biggest Problems

Have an alternative team? Share it on Twitter at #DreamTeam

It may or may not take a village to raise a child, but it does usually take a crack management team to get anything done in the federal government. Here at Government Executive, we’ve thought a lot about the leadership qualities that contribute to successful initiatives. While others play fantasy football, we decided to play a round of fantasy management. Here are some of the folks we’d love to see on any leadership team tackling the kinds of big problems only government can address. 

(Top image via Jeff Thrower /

Precrastination: Worse Than Procrastination?

Do you park in the first spot you see, even if it means a longer, grocery-laden walk back from the store later? When unloading the dishwasher, do you quickly shove all the Tupperware into a random cabinet, thereby getting the dishes-doing process over with faster—but also setting yourself up for a mini-avalanche of containers and lids?

In a recent study published in Psychological Science, Pennsylvania State psychologists coined a new term for this phenomenon: Precrastination, or "the tendency to complete, or at least begin, tasks as soon as possible, even at the expense of extra physical effort."

To test the human capacity to precrastinate, researchers David Rosenbaum, Lanyun Gong, and Cory Adam Potts led 27 college students to an alley where there were two yellow plastic buckets filled with pennies—one on either side. On one side, the bucket was closer to the participant, and on the other, it was closer to the other end of the alley. The participants were asked to pick up either the right or left bucket, whichever seemed easiest, and carry it to the end of the alley.

To their surprise, most participants chose the bucket that was closer to them, but further from ...

OPM Needs a Mission—Not a Funeral

From the archives of Government Executive…

September 1994—The death knell has sounded, and the long knives are dripping blood. The only question that seems to remain is, “When is the funeral?”

That’s what the pundits are saying about the Office of Personnel Management, the much-maligned arbiter of the rules and regulations on the hiring, firing and retiring of federal workers. Although it stopped far short of calling for OPM’s demise, Vice President Gore’s National Performance Review report painted a picture of an agency pitiably adrift, flailing about “to find its identity.” The NPR has strongly recommended a complete cultural overhaul of the place, while seriously doubting the agency’s ability to pull off such a transformation.

More recently, in these pages, columnist Paul Light cited OPM’s dwindling resources and organizational confusion in proposing what appears to many to be the logical next step: abolishing OPM and dispersing its essential functions—retirement and insurance processing, Title 5 compliance checking, centralized job information, etc.—to other agencies. (See “Management Focus,” March 1994.)

OPM’s identity crisis began when the agency was established in 1979 with a strangely mixed bag of missions that confused client agencies and OPM ...