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A Style Guide for the Federal Employee

In 2017, shortly after the next president is inaugurated, thousands of newly appointed federal officials will struggle with the same existential question: What do I wear to my first day of work? I understand their anxiety, having languished over wardrobe during eight years of federal service and pondered the fashion choices of my male colleagues during the interminable meetings that are the hallmark of government work. It’s hard to point to a solid “real world” professional competency that I learned during those years of meetings and memo writing, but one skill I developed is an uncanny ability to tell you where any man in the national security community works based on his apparel. But first, to understand the fashion choices these professionals make, you must understand the culture—and keep in mind that not every employee falls into these stereotyped camps. (I’m also leaving a thorough assessment of female fashion to other writers more qualified.)

Let’s begin with the State Department, which traces its roots to patrician northeast culture. The wardrobe reflects that: Pin stripes and button down oxfords are in, as are monogramed cuffs. And yet, the modern diplomat needs to be ready to jump on...

Trump and Clinton Debate Strategies That Can Make Anyone a Better Public Speaker

Public speaking is an anxiety-inducing task for most us, yet it’s also a necessary one, whether you’re a corporate CEO, a high school teacher or a presidential candidate. And like the rest of us, candidates stumble when speaking in public.

Donald Trump’s tendency to speak off the cuff, for example, has long rattled his campaign aides, even as it’s also a source of his popularity. His numerous gaffes are infamous – from insulting women, war heroes and most minority groups to taunting Hillary Clinton’s bodyguards to disarm.

Clinton’s biggest problem is of a different nature. She has struggled to overcome the persistent impression that she’s inauthentic, cold and distant. This is something that she and her team have worked on a great deal recently.

The candidates' most important public speaking event is coming up: the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, which The New York Times calls “the most anticipated in a generation.” No wonder, as the perceived winner has generally gone on to win the election.

While presidential candidates face the same obstacles speaking in public as the rest of us, their stakes couldn’t be higher. Fortunately for Clinton and Trump, there...

The Irrational Idea That Humans Are Mostly Irrational

Last summer I was at a moral psychology conference in Chile, listening to speaker after speaker discuss research into how people think about sexuality, crime, taxation, and other politically and socially fraught issues. The consensus was that human moral reasoning is a mess—irrational, contradictory, and incoherent.

And how could it be otherwise? The evolutionary psychologists in the room argued that our propensity to reason about right and wrong arises through social adaptations calibrated to enhance our survival and reproduction, not to arrive at consistent or objective truth. And according to the social psychologists, we are continually swayed by irrelevant factors, by gut feelings and unconscious motivations. As the primatologist Frans de Waal once put it, summing up the psychological consensus: “We celebrate rationality, but when push comes to shove we assign it little weight.”

I think that this is mistaken. Yes, our moral capacities are far from perfect. But—as I’ve argued elsewhere, including in my forthcoming book on empathy—we are often capable of objective moral reasoning. And so we can arrive at novel, sometimes uncomfortable, moral positions, as when men appreciate the wrongness of sexism or when people who really like the taste of meat decide...

It’s Not Just You: Survey Confirms Meetings are Putting People to Sleep

Meetings (also known by their full name, “Meetings Ughhh”) are literally putting us to sleep.

One in three people reported falling asleep or feeling drowsy during a work meeting, according to the results of a survey the hotel company Hilton released Sept. 7. Productivity tends to drop around 2 p.m., says the report, based on a poll of 3,043 part- or full-time employees from the US, UK, and Germany.

If you’re alarmed at the high percentage of slumberers around office conference tables, you won’t want to hear about what goes on at conferences. Four in 10 Americans have succumbed to a snooze during a conference in the last year, the survey found.

It’s hard to be at the top of your game a conference. Good diets and regular exercise regimes are tough to maintain when long meetings often followed by an open-bar bacchanal and fatty, bury-me-on-cheese-island buffets.

Including sexy charts or adding a few puppies to your PowerPoint presentation may help keep people from drowsing, but really, unless your fellow conference attendees are living cleanly while away from home, you’re probably not going to keep them rapt. Hilton has a solution: the company says...

Giving Praise Is a Proven Way to Increase Your Happiness

Are you a praise giver or taker? How you respond may offer a clue into your level of happiness at work.

Happiness researcher Shawn Achor has made a name for himself studying the many facets of happiness. His research has uncovered a startling connection between praise and happiness: the more praise you give, the happier you feel. That’s right: as nice as it feels to receive a compliment, your happiness gets an even bigger boost when you praise others.

Achor, who was a keynote speaker at Globoforce’s Work Human 2016 conference, offered several insights into the ways that people can increase the overall positive vibe at work. Achor’s research has found that people who provide “social support” (which includes praising the actions of others) were 10 times more likely to be productive than peers who didn’t praise as often. Moreover, these “praise givers” were also more likely to be promoted. We need to not only learn how to accept praise, but we need to excel at giving it.

(Click here for ideas on how to graciously accept a compliment.)

The act of offering praise is one way that people can build improved social connections. At Work...

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