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Technology Is Setting Us Up For a Training Crisis

Bill Knight, an assembler at General Electric’s plant in Grove City, Pennsylvania, demonstrates how to torque a bolt on the flex plate of a 15-ton locomotive engine. Instead of lifting a heavy tool, weighing 25 to 40 pounds, like he used to do, he almost effortlessly guides a robotic tool. Once the tool is in place he uses a single finger to activate it, and it torques the bolt perfectly. Then it tells Knight where to place the machine next.

“How many bolts do you have, Bill?” GE’s plant manager, Jeff Smith, asked Knight during a press tour in March.

“Sixteen bolts.”

“Sixteen times,” Smith repeated, before using the metric to illustrate how much wear and tear the job would cause if done with a heavy tool rather than a robot. “Think of the repetitive motion injury in the shoulders, the back. The other thing is pinch points. You could get your fingers in there and have a potential fracture or amputation.”

Knight stopped manually tightening bolts on engines five years ago when GE introduced the robotic tool to the then-brand new Grove City plant, where it sends locomotive engines to be rebuilt and repaired. He still knows...

The Worst Behaviors of Bad Bosses, Ranked

There are many different ways to be a good boss, but if your goal is to be a bad boss, it’s pretty clear what you have to do.

Taking credit for their underlings’ work is the worst of all bad-boss behaviors, according to a new survey of more than 1,200 full-time US workers, conducted by software company BambooHR. When asked to rank a list of odious managerial tendencies, 63% of respondents said hogging credit was unacceptable, or something they would consider worth quitting over.

Women were particularly offended by bosses wrongly taking credit—71% called it the worst behavior—and the habit seems more noxious the older you are. Workers over 60 were much more likely (77%) to find it offensive than workers under 30 (57%).

Other common behaviors are much more tolerable. More than half say its fine if their bosses don’t socialize with them out of work, and 64% say it’s ok if their bosses don’t friend them on social media.

Here’s BambooHR’s ranking of the 10 worst behaviors:

The Cognitive Trick That Elite Athletes Use To Achieve Seemingly Impossible Goals

In July 2011, I was crawling down the aisle of a plane on my hands and knees while passengers screamed around me. We were on a flight from Spain to the US, and we thought our number was up.

The plane had hit a bout of extreme turbulence just as I’d left the restroom, causing the aircraft to shake violently. Nearby flight attendants were also slammed to the ground. The lights flickered, and food trays flew across the aisles.

I was frozen with panic; I felt as if I were watching the entire episode happen from outside my body. It was, without a doubt, one of the most surreal and terrifying moments I’ve experienced to date. Then two young women in the back of the aisle began to sob hysterically. “Please! I don’t want to die!” one said.

Without thinking, I lifted myself from the floor of the plane and took their hands into my own icy palms. In a firm, calm voice, I told them that everything would be okay. And I kept saying that until the plane stopped shaking.

Transcending our limitations

Years later, I’m still struck by how I was able to move...

The High Cost of Low Engagement

It’s no secret: When people work in a stressful environment, they are less productive. But the cost goes far beyond that. In the U.S. economy, studies of high stress organizations have shown:

  • Health care expenditures are nearly 50 percent higher.
  • The American Psychological Association estimates more than 550 million workdays are lost because of stress each year.
  • Sixty to 80 percent of workplace accidents are attributable to stress.
  • More than 80 percent of physician appointments are stress related.
  • In hierarchical organizations, the lower an employee’s rank, the higher the chances of cardiovascular disease and death from heart attacks.

Stress also contributes to disengagement or emotional detachment. While the Office of Personnel Management does not report levels of employee disengagement, morale is known to be low.  Undoubtedly government has pockets of actively disengaged employees, to use the Gallup phrase.  As a group, those employees have higher absenteeism, more accidents, more errors, lower productivity and lower customer satisfaction.

The causes of stress are to a degree personal but the common reasons, especially when budgets are tight, include job insecurity, work overload, ineffective supervision, uncertain performance expectations, and little or no participation in decision making.  

Management actions that increase stress...

A Tech Worker’s Perfect Frankness About Taking Mental Health Days — And Her Boss’s Perfect Response

When Madalyn Parker, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based web developer, just needed a couple of days break, she could have followed a time-honored tradition: request a day off for something like food poisoning or vague flu or cold symptoms, or not offer a reason at all. Instead she took the unusual step of emailing her team to say, “I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.”

Ben Congleton, her CEO at Olark Live Chat software, didn’t have to respond, but he did, and his feedback to her was even more uncommon than her openness. It attracted viral attention—including a shout out from Sheryl Sandberg— when Parker posted the exchange on her Twitter feed.

“When the CEO responds to your out of the office e-mail about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision,” Parker wrote in her tweet featuring Congleton’s note. “I just wanted to personally thank you for sending e-mails like this,” he had written. “Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health—I can’t believe...