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Here’s Something We Can All Agree On: Agencies Need to Deliver Results

These days, politics bombards us at the speed and persistence of the Internet, social media (including tweets from the president) and 24-hour cable news. As a result, we obsess over optics and outrages, while ignoring important questions about whether the federal government is producing results that improve Americans’ lives. It is the risk of overlooking actual public sector performance in favor of political theater.

Even in less politically charged times, getting attention for government performance issues is difficult. One of us (Harris) spent five years leading management reforms at the Department of Labor. He was never called to testify, even once, before a Congressional committee to discuss the Department’s performance. During his tenure, Congress passed new legislation mandating more extensive performance measurement and management. Yet no member of Congress nor any of their staff ever asked whether the Labor Department meaningfully complied with the new mandates or if the mandates actually made Americans’ lives better. Conversations with other agency leaders show this was the norm.

At first glance, public management may not be flashy work, but it is essential to helping our nation address important challenges and delivering value to taxpayers. Smart policy is critical, but so is implementation...

There’s A Very Good Reason To Hire Overqualified Workers

For a job seeker, few things are more discouraging than hearing you’re overqualified.

Employers have sound reasons for turning away candidates with more experience or training than the openings require. Candidates might soon ask for a higher salary, they could lose interest in work that isn’t sufficiently challenging, or they might be quick to leave if a more appropriate position appears.

But there are good reasons for hiring overqualified candidates, too, a new study suggests. Employees who perform their assigned tasks easily have more time to contribute to the company, according to a team of management professors from Rice University, in Houston, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. When overqualified employees are motivated and interested in the outcome of their company, they can benefit the business by thinking creatively about their jobs and devising new ways to do things. But if they’re too overqualified, they’ll lose interest.

The researchers asked 327 teachers in six Chinese high schools to rank their sense of over qualification on a scale from 1 (barely overqualified) to 7 (highly overqualified). Then the teachers’ supervisors were asked to rank how much the teachers contributed beyond their normal job functions, such as...

Here’s Why Your Gut Instinct Is Wrong At Work – And How To Know When It Isn’t

Let’s say you’re interviewing a new applicant for a job and you feel something is off. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you’re a bit uncomfortable with this person. She says all the right things, her resume is great, she’d be a perfect hire for this job – except your gut tells you otherwise. The Conversation

Should you go with your gut?

In such situations, your default reaction should be to be suspicious of your gut. Research shows that job candidate interviews are actually poor indicators of future job performance.

Unfortunately, most employers tend to trust their guts over their heads and give jobs to people they like and perceive as part of their in-group, rather than simply the most qualified applicant. In other situations, however, it actually does make sense to rely on gut instinct to make a decision.

Yet research on decision-making shows that most business leaders don’t know when to rely on their gut and when not to. While most studies have focused on executives and managers, research shows the same problem applies to doctors, therapists and other professionals.

This is the kind of challenge I encounter when I consult with...

Hermann Hesse’s Simple Trick to Change Your Workday For the Better

The works of Nobel Prize-winning writer Hermann Hesse explore man’s search for meaning. In the 1905 essay “On Little Joys,” the Siddhartha author identified a small difference between those able to find poetry in the “aggressive haste” of the modern world, and those consumed by busyness.

“I would simply like to reclaim an old and, alas, quite unfashionable private formula,” he wrote. “Do not overlook the little joys!”

In a passage highlighted recently by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, Hesse writes a simple prescription for overwhelmed senses: Look up.

Our eyes, above all those misused, overstrained eyes of modern man, can be, if only we are willing, an inexhaustible source of pleasure. When I walk to work in the morning I see many workers who have just crawled sleepily out of bed, hurrying in both directions, shivering along the streets. Most of them walk fast and keep their eyes on the pavement, or at most on the clothes and faces of the passers-by. Heads up, dear friends!

Just try it once—a tree, or at least a considerable section of sky, is to be seen anywhere. It does not even have to be blue sky; in some way or...

Sleepy Monday Is Making You Cranky, Lazy and Possibly Dangerous

If you’re feeing drowsy at work today, you’re not alone.

Millions of US workers are dragging on “Sleepy Monday,” the first work day after setting clocks ahead an hour yesterday morning (March 12) for daylight savings time. According to Christopher Barnes, a University of Washington business professor who coined the term, we’re less productive and more irritable and sluggish on Sleepy Mondays.

While the long-term consequences of not getting enough sleep are well known to researchers, Barnes has tried to find out what happens when we don’t get enough sleep on any particular night. While he didn’t set out to study the effects of daylight savings, he found the Monday after we set our clocks forward is the one time of the year when most Americans consistently don’t get enough sleep. Here’s what he found:

  • Accidents climb. By examining two decades worth of mine safety data, Barnes found that accidents climbed 5.7% on Sleepy Monday.
  • Cyber loafing rises. To see if people were goofing off while online at work, Barnes and his colleagues looked at internet search habits on six Sleepy Mondays, and compared them to the Mondays immediately before and after...

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