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Science Agrees: Being Laid Off Is Terrible

I graduated from college in 2007 and took an entry-level reporting job in Hong Kong to spend time with extended family and work on my Cantonese, but by the end of 2008, my classmates in the U.S. had just one piece of advice for me: Don't come back until there are jobs. Even my parents, who had been asking me to return to the continent every chance they got, thought it might be a good idea to hide out in Asia until the Great Recession passed.

During the Great Recession, layoffs and discharges in the U.S. spiked to a rate of 2 percent of total employment in the beginning of 2009. Quite a few of my friends and classmates were laid off from their jobs, and though the economic recovery is underway, many of them still have residual fears of being laid off—in fact, new research shows that being laid off could cause a worker to mistrust society for years.

The Percentage of U.S. Workers Who Were Laid Off, From 2005 to 2015


“Society is still recovering from one of the longest recessions this century and much has been discussed in counting the economic ...

Why Every Manager Should Use the Great Sewerage Equation

In 1858, the House of Commons of Great Britain charged Joseph Bazalgette, the chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, with the odious and odorous task of eliminating London’s “Great Stink.” The smell came from the city’s open sewers, which also spread cholera. To fix these problems, Bazalgette created the first modern sewer system.

As a direct and obvious consequence of this innovation, all civil engineering students are required to learn “The Great Sewerage Equation”:

Si - So = Ssitp

This is as simple as mathematics gets: Just three variables and only two symbols (a minus sign and an equals sign). Moreover, this formula can easily be explained in words:

“Sewerage In” [Si] minus “Sewerage out” [So] equals “Sewerage stuck in the pipe” [Ssitp].

Pretty intuitive, huh?

If more sewerage goes into the pipe than comes out, some must have stuck in the pipe. And the amount that is stuck has to be precisely the difference between what went in and what came out. Obviously!

Not really. For unfortunately, this concept is not taught (at least outside of civil engineering) as The Great Sewerage Equation. Rather it is called “Stock and Flow.”

The objective of this abstract language is ...

Uncertainty: Get Over It

“Taking control of uncertainty is the fundamental leadership challenge of our time.”—Ram Charan, The Attacker’s Advantage—Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities

Frankly, this is a remarkable time to be in business and to be serving in a leadership role. The risks, fears of change, possibilities of disruption or the realities of creative destruction and nondestructive creation are all facts of our business lives and they create a remarkable backdrop for us to create—to innovate. But first we’ve got to fight our natural tendencies when determining how to act in this environment.

Three Nearly Fatal Leadership Mistakes

1. Waiting for normal to return.  Some leaders imagine a return to an environment that feels more like equilibrium. Newsflash: The new equilibrium is a constant state of disequilibrium. Quit waiting on this friend to return. She’s gone.

2. Fighting unseen dragons. Others have as their sworn duty the need to protect their firm against risks—known and unknown. This fear-driven response to the environment narrows the options and in some cases induces an organizationwide paralysis that nearly certainly leads to decline and death. If you’re not moving, you’re dying.

3. Striving to control the weather. Worse ...

Baby Boomers Were Job-Hopping Before It Was Cool

If you haven't already bid farewell to the concept of the “company man,” you definitely missed your chance.

new study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the already aged concept of a "good job for life" went away long before the rise of the “job-hopping Millennial” (or Gen-X-er, for that matter). In fact, workers who hold multiple jobs in one lifetime became normal as early as the mid-1970s, with the Baby Boom generation. The BLS finds that the average American born between 1957 and 1964—the latter years of the baby boom—held nearly a dozen (11.7) jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. Job security hasn’t been a guarantee for at least the past 40 years.

The BLS data draws from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, an ongoing survey that first interviewed nearly 10,000 men and women between the ages of 14 and 22 in 1979. During the latest round of interviews, in 2012 and 2013, the respondents were between 47 and 56. Interviews queried the respondents on a number of issues, including work experiences, educational attainment, income, and health. The report notes that it considers the ...

Half of American Workers Have Left a Job Because They Hated Their Boss

It’s a sad state of affairs in bossland.

Gallup surveyed over 7,000 members of the US workforce and found that half of them have left a job at some point in their careers solely because they could no longer put up with their manager. “Having a bad manager is often a one-two punch,” the study said. “Employees feel miserable while at work, and that misery follows them home, compounding their stress and putting their well-being in peril.”


How can you ensure you’re not that manager who’s causing employees to flee? Gallup says the key is “engagement.” The glue that holds all relationships together—even and especially between managers and their employees—is communication.

According to Gallup, bosses need to “communicate reliably and meaningfully,” do regular performance management sessions beyond the annual review, help set employees’ priorities and goals, and focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

The problem is that only 35% of managers in the US fall under Gallup’s definition of “engaged.” Fifty-one percent are not engaged, and 14% are actively disengaged—at least according to their employees. Gallup estimates that bosses who are not engaged together cost the US economy almost ...