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Can Employees Embrace Government Restructuring?

A comment from a reader of a recent column highlighted for me a reality that could undermine President Trump’s plan to restructure government. The reader underscored the deeply entrenched cultural resistance to change in government and noted that employees (specifically in his former agency) are rewarded for not taking risks. It’s not simply that they are uncomfortable with risk, but that they have learned it’s to their advantage to avoid taking risks—it’s a sure way to improve your career prospects.

It’s human to be uncomfortable in new situations. It’s also human to fail occasionally (or perform below expectations) when trying something new. That’s an important component of learning. Improved performance is usually not attributable to working harder; it’s because we learn new techniques and develop better skills. When something is important to us we generally overcome our reluctance and are able to test new ideas and approaches. It’s not unlike the experience of learning to ride a bike.

The reluctance is compounded when an employee knows he or she could be reprimanded or worse for trying—even if the effort is successful. Many federal executives and managers have grown up...

Waking Up Early For Work Could Quite Literally Be Killing You

Around one in five people in Western countries could be putting their health at risk simply by going to work. This is because working shifts outside of the rest of the population’s normal hours has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even declines in brain function.

Scientists think this is because our bodies are programmed to run on cycles known as circadian rhythms, and changes in our routine caused by shift work or travelling long distances disrupts those rhythms. But our new research suggests that the effects of shift work or jet lag on our body clocks could be reduced simply by changing the times at which people eat.

The key to this theory is the idea that each person doesn’t just have a single body clock but rather a complex network of billions of cellular clocks found throughout the body. In humans and other mammals, there is a master clock within a region of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and many peripheral clocks found elsewhere.

In most individuals, the master SCN clock is set to the planet’s natural cycle of light and dark. The SCN clock then synchronises the peripheral clocks...

Three Psychological Strategies Women Can Use To Combat Manterruptions At Work

In the past few weeks, California senator Kamala Harris has emerged as a prominent voice in US Senate Intelligence Committee hearings. But if repeated interruptions from her male colleagues are any indication, some would prefer to keep her from using her voice quite so often.

Unfortunately, many women—even senators and Supreme Court justices—have to deal with a disproportionate amount of interruptions at work. It can be tricky figure out the right way to respond, particularly because there are a number of reasons why people interrupt one another—ranging from the innocuous to the outright sinister. Here are a few tips for identifying the most common kinds of interruptions, and how to deal with them appropriately.


Some interruptions are just a sign that you’ve effectively engaged your audience. But if your interrupter is demonstrating unbridled enthusiasm, you can still call it out in a non-judgmental way. First, validate their enthusiasm: “I’m glad you’re so invested in this. I’m just going to finish my overview so we can all be on the same page.” If the person interrupts again, reiterate the process: “I’m going to finish the overview and then everyone will have a...

What the U.S. Can Learn From India’s Government Reform Efforts

I was in India recently, along with IBM Center Executive Director Dan Chenok, to participate in a forum entitled “The Business of Government: Learnings from Global Experiences,” which was co-sponsored by the IBM Center for The Business of Government along with the National Institution for Transforming India, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry, and the Indian School of Business. The goal was to discuss best practices in service delivery and governance, and how thought leadership from academia and business might support the Indian government going forward.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a major government reform initiative that is a couple of years ahead of recent reform efforts by the U.S. Government. India’s efforts hold lessons that can inform the U.S. initiatives currently underway.

India’s government is based on the British parliamentary system with career civil servants heading about 80 departments that report to political ministers. Day-to-day operations are in the hands of career executives with the title of Secretary to the Government of India. It’s a more centralized system and in some respects and faces greater challenges. It serves a population nearly four times the size of the United States, with...

How the Army Recruits and Retains Millennials

The popular image of a “millennial” employee is an app-obsessed, T-shirt clad Googler. So perhaps it is not surprising that many conversations about how to recruit and lead millennials focus narrowly on young college graduates and the tech companies that hire them.

But some employers must attract and manage a much broader swath of millennials. Perhaps few organizations face a more difficult challenge than the Army. Imagine having to recruit more than 60,000 people a year, from diverse backgrounds, for positions that may require moving far from family, letting go of a lot of civilian comforts, and perhaps even seeing combat.

“We want to keep our talent,” says Col. Robert Carr, the current Army Chief of Staff Senior Fellow at the Kellogg School. “In that sense we’re no different from corporate America. But that can be especially difficult in the military,” given the Army’s size (nearly one million active, reserve, and national guard soldiers), its physical and disciplinary qualifications, its relatively modest pay, and the competition from industries and universities for talent.

Based on his more than 20 years of military experience, Carr says that, when it comes to grooming millennials for a military career, it is...