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How to Call Out a Jerk at Work

I once asked my boss how he dealt so well with difficult people.

"I just think to myself, no matter how they scowl at me, I should not take it personally. Most likely they are having a very bad day." To which I responded, "But when is it enough?"

"What do you mean?" he responded. "When is it appropriate to call out an a-hole?"

"Oh boy," said my boss. "Gee whiz." He closed the door. Then he started to laugh, and tried to suppress it. "Please, please, please do not ever call out someone you think is an a-hole."

He looked at me intently. "In fact, you shouldn't even say the word."

"Why not?"

"Because if you call someone that name, they will surely find out that you said it."

"Oh."

Is that how we make decisions about things? Based on who might know that I think their behavior is unacceptable? Based on saving my own skin?

"Like I told you, just say to yourself, 'that person is surely having a very bad day, and their attitude has nothing to do with me.'"

I understood what my boss was saying. I did and I do—you don't want...

The Science of Job Interviews

After weeks of trolling the internet for job postings and dashing off cover letters, you’ve finally had a stroke of luck. There’s only one thing standing between you and your dream job: The interview.

This kind of high-stakes situation is guaranteed to get pulses racing. We all want to know what our interviewers are thinking, and how to make the best impression possible. While neuroscientists and psychologists have yet to peer into people’s brains during live interviews, recent studies can help us understand how to tip the odds in our favor.

The science of making a good impression

Humans are remarkably quick to form first impressions. Studies show that people tend to make split-second judgments about traits like trustworthiness and competence based on certain facial features. For example, people tend to see faces that appear happy and possess stereotypically feminine features—such as big eyes and round faces—as more trustworthy. Those with more masculine characteristics, such as squared faces and strong jawlines, are more likely to be perceived as dominant leader types. Although sometimes beyond our control, these impressions can influence important decisions like which politicians to elect, whether to convict a criminal, and, yes, whether...

When to Switch Jobs to Get the Biggest Salary Increase

For job hoppers, knowing when to move on is a fraught question. Leaving too soon may appear flighty; staying too long can lead to calcification.

ADP, the payroll processing company, analyzed salary information for 24 million private-sector workers, including those who switched employers, in the first quarter of 2016. They found the biggest salary bump comes after employees stay put at least two years, but not more than five. The longer you stay past five years, the less growth you’ll see in pay at your next employer. (But it’s also true that as you accumulate experience, your salary should grow at your current employer, making big jumps in pay less likely.)

Overall, job switchers in the first quarter saw a 6% wage increase, with the biggest gains coming from the youngest workers. Employees under 25 saw a 11% gain if they changed jobs. The sectors where the increases were the largest were leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation and utilities; and information technology. The only field where average salaries declined for job switchers was in natural resources and mining, where a downturn in oil and gas prices has been hammering wages across the industry.

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Stop Complaining About Your Indecisive Boss

It is one of the biggest frustrations people have with the government, with the workplace, with their loved ones, significant others and even with themselves—the inability to simply make a decision:

  • "I do not understand how they can sit and sit and sit on that legislation."
  • "I wrote that article months ago, and it's still sitting in her office."
  • "We've been dating for four years now. He still won't make a commitment!"
  • "I don't know what I should major in. There's just so much pressure!"

Of course, the more invested you are in the person or situation affected by indecisiveness, the worse the emotions surrounding it.

But the truth is, as bad as all of this is, that real pain doesn't come from other people's indecisiveness. You know very well that you can never control what others feel, think or do; that looking outside yourself for inner meaning, joy and purpose is worse than irrational. It's actually self-destructive. 

If we've learned nothing else from pop psychology over the past 50 years, we have absorbed this: The only person you can control is you.

So complaining about other people's behavior...

An Excess of Multiple-Award Contracts Is Creating New Problems for Government

For the better part of the past decade, procurement shops throughout the federal government couldn’t seem to stop themselves from creating new contract vehicles. There’s something alluring about seeding and cultivating a multiple-award contract, with dozens of companies clamoring to participate and the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars blooming under a vehicle of your creation. Since 2005, thousands of multiple-award indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) programs have sprung up, many with multi-billion-dollar ordering ceilings.

The contract vehicle garden is now overgrown. Supply clearly exceeds demand.

Just look at IT services. The 10 largest contract vehicles have $17 billion in annualized ordering capacity. But those vehicles hosted under $12 billion in actual orders last year, leaving 37 percent excess capacity. Examples of underutilized contracts abound. The Interior Department’s cloud computing IDIQ has a $1 billion annualized ceiling. It attracted just $27 million in spending in fiscal 2015, according to federal procurement data.

The excessive excess capacity won’t last. Contract vehicles will die off over the next few years, with competition among procurement shops and among prime contractors deciding which IDIQs survive.

Take, for example, an Army order for program management support services currently residing on the Army...