Saturday, March 20, 2010

A couple of wonderful websites

While researching my blog post today, I discovered something fantastic. It's a website entitled The Early Office Museum. It's an online museum, a true work of art, filled with all sorts of wondrous photos and paintings of offices from ancient times to the twentieth century. I wish, wish, wish I had found this before I wrote the history part of my book. More on this later, but in the meantime, give yourself a treat and go take a look at it.

Also, visit the website for Take Back Your Time, a fantastic organization headed by John de Graaf, co-author of the popular book, Affluenza. This organization is working for changes in the laws that will guarantee workers a reasonable amount of paid vacation time and provide other protections to their right to have lives outside of work. Their latest newsletter is now online and talks about how shortening the work week will help to reduce unemployment, something I've been preaching about for a long time.

History of the Office 101: Scientific Management

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilberth Carey. It was about growing up in a family of twelve children and their parents, Frank, Sr. and Lillian Gilbreth, who were two of the original efficiency experts. Needless to say, the children lived highly regimented lives. They were required to fill out “process charts” on which they were supposed to check off boxes for washing their faces, brushing their teeth, etc. I still remember, in the fifth grade, making a chart like this for myself after reading about it, though I don’t think my own parents, who were not efficiency experts and had only two children, not twelve, ever looked at it.

The Gilbreths, along with Frederick Taylor, pioneered what was then a new field, which Taylor eventually called “scientific management.” It was all about figuring out the most efficient way to accomplish tasks so as to maximize production. To do this, they timed tasks with stopwatches and analyzed movies frame by frame. At first the tasks were mainly those done in factories, but eventually scientific management – also now known as “Taylorism” -- invaded offices as well as most other types of workplaces.

Its fundamental principles were as follows:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dealing with E-mail Onslaughts

When you arrive in the morning, there are forty of them waiting for you. By the time you’ve answered two or three, six more are waiting, and all the time you’re trying to work, notices of new ones keep popping up on your screen. If there’s anything in the office that can make you feel as though you’re being attacked by armies of malicious elves, it’s e-mail. But it doesn't have to wreck your day. Managing e-mail is all a matter of triaging, the way medical staff in an overloaded ER triage patients. Once you’ve got a logical system of directories, some good SPAM software, and a few habits in place, you’ll be able to calmly contend with whatever passes through your in-box, no matter how excessive the quantity. Here are a few tips:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Crazymakers in the Office

As a psychotherapist who works part time as an administrative assistant, I’ve come to believe that many employees from CEO on down could have immensely happier workdays if someone taught them just a little bit about what most therapists call “personality disorders.” People with personality disorders have a life history of causing pain and misery to those around them while believing that they themselves are just fine. I call these people “crazymakers” because of the harmful effects they can have on the mental health of others.

What makes dealing with office crazymakers difficult is that most of us want to be good team players. When someone rubs us the wrong way, we assume that this is just because we have differences, and all we need to do is sit down and talk things out. Or we try to be extra nice to the person, telling ourselves that he or she is just having problems at home or under a lot of stress. With most people, these strategies work just fine. But not with crazymakers. The usual rules for building positive relationships will not work with them.