From Harvard Business School – We learn best from failure…other’s. Thursday, Oct 18 2012 

New research suggests that the failure of others might be a better source of learning than our own shortcomings or missteps.

Researchers led by Emory University’s Diwas KC recently examined the experiences of cardiovascular surgeons to uncover whether success or failure was the better teacher — and, if so, whose failure held better lessons? The team analyzed data from 71 cardiothoracic surgeons over 10 years as they performed over 6,500 minimally invasive coronary artery bypass grafts, a complicated and relatively new procedure at the time of the study.

They examined the rates of successful and unsuccessful procedures and also the process by which the surgeons were learning and improving their performance. As they analyzed the data, they found something striking: Failure is the best teacher mostly when someone else has failed. Surgeons learned best from their own successes and the failure of others; their failures were much harder to learn from.




Drink This to Sleep Soundly Thursday, Oct 18 2012 

by Carole Jackson Bottom Line Health


My friend likes to have a drink before bed—a real drink.

It’s usually a beer.

He likes the fact that the alcohol seems to help him get to sleep.

What he doesn’t like is that he tends to wake up a few hours later and then has trouble falling back to sleep, leaving him groggy the next morning!

In fact, most experts agree that alcoholic beverages (along with caffeinated beverages and energy drinks) are among the worst drinks to have before bed. So what should we all be sipping on instead that might help us get to sleep and stay asleep??

A new study points to an unusual choice—nonalcoholic beer.


Before reading this study, I never thought that nonalcoholic beer might convey health benefits, but these findings are making me reconsider.

For the study, Spanish researchers evaluated subjects’ sleep amount and quality using actigraphy, a wrist sensor that detects motion during sleep/wake cycles. During the first week of the study (the control week), subjects drank whatever they normally drank at dinner (but keep in mind, in Spain, dinner is around 10:00 pm or 10:30 pm). These subjects usually drank a glass of milk because they were all teetotalers (and none drank nonalcoholic beer). During the next two weeks, subjects stopped drinking whatever they normally drank at dinner and instead each drank one 12-ounce bottle of nonalcoholic beer (San Miguel, a Spanish brand).

Results: The subjects slept better during the weeks that they drank alcohol-free beer. Not only did they fall asleep an average of 12 minutes faster, but they experienced 27% fewer movements while sleeping—meaning less tossing and turning. As a bonus, they also reported feeling less anxious during those weeks—probably because they were sleeping better.


Researchers believe that it’s the bitter resins in hop compounds, botanical ingredients (they’re from a flower, actually) used in brewing for their aroma, that do the trick. Hop compounds have sedative properties, soothing the central nervous system by raising levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This helps explain why nonalcoholic beer may help you not only get to sleep but sleep soundly and stay asleep—it has the hop compounds that make you drowsy, but not the alcohol that wakes you up later. (Technically speaking, nonalcoholic beers do have a tiny bit of alcohol in them—a bottle of O’Douls, for example, has 0.4%—but since a bottle of regular beer, such as Budweiser, has about 5%, it’s not much.)

Lead author and graduate researcher Lourdes Franco said that Americans would be best off drinking a nonalcoholic beer roughly an hour before bed to get the most effect, though she noted that hop compounds remain in your system all night.

She was surprised that it took only one nonalcoholic beer per night to impact sleep—and she’d recommend this habit to almost anyone needing help falling and/or staying asleep.


There are a few groups of people that may want to stay away from nonalcoholic beer, Franco noted.

People with celiac disease—those who can’t properly digest gluten (the protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye)—should keep their distance, since most nonalcoholic (and alcoholic) beers contain gluten. Until Spain’s Ambar Green beer becomes widely available in the US, celiacs will have trouble finding a beer that’s both nonalcoholic and almost entirely gluten-free, unfortunately.

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and you’re limiting carbs to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range, be aware that nonalcoholic beer has roughly 13 grams of carbs, which is about the same amount that you’d get in a regular (nonlight) beer. (For comparison, a 12-ounce can of Coke has about 41 grams of carbs and an eight-ounce glass of apple juice has about 29 grams of carbs.)


For people who can safely drink nonalcoholic beer, there are lots of choices. Since it’s the hop compounds in the beer that you’re after, you’ll want to know which brands have the most—but when I called Keith Lemcke, vice president of Siebel Institute of Technology and marketing director of World Brewing Academy in Chicago, a school for the brewing sciences that’s been around for 130 years, he said that all nonalcoholic beers have approximately the same level of hop compounds. In other words, it doesn’t matter which brand you choose—any is likely to help you get to dreamland!

Sources: Lourdes Franco, graduate researcher, laboratory of chrononutrition, department of physiology, University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain. Her study was published in PLoS ONE.

Keith Lemcke, vice president, Siebel Institute of Technology, and marketing director, World Brewing Academy, both in Chicago.

Combat employee absence with a positive discipline program Tuesday, Oct 9 2012 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

Mary was furious with Paul, one of the customer service phone reps she supervised. He had called in sick again, forcing the other employees to pick up the slack. Paul was averaging one sick day every two weeks. It simply wasn’t fair.

“Please get Paul on the phone for me,” Mary said to one of her staff.

As she sat angrily at her desk, she thought about how she would let Paul have it for showing so little respect for his colleagues.

But then she had a sudden doubt. What, legally, could she say to Paul? Would the fact that she had called him at all mean that she was harassing him? Suppose she fired Paul, and he sued for harassment? Would she be fired-and all because she was trying to manage as effectively as she knew how?


Many employers get caught up in a cycle of repeated attempts to reform these types. That’s a mistake because the costs of employee absenteeism-reflected in lost production, overtime and temporary replacements for the absent worker-can add up quickly.

In fact, some personnel experts estimate that an absent employee costs a company 1.75 to 2.5 times his daily salary. Some large companies estimate that absenteeism may be costing them more than $500,000 per year.

How can companies combat the problem? Approaches vary, but most successful absenteeism programs include a positive discipline program.


Because absenteeism typically comes under the “minor problem” category, the first step is a precounseling session between the individual and his supervisor. In this session the supervisor determines if the employee understands the company’s policy on absences.

The positive discipline approach then consists of the following stages:

Oral reminder stage. This stage follows the counseling session and lasts three months or however long seems to be in the company’s best interest. But the period has to be uniform for all employees. If you resolve the problem, the slate is wiped clean and so is the documentation of the incident.

Written reminder stage. If the problem still exists after the counseling session, a second counseling session between the employee and his supervisor is scheduled. This time, however, the supervisor writes a memo to the individual spelling out the problem, the worker’s acknowledgment of it and his agreement to work toward its resolution.

A copy is placed in the employee’s personnel file. The written reminder stage lasts six months, or however long you think is best for the company. If the problem is resolved within this time, the memo is considered inactive and there are no repercussions for the worker. However, don’t discard the memo-keep it in the employee’s personnel file.

Decision-making stage. If the absenteeism problem still exists after the written reminder stage, the supervisor has a final meeting with the employee, during which he spells out the company’s policies again. Then the employee is given a one-day leave of absence to decide if he wants to continue working for the company on the condition that he agrees to abide by its rules.

Source:  Article Link

Monday, Oct 8 2012 

Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you,
opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.
– Henry David Thoreau

No whining! 5 ways to overcome negativity at work Sunday, Oct 7 2012 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

Tired of an incessantly negative co-worker? Post a “No Whining” sign for others to see when they enter your work space.

“Negativity is one of those ‘most annoying’ behaviors,” says Dr. Marie McIntyre, author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.

“It’s right up there with slacker co-workers and the use of foul ­language. These people are simply not fun to work with. They sap everyone’s energy and kill productivity.”

A no-whining rule fights against complaining, blaming, avoiding responsibility—or anything that gets in the way of problem-solving.

If co-workers’ bad attitudes create tension, protect yourself from those office toxins.

Take a break when tensions begin to boil over. If conversations drift into nasty gossip, excuse yourself. Strip away the day’s stress before you arrive home by hitting the gym or browsing in a bookstore.

Look at why morale is low, and attack the core problem. Bombard a bad attitude by lobbing kindness in return. If turf wars turned the organization into a battleground, reach out to the other side.

Don’t allow rumors of impending layoffs to sap your productivity. Punch back at the feeling of powerlessness by renewing your commitment to the job you have today. Model the attitude you’d like to see in others.

Don’t be a Pollyanna. Realistically, you can’t banish all negative thoughts from your workplace. But there is a difference between “good” negativity (that helps find solutions) and “bad” negativity (griping about everything). Negativity can become self-fulfilling—increasing the chances of failure in a company steeped in negativity. Find the positives and, as much as possible, focus on and build on those.

Follow the Three P’s.

  • Is it personal? When the boss grumbles, it’s probably not about you.
  • Is it permanent? Just remember the old expression, “This too shall pass.”
  • Does it matter in the big picture? In the midst of office conflict, ask yourself, ‘”Will anyone even remember this a few years from now?”


Quiz: How well do you know discipline do’s and don’ts? Friday, Oct 5 2012 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

It’s not up to most managers to write a company’s discipline policy. But it is a manager’s responsibility to interpret, implement and enforce it in a consistent and fair manner.

It is not illegal if you don’t follow your company’s disciplinary policy to the letter. In fact, a disciplinary policy should be flexible and allow managers to take into account extenuating circumstances and to use their discretion. Legal challenges arise when an employee feels the discipline imposed on him or her is not consistent with the discipline imposed on co-workers in similar situations. If there is a racial, age, gender, etc., difference between the employee and the co-workers, a court will scrutinize whether the different discipline is valid or discriminatory.

How well do you know your discipline do’s and don’ts? Many managers claim that their right to discipline employees is being eroded by a flood of legal restrictions. Some of those complaints are based on fact, some on fiction. See how well you choose between the two in the following statements.

1. An employee who refuses a legitimate work order can be fired on the spot.

2. Company policy clearly prohibits moonlighting by employees. This means you have the right to terminate an employee as soon as you learn he or she is working a second job.

3. An employee about to lose her job because of poor attendance tells you she is pregnant and expects to have her job protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

4. An employee who has already received four “final” warnings for poor performance can be terminated without any problem.

5. The performance of an employee who has filed a sexual discrimination charge against her employer continues to drop. It’s best to do nothing until her discrimination case is heard.

6. A female employee likes to consider herself one of the boys, and joins in on the off-color banter that is standard throughout the department. So you’re surprised when she claims the situation is getting out of hand and she wants it stopped. Since she had been a willing participant in the past, you have a right to tell her to handle it herself.

7. It took you six years to find out that a productive employee falsified his education on his application form. Those years of good service must be taken into consideration before any discipline can be imposed.


Discipline is one of those gray areas where it’s difficult to come up with a clear-cut delineation between what is fact and what is fiction. Keep that in mind while reading the following “answers.”

1. If a manager can prove that em­­ployees understood an order and willfully disobeyed it, few judges or arbitrators would object to a termination decision.

2. Hard economic times have forced many employees to moonlight. Many states have laws that prohibit employers from controlling employees’ legal, off-duty activities. However, if a second job results in excessive absenteeism, lateness, or decreased performance, a company would have the right to take disciplinary action. If a second job puts employees in a position where they’re working for a competitor, or gives rise to a conflict of interest, a manager would be justified in taking whatever action is necessary to stop it.

3. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 specifies that women affected by pregnancy-related conditions have to be treated the same as non-­pregnant employees. If you terminate non-pregnant employees for poor attendance, you can impose similar sanctions on pregnant ones, taking into account the Family and Medical Leave Act, if applicable. In this case, there is no retroactive clause in the PDA that covers performance problems for employees before they became pregnant.

4. Employees who receive more than one “final warning” can legitimately claim that the whole warning system has been undermined. Be careful with more than one final warning, unless past practice or previous records encourage a “one last chance” option. 

5. Employees who have filed discrimination charges against a company must be given careful treatment when it comes to discipline. “Careful” does not mean “special,” however. Some employees will try to take advantage of the fact that they have filed discrimination charges against the company and will use it to coast. If you let them get away with it, you are setting a bad precedent for other employees. You can discipline for legitimate performance problems, but make sure the performance problems are not a result of sex discrimination.

6. Beware of relying on strictly past practices. The fact that she feels the language is creating a “hostile environment” for her gives her a strong case for sexual harassment if you don’t intervene to stop it.

7. Judges and arbitrators place the falsification of company records in the same category as the theft of company property. It is one of those offenses where progressive discipline may not be required, particularly if the information is the type that would have disqualified the person from the job in the first place. Even a good work record may be insufficient to mitigate a discharge decision.


Your Dollars at Risk (Avoid Liability) Thursday, Oct 4 2012 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

HR pros spend a lot of their time ensuring that their companies comply with the law so they don’t wind up in court and lose big bucks to a jury verdict. But more and more, they find themselves defending not their employers’ bottom lines, but their own bank accounts.

The law increasingly holds managers personally liable for conduct “in the scope of employment” that violates Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the ADA, the FMLA, the Fair Labor Standards Act and more. And since HR professionals almost always act on behalf of their employers’ interests, they’re uniquely at risk of being personally sued.

How big is the risk? Try six figures—or more.

“It can cost as much as $150,000 just to get a case dismissed,” according to Colorado attorney and employment practices consultant Denise Kaye.

Anyone who commits an act that gives rise to an employment complaint or who is even tangentially involved can find himself or herself at risk of losing personal assets.

That’s the bad news. The worse news: The conduct doesn’t have to be intentional.

Kaye offers these tips on how to avoid personal liability:

  • Know the law. Federal and state anti-discrimination laws often specifically cite the circumstances in which individuals can be held personally liable for violations. Your legal counsel can alert you as to what to worry about.
  • Educate decision-makers. Part of your HR role is making sure top brass know the law, too.
  • Follow the law—not just your marching orders. Sure, you’re a loyal employee, but you must ensure compliance with the law, even if top managementwants you to cut corners. Remember, it’s potentially your money at risk.
  • Review and compare organizational policies and procedures. Make sure they align with what the law requires.
  • Implement organizational policies and procedures consistently. Nothing turns a disgruntled employee into a litigious one faster than the perception that he or she has been dealt with inequitably. Nothing makes a jury more likely to slap HR professionals with ruinous damage awards either.
  • Do not act in anger or retaliate. “When we see managers and HR people get in trouble with personal liability is when they let their frustration with an employee get the better of their business judgment,” says Kaye.