opinion

KILLING WORKPLACE

May 4, 2018

I have experienced it many times. I have written about it many times. Nothing changed yet. Of course not!  Fact is, nowadays, the modern workplace can inflict dangerous levels of stress on employees even more then decades ago. Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of "Dying for a Paycheck" , argues that these practices don’t help companies – and warns governments are ignoring an emerging public health crisis. Jeffrey Pfeffer is not the only one. Hundreds more followed Pfeffer's foot steps.  An Uber software engineer making a six-figure income killed himself in 2016, with his family blaming workplace stress. A 21-year-old Merrill Lynch intern collapsed and died in London after working 72 hours straight. When Arcelormittal closed a steel plant that it had taken over, a 56-year old employee died of a heart attack three weeks later. His family said it was the shock. And the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has reported that over half of the 550 million working days lost annually from absenteeism “are stress related”.  I apologize, but I am still waiting for Asian figures. In 2015, an analysis of almost 300 studies found that harmful workplace practices were as bad for mortality, and as likely to lead to a physician-diagnosed illness, as second-hand smoke, a known – and regulated – carcinogen. Harmful workplace practices include things like long working hours, work-family conflict, economic insecurity arising from job losses and not having regular or predictable work hours, an absence of job control and, in the US, not having health insurance. Your supervisor is more important to your health than your family doctor. That's not my quotation but by Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller. The workplace is making people sick and even killing them – and people should care. With rising health-care costs all over the world, the workplace has become an important public health problem. “According to the Mayo clinic, your supervisor is more important to your health than your family doctor,” Bob Chapman, CEO of the manufacturing firm Barry-Wehmiller, told the entire world. The World Economic Forum estimates that some three-quarters of health-care spending worldwide is for chronic disease and non-communicable diseases account for 63 percent of all deaths. Chronic disease comes from stress and the unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, drinking, taking drugs and overeating that stress induces. Numerous surveys show that the workplace is a leading cause of stress, and it is thus one important cause of the health care crisis. The aptly-named American Institute of Stress claims that workplace stress costs the American economy some $300bn each year. A paper I co-authored in a leading peer-reviewed journal estimated that there were 120,000 extra deaths annually in the US from harmful management practices, and that extra health-care costs were $190bn each year. That would make the workplace the fifth leading cause of death, worse than kidney disease or Alzheimer’s. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive reported that 12.5 million working days were lost from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016-2017.  Work practices that are bad for people don’t even help the company. Very clear. But who cares? None of this is necessary, because the work practices that are bad for people don’t help the company, either. Long working hours are negatively related to per-hour productivity at the both the national and industry level.  Although it may seem counterintuitive, layoffs or redundancies do not improve organisational performance and often drive the best employees to leave, and because of direct costs such as severance and indirect costs such as losing people with strong relationships with customers, frequently do not even save money.  For decades research has shown that giving people more control over how and when they do their jobs increases motivation and engagement. Not surprisingly, stressed employees are more likely to quit – and turnover is expensive.  And systematic research demonstrates what ought to be obvious – sick, stressed employees aren’t as proficient or productive in their work as those that are healthier. Look into a mirror! Maybe you feel the same while reading this. Every indication is that work is getting worse. Job cuts, which used to occur only in tough economic times, are now routine. When 3G Capital combined food giants Heinz and Kraft, 20 percent of the workforce got the axe as the company consolidated manufacturing and removed overlapping functions. The “gig economy” means that economic insecurity is higher as people don’t know what their income will be from one week to the next. Scheduling software that permits retailers and other businesses such as hotels and restaurants to have only the people that analytics predict will be needed means that workers often face fluctuating incomes and don’t have much ability to arrange for coping with family responsibilities. Few leaders seem to understand that when people come to work for them, those individuals have placed their physical and psychological well-being in the leaders’ hands Most fundamentally, in the 1950s and 1960s CEOs saw their job as balancing their obligations to shareholders, customers, employees and the community – so-called “stakeholder capitalism”. Now shareholder interests dominate. Few leaders seem to understand that when people come to work for them, those individuals have placed their physical and psychological well-being in the leaders’ hands. But some leaders are taking this idea of stewardship seriously. Companies such as Patagonia, Collective Health, SAS Institute, Google, John Lewis Partnership – which is employee-owned – and Zillow provide a template of what might be different. As I said SOME leaders. Really only a very few. Not enough. I guess most leaders really don't care about their staffs. People get paid time off and are expected to use it. Managers don’t send e-mails or texts at all hours – people work, go home and have time to relax and refresh. The organisations offer accommodations so that people can have both a job and a family life. People are treated like adults and have control over what they do and how they do it to meet their job responsibilities, not micromanaged. Most importantly, the companies are led by individuals who take their obligations to their people seriously. SAS Institute has a chief health officer whose job is not just to control costs but also to ensure employees are as healthy as possible.  Bob Chapman recognises that everyone who comes to work at Barry-Wehmiller is “someone’s precious child” or family member. People need to choose their employer not just for salary and promotion opportunities but on the basis of whether the job will be good for their psychological and physical health. Business leaders should measure the health of their workforce, not just profits.  And governments concerned about the health-care cost crisis need to focus on the workplace, because workplace stress is clearly making people sick. None of this necessary – no one should be dying for a paycheck. Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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BEST WISHES AND GOODBYE

April 21, 2018

When letters were the only form of written correspondence, signing off was obvious. Actually I am still  adopting that old tradition. No matter, if it comes to letters or emails. It's just a matter of respect and education. If addressing a sir or madam, it was unambiguous. You concluded "yours faithfully". When writing to a specific person – for example, a Mr or (hey, ladies first!) – it was simple, your letter would always be signed off "yours sincerely". Only missives to family or close friends would ever finish with a "love from" or "with much love, yours". For many people, there's a weird status thing when it comes to the more blunt you are in emails. I'm asking myself, why? An email is just a letter - an online one ... . Sad to say,  the arrival of email has disrupted this etiquette, making the rules far less obvious. Indeed, for many of us there are no rules. A whole subculture of personalized email sign-offs has emerged everything from "TTFN" to "peace out". And of course, it’s not just what we say but why we say it. Neither in English nor in any other language. I get the same stuff in German written emails and even letters or text messages. "Emails have become the medium of business, leisure, family, love and everything,” says children’s author Michael Rosen. When we sign off emails, we try to give off the "right vibe", he adds. He says it’s all about how we want to come across to the recipient. "Thoughtful, grateful or just very, very busy?" Oh sure, we are all so very, very busy... . Some of the most successful business people are notoriously blunt in email communication – if they even bother with a sign-off at all. "There's a weird status thing when it comes to the more blunt you are in emails, the more you can be (blunt) because you're senior in the company," says author Emma Gannon, recalling the editor of a famous newspaper whose response to pitches was often just a curt "yep" or "nope". Although being succinct can convey a certain authority and status, it also communicates a dose of self-importance or arrogance. And we’ve all dealt with bosses who fire off email edicts of "is this done?" or "update me on that". Even if they are not so direct, many emailers like to convey a sense of being busy by using or adapting abbreviations. So "kind regards" becomes "KR", or "yours" may do away with pesky vowels to leave "yrs". Heaven forbid! "When someone signed off 'BR' for 'best regards', I just thought they were cold, brrr," says Gannon. And, in my opinion, sorry to say, I even don't reply anymore after receiving such correspondence. Oh sure, we are all busy, but there should be just a minimum of respect, if I communicate with someone. In business or personal. By letter, email or text message.  Many times, there are those who pare it down to the absolute minimum, signing off with simply their name or even just the initial letter of their forename. Others might omit a sign off altogether. While this may come across as peremptory or rude, at least it avoids misinterpretation. Nearly formal but not totally formal, but they're not as informal as 'CU in a MNT on bus OMW'.  Some people swing the other way and end their emails with an altogether friendlier tone. While most would consider that kisses have no place in a business environment, they often creep into emails – and sometimes from people the recipient has never even met. For some, an "x" at the end of an email is a friendly endnote; for others it is totally inappropriate. Even just calling someone by first name, is not the way how it should be in business. What’s clear is that some British terms used to end emails just do not translate well. A casual "cheers" is frequently used as a sign off on UK emails, but can be utterly perplexing for other nationalities. Not surprising when a hearty "cheers" also can be used for clinking glasses at the pub, or to thank a checkout person at the supermarket. Here we have to deal with British and American English. For author Michael Rosen, emails now occupy a halfway house between texts and letters. "The key thing is that emails aren't the same as letters. I position them in my mind as a sort of halfway place between texts and hard copy letters: nearly formal but not totally formal, but they're not as informal as 'CU in a MNT on bus OMW'," says Rosen. I strongly agree with him. And, he adds given their place in this ambiguous no-man’s land of communication, it follows that there will continue to be a whole raft of ways to say "goodbye". Best wishes and goodbye. Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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THAT'S NOT A BAD IDEA

April 14, 2018

Very often - sometimes too often! - the thought is back! If we wake up in the morning (or even many times in the middle of the night), the thought is back. Sometimes, the thought will not let us sleep. The "act of thinking", the "reflection", the "opinion" or the "serious consideration", no matter, how we describe it - our memory and conscience is always with us as a permanent companion. We brood over unsettled problem. Sometimes, we bear unfair treatments, arrogance, ignorance, incompetent know-it-all-betters, and unbearable oddballs, who inexorable love to make our life a hell while living themselves a disorderly life. We would not like to be distracted, but we're toying with some good ideas how we could throw overboard all that "human garbage". What will come next is a matter of conjecture. Of course, I've got my ideas, but I'm not a mind reader. Too many trains of thought make us thoughtless and absent-minded -  especially in difficult and important daily life situations. Does waiting and/or sleeping solve our problems? Or is it just again in time? Our life's central idea should not be, that while waiting, time solves all our problems. Thoughts should intensify, condense and deepen plans follow by actions. It's good and helpful to carry thoughts in us all the time. Incomprehensible, or better unfinished and un-matured thoughts, no matter whether positive or negative, should be slept on, before tiredness outstrips us with supersonic speed. Sometimes, we feel that our thoughts and ideas can't be fulfilled with life. Where the heart is willing, it will find a thousand ways; but where the heart is weak, it will find a thousands excuses. If doubts begin to take roots, we should rouse from pink-tinted idealism or wear down and annihilate nightmares and erase and wipe out such thoughts and ideas. If our thoughts are good and have the chance to be fulfilled in action, especially if "the other side" is prepared and willing to step on to such a bridge of life, we might get a support and words of encouragement. And, if not? No action?  Maybe it is God's will to keep and protect us from a careless, rash, disadvantageous and uneasy action. Every new day gives us new inexhaustible possibilities to survive, to bear trials and to start a new beginning. We overlook and fail to notice many chances in lie through our sluggishness and laziness while thinking and dreaming of unequaled and unfulfilled ideas. And, my dear readers: As we all know - our time on earth is limited... . Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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WORRYING WOULDN'T HELP ...

April 7, 2018

Life is better than ever, so why does everybody seem to be unhappy? As regular reader of this column, you surely remember this topic which I already raised several times.  Whenever I hear people saying that things turned so bad nowadays, I think of my late LOLA, born in 1899 (!) into a really awful world in Germany and its surroundings. Also the so-called "Golden Twenties" between two World Wars have been everything but golden for her and my former relatives. Lola never complained, even during the sorrowful times in the former East German, the "German Democratic Republic". Lola reached the ripe old age of almost 86. We hardly count our blessings. We enjoy counting our crosses. Instead of gains, we count our losses. We don't have to do all that counting - computers do it for us. Information is easily had. Facebook to and fro, back and forth, there and back - how many posts and comments have been posted already with sadness, loneliness, boredom strikes, problems, worries ... . Just remember this: Opportunity doesn't just knock - it jiggles the door-knob. and "your social media online-friend" - the worrier, is with you day and night, at every corner, following your every step. Complaining and grumbling are good excuses, right? Is social media bad for us? Three billion people, around 40% of the world’s population, use online social media – and we’re spending an average of two hours every day sharing, liking, tweeting and updating on these platforms, according to some reports. That breaks down to around half a million tweets and Snapchat photos shared every minute. Stress, mood, anxiety, depression, sleep (or better non-sleep), self-esteem - Overall, social media’s effects on well-being are ambiguous, according to a paper written last year by researchers from the Netherlands. However, they suggested there is clearer evidence for the impact on one group of people: social media has a more negative effect on the well-being of those who are more socially isolated. Imagine, we have time and opportunities to do almost anything. So why haven't we done it? We have the freedom of bondage or restraint, every one of us in his or her very special unique way - but, we're still our old inferior selves. The job is boring. I don't get a good job. The house is an un-pleasend mixture of tidy and dirty things. It's a mess. I'm not in the mood to arrange my garden. I can't afford a gardener. That's life. How sad. No, it's not my fault; or course not. The whole world is an awful place filled with dreadful and horrible negativism. Yes, I confess, I'm also surrounded by many worriers who put their fears into me. Politicians, i.e., many times love to search for some grave alarm that will cause individuals to abandon their sperate concerns and act im concert, so that politicians can wield the baton. Calls to fatal struggles and fights are forever being sounded. The over-bearing person, who tyrannizes the weak, who wants to domineer and to bluster, is simply nothing else than a worrier, who claims to be a friend. But he isn't. Really not! The bullying of fellow citizens by means of dread and fright has been going on since Paleolithic times. The night wolf is eating the moon. Give me silver and I'll make him spit out. Well, when will we start counting our courage and not our fears, or enjoy instead of our woe? Worrying itself is pointless.Of course, no society has achieved perfectly rules of law, never-ending education or unique responsible governments. Let's seek out the worries but avoid the worriers, because they try to avoid liberty. If you are still worrying right now about something, try to read Jeremiah 29:10-14 or Revelation 21:1-8, just to mention these two. It works. Email me: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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WAR AGAINST INNOCENTS

April 2, 2018

No need to explain headlines and daily news! Killing in every part of the world is unceasing! Warriors go and fight prepared to kill and to be killed with no fear. In the forests, in the streets, a lot of them are found dead bodies spread-eagled. In the rivers and oceans, a lot of them are found floating if not eaten by the hungry sharkes.   But what about those innocent lives who are just victims of war atrocities? Are they prepared to die in such a horrible state? It is sickening to realize that those people are killed within just a flick of a finger by those war-oriented people. Moreoften, we can learn through media about numbers of people dead and injured caused by building and streets bombings, chemical poisonongs (!), and nuclear power testings. Killings - yes, there will be always killings! Because the Super Powers are in a race to put as many weapons as possible into their allies' hands. The Arm producers are urged and more encouraged to make more weapons and explosives. As the Great Powers never stop intervening in these small countries' affairs, there will be more casualties. Wouldn't it much  better for them to help the Third World countries economically than supplying them with weapons? How many more innocent lives shall we find scattered in the streets? How  many more of them will be seen floatingin the open seas with shattered bodies? And how many more young and old people will be buried innocently at the bottom of the sea leaving their loved-ones to suffer pain and extreme grief? War is hell and the world has had enough! When will stability prevail in this world? In one of my previous columns in this corner, several years ago, I asked "Cold War - Hot War?". It was the time, the Ukraine crisis began. Today, let's ask ourselves the same question. And? Homo sapiens - quo vadis?  Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkdedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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Humans play role in climate change

March 24, 2018

Already in 2013, the UN climate panel blames humans for global warming and warns of rising temperatures and says global warming could have devastating effects as the risk of heat waves, floods and droughts increases.  Rather than debating the facts of climate change, oil companies in the dock in California are questioning how long a climate consensus has existed. Two cities are suing oil companies for costs related to global warming. An attorney for the Chevron oil company acknowledged in federal court that the company agreed with the scientific consensus showing humans are responsible for global warming. But Chevron attorney Theodore Boutrous told the court in San Francisco that the scientific consensus on greenhouse gas emissions was not fully formed until the past decade. "The notion that we know today of a dynamic changing climate is relatively new in human understanding," he said. San Francisco and Oakland are suing the five oil giants — Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum — seeking to set up an abatement fund that would force the oil companies to help the cities pay for flood damage and preventative measures they say are the result of global warming. To clear the air city by city - might this be possible?  Despite Chevron's admission, the oil giants asked the court to dismiss the case, in part because Congress has given regulatory agencies authority over the production and discharge of greenhouse gas emissions. US District Judge William Alsup said he wants to strip away the politics and "stick to the science" behind the issue. He called on both sides to present "the best science now available on global warming." "This is a serious proposition to try to educate the judge," Alsup said. Legal experts said they have never seen a judge holding a tutorial on climate change, and they are eager to see how the oil companies explain global warming. Chevron's Boutrous said the oil giant backs a 2013 report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concluded it was "extremely likely" that humans are contributing to global warming. The Artic sea ice thins as polar bears shed pounds. But Boutrous insisted that earlier reports by the IPCC were less certain. When Alsup asked Boutrous if the other four oil companies agreed with his presentation, Boutrous said he was only speaking for Chevron. The attorneys for the other four oil firms generally acknowledge the reality of man-made global warming, but none of them answered questions during last week's court hearing. What does that tell us? To say it neutral but very clear: people are keep on passing the buck to others. They keep on leaving others to hold the baby, while our planet keeps on dying. The five oil companies argued in court papers filed last Tuesday that they should not be held liable for the effects of global warming, which is caused by "billions" of parties and "complex environmental phenomena occurring worldwide over many decades."  Trying to make some excuses? Or is it the naked truth? Despite the wide scientific consensus, US President Donald Trump has turned US climate policy on its head since taking office 14 months ago. Trump, a Republican, has pushed to increase fossil fuel production and announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aims to reduce emissions. And, sad to say, but Trump's growing cabinet is a cabinet of climate deniers. US President Donald Trump's decision to appoint hard-line climate denier Mike Pompeo as secretary of state is a death knell for US climate leadership. Can anyone fill the vacuum?    Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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