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7 Paradoxes of the Contemporary Neurotic

1. Needs attention but fears that what others would see is unacceptable.

2. Pursues education obsessively, with no resulting job qualifications.

3. Bombarded with others' opinions yet insecure about expressing one's own.

4. Counts the likes on Facebook posts, but too impatient to listen to others in person.

5. Passionate - about the issue of the hour.

6. Continually restless, yet feels cheated out of a stable job.

7. Rejects the concept of labels but quick to embrace the idea of a personal brand.

Social Media Is Often Beside The Point

Personally I don't think people have trouble speaking clearly or writing plainly when they are free to express themselves. So the problem is not a lack of technical writing skill.
I do think the problem, in government and elsewhere, is the number and kind of formal and informal restrictions on communication. By the time you put normal English through the mill it often sounds like an odd, tortured form of the language we speak.
Formal restrictions concern written laws, rules, regulations and policy regarding what may be expressed and how. 
Informal restrictions include unwritten but generally known preferred phrasings or jargon, or cultural sensitivities.
There is also the matter of coordinated communication - because of course the more people involved in the message the less "human" it sounds and the more strained and calculated.
Whatever the kind of organization one is talking about, whether you're selling Domino's Pizza or preparing the public for inclement weather, communication is decided by people with different orientations. All of those people have some say. The conversational types think in terms of how the public thinks - they just want to give a simple straight answer. The subject matter experts think in terms of the complexity of the answer - usually things are difficult to spell out in a single sentence or two. The lawyer thinks in terms of the legal implications of the response. So on and so on. 
That is why the whole issue of social media in government is really beside the point no matter how much or how well an agency does it. The crux of the matter is whether the primary communication to the public is clear, comprehensive and credible; whether the issues people want to hear about are being addressed; and whether all communication from the agency is aligned and consistent both internally and where necessary with the rest of the government. 

All opinions are always my own.

Bullying and the FEVS: Any Connection?

Over the years there's been lots of talk about the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), what it means and how to fix the problems it reveals. I've never seen anything that suggests bullying in the workplace could be a factor (if I'm wrong please correct me). Perhaps this could be an area worth exploring as bullying is both rampant and legal.

Further, if you drill down to the FEVS results, you see that federal employees perceive themselves as dedicated to work and engaged in ways to be more productive. However, they are becoming less likely to recommend their workplace and they do not at all believe that good performance is rewarded or vice versa.

Take a look at the data below and let me know what you think.
  • 35% of the U.S. workforce has been bullied: "Bullying is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and, because it is violence and abusive, emotional harm frequently results." - Workplace Bullying Institute
  • Bullying In The Federal Workplace Is Legal: "No federal law directly addresses bullying." -
  • The Best Employees Are The Most Likely Targets: "Most likely, you were targeted (for reasons the instigator may or may not have known) because you posed a "threat" to him or her. The perception of threat is entirely in his/her mind, but it is what he/she feels and believes. WBI research findings from our year 2000 study and conversations with thousands of targets have confirmed that:
    • Targets appear to be the veteran and most skilled person in the workgroup.
    • Targets are independent. They refuse to be subservient. Bullies seek to enslave targets. When targets take steps to preserve their dignity, their right to be treated with respect, bullies escalate their campaigns of hatred and intimidation to wrest control of the target's work from the target.
    • Targets are more technically skilled than their bullies. They are the "go-to" veteran workers to whom new employees turn for guidance. Insecure bosses and co-workers can't stand to share credit for the recognition of talent. Bully bosses steal credit from skilled targets.
    • Targets are better liked, they have more social skills, and quite likely possess greater emotional intelligence. They have empathy (even for their bullies). Colleagues, customers, and management (with exception to the bullies and their sponsors) appreciate the warmth that the targets bring to the workplace.
    • Targets are ethical and honest. Some targets are whistleblowers who expose fraudulent practices. Every whistleblower is bullied. Targets are not schemers or slimy con artists. They tend to be guileless.
    • The most easily exploited targets are people with personalities founded on a prosocial orientation -- a desire to help, heal, teach, develop, nurture others.
    • Targets are non-confrontive. They do not respond to aggression with aggression. (They are thus morally superior.) But the price paid for apparent submissiveness is that the bully can act with impunity (as long as the employer also does nothing)." (Note that the bullet and sub-bullets are all part of the original quote from WBI. - DB)
  • Worsening Economic Conditions Increase The Likelihood Of Bullying: "Gary Namie, a social psychologist who co-founded the Bellingham, Wash.-based Workplace Bullying Institute in 1997....says the economic downturn has made bullying even worse." - Washington Post, March 1, 2013
  • Bullying Is Recognized As A Looming Widespread Liability: "“I believe this is the new claim that employers will deal with. This will replace sexual harassment,” said Sharon Parella, a management-side employment lawyer in New York. “People who oppose it say these laws will force people to be polite at work. But you can no longer go to work and act like a beast and get away with it.”
  • Despite The Stereotypes, Federal Employees Like and Care About Their Jobs: Nearly all Federal employees report that their work is important, they are constantly looking for ways to do their job better, and they are willing to put in the extra effort to get the job done. This finding is consistent across the 82 Federal agencies that participated in the 2012 FEVS. Eight out of 10 employees like the work they do, understand how their work relates to the agency’s goals and priorities, and rate the overall quality of the work done by their work unit as high." -Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey 2012

  • Federal Employees Less Likely To Recommend Their Workplace or to be Satisfied With Their Job: This year employee responses were down two percentage points when recommending their organization as a good place to work (67 percent) and down three percentage points with their satisfaction with their job (68 percent) and organization (59 percent).  -Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey 2012
  • Pay Satisfaction Is Low and Few Believe They Are Compensated Based On Performance: Satisfaction with pay (59 percent) had the greatest impact on the Global Satisfaction scores, as it decreased by four percentage points. This is pay satisfaction’s lowest level since the 2004 survey administration. Two out of 10 employees feel pay raises are related to their job performance. Three out of 10 employees feel that their performance is recognized in a meaningful way and that promotions are based on merit.  -Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey 2012

Micro Center + Microsoft = Brand Success

My dad is a computer geek, I am a computer geek, my husband is in IT and one of my kids is a gamer who watches "The Big Bang Theory" and "King of the Nerds" on TV.

I remember when everything was IBM, Lotus Notes, WordPerfect, and Microsoft was king. Apple was sort of like a joke company for people who couldn't use a real computer.

A few months ago I stumbled across a Micro Center. It was geek heaven - Sephora for computer freaks. It was unbelievable. There was all this STUFF laying around - all these cords, and parts and pieces with everything you could imagine to build or enhance your computer.

I had to go back several times before I even saw that they had a tiny Apple section, squished to the side.

As a brand person Microsoft's current woes are absolutely mystifying to me. With all the money and the brains that they have, can they not figure out how to edge out Apple once again?

The core problem at Microsoft is that they keep trying to copy Apple. This is the worst mistake any brand can make, especially a dominant one. It's like your grandmother wearing hipster clothes. It does not compute.

Previously I had shared an idea that they could use Sheldon ("Big Bang Theory") as a kind of spokesperson. Could work well - product placement and such.

But yesterday when I went to Micro Center - where they had all these posters on the wall honoring the "greats" of computer programming - it dawned on me: Microsoft and Micro Center absolutely go together. They are the same brand - in the sense that they occupy the same mind space.

Microsoft and Micro Center are both joy in geekiness. Pocket protectors. Programming. Wiring. Introversion. Socially awkward.

What Microsoft has to do to get back to being primary is buy out a place like Micro Center - have a chain of stores across the country - and simply call it "Micro Center by Microsoft."

Amazon sells products itself and through other vendors - Microsoft can keep the Apple corner where it is. Psychologically that would be a smart thing to do - literally "putting them in their place."

It wouldn't hurt to sponsor "The Big Bang Theory," either or even to establish a "Nerdvana" theme park.

Branding in the end is psychological, and social - it's a war of the mind. Microsoft can get back there again, they just have to stop playing to ingredient strategy and shift towards being a destination.