Showing posts from February, 2016

Zenefits and the Problem of the Chief Enabling Officer

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had an article about the rowdy culture at Zenefits, a health insurance brokerage based in San Francisco. They'd gotten their hands on an email to employees which read, in part: "Do not use the stairwells to smoke, drink, eat, or have sex. Yes, you read that right." The article detailed the difficulty that new CEO David Sacks is having in terms of curbing the out-of-control culture there. In memo after memo, says the Journal, he's been urging employees to act in a way that's more suitable to the type of work they do - but frankly admits “it is too difficult to define and parse what is ‘appropriate’ versus ‘inappropriate’ drinking in the office.” Yet Sacks appears very clear that the company's cofounder and former CEO, Parker Conrad, is to blame for its problems. As the newspaper reported several weeks ago, the new CEO sent an email to employees that read as follows: “The fact is that many of our internal processes, controls, …

You Never Know Who You're Dealing With

I accepted a new position last week and it will involve once again being a supervisor. I've been preparing for the role by asking seasoned managers for their input on how to hit the ground running, and for 360 degree type feedback about their perceptions of me at work. You can never ask enough. Ask, and ask, and ask. And I was walking past the desk of an administrative assistant I am friendly with and she had a few minutes. So I asked if I could "interview her." After about thirty seconds I realized that I was talking to someone with extensive managerial experience, in the military and in the private sector.  For months and months she had seemed to belong to a certain category, but after all this time it was clear: I didn't know who I was dealing with. It's funny, I think people are naturally this way, but branding has made us even worse. We've become so accustomed to making quick and simple decisions. We need to; all of us suffer from information overload. S…

Talia Jane Just Set Yelp On Fire

I don't know this young lady from Adam or Jane.  I don't know a thing about Yelp's corporate culture. But as an outsider looking in, I can tell you the brand of this company just went southward today - significantly. As an employee got fired after writing a negative review of her salary. It's a bit hard to understand. It looks like a temper tantrum. Not a reasoned response to one employees' perhaps impulsive move. Think about it. The entire mission of Yelp is to promote customer reviews. More broadly, to encourage the customer to "talk back" to the merchant who sells them goods and services. Here is an employee doing just that - she is reviewing the values of her company. Maybe in a cheeky way, but nevertheless in line with all the things that Yelp! has taught her. Now, they've canned her. And as we all know, in any traffic accident both parties look bad.  But in a corporate traffic accident, the rich CEO always looks worse than the employee. It'…

Just Burn Your Money Instead

The year was 1987 and they paid me a lot of money to work as a temp. Nobody uses the word "temp" anymore, but when I was sixteen that was a real thing. In Manhattan. I typed fast because my high school taught me how to do it and I'd studied piano, so there it was, something like 110 WPM (words per minute). The typewriters were electric by then, and I got called in to substitute when the regular secretary was out. I understand that administrative work is real. Please don't think I'm putting it down. But let's put our thinking caps on for a second. If you call me at 7:00 a.m. because someone is out sick that day and I park it at your desk and read the paper all day for $160 (that's $20 x 8, the rate I commanded in those days, which was good) - I guess I'd have to ask you why? Imagine me and a hundred thousand other temps, on any given day, just sitting there. What for? Sure I understand, it's an image thing, you want the office to look populated an…

"How to be Single" - and Unbelievable

There are many ways to diagnose a helicopter mom. But I am pretty confident I meet and exceed all relevant criteria. Consider my performance as an audience member watching "How to be Single," a Valentine's Day treat movie for me and my husband that quickly turned into an ESPN-like bout of self-expression on my part: "WHY IS SHE BEING SO CHOOSEY, HE LOVES HER" "YES IT'S VERY FUNNY BUT THIS MOVIE IS ALSO SO SAD" "IT WASN'T LIKE THIS WHEN WE WERE GROWING UP" "TALK ABOUT A SCHMUCK" "WE TAKE EVERYTHING WE HAVE FOR GRANTED, DON'T WE" So sue me. I never stop worrying about the kids, no matter how old they get. I never stop thinking about how will each of them get married to a nice normal stable loyal person who will take care of them when we get old and live in Depends, which by the way cost more than fifty cents apiece. I've read a million articles about how every other Gen X parent is just like me, they won…

Parshas Terumah - On Giving The Honor To G-d

This week's Torah reading is Parshas Terumah, in the book of Shmos (Exodus). The Jews are told to make a Sanctuary within which to worship G-d. Very glorious and full of gold.

Finding the instructions about Temple-building pretty dry I didn't even want to read the commentaries. I closed the Bible.

And then I realized...this Parsha is a pretty big deal.

G-d doesn't need our gold or our sacrifices.

G-d, being G-d, doesn't need ANYTHING.

The purpose of all this is our well-being.

To give us peace, in a world full of people who can get pretty nasty and dictatorial. That we serve only Him and never them.

Similarly when we get dressed in the morning it's good to wear clothes that are as nice as we can.

Not because we're egotistical, but because we're creations of the One True G-d, and as such we need to show a certain amount of self-respect and not put ourselves down.

5 Typical Factors Preventing Brand Alignment

1. Lack of understanding about what branding is - misconception that it's just a logo or seal when in fact it's about rallying employees and the public around your clear, compelling MISSION or identity. 2. Fighting about who is going to get the spotlight - the sense that if the organization overall has a brand, then my particular subgroup will not get recognized for its work. Related to this, a lack of understanding of brand architecture - that a brand can be organized to accommodate various sub-brands without compromising the overall identity. The tendency is to think in extremes - either there is one brand overlord at HQ who won't let anyone else have their own identity, or there is a completely decentralized system where any logo goes. 3. Chain of command thinking - failure to see that a brand is only as good as the people who support it. You can't tell employees what to do and how to feel. You can only educate, motivate, and inspire them to be passionate advocates fo…

The False Intimacy of a Facebook Friend

"Well hello Dannielle Blumenthal," she said to me, a complete stranger. I stood there for a moment, bewildered. Am I supposed to know you? If I am, I can't remember your name. "Hi, uh..." I replied, trying to buy time and avoid having to say her name in return. But before I had to say anything else, she said something else to me. "I loved your post on the donut," she said. "Uh..." Who is this woman? What is the post she's referring to?  I tried doing an internal Google search of my brain of all posts on all media with the keyword "donut" somewhere inside.  Not an inkling, and it showed. "We're Facebook friends," she said, which made me turn red as I obviously did not know who the hell I was friends with on Facebook whatsoever. "It was your post on the struggle not to eat the donut. How you Googled 'emotional eating.' You must know that one, it was just the other day." She looked a little worried…

Why Aren't You Happy Already?

This morning I was trying to find this coffee shop in uptown D.C., in the freezing cold. The entire job consisted of walking southbound on Wisconsin Avenue. Four blocks from the train and I would have been there. I took out my iPhone just to be sure. Aha! Go that way!I love this thing! Gleefully I skipped along the cobblestones. It is freezing out here, effing freezing, I said to myself, but I am so, so happy that I will be there in five.  Ten minutes later I was standing on a street corner, thinking angry things.  I hate Google! I hate this stupid phone! I hate Washington, D.C.! I can't even feel my fingers! I HATE COFFEE! (OK, that last part I definitely did not think.) With a sigh of resignation, I realized that I cannot get directions off of any phone. Because I am directionally challenged.  But somehow I figured it out and there it was. I virtually breathed it aloud: Oh, what a lovely coffee shop! Coffee Nature in Washington, D.C. (4224 Fessenden Street NW) It was early in the mor…