Weekly Wrap: Big Brothering Freelancers, the Terrors of Testosterone, Torching an Employer

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Have you noticed a big change this week? Now that summer and Labor Day is behind us, people seem really serious about getting back to serious work.

That’s why TLNT’s Weekly Wrap is important. Every Friday, I highlight and summarize a number of interesting workplace news items you may have missed while you were getting serious about your job. It’s just one way that TLNT can help keep you updated and informed.

Do you find this wrap-up useful and interesting? I’d like to know, so please leave a comment here, or send it directly to me via e-mail (john@tlnt.com). Tell me what you like, don’t like, and whether you’d like a little more, or maybe even a little less (or something different altogether).

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Yes, this is a weekly round-up of news, trends, and all sorts of information from the world of HR and talent management. I do it so you don’t have to:

  • Big Brother enters the freelance worker world. With more and more of the workforce turning into contingent or freelance employees, more and more systems are popping up that help to manage those kinds of work relationships. USA Today recently highlighted one of these called oDesk, and although managers will probably love it, freelance workers will surely be bothered by this: “ODesk’s most distinctive, and controversial, feature takes frequent snapshots of workers’ computer screens and records their keystrokes and mouse clicks so employers know when they’re working and what they’re doing.” One critic calls the oDesk monitoring system “heavy-handed and intrusive.”
  • So what else is new? Testosterone makes young male managers and deal-makers “combative.” Women have surely known this for a long time, but a study by the University of British Columbia has found that testosterone – a hormone associated with male dominance-seeking in competitive situations – can be a negative factor in high-stakes decision-making. “Young male CEOs appear to be combative;” They are more likely to attempt business takeovers, resist others’ offers to buy them out, and especially to withdraw an offer, acting “against their (own and shareholders’) interest” to preserve their perceived “dominance” over rival male bosses, according to the report by three University of British Columbia scholars, after studying 350 M&A offers in 1997-2007. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Philly Deals blog got some comments from local deal makers about this survey and while they were generally amused, not all are buying it.
  • Should you fire a recent hire who is performing well if you find someone better? This question popped up this week in The New York Times’ “You’re the Boss” blog, and the back-and-forth discussion fostered an interesting debate on what is appropriate in a manager’s treatment of employees and the increasing disposability of the workforce. Even the small business owner who writes the blog found his feelings going back and forth as readers weighed in, and he ultimately said this: “Twenty-two years of scrambling to make payroll must have warped me, as my plan to put profits before kindness has received a thorough bashing.”
  • Another disgruntled employee torches his former employer. Maybe it’s the ongoing economic morass we’re all experiencing, but doesn’t it seem like there are a lot more unhappy and disgruntled former employees taking things into their own hands these days? Here’s the latest: a former Domino’s employee who was training to be an assistant manager who decided to torch two locations after he was fired. His family claims he was let go “after hoodlums attacked him outside the store,” his family told the New York Daily News. “He was fired for leaving the store unlocked during the fight as co-workers counted money inside.”
  • How to do 15 hours of work in just 59 minutes. Never underestimate the resourcefulness of the American worker, because in Minnesota, some insurance agents “were able to get credit for 15 hours of (classroom) work in just 59 minutes,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It was part of a scam that ended in 40 insurance agents agreeing to pay $3,000 fines “and go back to school after admitting they attended bogus classes to satisfy state licensing requirements.”
  • BMW shows how to get more out of older workers. With so much of our workforce opting to stay on the job longer than ever before, the productivity of these older workers is becoming an issue. But, “an innovative experiment” by the automaker “has been hailed as a prototype for how to keep an aging work force both happy and productive,” according to the Detroit Free-Press. “The result: Productively rose 7% in one year, equaling that of younger workers. Absenteeism on the pilot line dropped to 2%, below the plant average, and the line achieved zero defects. BMW was so happy with the results that it has designed follow-up projects in its other factories, including its sole U.S. assembly plant, in Spartanburg, S.C.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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