Monthly Archives: December 2016

Hands Off the Hair?

Hands Off the Hair?

jan2017shutterstock_331957787Recently the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint was against a firm in Alabama that rescinded a job offer to a black woman who refused to cut off her dreadlocks as a condition for employment. The job applicant had worn a blue business suit and her hair in short dreadlocks when interviewing for the position.

The EEOC claimed that prohibiting the dreads was a form of racial discrimination because the hairstyle should be considered “physiologically and culturally associated with people of African descent.” However, during oral arguments, the Circuit opinion volleyed back with the assertion that if a white person were to wear dreads in support of a black colleague, that individual could claim a race-based complaint, too. The court ruled that banning the hairstyle could not be labeled as racial discrimination. Instead, the court declared, the dreads fall under “grooming policy.”

Opposing counsel maintained that the offending firm’s grooming policy was “race neutral.” The original basis of the lawsuit, however, was the EEOC’s labeling the dreadlocks an “immutable trait.” This phrase is part of the federal law that bans employment discrimination on the basis of race, which the courts have interpreted to mean skin color and “immutable traits.” Nevertheless, the notion that hairstyle is culturally linked to race—and therefore an immutable trait—has been struck down numerous times by the lower courts and was again in this case.


  1. Should companies be able to dictate the way employees wear their hair? Why or why not?
  1. The woman around whom the case revolved had applied for a job in customer service. How do you think customers would have reacted to dreadlocked hair?
  1. Which elements of an employee’s appearance should employers not be allowed to dictate?

Help Learning Student Names…Digital Natives Prefer Conversations in Person…Be More Productive–Work in 90-Minute Increments

Help Learning Student Names

Between the volume of students, number of classes, and diverse names from other languages, instructors can have a difficult time remembering who’s who, and the issue affects student and teacher alike. For students, hearing their names mangled or not attempted at all can be disheartening or even insulting. For instructors, mispronouncing or not remembering names is downright embarrassing.

jan2017shutterstock_142811539Below are some strategies for keeping names straight.

  1. Read your class rosters aloud before meeting students for the first time, attempting to sound out difficult names. Practice until you feel confident.
  1. Take attendance and address each student the same way: “What do you prefer to be called?” to avoid drawing attention to students with unusual names.
  1. Write names you have difficulty pronouncing phonetically.
  1. Ask students to tell you one thing about themselves no one in the class knows, going first yourself: “I hate chocolate.” Use the students’ responses as a mnemonic device to associate the face with the name.
  1. Print student photographs and place the name under the image.
  1. Invite students to create a profile with a photo in your course management system.

 Digital Natives Prefer Conversations in Person

Despite being raised with electronic devices since infancy, nearly 40 percent of today’s young workers prefer in-person communication over digital options.jan2017shutterstock_158383940

A recent study conducted by Future Workplace and Randstad examined responses from over 4,000 employees from Gen Z, those 22 and under, and Millennials, 23-34-year-olds. The research was conducted in 10 countries, including the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

Additionally, the researchers found, somewhat surprisingly, that over 40 percent of these young workers prefer a corporate office rather than co-working spaces or working from home.  Such data could indicate a shift away from working remotely.

However, employers shouldn’t bring back traditional workplaces just yet. About twenty percent of those same workers surveyed still consider flexible hours their most important employee benefit.

–From Fast Company

Be More Productive–Work in 90-Minute Increments

Remember hours of cramming before a final or writing furiously into the night to make a deadline? It turns out that working for hours at a stretch lessens productivity. Here’s why.

jan2017shutterstock_356926295Strategic renewal—defined as anything from a short daytime nap to taking regular vacations—increases productivity over the long run. Researchers have found that taking a break is a key to getting things done. Another reason for working in spurts is BRAC, or the human basic rest activity cycle. Our natural sleep cycles occur in 90-minute intervals of light sleep and deep sleep. Mirroring that pattern during the day replenishes us humans.

Yet another reason pointing to the efficacy of limited blasts of intense work is that studies have shown that elite athletes, top-notch musicians, and world class chess players who practice for 90 minutes and then take breaks work fewer hours to attain greater returns than those who do not.

If it works for them…

–From Payscale






Topsy-Turvy: Starting Bus Comm Class with Job Search Unit

by Janet Mizrahi, The Guffey Team

One of our readers told us she recently experimented by starting her business communication class with a unit on employment communication. Nicole Adams at the University of Dayton says she had such a great response from her students that she’s sticking with the course structure. “Students are engaged from day one,” she says.

jan2017shutterstock_56385898My colleague at the University of California Santa Barbara, Gina Genova, has been starting her introductory business communication course with a résumé and cover letter assignment for years. I sat down with Gina to learn more about how this plays out in her classroom.

What is your teaching strategy behind starting the class with a résumé?

My strategy is that students will need these two documents to get into the business world, so we begin with an assignment is relevant to them. Also, the timing syncs with many of the job fairs that come on campus during fall and winter, when I teach the course.

Are you able to squeeze in instruction on writing cover letters and thank you notes?

Yes… and the writing process, too! I begin the second day of class (our first real lecture) with the writing process. Our second lecture is the cover letter, and the third is the résumé. I have students prepare those two assignments as a bundle. At the end of that lecture, I briefly address thank you notes and some of the post-interview follow-up inquiries as time allows.

Do you teach an entire unit on the job search, or is the assignment just a résumé and cover letter?

In the quarter system, there just isn’t time to cover everything I’d like, such as interviewing and the job search. But I think that would work well within the constraints of a semester.

Does your assignment require students to prepare a résumé linked to a particular job or internship?

Yes. I ask them to choose a position they would really apply to so the assignment is practical for them. I also have them turn in the ad to which they are responding so that I can see they have tailored the cover letter and résumé specifically to that position.

How do you prepare students for the assignment? Lecture? Readings? In-class workshops or exercises?

Prior to the class in which I lecture about the résumé and cover letter, I assign reading to support what I discuss. During the lecture, we dissect two or three examples in class.

Do you meet with students individually to discuss their résumés?

I don’t require meetings. However, about half the students bring both the cover letter and résumé for me to review during office hours. I would say this assignment creates the most student contact time over the quarter. It helps me get to know the students at the beginning of the term, which is another bonus of organizing the course this way.

What other benefits do you see by organizing the class with the résumé assignment coming first?

It immediately engages the students because it’s a very individualized document that will yield personal rewards if done well. Students instantly see the value in the assignment; they’ve either been in the job market or understand that they will need to be soon. It’s an easy sell in these regards and makes a nice transition into the rest of the business documents they write over the course of the class.

What kind of student feedback do you receive about this assignment?

This is hands down the student’s favorite assignment. Every quarter I get at least 8-10 narrative evaluation comments saying that the résumé and cover letter assignments were the most “helpful” and “practical.” During the term, I also get many remarks from the students, especially in the fall, about how the assignment prepared them for the job fairs that follow. Additionally, I frequently receive e-mails or visits from former students asking me to look over their new résumé to help them in a current job search for post-graduation employment.

How do you organize your business communication course? Start a discussion!