Monthly Archives: April 2017

Hit Hard in Interviews by Stressing Soft Skills

Soft skills are sizzling hot these days. Numerous studies, news articles, and career-advice websites trumpet employers’ needs for staff possessing soft skills—those personal attributes and habits that help an individual communicate, collaborate, think critically, and lead. However, soft skills by their very nature may be difficult to demonstrate, especially during an interview.

LinkedIn’s vice president of global talent, Brendan Browne, says that some companies find soft skills so important they use predictive software to identify potential new hires’ characteristics before even meeting the candidate. The very fact that such software exists epitomizes the importance firms put on soft skills. Not surprisingly, Browne urges job seekers to come to an interview armed with anecdotes that illustrate those attributes.

One of the most important soft skills to emphasize during an interview, says Browne, is grit, the ability to keep going when the going gets tough. Employers want workers who can persevere during difficult times, so candidates should be prepared to tell a story that illustrates this skill.

Another desired soft skill is adaptability, demonstrating how well an individual handles change. Job seekers can help their chances for landing a position by relating an instance during which they faced a major change and came through it on top. In fact, many organizations prefer a person with less experience who can demonstrate adaptability over others with years of experience.

Job seekers should also go into an interview armed with brief stories that illustrate their ability to make decisions and respond during various scenarios. Today’s employers may even stage a crisis during an interview to see how the candidate reacts.

Preparation is the key to any good interview, but coming in with anecdotes that illustrate important soft skills can make the difference in landing the job.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is critical thinking, and why do you think employers seek new hires who possess this skill?
  1. How might you demonstrate strong written and oral communication skills during an interview?
  1. Why is it a bad idea to exaggerate a soft skill during an interview?

Hey, Be Nice!… Geography Determines Dress Code… Female Millennial Workers Suffer from Depression, Burnout

Hey, Be Nice!

Bad manners in the workplace undermine collaboration, according to new research published in the Harvard Business Review. The rude behaviors that ruptured teamwork included belittling and demeaning comments, insults, and backbiting. Even those who weren’t the direct objects of the nastiness were less confident and helpful as a result of the incivility that infected the group.

The study followed two teams, one of which received neutral messages about its work, and another, which received insulting comments about its work. The team that felt the brunt of the rude remarks ranked lower in each performance metric primarily because group members stopped sharing information and didn’t seek help from teammates.

Teams work best in an environment of trust and respect, in which individuals feel safe to accept feedback and take risks. When the opposite occurs, the ensuing negativity tends to be repeated in subsequent collaborative efforts.

From Harvard Business Review

Geography Determines Dress Code

When JPMorgan Chase and Co. recently changed its dress code, CEO Jamie Dimon admitted that the organization’s business formal rules were out of date. Indeed, the workplace has entered a new era where employees wearing hoodies and flip flops are just as likely to be seen as staff in a suit and tie, according to research conducted by Payscale.

The survey results found that dress code formality depended on the type of business being surveyed. Nearly one half of those questioned said the company had an explicit dress code, which included companies that require uniforms. More than 42 percent said their organization allowed employees to look any way they chose, but “within reason,” a consciously vague term.

Interestingly, the research found that the closer a company is to the West Coast, the more casual the dress code. The Southeastern states have the most explicit dress codes, many requiring uniforms.


Female Millennial Workers Suffer from Depression, Burnout

 Depression among all millennials is prevalent, but more female millennial employees experience depression and burnout than their male counterparts. However, stigmas surrounding mental health issues make the women less likely to seek help. The reason? While employees would not hesitate to request time off to recover from strep throat, they are less likely to ask for a mental health day for fear of appearing weak to their employers.

The non-profit organization Mental Health America reports that depression costs the U.S. economy over $51 billion in absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs each year. However, experiencing stress and depression not only causes absenteeism; it also affects presenteeism, which occurs when a depressed employee comes to work but does not operate at full throttle.

From MarketWatch






A Shot in the Arm: Using the Mylan Scandal to Bring Ethics into the Business Communication Classroom

Lapses of ethics and subsequent scandals in the business world are all-too-easy to find—Wells Fargo employees opening sham accounts with tacit nods of approval from management, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes stepping down after female employees claim he sexually harassed them, Drug giant Mylan price gouging the life-saving EpiPen, automaker Volkswagen using software to deceive authorities about diesel emissions—the list goes on.

Although these misdeeds are disturbing, they do give business communication instructors a way to enliven their courses with real-life cases from today’s headlines and provide them with fodder with which they can teach their students about ethical behavior.

Simply put, ethics are a set of principles that define right from wrong. In the business world, ethical standards hold professionals to a higher standard than the law, because while an action may be legal, it may not be the right thing to do. Acting ethically requires choosing the right course of action given a specific set of circumstances. Doing so is never easy, but identifying the primary issues surrounding the decision will make the task less difficult.

Teaching ethics in the context of the business communication classroom can be challenging. However, thoughtful analysis of unethical business decisions can prepare students to act ethically themselves. They will also see how unethical behaviors not only affect a business’s bottom line, but how those actions harm innocent people just like them.

Ethical Case Study: The EpiPen Scandal

[Instructors: The below exercise summarizes the EpiPen Scandal. It is followed by five questions that, when answered, help illuminate the process of critical thinking required to make ethical decisions. You may download the exercise and its suggested solution here.]

The EpiPen is a life-saving syringe containing epinephrine, a medicine that treats severe allergic reactions to a substance such as peanuts or the venom from a bee sting. People with these types of allergies can die within minutes of being exposed to the allergens, so having the syringe is a necessity. The condition is not rare—doctors wrote 3.6 million prescriptions for the pens in 2015.

The drug is a big money maker for manufacturer Mylan. Although the medicine itself is inexpensive, the delivery system hikes up the price of the pens. Still, in 2009, a two-pack of the pens cost $100; in 2016, the same medicine cost $618, a 400 percent increase. Because consumers had no alternative to EpiPens, they had to pay the inflated price or do without the life-saving medicine. Public outrage over the price jump resulted in Mylan CEO Heather Bresch (who earned $19 million in 2015) testifying to Congress to explain what consumers considered price gouging.

In response to the well-publicized scandal, Mylan produced a generic version of the EpiPen and marketed it for $300. The episode has brought drug price gouging to the forefront of public discussions surround healthcare costs.

Applying Critical Thinking to the Ethics of the EpiPen Scandal

Imagine you lead Mylan’s marketing department and realize that because millions of people require your product, you have a built-in market with no competitors. You do the math and realize how much money your firm would make by raising the product’s price. Should you recommend a series of price hikes to pad your organization’s bottom line?

When analyzing whether an action is ethical, it’s useful to think through the situation by answering these five questions.

  1. Is the action legal? If the answer is no, the action is not ethically sound and should be dropped.
  2. Would you do it if you were on the opposite side? Ethical decisions consider how an action will affect others.
  3. Can you find a better alternative? Situations rarely have just one resolution.
  4. Would a trusted advisor agree? The input of a respected mentor can clarify matters.
  5. Would family, friends, employer, or coworkers approve? If those you care about and work with would disapprove, the action is likely better left undone.

Analyzing the Ethics of the EpiPen Scandal—Suggested Solution

  1. Is the action legal? The decision to raise the price was legal.
  2. Would you do it if you were on the opposite side? If you had an allergy that could kill you, you would likely would want to carry the pen and would object to the price increases.
  3. Can you find a better alternative? Sell the pens in bulk to sell more but at a lower price, provide a generic version, or seek price hikes from other Mylan drugs.
  4. Would a trusted advisor agree? While we live in a free market economy, few people would agree that forcing consumers who have no alternative to your product—and who need that product to save them from a life-threatening condition—was ethical.
  5. Would family, friends, employer, or coworkers approve? To jack up the price is exploitive.