Monthly Archives: April 2018

Smartphones Are Making Us Dumb… Unpaid Internships Are Baaack… The Selfie That Won’t Die

Smartphones Are Making Us Dumb

People are so attached to their smartphones that over half surveyed in a Gallup poll say they couldn’t imagine their lives without one and psychologists say that’s not good. Research is showing that the phones ferret their way into our psyches so the brain actually becomes dependent on them, in turn weakening our intellect.

Scientists have known for years that just the sound of a smartphone ringing causes distraction, poor concentration, and even a rise in blood pressure and pulse rate. Worse, the anxiety of being unable to answer a call reduces the owner’s ability to solve problems. Some researchers call this “brain drain,” which negatively affects learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, and creativity.

Social skills suffer from using the devices, too. Even when talking face to face, smartphone users are itching to check their newsfeeds on their phones, making the actual conversations less meaningful and unfocused.

The phones’ appeal—constant availability of information, portability, and entertainment—is the very aspect that makes them what one cognitive psychologist calls a “supernormal stimulus” that can unduly commandeer attention.

From The Wall Street Journal

Unpaid Internships Are Baaack

After years of progress making internships fairer to young people seeking workplace experience, the US Department of Labor has issued new guidelines making it easier for companies that want to hire interns for no pay. The change reverts to rules that favor employers who can once again hire interns as free labor.

Previous rules required internships to meet six criteria that prohibited employers from taking “immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.” The new rules say an internship does not have to meet any threshold; it merely needs to be justified on its own merits.

The updated guidelines allow an employer to argue that even if an intern is completing low-level tasks with no supervision, that individual benefits from learning about how an industry works, thus making the unpaid internship legal. However, many employers are taking precautions and are paying interns minimum wage to avoid possible legal repercussions.

From Los Angeles Times

The Selfie That Won’t Die

Those temporary selfies, the ones that disappear? Not so temporary, it turns out.

The entire purpose of apps such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories is that they only allow viewers to see an image for a few seconds before it disappears. However, researchers are now saying that once those not-so-professional images are seen, they’re hard to unsee.

Because the so-called disappearing selfies are considered safe, people sending them tend to take more risqué snaps or other photos they wouldn’t send if they knew the picture would be more permanent. The researchers explain that viewers of these images can’t seem to forget them, leaving a lasting impression of the sender’s poor judgment.

The addition of screen-capture software compounds the problem, which becomes most dire when potential employers see the photos. At best, says one researcher: “[Prospective employers] might just think if you look uninhibited, you’re an idiot, and they don’t want to hire an idiot.”

From Harvard Business School



Emojis Cause Workplace Confusion

A whopping 71 percent of Americans add digital images such as emojis or GIFs when using mobile messaging apps. While such use may not cause ☹️ when sent between friends, the practice is causing many a 😰 in HR departments across American businesses. Why? The cutesy icons have now become evidence in certain workplace lawsuits. 😩

The problem lies in emojis’ inherent subjectivity—what’s funny to you may be offensiveto me. Perhaps that is why 39 percent of senior managers surveyed by Robert Half said that using emojis was unprofessional. However, in the same survey, 61 percent stated that using the images in work communication was okay “in certain situations.”

Clearly, a lack of consensus about if and when to use digital images pervades the workplace, and researchers are investigating just how the ubiquitous icons can cause chaos. Some findings show that emoji use affects the sender’s workplace persona by conveying a lack of seriousness. In fact, researchers in Israel found that use of emojis increased the perception of a sender’s incompetence. However, the data also found those reactions tend to be influenced by the level of formality in the communication, once again leaving emoji use problematical.

Even more serious, however, is that emojis have exacerbated sexual harassment issues, says Kelly Hughes, an attorney at the national legal firm Ogletree Deakins. Employees sending messages rife with heart or kissy face emojis open themselves up to harassment charges by creating what could be interpreted as a hostile work environment. This is especially true if the emojis are used to convey inappropriate thoughts. These types of messages end up putting employers at risk because workplace communication can be used as evidence in lawsuits against organizations.

It’s no wonder employers are 😩.


  1. Describe an acceptable situation for sending a message with an emoji to your boss.
  2. List some emojis that could be misinterpreted.
  3. Should firms create policies controlling the use of emojis in business communication?

–From Workforce

Conversational but Professional: Hitting the Right Note

[ Instructors: Download PDFs of this exercise at the bottom of the post.]

Capturing the right tone in business communication requires careful consideration of audience, an organization’s corporate climate, and writing purpose. Whether composing a text message or an e-mail, good writers project professionalism by choosing words that will make them sound educated, mature, and conversational.

To hit the right note between being too relaxed or too formal, keep these points in mind:

  • Adopt a casual tone that sounds conversational instead of the high-level diction found in formal reports or letters.
  • Avoid overblown words such as awesome or incredible.
  • Be concise and polite.
  • Compose using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Don’t use abbreviations that are appropriate only for non-work messages (BTW instead of by the way or gr8 for great).
  • Use personal pronouns such as I, we, and you to sound friendlier.

Practice hitting the right tone by rewriting the sentences below. If the tone of a sentence is appropriate, mark it as correct with a C.

  1. All managers are hereby instructed to administer the pro forma documents to the approrpriate parties for the ensuing quarters.
  2. Bossman Steve, totally awesome news!! Gretchel has FINALLY tossed her heinous idea so we can go with the cool one Benny came up with.
  3. Please return the signed documents so we can process your check quickly.
  4. The advent of unforeseen events adding to the difficulty of completion of the tasks does not abrogate your presence at meetings nor the original due date.
  5. Hey, dude, you promised me those docs like three days ago? WTH?
  6. As a new employee, you can contribute to our volunteer efforts in many different ways.
  7. Per the dictates contained in the previously mentioned contract containing your signature, your inability to fulfill the parameters of the assignment are reasonable cause for immediate dismissal.
  8. R U coming 2 the mtg at 3 cuz if not el jefe will be mucho mad.
  9. Pursuant to our orla communication which took place on the afternoon of the 12th of November, you are hereby notified that your application for vacation has been met with approval.
  10. It is desirous that all employees adhere to the signs posted in various and sundry locations throughout our establishment and properly cleanse their hands.


  1. Original too formal, wordy, contains a typo. REWRITE: All managers should give the prepared documents to involved staff members quarterly.
  2. Original too informal, uses impolite language, wordy. REWRITE: Steve, Gretchel has agreed to go with Benny’s idea.
  3. C
  4. Original too formal, wordy.REWRITE: Despite the sudden events, you must attend meetings and finish the job on time.
  5. Original too informal, uses inappropriate abbreviation. REWRITE: Mike, do you have the documents you promised me a few days ago?
  6. C
  7. Original oo formal, wordy. REWRITE: Because you have not completed the assignment, we are dismissing you, according to the terms of the contract.
  8. Original too informal, grammatically incorrect, use of abbreviations. REWRITE: Are you coming to the meeting at 3:00? I think the boss is expecting you.
  9. Original too formal, wordy, typo. REWRITE: Your vacation is approved. Have fun!
  10. Original too formal, wordy. REWRITE: All employees must wash their hands.

Conversational but Professional

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