Category Archives: 3. News You Can Use

Workers Smoking Mad at Vapers

Would you blast your playlist in a communal work space? How about microwaving leftover fish so everyone in the office could “enjoy” your reheated leftovers? Probably not. But what about vaping?

As e-cigarettes become more popular, people in the workplace are steamed about having to unwillingly smell the scented vapors the devices emit. In fact, even the e-cig manufacturer Juul had to ban its own employees from vaping while at work to comply with a 2016 California law prohibiting vaping in the workplace.

California is one of twelve states and many cities that have enacted laws against vaping, the practice of inhaling vapor from a battery-operated device that contains liquid with nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. However, the regulations haven’t been broadly publicized and are not regularly enforced, leaving many non-vapers unhappily inhaling the scents, just as non-smokers were forced to breathe in second-hand smoke years ago. And while inhaling the exhaled vapors from e-cigarettes has not been shown to cause medical problems, it is most definitely causing workplace irritation.

Some find the sucking sound made when inhaling the vapor disturbing, while others grouse about the odor creeping its way into their spaces. Still, the practice is not prohibited in many states, and so vapers continue to vape, whether it’s sneaking a puff in the bathroom or ignoring the building policies requiring smokers of anything—e-cigarette or tobacco—to take their habit outdoors, often to a designated area.

Whose rights should take precedence?

From The Wall Street Journal


  1. If vaping hasn’t been proven to cause medical harm, should it be allowed in public spaces?
  2. Should employers enforce anti-vaping regulations to the point of punishing or firing those who don’t comply?
  3. What would you do if you were in the situation of having to breathe the exhaled vapor of an e-cigarette against your wishes?


Employers Want New Hires Who Can Chitchat

Employers Want New Hires Who Can Chitchat

It’s well and good for a new-hire to be a whiz at coding or analyzing data, but possessing social skills is becoming just as important.

Social skills are the ability to interact and communicate with people verbally and nonverbally through gestures, body language, and even physical appearance. Unfortunately, it’s a set of skills employers are not finding in their millennial and Gen Z hires.

Social skills are particularly important in today’s workplace, say experts, because jobs requiring social interaction are on the upsurge, while the number of less social jobs is decreasing. The reason makes sense. As artificial intelligence takes the place of many positions requiring repetition, people who can interpret others’ feelings become more valuable. “There’s no way to program a robot to figure out when a customer has had a bad day,” says Prof. David Deming of Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Just as important are social niceties once taken for granted. Employers complain that many of today’s employees are unskilled at knowing when to shake a hand or even how to. Some organizations have found it necessary to create training modules to teach young employees how to converse casually. It’s no surprise such training is needed, considering the number of hours the younger generations interface with smartphones rather than humans.

With Bank of America training employees to show empathy, medical clinics using online courses to help workers learn to deal with touchy conversations, and Subaru creating a development program that covers topics such as punctuality and wearing appropriate attire, it’s clear employers need workers who can socialize and show human emotions. Just as clear is the fact that those who can demonstrate such skills will be in high demand.

From The Wall Street Journal


  1. Why do you think young people may not possess the social skills that were taken for granted in past generations?
  2. Can you identify a list of social skills that would be worthwhile to develop to make you more marketable?
  3. Why is it so important to look someone in the eye when shaking hands?


AI Is Here, Like it or Not

New technology has always made workers nervous about being displaced, and those in blue collar jobs have traditionally taken the biggest hit. However, recent innovations have made it clear that white collar workers—people who work in offices—will be the next wave of workers to be supplanted by artificial intelligence.

The reaction to this reality is divided into two camps. Some who study artificial intelligence believe it will add great value to humankind by providing a utopian grab bag of life-enhancing functions, from curing diseases to fixing climate change. Others warn that AI is a potential risk to our very existence, with robots overtaking human intelligence, and consequently, our ability to control them.

But the author of AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order thinks both schools of thought are off base. Kai-Fu Lee, in an essay published by the Wall Street Journal, writes that AI technology can enable societies to actually better care for humans.

The reason is straightforward. Although AI is predicted to take over many tasks, from driving a car to diagnosing illnesses or providing customer service, an automaton will never possess human empathy or social skills: A robot or an algorithm is incapable of caring for an infant or the elderly, Lee says. Nor can AI think creatively or make goals.

Jobs that require repetition and no human interaction like an insurance adjuster or fast food preparer will very likely cease to exist, Lee writes. Then there’s a middle ground, where AI will assist rather than take over. Doctors may have help from AI to diagnose, for example, and bartenders may not actually pour drinks but will interact with customers. However, AI will never replace a CEO or a social worker, an attorney or a hair stylist.

Still, Lee warns that the upheavals that AI will likely trigger may create deep chasms in society, requiring leaders to devise new ways to sustain humanity.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the potential upheavals society may face as AI replaces more and more jobs?
  2. Beyond those mentioned above, which jobs will remain safe from being taken over by artificial intelligence?
  3. Which skills will help workers survive the inevitable impact of AI on the job market?