A Prescription for Refilling Our Middle-Skills Workforce

To read the headlines, you would think that there are only two types of jobs in America—blue collar working class and college-educated elite. While the irony of Donald Trump’s obsession with the former has escaped few people, the truth is that everyone is ignoring the most important jobs of all—those that fall under the title middle skills. Middle-skill jobs are those that require more education than a high school diploma but don’t necessarily require a four-year degree. They are the backbone of America’s economy and include professions like machinists, practical nurses, technical sales people, computer technicians, carpenters and so on. They are going unfilled, even as millions of Americans are searching for work, which could create long-term problems for America.

To find a solution, politicians, educators, governments and business leaders would be well advised to revisit this 2014 report from the Harvard Business School. Its findings and recommendations are every bit as timely now as they were when the report was first published. If we don’t shift our attitude about the importance of middle skill jobs and respect them for the essential contribution they provide, skill shortages will continue to grow to our detriment. 

Andrew Faas is the author of

Photo credit: BIGSTOCK

How to Leave a Toxic Legacy

Bully bosses are notorious for being short-sighted—most can see no further than their immediate objective. Given how they manipulate and torture people, it might come as a surprise that many want to be liked—even loved. For a perfect example of this look no further than Donald Trump. In spite of his toxic tweets and abusive statements, he often displays the demeanor of a small child who is aching for adoration.

Ada Brunstein explores a similar type of boss in her recent New York Times essay, “In a Law Office, Coping With a Boss’s Toxic Trail.” In it, she discusses the daily abuse she and other young, female paralegals received from the estate attorney who employed them. The lawyer, whom she calls “Mr. S,” couldn’t understand why his employees disliked him and never stayed long. It couldn’t be the blatant disregard for his staff, his incessant smoking in the office, his temper tantrums or name calling, could it? In fact, his inability to retain staff ultimately hurt his business and did nothing for his legacy.

Leaders should ask themselves how they would like to be remembered. Their behavior reflects directly on how employees feel and why they feel that way and any issues on the boss’s part that impacts the workplace negatively needs to be addressed immediately. Leadership is no place for people who don’t understand—or care—how feelings drive organizational behavior.

Andrew Faas is the author of

Photo credit: BIGSTOCK


Beware of Lies About Misconduct When Negotiating Severance

Too frequently businesses that lay off an employee allege misconduct to avoid paying a large severance package—and sometimes any severance at all. It’s a tactic that’s very difficult for employees to fight, especially in the United States. Employment attorney Daniel Lublin discusses the tactic in “The dangers of alleging and exaggerating employee misconduct”in the Globe and Mail.

I urge everyone who feels that they are falling into this trap to keep a record of objectives met and all discussions with superiors. Some of these discussions should be initiated by the employee, reviewing performance goals, asking for clarification where there is subjectivity or ambiguity. However, in the case of the 60-year-old employee mentioned in this article, this appears to have been a case of ageism. Special vigilance may be called for if you feel you are being targeted due to age, race, gender, disability or sexual orientation. 


Job Seekers: Check Out the Company While They Check You Out

I’ve read a few different articles lately about what people should look for in a new job, and I thought I would chime in. In much of the material I’ve been reading the emphasis seems to be on workplace culture, but only in a shallow sense: Does it seem like the sort of place you can see yourself? Do the people there seem like the kinds of people you would want to spend your days with? And so on. However, something that I really encourage anyone fresh to the job market to do is full due-diligence on whatever organization they’re thinking about joining.

In addition to checking up on the business online, either in the news or on sites like Glassdoor, feel out the contacts you have at the organization about how the culture really is. Instead of just speaking to your prospective new boss during the interview (which is still really important), try to get some time with the person you’re replacing at the organization. If you don’t have any existing contacts at the organization, ask if you can have some time with a few employees who will give you candid answers about how the organization runs. Don’t be afraid to ask what the turnover rate is, or what exit interviews for the company found as have employees left.

Additionally, be sure to ask about the performance management system in place at the organization, as that can give you a real clue as to what’s valued in practice at the business, in addition to helping you understand opportunities for advancement. I go into this in depth in From Bully to Bull’s-Eye  (RCJ Press; January 10, 2017), but I sincerely believe that our workforce has the tools to see a toxic workplace coming. Many of the people I’ve worked with in toxic work environments could have saved a lot of heartache if they understood that when you go in for a job interview, you need to evaluate the organization as much as they evaluate you.


Tell Us How You Feel About Work

How are things at work? Millions of employees wish that someone would listen to their concerns about what happens at their workplace. Businesses, organizations and legislators don’t have an accurate barometer to determine if workplaces are psychologically healthy, safe and fair. That’s why The Faas Foundation is partnering with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence on the Emotion Revolution in the Workplace, a study to measure how feelings drive organizational behavior. This is your chance to let your voice be heard. This sample survey is completely anonymous and will add to the body of data that will help improve working conditions for everyone. Here's the Emotion Revolution in the Workplace Survey.


What Do You Know About Your Workplace's Culture?

It’s important to take the time to assess your own workplace culture, and how you fit into it. As I’ve written before, and in my new book (out in January!), there are a few types of workplace cultures, and being both self-aware and aware of your workplace is important to finding a job that will be psychologically safe. And, to take it one step further, if you work in a position where you have the ability to enact change on your workplace’s culture, then do it! Too many professionals today pay lip service to workplace culture without actually trying to make positive changes where they can. Is Your Workplace Culture a Good Fit for You?


Using an Untapped Work Force to Solve the Manufacturing Industry's Crisis

Encountering this story about the USA’s large pool of unemployed young men almost adds insult to injury after a story I read earlier, about how manufacturing corporations are desperate for skilled workers. I agree with Nicholas Eberstadt that this issue is largely invisible from the public eye, and that it’s a growing economic crisis. It’s a huge problem, but one that carries a gigantic opportunity. Is it too simple to think that this large pool of unemployed young men can be turned into the skilled workers USA’s manufacturing industry sorely needs? I think not. While there may be social or governmental solutions to this issue, I see it from the perspective of the industry itself – if manufacturing companies opened their arms to these men, and invested in them the time and education needed to become a skilled technician, their problems would be solved. I know it is easier said than done, but when employees are truly valued and invested in by their companies, the results are almost always positive. For an industry that has turned its back on young workers for a long time, embracing them now seems like the only step they can take towards saving their businesses. Read Eberstadt's full piece at The Wall Street Journal

Art credit: Getty Images via WSJ

Yes, You Should Be Angry: The Manufacturing Jobs Slump

Stories like this frustrate me. Manufacturing companies in the US are having difficulty filling key positions because there seems to be a lack of skilled employees to fill them. The excuse that education systems don’t emphasize the value of trade and manufacturing jobs, or that schools are “not evolving alongside industry needs” doesn’t hold too much water. In my view, the industry as a whole should have been able to anticipate this problem, and should have invested in their employees rather than letting them go. Teaching employees the skills they need to operate more technologically complex machinery is a far more sustainable method of maintaining a healthy workforce, as opposed to assuming that new generations would provide an unlimited pool of fresher and cheaper workers. Workers who have been affected by this situation are totally justified to be angry with an industry that has failed them. Read more in-depth at The Wall Street Journal

Photo: Employees install panels on airplane wings at the Boeing Co. manufacturing facility in Renton, Wash., last year. PHOTO: DAVID RYDER/BLOOMBERG NEWS