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Monday, April 25, 2016

Socialists Unite! - Elsewhere, Please

My weekly blog is an effort at offering ideas and stories on how to engage with work in a meaningful way. To that end, I write with different audiences in mind. There are leadership and management concepts to be explored. Stories of how entrepreneurs function and give us new opportunities to grow. And, of course, that group where the majority of Americans fall — the “average worker.”

These vast sums of working Americans drive the economy. Every task needed within an organization is mostly dependent upon the employees. The wages paid also generate billions of tax dollars in revenue each year. Any job that is not a “management” job has importance in the stability of our country and growth of our economic system.

Unfortunately, we have seen a significant mindset shift in our nation over several decades. Slowly, we have been creeping toward the ideas generated by voices preaching various forms of socialism. Much of the most dramatic attention in this new direction has been highlighted by the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

It should be noted that not all socialists consider the Vermont Senator one of their own. Some have argued he is really a SINO — Socialist In Name Only. He’s fond of the Scandinavian countries policies of Norway and Finland. It’s said of Bernie Sanders that he has a socialism more to the likes of European social Democrats, often praising their universal health care systems, education, and family leave policies and progressive tax systems.

You can find more deeply dedicated Socialists in groups like the Socialist Workers Party. They have their own weekly newspaper called The Militant. According to The Militant, the paper is “published in the interests of working people.”

A recent article in The Daily Beast highlights a few of the significant differences between Mr. Sanders and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). One of the SWP’s members told the Beast reporter that his group wants to implement a completely different system and replace capitalism with socialism. They would create a new “workers party.” Sanders prefers to work within the current two party system. (

Another group, the Democratic Socialists of America, has found some strong alignment with Sanders. Their deputy director, David Duhalde, likes Sanders’ ideas on universal health care, free college tuition and public universities, and controlling income inequality. Again, it’s all supposedly for the workers.

I’m not sure whether the socialist talk and advocacy is hitting many corporate boardrooms, but it certainly caught the agenda of one major corporate CEO—Jeffrey Immelt. After reading an interview conducted by the New York Daily News Editorial Board with Bernie Sanders, he opined significant disagreement. Who can blame him?

These were Sanders’ words: “General Electric, good example. General Electric was created in this country by American workers and American consumers. What we have seen over the many years is shutting down of many major plants in this country. Sending jobs to low-wage countries. And General Electric, doing a very good job avoiding the taxes. In fact, in a given year, they pay nothing in taxes. That’s greed. That is greed and that’s selfishness. That is lack of respect for the people of this country.” (

To which Immelt replied, “GE has been in business for 124 years, and we’ve never been a big hit with socialists. We create wealth and jobs, instead of just calling for them in speeches. We take risks, invest, innovate, and produce in ways that today sustain 125,000 U.S. jobs…Sanders has stated many times that GE pays no taxes. Repeating a lie over and over does not make it true. We pay billions in taxes, including federal, state, and local taxes. The U.S. tax system has not been updated in 30 years and isn’t designed for today’s economy, which is why we support comprehensive tax reform—even if it raises our tax rate.”

Jeffrey Immelt is upset because Sanders perpetuates a lie about taxes. The candidate also appears to greatly undervalue the contribution major companies like GE offer our economy. And there’s always the angry voices yelling about corporate greed.

One of the strongest accusations by Bernie Sanders is that GE is among the companies “destroying the moral fabric of America.” As an example, Sanders states that if a corporation expands operations and creates jobs overseas in order to make more money, that corporate greed is a moral failure. Apparently, he likes the current Pope’s thinking on economic matters.

I’m an American worker. But I have no interest in being a socialist. Campaign if you will for reforms toward a more honest, God-fearing form of capitalism, but don’t try to fool me with socialist or communist nonsense. If you like that system, you can find several places to live and test it out for yourself.

The key to a better society economically does require a healthy moral approach. The Bible sets the standards for such a society. It thrives on generosity, a system that has a way to forgive burdensome debt, and lending practices that are fair. Scales that are just. Honesty in all matters. Concern for the poor. Warnings to the rich. Look for it. It’s all there. And more.

Bernie may not be much for organized religion, but he could benefit by a campaign theme like this one: “The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: ‘See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.’” (Micah 6:8, CEV)

I know. It’s too long and needs a more catchy slogan. Oh well!

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dreamy Jobs #2

Last week my blog post had results of a survey taken among high school and college students internationally. They ranked which companies they thought would provide the best “dream jobs.” For purposes of sharing another survey, I’ll only repeat the survey results of these millennial students in these areas: Treats Employees Fairly (72.3%), Flexible work hours/schedule (69.6 %), Gain skills to advance career (89.7%), and Work/life balance (68.1%).

Two things I left to attend to this week. The first is another survey, this one among working parents regarding their “dream job.” Secondly, I promised to give perspective on how to be content in any kind of work, assuming it is not illegal, immoral, or unethical.

This second survey was compiled by FlexJobs, an online resource that directs people to jobs offering flextime and freelance opportunities. A summary of results and an interview with the CEO of FlexJobs was published in in March 2016.

These working parents believe that a more flexible job would gain them this:
  • 99% of respondents say a flexible job would make them a happier person.
  • 93% claim they would become a more involved parent.
  • 89% believe this flexibility would make them a better spouse or “partner.” 

The biggie on what is meant by “flexibility” turns out to be telecommuting. The biggest reasons for this? Taking care of kids. Then work/life balance.

Sara Sutton Fell, both founder and CEO of FlexJobs, had easily identifiable “threads” for these people who would like to “have it all.” In their dream world, they desire a successful career, a healthy relationship, and thriving children. Well, who doesn’t?

Sara sees working mothers as the ones feeling the most pressure. This particularly applies to the women (or men) who are “actively involved in their household and child-related duties.” Again, this seems obvious.

If employers were to give these working parents what they want, here is Sara’s assessment: “Their top three responses to make their job situations better would be the ability to work from home, to have a flexible schedule, and to have a part-time schedule. The majority, 56 percent, would prefer to work between 30 and 40 hours, and 77 percent would like to work from home full time.”

Ms. Fell is a realist enough to recognize that conventional structures in the workplace have limits. And to this end, she tells people they need to look at their priorities and adjust. She does see, however, more companies offering more telecommuting options. All kinds of stressors are reduced when this option is available. Other articles can easily point out the pros and cons of this trend.

My focus is a bit different on a “dream job.” I prefer to offer steps to a mindset that delivers more job satisfaction regardless of your work. Much of it is centered around thankfulness. Develop these into your thinking, and watch the difference:

  1. Be thankful you have the freedom to choose the work you do.
  2. Be thankful you’re employed! (if you have a job)
  3. Be thankful for the talents and abilities God gave you.
  4. Count your blessings in the job you now have.
  5. Consider how your part in the larger mission of your organization makes a valuable contribution to the lives of others.
  6. Demonstrate your thankfulness consistently in your a) attitude b) appreciation and c) your service.
  7. Perform as an employee the way you would want an employee to work for you.

A few notes on the list above. Preparing your “heart” and your “mind” for the daily work to which you’ve agreed to do, will help your day (and your success) immeasurably. It’s truly a blessing to have choice in jobs! Ask any unemployed person and they will tell you it is a great blessing to be about meaningful work! And you are only able to do what you do because God gave you the means by which you have become skilled.

As for counting the blessings of your current job, I did this for the first time years ago. I was struggling with some aspects of a job that bugged me. And it was having a negative impact on my job satisfaction. Creating a list of all the benefits that came with my job reshaped my perspective. Others have been thankful I shared this idea with them.

As an added suggestion, print a copy of these seven mindset statements and post in a place where you can read the list daily—for thirty days. More if you need a real adjustment. Or have recurring struggles in this area.

Seeing how your work adds to the vitality of your organization, demonstrating thankfulness to your employer and others, and working in a manner you would want employers to perform will help you find that your job may be more “dreamy” than you thought.

Learning how to change our mindset is difficult. But crucial. Wrong thoughts most often turn our hearts in a bad direction. In Proverbs we read, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT)

And, come on. Did you really believe there is such a thing as a “perfect job”? In your dreams!

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dreamy Jobs

Two new surveys surfaced recently on what a “dream job” would look like. One of these surveys was taken among the National Society of High School Seniors (NSHSS). This is an international society recognizing “academic excellence of high school and college scholars globally.” That is worth noting in evaluating their selection and perception of best places for future employment. I’m posting a link for the full results.

More than 18,000 students participated in the survey. There were 34 questions given to a group ranging in age from 15-29. Hanover Research developed the survey and analyzed the results.

The New York Times presented a brief overview on the thinking of these millennials. Some of the results you might expect. Three of the top ten jobs were tech companies—Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Four were healthcare connected—St. Jude Children’s Hospital, “local hospital,” Healthcare Service Corp., and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Then it gets quite intesting. Two of the top ten “dream jobs” would be with the FBI and the CIA. The number two preference…was the Walt Disney Company. Dreamworks animation wasn’t far behind.

A little farther down were firms including Amazon, Sony, the New York Times, and Starbucks. The first American military branch to show up was the US Air Force at #21. Go Air Force!

Surprisingly, to me, another flying organization was at #76—in the middle of the pack: Southwest Airlines. I’ve always heard great things about them as a company. Way toward the bottom we find Express Scripts, Scottrade, and Grainger. Pity those recruiters! The list used to help the students make choices combined a couple of published rankings already in place, such as Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”

Categories for ranking future employers include Employer Perception and Image, Salary and Perks, Job-Specific Opportunities, and Work Atmosphere and Environment. Top rated in each of those categories was: Treats Employees Fairly (72.3%), Flexible work hours/schedule (69.6 %), Gain skills to advance career (89.7%), and Work/life balance (68.1).

As a summary statement, Todd Corley, the Board Chair of the NSHSS Foundation said, “Employers that focus on transparency and treating employees fairly will separate themselves from the rest of the field in attracting millennials.”

The New York Times summarized the conclusions a bit differently, saying “millennials want to work for companies that place a premium on employee welfare, offer flexible scheduling and, above all, bestow a sense of purpose.” The commentary offered on these priorities of millennials is that it causes many to consider millennials “lazy, entitled job-hoppers.”

That being said, it’s still worth paying attention to these preferences. The millennial generation already “makes up more than a third of the work force. By 2020, it will make up half.”

The Times writer believes that the criteria of today’s millennials for job selection has been influenced by the culture in which they grew up. Factoring into this would be a recession, enormous student debt, and the declining credibility of many institutions. But this one observation is a big one: “Stability is an abstract concept to these young workers, so they instead tend to focus on creating a rich, textured life now, rather than planning for a future obscured by uncertainty.”

The life of King Solomon came to understand this disturbing but realistic truth. Too much work and lack of purpose can lead to a meaningless existence. And millennials increasingly want meaning to what they do.

Here’s what Solomon wrote in the introduction to Ecclesiastes in the Bible:

“What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea.

Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” Ecclesiastes 1:3-11 (TLB)

Sounds pretty depressing, doesn’t it? Survival of the spiritually fittest seeks encouragement. And I intend to give it. But not now.

Next week, I’ll share the second of the two surveys on what a dream job looks like for some. And I’ll have specific ways to help you find more pleasure in your work—no matter what you do.

In the meantime, here’s some wisdom from Malcolm Forbes: “When you cease to dream, you cease to live.”

Sweet dreams. And no snoring.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hot Potatoes at Work

Let’s face it. There may have never been a presidential pre-season like the one we’re witnessing. And for many, the hope is that we won’t see one like this again. Even the not-so-political crowd can’t help but discuss the behavioral twists of the voices vying to be next in the White House.

It goes beyond mud slinging—a trademark of every election season. This year we’ve added insulting spouses to the picture. And in the case of one of the candidates, the spouse has enough of his sordid past to keep the gossip coming. It’s ugly. Tell me when November is over, okay?

Here’s the hot potato question: Is it okay to discuss political topics in the workplace? Is it almost too irresistible to pass on if one of your colleagues brings up a late night TV bit or a news channel interview?

I was a bit surprised to see that former GE CEO Jack Welch encouraged these discussions on the job. He admits to being a “political animal” himself. He also knows the vital importance that elections hold in shaping our future. He listed four guideposts to having these conversations in a recent Linked In commentary.

In short form, here are the boundaries he would set:
1)If you claim to accept diversity, “put your money where your mouth is. Embrace their differences, or accept that you’re a hypocrite.”
2) Share your political views in the context of a conversation. No just spouting off. Get input from your coworkers as to what they believe and why. “Engage in debate.”
3) Politics gets people emotional. “We stop asking questions and start making pronouncements.” It’s okay to disagree but if the head rises, “back off and turn on the collegial AC.”

And finally,
4) Work still comes first. Political junkies can sap time up quickly. Learn to dial it back. “You’re at work to get results for your customers and your organization.”

So does that settle the matter? Not at all! For a different perspective—typical of our disagreement of matters of political consequence—I refer you to a article from four years ago. This one is titled, “Talking Politics at Work Can Get You Fired.” Well, that would slow down the conversation!

Our story opens with an unfortunate comment by a politician about about “how women subject to ‘legitimate rape’ were unlikely to get pregnant.” Can you feel the sparks flying already? This became an office conversation that turned into office confrontation—including fisticuffs!

Was this “disagreement” sufficient to get the two workers fired? The employer called a labor attorney and was actually urged to let the employees go! Along with a possible sex discrimination issue raised as a concern, “the employer had a written policy that explicitly discouraged discussions of flammable political topics like abortion.” Both employees were promptly terminated.

Here’s a bit of weirdness related to the First Amendment “freedom of speech” of politics. The labor attorney states that the First Amendment offers broad protections in this area. However, exceptions allow private employers to “bar political discussions in the workplace.”

The Society for Human Resources in Alexandria, Virginia, determined that during the 2012 presidential election, about 25 per cent of employers had a written policy on political activities. Some included restrictions on political conversations in their workspace. Another 20 per cent had unwritten policies.

Public sector employment has different rules. And broader freedoms in this area. Go figure as to why.
It was also presented that employees who put politically charged messages in emails or on social media during the workday can be sanctioned. And get this. The political message does not need to be written or verbal. It could come in wearing articles of clothing or in the case of one worker, a Tea Party bracelet that she claims caused her to lose her job.

I talk about “politics” all the time at my job. Of course, that’s a given since I host a talk show. But there is even disagreement on whether political discussions have a place on Christian radio.

Of course they do. And here’s why. The basic definition of politics is “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area.” Governance is about rules, policies, and regulations. Often, these policies define how our freedoms have limits. In other words, moral constraint.

But WHOSE morals guide us? I consider my assignment is to share biblical truth on issues. As a mentor of mine has taught me, all conflict occurs because of matters of the heart. Or said another way, “of the spirit” of man. Thus, they become…spiritual.

In the midst of this challenge to navigate conversations, it is important to remember the apostle Paul’s words to Christ followers: “Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible.” (Romans 12:18, TLB)

So avoid political hot potatoes as much as possible. And especially if your boss says so.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.