Marco Secchi / Getty Images Contributor
Protesters in Venice, Italy, highlight the problem of exploitation of cheap labor in the wake of the building collapse of the clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh last month.
If the deadly factory collapse and other workplace disasters in Bangladesh have you searching for ethically sourced clothing, get ready for a lengthy hunt.
As apparel manufacturing has globalized, the sourcing of fabric and garment assembly has become exponentially more complicated: Thread may come from one country, buttons from another, and the stitching may be performed in a third. At the same time, consumer demand for cheap clothing is strong, as the success of brands like Joe Fresh and Zara make clear.
Not surprisingly, apparel makers have been slow to develop ethically sourced clothing lines.
"The market is failing to give us the wide range of things that we typically buy in the sweat-free category," said Ian Robinson, a lecturer and assistant research scientist in sociology at the University of Michigan. Robinson has studied consumer demand for ethical—or in his term, sweat-free—clothing.
Also, consumers have few ways to find out which clothes are ethically produced. While clear labeling systems exist for organic food and fair-trade coffee—and sales of those products are growing—there is no comparable system for clothing.
As a society, "we haven't done a great job of giving consumers the information that they would probably use to make ethical buying decisions," said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League.
Greenberg is well versed in consumer information. Nearly a century ago, the league initiated its White Label campaign. While it lasted, Greenberg said, it identified stores that provided fair wages and working conditions, and apparently was "hugely popular and very chic."
The disasters in Bangladesh have heightened contemporary consumer interest in the issue of ethical sourcing for clothes. Earlier this month, for example, shareholders had to walk through demonstrators at Gap's annual meeting demanding that the company sign a new Bangladesh factory safety accord. (Wal-Mart and many other major U.S. retailers also have so far declined to sign the pact.)
Even before the Bangladesh tragedies, consumers' demand for ethical clothing was brewing. In a 2012 study, researchers from M.I.T. and Harvard looked at the effect of different signs describing clothes in 111 Banana Republic factory stores, some emphasizing the fair labor standards for manufacturing the clothes, and others emphasizing their fashion appeal.
For the lower-priced items the researchers tested, the signs made no difference in relative sales. But for the higher-priced item they measured—a $130 women's suit—sales increased 14 percent in stores with the fair labor signs.
"Even in this outlet setting there is a segment of shoppers who respond positively to a message conveying information about fair labor standards in factories making apparel," the researchers concluded.
That interest is also clearly apparent on college campuses where Alta Gracia, a clothing line from Knights Apparel, is sold. Knights, the largest supplier of college apparel, started Alta Gracia, which is produced by workers in the Dominican Republic who are paid a living wage, less than three years ago. And CEO Joe Bovich says it is now in 800 college bookstores.
Bovich aims to expand Alta Gracia's reach into mainstream stores. "It could be with the Alta Gracia brand, or it could be manufactured as private label," he said. "I think if we can get it out there, we're going to see the same response we've seen in the college bookstore market."
For now, the best way to find ethically sourced clothing is online, where small companies sell clothing directly sourced from ethical producers. You can also check the list of retailers involved with the Better Cotton Initiative, whose stated goal is to "make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector's future." The list of companies that have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh offers other possible options.
(Read More: H&M, Others Back Bangladesh Safety Accord)
John Makely / NBC News
Jonathan Salm, who recently graduated from college with an English major and philosophy minor, is looking for a job in data-driven marketing, business intelligence or media analytics.
It pays to go to college in general – but how big a payoff you get can vary wildly depending on what you decide to major in.
A report released Wednesday finds that people who recently graduated from college with degrees in fields such as education and health faced much lower unemployment rates than those who recently graduated with degrees in fields including architecture and the arts.
The unemployment rate for people who had recently received an undergraduate education degree was 5.7 percent, according to the report, compared with 12.8 percent for the recent graduates of undergraduate architecture programs.
Your choice of major also is likely to have a lifelong impact on how much money you make, according to the report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The median earnings for experienced workers with an undergraduate architecture degree was $65,000, the report found, compared with median earnings of $44,000 for experienced workers who earned an undergraduate education degree.
The report offers a reminder that while lots of young people will spend an inordinate amount of time deciding where to go to college, it’s perhaps more important to figure out your major once you get there.
“What your field of study is ends up being the most important thing,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and co-author of the report.
The Georgetown report used the government’s American Community Survey data from 2010 and 2011 for its analysis. For recent graduates, it looked at 22- to 26-year-olds who had bachelor’s degrees, and for more experienced college graduates it looked at 30- to 54-year-olds with college degrees.
In general, it’s a good idea to choose a major that teaches specific skills, such as nursing. But Carnevale cautions that doesn’t mean that everyone should choose practical majors like mathematics or engineering – especially if they just don’t like it.
“If they’re not interested or suited (to) the major that they choose – and ultimately, even more so, the job that they choose – they won’t be any good at it,” Carnevale said.
Chasing what seems like a hot field also can end up backfiring. For example, the researchers found that recent graduates who went into information systems faced a whopping 14.7 percent unemployment rate. That, in turn, pushed the overall unemployment rate for computer and mathematics majors up to 9.1 percent, even though in general those fields seem to be in great need of good workers.
Carnevale said the finding seemed to be a result of the tough job market for things like clerical and entry-level management jobs that involve computer systems, which were hard-hit during the recession and early recovery. But he noted that the unemployment rate for more experienced information systems grads was much lower, at 4.4 percent.
In the case of architecture, Carnevale said the effect of the housing and construction industry bust appeared to still be dragging on employment, although he noted that the job market for architects has often been tough.
If you do choose a major such as English literature or archeology, Carnevale said you need to be prepared to find other ways to train yourself for a specific career, or find an employer who is willing to train you. Many will also end up going to graduate school to get a more skills-oriented degree, such as law or business.
“It’s a tougher game,” Carnevale said.
Jonathan Salm, 22, knew it might be harder to get a job when he chose to major in English, with a minor in philosophy, at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.
But Salm, who graduated from college last week, said he also felt like part of the reason you go to a liberal arts university is to experience learning for the sake of learning.
The unemployment rate for recent graduates with English literature and language degrees was 9.8 percent, according to the Georgetown data, and median earnings were $31,000.
Salm has done some internships in marketing and communications and is hoping to get a job in New York City doing data analytics marketing. He said he’s turned down options that didn’t seem to be the right fit, and is willing to move back in with his parents in Florida for a little while until he can find the right position.
“I’m comfortable not getting a job right after graduation,” he said.
The Georgetown report found that the overall unemployment rate for recent college graduates was 7.9 percent.
That may seem high, but unemployment rates for people in their 20s are generally higher than for older workers, and other research has shown that it pays to go to college, despite the high tuition costs and soaring student loan debt.
A Pew Charitable Trusts report released earlier this year found that young college grads fared better than their less educated peers during the recession and recovery. In addition, a recent batch of U.S. Census Bureau data found that people with a college degree earned nearly twice as much as people with a high school degree in the last three months of 2011.
The Memorial Day weekend typically marks the start of the summer vacation season – which for about three-fourths of American workers will mean the possibility of some paid time off.
The United States is the only highly developed nation that doesn’t require employers to offer paid vacation time, according to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning economic think tank.
The report examined vacation policies in 21 developed countries, including the United States. The researchers found that every country they examined, except the United States, had laws requiring employers to offer somewhere between 10 and 30 paid vacation days a year.
France’s laws granted employees the most paid vacation, at 30 days per year. But several countries actually guarantee workers more total paid time off when you add in mandated paid holidays.
Japan and Canada were at the lower end of the list, with laws requiring employers to offer 10 paid vacation days apiece.
The researchers found that 77 percent of U.S. workers do get paid vacation time, although their employers are not required to offer it. The workers who do receive paid vacation time get an average of 13 days a year, according to the analysis.
Full-time U.S. workers were much more likely than part-time workers to get paid vacation time, and higher wage workers also were considerably more likely than lower wage workers to have that benefit, according to the report.
In addition, people who worked for large employers were more likely than those who worked for small businesses to get paid time off.
Center for Economic and Policy Research
The U.S. is the only country CEPR examined that doesn't mandate paid vacation time.
The CEPR report argues that the data is evidence that the U.S. lags other countries when it comes to offering workers time off, and is especially tough on low-wage and part-time workers.
John Schmitt, a senior economist with CEPR and one of the report’s authors, said that even when U.S. workers have paid time off available, they don't always take it. He argued that many U.S. workers may feel like they don’t have enough job security to risk being out of the office for a long period of time even if they technically have that time.
“I think what that means is that people get nervous about both asking for time off and taking time off,” he said.
But conservative thinkers counter that vacation is something that employers and employees can work out on their own.
"I don’t know of any compelling reason why the government has to decide for people in what way they want to get paid," said Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar the the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.
Schmitt said the data on U.S. paid vacation is little changed from the last time he did this same analysis six years ago. That’s despite the weak economy and extremely tough job market of the past few years.
He said it may be that employers didn’t want to reduce vacation benefits – which tend to be less costly than other benefits, such as health care – at a time when they were laying off some staff and asking other workers to take on more work.
“I think it’s something that’s difficult to cut back on,” he said.
For its analysis, the CEPR used data from the United Nations and the other countries themselves. Schmitt said CEPR then used two sets of U.S. government data to create an apples to apples comparison between the U.S. other countries.
The analysis excluded some very small European countries, as well as countries whose economies aren’t quite as developed as the United States.
The retail giant debuted a new commercial that advertises a discount on gas for every $50 spent in store. Thanks to a little wordplay, the ad is going viral.
Kmart, the retailer that brought you the viral play-on-words “ship my pants” commercials, is back - and this time it’s promoting “big gas savings.”
Say it again. Fast. Get it?
Sears Holding, which owns Kmart, is no doubt hoping that the ads will translate into more than just giggles. Sears Holding lost $489 million in the most recent quarter ended Feb. 2, as revenue fell slightly.
Getty Images stock
After plummeting in the wake of the financial crisis, spending on weddings is resuming/
Thinking of getting married? Get out your wallet.
The average cost of a wedding is as high as $28,400 by one estimate, and close to $26,000 by another. After plummeting in the wake of the financial crisis, spending on nuptials resumed its rise in 2010, and is once again approaching the record set before the financial crisis.
"In today's environment, the bride and groom are paying more of the cost. When the economy was different, that's why you saw it go down," said Shane McMurray, president and chief executive of theweddingreport.com. Now "they're willing to spend a little more."
The substantial spending on weddings comes as consumers are generally regaining confidence, so in that sense it is just part of a larger trend. But the increase has also been abetted by the companies that sell wedding accoutrements, from gowns to ring pillows, for the big day.
(Read more: These Four Companies LOVE Wedding Season)
Then there are the social media sites where couples planning weddings can find endless ideas for attire, entertainment, décor and more—with no price tags attached. The wedding boards at Pinterest, for example, drive significant traffic to purveyors of wedding-related goods.
(Read more: Will Pinterest Ruin Your Wedding?)
If you are determined to keep your wedding costs in check despite the various pressures to spend big, experts have a slew of suggestions.
For starters, size matters. "The number one thing you can do to keep your wedding costs down is to keep your guest list down," said Dena Davey, director of marketing for the Association of Bridal Consultants.
Spending per guest reached $204 in 2012, according to the wedding website theknot.com, which conducts an annual survey of wedding costs. So the potential savings from a smaller ceremony are clear.
Another way to save is to think outside the box when it comes to timing. Saturday evening weddings tend to be the most expensive, Davey said, since they usually involve a dinner reception and event spaces often charge more for that time. "Fridays and Sundays are really popular right now."
You may also be able to find bargains if you get married in the off season. June and December are the most popular months for weddings, so vendors may be more willing to negotiate if you are talking to them at other times of the year.
McMurray suggested taking a look at the elements of the wedding that don't have to be custom made or individualized as areas for savings.
"When it comes to the dress and other specific, custom things, there is not a lot of room for DIY," he said. "Invitations and favors—all of those components are very easily made with today's technology." The range of options for photography and music are also wider, he added.
Flowers offer additional opportunities for curbing costs. Something pretty is blooming any time of the year, and if you stick to seasonal blooms, you will save.
And remember, while there are plenty of blogs and websites that spur you to spend, there are also lots of sites that point to ways to save. Bridalbrokerage.com lets you buy up the fixings for weddings that got cancelled, and tradesy.com offers a range of almost-new wedding dresses. Projectwedding.com offers tips on how to resell things, like unused table linens.
(Read More: Budget Brides Save by Buying Canceled Weddings)
The biggest savings suggestion? Focus on what you're doing, n
ot the things you'll have around you. Perfect flowers or not perfect flowers, your wedding day is likely to be magical.
Destroyed vehicles lie in the rubble outside the Plaza Towers Elementary school in Moore, Okla., on Tuesday.
For many, it's impossible to view the heartbreaking stories coming out of Oklahoma and not feel an overwhelming urge to do something. But following your first impulse to help could just lead to more heartbreak, as many charitable givers often fall prey to scams in the wake of national tragedies.
Authorities are warning would-be donors to think carefully before they donate, and before they click.
"There is always a high probability for con-artists or 'travelers' to pop-up in the state following a storm, pushing quick-fix repair schemes and charity scams," Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a press release. He urged Oklahomans to stay alert.
Scam artists crawl out of the woodwork only hours after the first pictures of death and destruction emerge. Like clockwork, spam emails, fake Facebook pages, telemarketing phone calls — even full-fledged websites that accept credit cards — pop up, all claiming falsely that they are collecting money for victims. Virus writers also get into the act, sending around booby-trapped emails that appear to come from charities, but are designed to invade victims' computers.
Pruitt said people around the country should donate to "reputable" organizations such as the Salvation Army or Red Cross. "The first scam we typically see after devastation like this is charity fraud,” he said
Pruitt also said his department has already sent 30 investigators into the tornado-ravaged area to stop local scams, fraud and price gouging.
For a detailed list of ways to help Oklahoma victims, visit NBC News' How to Help page.
Attorneys general in several other states, from Washington to South Carolina, have also issued charity fraud warnings.
Even consumers who wouldn't normally fall for scams are at risk in the aftermath of major disasters because the overwhelming sadness of the events, and the urgency of the need, can override a giver's natural sense of skepticism. The same urgency force is at play whenever a scam artist insists that a supposedly great deal is only available for a short time.
Federal Trade Commission spokesman Frank Dorman said he didn't believe his agency had received any complaints about Oklahoma-related scams yet, but that's not unusual: victims wouldn't yet realize they'd been scammed, he said.
The agency does offer an extensive set of tips for evaluating charities.
Consumers should beware anyone who:
Americans think that a family of four would need to bring in a minimum of $58,000 a year, on average, just to get by in their community, a new Gallup survey finds.
That’s more than double the 2012 poverty threshold for a family of four, which was around $24,000 a year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The results are not far off from what Americans told Gallup when it asked a similar question in 2007, and experts say it’s consistent with long-term trends as well.
Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis, said Americans have for decades reported that the minimum families need to get by is two to three times the actual poverty thresholds.
The thresholds themselves also have come under scrutiny from both the left and the right, with policymakers on both sides arguing they are a poor measure of how many people in this country are actually poor.
The Gallup survey of about 1,000 Americans, which was released last week, asked Americans to name the smallest amount of money a family of four would need to make each year to get by in their own community. The data was collected in mid-April.
They found that people with higher incomes said a family of four would need a higher amount, on average, than those who have lower incomes. People who lived in the suburbs also named a higher amount, on average, than those who are living in cities or rural areas.
Rank said it makes sense that the amount of money you think is needed to cover basic expenses would vary depending on where you live. The cost of living in the rural Midwest is likely much lower than in the metropolitan East, for example.
He also noted that people’s expectations for how much money they need in order to cover what they consider basic needs tends to go up as they get wealthier.
“What they’re considering necessary is going to vary between somebody who’s earning $20,000 versus somebody who’s earning $200,000,” he said.
In addition, he noted, no matter how much money people make, they tend to think that they could use a little more to feel truly comfortable.
“They’ll always say, ‘If I just had a little bit more to get by on,’” he said.
The median – or midpoint – of household income for all households in the United States, regardless of size, was $50,054 in 2011, according to the latest government data available. The median – or midpoint – of the responses to the Gallup poll question about the family of four specifically also was $50,000.
The Great Recession hurt a lot of people and this loss of wealth will follow millions into retirement, according to a report released Thursday.
Early baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1955) may be “the last group on track to retire with enough savings to maintain their financial security through their golden years," the study finds. But the rest of us are in for a world of hurt -- especially Gen-Xers (born between 1966 and 1975).
The study by Pew Charitable Trusts, Retirement Security Across Generations: Are Americans Prepared for Their Golden Years? shows that early boomers lost 28 percent of their median net worth; late boomers (born between 1956 and 1965) lost 25 percent from 2007 to 2010. However, Gen-Xers lost nearly half (45 percent) of their wealth – about $33,000 on average – during that same time period. And they didn’t have that much savings to begin with.
“Gen-X is the first generation that’s unlikely to exceed the wealth of the group that came before it and face downward mobility in retirement,” said Erin Currier, director of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project. “They have lower financial net worth than previous groups had at this same age and they lost nearly half of their wealth in the recession.”
Financial planners generally recommend that you save enough to replace 70 to 100 percent of your pre-retirement income when you leave the workforce. Pew’s research shows the typical Gen-Xer will only be able to replace half of that income.
When it comes to retirement savings, late boomers (born between 1956 and 1965) are more like Gen-X than early boomers. They’re on track to replace only 60 percent of their pre-retirement income.
You may be surprised to learn that some people saw their wealth grow during the recession. Pew found that a sizable minority of households – 39 to 44 percent – had a positive change in wealth between 2007 and 2009.
“As an example, more than a third of households in this age group experienced gains in home equity during that two-year period,” Currier noted.
Gen-X: the most financially-challenged group
Gen-X wasn’t in very good shape before the recession hit. Their net worth was less than other age groups that came before them. They also had lowest rates of home ownership of all the groups studied.
The recession only made things worse. They experienced the largest percentage decline in median net worth, losing nearly half of their wealth.
Gen-X has significantly higher levels of debt than those in the other groups did at the same age. Pew found that the average Gen-Xer has already accumulated $80,000 in debt.
Pew’s Erin Currier believes there is a clear takeaway message for America’s policymakers from this data.
“As they focus attention on America’s retirement security, particular consideration should be paid to helping the youngest groups change course to make up for these losses in order to prevent downward mobility in the long-term,” she said.
Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.
James Braund / Getty Images
Your boss may be watching what you do online.
The idea of a totalitarian government monitoring your every move is probably still the stuff of fiction, but that doesn't mean your boss doesn't have a pretty good idea of your workday habits.
Experts say an abundance of fast-developing new technology is making it cheaper and easier for employers to read your e-mails, check out what you’ve been looking at on the Internet, track where you go with a company car or cell phone and find out when and where you were at work.
“Your employer can find out anything and everything about your life,” said Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, which advocates for workers on issues including privacy.
Of course, employers have good reason to want to know whether employees are stealing corporate secrets, sending out sexually harassing e-mails or just goofing off on the job. But experts say many companies are still trying to figure out a balance between monitoring wrongdoing and just plain snooping.
“In the information economy we have incredible new ways to gather data, many of which are very novel, very new, and we’re not entirely clear on what the standards are or should be,” said Trevor Hughes, chief executive of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, a trade group whose membership includes big corporations such as Google, Microsoft and American Express.
Hughes said that’s been made even more complicated because the line between work and home increasingly is blurred. For example, many employees might use their personal smart phone to send a work-related e-mail at night, and then use their work computer to send a personal e-mail during the work day.
Employers generally have the right to monitor employee e-mails and other online activity that happens at work, or even on a company cell phone or corporate network, said Lothar Determann, a partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Palo Alto, Calif., and author of “Determann’s Field Guide to International Data Privacy Law Compliance.” But they can only do so if they make clear to their employees that workers should have no expectation of privacy.
U.S. laws generally give employers much broader rights to monitor employee activity than in European countries, Determann said. That is raising complications for companies that operate in several countries.
But even in the U.S., Determann said companies risk running into trouble if they overstep their bounds. For example, an employer could use a keystroke tracker to get your password to that personal e-mail account you checked at work, and then use that password to check your account later. But he would recommend against a client doing that because it could violate the rights of the e-mail operator.
Many companies also are grappling with the thorny issue of how much control they have over the work activity people do on their personal cell phone or other device.
“It’s an unsettled area right now,” said Robert Sprague, an associate professor at the University of Wyoming College of Business and an expert on privacy and technology.
The idea of asking employees or job candidates for access to personal social media accounts such as Facebook also has caused widespread outcry, and lawmakers in several states have moved to ban such practices.
Employees may be generally aware that their employer could monitor their activities, but Maltby said many people assume that with all that data flying around their individual correspondence won’t be tracked. In reality, he said, people are nosy and anyone from the IT guy to your boss may be tempted to peruse your activities.
To maintain privacy, he recommends sending any personal e-mails or other correspondence from a personal cell phone or device that isn’t connected to your corporate network.
Others say that it’s generally fine to send a few innocuous personal e-mails at work, or check a personal website now and again. But that rant about the CEO that you’re tempted to send your co-worker? Probably not a good idea.
“If you don’t want your boss to read it, then don’t send the e-mail,” Determann said.
Let’s be honest: Interest rates on savings and money market accounts are a joke right now. You’d be hard-pressed to find a financial institution offering even a one percent APY. That doesn't come close to keeping up with inflation.
Internet banks continue to pay higher rates than traditional banks, according to a new report from MoneyRates.com. The yields at online banks are nothing to write home about, but they’re significantly better than what most brick-and-mortar banks offer.
“Not only are online bank rates on average about six times the level of traditional bank rates, but those two sets of rates are going in different directions,” said Richard Barrington, a senior financial analyst at MoneyRates. “Over the past six months, online bank rates have been rising while traditional bank rates have continued to fall.”
Here are the rates paid in the first quarter of 2013, according to the MoneyRates survey:
Average Savings Account (annual APY)
Traditional banks: 0.015 percent
Online banks: 0.630 percent
The best rates were at Ally Bank, American Express, Sallie Mae Bank, Discover Bank and GE Capital Retail Bank.
Average Money Market Account (annual APY)
Traditional banks: 0.154 percent
Online banks: 0.661 percent
The best rates were at Sallie Mae Bank, Ally Bank, GE Capital Retail Bank, EverBank and Nationwide Bank.
(Read the complete list of America’s Best Rates.)
Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com, points out that if you’re not comparing what you earn on your traditional savings account with what you could make at an online bank, you could be leaving money on the table.
“Yes, returns are low everywhere, but so is inflation right now,” McBride said. “Squeezing out every little bit of return on your savings gives you the best shot at preserving the buying power of that savings."
Other advantages to online banks
A bank doesn’t need tellers and branches to deliver good customer service. Another new MoneyRate survey finds customers who bank online are slightly more satisfied with the service they receive than those who do not.
The satisfaction rate was 86 percent for online customers and 83.7 percent those who use a brick-and-mortar bank.
“We found that customers don’t seem to miss their bank tellers that much,” Barrington told me.
That’s because online banking is more accepted these days, Barrington explained. People feel comfortable using ATMs, computers and smart phones to interact with their bank. At the same time, banks have closed branches to cut costs. So, they’re not as conveniently located as they once were.
One more benefit: Surveys show online banks tend to have fewer fees and lower fees. That’s a big plus for many people in search of a new bank.
Is online banking for you?
Look at your own banking habits. If you visit your local bank a lot and like the personal interactions you have there, then you may want to stay put.
If you haven’t set foot inside a branch in ages because you do all of your banking online or through ATMs, you may want to look into online banking to boost your return, lower your fees or both.
The decision between a traditional bank and an online bank doesn't have to be all or nothing.
“You can still have your checking account at the local bank, but have your savings account at an online bank to get a better return,” explained Bankrate’s McBride. “Then link the accounts to easily move money back and forth with a couple clicks of a mouse.”
NextAdvisor.com: Savings Account Calculator
Bankrate.com: Highest Yield Money Market and Savings Accounts
Getty Images stock
A good boss can help your career. A bad boss? Not so much.
A good boss can make your career, but a bad boss can make your life miserable – and a new survey finds that plenty of Americans have learned that lesson the hard way.
The survey of about 2,000 adults, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the careers website Glassdoor, found that two-thirds of people said their boss had had some kind of impact on their career.
For about half of those people, the impact had been positive and their bosses had helped their careers. For about 20 percent, it had been negative and their bosses had hurt their careers. The remainder said the impact had been neither positive nor negative.
Experts say the results make sense, since other research has shown that being happy with a boss directly influences job satisfaction.
“Immediate bosses have a tremendous impact on both people’s job satisfaction and their careers, for good or bad,” said E. Allan Lind, a professor of leadership at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Your relationship with your boss also is often a good predictor of how well you do at your job.
“People may join an organization because of pay or benefits or a charismatic leader,” said David Grossman, chief executive of the communications and leadership consultancy The Grossman Group. “How long they stay, how productive they are, how content they are, is all about their boss.”
Unfortunately, not all bosses are good at managing people, just as not all workers are good at managing their relationship with their boss.
The most common gripes among those who reported a boss had hurt their career were that their boss had slowed or held back pay raises, promotions and exposure to top management.
Lind, the Duke professor, said one of the strongest predictors of leadership talent is whether bosses share credit for success.
“Some people, when they’re relatively insecure, think, ‘I have to grab all the credit for myself.’ They don’t understand that when your people perform well, you’ll perform well,” Lind said.
That can lead to another big boss mistake: Micromanaging.
Among the people who reported that their boss had helped their career, almost half said their boss had supported collaborative teamwork. That was an even more popular response than things like supporting work/life balance or helping the employee get a promotion.
Lind said it can be really difficult for bosses to delegate tasks to others. Many bosses also have a hard time making sure they are giving serious consideration to other people’s opinions and ideas.
“The challenge for a boss is to not dominate the conversation. That kills the purpose of the team,” Lind said.
Of course, a boss/employee relationship cuts two ways, and there are plenty of things employees can do to make a bad boss relationship better.
One tactic is to think about what is keeping your boss up at night and how you can solve that problem, Lind said.
Grossman said that rather than blaming the boss, workers should spend their energy trying to turn things around. If you want a raise or promotion, tell your boss - but frame it in a way that will help your boss, too.
“Do it in a way that they can see how they will benefit from what (you’re) talking about,” Grossman said.
Of course, some boss relationships just can’t be salvaged. In the last few years, many employees have been asked to do more work with fewer people, and not every boss has done a good job keeping their remaining workers happy.
Many of the people in the survey who said their manager had hurt their career complained that their boss had reduced or eliminated support for maintaining work/life balance.
Even in a tight job market, Grossman said that may be why only 20 percent of the people surveyed said their boss had hurt their career.
“When you work for a bad boss, you don’t work for them very long,” Grossman said.
Michael Conroy / AP file
This school bus crash on the southeast side of Indianapolis on March 12, 2012, killed the driver and a student.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the number of traffic deaths went up and a shift away from motorcycle helmet laws may be to blame, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and helmet advocacy groups.
An improving economy, which leads to more discretionary driving, also played a role in the increase, according to NHTSA officials. “With a rebounding economy that there’s increased discretionary driving, which is clearly always the leader in terms of dangerous driving scenarios,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said.
Last year was the first year that deaths rose since 2005 and it marked the highest number of people to die on U.S. roads since 2008. The total number of fatalities rose 5.3 percent to 34,080, according to the NHTSA estimate.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is projecting that approximately 5,000 motorcyclists died in 2012: a 9 percent increase from 2011. This would represent 14.7 percent of overall traffic fatalities, the highest percentage ever.