Toxic Superstars

ImAstar256The workplace superstar: someone who gets things done, who’s production is driving the organization’s success. The toxic employee: someone who prevents others from doing what they need to or who stirs up trouble. What happens when this is the same person? Can you just bid them adieu — choosing culture over organizational success? The Workplace Therapist Brandon Smith has some interesting thoughts about how to deal with one of these toxic superstars.

Sharing Employees’ Salaries Might Make Them Work Harder

Brandon on GPB – Sharing Employees’ Salaries Might Make Them Work Harder

If you knew how much money all of your work colleagues make, would that irritate you? Or might that knowledge spur you to work harder?

It may seem a silly question, but a new study from Cornell University found it’s not. In fact, openness around pay can boost productivity.

“It creates greater transparency,” said Brandon Smith, who studies and advises companies on workplace culture and communication. “People eventually get clear on what’s expected of them. They know how people get rewarded, and so then they can model that. That’s where we see the increase in performance. There’s a greater clarity on what’s expected.”

Smith said salary transparency also will quickly eliminate wage gaps between women and men.

“Now no longer are you going to pay Susan 70 percent of what you pay Bob,” said Smith, a business professor at Emory and Georgia State universities. “It’s going to be quite obvious, and looking at it in the face, you’re going to change all that and make it even.”

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“Bring Your Parents To Work” Day Is A Thing . . . Seriously

Brandon on GPB – “Bring Your Parents To Work” Day Is A Thing . . . Seriously

Some companies are opening their doors to their young workers’ parents, often in the form of open houses or “bring your parents to work” days. But GPB’s workplace expert says that also opens the door to problems.

the-venterBrandon Smith is not a fan of the idea, which he said often manifests at companies who have a lot of employees in the so–called millennial generation (people largely in their 20s now).

“It’s happening because the employees like it. They’re close to their parents and they’re still having their parents help them make decisions,” said Smith, who teaches about leadership, communication and workplace culture at Emory University and Georgia State. “Their parents like it too.”

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It Matters Where You Sit

Brandon on GPB – it Matters Where You Sit

Some companies are starting to micromanage who sits where in the office—to the level of putting specific workers next to each other and separating people who work in the same department.


Some of these businesses also change up the seating arrangements every few months. The idea is to foster creativity and encourage innovative thinking.

“If I change the [organizational] chart and you stay in the same seat, it doesn’t have very much of an effect,” Ben Waber told the Wall Street Journal. He is chief executive of Sociometric Solutions, a Boston company that uses sensors to analyze communication patterns in the workplace. “If I keep the org chart the same but change where you sit, it is going to massively change everything.”

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Shopping On The Clock

Brandon on GPB – Shopping on the Clock

Susan’s boss gathered the team and took them to a long lunch. Then they stopped a nearby fashion accessories store to do a little shopping. All of this happened during the workday.

“We were gone from the office for more than two hours,” Susan (last name withheld) wrote in an email to workplace expert Brandon Smith. “I was uncomfortable with shopping during work hours. I am salaried.

“I have had a good relationship with my manager. But this makes me doubt her integrity. How should I handle this?”

Smith said the outing is probably no big deal, but the boss’s failure to explain the reason for the lunch and shopping is what creates the problem.

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Managing Your Peers

Brandon on GPB – Managing Your Peers


Most of us don’t want to stay in our current job forever. We’re working toward — and hoping for — some upward mobility, perhaps without even leaving our current company.

Moving up the chain of command likely means you’ll be overseeing some of the people who used to be your peers, however.

Workplace and career consultant Brandon Smith says it will be impossible to avoid stepping on some toes as you make the transition from colleague to supervisor. But he says talking with your new subordinates and setting expectations up front will help.

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A Good Meeting

Brandon on GPB – A Good Meeting

A good meeting. Is there such a thing?

meeting-roomThey’re so often dysfunctional, long, meandering. Almost everyone hates having them. That’s just the kind of thing Brandon Smith talks about with us most Fridays.

He says the key is to solve some common meeting screw-ups to get things moving more productively.

What kinds of problems do you have in work meetings? Send us your questions about improving them here and we might use that in a future conversation.

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Women in Power

Brandon on GPB – Women in Power

yahooYahoo’s many work-at-home staffers are back in offices this summer after CEO Marissa Mayer ended the company’s longstanding telecommuting policy.

Since she took over at Yahoo last July, Mayer has faced high-profile scrutiny about the telecommuting decision, her maternity leave, and her acquisition strategy.

Some observers argue she’s facing more intense criticism because she’s a woman. Our own workplace expert and leadership consultant, Brandon Smith, offers his take on why that might be.

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The Weight of Leadership


Brandon on GPB – The Weight of Leadership

If you have your eyes on a leadership position at work, you better also keep your eye on your waistline.

Recruiters now say staying trim is required for anyone who’s angling for a corner office. Our go-to expert on work and careers, Brandon Smith, talks about this new standard for advancement – and how far down the chain of command it goes.

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Introverted Leaders

Brandon on GPB – Introverted Leaders

It often seems like the gregarious, outgoing people are the ones who become leaders in the office or advance up the chain.

More and more, though, we’re hearing about the leadership potential of introverts.

When-Does-Pillow-Talk-Go-Too-FarAuthor Susan Cain said at a TED Talks event in Long Beach, Calif., she has been told many times in her life to be more outgoing, and she spent years going along with that idea.

“I always sensed deep down that this was wrong and that introverts were pretty excellent just as they were,” Cain said. “But for years I denied this intuition. And so, I became a Wall Street lawyer, of all things, instead of the writer that I had always longed to be, partly because I needed to prove to myself that I could be bold and assertive too.”

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