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Do Nice Guys Finish
Last on Payday?
By Marc Lallanilla
August 19, 2011 — A recent report has confirmed what many of us thought all along — it just doesn't pay to be nice, particularly at work. In a study to be published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that people who are aggressive, outspoken, and willing to be disagreeable make significantly more money than their nicer coworkers. Do companies unwittingly reward bad behavior, or are nice people simply unwilling to negotiate better salaries? Here, a brief guide:
What did the researchers survey?
They analyzed almost 20 years of data from three different surveys, which sampled about 10,000 workers in a wide range of professions, salaries, and ages. The surveys looked at factors like agreeableness, cooperation, kindness, and other psychological factors.
What did the study reveal?
"Nice guys are getting the shaft," says study co-author Beth A. Livingston of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Men who were below average in terms of agreeableness and cooperativeness made 18 percent more — almost $10,000 more per year — than their kinder, gentler office mates. Similar, though less striking, results were found for women judged less agreeable; they made almost $2,000 more per year than their more charming counterparts.


Does this affect hiring practices?
Possibly. In a separate survey, the researchers asked 460 business students to act as hiring managers for a fictional company. After examining descriptions of job applicants, men who were deemed highly agreeable were less likely to get the job. "Niceness may not fit social expectations of 'masculine behavior,'" says Adriana Barton in The Globe and Mail.
What does this reveal about salary negotiations?
It pays to speak up: People interested in being well-liked usually won’t play hardball in salary talks. "I think people have to be assertive," says researcher Tim Judge, as quoted in the New York Daily News. "Pay is not solely determined by your qualifications or economic factors. If leaders get the performance that they expect, we employees get the pay for which we ask."

Corporations Prepared for Immigrant Rallies

Most Companies Expected Labor Slowdown


May 1, 2006 From the orange groves of Florida to high-rise hotels in Manhattan, the pro-immigrant rallies and boycotts planned for today have caused many companies to examine their policies and attitudes toward their work forces.

But will the protests in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere have a lasting effect? In spite of the nationwide attention the protests have garnered, most economists expect few significant tremors from the work slowdown.

"Certainly, I wouldn't think it would be more than a blip for the overall economy," said Ben Hermalin, economist at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

(Nam Y. Huh/ AP Photo)

"It will have a bigger impact on industries that might have a larger immigrant worker base — things like the construction industry, and maybe agriculture, where a one-day work stoppage could have a bigger effect," said Hermalin.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, unauthorized immigrants make up 24 percent of all workers employed in farming occupations, 14 percent in construction and 12 percent in food preparation.

"Some individual businesses will see some lost businesses, some lost sales, but personally I don't think it will have much of an impact on consumers at all. They'll just go shopping tomorrow, or they shopped on Sunday," Hermalin added.

For the full story, go to ABC News

Home Funerals:
An Old Tradition Returns
More Families Are Choosing Home Funerals Over Commercial Services

By MARC LALLANILLA                        

Oct. 21, 2004 For centuries, caring for dead relatives at home was a traditional part of family life. Bodies were laid out in a dining room or parlor, and visitors dropped by to spend time with the family and pay their last respects to the deceased.

Now, a dedicated group of home funeral advocates is trying to recapture that tradition and, by doing so, change the American way of dying.

But their efforts may run contrary to the interests of the multibillion-dollar commercial funeral industry.

Home funeral guide Jerri Lyons prepares the body of Tommy Odom for burial. (R. Love)

"The typical American funeral is a commercially created tradition," said Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a grassroots organization raising awareness of alternative funeral choices.

"The general line in the industry is that a traditional funeral has a fancy casket and a hearse. But the truly traditional funeral in America is a home funeral," Slocum said. "The dead were laid out at home, and the family was more involved. Chances are the casket was purchased from the local cabinetmaker."

Slocum points out how, in most countries around the world, the home funeral is still the norm. "Only in the U.S. and Canada will you see embalming and putting bodies on public display, then buried in mass-manufactured steel caskets and concrete or marble vaults," he said.

Honoring the Dead

For Rebecca Love, the best way to honor the death of a close friend was through a home funeral.

"He was like a brother to me," Love said of her neighbor Tommy Randal Odom. "We'd been like family."

An artist living in Sonoma County, Calif., Love found the process of preparing Odom for burial was filled with emotion.

"It's tough, in a sense. He was my friend," she said, "But I wanted to honor his passing. It's a beautiful way of preparing your loved ones for their final journey, and it's beautiful closure."

For the full story, go to ABC News

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

By Marc Lallanilla
September 22, 2011 — Here's some news that may confirm your worst workplace suspicions: Managers and other corporate honchos have a much higher chance of being psychopaths than the average person.
That's according to a new study from Dr. Paul Babiak, a psychologist and management consultant who studied more than 200 management-track professionals. His research revealed that while just one out of 100 people is likely to have psychopathic traits, the rate among business managers and executives is one out of 25.
What exactly is a psychopath?
They're people who use charisma or fear or a combination of techniques to manipulate people — and they feel absolutely no regret about it. Psychopaths have "at their disposal a very large repertoire of behaviors. So they can use charm, manipulation, intimidation, whatever is required," Dr. Robert Hare, a specialist in psychopathy, tells the Guardian.
What makes these people successful?
Today's corporate culture. "If I wasn't studying psychopaths in prison, I'd do it at the stock exchange," says Hare, as quoted by Fast Company. A stressful, tumultuous business climate — where downsizing, layoffs, and mergers are the norm — is an ideal environment for psychopaths, who thrive on power, control, risk, and thrill-seeking behavior. "The psychopath has no difficulty dealing with the consequences of rapid change; in fact, he or she thrives on it," says Babiak.
Do their personalities catch up with them at some point?
Often, yes, if their work is scrutinized. "Where greed is considered good and profitmaking is the most important value, psychopaths can thrive," says Maia Szalavitz at TIME. They quickly make their way up the corporate ladder by being "charming and manipulative — and in corporate America, that easily passes for leadership." However, a close examination of their performance and productivity reveals "it's dismal," says Hare. The corporate psychopath's record is most often something along the lines of "looked good, performed badly."

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Why Buy a House When You Can Own the Whole Town?


Sales of Towns on eBay Attract Media Buzz, but Few Buyers

By MARC LALLANILLA                        

Dec. 14, 2005 Right in the middle of Tortilla Flat, you'll find a saloon, a gift shop, a post office, a general store, and a restaurant serving burgers, ice cold beer and buzzard strips (known elsewhere as fried chicken).

With amenities like these, as well as spectacular views of the Superstition Mountains, the residents of this remote Arizona town can't imagine living anywhere else.

And anyone who wants to buy the whole town — available for just $5.5 million — can move in and raise the population to seven.

The online auction site eBay has offered buyers the chance to bid on everything from the original Hollywood sign to a grilled cheese sandwich with the Virgin Mary's likeness. In recent years, eBay has also become the go-to site for buyers and sellers of towns like Tortilla Flat.

So if you're considering buying or selling a small city, the people who have bought and sold towns on eBay have a few recommendations for you.

For the full story, go to ABC News

(AP Photo)

How Safe Are Herbal Supplements?
Some Critics Believe the Industry's Products Are Unregulated and Unsafe

By MARC LALLANILLA                        

Jan. 12, 2005 The shelves of your local supermarket and drugstore are probably brimming over with a bewildering array of dietary supplements and herbal remedies. Many are advertised to have benefits that will improve your sex life, your memory or your figure.

But how real are these claims? And how safe are the ingredients in these supplements?

According to many industry experts, the problems with herbal supplements are just beginning to be understood.

"One out of four has some sort of problem," said Dr. Tod Cooperman, physician and president of, an independent laboratory that tests dietary supplements. "People should keep that in mind."

Toxic Contaminants in 'Natural' Products

About 40 percent of Americans routinely use one or more dietary supplements. By most estimates, sales of supplements in the United States alone have created a $19 billion industry.

In many cases, Cooperman's group has found that some name-brand supplements contain only a fraction of the ingredient on their labels — if any at all.

"Some have none, some have 80 percent, some have 20 percent," Cooperman said.

Another problem with supplements involves contamination. In two separate cases last month, pesticide residue was found in a batch of ginseng at a distributor in New Jersey, and toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead and arsenic were discovered in herbal supplements on sale in stores in the Boston area.

Researchers have also found significant amounts of Viagra and Cialis, prescription medicines for treating erectile dysfunction, in "natural" sexual enhancement supplements. "There are increasing instances of them being spiked with pharmaceutical products to make them more effective," said Cooperman.

For the full story, go to ABC News

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