HR Grazing around the Water Cooler

Monkeying around the HR news for the week ending December 7, 2012:

We know (or at least we’d like to think) that most humans find the gender pay gap to be unacceptable. But apparently, we’re not alone: monkeys do, too. This week, the Huffington Post reported on an April 2012 TED Talk by psychologist and primatologist Frans de Waal on moral behavior in animals. As the hilarious video of his talk shows, de Waal has found that capuchin monkeys understand payment inequality and have absolutely no qualms about demanding what’s rightfully theirs.

Female bloggers have been consistently discussing the video since it was released, using it as a jumping off point to discuss why women continue to earn less than men. There is some good on that front: A 2011 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that the gender wage gap for American working women of all ages was 82.2 percent—an all-time historical best, up from 64 percent in 1960.

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monkey water coolerUnfortunately, the gap isn’t limited to salary. Our Pay Raise Index, published in November, culled data from 20,000 employees at 2,200 small to medium-sized companies between Q1-Q3 2012. The findings show that while women typically receive more raises than men, men earn more in the raises they do get. In fact, men are three times more likely to earn a salary increase in excess of 25 percent. Looking at pay raises of 5 percent or more, 60 percent went to men and just 38 percent to women—a figure, no doubt, that would provoke action from the capuchin monkeys.

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Speaking of taking a stand, the New York Times reported this week on the rapidly accumulating research on sitting, finding that the health hazards of sitting for long stretches are significant even for people who are active in their personal lives. The article reports that scientists have determined that after an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent.

Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, both risk factors for developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. To combat these negative effects, innovative companies are increasingly turning to standing desks or even work stations leveled above treadmills.

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While you’re standing, consider building a bridge to another coworker. Forbes summed up a list of the top 15 phrases that create stronger relationships among employees, peers and their managers. Want to offer feedback, but not appear overly critical? Try starting off with “let me play devil’s advocate.” It’s a subtle, non-confrontational route that can spark real dialogue among employees.

Meanwhile, “What I hear you saying is…” is a great phrase to indicate to your colleague that you’ve actually been listening. Finally, it never hurts in a workplace to verbalize that one thing we all want to hear: “thank you.” As the publication notes, no one ever rejects gratitude.

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