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Water Cooler

Information and insight about your career and the workplace at large
August 2005

News and Views

You'd think that previous promotions should lead to a higher probability of future promotion, but that wasn't the case in this study by Pablo Acosta, a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In fact, Acosta discovered that outsiders had an advantage over insiders when competing for a higher position. Details

Flexibility improves business performance, according to the 18-month Workplace Flexibility Effectiveness Demonstration Project, a study of flexible work arrangements at 10 large organizations. In each case, the study found significant improvement in key performance measures, including productivity, quality, customer service, and employee satisfaction, when companies were flexible about work arrangements. More

Are you a superwoman or a slacker? Are you confusing the good life with the busy life? Find out: take the quiz

Mothers who list their children's names on their resumes suffer when competing for jobs against similarly qualified fathers and childless men and women. And smokers are paid less on average than other workers. Get the whole story


Quitting with grace and professionalism is a non-negotiable part of being a success in the workforce. If you follow these few guidelines, you can feel great about leaving -- and, perhaps most important, know that you haven't burned any bridges. More

NEW: WaterCooler Professional—The Miniseries

In 2005, "Making It Work for You" evolves to "WC Professional," a miniseries of action steps to being your own mentor. Follow this 12-month plan and by January of 2006, you'll have taken a big step towards being your own best advocate in the workplace.

August: Develop your sense of curiosity.

Eleanor Roosevelt said this about the art of being curious: I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.

She was so right. Curiosity can get you through any transition successfully, and it's a great antidote to stress when you don't have access to a masseuse or other indulgences, like retail therapy!

When you're just starting your career, there are four "typical" transitions to navigate: (1) from support staff to management; (2) when you hit a plateau; (3) when you're thinking of changing jobs; and (4) when your company is changing, for example during a merger or a change in leadership.

Each of these changes can throw you off-balance, especially the last one, because "They"--not you--are controlling the change. And when that happens, as a now-retired IBM exec once told me, "They" need to give you a compelling vision of what's going to replace what you're leaving behind.

Another way of saying it is this: "They" haven't convinced you of one very important principle: Change can mean "gain" as well as "loss."

If you can remember that one important principle, you'll be well on your way to revving up the sense of curiosity that will help you navigate change successfully.

Because at the heart of every transition is a little bit of fear.

And, as Irish poet and storyteller James Stephens said, Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.

WaterCooler (WC) Personal: Quotes on Curiosity

Curiosity wasn't encouraged in my family. My grandmother once said this about me to my dad, "She asks too many questions!" And my mother was fond of saying, "Curiosity killed the cat!" when she preferred not to talk about something.

So, being the contrarian I sometimes am, I rebelled and asked even more questions. Sometimes my curiosity got me in trouble, like when I was in eighth grade and trying to figure out how venetian blinds worked. I managed to derail the whole contraption. Other times curiosity served me well. I discovered things I never would have known if I hadn't thought to ask.

In the spirit of celebrating the virtue of curiosity (and to counter "Curosity killed the cat"), here are some quotes on curiosity. I hope you find them inspirational, too.

Be curious always, for knowledge will not acquire you; you must acquire it. --Sudie Back

Once we realize that there is a difference of opinion, we have a choice: we can continue to defend our point... or we can become curious about the other's thinking. --Productive Business Dialogue, an interactive CD-ROM by Chris Argyris, Peter M. Senge, Bill Noonan, Ram Charan

Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect. --Samuel Johnson

and my new favorite:

Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly. --Arnold Edinborough