Wasting Time

May 3, 2002
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How do you spend your working hours each day? If you’re like the CEOs who participated in a pair of recent surveys, the answer is “not too productively.”

Surveys developed for staffing firms Accountemps and OfficeTeam asked top executives how they spent their time during the workday.

One survey of 150 executives from across the country found that, on average, they spent 108 minutes daily reading and sending e-mail messages.

The second survey, which also polled 150 executives, found that 19 percent of the workweek – or almost one full day – is spent dealing with “office politics.”

Respondents were asked, “On average, what percentage of an executive’s time is wasted dealing with company politics?” The mean response was 19 percent.

“Executives who spend nearly one-fifth of their work week settling conflicts have less time to devote to more critical aspects of their jobs, such as developing business strategy and implementing new initiatives,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam.

One reason for this may be over-booked schedules.

“Recognizing and confronting politically charged situations early on is the key to preventing them from escalating. Unfortunately, as managers spend more hours in meetings or traveling on business, they may miss possible red flags.”

Combined, reading and sending e-mails and office politics account for almost 17 hours a week of executives’ time.

  • If you question the e-mail portion of the above survey, why don’t you ask State Sen. KenSikkema? And why don’t you do it electronically?

Sikkema, R-Grandville, met recently with the Business Journal’s Editorial Board and mentioned that correspondence to Lansing has doubled – and maybe even tripled – over the past few years.

“It’s all e-mail,” he said, raising his hands and sighing. “And it’s so immediate. I have a policy of responding to all my mail. So I’ll sit down and respond to somebody’s e-mail, and then while I’m still sitting (at the computer) they’ll respond back!”

Sikkema said this not only increases the frequency of correspondence, it also adds a sort of immediacy that doesn’t come with writing letters. Plus, he’s not sure whether the e-mail writers are constituents in his district or just someone from Louisiana who wants to talk about mourning dove hunting legislation.

“With e-mail, you can’t tell because they’re not required to even tell you their name,” he said. “Hitting the ‘reply’ button is so easy, but I’m not sure I want to be someone’s pen pal.”

  • Yes, DavidWagner and the rest of the Old Kent Bank higher-ups stand to gain financially from the announced deal with Fifth Third Bank that, pending shareholder and regulatory approval, will close this spring for approximately $4.9 billion.

But that deal pales in comparison to the top five “mega-deals” of 2000, according to investment bankers Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin, based in Los Angeles.

The Top 5 of 2000 includes AOL-Time Warner ($165.9 billion); General Electric’s $44.1 billion agreement to acquire Honeywell International; Deutsche Telekom AG’s $41.6 billion agreement to purchase VoiceStream Wireless Corp.; JDS Uniphase’s $38.1 billion agreement to buy SDL Inc.; and Chase Manhattan’s $36.5 billion agreement to acquire J.P. Morgan & Co.

Overall, the California firm tracked 9,472 mergers and acquisitions during 2000 disclosed deal values of approximately $1.41 trillion. In 1999, that figure was $1.45 trillion on 9,278.

  • The 2000 census shows Michigan will lose a seat in the House of Representatives. This in turn probably means West Michigan’s Congressmen – VernEhlers, PeterHoekstra and FredUpton – will find themselves representing districts that are geographically larger than those they serve today.

An equally interesting question comes up in spring when census data will disclose the new distribution of population inside this state. If the growth trends of the ‘80s continued through the ‘90s, it seems likely that the state’s demographic center will have continued to migrate west from Detroit and Wayne County. And if that is the case, then West Michigan likely will have a proportionately stronger voice in Lansing.

  • Argument No. 11.6 million to disappear the IRS and go to a national sales tax.

We learned this week that some companies that gave Christmas gifts in the form of coupons are reducing end-of-the-year paychecks by a sum equal to income tax withholding on those coupons.

Next targets: withholdings for Christmas hams and poinsettias.

  • Memo to the media from the Old Guy here at the Business Journal: Rumor Central indicates Dubya soon will create a new cabinet-level post to coordinate technology advancement. The idea would be to give both the Federal Trade and Communication commissions guidance in a chaotic process.

Just one request.

Please, folks, please don’t name the position’s occupant the “Tech Czar.”

The word not only is grossly overworked, but it’s also wildly inaccurate, implying, as it does, a supreme autocrat. It’s difficult to imagine people less effective, for instance, than the series of drug czars we’ve had … unless, that is, we’re talking about the last, hapless czar of Russia.

And, come on fellow wordsmiths, what’s with “czar,” anyway? We could just as well use captain, chief, general, overseer, boss, and big cheese or top dog. And if we’ve got to import the title from foreign tongues, that’s fine.

Couldn’t we at least try kalif, imperatore, bwana, feldwebel, jefe, shogun, caesar, raja, le grand fromage or el supremo?

At least that would put some spice in the cabinet.

  • Last call for entries! The Ad Club of West Michigan needs your Addy Awards entries by 5 p.m., Friday. Bring them, as well as $55 for member entries or $75 for nonmember entries, to Xibitz, 5809 Cross Road Parkway SW, in Grand Rapids. A campaign entry is $70 for members and $90 for nonmembers, while student entries are $20.

Judging will take place on Saturday, Jan. 13 and this year’s ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22, at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

For details and entry forms, check out www.adclubwestmich.org           

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