I have been spending my days with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had to replace my house manager from Madison, and people told me that I should put an ad on the grocery-store bulletin board. That’s how people get jobs where I live now. So I did that. I got two responses.

The job listing said $10/hr and Jeanenne said she’d do it for $20. That’s something I would do. So I hired her. Everyone knows everyone in this town. And when I mentioned Jeanenne’s name, everyone said, “But she’s a Jehovah’s Witness.”

I didn’t really know what this meant. I mean, I knew that they’d probably say something like that about me, being (probably) the only Jewish family in the county. And I knew that when I was a latchkey kid, and Jehovah’s Witnesses would knock on our door, I would often invite them in to talk.

They never made any sense to me.

Now I know why. Jehovah’s Witnesses are all about being happy. They are all about having the answers, knowing the rules, and following them to happiness.

1. The real path to happiness is contentment, and it looks a lot like hell.

Jeanenne recognizes that this is the big difference between us. She took this photo for me. She said, “The cow reminds me of you.”

I laughed right away. The cow has acres of land with corn and grass to feed on all day long. But she went to the edge of the fence and poked her head through to somewhere else. That’s how I am. Read more

I’m always shocked to hear that people don't like brown-nosing. If I could do it, I definitely would. But as someone who has Asperger’s, brown-nosing always looks very difficult. So I have been looking for someone to teach me how to be better at brown-nosing, and finally, I found it.

First, here is research from James Westphal and Ithai Stern at Kellogg School of Management. They found that being adept at ingratiating behavior was the number-one factor for getting positions at the top of the corporate ladder.

This is not surprising to me. What is surprising is that the research comes with a how-to provided (perhaps inadvertently) by the American Bar Association Journal.

According to the study, here are the traits that are most likely to be rewarded.

1) Frame flattery as advice-seeking. For example, you can ask, “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”

2) Argue before accepting a manager's opinion. Read more

One of the posts on my blog that gets a lot of angry comments is the one where I explain why women should not report sexual harassment at work. The problem with reporting workplace sexual harassment is that none of us is going to change policy single-handedly. There is a huge risk with little reward if you report the harassment to human resources, because the law dictates that HR doesn’t focus on your problems — HR must protect the company, not you. When you report harassment, you become the company’s problem.

So a lot of people naturally ask, “How are we going to change things if no one reports the problem?” But no one changes corporate America by sacrificing her career. Which is what you end up doing if you report harassment. You lose your job. Not legally, but for some other reason. Because it’s so easy to fire someone and so smart for the company to fire anyone who complains about harassment.

You can say that’s unfair but you can’t say it’s not reality. You are better off taking care of harassment yourself, and staying in the game and getting power at work to make change. Read more

You think it would be really fun to have sex with me. Because, I think you can tell from my posts, I’ll do anything. But maybe you can also tell from my posts that it’s a little bit weird. Because you know that I’ll say anything, too, but sometimes, I make you cringe.

I think I’m that way in bed, too.

This post is about work. And sex, which are two of the essential areas of life one needs to be able to function in before you can feel like a normal adult. And both sex and work are governed by a set of rules that many people are able to learn just by being in the world.

Asperger Syndrome compromises one’s ability to read nonverbal social cues. A simple example of this deficit is answering the question, “How are you?” It is loaded with so many nonverbal issues that I simply freeze. Even if you tell me, “Just say fine,” sometimes the situation looks special to me, and I can’t figure out why it’s special, so I can’t talk.

So I’ve spent my life teaching myself the rules for what to do in each social situation. I study people, make notes for myself, and then test the notes to see what other situations my notes apply to. To get a sense of how awkward this looks, here’s a video that is supposed to be a parody of people with Asperger’s interacting with each other. But my family has such a high proportion of people with Asperger’s that this video, honestly, is not far from what our life is like.

In my experience, the places with the most rules are work and sex. So, you can teach yourself the process of becoming better at work by applying the process of learning the rules about dating and sex. And vice versa. I, for example, am great at work rules and terrible at sex rules. So I teach myself using the reverse mechanism. Read more

Maybe the reason that young people are optimistic in the face of a poor job market is that young people can probably do your job better than older people can.

The truth is, non-gen-y-workers have a bunch of shortcomings when it comes to competing with today’s workforce. Management consultant Stephen Denning has a great little history of management in his new book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management. He points out that managers of the 20th century were trained to supervise people to get them to do stuff, to perform tasks. But now that most people are knowledge workers and not semi-skilled workers, we need managers who inspire, motivate, and encourage collaboration-managers, even, who care about the well-being of their employees and strive to make the workplace meaningful. And that’s not a corporate world where the older set is generally comfortable.

Yup, I’m arguing that Gen Y – that age-group that gets dumped on for acting all entitled – can teach everyone something about making it in the modern workforce. A lot, actually, because Gen Y is more prepared and has an advantage over older folks with far more experience. Here are areas where Gen Y can run circles around everyone at work: Read more

The party in DC was at a bar, which is a difficult environment for me, because I never go to bars. We were the first ones there because it’s our party. People started coming and I realized that the most awkward part of the party would be at the beginning, when you have to talk to whoever walks in because you can’t pretend that you need to be talking to someone else. The most claustrophobic time of a party is when only a few people are there.

This is the broom closet I hid in.

Photis saw me go in. He said, “What are you doing?”

“Taking a break,” I said. And I shut the door. Read more

This is a guest post from Ali Brown.

Two months ago, I wasn’t satisfied with my job. I was a communications/administrative assistant. I’d been with the company almost two years, and it was clear there were no opportunities for advancement.

So, just weeks after turning 26 years old, I went to a temp staffing agency and I took a temp job..

I’m not a risk taker, and I was hesitant because accepting the new job meant giving up paid sick time, vacation time, and health insurance, which my employer paid for, and I have no guarantee that I’ll be employed in January.

But the enjoyment I have after a 10-hour day confirms that I made the right choice. And I’m not alone. Nearly 28,000 people became temporary workers in September, and I don’t think it’s all due to people not being able to find full-time work. I think it’s because in many cases, a temp job is better than a full-time job.

I know no one dreams of being a temp worker, but it might be the best alternative in today’s economy. Here’s why you should do what I did: Read more

Both WWII veterans I've known personally have largely ignored Veteran's Day. But I never thought about it, really. I thought it was a holiday for them, not me. Lately, though, I think I do have an opinion. I think there is plenty wrong with Veteran's Day.

1. What about all the other casualties of war?
For example, my mom and dad had me immediately after college graduation as a way to avoid the draft. I ask my mom and dad now how they could have been so incompetent as parents, yet so interesting in the world (really, everyone loves being around my mom, except her kids. It's uncanny.) They each say that they had kids too young. They were totally unprepared.

So I see the war ruining many lives at home, but we only talk about people who fought at the front. It doesn't make any sense to me. War ripples throughout society.

And what about all the women who keep things going while men go off to fight? What about the army wives who move their families around endlessly as the government moves their husbands? What about the kids who lived in 20 cities and never learned how to make a friend? What about the high divorce rate for people in the armed forces? Why are we only thanking veterans for giving their time? What about all the people who gave up safe, secure lives because one family member was in the armed forces? Read more

The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that meditating is not a high priority.

First of all, if you don't realize how much science there is behind meditation, you must be living under a rock. And the book I’m currently kvelling over, The Happiness Advantage, says that meditation, just five minutes a day, is one of the most reliable ways to increase our natural tendency toward happiness.

But I don't want to sound too girly when I tell you to meditate. So I'm telling you instead that the Marine Corps is using meditation to help troops cope with the stress of warfare. Imagine fifty guys sitting cross-legged, eyes shut, with a rifle in every lap. The Marines were totally skeptical at first, of course, but in Men's Journal (one of my favorite magazines) there's a great article by Vanessa Gregory about how the Marines became believers. (This article is not online. Annoying. So here’s a link to a Science Daily article about Marines meditating.)

Also, I don't want to sound like an overly spiritualized hippie cliche, so I’m also telling you that I learned to meditate when I was playing professional beach volleyball. Many professional athletes meditate because at that level, everyone has the skills to be the best, but only a few have the mental strength to use those skills in the toughest moments. Read more

Brazen Careerist Party in Washington, DC. Thursday, Nov. 11, 7pm at Lounge 201. You’re invited.

I always had this huge fantasy about how Brazen Careerist would sell for ten million bazillion dollars, and I would use the money to fly everyone I know to a huge party at some fun destination.

This is not that party. But we will be celebrating the company’s recent move to DC, which is one step closer to the company ruling the world. I can say ruling the world now that I am officially not trying to do that myself. But I’m still excited for there just to be a Brazen Careerist party.

Wait, I just noticed that there are very few opportunities for links in this kind of invitation-to-a-party post.

I have this friend who is constantly bugging me to link to her. And I say, “Shut up. My readers are not stupid. They are going to see a random link to you and think, “Penelope’s blog is going to hell.” Also, people sometimes complain to me that I have too many links to random stuff, and mostly I think, “Just don’t click on the links if you don’t like it.” And then someone reminds me about all the research I write about from Barry Schwartz and Dan Ariely about how too many choices drive people crazy, incapacitating them. Read more