A Week's Worth: Quick takes on the world of work and money

Legacy of layoffs is an unengaged workforce, how co-workers annoy, teens give parents' Web skills a boost.

Despite last week's interest-rate cut, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost ground again, falling 1.5 percent.

Decades of mass layoffs have turned the US into a nation of employees who work only hard enough to keep from being fired, according to the author of the new book "One Foot Out the Door." Drawing on survey data from 2003 to 2005, psychologist and management consultant Judith Bardwick says 80 percent of the staffers at many companies aren't "engaged" in their duties and have become "content to keep doing the same thing over and over." She advises clients to engage employees by being open to their ideas and suggestions.

They're colleagues and maybe even friends, but results of a recent survey suggest that your co-workers also may be your pet peeve. Randstad USA, a leading staffing firm, says respondents were irritated by such habits as wearing strong fragrances, favoring pungent-smelling lunch foods, failing to keep common areas tidy, and especially gossiping. "It's not an individual job anymore," a Randstad executive observes. "It's a shared work environment."

Don't assume that just because an acquaintance isn't well educated he or she also lacks Internet or cellphone skills, says the nonprofit organization EduGuide: Partnership for Learning. In fact, it says in a new report, such people tend to use the Web at a rate 8 percent higher than that of adults at large. One explanation: They pick up those skills from their teenagers, whom the report calls "an eraser for the digital divide."

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