Flailing companies choose wrong target

Troubled companies are clamping down on the resource they can most easily control: their employees. Yahoo is eliminating the opportunity to work from home. Best Buy is reexamining its ROWE program (results-oriented work environment), and is eliminating 400-plus positions.

None of this feels like good market karma. It feels like micromanagement.

The ideal employee is a smart, engaged, passionate, self-starter with strong leadership skills. I am struggling to determine why such an employee would seek employment at Yahoo or Best Buy, or choose to stay. Talking heads speak of eliminating deadwood and promoting face-to-face collaboration. They fail to address commute time, stress and resentment.

During difficult times, the human tendency is to find something to control. We might rearrange our desks or organize our closets. Corporations eliminate employee benefits and turn on the layoff machine, instilling fear in those remaining.

In the film “Margin Call,” Kevin Spacey rallies the remaining morose troops after a mass layoff by giving an incredible speech: “You are here because you are the chosen ones. You are here for a reason.” That is true. Until it’s not.

Cutting costs is always easier than achieving growth. Delighting customers is more difficult than micromanaging employees.

Tia Karelson, Minneapolis

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Celebrate what works (and early ed does)

Anger and frustration can be heard in each word of Gary Marvin Davison’s indictment of everything and everyone connected to K-12 public-school education (“K-12 education is flawed to the core; we need a revolution,” Feb. 27). Having been connected to public education for more than 40 years, I understand.

However, I do not understand Davison’s unwillingness to celebrate the good things happening in schools.

I used to tell my teachers to “live off the good stuff and work hard to improve and change the other stuff.” I would say the same to Davison. In particular, I would tell him to support any initiative to improve pre-K education. Much of what happens in a child’s formative years cannot be controlled, but preparing children for school through pre-K programs can hopefully overshadow the baggage they may bring with them. Such programs also help parents board the education train as they ride with their children from infancy to first grade.

Davison says that “readiness for the K-12 experience will mean nothing if that experience is as empty and frequently damaging as it is now.” He is very wrong to maintain such a belief.

George Larson, Minneapolis

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There’s a radon scare, emphasis on ‘scare’

Once again we have panic-level alarm broadcast about radon (“State is a radon hotbed,” Feb. 10). Radon may, in fact, be somewhat dangerous to humans in very long or very intense exposure, but we have pretty skimpy evidence that the type of exposure a homeowner might experience is dangerous.

The projection of more than 20,000 deaths annually in the United States is based on some very faulty studies of deep-rock miners and an unsupported claim that 15 percent of lung cancers are caused by radon.

Actual studies in Europe put the number closer to 2 percent. But we have, in fact, no known deaths due to household radon. And, while Minnesota is known to be a radon-intense state, it ranks well into the lower half of all states in incidence of lung cancer — far lower than many radon-free states.

That is probably because it is a leader in curtailing smoking and secondhand smoke and keeps a good watch on air pollutants.

Radon detection and remediation is a big business, and an expensive process. A homeowner might find better ways to spend these dollars and set aside any fear of being at great risk from this naturally occurring gas.

Robert Veitch, Minneapolis

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Does it matter who takes a hit? Absolutely

A Feb. 26 letter writer, discussing President Obama’s criticism of sequestration, wants to know why “taking $80 billion from a few [in higher taxes] is a whiffle, while taking $80 billion from 300 million people is doomsday.”

I think it’s because taking more taxes from millionaires and billionaires does not leave them in dire straits. Or any straits, for that matter.

However, taking any money from the middle or lower classes pushes most of those people one step closer to no health care, no food, no home.

Hope that helps.

D.G. Callender, Edina

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Too much is riding on perceived conflicts

I was disappointed to see the mayor of Red Wing resign under pressure. In a representative democracy, we rely on citizens to lead. This means that real people with real jobs must commit time to run various levels of government. In some cases, these positions are compensated, and in very few cases they may provide a livable wage.

In this case, the mayor chose to continue his job as a lobbyist and represent an industry that he felt could bring valuable economic development to some communities. How does this constitute a conflict of interest? If he were a professional activist who lobbied against the frac-sand industry, would that have been viewed as a conflict? A teacher promoting education? A farmer promoting agriculture?

We have to accept that each person has a set of opinions and beliefs, and that if theirs are different from yours, it doesn’t mean they aren’t fit to serve.

Matt Herman, Rogers