The week@work: terror on the way to work, a factory fire anniversary, values-based leadership@Starbucks, a millennial workplace, & a new job benefit

 

How do you share work thoughts when so many were killed and injured on their way to work on Tuesday morning? Apparently, we go on. I have to agree with the sentiment expressed by writer Pamela Druckerman in today’s New York Times ‘Je Suis Sick of This’.

“To Europeans, Brussels was supposed to be a dull place that you didn’t have to think much about until you had to change planes there. There’s a parlor game in which you stump people by asking them to name 10 famous Belgians. “Brussels, the anti-fanatic attacked by the fanatics,” French journalist Laurent Joffrin wrote in Wednesday’s Libération. “Brussels, a cousin whom one is content to know is there.”

Right after an attack it’s easy to say that everything feels different. People are horrified. Parents keep their kids home from school. Newspapers run headlines like “Europe at War.” There is the sad, familiar search for a slogan: This time, I prefer the Belgian frites arranged to make a rude gesture resembling a finger, and the banner reading, “Je suis sick of this” followed by an expletive.”

We don’t stop working. Maybe we are a bit more vigilant, the slogan ‘If you see something, say something’, temporarily gets more attention.

Journalist Druckerman continued, “Despite the inevitable false positives, it’s hard not to be on guard. I’m constantly making a series of mundane existential calculations: Is it worth it to risk going to a movie? Should I let my kids ride the metro to soccer practice? Daily life has a chiaroscuro quality: One minute you’re riding a bus and enjoying a view of the river; the next you’re wondering about the fellow with an unusually large backpack.”

There were other stories this week@work.

Friday was the 105th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It resonates with workers today because it was a story of immigrant workers, and led to changes in U.S. factory regulations and safety.

triangle fire.jpeg

Joseph Berger summarized the events in a 2011 article.

“A block east of Washington Square, not far from the neighborhood’s boutiques and chic restaurants, was the site of one of the nation’s worst industrial disasters. Many New Yorkers might be unaware of this.

Some labor advocates are trying hard to change that. They have organized an effort to build a memorial to the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, in which 146 workers died. Most of them were young immigrant women from Eastern Europe and Italy, and more than 50 jumped to their deaths from the factory’s ninth floor.

Two years ago, Tom Marshall posed the question, “Can disasters make life better for future generations?”  He went on to draw a parallel between the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire and the 2013 garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“In both cases, inspectors visited and filed critical safety reports, but scores of people still died while making clothes for others. The American disaster is now hailed as a turning point that led to safer workplaces and broad support for a minimum standard of workers’ rights, while the Bangladeshi disaster’s impact is less certain.”

This week@work Starbucks chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz spoke at the annual shareholders meeting, and expanded on a conversation begun two years ago on the role and responsibility of a for-profit corporation. “What is the role and responsibility of all of us, as citizens?”

K9sMR38U-1650-1650

“Viewing the American Dream as a “reservoir” that is replenished with the values, work ethic and integrity of the American people, Schultz said, “Sadly, our reservoir is running dry, depleted by cynicism, despair, division, exclusion, fear and indifference.”

He suggested citizens fill the reservoir of the American Dream back up, “not with cynicism, but with optimism. Not with despair, but with possibility. Not with division, but with unity. Not with exclusion, but with inclusion. Not with fear, but with compassion. Not with indifference, but with love.”

“It’s not about the choice we make every four years,” Schultz said. “This is about the choices we make every day.”

One of the ‘most read’ articles last week, ‘What Happens When Millennials Run the Workplace?’, provided one more illustration that work issues are people issues, and it really doesn’t matter how you generationally identify.

“Joel Pavelski, 27, isn’t the first person who has lied to his boss to scam some time off work.

But inventing a friend’s funeral, when in fact he was building a treehouse — then blogging and tweeting about it to be sure everyone at the office noticed? That feels new.

Such was a recent management challenge at Mic, a five-year-old website in New York that is vying to become a leading news source created by and for millennials.”

The workplace is changing and the 80 million millennials @work will make a significant impact on work/life and the global economy. As a group, the 40 million with college degrees enter the workforce taxed with student loans that are the equivalent of a mortgage. Fidelity Investments announced a new employee benefit last week to address student loan repayment.  Tara Siegel Bernard provided the details.

“Fidelity will apply up to $2,000 annually to the principal of its employees’ student debts.

Fidelity is one of the more prominent employers to announce the student loan repayment benefit in recent months, a policy that seems likely to gain traction. The benefit helps address what some employers describe as a challenge attracting and retaining younger workers, many of whom can’t see beyond the burden of their student debt. Most employers that are offering the new perk also cap their costs at, say, $10,000 total per employee.”

At the end of a difficult week, spring wishes and Happy Easter!

IMG_4148

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Choose’ a poem by Carl Sandburg

On Tuesday morning folks living in the beautiful, Belgian capital city of Brussels boarded a train that reliably conveyed them to work each day. Others made one of those unconscious daily decisions to grab a cup of coffee at the airport before boarding a flight.

Researchers estimate we make over 200 decisions a day. Now, one of those individual decisions will aggregate to the global; how do we respond to acts of terror?

America’s ‘working man’s poet’, Carl Sandburg, plainly sets out the alternatives in The Friday Poem, ‘Choose’, from his 1916 collection, Chicago Poems.

Choose

The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
Choose:
For we meet by one or the other.

The week@work – Mark Zuckerberg’s parental leave, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem have lunch, and 29 words to avoid in an interview

The stories selected from this week@work include Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to take two months of parental leave, a conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem, and advice on words to avoid in an interview.

Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to ‘lead by example’ and step away from work to care for family may signal to Facebook employees and other CEOs that the world is finally changing for dual career parents.

Covering the story for Wired, journalist Julia Greenberg wrote:

“Zuckerberg is perhaps the most prominent chief executive of a major public tech company to take this much time off following the birth of his child. That’s important, because executives set the tone for a company (and, in some ways, the country) when it comes to balancing work and family.

Like some other major tech companies, Facebook already offers new parents a parental leave plan considered very generous by US standards. New parents at Facebook can take four paid months off. They receive benefits such as $4,000 for each child born or adopted. As we’ve written before, however, employees may feel reluctant to take advantage of such plans if their companies don’t have a culture that encourages taking time off. And company culture typically comes from the top.

 Let’s hope more companies will offer new parents more leave, and that dads will be able to follow his lead.”

One of the highlights of The New York Times Sunday Style section is the ‘Table for Three’ feature. This past week, Philip Galanes shared the conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem.

I recommend reading the complete interview, if for no other reason than to provide a historical context for the current conversation on gender discrimination in the workplace. Here is a short excerpt.

PG: One of the cleverest things you did as a litigator was demonstrate how rigid gender roles harm men as much as women.

RBG: There was an interesting case this court decided in the first year Justice O’Connor was on the bench, about a man who wanted to go to the best nursing school in his area, but it was women-only. You could read between the lines what she understood: There was no better way to raise pay for women in nursing than to get men to do it.

GS: Equal pay for women would be the biggest economic stimulus this country could ever have. Big-time profits are being made from gender roles as they exist. It would also be win-win because female-headed households are where children are most likely to be poor.

PG: Last subject: You are both bridge builders. Justice Ginsburg on the court; and Gloria, with a sea of men and women over the years. Any advice for getting along with people who disagree with us to the core — like Justice Scalia?

RBG: Last night, my daughter and I got a prize from a women’s intellectual property group, and Nino [Scalia] was in the video, saying his nice things about me. He’s a very funny man. We both love opera. And we care about writing. His style is spicy, but we care about how we say it.

GS: I think Ruth is better at getting along with people with whom we profoundly disagree. I feel invisible in their presence because I’m being treated as invisible. But what we want in the future will only happen if we do it every day. So, kindness matters enormously. And empathy. Finding some point of connection.

Moving to the job search, Jacquelyn Smith writing for Business Insider provides us with a list of ’29 words you should never say in a job interview’. Drawing on tips from Michael Kerr, here’s a sample:

“‘Money,’ ‘salary,’ ‘pay,’ ‘compensation,’ etc.  Never discuss salary in the early stages of the interview process, Kerr says. “Focusing on the salary can raise a red flag with potential employers that you are only there for the money and not for any deeper reasons,” he says. “More and more, employers are looking for people who align with their mission and values.”Negotiations can and should be done after — or at the end of — the interview phase.

‘Weaknesses’ or ‘mistakes’   Never voluntarily talk about your weaknesses unless they ask you with the standard interview question, ‘What’s your biggest weakness?'” says Kerr. And don’t bring up mistakes you’ve made at work, unless you’re talking about them to show how you’ve made significant improvements.”

Two other articles of interest were published on the Fast Company site this week:

‘Where Google, Apple and Amazon employees want to work next’Lydia Dishman

‘The World’s Five Biggest Employers Aren’t Who You Think’Charlie Sorrel

One more thing…

This past summer I celebrated July 4th in Brussels. It’s one of my most favorite cities in the world. The people I met in shops and restaurants are in my thoughts this weekend. Be safe.