#LetsTalkAboutWork

Three years ago I suggested that we use the Labor Day holiday as a catalyst to begin a national conversation about work. 

A lot has happened in those three years, but for the most part, the American worker is in about the same place they were then when USA TODAY led with this headline: “Labor Day by the Numbers: Americans Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Working”. The updated numbers from CNN: “768 million days went unused in 2018, a 9% increase from 2017. Of those, 236 million were completely forfeited, which comes out to $65.5 billion in lost benefits.Fifty-five percent of workers reported that they did not use all of their vacation days.”

We are spending more time @work and less time considering why. 

Out of necessity we maintain a laser focus on our own career goals, spending most of the 365 days a year securing our future as best we can in an ever changing workplace. What if we just took one of those days to consider the workplace issues we face as part of a larger context?

The Labor Day holiday was originally conceived as “…a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” *

What better way to offer a tribute to the American worker than to engage in a national discussion that restores respect and considers the reality of today’s workplace?

This is not a political issue. It’s a human dignity issue. Rather than divide, this conversation should unite us.

Access to education and a right to work are fundamental American values. It’s how we define ourselves when asked ‘what do you do?’. Imagine the despair for those with no answer.

It’s time to reestablish the voice of the American worker and address both the barriers to workplace entry, and the challenges @work once you arrive.

Share your ideas @workthoughts.com #LetsTalkAboutWork!

(*original quote from the U.S. Department of Labor site which no longer seems to be working.)

Are we missing a mentoring moment?

Before we turn into our best imitation of dysfunctional men@work, can we catch a breath and consider that we are on the same side?

Earlier this week a young journalist posted an account of an alleged sexual assault involving a visible Hollywood actor on a women’s news and lifestyle site.

Immediately the lines were drawn. Apparently those lines categorize ‘second wave feminists’ vs. the emerging ‘fourth wave feminists’. (My hair is hurting just writing this.)

Bottom line, both men and women are concerned that the momentum of #MeToo and #TimesUp will collapse with a published fictional account of workplace harassment.

It may happen, someone will fabricate, and when they do, we’ll deal with it. But we’re not there.

Again. We’re on the same side. Each of us has a role to play in this; as a leader or a participant in achieving the goals of workplace equity and safety.

This morning I viewed video and print accounts of an escalation in a divisive argument between a cable news anchor and the author of the original sexual assault story.

My question: Are we missing a mentoring moment here?

If an experienced professional in any field recognizes the potential of the office ‘newbie’, it’s their responsibility to guide, support and challenge that individual to ensure they have the resources to contribute. And when they go ‘off script’, engage in a constructive conversation.

I believe the 22 year-old online writer has received more unsolicited feedback this week than ever before in her career. Many influential ‘second wave feminists’ have been both supportive and critical. Although painful, what an amazing moment in a career when your work gets this level of attention.

How does this scenario end?

Time for the mentors to step up and for the ‘newbie’ to listen. If it were me, I would make the call and invite the new kid on the block to lunch. And if I was the newcomer, I would put on my listening ears, soak up all the wisdom of the ‘second wave feminists’ and become the best voice I could be for ‘fourth wave feminism’.

We’re on the same side. This has to end well.

The week@work – Tonys, LinkedIn, Microsoft, ‘Brexit’, Orlando, and how to make a good teacher

This week@work the amazing Broadway production of Hamilton took home eleven Tony awards, Microsoft absorbed LinkedIn, young workers in Great Britain contemplated life after ‘Brexit’, journalist Anderson Cooper reported from Orlando, and we learned teaching can be taught.

Rolling Stone Magazine reporters Amy Plitt and Phoebe Reilly tallied the ’20 Best, Worst and WTF Moments at 2016 Tony Awards’.

“On a night that was marked by tragedy — and occurring mere hours after news broke of the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Florida — the Tonys provided a much-needed bit of levity. The performers and honorees didn’t shy away from speaking about the shocking events of the day, but the overall mood was one of celebration. Part of the credit goes to the master of ceremonies James Corden, best known as the goofy host CBS’s Late Late Show, yet still a dorky theater kid at heart; his charming, cheerful persona brought an upbeat mood to the proceedings. And the Hamilton effect — and the fact that it was just a strong year for Broadway in general, with plenty of wonderful productions to celebrate — surely had something to do with it as well.”

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One of the best moments was James Cordon’s resume review of Tony nominated actors and their appearances on Law and Order.

“If you’ve ever thumbed through a Playbill wondering “Where have I seen that actor before?!?,” the answer is usually: Law & Order. Corden made very rewarding use of this New York actor résumé mainstay last night when he called on Claire Danes for her memorable portrayal of … L&O’s Tracy Brandt. The joke only got better as Corden showed footage of Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr. (who were in the same episode!) and poor Danny Burstein — the Fiddler on the Roof star played six different roles on the series, and each time Corden flashed the photo of another character, the audience (and Burstein) laughed harder. Apparently, there is absolutely no continuity on Law & Order.”

And now you know.

The breaking business story on Monday was news of the Microsoft/LinkedIn acquisition. The New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann examined ‘LinkedIn’s Complicated Bet on the Future of Work’.

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“LinkedIn, the business-oriented social-networking company that Microsoft acquired, this week, for $26.2 billion, was founded on two premises. The first was that, even in the winner-take-all world of Internet businesses, there would still be room for a niche company (meaning, in this case, only four hundred million registered users, and a hundred million users per month). The second was that what it means to work in a business is now profoundly different from what it was in the Organization Man era. White-collar employees are highly unlikely to spend a lifetime with a single employer, and more and more are not employees at all in the traditional sense. They self-manage their careers, in part by maintaining online personal networks, rather than have them managed by a corporate human-relations department.”

Now LinkedIn will function as part of a Fortune 50 corporate structure and employees will move from an entrepreneurial culture/ stock option pay structure to an “alternative universe, where, by tech-company standards, employees stay an unusually long time—the average tenure at Microsoft is five years, versus two years at Google, according to data from the consulting firm PayScale—and are unlikely to get rich from their stock options zooming up in value, as was the case for Microsoft employees back in the twentieth century. They are going to be their world’s equivalent of corporate lifers, with generous salaries and benefits and some measure of job security, while working to promote the continued growth of a very different kind of work arrangement elsewhere in the economy.

The technology world seems to be creating a small number of extremely successful people, a larger number of well-treated corporate employees, and an even larger number of people who wish they could be employees.”

And then there are the rest of us who now face the prospect of LinkedIn ads invading our quiet space as we commit great thoughts to Word and fill in Excel spreadsheets.

Randall Stross shared his opinion, ‘Why LinkedIn Will Make You Hate Microsoft Word’.

“My version of Word, a relatively recent one, is not that different from the original, born in software’s Pleistocene epoch. It isn’t networked to my friends, family and professional contacts, and that’s the point. Writing on Word may be the only time I spend on my computer in which I can keep the endless distractions in the networked world out of sight.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland and author of “Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing,” said the move reflected a failure to understand what writers need. “Most of the most innovative writing tools now on the market position themselves precisely as distraction-free platforms,” he said.

What Mr. Nadella fails to see is how extending LinkedIn’s “social fabric” to Word will kill the magic, not speed it up.”

On Thursday, voters in Great Britain will choose to leave or remain in the European Union. Kimiko De Freitas-Tamura reported ‘Brexit’ Vote Worries European Up-and-Comers Lured to Britain’.

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“For years, Britain’s relatively vibrant economy has attracted a steady flow of young people fleeing a lack of opportunity in their home countries on the Continent. London in particular is full of young Europeans, who have helped give the city its dynamic, global feel. From entrepreneurs, bankers and fashion designers to artists, waiters and students, all are free to resettle in Britain and make their futures here without so much as a visa.

No one knows for sure what would happen to them if Britain voted to leave the European Union — their immigration status would have to be worked out in the negotiations that would follow — but the debate itself has left some of the young people feeling fearful, frustrated and even angry.

Journalist Anderson Cooper covered the mass shootings in Orlando this week, demonstrating empathy for the victims and tenacity in interviews with politicians. Michael M. Grynbaum profiled the CNN anchor for The New York Times.

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“Anderson Cooper was reading the names of victims of the Orlando massacre on CNN this week when, uncharacteristically, his voice wavered and he drew up short. For moments, viewers around the country heard only silence, and then the sounds of the anchor struggling to compose himself.

As the news industry descended on Florida this week in the aftermath of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub, Mr. Cooper’s raw, activist-style coverage has stood out. He has held a prime-time vigil of sorts, reciting a list of the dead; refused to name the gunman, saying he wanted to focus on victims; and, in a widely viewed exchange, grilled Florida’s attorney general for defending a state ban on same-sex marriage.”

It was a very tough week@work. Colleagues celebrating their day off late Saturday into Sunday morning were viciously murdered in a gay nightclub in Orlando, and on Thursday, Member of Parliament Jo Cox was murdered as she went to work to meet with her constituents in West Yorkshire.

The last story, from The Economist, ‘How to Make a Good Teacher’.

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“Big changes are needed in schools, too, to ensure that teachers improve throughout their careers. Instructors in the best ones hone their craft through observation and coaching. They accept critical feedback—which their unions should not resist, but welcome as only proper for people doing such an important job. The best head teachers hold novices’ hands by, say, giving them high-quality lesson plans and arranging for more experienced teachers to cover for them when they need time for further study and practice.

Money is less important than you might think. Teachers in top-of-the-class Finland, for example, earn about the OECD average. But ensuring that the best stay in the classroom will probably, in most places, mean paying more. People who thrive in front of pupils should not have to become managers to earn a pay rise. And more flexibility on salaries would make it easier to attract the best teachers to the worst schools.

Improving the quality of the average teacher would raise the profession’s prestige, setting up a virtuous cycle in which more talented graduates clamoured to join it. But the biggest gains will come from preparing new teachers better, and upgrading the ones already in classrooms.”

Here’s what I think. Improving the quality of teachers will improve the quality of content taught. It will ensure a ‘safe space’ to openly discuss the issues facing our neighborhoods, counties, countries and continents. Good teachers remove the blinders of hate and discrimination. A courageous teacher at the front of the classroom cautions the young against the errors of the past, and is the best antidote to history repeating itself.

A good teacher reminds us that we are all teachers.

paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – Stock market volatility, workplace violence, effective hiring tactics and the best jobs require you to be a ‘people person’

This was probably not the best week@work with stock market volatility and one of the most horrific incidents of workplace violence broadcast live on the morning news.

The first shock of the week came in the global stock market and created an opportunity for one corporate leader to step out from the cable news apocalyptic babble.

In response to the crisis in world financial markets, Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz sent a email to his employees both to ease worries about the impact on Starbucks’ business and encourage them to understand the mood of their customers. The email was met with mixed reviews outside the Starbucks organization, but was consistent with the Shultz’s style and the culture of ‘servant leadership’.

“Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and–as you always have–remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.”

The second shock of the week arrived with breakfast, in Roanoke, Virginia. Two journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward were murdered @work early Wednesday morning, doing what they loved. Their deaths will be added to the global total of 42 journalism deaths since the beginning of the year.

CNN political commentator, Errol Louis responded with a thoughtful opinion piece, ‘The real issue behind on-air killings of journalists’.

“According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency, while workplace violence has dropped in recent years, it is still startlingly frequent. Nearly a decade ago, according to the agency, 20 workers were murdered every week. A more recent report shows the tide of violence declining, but as of 2009, 521 people were killed on the job and 572,000 non-fatal violent crimes took place, including rape, robbery and assault.”

“…we have to stop treating workplace killings as sporadic, one-time bursts of irrational behavior.”

Workplace safety has to be a priority for CEOs. It effects all aspects of organization culture, beginning with the ability to attract and retain talent.

Two additional stories from the week@work focus on talent@work: finding it and nurturing it.

How do you find people who will be successful in your organization? CEO Richard Sheridan of  software design firm, Menlo Innovations, shared his company’s approach.

“Menlo hires people in mass auditions conducted several times a year. The process is designed to mimic the company’s operations. Our staff spends their days working in pairs, with each pair collaborating on a distinct task, sharing a single computer. So when applicants show up for our auditions, we pair them up and give each pair a single sheet of paper and a pencil. Then we set them to work on a task, Menlo style.”

“Candidates who make the first cut return for a test of skills that–like the mass audition–is an immersion in our process and culture. The candidate comes in for a full paid day working on real projects. She pairs with one Menlonian in the morning and a different Menlonian after lunch. If both give her a thumbs-up, we offer a three-week trial contract. We make special arrangements for those who can’t risk taking time away from their current situations.”

The selection and retention of candidates who become contributing members of an organization’s community is a major challenge for leadership. Each week you can find articles on creative ways to recruit. In a world of algorithmic forecasts, maybe it’s time to get back to basics and invite candidates into the reality of the workplace with the first interview.

Andrew Flowers reporting for ‘The FIveThirtyEight Economics’ finds ‘The Best Jobs Now Require You To Be A People Person’.

“To land a lucrative job today, hard skills in math and engineering, for instance, may not be enough. As technology allows us to automate more technical jobs, new research shows that people skills — communicating clearly, being a team player — matter more than ever. And women appear to be the ones capitalizing on this shift in the workplace.

“The days of only plugging away at a spreadsheet are over,” David Deming, an associate professor of economics at Harvard, told me. Deming is the author of a new working paper, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market,” which shows how today’s high-skill, high-paying jobs — like consultants and managers — increasingly require interpersonal skills.”

You can’t land your first job and relax. It’s the beginning of a lifelong learning experiment interacting with customers, investors and colleagues. And you will need an array of communication skills to advance. Which brings us back to the first story of Starbucks founder Howard Schultz. It’s his emotional intelligence combined with his business savvy that has led to his success and ability to influence the national conversation on work and workers.