The week@work: Broken Models

 

This week@work the majority of the stories fell into one category: broken models and attempts to create band aid solutions.

As we’re living longer, the traditional cycle of study, work, retire has been rendered obsolete. We may blame technology for disrupting our work lives, but it’s the human decisions that are realigning the workplace.

In the talent wars, employers entice employees with the opportunity to work ‘out of the office’, yet tether them with ‘workations’. Teachers lacking sufficient wages and benefits participate in the ‘sharing’ economy and solicit donations of vacation days to cope with serious illness. And a university will offer their current and future students a full tuition scholarship to address the burgeoning cost of medical school.

IMG_8767.jpgWe spend our days trying to figure out new ways to extend our lives, maintain our looks and yet we seem to have ignored the reality that our work life might also extend beyond traditional retirement age.

Pavel Krapivin explores ‘The Study, Work, Retire Model Is Broken As We Live Until 100’.

“Much of life over the past century conformed to the three-stage model of study, work, retire. It’s a model that was predicated on reasonably high levels of stability, both in the skills required in the workplace and also the labor market itself.  Training in one field and then having one or two employers for the majority of your working life was commonplace, but it’s a model that is increasingly being challenged.

Rapidly changing technologies have rendered the shelf-life of skills shorter than ever before, while medical advances mean that the majority of children born today will live to 100 years of age.  This longevity will cause ruptures in the three-stage model that dominates the Western world and predicate a transition towards a more multi-stage life that will see working, learning and resting blend into one.”

He identifies six core challenges that set the agenda for future organizational planning: “managing mature workers, flexible working, a multi-generational workforce, a world of options, learning how to learn and a less rigid path.”

grand central.jpgUnfortunately, we’re not doing a very good job of coping with current organization dynamics. Human resource professionals rarely have a seat at the strategic planning table. Each of these challenges involve people.

Louis Hyman identifies human choice as the primary factor in workplace disruption.  ‘It’s Not Technology That’s Disrupting Our Jobs’

“…when we talk about today’s economy, we focus on smartphones, artificial intelligence, apps. Here, too, the inexorable march of technology is thought to be responsible for disrupting traditional work, phasing out the employee with a regular wage or salary and phasing in independent contractors, consultants, temps and freelancers — the so-called gig economy.

But this narrative is wrong. The history of labor shows that technology does not usually drive social change. On the contrary, social change is typically driven by decisions we make about how to organize our world. Only later does technology swoop in, accelerating and consolidating those changes.

…it reminds us that far from being an unavoidable consequence of technological progress, the nature of work always remains a matter of social choice. It is not a result of an algorithm; it is a collection of decisions by corporations and policymakers.”

Again, the human factor. We have a choice.

Our attempts to adjust to change are ‘band aids’, attempts to cover the wounds of a painful workplace structure. Three stories that just made my blood boil this week@work described the concept of ‘workation’ and the continuing plight of underpaid teachers in the U.S.

IMG_2532.jpgTake a minute to view the video segment from Sunday Today, describing the new trend of ‘workations’. Basically you can work anywhere on the planet as long as you meet your goals. The segment, sub-titled ‘Flexible ‘workcations’ let employees stay connected far away from the office’, profiled one professional who has opted to participate in a Friday remote working option offered by her employer.

“The turning point was when I realized my client doesn’t know the difference. As long as I’m answering my emails on time, I’m answering their calls, I’m accessible, they don’t know if I’m in California or if I’m down the street in New York.”

Billed as a way to meet the challenge of providing workplace flexibility, I wondered, as I watched her walk along the beach in California, how many of her colleagues had the financial resources to access this option.

And then there were the two stories of folks who go to work educating our children.

la school.jpgAlia Wong reported ‘Low Pay Has Teachers Flocking to the Sharing Economy’.

“Airbnb, the popular platform that lets people rent out their homes and apartments, released the results of a volunteer survey this week containing the striking statistic that nearly one in 10 of its hosts in the United States is an educator. In some states the trend appears to be even more pronounced—more than a quarter of all Airbnb hosts in Utah and Wisconsin, for example, work as teachers or in education (the company includes in that category administrators and college professors). This is especially noteworthy given that an analysis of census and National Center for Education Statistics figures suggests that just less than 2 percent of adults in the country work as full-time K–12 teachers.

Many of these 45,000-plus educators in the U.S. are presumably using Airbnb to supplement their regular income, as teachers struggle with stagnant, if not declining, pay. The average annual salary for K–12 public-school teachers is roughly $58,000, and they typically spend a sizable chunk of that on classroom supplies integral to their jobs.

The typical teacher host earned $6,500 through Airbnb last year—hardly a negligible boost for financially strapped educators. And for many teachers, that boost is far more appealing than other means of supplementing their incomes.”

Pair that with the story this week of the Florida history teacher diagnosed with cancer who had exhausted his supply of sick leave before his treatment ended. Did his employer step in to help? No, he used social media to request donations of sick leave from colleagues, and was overwhelmed when the response far exceeded the 20 days he had requested.

Understand why my blood is boiling? Not only are teachers using their creativity to supplement their income in order to live, they are now forced to beg for supplemental benefits from other teachers. And that folks tells you a lot about our priorities.

The last story is good news for the medical students at NYU. In a pioneering effort, the school will offer full tuition scholarships to current and future students.

participants-at-nyu-school-of-medicine-2.jpg“The announcement from the medical school’s trustees, leaders, and faculty was delivered this morning to first-year medical students and family members as a surprise ending to the annual White Coat Ceremony, where each new student is presented with a white lab coat to mark the start of their medical education and training.

“Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our trustees, alumni, and friends, our hope—and expectation—is that by making medical school accessible to a broader range of applicants, we will be a catalyst for transforming medical education nationwide,” says Kenneth G. Langone, chair of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health. The yearly tuition costs covered by the scholarship are $55,018.”

The hope is to diversify the composition of the student body as well as the choice of specialty after graduation.

If we’re now reflecting on our work/life cycle in terms of a century, we’ll need the expertise of these educators and medical professionals to provide the support to achieve success. Perhaps it’s time to reorder our priorities.

This week@work consider the complexity of a 100 year lifetime and imagine what innovations you could apply to replace the broken models.

 

Photo credit: LA Unified courtesy KPCC, White Coat Ceremony courtesy NYU School of Medicine

 

 

 

 

The Friday Poem ‘August’ by Helen Hunt Jackson

The Friday Poem this week is ‘August’ by Helen Hunt Jackson. The poem was published in the August 1876 issue of The Atlantic. Ms. Jackson was a poet, historian, author and childhood friend of Emily Dickinson. As an activist, she would go on champion the rights of Native Americans.”

In 1884 she published ‘Ramona’, a fictionalized account of the plight of Southern California’s dispossessed Mission Indians, inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’.

The Friday Poem – because we all “Hath need of pause and interval of peace.”

 August

Silence again. The glorious symphony
Hath need of pause and interval of peace.
Some subtle signal bids all sweet sounds cease,
Save hum of insects’ aimless industry.
Pathetic, summer seeks by blazonry
Of color to conceal her swift decrease.
Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece
A blossom and lay bare her poverty.
Poor, middle-agèd summer! Vain this show!
Whole fields of golden-rod cannot offset
One meadow with a single violet;
And well the singing thrush and lily know,
Spite of all artifice which her regret
Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go!

H.H. 

Reprinted from The Atlantic, August 1876

 

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Image: William S. Jackson, Special Collections, Tutt Library, Colorado College

The week@work: smart people, perfectionists & the future of work

Have you ever worked for a person who’s an expert in one field and automatically believes that expertise extends to all other areas of competence? You know, the person who’s constantly reminding you where they went to college?

This past week@work, the first of the new year, stories ranged from the definition of genius, to a new study on millennials and perfectionism, and an analysis of the ‘real’ future of work.

James Fallows shared his experience with ‘How Actual Smart People Talk About Themselves’. The article was inspired by a series of tweets, but the message is one all of us can translate to our behavior@work.

“Here are three traits I would report from a long trail of meeting and interviewing people who by any reckoning are very intelligent.

They all know it. A lifetime of quietly comparing their ease in handling intellectual challenges—at the chess board, in the classroom, in the debating or writing arena—with the efforts of other people gave them the message.

Virtually none of them (need to) say it.

They know what they don’t know. This to me is the most consistent marker of real intelligence. The more acute someone’s ability to perceive and assess, the more likely that person is to recognize his or her limits. These include the unevenness of any one person’s talents; the specific areas of weakness—social awkwardness, musical tin ear, being stronger with numbers than with words, or vice versa; and the incomparable vastness of what any individual person can never know. To read books seriously is to be staggered by the knowledge of how many more books will remain beyond your ken. It’s like looking up at the star-filled sky.”

“The clearest mark of intelligence, even “genius,” is awareness of one’s limits and ignorance.”

One of those ‘smart people’, who traveled across the star-filled sky, Astronaut John Young, died this past week at the age of 87.

john-young-astronaut.jpg“Mr. Young joined NASA in the early years of manned spaceflight and was still flying, at age 53, in the era of space shuttles. He was the only astronaut to fly in the Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs. He was also chief of NASA’s astronauts office for 13 years and a leading executive at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

When he was honored by the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum upon retiring from NASA in December 2004, after 42 years with the agency, Mr. Young played down his accomplishments. “Anybody could have done it,’’ he told The Orlando Sentinel. “You’ve just got to hang in there.”

I imagine being an astronaut requires a certain level of detail – being precise vs. being perfect. Kimberly Truong reports on a concerning trend for our workplace future, ‘Yes, Millennials Really Do Struggle With Perfectionism More’.

“According to a new study released in the journal Psychological Bulletin, millennials are more likely than previous generations to put pressure on ourselves — and others — to be perfect, possibly to the detriment of our mental health.

In every phase of our lives, we’re actively being encouraged and rewarded for striving towards perfection, whether that means getting high enough S.A.T. scores or racking up a certain number of Instagram likes or followers. Millennials, it seems, have more metrics to measure success — and therefore failure — than their parents.

Of course, there’s no such thing as “perfect,” which means it’s nearly impossible to strive for perfection and feel anything but disappointment and self-doubt. The question is: Can millennials step out of this vicious cycle?”

The last article of this first week of 2018 is Danny Vinik‘s analysis of ‘The Real Future of Work’.

“Over the past two decades, the U.S. labor market has undergone a quiet transformation, as companies increasingly forgo full-time employees and fill positions with independent contractors, on-call workers or temps—what economists have called “alternative work arrangements” or the “contingent workforce.” Most Americans still work in traditional jobs, but these new arrangements are growing—and the pace appears to be picking up. From 2005 to 2015, according to the best available estimate, the number of people in alternative work arrangements grew by 9 million and now represents roughly 16 percent of all U.S. workers, while the number of traditional employees declined by 400,000. A perhaps more striking way to put it is that during those 10 years, all net job growth in the American economy has been in contingent jobs.

IMG_9942.jpgThe repercussions go far beyond the wages and hours of individuals. In America, more than any other developed country, jobs are the basis for a whole suite of social guarantees meant to ensure a stable life. Workplace protections like the minimum wage and overtime, as well as key benefits like health insurance and pensions, are built on the basic assumption of a full-time job with an employer. As that relationship crumbles, millions of hardworking Americans find themselves ejected from that implicit pact. For many employees, their new status as “independent contractor” gives them no guarantee of earning the minimum wage or health insurance.”

Maybe unemployment statistics from the Labor Department aren’t the right metric to view our economy. The December report, out last Friday, showed an increase of 148,000 jobs in the final month of 2017. “Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, argues that ten years after the Great Recession, the economy has still not returned to 2007 benchmarks or the healthier levels of economic indicators in 2000.”

 

 

Photo credit: The Telegraph

The Friday Poem – The Purpose of Poetry

On October 26, 1963, less than a month before his death, U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited Amherst College to deliver a speech at the groundbreaking for the Robert Frost Library.

“In publishing the remarks after Kennedy’s murder, The Atlantic noted that he“identified himself, as no president before him has done so poignantly, with ‘books and men and learning.’ ”

Today, 54 years later, rather than a Friday Poem, the text of the address delivered that day by the 35th President of the United States, in recognition of the contribution of Robert Frost and the place of poetry in our national value set. This is what American leadership looks like.

Our national strength matters, but the spirit which informs and controls our strength matters just as much. This was the special significance of Robert Frost. He brought an unsparing instinct for reality to bear on the platitudes and pieties of society. His sense of the human tragedy fortified him against self-deception and easy consolation. “I have been” he wrote, “one acquainted with the night.” And because he knew the midnight as well as the high noon, because he understood the ordeal as well as the triumph of the human spirit, he gave his age strength with which to overcome despair. At bottom, he held a deep faith in the spirit of man, and it is hardly an accident that Robert Frost coupled poetry and power, for he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself. When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, a lover’s quarrel with the world. In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role. If Robert Frost was much honored in his lifetime, it was because a good many preferred to ignore his darker truths. Yet in retrospect, we see how the artist’s fidelity has strengthened the fibre of our national life.

If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. And as Mr. MacLeish once remarked of poets, there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society–in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”

I look forward to a great future for America, a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.

I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.

Robert Frost was often skeptical about projects for human improvement, yet I do not think he would disdain this hope. As he wrote during the uncertain days of the Second War:

Take human nature altogether since time began . . .
And it must be a little more in favor of man,
Say a fraction of one percent at the very least . . .
Our hold on this planet wouldn’t have so increased.

Because of Mr. Frost’s life and work, because of the life and work of this college, our hold on this planet has increased.”

Listen to speech

Text and recording courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Library and the U.S. National Archives.

 

The week@work – women@work, laziness and success, co-working space @Staples, and repeal of online protections

This week@work we learned that the sculptor Kristen Visbal’s ‘Fearless Girl’ will remain on Wall Street though the beginning of 2018. A timely, symbolic decision given the other news of the week for women@work, which could convince one that they had time traveled back to 1957: continuing sexual harassment allegations @Fox, declining numbers of female coaches in women’s college basketball, Mike Pence’s views on lunch meetings, new research indicating a possible retreat from gender equality, and the headline from the Daily Mail which covered Brexit talks between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon as ‘Legs-It’.

In other stories this week@work, office supply company Staples is partnering with Workbar to offer co-working spaces, author Michael Lewis’ described how laziness contributed to his success, and various experts offered suggestions to secure your digital privacy in light of internet protections repeal.

Last night, the University of South Carolina’s womens’ basketball team won the NCAA national championship.

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Dawn Staley finally could raise an NCAA championship trophy…Staley made the Final Four three times as a player at Virginia but never won. She also led the Gamecocks to the national semifinals two years ago before losing to Notre Dame.”

Earlier this month Coach Staley was named the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball coach through 2020.  Jere Longman reported on the state of college coaching as the ‘Number of Women Coaching in College Has Plummeted in Title IX Era’.

“Tara VanDerveer has won two national championships at Stanford and coached the American women to a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Dawn Staley, the recently named 2020 Olympic coach, won three gold medals as a player and has guided South Carolina to the national semifinals for the second time in three seasons.

Yet even as VanDerveer and Staley again appear on their sport’s most visible stage, the opportunity for women to coach female collegiate athletes has stagnated after a decades-long decline.

In 1972, when the gender equity law known as Title IX was enacted, women were head coaches of more than 90 percent of women’s college teams across two dozen sports. Now that number has decreased to about 40 percent.”

On Wednesday, The Guardian journalists Anushka Asthana and Rowena Mason reported on the initiation of the formal process to separate Great Britain from the European Union.

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“A letter signed by the prime minister will be hand-delivered to the president of the European council at about 12.30pm – as she rises in Westminster to deliver a statement to MPs signalling the end of the UK’s most significant diplomatic association since the end of the second world war.”

Unfortunately, the momentous occasion was not compelling enough. A photo soon emerged of the prime minister and first minister of Scotland provoking a sexist headline and article from the Daily Mail, prompting “immediate criticism from politicians, commentators and members of the public after it first appeared on Twitter on Monday night. Conservative MP and former Education Minister Nicky Morgan accused the paper of “appalling sexism”.

“Seriously? Our two most senior female politicians are judged for their legs not what they said #appallingsexism,” Ms Morgan said.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper joked that the clocks had “gone forward this weekend, not 50 years back”, while former Labour Leader Ed Miliband wrote the “1950s called and asked for their headline back”.

And then there was this, ‘Do Millennial Men Want Stay-at-Home Wives?’. Stephanie Coontz shared new research on attitudes toward gender equity.

“…a set of reports released Friday by the Council on Contemporary Families reveals, fewer of the youngest millennials, those aged 18 to 25, support egalitarian family arrangements than did the same age group 20 years earlier.

Using a survey that has monitored the attitudes of high school seniors for nearly 40 years, the sociologists Joanna Pepin and David Cotter find that the proportion of young people holding egalitarian views about gender relationships rose steadily from 1977 to the mid-1990s but has fallen since. In 1994, only 42 percent of high school seniors agreed that the best family was one where the man was the main income earner and the woman took care of the home. But in 2014, 58 percent of seniors said they preferred that arrangement. In 1994, fewer than 30 percent of high school seniors thought “the husband should make all the important decisions in the family.” By 2014, nearly 40 percent subscribed to that premise.”

Rose Leadem reported on the new joint co-work space venture between Staples and Workbar.

Staples_Workbar_storefront_09_Hi-Res.jpg

“Staples isn’t just for office supplies or printing anymore. Three of the company’s Massachusetts stores now include happy hour, retro music and mod seating — that is, it’s adding coworking spaces.

Since September, more than 200 people have signed up for memberships, which cost $130 a month. The company hasn’t revealed plans for more locations, but according to Bloomberg, Goodman hopes to “dominate the $80 billion-a-year U.S. midmarket, or businesses with fewer than 200 employees.”

Minda Zetlin interviewed writer Michael Lewis and found ‘Being Lazy Is the Key to Success, According to the Best-Selling Author of ‘Moneyball’.

Embracing laziness has helped him be successful because he focuses his efforts only where it really matters, he explained. Here’s how that can create a real advantage:

Being willing to be inactive or less active means you’ll be available when something truly worthy of your best effort comes along. It also means you’ll have the time and space to go looking for those really worthwhile projects. If you’re busy being busy, you’ll miss them…

“People waste years of their lives not being willing to waste hours of their lives. If you mistake busyness for importance–which we do a lot–you’re not able to see what really is important.”

“My laziness serves as a filter,” Lewis said. “Something has to be really good before I’ll decide to work on it.”

While embracing laziness, you may want to think about securing your online privacy. With the roll back of internet privacy regulations last week, Marguerite Reardon offered background and analysis, ‘Congress just killed online privacy rules. Now what?’

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“The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 215-205 to stop FCC regulations from taking effect that would have required broadband and wireless companies to ask your permission before sharing sensitive information about you, such as the websites you visit, the apps you use or even your location. The rules would have also set standards for broadband providers to protect information they collect and store. And they would have set requirements for when and how companies would inform you if your data was stolen.

Since the FCC’s rules never actually went into effect, you won’t notice much difference in how companies are protecting your privacy. But eventually, you’ll see a lot more targeted advertising and creepy ads that follow you all over the internet. Your broadband provider, whether that’s AT&T, Verizon or Comcast, will still be able to sell some information about you to advertisers, just as Google and Facebook can.

Broadband providers are already moving into the content business, and they’re likely to get more aggressive in how the information is used and who gets to use it.”

#3 on the most read, shared and discussed posts from across the New York Times was an updated article that originally appeared in November, ‘Protecting Your Digital Life in 8 Easy Steps’. Don’t forget to cover your webcam with tape…

Photo credits:  Theresa May – Downing Street/Twitter,

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – “and the winner is…”, transition@the Met, stress@work, and ambition

The week@work started with ‘the mistake’ at the end of the Oscars ceremony, and continued with a visible transition at the top of the most prestigious U.S. art museum. On the job ‘burn-out’ continues to take a toll on all @work, and may explain the recent Uber executive’s meltdown. And, a leading fashion designer is launching a campaign to ’embrace ambition’.

When we make a mistake @work, we typically don’t have an audience 32.9 million folks watching. But that’s what happened Sunday evening when the wrong envelope led to an ‘epic fail’ in the announcement of Best Picture winner. The New York Times film critics shared their reactions.

“…in its own way, last night’s spectacle — so relatively smooth, until all of a sudden it was anything but — represents a Hollywood watershed or, at least, like the original “Bonnie and Clyde,” the arrival of a new generation. The envelope mix-up was painful, but it brought to the stage two directors in their 30s with five features between them and reminded the audience that Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins are not enemies.  A.O. Scott

“Honestly, I don’t know. But something happened that seemed to simultaneously tell us who we were, are, believe ourselves to be. This is, what, the fourth time since November that the country has gathered for an evening of live television, only to be part of a rug-yanking ceremony. After Sunday night, the presidential election, the Super Bowl and, to a different but related extent, the Grammys, I’ve officially come down with outcome-oriented post-traumatic stress disorder — Ooptsd, as in upside my head.”  Wesley Morris

And from Hollywood, where the trade publication Variety’s cover seemed to mirror the events, Claudia Eller, co-editor in chief provided context for the ‘morning after’ cover.

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“The high stakes and cutthroat tactics enlisted during Hollywood’s annual award season have long rivaled those of hard-fought political campaigns. But this year’s race showed the entertainment community at its absolute best. This was not a case of winner-take-all, but rather — as our cover story hopefully and joyfully exemplifies — proof that contenders share similar dreams, struggles, and frailties, and in fact can show respect and a generosity of spirit toward one another, whether they win or lose.”

On Wednesday morning I received this email from Thomas P. Cambell, Director and C.E.O. of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“I write to share the news that I have decided to step down from my role as Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is not an easy choice to step away, especially at such a transitional moment. That said, the Museum’s current vitality is what makes it the right moment to do so. For the next stage of my career I look forward to new challenges beyond The Met, always in service of art, scholarship, and understanding.”

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What now? From Margaret Lyons on Twitter, “Please, someone: Set a prestige drama among the employees of a world-class museum.”

Maybe the Met could use a ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ treatment. Are you listening Jeff Bezos?

Holland Carter offered ‘How to Fix the Met: Connect Art to Life’

“What I can talk about is art, and how a museum can make people care about it. If historical art is now a hard sell, and it is, learn to sell it hard. That means, among other things, start telling the truth about it: about who made objects, and how they work in the world, and how they got to the museum, and what they mean, what values they advertise, good and bad. Go for truth (which, like the telling of history, is always changing), and connect art to life. Mix things up: periods, functions, cultures. (You can always unmix them.) Let audiences see that old is always new, if viewed through knowledge.

To present art this way — to pitch it, advocate it, make it snap to life — is to rethink the basic dynamic of a museum, turn it from passive to active, from archival to interactive, while letting it be all of these. This is the work of curators, and the Met has some fantastic ones. But to do their job boldly and radically, they need the attentive, encouraging permission of an alert director, probably meaning one who isn’t also saddled with being the company’s chief accountant.”

Rachel Feintzeig asked ‘Feeling Burned Out at Work? Join the Club.’

“Stress and anxiety are cited in 70% of the calls placed to phone-counseling lines at Workplace Options, a provider of employee-assistance programs; in 2014, 50% of callers complained of those feelings. Total calls to those counseling lines reached 42,500 last month, an 18% increase from 2016’s average.

Gallup’s most recent large-scale survey about burnout in the U.S., conducted in 2012, found that more than 40% of workers were so stressed at work they felt burned out. A more recent survey of German workers, conducted in 2015, found that nearly a quarter felt burned out.

Workers aren’t “assertive about their boundaries because they fear for their jobs,” said Alden Cass, a Manhattan-based clinical psychologist who treats patients with high-stress jobs. Burnout begins when a worker feels overwhelmed for a sustained period of time, then apathetic and ultimately numb, he said.”

Not sure if Travis Kalanick of Uber is suffering from burn-out, but last week’s viral video arguing with one of his employees was the culmination of a series of PR nightmares for the executive. Adrienne LaFrance reported ‘As Uber Melts down, Its CEO Says He ‘Must Fundamentally Change’.

“It took eight years and at least as many back-to-back-to-back-to-back controversies to break Travis Kalanick.

After a stunning month of scandals at Uber, Kalanick, its founder and CEO, sent an emotional and uncharacteristically apologetic memo to his employees Tuesday night. “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help,” Kalanick wrote. “And I intend to get it.”

The final story this week@work comes from the fashion pages and reporter Jacob Bernstein who asks ‘When Did ‘Ambition’ Become A Dirty Word? to introduce the story of designer Tory Burch and the most recent effort of her foundation.

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“There is nothing particularly fiery about Tory Burch…the issue of ambition, and the way it is used to defame women, is nevertheless personal to her.

In 2009, Ms. Burch started the Tory Burch Foundation and, through a partnership with Bank of America, saw it grow to an organization that ultimately gave more than $25 million to female entrepreneurs around the world.

Many of the recipients of these grants had experienced the same kind of sexism she faced. They were called too hungry, too intent on power, too ambitious — code words used in place of the more vulgar expressions that men (and sometimes women, too) used when they were out of earshot.

“There was a harmful double standard,” she said.”

The global campaign, ‘Embrace Ambition’ launches with a PSA in conjunction with International Women’s Day.

This week@work I encourage your ambition, and wish you a speedy recovery from “Ooptsd”, NYT film critic Wesley Morris’ appropriately new acronym for our times – “outcome-oriented post-traumatic stress disorder”.

 

 

 

 

The Friday Poem ‘The New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus

Most immigrants to the U.S. arrive by plane, bypassing the Statue of Liberty standing in New York harbor. Perhaps this detour has created a bit of amnesia regarding fundamental American values.

For the Friday poem this week, we travel back in time to 1883, when Emma Lazarus was asked to write a poem as part of fundraising effort to construct the pedestal for the statue.

Washington Post journalist Katie Mettler revisited Ms. Lazarus’ story on Wednesday, citing renewed interest in the sonnet in the aftermath of the executive order banning  U.S. entry to all Syrian refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries

“What the poet didn’t know at the time — as a woman whose work as a “poetess” had been at times the subject of condescension — was that it would be her words, lyrical and poignant, that decades later came to define the American vision of liberty.

More than a century later, in 2017, the words are rallying people against a controversial president and his policies and attitudes toward immigrants.”

It’s time for these words to be posted at every point of entry to the U.S. to remind all of our core values.

The New Colossus 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus   ‘Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems and Other Writings’ (2002)

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The week@work:’post-truth’, Facebook’s ‘news feed’, Gwen Ifill, a new leader @Lincoln Center, & Udacity’s tech job tryouts

This past week@work Oxford Dictionaries declared ‘post-truth’ the 2016 word of the year, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg realized his job description included a responsibility to combat fake news. In contrast, the week marked the death of an authentic journalist, PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill. Lincoln Center chose a new leader from academia and MOOC provider, Udacity announced tech job tryouts.

On Wednesday, the BBC reported “Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” as its 2016 international word of the year, reflecting what it called a “highly-charged” political 12 months.

It is defined as an adjective relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.

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Oxford Dictionaries says post-truth is thought to have been first used in 1992. However, it says the frequency of its usage increased by 2,000% in 2016 compared with last year.”

The Economist explored ‘post-truth’ in ‘The Art of the Lie’.

“The term picks out the heart of what is new: that truth is not falsified, or contested, but of secondary importance…

Post-truth politics has many parents. Some are noble. The questioning of institutions and received wisdom is a democratic virtue. A sceptical lack of deference towards leaders is the first step to reform. The collapse of communism was hastened because brave people were prepared to challenge the official propaganda.

Post-truth has also been abetted by the evolution of the media… The fragmentation of news sources has created an atomised world in which lies, rumour and gossip spread with alarming speed. Lies that are widely shared online within a network, whose members trust each other more than they trust any mainstream-media source, can quickly take on the appearance of truth. Presented with evidence that contradicts a belief that is dearly held, people have a tendency to ditch the facts first. Well-intentioned journalistic practices bear blame too. The pursuit of “fairness” in reporting often creates phoney balance at the expense of truth.”

The New Yorker contributor, Nathan Heller examined one example of the phenomena in ‘The Failure of Facebook Democracy’.

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“The unexpected election of Donald Trump is said to owe debts to both niche extremism and rampant misinformation. Facebook, the most pervasive of the social networks, has received much scrutiny and blame. During the final weeks of the campaigns, it grew apparent that the site’s “news” algorithm—a mechanism that trawls posts from one’s online friends and rank-displays those deemed of interest—was not distinguishing between real news and false information: the sort of tall tales, groundless conspiracy theories, and oppositional propaganda that, in the Cenozoic era, circulated mainly via forwarded e-mails.

Facebook is not the only network to have trafficked phony news, but its numbers have been striking. A much-cited Pew survey, released in May, suggested that forty-four per cent of the general population used Facebook as a news source, a figure unrivalled by other social networks. An analysis this week by Craig Silverman, of BuzzFeed, found that the twenty top-performing fake news stories on the network outperformed the twenty top real-news stories during the final three months before the election—and that seventeen of those fakes favored the Trump campaign.

If a majority of Americans are getting their news from Facebook, then Facebook surely has a civic obligation to insure the information it disseminates is sound.”

Which brings us to the initial response from Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“Identifying the ‘truth’ is complicated.”

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On Friday, he posted details of the projects in place to address the issue.

“A lot of you have asked what we’re doing about misinformation, so I wanted to give an update.

The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously. Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.”

Buried in paragraph four was this nugget that seemed to transfer ownership from the corporation to the community, ignoring a leader’s civic obligation.

“We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”

Contrast this approach to the definition of the role of a journalist, courtesy of the American Press Institute.

“The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds.”

So let’s return to the days of ‘truth’ and remember the contribution of journalist Gwen Ifill through the eyes of two colleagues.

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‘What Gwen Ifill Knew About Race in America’  by Jeffrey Goldberg “An insufficient number of people have recognized what is obvious. Gwen’s death is a punishing blow to her family, and to her wide circle of friends, to her colleagues and to her viewers. But it is also a cruel blow to her profession, which hasn’t recently covered itself in glory. And it’s an especially cruel blow to her lovely nation, which is right now in need of her bravery, her farsightedness, and her willingness to tell the truth. Hers is an incalculable loss.”

‘The Life and Example of Gwen Ifill’ by David Brooks “Gwen worked in a tough business, and being an African-American woman in that business brought its own hardships and scars, but Gwen’s smile did not hold back. Her whole personality was the opposite of reticent, and timidity was a stranger to her. When the Ifill incandescence came at you, you were getting human connection full-bore.

I suppose every profession has a few people like this, people who love the whole profession, who pay compliments when its standards are met and who are tough when they are not.

Gwen’s death merits a bit of the reaction that greeted the death of the writer Samuel Johnson centuries ago: She has left a chasm, which nobody else can fill up and which nobody has a tendency to fill.

Now that Gwen is dead, who is the next best thing? There’s nobody. There are many great people who will follow her example. But nobody quite reminds you of Gwen.”

In other news this week@work:

‘Debora L. Spar, Barnard President, to Lead Lincoln Center’Michael Cooper for The New York Times  “In appointing Ms. Spar, who is also an author and a former Harvard Business School professor, Lincoln Center’s board looked beyond arts administration circles and decided to tap someone with experience running a large nonprofit and with a track record of raising money for capital projects — skills that could prove useful as the renovation proceeds.”

Mr. Cooper reported in a related story that you may want to share with the aspiring musicians in your life, ‘It’s Official: Many Orchestras Are Now Charities’.

‘Udacity, an Online Learning Start-Up, Offers Tech Job Trials’Steve Lohr for The New York Times “The program, called Blitz, provides what is essentially a brief contract assignment, much like an internship. Employers tell Udacity the skills they need, and Udacity suggests a single candidate or a few. For the contract assignment, which usually lasts about three months, Udacity takes a fee worth 10 to 20 percent of the worker’s salary. If the person is then hired, Udacity does not collect any other fees, such as a finder’s fee.

The Blitz initiative and Udacity’s evolution point to the role that nontraditional education organizations might play in addressing the needs of workers and employers in the fast-changing labor market for technology skills.”

In closing this week of work, I am still trying to clear the fog in my brain and understand ‘post truth’. I reside in the real word, but apparently it’s changing. What does work look like when words hold no meaning?

I’ll end with classicist Mary Beard‘s reflection on the U.S. election.

“Trump and Trump’s policies are truly ghastly, but you have to face the fact that a very large number of people actually voted for him. What is more, resentment at “the elite” has morphed into a proud contempt for truth, expertise and knowledge – not unlike Michael Gove’s jibe at “experts” before the Brexit vote. And in the broader context of political rhetoric, the idea that he won’t be as bad as he claimed is more, rather than less, worrying. I thought that the conciliatory speech was the worst thing I had heard all evening. The idea that he could be thanking Clinton for her service to the country (“I mean that very sincerely”) and be speaking of “binding the wounds of division” – when only the day before he’d promised to impeach her and poured salt into the very wounds he was now promising to heal – beggars belief. It has nothing to do with being “gracious” (as the television pundits had it), and everything to do with words not meaning anything. It was precisely what ancient rhetorical and political theorists feared almost more than anything else: that speech might not be true, and the corrosive effect of that on popular power.”

 

Photo credits: Facebook Menlo Park HQ courtesy of Facebook Newsroom Media Gallery, Mark Zuckerberg from his Facebook page, Gwen Iffil/Morry Gash AP

 

 

The Friday Poem ‘The Familiar Has Taken Leave’

Why are we always surprised when national events veer from a predicted trajectory? Maybe we’ve been spending too much time with analytics and not enough time with the poets.

Megan Garber wrote in The Atlantic last week about the role of poetry in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “Campaign in poetry; govern in prose,” the old adage goes. This moment, though, has in many ways flipped that idea: The 2016 presidential campaign was decidedly lacking in poetry. Yet in its aftermath, as Americans consider the contours of their new government, they are, often, turning to poems…”

She interviewed Don Share, the editor of Poetry magazine to discover why poetry was having a ‘moment’.

“Well, it’s always been speaking to people—and it’s always been speaking to people about the kinds of things they’re taking about now, because one of the things poetry is really good at is anticipating things that need discussion. Poets are kind of like—it’s a bad metaphor, but—canaries in a coal mine. They have a sense for things that are in the air. Partly because that’s what they do—they think about things that are going on—but partly because they take their own personal experience and see how that fits in with what they see in the world. A lot of people might think that poetry is very abstract, or that it has to do with having your head in the clouds, but poets, actually, walk on the earth. They’re grounded, feet-first, pointing forward. They’re moving around and paying attention at every moment.”

Perhaps next time, we should survey the poets, not the pollsters.

Until then, the events of the past 11 days brought me to a poem selected by Matthew Zapruder for the August 16, 2016 issue of The New York Times Magazine.

The poem, written by broadcaster, documentary filmmaker and poet, Richard O. Moore was part of a “sequence of sonnets about the consequences of losing his sight in old age”.

At its core, the poem is about change…and how we respond.

The Familiar Has Taken Leave

Responding to a world turned outside in
Requires a fresh agility of will
And a surreal mode of thought, both distant
When the world was visible and real.
The only carry-over is the sound:
The hollow clatter of the commonplace,
Ancestral voices, sepulchral complaints
From many sources now invisible.

This is the most dispassionate I can be.
The familiar has taken leave with all I know
And what is left is mostly echo fading,
Never to return. What takes shape then
Is virtual and is a world apart
Assembled half by memory, half by art.

Richard O. Moore (1920-2015) from ‘Particulars of Place’ April, 2015

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The week@work – Millennial myths, millennials@home and relocation stagnation

Apparently, Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948. Interesting fact to contemplate as 38 million of us return from our adventures over the holiday weekend. It probably doesn’t help that for the first time, young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to live at home, with their parents. Experts, not just parents, are voicing concerns about how this relocation stagnation is destroying what economists refer to as ‘dynamism’ in the job market.

This week@work we take a look back at the week’s stories of millennial myths and our dwindling pioneer spirit.

In April we reached a generational tipping point, when the number of folks between the ages of 18 and 34, aka millennials, overtook Americans between 51 and 69, the baby boomers, by 75.4 million to 74.9 million. And, as every move of the post WWII generation was observed and chronicled, so have we had this new majority under the microscope. It has been quite a lucrative vocation for the thousands of corporate consultants who advise executives on recruitment and retention.

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But what if they got it wrong? Farad Manjoo thinks the “collectively homogenous cliche” portrayed in the media is a far cry from reality and believes it’s time to break away from the stereotypes. Thank-you.

“If your management or marketing theories involve collapsing all millennials into a catchall anthropological category — as if you’re dealing with space aliens or some newly discovered aboriginal tribe that’s suddenly invaded modernity — you’re doing it wrong.

Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center, said demographers have noted large differences in millennials: Compared to older cohorts, they tend to be more socially liberal when it comes to issues like gay marriage and marijuana use, they marry later in life, and they are less enamored of traditional religious and political institutions. Looking at these shifts over time “is a useful construct when you’re trying to analyze a whole population,” Ms. Parker said.

But these broad trends leave lots of room for individual differences that matter in the real world, and that are often papered over when we talk about millennials as a monolithic collective.

Considering that millennials are the most diverse generation — spanning many racial, ethnic and income categories — intragenerational differences are bound to play an important role when you’re talking about individual people. Though both are “millennials,” a young immigrant working three sharing-economy gigs is likely to look at the world very differently from a trust-fund baby who’s tending his Tumblr in Brooklyn. Yet only one of these stereotypes tends to make it into media accounts of millennials.”

The busy folks at Pew Research released additional millennial data this week, “For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds”.

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“It’s worth noting that the overall share of young adults living with their parents was not at a record high in 2014. This arrangement peaked around 1940, when about 35% of the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds lived with mom and/or dad (compared with 32% in 2014). What has changed, instead, is the relative share adopting different ways of living in early adulthood, with the decline of romantic coupling pushing living at home to the top of a much less uniform list of living arrangements.”

Gillian B. White examined ‘The False Stereotypes About Millennials Who Live at Home’ for The Atlantic.

“…the Millennials who are most likely to wind up living with their relatives are those who come from already marginalized groups that are plagued with low employment, low incomes, and low prospects for moving up the economic ladder. Millennials who live at home are also more likely to be minorities, more likely to be unemployed, and less likely to have a college degree. Living at home is particularly understandable for those who started school and took out loans, but didn’t finish their bachelor’s degree. These Millennials shoulder the burden of student-loan debt without the added benefits of increased job prospects, which can make living with a parent the most viable option.

And while there may be comedic fodder in the idea of adult children trying to share space with their parents, staying at home for many Millennials and their family isn’t all that funny. For parents who are struggling to make ends meet, an extra mouth to feed or the inability to downsize to a smaller place can be truly burdensome. For many Millennials, moving out, even if they want to, could lead them to make financial decisions that would put them in an even more precarious place, and that’s precisely the opposite of what they, or the economy, need.”

Why will we travel 2,500 miles from home to attend our ‘first choice’ college, and yet resist relocation to a new urban environment for a job? Why do we spend a semester abroad in an internship or academic program and fail to accept a job offer fifty miles from home?

Has our pioneering spirit disappeared in the noise of descending helicopter parents, or are there more serious institutional prohibitions to career adventure?

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American Enterprise Institute president, and conservative author, Arthur C. Brooks offered advice on how to get America moving again, painting a grim picture of our current adventure deficit.

“Through census data, we know that Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948. Other scholarship suggests that the decline stretches back further. This might help explain why our country is having such a hard time getting out of its national funk.

Mobility is more than just a metaphor for getting ahead. In America, it has been a solution to economic and social barriers. If you descended from immigrants, I’m betting your ancestors didn’t come to this country for the fine cuisine. More likely they came in search of the opportunity to work hard and get ahead.

Even for those already here, migration has long been seen as a key to self-improvement. As Horace Greeley so famously advised in 1865: “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

Patricia Cohen followed up with a more in-depth review, ‘A Dearth of Pioneers’.

“Staying put can mean that workers are not moving to jobs where they would be more productive. At the same time, many are forgoing the raises and ascents on the career ladder that often come with a job switch. Fewer openings can also have a ripple effect, shrinking the bargaining power of workers in general, making it tougher to ask for a bump up in pay.

The declining churn in the labor market may surprise those who assumed that the era of lifelong employment capped by a gold watch had given way to serial job-hopping. But the reality is more complicated, said Abigail Wozniak, an economist at the University of Notre Dame and one of the authors of a new report on the subject. While it is true that fewer people have very long tenures at a single company, she said, that trend has been swamped by a countervailing one: People are not moving as much out of what used to be entry-level and temporary jobs.

One of the more intriguing findings was the role of declining social trust and what is known as social capital — the web of family, friends and professional contacts. For example, the proportion of people who agree with the statement, “Most people can be trusted,” has been shrinking for more than three decades. Researchers found that states with larger declines in social trust also had larger declines in labor market fluidity. The lack of trust may increase the cost of job-hunting and make both employees and employers more risk-averse.

As social trust diminishes, people may feel more comfortable sticking closer to home where the faces are familiar even if job opportunities are scarcer, researchers suggested.”