The week@work: the crisis of civic education, karoshi, unemployment & the future of office attire

This week@work stories examine the role of education in creating civil discourse, the consequences of karoshi, the impact of weather on unemployment and the future of office attire.

While walking through the U.S.Capitol Visitor Center last week I encountered a group of junior high school students who were shrieking at each other as they reported a sighting of House Speaker Paul Ryan as if he were a chart topping rock star. What if the majority of junior high and high school students had the opportunity to walk the halls of Congress and observe the process of governing?

Harvard president emeritus, Derek Bok examines ‘The Crisis of Civic Education’.

“Schools have long been the primary source of civic education in America. As an early champion of public education, Horace Mann, pointed out more than 150 years ago: “One of the highest and most valuable objects to which the influences of a school can be made conducive consists in training our children to self-government. Yet schools cannot accomplish this task by themselves. Many studies have pointed to the difficulties that hamper their efforts, including inadequate funding and pressures on teachers from school boards, parents, politicians, and textbook publishers. In view of those problems, it is not surprising that the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which periodically evaluates the knowledge of America’s schoolchildren, concluded in 2010 that more than two-thirds of high-school seniors scored below “proficient” in their knowledge of civics and government.”

Once the American high school senior transitions to college, there is no imperative to incorporate “essential courses to equip them to perform their civic functions more effectively” into their curriculum.

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“While many colleges claim to be preparing citizens…and although they offer many classes and activities that can contribute to this end, few provide any required courses aimed at achieving that result. Instead, learning to become an active and informed citizen is simply treated as an option — much like preparing to be a doctor or a lawyer or a business executive — even though becoming a citizen is not a choice but a status acquired automatically by the vast majority of undergraduates.”

Bok suggests a number of approaches: linking community involvement experience with academic coursework; connecting the dots between the activity and public policy, engagement with student government and establishing multi-cultural residence halls.

Colleges have a responsibility to lead on this issue. Colleges own this one. If not here, where?

“In today’s diverse and highly partisan society, it is particularly important to teach undergraduates to take account of contrary opinions and arguments and to discuss such differences respectfully. Most campuses are well positioned to encourage these habits…The recent election underscores the importance of extending such efforts to encourage interaction among classmates with different political ideologies and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Walter Sim reported on ‘Death by overwork: Will Japan finally face up to ‘karoshi’?

“With her mobile phone in hand as if waiting for her next assignment, a 31-year-old political reporter with broadcaster NHK died of heart failure in her sleep in July 2013 after clocking nearly 160 hours of overtime the month before.

Two years later, on Christmas Day, a rookie at advertising giant Dentsu leapt to her death after being subjected to a gruelling schedule and harassment at her workplace.

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The statistics nationwide are quite startling. Japan’s second annual karoshi White Paper, released last Friday, said there were 191 work-related deaths and attempted suicides in the fiscal year ending March 2017. This was two more than the previous year. In the same fiscal year, 498 cases of mental illness, such as depression, were deemed work-related.

And from January 2010 to March 2015, 368 suicides – 352 men and 16 women – were deemed as karoshi.”

Patricia Cohen reported ‘U.S. Lost 33,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Rate Dips to 4.2%’.

“Staggering from the impact of hurricanes that walloped Texas, Florida and neighboring states, the economy lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first monthly decline in employment in seven years, the government reported on Friday.

But economists discounted the discouraging report, describing it as a blip in a job market that was fundamentally strong.”

Wondering what to wear this week@work? Jessica Holland asks ‘Are tracksuits and trainers the future of office attire?’

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“They were all wearing trainers and layers of black,” says Evelyn Cotter, a career coach based in London. She’s describing a recent public speaking conference she attended, where the crowd of ambitious young professionals were dressed in a uniform way.

“Everyone had come straight from work, they were wearing black jeans and smart sneakers, but it definitely felt professional,” adds Cotter. “It’s a conscious style choice. It’s not just what you throw on to play with your dog in the garden.”

“The industry of ‘athleisure’ – sporty clothes and shoes that people don’t necessarily wear to play sport – grew by a staggering 42% between 2008 and 2015, according to Morgan Stanley research. More recently, its influence has begun to creep into offices, where workers’ clothing is becoming increasingly relaxed and designed for comfort. The Society for Human Resource Management, an international organisation, tracks how many employers allow workers to dress casually every day, and that figure rose from 32% in 2014 to 44% in 2016.”

Before you head out to your favorite ‘athleisure’ retailer, check the culture and style of your employer. On days when you are meeting with clients, it’s always a good idea to mirror the style of your customer. (or their expectations)

The last story this week@work, was the first story breaking on Monday morning. Folks taking a break from work at a music festival on a Sunday evening in Las Vegas became targets of a mass shooting. In twelve minutes 58 people between the ages of 20 and 67 were murdered; 489 were injured. On Wednesday, the citizens of Manhattan Beach, California gathered on a pier overlooking the Pacific to mourn two of the victims: Sandy Casey, 35, a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School and Rachael Parker, 33, a records technician with the Manhattan Beach Police Department.

1005_nws_tdb-l-mbvigil-carr01-1.jpgThis week@work consider how you might do more than send thoughts and prayers.

 

Photo credit: Manhattan Beach vigil, Steve Carr for the Daily Breeze/ Office Attire, Sykes London for British Vogue

The week@work: 100 greatest business minds, inequality & activism@work

Have you noticed how little time we have to catch our breath between ‘breaking news’ stories? We seem to be suffering from group attention span disorder. This week@work the focus is on narratives with a thread longer than 140 characters; important stories that dim when the next shiny object distracts: leadership, inequality and activism@work.

Forbes Magazine is celebrating 100 years in publication with essays by the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds. “To celebrate Forbes’ centennial, we amassed an A-to-Z encyclopedia of ideas from 100 entrepreneurs, visionaries and prophets of capitalism—the greatest ever collection of business essayists and greatest ever portrait portfolio in business history.”

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Here’s a sample of thoughts shared by global leaders:
Georgio Armani: “I always try to maintain a sense of reality and ensure that I surround myself with the right people, who understand the times in which we live. In this line of work, my team is crucial. I’m the one who decides, but I like having lots of other people with whom I can discuss ideas, as this helps with the creative process. In the world of fashion, five years is already a hundred, so going forward, the challenge will be to capture the attention of a public that is increasingly stimulated by countless offers and new forms of communication.”

Lee Shau Kee: “There’s a Chinese saying: “Explore what’s best in the others and follow.” Among my friends, I always learn the best from them.”

Jacqueline Novogratz: “In our connected era, word spreads. People know when you are being true to your values. Don’t worry about reputation but about character. You build character by practicing empathy, practicing moral courage, practicing determination. Those traits are like muscles. When you are known for that, you don’t have to worry about guarding your reputation — others will do it for you.”

What’s the common thread here? Common sense.

Patricia Cohen reports on the historical trend toward income inequality this week@work, ‘Why the Pain Persists Even as Incomes Rise’. “The disconnect between positive statistics and people’s day-to-day lives is one of the great economic and social puzzles of recent years.

“…the forces undermining the middle class may reach back farther than many economists have thought. The latest evidence comes from a group of researchers at universities and the Social Security Administration who have been tracking the earnings of hundreds of millions of individuals over their careers.”

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In the late 1960s “instead of increasing, lifetime earnings for men made an about-face and began to decline. They have been dropping pretty much ever since. The result was that a 25-year-old man who entered the work force in 1967 and worked for the next three decades earned as much as $250,000 more, after taking inflation into account, than a man who had the same type of career but was 15 years younger…since the 1950s, three-quarters of working Americans have seen no change in lifetime income.”

Negotiating issues of gender and race form another aspect of inequality@work.

The ongoing argument around gender discrimination in Silicon Valley continued with the publication of Ellen Pao‘s book ‘Reset’ and Nellie Bowles‘ article ‘As Inequality Roils Tech World, A Group Wants More Say: Men”.

 

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Jessi Hempel examined Ms. Pao’s career exploring ‘The Pao Effect is What Happens After Lean In’. “Pao’s story is, in part, her own attempt to discern just where reality diverged from her expectations. With clear-eyed hindsight, Pao reflects on her earliest career choices—where to apply to college and whether to go to law school, where to work and when to leave a job. She pauses to examine the things her college counselor told her, and the early sexism she encountered at Harvard Business School. “Honestly, I just thought there were a few men who were really immature, with lousy senses of humor, and I avoided them,” she writes of that time.”

Ellen Pao’s story is a cautionary tale for the intrepid women who ‘lean in’ to a career in tech.

Nellie Bowles’ ‘must read’ provides an up-to-the-minute update on the tech workplace. “a fringe element of men who say women are ruining the tech world…While many in the tech industry had previously dismissed the fringe men’s rights arguments, some investors, executives and engineers are now listening. Though studies and surveys show there is no denying the travails women face in the male-dominated industry, some said that the line for what counted as harassment had become too easy to cross and that the push for gender parity was too extreme a goal.”

The week@work ended with a demonstration of workplace activism reported by Nancy Armour, ‘In protests, NFL comes together for one of its most powerful days’.

170924164325-23-nfl-kneeling-0924-exlarge-169.jpg“The NFL had one of its finest moments before the games even began Sunday, coming together from every corner – players, coaches, owners and league office – in forceful rebuke of the latest torrent of hate from President Donald Trump. Whether black, white or brown, on bended knee or with locked arms, the NFL’s rare show of unity was both a dignified condemnation of the wrongs we still must right and a reminder that, for all of our differences, America remains our common ground.”

Where in the group of Fortune100 greatest business minds do we find the answer to the ongoing challenge of inequality@work?

John Paul Dejoria, founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems and co-founder of Patron Tequila shared his philosophy. “It’s a basic thing that goes back to the law to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Treat and pay your staff exactly the way you’d want to be treated if you were in their place…In all the businesses we’re involved in it’s the exact same way. If you love your people and let them know you’re giving back, not just hoarding all the money for yourself, they want to join in.”

 

Photo credit: Staten Island homes – Tom Maguire/Newsday July 7,1965, Green Bay Packers/Dylan Buell/CNN September 24, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – gender gap @ the BBC, on Broadway & the C-Suite, plus four work/life questions while staring @ the ocean

This week@work the BBC published the salaries of top earners, and the gender pay gap at the broadcaster became the latest global headline news on the topic. Turns out the folks who work in theater and aspire to the corporate C-suite are finding the same barriers. Maybe it’s time to review your work/life view ‘from the beach’.

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality party in the UK shared her opinion ‘It’s not just the BBC that must come clean about underpaying women’.

“When the BBC published the salaries of its top earners, the results were not surprising, but they were shocking. They even managed, momentarily, to silence the gender pay gap myth-busters: the trolls who daily patrol social media challenging any mention of a pay gap with supposedly hard facts about the “choices” women make.

Here is the real hard fact: women are paid less because we are considered to be worth less. The gender pay gap is a symptom of the structural barriers that women face, which can be seen at every level of working life and across every industry. It thrives on the unconscious bias that goes unchallenged by the surplus of white men in decision-making roles, and is magnified by occupational segregation, unequal caring responsibilities and pervasive stereotypes that intersect with class, race, age, sexuality and disability.”

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In an open letter to BBC director general Tony Hall, over 40 high profile presenters made a case for immediate action to remedy the inequality.

“The pay details released in the annual report showed what many of us have suspected for many years … that women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work.

Compared to many women and men, we are very well compensated and fortunate. However, this is an age of equality and the BBC is an organisation that prides itself on its values.

You have said that you will “sort” the gender pay gap by 2020, but the BBC has known about the pay disparity for years. We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now.

Beyond the list, there are so many other areas including production, engineering and support services and global, regional and local media where a pay gap has languished for too long.

This is an opportunity for those of us with strong and loud voices to use them on behalf of all, and for an organisation that had to be pushed into transparency to do the right thing.”

Mr. Hall responded “…that the move to close the gender pay gap at the public broadcaster will be “accelerated” and that there would be a “marked difference” when salaries were published next year.”

The BBC story was not unique last week as Laura Collins-Hughes reported ‘When Women Won’t Accept Theatrical Manspreading’.

times sq“In theater as in life, there is a lot of manspreading: Men get more jobs, more money, more prizes, more stories told about them onstage than women do. The numbers are grim nearly everywhere, but especially on Broadway, where an Actors’ Equity study released last month showed female and minority actors and stage managers at a gross disadvantage to white men.

A recent tally on HowlRound, a theater industry website, documented the staggering lead men have over women as designers, directors and artistic directors in American regional theaters. Men dominate every area but costume design, where women traditionally hold sway.”

The third story on women@work this week was Susan Chira’s exploration of ‘Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were’.

IMG_9129.jpg“More than 40 years after women began pouring into the workplace, only a handful have made it all the way to the top of corporate America. The percentage of chief executives of Fortune 500 companies who are women just passed 6 percent, creeping up (and occasionally dropping back) at a glacial pace.

The impact of gender is hard to pin down decisively. But after years of biting their tongues, believing their ranks would swell if they simply worked hard, many senior women in business are concluding that the barriers are more deeply rooted and persistent than they wanted to believe, according to interviews with nearly two dozen chief executives, would-be chief executives, headhunters, business school deans and human resources professionals.

What they say: Women are often seen as dependable, less often as visionary. Women tend to be less comfortable with self-promotion — and more likely to be criticized when they do grab the spotlight. Men remain threatened by assertive women. Most women are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive. Some women get discouraged and drop out along the way. And many are disproportionately penalized for stumbles.”

Which brings me to a constructive response from Art Markman, ‘Four Work-Life Questions to Ponder on Vacation This Summer’.

mb fog.jpg“It’s true that vacationing can hold some unexpected career benefits, in addition to letting you recharge your batteries and do some self-reflection about your working life, your personal life, and your overall goals. But musing on these big-ticket themes isn’t something many of us have a lot of practice doing. When you finally get a chance to do it, you might find your thoughts a little unfocused. That’s fine—mind-wandering is sort of the point here. But in case you need a little more structure, these are four questions to let your mind wander over.”

“Am I happy at work?”, “Where am I headed?”, “Who don’t I know?”, and “What’s Missing?”

This week@work consider your answers and once you have a sense of your ‘work identity’, use your voice@work to advocate on behalf of all and equality@work.

Photo credit: Cartoon – The Telegraph, MattCartoon July 20, 2017

The Friday Poem ‘Voyage to the Moon’ by Archibald MacLeish

On July 20, 1969 NASA landed two U.S. astronauts on the surface of the moon. The following day, under the headline “Men Land On Moon” there were two bylines on the front page of The New York Times: science reporter, John Noble Wilford and poet, Archibald MacLeish.

Reporter Stephen Farrell recently covered their ‘story behind the story’ in ‘You Might Call It A Moonstruck Career’.

“In July 1969, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration won that Cold War contest by landing the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Col. Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. on the lunar surface, while Michael Collins remained in orbit above. Marking that achievement, Mr. Wilford’s name was at the top of the front page of the Times edition of July 21, 1969 beneath the banner headline: “Men Walk on Moon.” You could buy a copy for 10 cents.

The front page’s only other byline was that of Archibald MacLeish, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner who contributed an accompanying poem, “Voyage to the Moon.”

Twenty years after the landing, former NY Times Editor, A.M. Rosenthal recounted his decision to include poetry on page one.

“We decided what the front page of The Times would need when the men landed was a poem.

What the poet wrote would count most, but we also wanted to say to our readers, look, this paper does not know how to express how it feels this day and perhaps you don’t either, so here is a fellow, a poet, who will try for all of us.

We called one poet who just did not think much of moons or us, and then decided to reach higher for somebody with more zest in his soul – for Archibald MacLeish, winner of three Pulitzer Prizes. He turned in his poem on time and entitled it ”Voyage to the Moon.”

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In commemoration of the moon landing, and a time when those who worked as poets were celebrated and gave voice to “one of the biggest stories of the century”, today’s Friday Poem –

VOYAGE TO THE MOON

Presence among us,
wanderer in the skies,

dazzle of silver in our leaves and on our
waters silver,

O

silver evasion in our farthest thought–
“the visiting moon” . . . “the glimpses of the moon” . . .

and we have touched you!

From the first of time,
before the first of time, before the
first men tasted time, we thought of you.
You were a wonder to us, unattainable,
a longing past the reach of longing,
a light beyond our light, our lives–perhaps
a meaning to us…

Now

our hands have touched you in your depth of night.

Three days and three nights we journeyed,
steered by farthest stars, climbed outward,
crossed the invisible tide-rip where the floating dust
falls one way or the other in the void between,
followed that other down, encountered
cold, faced death–unfathomable emptiness . . .

Then, the fourth day evening, we descended,
made fast, set foot at dawn upon your beaches,
sifted between our fingers your cold sand.

We stand here in the dusk, the cold, the silence . . .

and here, as at the first of time, we lift our heads.
Over us, more beautiful than the moon, a
moon, a wonder to us, unattainable,
a longing past the reach of longing,
a light beyond our light, our lives–perhaps
a meaning to us . . .

O, a meaning!

over us on these silent beaches the bright earth,

presence among us.

Archibald MacLeish for The New York Times, July 21, 1969

Photo credits: NASA plaque “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”, The New York Times

The week@work: Finding Amelia Earhart, Amy Pascal’s pivot, a ‘netflix’ of education and why you need a study plan

For a holiday week, there was a significant assortment of ideas and stories beyond the headlines. The History Channel broadcast the results of an investigation into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, sparked by the discovery of a photo misfiled in the National Archives. One of Hollywood’s most powerful executives, Amy Pascal, reemerged as the producer behind the latest summer blockbuster and a career lesson for all. On the practical application of ideas to workplace; two articles explored the value of designing an organizational culture of learning and developing an individual study plan  as a catalyst for creativity.

At a time when there were few role models for women, aviatrix Amelia Earhart captured the imagination as she embarked on her first solo flight of the Atlantic, and later when she attempted to fly around the world in a twin engine Lockheed Electra. On July 2, 1937 she left Lae, New Guinea with her navigator Fred Noonan following a flight plan to Howland Island. They never reached their destination, fueling 80 years of theories and investigations, the most recent citing a photo found in the National Archives.

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According to the research conducted for the History Channel, Ms. Earhart and Mr. Noonan were captured by the Japanese and later taken to a prison on Saipan. The authenticated photo shows a man and woman with similar physical characteristics of the missing duo. To be continued…

Before the hack of the Democratic National Committee, there was the Sony Studios hack. The studio head at the time was Amy Pascal and the details of emails subsequently made public resulted in her termination. She’s back…Brooks Barnes reported on her career transition for The New York Times.

“Ms. Pascal, a 59-year-old woman in an industry rife with sexism and ageism, seems to have emerged stronger and happier, having reinvented herself as a producer through her company, Pascal Pictures. She will deliver three films to three different studios this year, with more than a dozen more movies on the assembly line. On a personal level, after a lot of soul-searching, some in a therapist’s office, she has tried to see the hack as freeing. After all, she has no more secrets.”

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How does the downfall of a powerful studio head relate to the rest of us? Chances are, in a career lifetime, you will get fired. Take note of Ms. Pascal’s evolution.

“I will always carry what happened with me,” she said. “There’s no other way. But you scrape as much grace as you possibly can off the ground and you move forward.”

Moving forward is the theme of the next two stories this week@work.

Karl Mehta and Rob Harles suggest ‘In the knowledge economy, we need a Netflix of education’.

“The problem is that we are drowning in content — but are starving for knowledge and insights that can help us truly be more productive, collaborative and innovative.”

“The solution for the learning and development industry would be a platform that can make education more accessible and relevant — something that allows us to absorb and spread knowledge seamlessly. Just as Netflix delivers entertainment we want at our fingertips, the knowledge and learning we need should be delivered where and when we need it.”

Their proposal analyzes the hurdles, and envisions “the democratization of knowledge” where employers provide “employees the skills and knowledge to thrive, which would have previously been time-consuming or impossible to obtain.”

While we wait for employers to create the learning culture utopia, how do we fuel our individual radical curiosity?

Todd Henry reiterated the importance of stimuli to creativity with ‘Why you should have a study plan (and how to make one)’.

“…most of the incredibly successful people I encounter in the marketplace have some form of study plan that they follow in order to help them spot patterns in their business, anticipate client needs, and simply spark new ideas and new categories of thought.”

He offers three steps to get started: “Dedicate a regular time for study. Study broadly and deeply. After you read, reflect.”

As we begin another week@work, #MondayMotivation – a quote from writer Maxine Hong Kingston: “In a time of destruction, create something.”

 

 

The week@work – the war for talent, following vs. leading, exhaustion, and maybe we should ask a sociologist

The last state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was Indiana in 1977 – until Thursday when Nevada ratified the ERA, thirty-five years after the deadline imposed by Congress. It was a welcome antidote to the White House photo of the freedom caucus taken the same day (above). Any odds on an extension to revisit and ratify?

“Nevada has given NOW President Terry O’Neill new cause for hope. “Now it’s a two-state strategy,” she tells the Times. “It’s very exciting. Over the past five years, Illinois and Virginia have come close. I think there is clear interest in this.

In other stories this week@work, journalists and experts provided an update on the ‘war for talent’, offered an argument for balancing followers with leaders in the workplace, and expressed concern with a ‘gig economy’ advertising campaign that seemed to glorify exhaustion@work.  The last story this week@work re-examined an idea from the 60’s to establish a Council of Social Advisers to complement the Council of Economic Advisers in D.C. “It’s not just work; it’s how work offers a sense of purpose and identity.”

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Adam Yearsley believe ‘The War for Talent Is Over, And Everyone Lost’. They cite workplace trends indicating more passive job seekers, the appeal of self-employment and the lure of entrepreneurship as competitive factors for employers to attract the best and the brightest, and offer a few best practices to turn things around.

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“In 1998, after a year-long study on the subject, McKinsey researchers declared that a “war for talent” was underway. In the years ahead, they said, organizations’ future success would depend on how well they could attract, develop, and retain talented employees–an ever more valuable asset in ever higher demand.

Instead of winning a war for talent, organizations appear to be waging a war on talent, repelling and alienating employees more successfully than harnessing their skills.

Today, in a world full of many more Chief People and Chief Happiness Officers, that war nevertheless appears to have been lost on all sides. Of course, many workers excel in their jobs and make pivotal contributions to their organizations. But for every one employee who does, there are many more who are underemployed, underperforming, and just plain miserable at work.”

One of the employer prescriptions for success is to “stop developing people’s leadership skills”.

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“…research suggests there’s a strong negative correlation between the amount of money spent on leadership development (which in the U.S. totals over $14 billion a year), and people’s confidence in their leaders. One of the reasons is that leaders are often deprived of negative feedback, even in training programs. We’ve gotten so used to coaching to people’s strengths that weaknesses get left unaddressed. The basics of human psychology magnify that issue; people are already prone to judging their own talents way too favorably, especially after experiencing a measure of success.”

Which links neatly into the next story of the week@work, Susan Cain‘s ‘Not Leadership Material? Good.The World Needs Followers.’

“Perhaps the biggest disservice done by the outsize glorification of “leadership skills” is to the practice of leadership itself — it hollows it out, it empties it of meaning. It attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve. It teaches students to be a leader for the sake of being in charge, rather than in the name of a cause or idea they care about deeply. The difference between the two states of mind is profound. The latter belongs to transformative leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi; the former to — well, we’ve all seen examples of this kind of leadership lately.”

Jia Tolentino used Fiverr’s new ad campaign to illustrate ‘The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself To Death’.

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“It does require a fairly dystopian strain of doublethink for a company to celebrate how hard and how constantly its employees must work to make a living, given that these companies are themselves setting the terms. And yet this type of faux-inspirational tale has been appearing more lately, both in corporate advertising and in the news. Fiverr, an online freelance marketplace that promotes itself as being for “the lean entrepreneur”—as its name suggests, services advertised on Fiverr can be purchased for as low as five dollars—recently attracted ire for an ad campaign called “In Doers We Trust.” One ad, prominently displayed on some New York City subway cars, features a woman staring at the camera with a look of blank determination. “You eat a coffee for lunch,” the ad proclaims. “You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

A Fiverr press release about “In Doers We Trust” states, “The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding.” This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic.”

Maybe we need a few less economists and a few more humanists to address our life@work

There was a lot of discussion in the media this weekend in the wake of the health care bill defeat. What are the lessons learned? We might ask the same question about the November election result, only this time maybe we should be consulting with sociologists vs. economists. Neil Irwin asked “What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?”.

“For starters, while economists tend to view a job as a straightforward exchange of labor for money, a wide body of sociological research shows how tied up work is with a sense of purpose and identity.

“Wages are very important because of course they help people live and provide for their families,” said Herbert Gans, an emeritus professor of sociology at Columbia. “But what social values can do is say that unemployment isn’t just losing wages, it’s losing dignity and self-respect and a feeling of usefulness and all the things that make human beings happy and able to function.

…the economic nostalgia that fueled Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign was not so much about the loss of income from vanishing manufacturing jobs. Rather, it may be that the industrial economy offered blue-collar men a sense of identity and purpose that the modern service economy doesn’t.”

At the beginning of this new week@work consider where work fits in your sense of identity and purpose. It’s not just work.

 

The week@work – ‘I’MPossible, steady job gains, robots, the multi-lingual advantage, and digital addiction

This week@work a South African big wave surfer completed his Atlantic crossing via paddleboard, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 4.7%, research revealed speaking multiple languages restructures our brain, and the time you are spending reading this on your smartphone just may be a symptom of addiction.

What have you been doing @work since December 6, 2016? Chris Bertish, an accomplished surfer, left Morocco on that Tuesday headed for Florida. John Clarke reported ‘Chris Bertish Becomes First to Cross Atlantic by Paddleboard’.

“Bertish left the Agadir Marina in Morocco on Dec. 6. and planned to make the 4,600-mile, open-ocean passage unsupported and unassisted on a 20-foot stand-up paddleboard to Florida in four months.

He changed course south to Antigua because of low pressure systems and volatile weather, completing the 4,050-mile crossing in 93 days, arriving at 8:32 a.m. local time. Bertish averaged 44 miles a day — mostly at night to avoid exposure to the sun — and alternated between resting and paddling every two or three hours.

He made an estimated two million paddle strokes during the journey.”

In other good news, Ana Swanson examined the detail behind the unemployment figures, ‘U.S. added 235,000 jobs in February; unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent’.

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“The U.S. economy added a healthy 235,000 jobs in February, according to government data released Friday morning, surpassing economists’ expectations and likely clearing the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month.

The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent, compared with 4.8 percent in January, and wages rose by 6 cents to $26.09 in February, after a 5-cent increase the month before.”

In a related story, Claire Cain Miller offered strategies on ‘How to Beat the Robots’.

“The problem, at least for now, is not that there isn’t enough work — there is, but it is very different from the kind of work technology is displacing. Manufacturing and warehousing jobs are shrinking, while jobs that provide services (health care, child care, elder care, education, food) are growing.”

A number of elements in combination could establish viable competition with the robots: education that encourages flexibility and life-long learning, guaranteed basic income, profit sharing, and experimenting with non-traditional approaches to work.

Author Gabrielle Hogan-Brun‘s research has found ‘People who speak multiple languages make the best employees for one big reason’.

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“Speaking a different language—whether it’s your grandparents’ tongue or high-school Spanish—fundamentally changes the structure of your brain. Put a bunch of these malleable minds together in a company, and you create the potential for some truly original thinking.

Observations of multi-language work teams show that mixed-language groups have a propensity to find innovative solutions for practical problems. This is because they use a range of communication strategies in flexible and dynamic ways. When speakers from different language backgrounds work together using a common language, they draw on subconscious concepts that lie below the surface of the language they happen to be conversing in.

These findings show that bilingual people may have highly valued employment attributes: analytical thinking, conceptualizing ability, working memory, and dexterity. Clearly, these skills are assets when it comes to rational planning, managing complexity, and problem solving, which are central for executive function.”

Claudia Dreifus interviewed social psychologist, Adam Alter to discover ‘Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens’.

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“Why do you claim that many of the new electronic gadgets have fueled behavioral addictions?”

“Well, look at what people are doing. In one survey, 60 percent of the adults said they keep their cellphones next to them when they sleep. In another survey, half the respondents claimed they check their emails during the night.

Moreover, these new gadgets turn out to be the perfect delivery devices for addictive media. If games and social media were once confined to our home computers, portable devices permit us to engage with them everywhere.

Today, we’re checking our social media constantly, which disrupts work and everyday life. We’ve become obsessed with how many “likes” our Instagram photos are getting instead of where we are walking and whom we are talking to.”

In closing this week@work, this morning’s tweet from Chris Bertish:

“As you head into the new week, remember the mantra that got me through 93 days on the Atlantic…Nothing is impossible, unless you believe it to be”

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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 week@work – ‘Walden, a game’, Uber’s culture, pollution & the stock market, and the ‘folly’ of abolishing the N.E.A.

This week@work the designers of a new video game would like us to take a walk in the woods, a former Uber engineer authored a blog post that opened a window on corporate culture, an economics professor demonstrated the link between air pollution and stock market fluctuations, and the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art warned against cutting funds to the National Endowment for the Arts.

When we talk about work/life balance we typically think about disconnecting from technology, not using it as a portal for relaxation. Robin Pogrebin‘s article ‘In Walden Video Game, the Object is Stillness’ offers an example of a seemingly contrarian application.

“…the new video game, based on Thoreau’s 19th-century retreat in Massachusetts, will urge players to collect arrowheads, cast their fishing poles into a tranquil pond, buy penny candies and perhaps even jot notes in a journal — all while listening to music, nature sounds and excerpts from the author’s meditations.

While the game is all about simplicity, it has actually been in development for nearly a decade. The lead designer, Tracy J. Fullerton, the director of the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, came up with the idea as a way to reinforce our connection to the natural world and to challenge our hurried culture.

“Games are kinds of rehearsals,” Ms. Fullerton said in an interview. “It might give you pause in your real life: Maybe instead of sitting on my cellphone, rapidly switching between screens, I should just go for a walk.”

“Maybe we don’t all have the chance to go to the woods,” Ms. Fullerton added. “But perhaps we can go to this virtual woods and think about the pace of life when we come back to our own world. Maybe it will have an influence — to have considered the pace of Walden.”

Uber has a new logo and a new ranking as #3 on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. “Uber’s most valuable asset is its data, which has been an important part of Uber’s business since it first launched.” Which is why we should not be surprised if the company is having a bit of a dysfunctional workplace moment.

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Christina Cauterucci investigated ‘The Sexism Described In Uber Employee’s Report Is Why Women Leave Tech – Or Don’t Enter At All’.

“Uber is staging a major PR defense for the second time in recent weeks after a former employee published a detailed account of persistent sexual harassment and discrimination she allegedly faced while working as an engineer at the company. Susan Fowler, who left the company in December after about a year of employment, claims in her Feb. 19 blog post that her manager sent her sexual chat messages soon after she was hired. When she reported him to human resources, she writes, she was told that it was his “first offense” and that she should switch teams if she didn’t want a negative performance review from him. Fowler later found out that other women had reported witnessing inappropriate behavior from this same man, and each were told that it was his “first offense” and not a big enough deal to require action.

In her blog post, Fowler accuses a manager of changing her performance scores after a stellar review to keep her from getting a transfer to another team, because it reflected well on the manager to prove he could retain female engineers on his team. This is a particularly outrageous deed in an account full of outrageous deeds. Instead of enforcing a zero-tolerance sexual-harassment policy or asking female employees how management could better support them, Uber has allegedly moved to improve its substandard track record on gender by narrowing opportunities for women on staff and sweeping harassment allegations under the floor mat. Fowler writes that she made repeated, documented human resources complaints about the unfair treatment she endured, but she was gaslighted by an HR representative who told her the emails she sent never happened and that men are better suited for certain jobs than women. It took a statement on a public blog to get any action from company leadership.”

The folks who work in climate science have been under fire in recent weeks. The photo below is a reminder of what the New York City skyline looked like 44 years ago, before environmental protections were enacted.

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For those not yet convinced of global warming, maybe a direct financial consequence would be more persuasive. Scott Berinato found ‘Air Pollution Brings Down the Stock Market’.

“When University of Ottawa economics professor Anthony Heyes and his colleagues compared daily data from the S&P 500 index with daily air-quality data from an EPA sensor close to Wall Street, they found a connection between higher pollution and lower stock performance. Their conclusion: Air pollution brings down the stock market.

The effect was strong. Every time air quality decreased by one standard deviation, we saw a 12% reduction in stock returns. Or to put it in other terms, if you ordered 100 trading days in New York from the cleanest-air day to the dirtiest-air day, the S&P 500 performance would be 15% worse on the 75th cleanest day than it was on the 25th cleanest day. We also replicated this analysis using data from the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, and saw the same effect.”

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Finally, this story is not only for those who work in the arts, but for all of us whose curiosity and creativity were sparked by a play, music or a visit to a museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director, Thomas P. Campbell warns against ‘The Folly of Abolishing the N.E.A.’

“All too often, art is seen as a “soft” subject, the first thing to be cut, whether by local school boards or the federal government, when money is tight. But looked at purely in dollars, it is a false saving. The N.E.A.’s budget is comparatively minuscule — $148 million last year, or 0.004 percent of the total federal budget — while the arts sector it supports employs millions of Americans and generates billions each year in revenue and tax dollars.

The United States has no ministry of culture. In this vacuum, the N.E.A., founded in 1965, serves three critical functions: It promotes the arts; it distributes and stimulates funding; and it administers a program that minimizes the costs of insuring arts exhibitions through indemnity agreements backed by the government. This last, perhaps least-known responsibility, is crucial. This fall, the Met will host a major exhibition on Michelangelo that will bring together masterpieces from across the world. The insurance valuation is a whopping $2.4 billion — not even our museum, the largest art museum in the nation, could come close to paying the premium for such coverage without the federal indemnity the N.E.A. makes possible.

I fear that this current call to abolish the N.E.A. is the beginning of a new assault on artistic activity. Arts and cultural programming challenges, provokes and entertains; it enhances our lives. Eliminating the N.E.A. would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens. As the planet becomes at once smaller and more complex, the public needs a vital arts scene, one that will inspire us to understand who we are and how we got here — and one that will help us to see other countries, like China, not as enemies in a mercenary trade war but as partners in a complicated world.”

This week@work take a break and visit your local museum. Then go home and send an email to your member of congress. Remind them of the importance of “investing in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens”.

 

Photo credit: Manhattan Skyline, May 1973 – Chester Higgins NARA

The week@work – The ‘Fallows question’, flexibility@work and the long term impact of student debt

On Saturday Night Live actor Cecily Strong delivered a line that summed up what many of us are feeling this week@work, “I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.” 

It got me thinking about the question Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg posed to the Barnard Class of 2011, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

This week@work The New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks posed ‘the Fallows question’“If you could move to the place on earth where history is most importantly being made right now, where would you go?”

“James and Deborah Fallows have always moved to where history is being made…James and Deb have an excellent sense of where world-shaping events are taking place at any moment — and a fervent commitment to be there to see it happen.

If you want to “observe” history, the Fallows say, go to Washington. If you want to “participate,” go elsewhere.”

If you weren’t afraid, and could pick up and move to where the action is, where would you go? Brooks offered a few destinations to start, but just maybe, this week@work you might spend some time considering a temporary relocation “in search of history”.

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Folks@work are moving forward, finding ways to succeed independent of national politics. Some voice concern about the potential impact of new policies on their workplace, while others seek ways to express a response in their work. For many, the challenges of the gender gap and student debt remain a constant, often extending into retirement.

Claire Cain Miller examined the tension in employer expectations between flexibility and presence@work in ‘How to Close a Gender Gap: Let Employees Control Their Schedules’.

“The main reason for the gender gaps at work — why women are paid less, why they’re less likely to reach the top levels of companies, and why they’re more likely to stop working after having children — is employers’ expectation that people spend long hours at their desks, research has shown.

Flexibility regarding the time and place that work gets done would go a long way toward closing the gaps, economists say.

A new job search company, Werk, is trying to address the problem by negotiating for flexibility with employers before posting jobs, so employees don’t have to.”

And then there are the financial pressures; spanning generations from twenty-somethings being subsidized by parents, as their grandparents face social security payment garnishment to repay outstanding student loan debt.

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Quoctrung Bui reported on ‘A Secret of Many Urban 20-Somethings: Their Parents Help With the Rent’.

“According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, about 40 percent of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses. Among those who get help, the average amount is about $3,000 a year.

It’s a stark reminder that social and economic mobility continues past grade school, high school and even college. Economic advantages continue well into the opening chapters of adulthood, a time when young people are making big personal investments that typically lead to higher incomes but can be hard to pay for.”

On the other side of the generation spectrum, The Editorial Board of The New York Times identified an emerging trend threatening older Americans, ‘Haunted by Student Debt Past Age 50’.

“The experience of being crushed by student debt is no longer limited to the young. New federal data shows millions of Americans who are retired or nearing retirement face this burden, as well as the possibility of having their Social Security benefits garnished to make payments.

Americans age 60 and older are the fastest-growing age group of student loan debtors. Older debtors, many of whom live hand-to-mouth on fixed incomes, are more likely to default. When that occurs with federal loans, as happens with nearly 40 percent of such borrowers who are 65 and over, the government can seize a portion of their Social Security payments — even if it pushes them into poverty. About 20,000 Americans over the age of 50 in 2015 had their Social Security checks cut below the poverty line because of student loans, with poverty-level benefits falling even further for 50,000 others, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.”

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The last story this week@work, highlights the importance of art@work and in our lives. The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced the next step in their digital evolution – open access to over 375,000 archive images. (Monet’s ‘Garden at Sainte-Adresse’, 1867 above)