#LetsTalkAboutWork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share your ideas @workthoughts.com #LetsTalkAboutWork!

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Labor Day #LetsTalkAboutWork!

It’s Labor Day – the last barbecue of summer, the ‘final’ summer sale on everything, and the traditional late evening travel crush. What if we reimagined this holiday as a day of national conversation on work and workers? #LetsTalkAboutWork!

You need not look further than the USA TODAY headline: “Labor Day by the Numbers: Americans Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Working” to realize we are spending more time @work and less time considering why. Here’s just a sampling of stats journalist Ashley May reported: 41% of workers did not take a single vacation day in 2015, 55% ended the year with unused vacation days, and 41% of employers require staff to work today, Labor Day.

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

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

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

Politicians will parade and hold forth at Labor Day gatherings, but will not solicit ideas, or listen to the voices of workers who don’t share their agenda.

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

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

Share your ideas @workthoughts.com #LetsTalkAboutWork!

 

 

The week@work – “our culture is changing”, internship access, sexual harassment@Fox & the June jobs report

For the 67th time in his term, President Obama ordered the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff; this time in memory of the police officers in Dallas. Sixty-seven times, a record for a presidential administration.

This week@work we look at two responses to the violence, consider an opinion on internship access, examine a high profile workplace harassment lawsuit, and the implications of the June jobs report.

“As a mark of respect for the victims of the attack on police officers perpetrated on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, July 12, 2016. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”

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On Friday morning, veteran CBS newsman, Bob Schieffer, was asked to provide context to the events of the past week, drawing on his 50 years as a journalist.

“One thing we overlook: our culture is changing…We are becoming a less patient society, we are becoming a more demanding society, for want of a better word, we are becoming a ruder society, and we see this playing out in road rage, in the way we treat one another…Nobody is satisfied with anything now…People are dissatisfied, frustrated and they act out…”

Libby Hill of the Los Angeles times reported on host of the Daily Show Trevor Noah‘s, seven-minute monologue “in the wake of the police-involved killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.”

“It always feels like, in America, if you take a stand for something, you are automatically against something else…It’s either one or the other…But with police shootings it shouldn’t have to work that way.

 You can be to be pro-cop and pro-black. Which is what we should all be. It is what we should all be aiming for…The point is you shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.”

If the world is changing outside our workplace, what’s the impact on our daily work lives? Does frustration on the 405 translate into contention in the conference room? Our lives don’t fit neatly into the ‘work’ and ‘life’ box. We will need to draw on every ounce of empathy to listen, reflect, respect and respond.

Sometimes we just don’t think about how the system is ‘rigged’ and why people are angry. Skeptical? Let’s talk internships.

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On Tuesday, Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation penned an opinion for the New York Times, ‘Internships Are Not A Privilege’.

“Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. And while many Americans believe fervently and faithfully in expanding opportunity, America’s internship-industrial complex does just the opposite.

And whether it’s an internship, college admission or any of the many other factors that determine a successful life, leaders who say they want to address inequality actually — and often unconsciously — reinforce the dynamics that create inequality in their own lives.

The broader implication is privilege multiplied by privilege, a compounding effect prejudiced against students who come from working-class or lower-income circumstances. By shutting out these students from entry-level experiences in certain fields, entire sectors engineer long-term deficits of much-needed talent and perspective. In other words, we’re all paying the price for unpaid internships.

For countless Americans, me among them, internships have provided a foothold on the path to the American dream. Simply by making them more accessible to all, we can narrow the inequality gap while widening the circle of opportunity, long after the summer ends.”

Another major workplace story broke on Wednesday with news that Gretchen Carlson had filed a lawsuit against Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, exposing a culture of sexism and workplace sexual harassment.

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Gabriel Sherman covered the story for New York Magazine, reporting:

“Fox News host Gretchen Carlson may be the highest-profile woman to accuse Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, but she is not the first. In my 2014 biography of the Fox News chief, I included interviews with four women who told me Ailes had used his position of power to make either unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate sexual comments in the office.

And it appears she won’t be the last, either. In recent days, more than a dozen women have contacted Carlson’s New Jersey-based attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, and made detailed allegations of sexual harassment by Ailes over a 25-year period dating back to the 1960s when he was a producer on The Mike Douglas Show. “These are women who have never told these stories until now,” Smith told me. “Some are in lot of pain.” Taken together, these stories portray Ailes as a boss who spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities. “He said that’s how all these men in media and politics work — everyone’s got their friend,” recalled Kellie Boyle, who says Ailes propositioned her in 1989, shortly after he helped George H.W. Bush become president, serving as his chief media strategist.”

And while we are on the topic of women@work, Andrew Das reported on the ongoing story, ‘U.S. Women’s Soccer Players Renew Their Fight for Equal Pay’.

screenshot-11.png“Beaten in federal court and rebuffed at the negotiating table, the United States women’s national soccer team is taking its fight for equal pay back to friendlier turf: the court of public opinion.

Beginning with an exhibition match this weekend in Chicago and continuing through the Olympics next month in Brazil, members of the team said on Thursday that they would embark on a campaign that they hope will increase the pressure on the United States soccer federation to pay the women compensation equal to their counterparts on the men’s national team in their next collective bargaining agreement.”

On Friday, Adam Shell of USA TODAY, analyzed the June jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department.

“After stalling briefly, the U.S. job-creation engine is again revving into high gear, rejuvenating Wall Street and sending stocks close to record highs.

The U.S. economy created 287,000 new jobs in June, which was 100,000 more than economists had forecast and the best monthly gain since October 2015.

And that is about as good a news headline as Wall Street could ask for after May’s gloomy jobs report (the initial 38,000 May jobs count was revised down to a paltry 11,000 in Friday’s report) and all the Brexit-related doom-and-gloom the past few weeks that put a scare into investors.”

cm-p12vwiaeczwd-jpg-large.jpegOn Saturday evening, for ‘one last time‘ –  “Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” made a subdued final bow Saturday alongside two other departing stars — Leslie Odom Jr. and Phillipa Soo — in the show that has become a cultural phenomenon.”

Miranda’s final performance Saturday at the Richard Rodgers Theatre was also the last for Odom Jr., who won a Tony Award as Aaron Burr, and Soo, a Tony nominee who portrayed Eliza Schuyler. The three — plus an ensemble member — took their bows together but none said anything.”

Hoping for a better week@work to come.