Entries for July 2006

online impression management

I attended a UCITE seminar yesterday given by Jeremy Smith and Heidi Cool. It included a brief overview of how to use websites and blogs to help raise your online professional profile. While the audience for the session was primarily faculty and administrators, I believe that much of the same ideas apply for management students.

Jeremy promises an audio file of the session soon, and I hope my students will listen to his pitch, which focuses on the importance of understanding and shaping the information that potential employers will find about you if they google you before inviting you in for a job interview. Many students do not understand that things they write on their social blogs or on facebook may be visible to employers and help shape others' impressions of them.

Heidi has also provided some useful tutorials on the Web Development blog, including this on how to learn HTML and this followup on how she completed her suggested homework assignment. Heidi has also made a number of other valuable contributions to the Web Development blog, so if you are thinking about developing your own website, be sure to poke around!

What do you think -- is it important for a prospective employee to have an online presence? Why or why not? Do you google prospective employees? When and why?

speaking of social change... how about mandating vacations?

We have just returned from 2.5 weeks in Europe. I spent all that time without a watch, without a cellphone, and with almost no plans for anything more than the day ahead. I kept no calendar of appointments. I read what interested me, I spent some time knitting, and I walked with my daughter to the playground, taking time to admire the neighbors' flowerboxes, pet the village dogs, and greet the neighborhood cats (those who were not too skittish, anyway). I enjoyed leisurely meals with my sister and brother-in-law and their daughter, and with my parents. I woke without an alarm, napped when I wanted, and went on a hike or two, enjoying views of the mountains.

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I am amazed at how refreshed I feel. It is as if my body and mind have rediscovered the beauty of an adagio movement in a symphony.

In the Swiss newspaper, a small item addressed national differences in vacation practices (the headline asked something like "are the Swiss too plodding?" in an idiomatic French phrase that I can't remember.) The article stated that the Swiss take slightly less vacation than the French or Germans, but much more than Americans. Having experienced the benefits of vacation in terms of clearing the mind and revitalising the body, I understand why the worst fear of a typical Swiss person might be to become too American -- too workaholic.

Part of the issue is that we don't have a federal law guaranteeing workers a minimum number of vacation days per year. Here's a 2001 Vault.com article on vacation statistics by country -- which also notes that many European countries mandate a high number of paid vacation days per year for full-time employees. (France requires employers to provide 4 weeks of paid vacation per year, for example.)

The other challenge is that we don't always feel safe taking the vacation to which we are entitled. A federal law can't solve this problem, of course -- managers have to create the kinds of work environments that allow employees to feel that their coworkers can manage without them for a week or two (or maybe even three) at a time.

How do you, as a manager, arrange work systems for flexibility, so employees feel comfortable taking the vacations to which they are entitled? How do you encourage employees to support one another in their search for work-life harmony? What changes do we need so that the American culture will allow us to make time for personal renewal?

what is an organization?

David Pollard says it is "an instrument for doing something a particular way."

This is a great definition, very similar to the one I use in my introductory classes in organizational behavior. (I talk about an organization as a group of three or more people, working toward a common goal or set of goals, in a consciously coordinated way, on a more-or-less continuous basis.)

Pollard goes on with a provocative argument:

Organization does not mean order or structure. When we say "let's get organized" we are not saying let's decide how to structure ourselves, we're saying let's make ourselves an instrument to do something specific. The fact that the first step in so many new organizations is establishing a hierarchy shows how well we've been brainwashed to believe that 'anarchic' self-management is impossible, when it is the natural order. This is perhaps why Open Space is so subversive and unaccepted in the political and corporate mainstream -- if frees people from the false belief that they need someone else to impose order and structure on them in order to be an effective organism, an instrument of action.

What do you think? Can groups of people organize themselves organically, without hierarchy? Do you question that assumption that self-management is impossible in larger groups, or do you accept it unthinkingly? Do you believe that you can be effective outside of an authority structure imposed by others?

Be sure to click through and read the rest of Pollard's entry on the meaning of words, including community, family, freedom, and wisdom.

our rights to our own time

This is an excerpt from a very interesting new book, called the Motherhood Manifesto. The particular excerpt can be found here:

"It's Not Just Mothers"
by John de Graaf, National Coordinator of Take Back Your Time

Though working mothers may be the most pressed for time and in need of relief, America’s time poverty crisis affects nearly everyone. American work hours have been climbing slowly, but steadily since the mid-1970s and today, the average American works nine weeks—350 hours—more each year than the average Western European.

Increased working hours threaten our quality of life in many ways: Americans increasingly recognize the impacts of time poverty on their lives. According to a November 28, 2005, Fortune magazine study, even corporate CEOs now want more time outside work (84 percent), even if it means making less money (55 percent). The same article pointed out that many European countries are actually more productive per worker hour than the U.S. is. And a recent report of the World Economic Forum found that several of the world’s most competitive economies are in Scandinavia, where shorter work hours and generous paid leave policies are taken for granted.

Europeans enjoy multiple legal protections of their right to time, including four weeks of paid vacation after a year on the job, paid sick leave, limits on the length of their work weeks, generous paid family leave benefits (which also apply to fathers), and increasingly, the right to choose part-time work, while retaining the same hourly pay, healthcare, opportunities for promotions and other, pro-rated, benefits.

A new campaign, TAKE BACK YOUR TIME, has called for a “Time to Care” legislative agenda for the United States, including paid family leave, paid sick leave, three weeks of paid vacation, limits on compulsory overtime and policies making it easier to choose part-time work with healthcare and other benefits."

evolving notions of a mother's place

Societal expectations of mothers have evolved dramatically since the 1930s. Remember the old chestnut that women should be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen"? Gone the way of the dodo bird, right? If it were, the Ohio state legislature would not have had any reason to pass a law last year, stating that "a mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accomodation wherein the mother is otherwise permitted." That's why a group of mothers and babies held a nurse-in yesterday at Crocker Park in Westlake. I attended to support their rights to breastfeed in public. The event is covered on page B1 of the July 2 Plain Dealer (which is now available online).

This right has been frequently challenged in recent years. Lots of people still think that mothers with nursing babies should stay home, or go home to feed their babies. Breastpumps, bottles, and artificial baby milk make it possible for anyone to feed a baby, and once that is possible, there's more room to argue that a mother should conform to notions of modesty that have been applied to all women equally in our society. This view privileges the sexual appeal of breasts to men, and argues that mothers should not appear in public when they are using their breasts to feed their babies. It's expressed by comments such as this one, responding to news coverage of a Milwalkee nurse-in:

"Honestly think somethings are done better in a private place and why on earth would anyone want to breast feed in a dressing room, working in retail I can agree with the employees most malls set up family restrooms for this purpose. You take away from business."

Obviously, this is not a view with which I agree. Restrooms are noplace where anyone should be eating. Family restrooms in malls are great places to change diapers, but they do not have a comfortable spot to sit down and nurse.

There's a lot of work still to be done before our society broadly accepts that a breastfeeding mother's place is anywhere...

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