Entries for March 2007

"wasting time" at the office

As an update on my entry from early last Friday morning, here's a link to the WCPN podcast of last Friday morning's 90.3 at 9 show during which I was one of the guests to speak on the topic of "wasting time at the office".

My "maiden" experience on the radio waves as a guest was quite enjoyable, particularly because I had the pleasure of meeting the Friday host, Regina Brett. The show's producer, Paul Cox, and assistant producter, Marie Andrusewicz, both helped me to settle in at the studio. I even learned how to use a "cough" button!

Here are some background links to information I mentioned during the segment:


The piece on wasting time at the office is in the second half of the podcast, and the first half is also worth listening to, with guests commenting on population loss in Cuyahoga county and how we can take action to counteract the current trends. One of the guests recommends this report, The Vital Center, from the Brookings Institute. The guest who was in the studio with Regina Brett and myself, Mark Rosentraub, has a number of worthwhile pieces published on the topic of urban and regional renewal, also worth reading:

WCPN at 9 this morning: workplace distractions

I have been invited to be a guest of Regina Brett this morning to talk about the topic of workplace distractions. Tune in to 90.3 between 9 and 10 to listen, and call in to ask questions if you'd like!

From WCPN's website: "All around us people are filling out brackets in a buzzer-beating frenzy. This is the week offices everywhere turn into casinos. Beware the Ides of March Madness. It can make workers take their eye off the ball. Parts of Cuyahoga County resemble a dry lake bed. People are moving out, often times to neighboring counties. Join Regina Brett and talk about workplace distractions and Cuyahoga County's human ebb tide Friday on The Sound of Ideas."

Handbook on Women in Business and Management

I just received a copy, hot off the presses, of the book that Diana Bilimoria graciously invited me to co-edit with her two years ago. It is even listed on Amazon! With a wonderful jacket quote on the back from Jean Bartunek, a former president of the Academy of Management and one of the scholars whom I most admire in my field. I'm floating around on air...

Book Description
`This very impressive Handbook takes established research topics about women in management and treats them in fresh and novel ways. The chapters are intellectually interesting, sound, and provocative, and meet the editors' aspiration to stimulate high quality research on women's experiences in work organizations. I recommend it highly.'
- Jean M. Bartunek, Boston College, US

This comprehensive Handbook presents specially commissioned original essays on the societal roles and contexts facing women in business and management, the specific career and work-life issues of women in these fields, organizational processes affecting women, and the role of women as leaders in business and management. The essays shed light on the extant structures and practices of society and organizations that constrain or facilitate women's representation, treatment, quality of life, and success.

Despite decades of ongoing inquiry and increasing interest, research on women in business and management remains a specialized field without mainstream acceptance within business and management disciplines. The Handbook presents the current state of knowledge about women in business and management and specifies the directions for future research likely to be most constructive for advancing the representation, treatment, quality of life, and success of women who work in these fields. It provides the foundations for improved societal and organizational structures, policies, and relational practices affecting all in business and management. Thus, by enhancing the knowledge base that improves the work and life situations of women, it suggests ways to elevate the societal and organizational systems for all.

The Handbook will be an essential reference source for recent advances in research and theory, informing both scholars of organization studies, gender, diversity, and feminism; human resource specialists; and educators of and consultants to business organizations and management.

Contributors include: N.J. Adler, J. Beatty, D. Bilimoria, K. Bourne, R.J. Burke, M. Calas, C.L. Cooper, M.J. Davisdon, L.M. Dunn-Jensen, A.H. Eagly, C. Gattrell, L. Godwin, L.M. Graves, D.T. Hall, M.M. Hopkins, M.C. Johannesen-Schmidt, A.M. Konrad, M. Las Heras, D.A. O'Neil, S.K. Piderit, G.N. Powell, L.K. Stroh, V. Singh, L. Smircich, S. Terjesen, S. Vinnicombe, H.M. Woolnough, D.D. Zelechowski

I'm also having my first experience with the business of book publishing. I'm wondering who will ever purchase copies, given the astronomical price! (I'll be putting in an order in about 2 weeks for a big batch with my 50% editorial discount, so please let me know if you'd like me to reserve a copy for you.)

is the world testing you?

I've been struck recently, in my observations of students and of others at work, by how powerful the drive to please others by meeting high standards can be. Sometimes, even when the standards are outrageously ridiculous, we just keep trying to leap over the bar, slamming our heads on the upper limits of reality, recollecting ourselves, and then leaping again. Especially for students, the semester can become a series of hurdles to run up to, leap over (or crash through), and repeat, without time to catch their breath.

It's so rare to see someone mature enough to approach a challenge or a set of really high expectations with calm consistency in their attitude and in their performance. What we often forget is that striving too much can actually reduce our effectiveness. Even hurdlers take a breather at the end of a race, before approaching the starting line for another 100 meters. Sometimes, they even drop out of a race, if they have crashed into the third and fourth hurdles, and fallen at the fifth.

What makes a difference between those who chase high expectations frantically and those who can approach them with calm consistency? Well, to an extent, maturity comes with age... and part of the reason is that the typical 40-year-old is less wrapped up in a desire to please others than the typical 20-year-old. There are some undergraduates who really don't care what I think of them, or what grade I give them, but most have almost a blind desire for approval and positive reinforcement. In some cases, there are signs of almost an addiction to the positive reinforcement of grades. I can only imagine what the voices in their conscience tell them when they fall short of their expectations for themselves, which sometimes are even higher than my expectations for them.

Even John Mayer now has a song about the pursuit of success and distinction, and the price we pay for giving in to the pressure that others (and our own internal voices of conscience and of compulsion) put on us to chase perfection in our work... it's an invitation to reflect on how to keep our own "vultures" at bay.

Here are the lyrics from the song "Vultures", off his latest album, Continuum, and a link to the album on iTunes.

Continue reading "is the world testing you?"

doodling, knitting, and generating creative ideas

Business Mom made a very interesting point in one of her recent columns (she has a blog, too) about the male culture of business. Why are there so many self-help workshops and advice books out there focused on helping women fit into the "man's world" of business?

Pragmatically, of course, it's because men do still dominate most business meetings in both numbers and airtime, and definitely make up the large majority of corporate board members.

Yet the tempered radical in me protests, and wonders whether I wouldn't be better off making small talk before or after a meeting about my knitting, rather than about the latest sports scores or even about my students' latest antics and accomplishments. After all, no matter how hard I've tried, I'm liable to confuse a football team with a basketball team if they're from out of town, and I have no memory for scores or great plays or bad calls by referees.

Business Mom makes the point that men doodle and play with their Blackberries and cellphones during meetings -- why can't I knit? It really does help me listen (really listen to others, rather than focusing on my next response in an argument) and develop creative ideas. I can still make eye contact with others, interject my ideas when appropriate, and even stop to jot down notes. And yet, when I have occasionally done this at work, I have been subtly discouraged.

Perhaps in the future there will be classes for men about how to make small talk with women about their knitting or cross-stitch or quilting projects, just as women are now tutored to speak footballese and encouraged to play golf. That would be a whole new world of work.

changing family dynamics? demand for flexible work increasing?

I commented last month on the push for workplace flexibility among fathers, and whether it is actually occurring or not. This morning, I found an entire issue addressing motherload, the overload that mothers face, in the American Prospect. (This is not a magazine that I normally read -- does anyone know something about it?)

The issue includes articles by Scott Coltrane (What about fathers?) and by Linda Hershman, What a Load, who indicts our nation's lack of progress in gender equity, and lays the blame firmly at the feet of fathers, who she says are getting a free pass.

Continue reading "changing family dynamics? demand for flexible work increasing?"

the rhythms of work and life

Remember when Sunday was a day of rest? Now, it seems, Sunday too is being eaten up by the 24/7 workload and the neverending workday. I find that if I don't check email on Sunday afternoon, Monday can be completely overwhelming (even though I don't physically head for campus until Monday afternoon).

Of course, consultants have long begun their week of travel on Sunday nights, so that they can arrive at their client's locations on Monday morning. The drawback of such travel is....

Continue reading "the rhythms of work and life"

NEO homeowners have no idea how wonderful our area is

My family and I just returned from a combination vacation and neighborhood hunting trip to the South Bay/San Jose area, which is the nation's most expensive housing market. We're trying to figure out if we can live with the notion of 1/2 or 1/3 of our current square footage, and a mortgage three or four times as large.

It's not easy to think about giving up the tree-lined streets of Cleveland Heights. I've loved our house since the very first day I walked into it, the first day it was on the market. (The picture below was taken in May of 2005.)

2108Lamberton.jpg


And yet, there's still snow on the ground here, and it was so warm in California during our trip that we had to stop at Sears -- we hadn't packed enough t-shirts or shorts!

when do managers decide based on evidence?

In my workplace flexibility course, we had an interesting discussion of Bob Sutton and Jeff Pfeffer's Harvard Business Review article on evidence-based management a few weeks back.

More recently, I stumbled across the blog for the Evidence-Based Management book, and was intrigued by this entry on Lovaglia's law. Professor Lovaglia, a sociologist, asserts that people are least likely to make decisions based on evidence when it seems most crucial -- when the outcome of the decision seems most important.

With my students, I discussed when managers make use of the evidence about the benefits of flexible work practices, and when they ignore the evidence (and suffer the consequences in terms of lower morale and productivity, higher turnover and worker stress and burnout).

We also talked about the kinds of evidence available to managers, and the possibility of gathering evidence as organizational changes are implemented that would allow managers to assess wither the interventions are having the desired effects.

I'd be curious to hear from managers about how and when they use evidence in their decision-making, and from others about how they see businesses making decisions. What kind of evidence counts for you? What kinds of evidence get ignored?