Entries in "workethic"
June 27, 2007
an alternative to the SMART goal framework
I wrote up a post at my new blog, Work-Life Chronicles, about the alternative to the SMART goal framework that I have developed and used in the last year of teaching MGMT 250 and 251. I call it START NOW, which stands for:
To read more about each of the labels in the START NOW framework, and some funny stories about my adventures learning to ride my Vespa, click through to read "a different take on setting and achieving goals".
Please let me know what you think of the new blog, too! I'd welcome you to add it to your blogroll, or subscribe to the RSS feed, if you find the first few posts interesting.
May 20, 2007
Last month, one of my old posts which received a very high number of hits was the one on work rhythms of academic and professional life. As a followup, I thought I'd write a bit about why I haven't posted in about a month, and comment on the academic rhythms of the end of the semester.
In a nutshell: students don't realize that when they finish their final papers and exams and presentations, a professor's work has just begun!
My last post was April 10. On April 12, the drumrolls of grading began, as my first student teams began delivering presentations to their classes about their final projects. This required that I send each team feedback on their presentations after class -- emails that require tactful phrasing, indeed.
By April 19, I began receiving end-of-semester papers. While I am fortunate to have teaching assistants for both of my courses, I still need to be involved in the grading process, which also takes time.
Classes ended on April 26. Then I needed to pull together my grading spreadsheets, deciding on a final point scheme for class participation, and resolving any problems with missing grades (it always happens, and not just because a student didn't hand anything in). By this point, I also had to deal with two teams in which the members gave each other less-than-satisfactory peer appraisals -- which means that I had to talk to everyone on each of those teams. This is no easy matter when students are cramming for finals and don't want to take time out to visit with a professor in her office.
I extended the deadline for final papers in one of my classes until April 30, which meant that the TA and I had less time to turn them around and get grades back to the students. On May 5 and May 7, those same students delivered presentations to their classmates in lieu of a final exam. There were 26 presentations in all over the 2 dates, and I had to grade all of those and enter the scores into Blackboard (our online course management system.) I finally filed grades on May 14.
For the rest of last week, I took time off, recuperating from the push of four 60-hour weeks in a row. While 60 hours of work in a week didn't seem like a huge burden when I was a college junior taking 21 credits, that was almost half a lifetime ago. Perhaps I'm also wiser, in recognizing the need for my body and my brain to recuperate after running such a mental marathon.
And if anyone comments to me that "it must be nice to have the summer off" I may just bite off their head. The ambitious list of papers to write and projects to wrap up that I composed in early January will be coming back to haunt me this summer. It is nice to be able to work at a coffeeshop or at the library or out on our screened porch, but I definitely have work to do this summer, and less time off than I'd like.
March 26, 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:
- Salary.com/America Online 2006 survey results on employee reported reasons for lost productivity at work
- Pace Productivity Report on Time Wasters amongst Employees
- Fast Company article -- Give Employees the Space they Need
- Dave Greenfield chat on computer addiction
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:
- google Mark S. Rosentraub
- July 2001 Op Ed piece on Making Cleveland Family-Friendly
- Dean Rosentraub's books at Amazon.com
- Mark S. Rosentraub's articles at Getcited.com
March 21, 2007
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.
February 28, 2007
telecommuting and the neverending workday
One of the themes in my course on workplace flexibility is the need to push back against corporate demands for a 24/7/365 workload. Doctors carry pagers, managers carry laptops and cellphones. How do they fight back when their coworkers or bosses seem to expect them to be available constantly?
There's a good blog entry at Web Worker Daily on 5 ways to get work under control. They are the basic tips, of course, and yet not practiced by many.
During my recent medical leave, I was off the computer entirely for about 10 days, and then checking email only intermittently for another few weeks. I was amazed by how much new time opened up in my day! In particular, about 40 percent of my email could be deleted unread if it was more than 48 hours old. So now that I have returned to health, I have resolved not to chase after the ephemeral, the seemingly-urgent, or the request-of-the-moment. I now check email only once I day (or at most, twice) -- and never after dinner.
While it is wonderful to have the flexibility that carrying my new laptop anywhere allows, it is important to use that flexibility to my benefit as well as my employer's.
Anyone who needs me more urgently knows my cellphone number. (And I do turn that one off, sometimes, too!)
So, how do others manage against the neverending workday?
February 27, 2007
workplace flexibility for dads
Brian Reid, also known as RebelDad, wrote about an interesting question recently. Are there daddy wars coming in the suburbs, and have the mommy wars (stay-at-home vs. employed mothers) been resolved, or at least declared a truce?
One of the most challenging research questions right now in the arena of workplace flexibility is why there is such a big gap between organizational policies which permit flexibility, and the percentage of employees who take advantage of such policies. For instance, paternity leave. Very few men take it, even though there are several different options other than a six- or eight-week leave, typically unpaid, just after a baby is born.
I wonder what dads really say to each other about balancing work, family, and personal interests. Do they discuss it with each other, the way stay-at-home moms do at playgroups (wishing they had time to join a book club or get exercise more regularly) and the way that employed moms do at lunches (wishing they didn't have to rush home to relieve the nanny or make dinner, or that they could take a vacation without kids)?
September 09, 2006
vacation role model
Jim Twohie gave an interesting commentary on how little Congress works, and how much we work in America. (He was the Fresh Look speaker last night on the CBS evening news -- you can read or view his comments on the CBS website.) He names Johnny Carson his vacation role model.
Do you have a vacation role model? What helps you find a balance between the American work ethic and the French rest ethic?
August 01, 2006
Best Buy's best bet: Results Oriented Work Environment
I missed a really interesting NPR piece while I was out of the country, focusing on how Best Buy has implemented flextime. Here's the link to the audio of Wendy Kaufman's report. (The story is just over 3 minutes long, and includes an introduction by Renée Montaigne.)
Listening to the piece makes me long to learn more about how this change is really rolling out within the company. I assume that it is overseen by the company's top HR officer, Lori Ballard. I wonder how I could get connected to her for an interview that would let me write a little mini-case for my course next spring... any suggestions?
July 06, 2006
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."
April 26, 2006
reinventing jobs, careers, and the w
"Reinventing Jobs, Careers, and the World of Work"
It's a good sign when three posts emerge in the same morning of blog reading, all ready to be packaged up in a theme. It probably indicates that all the cultivation I have been doing of online relationships -- reading blogs, adding some to my Bloglines so I can read them again later, commenting, making my own posts -- is starting to yield fruit for intellectual enjoyment.
Click through to read on if you'd like to learn more about Diane at Zaadz, Miriam Peskowitz, and David Pollard, and how the different social movemnts they help to advance are converging.
March 04, 2006
working women stretched to the limit
The New York Times does not have the greatest track record in writing about workplace trends regarding women's participation. Last fall I wrote about Louise Story's flawed article, and later about the response from AlterNet and the National Council for Research on Women highlighting fact vs. anecdote contrasts in the media's portrayal of women in the workplace.
This week's article at first seems to be more grounded in scientific research, and less in subjective assessments of trends. The article, by Eduardo Porter, is entitled "Women in the Workplace: Stretched to Limit, Women Stall March to Work". It attempts to explain why the rate of workforce participation of women, which rose from about 40 percent in 1960 to a peak of 77 percent in 2000, has dropped off in the last 5 years.
The single explanation which resonated the most with my experience is the statistic provided by Suzanne M. Bianchi, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. "Professor Bianchi found that employed mothers, on average, worked at home and on the job a total of 15 hours more a week and slept 3.6 fewer hours than those who were not employed."
I am definitely feeling this limit this week. The stress of uncompleted tasks wakes me up in the middle of the night, especially during the workweek, though in my case the uncompleted tasks I stress the most about are work-related, rather than housework-related. I spend the wee hours of the morning catching up on emails to students, literature searches, data analyses, and drafting and revising research proposals. Then the early morning wakeful hours devoted to work tasks leave me worn out when the weekend rolls around and the opportunities to play with my husband and daughter open up.
The article seems to suggest that I am atypical, and provides statistics from sociologists arguing the balance of unpaid work between men and women is still unbalanced. I do not live the trends described in the article regarding housework -- we hire out at least half of those tasks, and the rest are unevenly divided, with my husband carrying more than half of the responsibilities for cooking, laundry, etc. I don't want my experience to invalidate that of other women who do want their husbands to wake up and do their share -- but I suspect that there are other dynamics at work as well.
The article does not mention another potential explanation for changes in women's workforce participation, which focuses not on husbands as a problem, but on the increasing demands made by employers on their staff, especially at professional levels. I'm surprised that the article did not include statistics about the increase in total work hours for both men and women in the last 45 years. Take a look at these statistics for the UK in the last decade, for example. Also, this background information from PBS is informative about the US experience generally. The presentation given on campus last week by Diane Bergeron indicated that the average number of work hours for associate and full professors in her survey sample was 55 hours per week, and the most productive individuals often work 70 hours or more! Surely, those types of demands for long hours made by elite organizations of their highly-educated staff (not just in universities, but in law offices, health care, and business) are going to put a strain on working professionals. Women in their thirties with children may be feeling this the most, but it affects many women without dependents, and many men, as well.
The long work hours being put in by professionals, and the unwillingness of employers to validate professionals who seek part-time work opportunities, seem like a much more likely explanation for the drop in female workforce participation than any gender war within marriages. They may also explain the high proportion of women experiencing mental health challenges, and our society's decreasing ability to eat well, exercise, and manage stress.
I hope we see followup articles in the New York Times exploring these issues.
December 22, 2005
sophomores are careful of some very careful thinking (and writing)
"Tom becomes bored with his work easily and his performance drops when this happens. Our half of the class suggested that the company look into adopting a method of allowing workers to change to different positions (i.e. operate drill presses for a period of time instead of only tightening nuts and bolts). Assembly line jobs are boring; ask any worker who has had to repeat tasks for long periods of time. I even injured myself out of boredom when operating a drill press for an extended period. By allowing employees to rotate through different positions, a company can change the rhythm of the work and keep workers interested in their job.
This procedure has risks. I'll rewrite that sentence with different styling: This procedure has risks. To execute this properly, management needs to set up a list of workers and desired rotation positions. Training and orientation sessions will then be given to all workers for each position they specify. Workers will be rotated in and out of positions over a regular and stated period of time and all positions will have trained and experienced workers at all times. That way, the number of people moving into a position that are relatively new to that position is small compared to the number of experienced workers at that position at all times."
December 16, 2005
My research focus
For the record:
My work centers on how relationships enable productive organizational and social change.
I have published seven peer-reviewed papers connected to this overarching interest, and in the next year or so two books of contributed chapters will appear which I edited with colleagues.
The most significant papers include the following:
Ashford, Susan J.; Rothbard, Nancy P.; Piderit, S. K.; & Jane E. Dutton. 1998. “Out on a limb: The role of context and impression management in issue selling.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 43(1): 23-57. Citations tracked by scholar.google.com.
Bilimoria, Diana & S. K. Piderit. 1994. “Board committee membership: Effects of sex-based bias,” Academy of Management Journal, 37(6): 1453-77. Citations tracked by scholar.google.com.
Piderit, S. K. 2000. “Rethinking resistance and recognizing ambivalent attitudes toward organizational change: A multidimensional view.” Academy of Management Review, 25: 783-794. Citations tracked by scholar.google.com.
Solow, Daniel; Vairaktarakis, George; Piderit, S. K.; & Ming-chi Tsai. 2002. “Managerial insights into the effects of interactions on replacing members of a team.” Management Science, 48(8): 1060-1073. Citations tracked by scholar.google.com.
It appears that I may get my ticket punched to play another round in the publish-or-perish game. So now it's up to me to decide whether to ante up for the next hand of cards, or to fold, cash in my chips, and find another game to play.
What'd'ya think, folks, should I try to remake my good-ole Cal Ripken self into a Jim Thome? And can I do it without moving to Philly?
June 30, 2005
the merits and drawbacks of laziness
Dave Pollard defends laziness and argues in favor of natural enterprises which do not require long work hours (while also criticizing corporate media for pandering to their audiences with bias). I found his argument shocking at first, so at odds with the Catholic values in which I was raised, which glorify hard work.
As I read his words again, though, I began to question those unspoken values. Why is it better to work long hours? There is more to life than a choice between hard work and idle hands. Relationship building takes time, and relationships must not only be built within work organizations, but all across the community. So, I invite you to read Dave Pollard's essay and consider the merits and drawbacks of laziness.