Saturday, April 07, 2020

News and Views: April 7th 2007

Numbers, Schnumbers!

I’ve written before about the futility of relying solely on numerical measurements as the basis for management. Now confirmation of this viewpoint comes from a study by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu that states: “Top executives too often have tunnel vision when it comes to gauging the health and performance of their organizations, becoming obsessed with crunching the numbers while overlooking critical non-financial information.” Since Deloitte’s are accountants, this is quite an admission! It seems 90% of top executives thought that their information about the financial health of their organization was good; but less than a third said the same about all the other indicators of business health: customer satisfaction, innovation, competitiveness, and employee commitment. Another case of “never mind the quality, feel the width?” [link]

To sleep, perchance to dream . . . about the office?

A survey of New Zealand and Australian workers has found that job stress is affecting people’s dreams.The online survey of 770 workers, carried out by a Melbourne-based legal and accounting firm MSI, found 70 percent of respondents think about work while they sleep. The survey’s researchers think this is a sign of stress. I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to find a way of making people actually work while asleep? [link]

Maybe Mom doesn’t know best.

Here’s a statement by a mother from Palo Alto, CA, almost the cradle of high technology: “It is our responsibility to talk to our nieces, daughters, younger sisters about the path they are choosing at a young age and how it might affect their ability to balance work and life at a later stage.” The writer of the blog that quoted this adds her own take: “I work in technology, and not a week goes by that I don’t wish someone had talked to me about choosing a career that would allow me a satisfying work/life balance. Okay, I admit that in my late-teen years and early twenties, a discussion about how I should think about studying something that would allow me to come home make dinner every night for my husband and children would have fallen on deaf ears! But...god, if someone had at least clued me into the fact that certain professions are more amenable to having some balance/peace of could have been really enlightening!” Read the comment from a Program Manager who cut her working hours from 60+ to 40, just by cutting out wasted time. Full marks for honesty and good sense! [link]

The opposite point of view.

It’s good to look at ideas from people who think the whole work/life balance thing is a confidence trick or a piece of trendy nonsense. For example, “Life at the Bar“ boldly states that work/life balance is nonsense. Despite the provocative title, the text itself is far more measured, focusing on the need for each individual to construct a balance between work and the rest of life that fits their needs: “Look for a way to have a satisfying career and a satisfying personal life, but don’t expect it to be an easy or static path, and don’t expect what works for one lawyer to work for another.” In a post with the fascinating title “Hot Worms and Workaholics: Let the Workers Be!” the writer attacks the “health terrorists” whose “ pathogenic view causes us not to see a healthy forest because we are too busy looking for diseased trees.” I wasn't convinced, but I enjoyed the argument. [link]

CEO . . . with or without kids?

Penelope Trunk is challenging the prevailing “you can have it all” idea again with this post. She begins: “Climbing to the top of corporate America requires near complete abnegation of one’s personal life, not in a sacrificial way, but in a child-like way. In most cases, when there are children, there is a wife at home taking care of the executive’s life in the same way she takes care of the children’s lives.This is not a judgment on whether people should have kids. It’s fine to choose not to have kids. This is a judgment on whether people with kids should be CEOs of large companies.” I certainly find myself nodding in agreement when she says: “People who create careers that allow them to assume large levels of authority in their personal life are living as responsible adults. People who concentrate on work and delegate maintenance of all other aspects of their personal life are not truly living as adults.’ Take a look at her arguments. [link]

Low-value bureaucrats?

Vince Thompson has a new manifesto on ChangeThis. He says: “. . . more than half of the managers leading teams today are ready to walk out the door—leaving their teams, their companies, and for some, if necessary, their homes and communities, behind in hopes of making a fresh start elsewhere. This came as shocking news to some business leaders. But many managers had seen it building for years—years in which managers in The Middle have been displaced by technology, de-positioned by consultants, handcuffed by red tape, distracted by mergers, spoofed in the media and denigrated as low-value bureaucrats.” Heady stuff! Whether or not you agree with his solutions, it makes interesting reading. [link]

Is this normal?

Here’s John Blackwell, questioning whether organizations have woken up yet to the changing nature of work: “No one goes to work for the good of their health. However, in the 21st century should we really be accepting that our work has demonstrably harmful effects on our wellbeing? Far too many employers assume that stressful working conditions are a necessary evil if they are to remain productive and profitable. Yet there’s now unanimous acknowledgment of the direct interaction between sustainable employee health and the construct of the workplace.” Not an easy read—too many different ideas packed into a single article—but worth a look. [link]

The American jerk epidemic.

Bob Sutton’s articles are always worth reading and this one is no exception. He points out that:” A study of American workers released today found that nearly half have worked for an abusive boss. “ Since Hamburger Management encourages mindless, macho behavior— and has become the management style of choice for many organizations—I’m not at all surprised. Is the only way to stem this epidemic of uncivilized, self-destructive behavior to let loose the lawyers? Maybe. But I still retain some vestiges of hope that sanity will prevail first. [link]

Testosterone poisoning?

On the same site, Bob has another post noting that what he mentioned as a kind of joke in his book—the idea that bad behavior is due to testosterone poisoning—turns out to be true. It seems that people with high levels of testosterone actually enjoy angry expressions and seek ways to provoke them. [link]

Trust you, boss? I’d rather trust this rattlesnake.

Trust is another element of a civilized working environment that seems to be in increasingly short supply. According to research by consultancy Watson Wyatt in Canada, workers, whatever their age, have a lot in common when it comes to attitudes to those in charge: “Fewer than half of workers—whatever their age—trust their organization’s leaders, with a nearly six out of 10 believing that bosses rarely respond to questions with a straight answer.” The same study found a clear link between employee engagement and a company’s financial performance, with those companies with high employee engagement levels demonstrating better total annual returns to shareholders, higher market premiums, and higher productivity levels than those with low engagement. Make sense to you? Makes sense to me. [link]

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jfb said...

Hello, there... I've just discovered your blog, and I'm disturbed to find that you've cited mine ( as written by one who thinks "the whole work/life balance thing is a confidence trick or a piece of trendy nonsense."

You cited my post titled "Work-life balance nonsense" (see, apparently without noticing that the post title was drawn from a post by another blogger who labeled work/life balance as "nonsense." That post (as you did note) goes on to address the necessity of balance, and the other blogger and I have engaged in a fairly protracted "discussion" of what work/life balance is and isn't that still continues. If you read other posts on my blog, you'll see quite clearly that I am a proponent of work/life balance, as each individual chooses to define that balance for him- or herself.

Just wanted to set the record straight, because it's a critical point. To misunderstand my take on work/life balance is to misconstrue entirely the message of my blog.

Thanks for the opportunity to make these comments. I'll look forward to following your blog in the future.

Best regards,

Julie Fleming-Brown

7:56 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks for your comment, Julie. I am sorry if you feel that I have misrepresented your views and I'm glad you took the time to set me straight.

In my own defense, my post did make it clear that the actual text of your post was much less provocative that its title; and that the views clearly opposing the work/life balance idea came from another blog, which you had simply quoted.

In reality, I believe that some criticism of the "work/life balance bandwagon" is in order. There's a danger that it is becoming trendy and being taken over by commercial interests hoping to sell useless panaceas. As you so rightly say, getting the right balance has to be a personal decision — and one that takes time, thought, and care to arrive at.

Keep reading, my friend.

8:40 AM  
penelope said...

Hey, Carmine,

Thanks for linking to Brazen Careerist. This list was full of good stuff I had missed -- especially the link to Silicon Valley Moms. So, thanks for that, too.


11:18 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

You are very welcome, Penelope. Glad you found it useful.

6:49 PM  
Sujatha said...

I liked this week's list a lot since many of them are blogs I follow regularly (Brazen careerist, SV moms etc).

5:59 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Sujatha. Glad that you liked it.

9:29 PM  

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