Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Posts In the Values Category

Ray Rice: Defective NFL Product?

Janay Palmer & Ray Rice

Now wife, Janay Palmer and Raven’s suspended footlball player, Ray Rice

I’m on my home from the latest workshop by my coach Steve Harrison. Had a chance to meet Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Wow, what an amazing experience.

It was an interesting experience learning how better to serve people through writing and coaching against the backdrop of the Ray Rice story. My understanding is that abusive people were themselves abused. It is my hope that this incident can help Mr. Rice break the cycle of abuse, both for himself and for others.

I watched the video. It was very disturbing. If you haven’t seen it, I think you should watch it Ray Rice Knocked Out Fiancee – FULL VIDEO. It will change your understanding of domestic violence forever. It won’t be theoretical, and it won’t be Hollywood. It is brutal. Watching the video could help you change someone’s life some day. You might hear a whisper, or notice something in someone you know, and instead of brushing it off, you’ll remember that image of Jinay getting knocked unconscious.

As for why the NFL and the Ravens gave Rice a slap on the wrist before the video came to light? I am befuddled by the handwringing. The NFL is a business. Ray Rice is the product. The domestic violence wasn’t seen as a human issue, it was a business issue.  Rice was a product with some characteristics that would make some customers mad.

I’ve been in those discussions. The product isn’t working quite right. Should we ship?

“No product is ever done.”

“There is a work around.”

“We need the revenue now, and will pick up the pieces later.”

Right or wrong does not come into play when it comes to these product shipment decisions. They are business decisions. In the case of the NFL, the products are people. We need to remember to put people first, always.

As I write this post on the plane, I watched an inspirational speech from James Brown, football host on CBS. Brown explained that domestic violence is not a football issue, and is not a woman’s issue. He pointed out that 3 women die every day from domestic violence, and called on men to step up and take responsibility. “You need to either get help [for yourself] or give help [to end domestic violence.]

Bravo James Brown. Real men do not hurt women, and we’ll take your challenge to become part of the solution.

The Cure for an Uncaring Boss

Today I went to a webinar where Matt Kohut and John Neffinger gave a Q&A about their book Compelling People. Really interesting book. Kohut and Nefflinger define strength and warmth as the two attributes that define how people judge you.

During the webinar, they made reference to psychology studies that show that powerful people care less about the less powerful. The more powerful person laughs and nods less when the less powerful is speaking, and they are more likely to overtalk the less powerful. And in general, research shows that powerful people are less attentive to interpersonal relationships, because they don’t have to be. On the flip side, less powerful people are better at forming alliances, because they have to in order to survive.

Have you ever thought that your boss doesn’t care about you? Maybe they only seem to pay attention to the people above them in the hierarchy? This research suggests that your judgement is correct. It’s not that the boss is against you. They literally are not paying attention – they don’t notice you. What’s more, they also are less empathetic with the less powerful. In other words, they discount the suffering or negative consequences to people “below” them.

Don’t despair! Knowledge is power. By starting with the assumption that the boss doesn’t care, you no longer need to waste your breath complaining about how stressed you are. Have you ever gone home totally frustrated that complaining to the boss did no good? Those days are behind you.

Instead, you can focus on a different strategy – finding a different lever to pull to get what you want. The boss does care about what his or her boss thinks of them. Therefore, couch your requests in a way that will help them make good. For example “I’m going to focus on A&B, and make C&D a lower priority. By not doing C&D, I’ll do a better job on the first two, which will reflect better on our team.”

To be even more precise, classify your boss as a Scorpion, Fox, or a Wolf to dial in your business case to their particular priorities.

Don’t get me wrong, I do find the results of the studies chilling. However, I’d rather know and adjust my behavior than to sail along under an illusion. I’ll take the advantage in alliance making any day for long term success.

More info on Compelling People: http://compellingpeople.com

Special thank you to Matt Kohut for sending me the link to this article:

Daniel Goleman article in NY Times called Rich People Care Less http://nyti.ms/1pQgdHp

How To Say No to Darth Vader in the Office

Darth vader office spaceThis is the third and concluding post in the series about how to escape the volcano of an overscheduled life, without becoming Darth Vader.

Once you’ve strengthened your people-first identity, and built a community of like-minded people, you will be ready to take on the chaos of the workplace. The initial steps of cutting back your hours are likely to go unnoticed.

At some point, however, you will be asked to go to a last minute meeting, take on another project, or to travel on short notice. And the additional work will take time away from the rest of your life. This is the time to use some Jedi Mind Tricks—also known as  political savvy—to keep your calendar from getting too full.

Saying no to the boss can be harder than asking the NSA not to obtain more phone records. But every time you say yes to the boss, you are saying no to something else. For example, a “Yes” to putting a few slides together by morning can mean a “no” to sleep.

Jedi Trick #1: Shift your orientation to focus on the yes to the people you care about, and not the “no” to the boss. In the example above, say yes to the sleep. In this case, the Jedi trick is on yourself, to help maintain your focus on what is most important to you.

Jedi Trick #2: Get your manager to agree to your top three priorities. Then, when the request comes in to attend a random last minute meeting, if it’s not in the top three, don’t go. “I’d like to help, but I have some deliverables due tomorrow and I can’t make it. How about next week?”

And if it is your manager making the request, the answer is “No problem. I’ll give so and so a call, and let them know their deliverable will be a day late.” You’ll be amazed at how many requests fizzle out when the manager has to take accountability for the consequences.

Sound scary? I understand. The first step is often the hardest. But trust me, putting people first is a virtuous cycle. When you start feeling better, and you become more effective at work, you’ll wonder what took you so long to get here.

The Second Step Towards a Life In Balance

Choose your date wisely

Choose your date wisely

The people you choose to be with are a strong predictor of what you value and how you live.

As I wrote in the last post, a shift in identity will start you down the path towards a balanced life.

However if everyone around you is bragging about how many events they missed because of work, eventually your hours will start to creep back up. To make the changes last, you’ll need a community of people to support you.

First and foremost, if you’re in a relationship, you’ll want to get on the same page with your partner. Does he/she support people-first values? Most of the time, they’ll be thrilled to have you around more. And if you are both on email till midnight together every night, you can start to make the change together. For example, checking email during dinner can be a pernicious habit. But, it is also is a clear behavior that is easy to modify if phone free time together is the priority.

However, if getting a new BMW every year is the most important thing to your partner, they may not support your change in priorities. Mismatched values like this are a red flag for the relationship. Some people work long hours as a way to avoid an unhappy relationship. Could this be you?

And whether or not you’re in a relationship, you’ll need people outside the family to support your change. One great place to begin is by finding a weekly activity to bring you out of the office. I’ve known many people who picked up a class or joined a team just as a way to get out of the office. There, they met their future spouse.

If you are at in Tuesday night volleyball league, everyone else there has decided not to work and to spend time on volleyball too. This is a great place to get to know people who don’t talk about work all the time.

Finally, be on the lookout for a community opportunity, meaning that if someone invites you to do something, say yes! A mindful approach to develop contacts outside of the workplace will increase your flexibility, and decrease any emotional dependency on the work pseudo-community.

What has your experience been with getting out of the office?

Previous Post: The First Step To Create a Life Of Balance

Are You Working This Thanksgiving?

Twin Toms by eye of einstein

Twin Toms by eye of einstein

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It is a day to cook, eat, watch football, and spend time with family and friends. As a kid we’d drive from Syracuse to my grandmothers in the Catskills. One year we got caught in a snowstorm, and were forced to stay in a crappy motor lodge. They refused to give some milk for my baby brother. For years, my family gave them the finger whenever we drove by. Now, I can be a bit more understanding. Maybe they were pissed off because they had to work on Thanksgiving.

There have always been people who work on Thanksgiving – doctors, police and firefighters to name a few. These people provide essential, life-saving services, and part of the deal is to work on a holiday from time to time. Others, like the folks at the long forgotten three acres motel just had to work, because a motel never closes.

Retail is another matter entirely. No one’s life is depending on having Best Buy open on Thanksgiving. By now you’ve probably seen an article or three about retail stores opening on Thanksgiving to get a jump on the holiday season. As illustrated on this chart from the Inlander.com,   retail stores have been pushing their black Friday opening time earlier and earlier since 2006.

The pattern is clear. Every year a few stores open earlier, and the next year more stores open at that time, except for a few who push it even earlier. Why are the retailers opening earlier? It is a push to increase sales in a competitive market. Most retailers make 20% to 40% of their yearly revenue during the holidays. For a company in trouble like Best Buy or Sears, holiday sales may determine whether stores need to close or worse. As unpleasant as it may be for all involved, some would argue that staying open on Thanksgiving is what is best for the company.

As I wrote in Busting,  “best for the company” is a sign of corporate idolatry. Best for the company is usually measured in terms of the short term gains, and often comes at the expense of long term health. My advice is to put people first. Let the employees enjoy Thanksgiving, and come in fresh on Black Friday. A refreshed and relaxed workforce can outsell a tired and frazzled group of workers any day. Some companies like Apple and Costco seem to agree.

ifo Apple Store reported a detailed description of  Apple’s decision to keep most stores closed on Thanksgiving“Over the objections of the Market Directors, Apple CEO Tim Cook cancelled the plan to keep several stores open on Thanksgiving. Cook’s specific objection was that it’s important for Apple retail employees to be with their families on the holiday. On the other hand, the Market Directors were reportedly motivated by large potential holiday-quarter bonuses based on performance targets, adding to their $400,000 salaries. The last calendar quarter at Apple retail is always the busiest and generates the most revenue, leading to the largest bonuses.” Good for you Tim Cook!

Maybe those Market Directors will look for a job at Walmart, who is pushing the opening time earlier and earlier every Thanksgiving. Walmart is a company that consistently prioritizes money over people.  In a particularly perverse development, Walmart will be serving a free Thanksgiving dinner to it’s employees during their breaks. What has been a celebration with family is now being co-opted by the company. I can just imagine the managers having to parrot the company line about how much Walmart cares. At least they are giving the employees extra pay for working on the holiday. In an equally bizzare development, some Walmart stores are having a holiday food drive to support other employees who do not make enough money to buy food for their families.

One VP of marketing at Walmart said how excited employees are to come in to work that day. Stephanie Ritter who works at a Walmart in Colorado begs to differ. She started a petition on Change.org, asking Walmart to close its stores on Thanksgiving. Ms. Ritter writes

Most businesses are closed on Thanksgiving, I understand that Walmart is a staple in many towns, but everyone survives it being closed on Christmas. As a single mother, it breaks my heart to know that I won’t be able to spend that time with my son.

Support Stephanie Ritter’s petition .

What kind of company do you work for, a Walmart or an Apple? Share your story below.