Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Report Says Women Should Speak Less to Get Ahead at Work

Marissa Meyer: Powerful Woman

Marissa Meyer: Powerful Woman via Flickr CC

Did you see the blockbuster article in the NY Times by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant discussing why women don’t speak out at work? Women who present ideas in meetings are often ignored, or are talked over by men, who run with their idea. When I told my daughter about the story she sat up straight and said “That happens to me!” She is 14, a freshman in high school.

In addition, they quote research from Dr. Victoria Briscol at Yale, which found that

“Male executives who spoke more often than their peers were rewarded with 10 percent higher ratings of competence. When female executives spoke more than their peers, both men and women punished them with 14 percent lower ratings.”

While anecdotally I believe the talking over women story, I find the research shocking. Surely this is not happening on a conscious level. I went and read the original research paper, and there was an interesting nugget that did not make the times article: Women in positions of authority who spoke less were perceived as more powerful than women who spoke more, and men in positions of authority who spoke more were perceived as more powerful than men who spoke less. In fact, the women who spoke less has similar scores to the men who spoke more, and vice versa. They speculate that men and women may want to have different strategies for how they use their power at work. (See page 14.)

What does this mean for someone looking to find the proper Humility balance? As a reminder, Humility balance is defined as “Not more than my place, not less than my space.” When talking more is counter productive is is better to stay Silent? On the flip side, maybe remaining quiet is perpetuating an unjust social hierarchy, and it is better to trail-blaze, in the hopes that over time both men and women will become more comfortable with women asserting their power.

I don’t know the right answer, other than to reaffirm that this research shows that women are right to be concerned that speaking out can be held against them. Now that we know, we have an opportunity to check our reactions to people in power.

What do you think? Do you buy it?

It is important that we spread the word about unconscious bias. Please share this post!

Marissa Mayer Busts Sacred Cows At Yahoo

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 8

Yahoo busted a sacred cow when it discontinued it’s current work from home policy. (See the last post for more.) Frankly, compared to IBM’s changes to its pension program in the early 90’s, this is small potatoes.

Don’t get me wrong, I support business strategies like ROWE, which gives employees 100% flexibility about when to come in to the office. Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson the inventors of ROWE, wrote a great open letter to Yahoo, explaining why reducing flexibility is a step backwards. The letter is a business case, as opposed to a moral imperative. As you know, I don’t believe a company is capable of moral agency for either good or ill. Therefore, I think it is far more effective to describe a moral imperative as a business case for good.

While ROWE has a very good track record of business returns, at the end of the day it is only a strategy. And ROWE is not the only good strategy for making money.  Google is decidedly not ROWE.  The “always on campus strategy” works for them, and will continue to work until it doesn’t.

So what can Yahoo employees who like to work from home do, now that they must start coming to the office in June?  If working from home is important to you, my advice is not to take the change personally and use the transition time through June to find another job.

There is another more interesting option for those who will be staying: Use the culture transition as an opportunity to solve The Problem in another way.  And what is The Problem?  Too much time and energy going into work, and not enough left for anything else. Data shows that people who work from home tend to work longer hours, and are more likely to feel “on call” all the time.

What if the tradeoff of going to the office every day is a firmer boundary between work and the rest of life?  “I’ll be in the office every day with energy and enthusiasm, but when I go home the email stays off.”

After all, doesn’t the strategy say that working from home is less effective for what Yahoo is trying to achieve?  And doesn’t the research show that rested, relaxed people are more creative and collaborative?

The previous post explains why I support the changes at Yahoo.

The next post offers some perspective for people upset with Yahoo or Marissa Mayer.

 

Marissa Mayer’s Quest To Change Yahoo’s Culture

Chapter 10: Embrace People First Part 7

If you have been reading Busting Your Corporate Idol, you might expect me to be against Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting.  I’m not, and here’s why: I expect a good business leader to make strategic decisions that are best for the business, and not to consider a larger social movement or the impact on individuals. It’s the reality of the corporate world that strategies change, and benefits change even faster. My advice is to embrace reality, and plan your life accordingly.

From her first weeks at Yahoo, Meyer has worked to change the culture, to become a place where people work with energy to create synergy for innovation.  One part of the strategy was free lunches, to encourage employees to stay in the office. (See this post for a discussion of the downside of the free lunch culture.)

At the same time, Mayer has made no secret that she wants to upgrade the talent at Yahoo. In September, the Business Insider reported that Mayer was reviewing every hire at Yahoo to make sure high level talent was coming in. An internal source at Yahoo explained that

“one of Yahoo’s biggest problems over the past couple years has been “B-players” hiring “C-players” who were not “fired up to come to work” and were “tolerated too long.  I mean nobody gave a s— to come to Yahoo.”

So from a company perspective, anyone who leaves because of the telecommuting ban is another chance to hire an A player. And this policy change is a shot across the bow to send a message that anyone can be replaced; sacred cows of the old order will not be tolerated.

In the next post, I’ll explain why busting sacred cows at Yahoo offers opportunities for a better life.

And in the post after I’ll offer some perspective for people who feel let down by Marissa Mayer.

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Meet the Power Mom Executive, Pregnant Before Marissa Mayer Made It Hip

Chapter 7: Secure Your Identity Part 11

In the last two posts we met Sebastian Tate, who throughout is career has maintained a strong identity outside of the workplace, which has in turn helped him lead a balanced life.  On the other side of the spectrum were four women that I interviewed who all independently felt like an abused spouse in relation to the company.

Most people seem like “Janet Wolf” caught between competing identities. Janet has a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in Chemical Engineering, and worked after grad school for the Boston Consulting Group.  Janet is one of the most relentlessly positive people you’ll ever meet, and I was not surprised to hear that at the end of a long engagement the president of an electronics firm recruited her to become vice president of corporate planning.

Janet was very interested in the position, but was nervous because she was four weeks pregnant, and “wanted to make a good impression.”  (And this was  ten years before Marissa Mayer made it hip to be a pregnant executive.)   When Janet told the president, she was delighted to hear his response:  “Congratulations, I don’t care.”

Janet went on to be what I think of as the “power working mom.”  At work I doubt people perceived her as a mom, yet she was able to remain involved in her kids activities.  I asked her how she manages to do both.  In her words:

“I’ve been crystal clear with each boss – I have kids.  There will be days I need to leave early, or can’t get here early.  I got the work done and it was never a problem.  I got to move around to bigger and better things.”

What impact do you think Janet’s dual identity had on her response to difficult political situations at the company?

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Is There A Down Side To The Free Lunch At Google?

Chapter 6:  Corporate Culture -The Invisible Hand of the Company Part 8

Shortly after the arrival of Marissa Mayer as CEO, Yahoo started giving free lunches to its employees as a means to change the culture and improve morale.[i]

Google, where she worked for many years is known for having free, very nutritious lunches.  It’s a great benefit and while I’ve never eaten there, I did go to the Califia Café, started by a former Google Chef. The food is fantastic.

One writer estimated that Google spent $72 million on food in 2008 .[ii] Why does Google do that?  Does anyone think it’s because they care about employees, or are being nice? (Sorry, I realize I am getting that snarky tone again.  Normally, in situations like this, I ask my wife read to help me moderate, but since she just got back from a business trip, I’ll spend my time with her catching up and let the chips fall where they may with the tone of the post.)

The benefits to Google include higher morale, a stronger culture, a talking point to keep salaries lower, and a way to keep people close to the office.

And it’s not just food that Google and other companies offer.  According to tech enthusiast Jonathan Strickland the Googleplex offers on site haircuts, medical, dry cleaning, laundry (complete with employees bringing in dirty laundry on the weekend), massage, as well as pools, gyms, video games and ping pong.  According to Strickland, the strategy is “keeping the employee workforce in the office more often. Give employees enough reasons to stick around and you’ll likely see productivity go up. Why head home when everything you need is at work?”[iii]

These perks are one way to address the difficulty of work life balance by bringing some of the life tasks into the workplace.  Is there a downside to this?

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[i] http://www.geekosystem.com/yahoo-free-lunch/  The only way to truly change this theme is for the company as a whole to embrace a new vision and strive for it. For that, they need happy workers.

[ii] Google’s Ginormous Free Food Budget: $7,530 Per Googler, $72 Million A Year* by Vasanth Sridharan | Business Insider| Apr. 23, 2008, 2:36 PM  Retrieved October 24, 2012  Read

[iii] How the Googleplex Works by Jonathan Strickland Howstuffworks.com. Retrieved October 24, 2012 Read