WHAT MANAGERS, SPORKS, AND WORK-LIFE BALANCE HAVE IN COMMON (Part 1)

s a child of the 80s one of the commercials I remember most are for Campbell’s Chunky Soup.   The commercials were centered around a heated debate over whether Chunky Soup should be eaten with a fork (because it is so meaty you see) or a spoon (because that is what soup is meant to be eaten with).  My favorite of the ads featured WWE Superstars because as a child I was a WWF fanatic.   You can view that commercial here:
As much as I loved the commercials I never could decide until one day I saw a utensil that was both fork and spoon.  Enter: The Spork.    To me the Spork is the ultimate symbol of efficiency and adaptability.   It can do the job of 2 utensils and takes up less space.  More advanced models even have a small serrated knife blade on the side which increases its efficiency by 33%
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Managers have to be Sporks as they are called to do more with less and constantly seek out new ways of achieving results.  Spork management requires you to take two seemingly different things, find their commonality and blend them together.  A spoon is used to hold liquids, a fork to spear solids and yet they are both eating utensils so combining them makes sense.  A fork and chainsaw (Chork?  Fainsaw?) probably wouldn’t work as well.

 In the work-life debate, the Spork analogy takes on even more meaning. Here’s why:
The traditional way of viewing work-life is through a separation lens; i.e. people have problems at home and people have problems at work but the two aren’t related.  The reality is that regardless of how we want work and life to interact, there is a spillover effect.  One domain has an effect on the other.  Having an HR policy that helps an employee deal with personal matters (i.e. sick time, FMLA etc.) does not address the long-term needs that the employee may have.  On the other side, an intense time at work (organizational change, busy season etc.) impacts the employees’ personal life; even if they acknowledge and are “cool” with what is happening.  Time away from personal commitments leaves an imprint to all those involved.

Thus, managerial leadership in the work-life realm shouldn’t view work and life as separate (spoon and fork) but as one (Spork).  My program, The Spork Principle: 3 Techniques for Becoming a High Impact Work-Life Manager teaches you how to create a high performance culture whose foundation is in work-life flexibility.  Some of the considerations you should consider as a manager are building your knowledge base in:

  • The needs of your employees (first and foremost)
  • Company policies
  • State and Federal Law
  • Active listening techniques
  • Workplace trends
  • Medical conditions
  • Organizational psychology
  • Community trends and recent events (if applicable and it usually is).
As a manager you need to take these factors in and use them as a base of knowledge.  You are not a case worker but you should know enough to understand and deal with an employee need.  Citing HR policy is often not enough.   Employees want to be heard and feel like their needs are being met.
Understanding how personal issues at home may be influencing behavior or performance at work is also important to effective management.  Research shows that employees need (and respond well to in the form of retention and long term performance) to employers who are understanding to personal trauma and stress.
In my next blog I will discuss the Spork Principle from a Performance Management Perspective.