a pokemon back pack

What a Pokemon Backpack Taught Me About Organizational Culture

It started off as an uneventful morning.  Wake up. Brush teeth. Hustle the kids out the door.  On that day it was my turn to drive my son to school.   He was surprisingly ready and in my car as I was pouring my morning coffee.

My wife Sherri reminded me to grab his Pokeman backpack.  I barely nodded acknowledgement and muttered something about not being as forgetful as she thought.

Yea….. I forgot the backpack.

I could see the school driveway in the distance when I finally made the realization. We were barely on time as it is. I announced to my son:

“Hey bud! I forgot your backpack. No worries though. I’ll drop you off and go back home and bring it to you so you won’t be late.” Easy solution! Win-win, right?

Not so much.

My son suddenly became worried and upset. He talked about how if we walked into the classroom without his backpack (and more importantly the homework folder in it) that he would get in a lot of trouble.

I reminded him that he’d have the backpack in 12 minutes.

He became more upset. “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE WHEN YOU DON’T BRING IT IN DAD!”

Maybe I’m a softy. Maybe my son scammed me into an extra twenty-minute round trip journey so he could attend less school that day. I really don’t know.  

25 minutes later, I dropped him off at the office, signed him in as late, and as I drove to my speaking engagement had this realization:

What are we emphasizing that is important to people and what is the effect of that emphasis?

On some level I am sure my son was overreacting but the fear was real. I’ve received the notes about remembering to bring in the backpack and the much prized folder that holds the secrets of the universe. No wonder he was freaked out. 

That day when he got home I tried to walk that fine line of teaching my son to respect the rules and not letting trivial things get to you…..but it was hard.

I thought about my experience working in office culture.  The things that were often emphasized and prized as important.

·        Attendance over engagement

·        Perception over productivity

·        Deadlines over everything else in your universe that can’t wait either

I am not saying things like attendance and meeting deadlines aren’t important. Of course they are. 

As you go back to your organization think about what is emphasized and rewarded in the lived experience. Focus on the actions that occur instead of the rhetoric. What impact does it have on the workplace culture? How do people react? Pay attention to the subtle cues. You will be surprised at what you notice.

A Pokeman backpack and a faulty memory taught me that.

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Paul Artale is a motivational speaker and organizational culture expert. He is also the author of the book “The 2-Year-Old’s Guide to Work-Life Balance.” For more information visit www.paulartale.com

#leadership #shrm #organizationalculture #management #employees #retention

a piece of metal in the shape of the number 7

7 Habits of a Positive Work Life Balance (Part 2)

The first 3 habits discussed steps we need to take to be independent; in other words, personal (private) mastery.  The next 3 Habits add the team (Public) dynamic into the equation.  Positive work-life policies and practices are largely dependent on the ability of different parties to communicate and cooperate effectively.  Let’s dive into it.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win.   Many of my blogs on this topic mention negotiation and discussions with other coworkers in some form.  The research shows that many organizations are not open to the work-life policies even when they offer them!  The bottom line is that when we are discussing different work arrangements, setting boundaries, or justifying actions to our family or boss, we have to do so from a point of view where all sides benefit.  Positive work-life policies help every body involved.  Let’s dissect this briefly:

Management/“The Company”: Positive practices and policies (say that fast 3 times) have been shown to strengthen output and more importantly decrease employee stress and health problems.  Not only is this more humane, but the company benefits by having less health claims which in turn contributes to keeping insurance premiums low.  Plus, work-life policies have been shown to increase employee loyalty and decrease intent-to-leave and we all know how costly rehiring is!

The Employee: This one is pretty obvious but employees benefit by having a senses of control and enjoyment over the various domains in their lives.  This increases their satisfaction, performance, and quality of overall life.

The Family: Those not directly involved in the business relationship also benefits as rates of work-to-family and family-to-work spillover tend to decrease.  Spending more time with loved ones is what life is really about (sorry if I am getting sappy here).   Having to listen to a family member groan or vent their angry on a constant basis because of work is just not pleasant.

Enacting positive work-life policies means thatthe company gets the same (or improved) output, increased loyalty, and fewer health costs while the employees are happier due to less conflict in their lives which is greatly appreciated by the family.  This appreciation increases employee satisfaction, decreases family-to-work conflict and benefits the company.  Now that’s WIN-WIN!

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  With all my pleas for self-advocacy this habit may seem counter-intuitive at first.  Before we can start asking for changes or accommodations we need to understand where the other side is coming from.  For employees there may be reasons as to why you may get that call or home or have to pull in extra hours beyond your boss being a controlling jerk.    There may be legal reasons or company policies that prohibit certain work arrangements as well for whatever reason.  Employers should listen to why their staff want changes in their current situation.  At its most base level, an employee coming to a supervisor asking for a change in the routine/practice/policy is a sign of some form of discontentment and should be listened to.  That discord could be as simple as a misunderstanding about job functions/expectations and as serious major problems at home or within the office.  In any case, understand the entire situation before conclusions or arguments are made.

Habit 6: Synergize.  Synergy says 1+1=5.  When people are working together, listening to each other, and looking out for everybody’s best interests then a powerful and addictive positive synergy is created.  What I love about synergy as a work-life concept is that it embraces multiple alternatives and truly is focused on the end goal (see Habit 2).  That’s what success and leadership is about.  Finding what works in any situation is at the heart of effective work-life balance implementation as well.

Final Thought…

As we move from independence to INTER-dependence we see a shift from me to we.  When work-life balance becomes a team effort then we come up with the most effective and fair ways for all parties to be successful.  Moving towards interdependence also means we are focused on long term success rather than trying to put out short-term, immediate fires.  Next week….the 7th Habit and the one that is all encompassing of work-life balance: Sharpening the Saw.

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Paul Artale is a motivational speaker who specializes in Labor and Industrial Relations.  He is also a keynote speaker and facilitator.  Please visit http://www.paulartale.com for more information. Posted

a married couple enjoying coffee

What if every weekend was a 3 day weekend? Considering the Compressed Workweek.

In a society where life is becoming increasingly complex we sometimes need a job that can be flexible beyond the normal 9-5, 9-7, 8-10pm Monday-Saturday timeframe.  The compressed workweek can battle the rigidity of traditional schedules while still allowing for employee productivity.

What is a compressed workweek?

The compressed workweek involves working more hours four days a week in exchange for not having to work the fifth.  The employee still works the 40-45 hours required per week; the only difference being that those hours are squished onto other days.   It is important to note that extra day off is not intended for work of any kind.  This is not a telecommuting or alternative location arrangement.

With that in mind, here are some considerations when inquiring about a compressed workweek:

1) Does your company already have a policy?  Many companies have compressed and flextime policies and procedures already on the books.  Read up on your company’s specific policy to see if a compressed schedule is possible and what steps to take.

2) Talk to your manager. A consistent theme in HR literature reveals that managers are often the gatekeepers to all sorts of alternative work arrangements.   Have a conversation with your supervisor to see if this is possible.  Why not be a trend setter?

3) Make it an occasional thing.  Some employers may not be a fan of the weekly compressed schedule.  That being said, there is no reason why you can’t work a compressed week occasionally or on part-time basis.  Doing so could give you that three or four day weekend without burning vacation time.

4) Make it a seasonal thing.
  Most businesses have a “crazy” time and a “lazy” time.  Not being at work during crazy periods could make for a more stressful work environment overall or lead to calls/communications from your office on your extra day off.  Who needs that?   You may have better luck pitching a compressed workweek during points in the year when things are calmer and there is less chance of stressful deadlines and situations popping up.

5) Consider mid-week.  We all want that long weekend but maybe taking Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday off is the better way to go.  If deadlines at your workplace revolve around a specific day of the week then build your new schedule around that.   If deadlines are usually on Fridays or Mondays then the long weekend approach may not be so popular.

6) Pitch the benefits of a compressed workweek to your supervisor.  Some bosses may not like the idea or not see the benefits (other than you getting a day off) to compressed workweeks.  Here are some positives that you should bring up

  • Increased employee satisfaction (more time off = a more satisfied employee)
  • Increased employee retention (more satisfied employee = a more likely to stay employee)
  • Decreased attendance problems such as lateness, absenteeism, and calling in “sick” (if an employer agrees to a compressed week there is no excuse to be late, or lie about why you can’t go into work.  Not that there ever really is a good excuse to do this).
  • Increased productivity (Largely due to increased morale but also the fact that you a larger block of time daily allows for more to be done with less interruptions.
  • More hours of coverage (Working later may also mean that the company will be open longer.  In a customer service environment this can be especially useful).

Final thought…

The compressed workweek is just another tool as you strive for work-life perfection.  It may be appropriate as a weekly occurrence or may be a nice way to accommodate key events in your life.  In either case what is important is that we seek work arrangements that allow us to flourish both inside and outside of the boardroom.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths.

  Please visit www.paulartale.com for more information.

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance #leadership #manager #virtualwork

a team working at a table

Managers: The Key to Positive Work-Life Balance

A job in itself does not sentence a person to long hours, family conflict and a generally unhappy life.  Sure, some lines of work require more hours or intensive types of work but the boundaries and expectations related to our jobs are influenced heavily by one group of people: managers.

Managers are the ones who regulate hours, workload, and set the tone as to what is appropriate in terms of work and personal life.  Sure, we have company policies but quite often it is up to the manager to interpret that policy.  Beyond policy, the standards employees are evaluated on (whether they be billable hours, output goals, clients called etc) are created by some level management.  At some point, somebody in the hierarchy said “we value this if people want to get promoted or raises.  Spread the word.”  Once that word is spread then a culture begins to form.

Here are some things for those in managerial roles to consider as it relates to their ability to impact work-life balance for employees.

1) Controlling the schedule is power: use it wisely.  Consider the effect of calling an earlier or later than normal meeting has upon your staff; especially if it is called at the last minute.  Is it essential that all personnel are there?  Can some employees Skype/conference call in if appropriate?  When you’re in an authoritative role “Yea boss…no problem” doesn’t necessarily mean employees are ok with the extra meeting.

2) Educate yourself!  Knowing company HR procedures, benefits in addition to some basic law can go a long way in improve employee work-life balance.  This is definitely the case when it comes to major issues such as parental leave.  Many employees do not take full advantage of parental leave policies because they are worried about stunting their career advancement or flat out retribution.  What a shame!  Becoming an advocate for your staff will go a long way in terms of retaining staff and improving morale which both saves and makes the company money.  Now that’s a Win-Win situation!

3) Analyze: What do you reward? I recently read an article where a woman would show up to the office once a week at 2 am because her manager applauded the effort and it helped her get a promotion.   This woman admitted she usually worked from home at that time but she received such a favorable reaction from her boss that she decided it was better to get up earlier and come to work.  She also admitted that it was putting strains on her personal life but felt she had to do this in  order to succeed in her job.    As a disclaimer, this was a very driven software engineering firm that was accustomed to strange and extremely long hours.

Nevertheless, the point is: what behaviors and efforts do you and your company reward and what can you do to make sure that they are more conducive to a better quality of life for your workers?

4) Be flexible!   If we expect employees to be able to work longer hours or adjust their schedule with little notice then at some point as managers need to be flexible about things that may occur in their employees lives.  This could mean allowing people to work from home on occasion, allowing them to leave early or come in later, or even compressing their workweek.

5) Vacation!  As in let them take it.  Every year many employees don’t take all of their alloted vacation time and in many cases, lose that time altogether.  Encourage your employees to take time off and to maximize that benefit.  This may require being more strategic or strongly encouraging employees to take time off during certain times of the year.  One of my former supervisors allowed me to leave during an extremely busy time so that I could attend an important family function.  It took some discussion, lots of work before I left, a little work from the road, and communicating with those who would pick up the slack.  In other words it wasn’t easy but we made it work.  Not only did the company achieve their outcomes but I was able to take part in an important part of my family life.  I was very appreciative to my boss and the company for letting me have that precious time.

Final Thought:

Arthur Miller once wrote: “You can’t eat the orange and throw away the peel.  A man is not a piece of fruit!”  As a manager one is in a position of power and influence.  Managers often have the power to create culture and expectations that directly impact their employees and quality of life.  At other times managers have the ability to inform, educate, and guide their workers in a direction that leads to a better quality of family and professional life.  There are also occasions when being in a supervisory role means advocating for a more positive work-life balance.  Deadlines and organizational goals are important.  We all want the company to stay afloat.  Every once and a while, though, we need to unplug ourselves from the grind and recognize the human element that is behind facts, figures, and bottom lines.  By doing so we take great strides not only towards long-term productivity from employees, but we also decrease chances of employee stress and illness.

Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 
For more information visit www.paulartale.com

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #leadership #manager #teamwork

a cup full of jelly beans

What’s Your Work-life Personality Style?

It’s 10:30 AM and you are on the treadmill at the gym.  It is your late day at work and are not due to check into the office until noon.  Your exercise program beeps at you and you begin to kick it up a notch.  You’re starting to work up that good sweat when your phone rings.  You glance down at the screen and see it is the office calling.   Do you:

a) Pick up the phone: it must be really important if they are calling you during your off time.
b) Ignore it:  you will deal with whatever it is at 12 PM when you get in.
c) Finish your workout and call your office back afterwards:  this is your time and 15 minutes probably won’t hurt the situation one way or another.

Your response to the above question can reveal your preferred boundary style.  Boundary management in the workplace is becoming an important issue for both employees and managers.  The integrated use of digital and cellular technology in our lives has often led to the blurring of
lines between work and family time.   Add the fact that alternative work arrangements such as tele-commuting or compressed work-weeks are becoming more common and we can see how the landscape becomes hazier.

So… does a phone call or email after your office hours count as overtime or comp time?   A recent law in Brazil states that workers who answer emails on their smartphones can count that as overtime.  Clearly this is an issue that needs to be addressed at several levels.

3 Boundary Styles

Regardless of what policies might get constructed from the “higher ups” it is important that we all know our own boundary style.   Most people fall into one of three distinct boundary styles.

1) The Assimilator.  Assimilators love to mix work and family time and are comfortable with an irregular schedule.  Assimilators love the freedom that comes with shifting work and family demands and relish in the fact that there are no clearcut hours for work or play.  Flexibility is important to them so that 10pm email is not a problem if that means they can leave early one day to catch their child’s soccer game or meet some friends at a restaurant.

2) The Divider.  Divider’s have a more traditional approach to work and family.   When they are not at work or at a company sponsored  function they do not want to be bothered.  Work time is work time, personal time is personal time and the two should never ever cross.  Getting emails or calls at off hours frustrates them and often feels like an invasion of privacy.

3) The Chameleons.  Chameleons enjoy the best of both worlds.  They generally like to have a separation between work and family time but also recognize that there are times when work seeps into personal time and that is OK to them.  Emergencies occur, coworkers sometimes need help, and some times of year are just plain busy.  An intrusion of personal time is OK in small and predetermined doses but a return to regularity is preferred at the end of the day.

Why is this important?

Knowing which boundary style you are and which boundary style the organization prefers is vital in determining whether a place of employment is a good fit.  Both employees and managers should take note which styles their employees prefer or are more comfortable with as this may eliminate workplace conflict.   Everybody has a different perspective on how work and family/personal life should mix and thus the key to eliminating conflict and maximizing employee morale is open and honest communication.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 

For more information visit http://www.paulartale.com

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #leadership #manager #boundaries #flexstyle

Looking at Work-Life from a Results-Based Perspective

“I would love to offer more flexibility, but I need people onsite to get work done.”

This is one of the most common statements I hear when managers attend one of my workplace flexibility seminars. For me, it can present a sticky situation since every work environment is different. While I don’t know your institution’s “face-time quotient” to ensure objectives are being met, I can ask one very simple question that can help move the work-life conversation along:  what are your deliverables? To rephrase: what are the key results you expect from your employee(s)?

If we know the results that are expected, then we can properly analyze if flex or alternative arrangements are appropriate for a position. Herein lies the problem – both managers and employees don’t always know what the deliverables are, therefore, when a work-life conversation comes up, it becomes difficult to make a strong case for or against flexibility and even more difficult to create a work plan that seems to be win-win.

Continue reading “Looking at Work-Life from a Results-Based Perspective”

I Quit My Job Because My Company Didn’t Offer Zumba Class

I marched into my boss’s office poised, calm, and dedicated to my decision.  I couldn’t take it any longer.   It’s 2018 and I was in a work environment that was barbaric and absolutely opposite of everything I knew work-life balance was about.   It didn’t take me long to blurt out “I quit!”   My boss replied with the typical: “why?”

Continue reading “I Quit My Job Because My Company Didn’t Offer Zumba Class”

Walking My Talk! How Fatherhood Impacted My Own Work-Life Journey

It is 4:15 a.m.   I have just spent ten minutes haggling with a taxi cab company over how they forgot to pick me up to go to the airport.  It has been sorted out and I should still get there in plenty of time.  I crack open the door to my son Alessio’s nursery to catch a glimpse of him.  Somehow, through the darkness and the silhouette of stuffed monkey’s  and bears, I see his little head through the slats on the crib.  This will be my last glimpse of him before spending 4 days away at a seminar in Las Vegas. 

I pull myself away then check my email on my tablet to make sure I have all my bases covered at work.  I will have lots of things waiting for me when I return from the seminar: organizing a leadership conference, writing more of my dissertation, working on an article for a magazine, and conducting a 90 minute public speaking seminar just days after I return.

 My plate is definitely full.  

The cab pulls into the driveway.  I carry my own bags into the cab.  The cabby tells me it is his first night on the job and that he has never been to the airport before. 

I sigh deeply.  This is my life. Continue reading “Walking My Talk! How Fatherhood Impacted My Own Work-Life Journey”

WHAT MANAGERS, SPORKS, AND WORK-LIFE BALANCE HAVE IN COMMON

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.

Continue reading “WHAT MANAGERS, SPORKS, AND WORK-LIFE BALANCE HAVE IN COMMON”

3 STRATEGIES TO FIND A BETTER FIT BETWEEN YOURSELF AND YOUR JOB

*Originally published in NASPA New Professionals and Graduate Students Newsletter

Student affairs work is great. I have always found it interesting, challenging, and rewarding. There are a multitude of job types within our profession that require different skillsets and abilities. As diverse the working world of student affairs is, finding the right job for you can be difficult. A job may seem fantastic on paper but once we start doing it….well we may quickly regret our choice. Conversely, we may agree to a job or project that we think is not ideal and discover that we love it. Six years ago, I would have never considered working with graduate students and yet I now find myself enjoying everything working with that population brings. Moreover, I also enjoy the culture of working in a graduate school and have found it is largely a better fit as it relates to both my professional and work-life needs. I was fortunate to find my optimal fit. To help you find optimal fit on your professional journey, here are three types of fit you need to consider during your career. These fits can help you in your current roles as much as it can during a job search. Continue reading “3 STRATEGIES TO FIND A BETTER FIT BETWEEN YOURSELF AND YOUR JOB”