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 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

people working together by a sunset

The Pros/Cons of Community Involvement and Work-Life Balance.

The last few weeks have been pretty theoretical and a lot of focus has been on work in some form.  This week I want to focus on the balance part of work-life balance.  Specifically let’s talk about the part of the equation that deals with giving one more purpose, relieves stress, and adds another dimension beyond both work and family.  Let’s talk about community involvement.

As a bit of a disclaimer, there are many activities one can do outside of work to restore balance to the force such as exercise, cooking for fun, and gardening.  Community involvement is an interesting aspect however as it has the power to enrich or deplete one’s sense of happiness in life.  Let’s get started with the pros.Pros:Being committed to something outside of work can be a great experience and here are some reasons why you should consider it:

1) It gets your mind off of work:  If you’re like me then you probably have trouble shutting off your “work brain.”  Involvement in community groups of any kind allows you to forget about the daily grind and actually enjoy life a little more.

2) Form friendships and contacts.  As Spock would say, “it is logical” that when you are around people with similar interests you are bound to make a few friends.   Work friends are great, but sometimes its nice to interact with others who share common interests and passions.

3) Stress relief.  Involvement in other groups can typically reduce your stress.  Since you want to be in that environment you will naturally become more relaxed and open to having fun.  If all goes right, you will become excited about attending meetings, events, and functions.

4) Giving back!  Do I really need to explain this one?Cons:As great as  involvement is, there are a few drawbacks.  Beware if:

1)  Involvement drains too much time!   Having a hobby or group you connect with is great but make sure it does not take significant time away from your work or your family.  This can be very challenging for eager beavers and workaholics alike.  Have fun but know your limits.

2) Involvement turns into more work!  Giving back to the community should not feel like another job.  This should not be confused with doing any work since that is often part of the process.   If filling out paperwork, meeting deadlines, recruitment, meeting organizational performance standards, and committee meetings no longer energize you then consider scaling back your commitment.  This should be a life giving endeavor!

3) Involvement turns into more involvement.  This is not necessarily a bad thing but being involved in one group can lead to involvement in other groups or different branches/chapters/clubs of the same organization.  By all means maximize your experience as long as you don’t fall into the traps sprung during points 1 and 2 in this section.

Final Thought
….

As a Higher Education professional I have many conversations with students who are over-involved with clubs, associations, and other groups on campus.   “You don’t have to be a part of 15 things….try being a major force in 2 or 3.”  Hopefully that sticks with them past their college days.I am great supporter of community involvement as it has helped me overcome some tough times in professional and personal life.  That being said, we must make sure that involvement doesn’t take away from professional and family growth.  The good news is in most cases community involvement enhances both of those aspects; as long as we know our limits and stay true to our priorities.

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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. 

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

a paper with the word time burning

What’s the Deal with Comp Time?

ave you ever had that crazy workweek where your contracted 40 hours turns into 60?  Have you ever been comforted by the fact that the extra time you put in can be banked as comp time/bonus time somewhere in the near future?   Weeks later you find a great deal on a 4 day weekend getaway to Vegas and you decide “I am going to cash in my comp time and take a long weekend” only to have your boss or an HR manager tell you that you can’t do that.   They utter the words that I so often hate to hear “Comp time does not officially exist at our company.”

*cough* bullcrap *cough*

I think the idea of comp time has its origins in an innocent and simple truth: people were willing to trade hours that were supposed to be worked at a later date in order to complete a task that requires an immediate effort.  It’s a fair trade off.  Most businesses have a slow time and trying to fit everything into the 9 to 5 bubble doesn’t always work.  Fair enough.

So why then can comp time be such a difficult thing to peg down?  Does being a salaried employee automatically mean we should accept working longer hours with no reward except for  a company tshirt or smoked meat at the holidays?

I don’t think so.

If the same person was an hourly employee they would be paid for those extra hours.  Comp time is not illegal is it?   No, it isn’t.  According to the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) time off can be substituted for extra pay when an employee exceeds working the standard eight hour day.  The parameters of this policy are subject to state and/or county law, institutional policy and contracts with unions or other labor groups.

Companies: what’s the big deal about making it official policy?   I know why an organization may keep the rules grey but that does not mean that I agree.  We know that stress and overwork (a topic of future blogs) leads to poor employee health and higher turnover.  If companies don’t want to run their employees into the ground (and according to most official policies…that is not an objective) then I would like them to ponder these points of consideration:

1) If comp time is arranged between a manager and employee then keep it that way.  Whether it is official policy or not I am always frustrated to hear about a comp time arrangement being interfered with by a superior.  For tho who manage managers, trust that those directors/deans/vice-president’s etc will make the right decisions regarding their staffs.  They do know them better than anyone else in the company.

2) Have a policy.  I know that the “P” word can be a dirty word to some but some policy is better than no policy.  Although I don’t personally like the “no comp time, some weeks you work more, live with it” mentality at least I can respect the honesty.  Keeping things grey is shady in my opinion….and we all know how many shades of grey there are.

3) Give employees choice.  I love it when comp time is an open policy in a company.  That being said, I am not a fan of the “hey you worked hard this week, take Friday off if you want comp time” approach.  Don’t get me wrong, some comp time is better than no comp time but I recommend giving employees the ability to choose when they can use those hours.  Maybe this Friday or a two-week window doesn’t work.   As long as it does not conflict with essential duties then what’s the harm?

4) Don’t rob the bank.  Managers often ask employees to record extra hours to keep tabs on how many comp hours are in the bank.  If  this is the system then respect the hours recorded.  A colleague’s supervisor once asked him to record all his extra hours which he gladly did.  During their weekly one-on-one session, the boss looked at the hours and declared: “that’s too many.”  In the end, my colleague lost some hours.   As a manager, if you’re going to ask someone to officially document the extra time they put in then be prepared for the reality that the results could be very high.

*The above example is based on HONESTLY recording hours.  Inflating the hours you work can get you fired and it is just bad practice.  Likewise, use some common sense when recording hours.  If you worked an extra hour one day but breaks went a little longer than expected then you may be best off not claiming that time.

5) Ebb and flow approach.  If counting hours is not your thing then consider the ebb and flow approach.  Hours aren’t counted or stored but if an employee needs to take half a day here or there or work extra hours earlier in the week in order to get another day off then go for it.  This may actually cause less conflict than haggling over hours or over an unofficial policy.  Beware, it is more art than science but in healthy working relationships may be a strong tool.

Unless you work in a highly unionized or systematized environment comp time will be an issue in some form.  Addressing the issue up front and clearly will help define expectations and avoid conflict.

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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. 

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

For more information visit www.paulartale.com

a bowl of chili

The Chili Factor: Keeping Your Sanity in Toxic Work Environments

It wasn’t the greatest place to work.  The pay was miniscule, my resources were limited, and in recent months the president of the company invaded my personal space, revamped the terms of my contract without notifying me, and micromanaged every decision my coworkers and I performed.  The stress from these situations bled into my personal life on several levels; including my marriage.

I wanted out….badly.

The problem was that searching for a new job is often a slow and cumbersome process; especially during a recession.  There was not much to look forward to and I resented being at work just about every single day that I was there.

Many of us were in similar boats.  We had our moments of sanity but if there was one thing that united us and gave us hope and lifted our spirits it was CHILI MONDAY!

At 11:40 am every Monday those two words would chime throughout the hallway and collectively we would all trek the cafeteria for a bowl of hot, tasty, honest-to-goodness chili.  Ok, in hindsight it was most likely made with leftovers from meatloaf night but at the time it was golden!

I don’t miss much if anything about that employer.  That being said, occasionally I do think about Chili Mondays, the excitement it created, the fun we had huddled around the table eating and sharing a few laughs.  Other lunches were good too but Mondays were special.

Unfortunately we don’t always work in dynamic and friendly environments. Scientifically speaking, sometimes our work situations suck but we have to weather the storm and stick it out until better opportunities arise.  Chili Monday taught me three things that made that work environment a little less toxic.

1) Get excited!  This can seem impossible when you are in a toxic work environment.  Maybe we got excited over chili because on some days, it was the only thing to get excited about.  You may have to dig hard for this one but it exists, trust me.  Sometimes it is a routine such as your morning cup of coffee while at other times it may be a special event.  Having something to look forward to makes the day(s) go bye just a little bit faster and keeps the positive juju flowing on some level.

2) Small victories and moments matter.  When things are terrible it can be difficult to find the good in any situation.  It is also very easy to focus on the negative.  Within every day there is always SOMETHING that is positive.  Focus on that as much as you can and the bad stuff will fade away….for a little while at least.

3) Isolation = Decimation.  The decimation of your sanity and happiness in particular.  I had some great coworkers with great senses of humor that improved the quality of many days.  Congregating in the cafeteria every Monday was an expression of that.  It was more about the comraderie than it was the chili.

Final Thought…

Toxic work environments can bring us down and can threaten to keep us there for a very long time.  Nobody wants to “live” in a place where fear, misery, and anger prevail all the time.  The next time things at work have taken a turn for the worse, take a moment and find your chili factor.  It can make the difference between sanity and insanity.

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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. 

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #burnout #motivation

For more information visit www.paulartale.com

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”

Results Oriented Work Environments: The Way of the Future?

In some ways there is nothing new about the Results Oriented Work Environment (or ROWE).  High performing managers and firms have rewarded people for their output and results for a long time now.  That being said, ROWE marks a conscious effort to research and advocate for a different type of workplace arrangement.

What is ROWE? 

 ROWE is a human resource strategy that is based on output rather than hours.  It focuses on results and disregards the counting of minutes, lunch hours, and emails answered.  ROWE has one central objective: get your job done.  Want to take a few days off?  Do it.  Need to work 65 hours this week to get a job done right?  You should do that too.  Continue reading “Results Oriented Work Environments: The Way of the Future?”

5 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU ANALYZE YOUR CAREER PATH IN STUDENT AFFAIRS

Most of us come into student affairs through some happy accident. Quite often, we were engaged as student-leaders and somehow discovered that we could get paid to do similar work.  My foray into student affairs came through athletics where I started as an assistant coach/hall director at a small private liberal arts college in Kansas. At the time I was going on the track to being a head coach. After a few years, athletic director seemed like a better fit. A few years after that I was just confused about what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to stay in student affairs, I just wasn’t sure where I fit in. It wasn’t until a mentor of mine posed these five questions to me that I was able to focus in on what I wanted and was able to make clearer career choices.

Question 1: Do you have any experience not related to your undergraduate interests? In other words, are you getting out of your comfort zone. I came into student affairs because of my experiences in athletics and helping to manage a fraternity house. I hadn’t done much outside of the athletic space. For me I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a position in academic advising to gauge fit and to expand my knowledge. This would prove to be critical experience for me years later when I ventured out of athletics and into graduate student success work. Continue reading “5 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU ANALYZE YOUR CAREER PATH IN STUDENT AFFAIRS”

The Work-Life Resolutions You Need To Consider

It’s that magical time of year where you may indulge in Holiday parties, reconnect with loved ones, and begin to reflect on the year that was.  You are days away from setting your new year’s resolutions.  After all, you want to start 2018 off on the right foot, right?  Before you do that, I want you to consider some work-life resolutions in addition to those that center around losing weight, saving money, and taking that dream vacation.  Here they are.  In in 2018 I want you to consider these four resolutons:

  1. SPEND MORE!  That’s right, don’t save it; spend it!  If you think I am talking about money, then you are wrong.  I am talking about spending more TIME on whatever you value most.  If that value is family, spend more time with them.  If you feel like you don’t have enough time for a hobby, spend your time there!  Success with time (as it is with money) is most effective if you tell it where to go.  It’s as simple as conducting a simple analysis of time spent, finding the deficiencies, and making a change.  Not sure how to do that?  Click HERE to get my simple time analysis activity worksheet.
  2. INCREASE YOUR INVESTMENTS!  Buy low, sell high right?  Luckily you aren’t going to get stock advice from me.  2018 is the year you should consider investing more in yourself.  My recommendation is to invest in personal development that helps you build a skill set you want to strengthen.  This could be professional in nature such as getting strengths coaching or personal as in hiring a personal trainer.  There are countess possibilities but the most important part is to do it.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot but it does have to grow and stretch you.

Continue reading “The Work-Life Resolutions You Need To Consider”