Further Thoughts on the “CEO Dads”: Schireson and El-Erian

Change is more likely to happen when the new generation of men in positions of corporate leadership see work-family not as a theoretical issue or one that only effects women but rather as something they see as a real challenge in their own lives

* Quick programming note. I’ll be part of a parent panel for Fox and Friends tomorrow (10/4) morning at around 9:20am. And next week, I’ll be featured both in an article and in a video interview with the Globe and Mail (Canada’s newspaper of record). Stay tuned for details.

Over the past few weeks, two CEOs, PIMCO’s Mohamed El-Erian and MongoDB’s Max Schireson, made headlines by stepping down in order to be more involved fathers. I reported on both, and even interviewed Schireson for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to reader feedback here and at WSJ, I have some further thoughts on the relative importance of their actions.

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How Family Support For Dads Also Helps Working Moms, Kids and Employers

My colleague’s story illustrates the negative ripple effects that a non-supportive employer has, not just on working dads, but also on their spouses, kids, and their own bottom line.

Employer support (or lack thereof) creates ripple effects for families (pixaby.com, creative commons)
Employer support (or lack thereof) creates ripple effects for families (pixaby.com, creative commons)

The other day, I was chatting with a new colleague. She had just returned from the workforce after having opted out of her career due to family demands. Her two young children had health problems, meaning that she and her husband needed some family support from their employers- but never received it.

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Work and Family, A Conflict of Generations?

Can the causes of work-family conflict be traced to generational differences in priorities? Here’s the evidence- plus what we Gen Xers can do to improve the situation.

Three generations. We all probably see the value of work-family balance a little differently
Three generations. We all probably see the value of work-family balance a little differently

Talkin’ About Our Generations

I think studies based on generational differences are over-rated. After all, how valid could it possibly be to lump together people 48 years old to 33 years old in order to compare them with people 49 to 67 years old? I mean, wouldn’t the 48 and 49 year olds have more in common with each other than the rest of their purported “groups”?

With that caveat, I recently came along “Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees,” by Greg Hammill, in which he summarized some of the findings about different work-related attitudes and values among generations. This chart caught my eye:

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Stockholm Syndrome, Learned Helplessness and Working Fathers

Many corporate cultures make it hard for dads to balance work and family. Let’s not compound the problem by also trapping ourselves. Here are 4 ways to avoid exacerbating our work-family struggles.

My cat's been an indoor cat so long, she doesn't even try to leave when we leave the door open. Sound familiar? photo credit: flossyflotsam via photopin cc
My cat’s been an indoor cat so long, she doesn’t even try to go outside when we leave the door open. photo credit: flossyflotsam via photopin cc

A Harvard Debate

I recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network*. In it, I discuss men’s flexibility stigma– that is, men who make use of workplace flexibility for family reasons often face negative perceptions and tangible repercussions, even moreso than women.

I then call for working dads who have job security and credibility to start to chip away at rigid company cultures so that it becomes more normal to talk about fathers’ work-family issues. This is a first step, I believe, in a long-term process of making more employers more amenable to work-family concerns.

Overall, the article was very well-received- tons of shares, tweets and comments, almost all of which were complimentary. Many said the piece resonated with them and thanked me for raising this important but under-publicized issue. But there was some debate as well. One commenter:

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4 Ways To Make It Safe For Dads To Talk About Family At Work (part 1 of a series)

Many workplaces are not open to men discussing family while at work. Here are a few things we all can do to help slowly change our workplace cultures so that fathers can feel more secure in discussing, addressing and even accommodating family demands at work.

You don't have to be in a mediocre sit-com to support your fellow male coworkers who also struggle with work-family challenges.
You don’t have to be in a mediocre sit-com to support your fellow male coworkers who also struggle with work-family challenges.

All Apologies

I apologize. Most of my advice so far has been to help dads navigate work-family issues as if our workplaces are intolerant of family concerns and that workplaces can never change. I’ve recommended that we keep relatively quiet about discussing family in the workplace, and to negotiate for telework justifying it solely with a business case.

To some degree, this was good advice. Many workplaces are not open to discussion of family, and work schedules and demands are still structured around an “all-in single-breadwinner with at-home spouse” approach that is a relic of another time.

But employers will never change if dads assume that employer hostility towards family demands are set in stone, and that dads must only resort to working through holes in the system, through informal arrangements or “invisible” accommodations.

Waiting on the World to Change

You know what? I’m tired of waiting (waiting) waiting on the (work)world to change. If my generation of busy involved dads don’t start making change happen, company cultures will remain unchallenged, and more and more dads will have to struggle seemingly alone. Change is possible, and there are some prominent examples of workplace cultures that are supportive of work-family.

So how can we start making changes? I’m glad you asked. I have a few ideas…

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My Presentation Today at the EAM-International Conference in Seville, Spain: Changing Work-Family Dynamics for Men

The academic life has its perks. Today, I am in the gloriously beautiful Seville, Spain, to present as part of a symposium on emerging and under-studied themes in work-family research and practice. I’ll be presenting about- surprise surprise- fathers’ work-family issues. Here’s a sneak peek.

Greetings from Seville! (photo from Trekexchange.com)
Greetings from Seville! (photo from Trekexchange.com)

My co-presenters are the fabulous:

  • Suzanne C. de Janasz from IMD in Switzerland
  • Monique Valcour from EDHEC in Nice, France (and who guest posted on this blog and writes great stuff at HBR blogs)
  • Diana Ritchie of the Spouse Career Centre in Switzerland, and
  • Joy Alice Schneer from Rider University in NJ.

I’m proud to be included in such great company.

The summary of our symposium:

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The Today Show’s Matt Lauer Discusses Work-Family Balance for Dads!

This morning, the Today Show ran a segment on fathers’ work-family issues. Along with other recent major media attention (Esquire, BusinessWeek), this high-profile segment is just another indication that society may be starting to grapple with these issues in a serious way. Yay!

The Today Show’s Matt Lauer Discusses Work-Family Balance for Dads

Matt Lauer Today Show
Matt Lauer discusses men’s work-family issues and the struggle to “Have it All” on the June 19th Today Show.

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The Challenges and Opportunities of Fathers, Work and Family, All in One Awesome Graphic

Fathers are more involved than ever. Fathers continue to face intense work pressures, inflexible workplace expectations- and are now feeling increased work-family imbalance and stress. A fantastic graphic from the NYC Dads Group and What to Expect shows the challenges men face today. The graphic illustrates why I am so passionate about fathers’ work-family challenges and the work we all need to do.

Welcome Thursday with Thirdpath Callers!

The guys at NYC Dads Group do incredible work. They have over 700 members throughout New York City- dads helping dads through peer support, new dad boot camps, meet-ups, podcasts, a great blog, and- nearest and dearest to my heart- information and resources for dads all over the country to start and grow their own dads groups (although I would rebrand them as BEER FIRES!)

NYC Dads Group recently partnered up with What to Expect, did some research on factors affecting fathers today (using valid data sources like Boston College’s “New Dads” study, Pew Surveys, and the Families and Work Institute), and presented the issues in one stunningly brilliant infographic. Here it is:

Please click "read more" to see this entire great infographic
Please click “read more” to see this entire great infographic

(full picture after the jump)

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Fathers’ Work-Family Issues Hit The Mainstream Media

Over the past few weeks, articles have appeared in major mainstream media outlets reporting and commenting on work-family issues for dads. For someone who has been a fathers, work and family advocate for a long time, I couldn’t be happier. Here’s a sampling of recent articles, and my commentary on this trend.

Dad's Work-Family Issues made the cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek this week!!!!!
Dads’ Work-Family Issues made the cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek!!!!!

While there is a danger that men, work and family will be reported on only as a short-term novelty, I am highly encouraged by all this media attention. I have always maintained that when more attention is paid to men’s work-family issues:

  • Men who struggle with these issues may realize they are not alone
  • Supervisors and business leaders may realize this is a serious business issue that requires some thought and attention
  • These issues become more normal and acceptable to talk about at home and in society- and most importantly- in workplaces across the country
  • The business case for considering men in work-family conversations and solutions becomes more evident

Here are links to some recent articles:

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Staying Connected with Your Kids When Traveling for Work

Traveling for work is often a necessary evil for busy working dads. Here’s one dad’s experience and advice for staying connected with family while on business trips.

Guest blogger, Jason Swann with his kids
Guest blogger Jason Swann with his kids

Staying Connected When Traveling for Work

A Guest Post by Jason Swann, who blogs as The Cheeky Daddy

It begins with dinner, moves to bath and jammy time, eases into books and stories, then ends with hugs and kisses. Simple, yes?

NO!

I’ve seen cowboys break a mustang before and THAT looked easier than building our homestead customs. People, our children have let us know that they need routine, stability, and for heaven’s sake, DON’T forget that story! It runs like clockwork and I say again, one tilt in the balance of our family ecosystem and we’re either up throughout the night with little ones, or it all ends in tears.

So when I announce that there’s a trip of any significant length coming up, the groans begin. First, The Wife expresses her reservations, then her fears, then her acceptance. Once the kids get wind of it, there’s even more complaint, but in the form of a sweet siren’s song of “daddy, don’t go.” Heart strings are pulled, emotions run high, and I begin to wonder if I might be able to support my family as a man of leisure. You know, a man’s man, or man about town. No? Bah,…worth a try. It still begs the question: How does our family get by when daddy has to travel?

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Expert Q&A with Dr. Mark Promislo on Materialism and Work-Family Conflict

(or, The Dangers of Valuing Money More than People)

Mark Promislo is a husband, father of two young girls, and a management professor at Rider University (and a friend, but most importantly an active blog reader and commenter!), who recently authored a great study on the effects of materialism on work-family conflict. I asked him a few questions about his life, his work, and his study– which I think has implications for working dads.

Mark's research shows the negative effects of valuing material possessions on work-family balance and well-being
Mark’s research shows the negative effects of valuing material possessions on work-family balance and well-being

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How to Cope with Work-Family Conflict and Stress (part 1)

Part 1 of a Series- Problem Focused Coping

In this series of articles, I’ll look at research and best practices to provide some advice on how to better handle the stress that comes with juggling work-family conflict.

Ever feel like this because of work-family conflict? Maybe problem-focused coping can help.
Ever feel like this because of work-family conflict? Maybe problem-focused coping can help.

You promised your family you’d get home early to get to the school recital. But your boss just pushed back the department meeting to the end of the day. You can’t be in two places at once.

What do you do? (we’ll get to that)

How do you feel? STRESSED

Stress occurs when the demands you face (promise made to family vs. work demands) seem to exceed your capacity for handling them (Can you miss the meeting without consequences? How will your family react?).

Obviously, work-family conflict can result in significant levels of stress, as the demands of our two most important and demanding adult roles (family and work) compete for a finite resource, time, as well as an only-slowly-renewable resource, our mental and emotional energy.

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