The Good News From the Adam LaRoche Situation

The Adam LaRoche situation stirred controversy. However, it also validated involved fatherhood
The Adam LaRoche situation stirred controversy. However, it also validated involved fatherhood (Wikimedia/creative commons)

The Adam LaRoche situation, even with its controversy, validates how far we’ve come in recognizing the importance of involved fatherhood.

Baseball and fatherhood are my two favorite topics, so when the curious case of Adam LaRoche and his fatherhood-related exit from the Chicago White Sox broke last week, some asked me for my thoughts.

After all, the last time fatherhood and baseball crashed together like this was when Daniel Murphy was criticized for taking paternity leave two years ago. As that story was blowing up, I made sure to jump on it quickly, and got my first national TV interview, an article in the Wall Street Journal, and lots of other inquiries from journalists looking for some commentary.

This time around, though, I hesitated to jump in with my analysis. And I’m glad I did, as the details are murkier and the issue is not as black and white.

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Why Don’t More Men Walk The Talk on Work-Family?

When surveyed, dads overwhelmingly say that they would prefer to share childcare and housework relatively equally with their spouses, and would prefer to use flexibility and parental leave to better balance work and family. However, the data show that while men have made significant progress on both fronts, our actions do not match our intentions–leaving us more “locked into” work and less involved at home than we’d like.

I was lucky that my  career, "paternity leave" experience and family dynamics were conducive to my being a very involved dad.
I was lucky that my career, employer flexibility and family dynamics were conducive to my being a very involved dad.

There are a few reasons for this mismatch. While corporate cultures and lack of societal support are major problems, it is also true that we sometimes get in our own way. Here’s a quick rundown of the barriers today’s dads face, including some advice on how we may be able to change our situations (future posts will dive more deeply into each topic).

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Leading By Example: EY’s CEO Mark Weinberger on Work and Family

At the recent White House Summit on Working Families, Ernst & Young’s CEO Mark Weinberger told an anecdote that, to me, represents our best hope that corporate leadership is finally recognizing the importance of work-family balance and will begin to sincerely address this issue.

EY's CEO Mark Weinberger (center) spoke about his personal work-family balance priorities at the White House Summit on Working Families
EY’s CEO Mark Weinberger (center) spoke about work-family balance at the White House Summit on Working Families

The White House Summit was a glitzy affair- The President, Vice President, the First Lady, Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Robin Roberts and other bigwigs all spoke about the importance of supporting working families.

However, for me, one of the standouts of the Summit was the understated CEO of EY, Mark Weinberger. He spoke during the first panel discussion (along with Economist Claudia Goldin, entrepreneur Makini Howell, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, and moderator Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic) about how supporting family is also good for business.

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Workplace Flexibility: The Key to Work-Family Balance?

Workplace flexibility is a key for working parents trying to balance work and family. Here are some questions that can help us assess the flexibility we have at work, and some ideas about how to leverage them.

a screencap of my recent HBR article
A screencap of my recent HBR article aimed at supervisors. What are its implications for us working dads? Keep reading to find out!

Last week, I wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review blog in which I advised well-intentioned supervisors on how to be more “family-friendly” while upholding performance standards. My advice was:

  1. Focus on What, Not How or When

  2. Get Better at Measuring Performance

  3. Delegate, Coach, and Let Your People Earn Trust

  4. Serve as a Work-Family Balance Role Model

The common thread for the first three items is allowing employees more flexibility in how, where and when they perform their jobs, while still maintaining high standards for what. Overall, I think it is sound advice for managers, and the piece was very well-received.

However, I largely write this blog to help my fellow working dads navigate work and family issues. So, what are the implications of this article for the working father?

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One Million for Work Flexibility

Here’s something we can do to raise our voices together in support of work flexibility!

Welcome Harvard Business Review Readers! Please take a look around this website, including the category links to the right and my writing at HBR and other outlets above. if you like what you see, you can follow this blog via facebook, twitter or email (see links to the right). Thanks for visiting!

As I noted last week, October is National Work and Family Month– an effort to raise awareness of the importance of work-family balance for employees and employers. I am happy to also be a part of a second advocacy push- One Million for Work Flexibility.

1MFWF-website-badge

One Million for Work Flexibility seeks to get, well, one million individuals and companies to voice their support for workplace flexibility. By uniting our voice, we will be better able to successfully advocate for changes to corporate and public policy.

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What’s a Working Dad to Do? (republished from HBR Blog)

On Wednesday August 21st, I published my first article at the Harvard Business Review Blog. The response to the piece has been great, and for quite a while it was one of the most read pieces at their site! For those who haven’t seen the article yet, here’s the beginning, plus a link to the … Read more

The “Opt-Out Generation,” Mothers, Fathers, Work and Family

Welcome HBR Readers! Please take a look around (see the “best of” category link on the right-hand side of the page) and feel free to like/follow the blog and spread the word.

Most of us don’t want to opt-out of a rewarding, successful career. Most of us don’t want to opt-out of being a present, involved parent. Hopefully our generation can find a more balanced, integrated path.

A screencap of the recent NYTimes Magazine cover story
A screencap of the recent NYTimes Magazine cover story

The NYTimes Sunday Magazine’s fascinating cover story, “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In” by Judith Warner, paints a complex picture of the dynamics of work and family. While it focuses on high-earning women who gave up their careers to be stay-at-home moms, it has very interesting things to say about how men’s and women’s progress towards work-family balance are inextricably tied.

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Pioneering Fathers Needed: Dare to Be Visible in Using Work Flexibility

Many workplaces are not open to men prioritizing family while at work. To change this, we need visible role models- fathers who are both respected at work and take noticeable actions to balance family responsibilities. If you have the security and courage to do so, here’s some advice on how you can become that role model. (part 2 of a series)

I'm calling for dads to stand up for work-family balance, but not for Jerry MaGuire-level career suicide.
I’m calling for dads to stand up for work-family balance, but not for Jerry MaGuire-level career suicide.

Two weeks ago, I began a series of articles* about how we can “be the change we wish to see” and help make our workplaces more accepting of fathers’ work-family issues. We can do this by:

  • Talking about our families & asking other men about theirs (see part 1)

  • Making sure other men in our workplaces see us occasionally use work flexibility for family reasons

  • Taking paternity leave

  • Starting a Beer Fire! (a group of male coworkers to discuss life outside of work)

In the first installment, I wrote about how we can make coworkers feel more comfortable discussing their families while at work by taking the lead and starting these conversations. Today, I’d like to go one step further and discuss how we can use our actions to role-model work-family accommodations.

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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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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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Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and Its Lessons For Working Dads

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” also contains lessons for working dads

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's new book, "Lean In" also has some great lessons for working dads
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In” also has some great lessons for working dads

I admit I haven’t yet read Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”- it was just released today. But I have read a lot of what has been written about the book, and think that, while Sandberg’s book was obviously written for working women, it contains lessons for dads as well.  I’ll read and review the book as soon as I can (if it is as good as her TED talk, it will be excellent), but until then, here’s what I’ve picked up so far from the media coverage:

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