Taking My Own Advice on Fatherhood, Work and Family (or, helping my wife Lean In)

My wife just started a new show, leaving me to shoulder the load for a while so I can help her “Lean In” to her career. Four ways our family is preparing, plus a plea for advice.

My wife's career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling
My wife’s career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling

I’ve written before about my wife’s career as a stage actress and the work-family challenges it presents:.

Amy is a musical theater actress, and her work schedule is demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible (but, even in her brutally competitive field, she is talented enough to be working all the time!).  If she’s called for an audition, it is often scheduled for tomorrow! and it cannot be rescheduled to fit her preferences.

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Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer and a Big Step Backwards

Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! banned working from home. Why it was the wrong decision, and how it sends a dangerous signal.

Who'da thought she'd be the one setting back the cause of working parents?
Who’da thought she’d be the one setting back the cause of working parents?

(Welcome NPR listeners! If you like the article, please follow the blog via RSS, email, facebook or twitter)

I’ve long believed that businesses would become much more flexible and progressive when it comes to work-family issues when those of my generation rose to positions of leadership.

Current 40-somethings are the first to grow up with dual-career couples for parents, while mostly being in dual-career marriages in their own lives. This generation of leaders is also more diverse and gender-equal than any that came before. This perspective, I’ve always thought, would finally lead to widespread understanding that workplace flexibility is not just a nice thing to do, but is good business- keeping step with our changing world improves a company’s ability to better attract and retain top talent.

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Why Women (nope) Men (nope) NO ONE Can “Have It All”

It is not surprising to me that “women still can’t have it all” and “men can’t have it all either.” The simple fact is  Women Men No One Can Have It All

Over the past generation or so, we’ve seen a huge shift in expectations and opportunities for women. While much progress has been made (and we are all the better for it), women still face stereotypes and discrimination as they “try to have it all” and move beyond traditional role expectations.

The current difficulties for women in the workplace and women trying to balance work and family were covered brilliantly by Anne-Marie Slaughter in a recent Atlantic cover story (and far more stupidly superficially by Ann Friedman in NY Magazine). Slaughter’s article deservedly received accolades and huge amounts of media attention, and I know I’m very late to the party in commenting on it. (And to her immense credit, Slaughter also wrote a great follow-up piece on men, work and family)

In short, Slaughter makes the case that women still face significant obstacles and difficulties as they try to remain heavily involved in their traditional roles (parenting, caretaking) while also expanding their involvement in traditional men’s roles (providing, working outside the home).

There is increasing evidence that the converse is increasingly true for men. Men now face significant obstacles and difficulties as they try to remain heavily involved in their traditional roles (providing, working outside the home) while also expanding their involvement in traditional women’s roles (parenting, caretaking).

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Negotiating for Work Flexibility

Part 4 of a 4 Part Series- Putting it all together

Use my advice, and even the pointy-haired boss may approve your request (bless you, Scott Adams)
Use my advice, and even the pointy-haired boss may approve your request (bless you, Scott Adams)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a series of articles about negotiating with your supervisor for a more flexible work arrangement, in which you can get more control over where and when some of your work is accomplished.

Like any request or negotiation, the key is to see the situation from the other person’s side and then communicate so that you dispel most of their concerns and show them how they benefit from the arrangement (a la Fisher & Ury’s “Getting to Yes” or Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”).

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Expert Perspectives: Are Your Finances Foiling Your Job Flexibility?

A guest post by Pat Katepoo

While I spend some time with Nick, my friend, Pat Katepoo takes over today with a GREAT guest post.  I'll be back on Thursday.
While I spend some time with Nick, my friend, Pat Katepoo takes over today with a GREAT guest post. I’ll be back on Thursday.

Last week, I heard from a state government employee who told me his current job provides him with “much flexibility and work life balance.”

Josiah (name/details changed to preserve anonymity) said he works an average of 35 hours a week, plus he can flex his hours as needed to meet family needs that come up. Oh, and he makes more than $125,000 a year.

All that’s the good news.

The bad news? Impending state-mandated furloughs along with 12% across-the-board pay cuts. It’s a salary slashing Josiah says he can’t absorb, forcing him to respond to an opening for another higher-paying job. A job where the culture is far from flexible.

Josiah came to me with his dilemma: “I’m devastated about the pay cut, but even more scared of the prospect of going to a new job where I no longer have the flexible schedule I currently have.”

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Negotiating for Work Flexibility (part 3): Fairness Concerns

Why Bosses Say “No” to Flexible Work Arrangements (and what you can do about it).

Part 3 of a Series: They Have the Wrong Idea about Fairness

Despite some prominent examples of companies with progressive cultures when it comes to work-family balance (see this list for examples), most company cultures and supervisors are not particularly supportive, especially of dads trying to balance work and family. Most companies demand long work hours and promote “face time” or “time at the office” as proxy measures for performance and dedication to the company (see this article for an excellent discussion).

No one documents bad supervision better than Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

It is brave to stand out and make a case for a time and place flexibility for your work.  However, it is not impossible, and, depending on your situation, it may be well worth it despite the risks.

Like any request or negotiation, the key is to see the situation from the other person’s side and then communicate so that you dispel most of their concerns and show them how they benefit from the arrangement (Fisher & Ury’s “Getting to Yes” or Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”). The first step is anticipating why your supervisor may say no and proactively address these concerns.

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Negotiating for Flexibility at Work: Bosses Don’t Know the Facts About Telecommuting

Part 2 of a Series: They Don’t Know the Facts About Telecommuting

Despite some prominent examples of companies with progressive cultures when it comes to work-family balance (see this list for examples), most company cultures and supervisors are not particularly supportive, especially of dads trying to balance work and family.  It is brave to stand out and make a case for a time and place flexibility for your work.

“So, Peter, what’s happening? Ummm, I’m gonna have to ask you to come in this weekend… That’s great. okay?”

Like any request or negotiation, the key is to see the situation from the other person’s side and then communicate so that you dispel most of their concerns and show them how they benefit from the arrangement (a la Fisher & Ury’s “Getting to Yes” or Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”).  The first step is anticipating why your supervisor may say no and proactively address these concerns.

About a week ago, I wrote about one major reason why supervisors may resist flexible work arrangements- they may believe they’ll lose the ability to monitor and assess your performance, and how we can address this concern.

In this article, I’ll discuss a second major reason why supervisors may resist more flexible work arrangements- They don’t know enough about the benefits of telecommuting and just how common it is becoming.  If you want to work out a flexible work arrangement with your supervisor, you may need to educate him/her on telecommuting.  Here’s some information to help you do so.

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My Work-Family Balance Story

After a month or so of writing this blog, I realize that I should have started from the beginning- by sharing my own work-family balance story.  So, please allow myself to introduce…myself…

I’m a very lucky dad!

I’m lucky in that, as a college professor, I have a career with a lot of built-in flexibility in terms of where and when I get most of my work done.  Aside from classes, office hours and occasional meetings and campus events (usually about 15-20 hours a week), all my other work- class prep, grading, research writing, statistical analysis, committee work- can be done from anywhere at anytime- as long as it gets done (my work motto: have laptop, will travel).  I could be grading, preparing, teaching or even writing this blog in my pajamas from the Bahamas, although it is usually from the dining room table.

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Negotiating for Flexibility at Work: Why Bosses Say “No” to Flexible Work Arrangements (and what you can do about it).

Part 1 of a Series: They’re Bad at Evaluating Performance

Let’s face it, despite some prominent examples of companies with progressive cultures when it comes to work-family balance (see this list for examples), most company cultures and supervisors are not particularly supportive, especially of dads trying to balance work and family.  Most companies demand long work hours and promote “face time” or “time at the office” as proxy measures for performance and dedication to the company (see this article for an excellent discussion).

“So, Peter, what’s happening? Ummm, I’m gonna have to ask you to come in this weekend… That’s great. okay?”

It is brave to stand out and make a case for a time and place flexibility for your work.   However, that’s not to say that it is impossible, and, depending on your situation, it may be well worth it despite the risks.

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What’s the Work-Family Culture Like in Your Workplace?

The Families and Work Institute has been surveying people about work and family issues for the past two decades in their National Studies of the Changing Workforce.  If you follow their results over time, it is encouraging to note that more and more respondents report that their workplaces and jobs are more flexible and supportive than ever.  There is a still a long way to go, and progress is stronger in some industries and for certain types of jobs. And, while workplaces have become, in general, more flexible and “family friendly”, the pressures and expectations to devote more and more hours either at work or working on job responsibilities continue to increase.

In this post, I’d like to share with you the questions the Families and Work Institute asks in their surveys in terms of workplace flexibility and support for balancing work and family roles.  This may help you think through and assess how your workplace stacks up, and what barriers or supports you may face in your workplace. 

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