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8 posts from June 2009

June 29, 2009

Do you have survivor syndrome?

Harried employee It's creeping into offices nationwide....survivor syndrome.

I've seen it first hand at my newspaper and I'm sure many of you have experienced it. It's that anxiety that permeates a workplace after job cuts.

If you have it, maybe it shows up in the way you dread walking through your office door or maybe you feel that it's only a matter of time before the other shoe drops.

A new report out today says employers are admitting the biggest challenge they face in the wake of layoffs is keeping the surviving employees engaged and focused. The next biggest challenge was easing anxiety over the possibility of additional layoffs, according to a new survey by global outplacement firm, Challenger Gray & Christmas.

If you have survivor syndrome, here's a bit of bad news that may make you even more anxious: More layoffs are highly probable. Challenger says that although downsizing remains slow during the summer months, if the past is any indication, the pace could accelerate again in the third and fourth quarters. The latest survey of CEOs by the Business Roundtable supports the less-than-optimistic outlook.

Experts advise employers to address survivor syndrome head on because companies that have layoffs also have a higher turnover rate.

"You cannot simply tell employees to ‘do more with less.’  There must be a back-and-forth dialog to address employees’ concerns and fears," says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "They must be an active part of the problem-solving process."

Challenger says even details such as the physical layout of the office should be addressed.  "Many companies overlook this, but it is not hard to imagine the psychological effects of coming into a workspace where large portions of the desks are empty, serving as a constant reminder of downsized colleagues,” (So true!)

If you have survivor syndrome, what could your employer do that would make a difference?

June 19, 2009

My big move and my struggle with work/life balance

     On Wednesday, my family moved to a new home. We didn't move far less than 10 miles away. We moved some of our stuff -- clothes, toys, shoes -- ourselves, which probably wasn't the easiest way to do it. Still, I completely struggled with work/life balance for weeks as you can tell from my blog posts which were less frequent. I missed several columns in a row, which is unheard of for me. I did managed to write a Father's Day story. Yet, I wish I could have been more productive at work and home.

    This is one of only a handful of times in my life that I moved, and the ONLY time since I have had children. So my question to those of you more experienced is this: If you have moved and held a job at the same time, how did you manage it? What tips can you share?

June 14, 2009

Doing it all is overrated

       I can make dinner, shoot off an e-mail and chat with my daughter all at the same time. Of course, I would like to be recognized as a mom who does it all. But I must admit that there are certain contributions my husband makes -- like helping my daughter with her math homework, or picking my son up from soccer practice -- that make me glad I'm part of a working couple.

     Emily Allen writes on Midwest Voices : "I won’t be the one to dispute that women can juggle with skill. We can, but doing it alone is overrated.

       So true, Emily, so true.

       How many of you think women do more at home than men?

      As Father's Day nears, the good news is that increasingly, men are becoming more involved at home.  A recent report by the Families and Work Institute shows that dads are spending more time with their children than ever before. For years, even if there were two working parents, most American women were cleaning more, cooking more and spending more time with their kids than their husbands or partners were. Significantly more.

       “Times Are Changing: Gender and Generation At Work and At Home” reports that men are taking more overall responsibility for the care of their children than they did in 1992, with their involvement up nearly 10 percent. They are not only providing one-on-one care but also taking more initiative to arrange child care and help in the home. 

       But moms, before you turn your aprons over to your spouse, take note: it's not 50-50 between the sexes --- yet. The study shows that women are still doing most of the cooking. Still, the amount of time men are devoting to hearth and home is catching up to their female partners.

       I grew up without my father in my home. I watched my mom struggle with balancing her job as a teacher with raising three children. And I know it's much easier for me to raise three children with their dad helping me out.  But the real benefit is to my children.

      As Emily points out: "Children do better with an engaged, well-adjusted father around. Families need men and they need men’s contributions to the family." Studies show that a father’s involvement in the home and with the children has positive effects on a child’s cognitive development, academic achievement and self-perception as well as decreasing behavioral problems and risky behaviors.

     One obvious sign that father's are participating more in parenting, and enjoying it, is the proliferation of dad blogs. I enjoy hearing the male perspective on blogs suchas Jeff Kleinman's, On The Parent Shift. Jeff works the night shift and gets the honors of making breakfast, packing lunch, driving his girls to school, attending the teacher conferences, carrying in the science projects, volunteering in classes, picking up a sick kid and doing the grocery shopping. Can you imagine how much Jeff's daughter's benefit from his contributions?

   Dadandkids    Father’s Day, June 21, is a good time for us to let fathers know how necessary they are to the fabric of the family. Let's hear it for the working dads!


June 12, 2009

When and why do dads want to be thanked

My husband thinks I should thank him for doing things like putting a kid to bed or folding laundry. It makes me crazy because he would never consider thanking me for the same chores. But I've learned that saying thank you is a motivator for him, so I've stopped fighting his need to be thanked and I just do it.

This morning, I read the dad blog on WorkItMom.com. It caught my attention because Avi Spivack, in honor of the upcoming Father's Day, writes a cheat sheet for his wife about why and when he should be appreciated.

Here are a few things on his list of when he wants to be thanked:

 When I assemble a highly complicated piece of IKEA furniture
 When I wipe our child’s butt after a particularly gnarly bowel movement
 When I make the bed
 When I hang pictures level on the wall

Here is is list of how he wants to be thanked:

1. “Thank you, honey. Boy, you are strong.”
2. “Thank you, dear. Wow, you are so tall.”
3. “Thank you, sweetie, you are such a MAN.”
4. You get the idea…

To Avi, I say "thank you for providing this list. I hope you wife gives you a cheat sheet as well."

So let's hear it. What do you want to be thanked for and do you let your spouse know?

June 11, 2009

Summer vacation essential: layoff insurance

         My friend had an amazing European summer vacation planned and then.....horrors, his job was eliminated. Even though his firm gave him severance, he grew extremely worried about spending money to travel when he would need it for basic survival. Unfortunately, as we've seen in recent months, job loss can happen to anyone. That's why layoff insurance is proving to be this summer's vacation essential.

      An article in Marie Claire says antsy employees worried they will have to bag their getaways  in the event of a downsizing are shelling out the bucks for layoff insurance (a feature of many travel insurance policies), which reimburses nonrefundable expenses, like airfare and hotel deposits. Sales of these policies are doubling, travel insurance companies report.

   According to CNN.com/travel, the policies usually cost a relatively small percentage of the trip price, depending on certain risk factors. For example, a package that includes layoff insurance on a $2,000 trip to China is running about $50 to $125 for a 30-year-old traveler.

  Some Web sites allow travelers to compare insurance policies from several companies at once. Two of the main aggregator sites, according to people contacted by CNN, are Squaremouth.com and InsureMyTrip.com.

    Even cruise lines like NCL offer their own layoff-insurance programs. Agents advise checking the fine print before buying a policy -- some require you be with your firm at least a few years, others require you are a full timer. Many also provide coverage if your tour operator goes under. As Marie Claire notes, "There's not a a Pina Colada on earth that offers that kinds of peace of mind."

June 09, 2009

Alex Sink, candidate for governor, PTA mom?

    Alexsink                                                                             Alex Sink, CFO of Florida, the candidate vying to be Florida's first female governor wants to strategically position herself as a PTA mom. Who knew the term would carry weight? Was it Sarah Palin who made being a PTA mom/hockey mom an asset or was it Nancy Pelosi?

    I have followed the career of Alex Sink for many years, which is why it caught me off guard when I read in The Miami Herald that she made a speech here yesterday and spoke of her pride as a PTA mom "who started her son and daughter's math club." In her first big speech, Sink never once uttered "banker." I have no doubt that Sink was involved in her children's lives. Her husband, a powerful lawyer who ran a large Florida law firm, was involved in their lives, too. I always admired the way the two of them formed a real partnership to balance work and family, complete with the time management struggles most working parents endure.

   But I always admired Sink most for the way she climbed to the top in a male dominated industry. She is the former Florida president of Bank of America, not an easy accomplishment for a woman. I once heard Sink speak to a woman's group about how a male top executive at the bank where she worked had mentored her and taught her just how to blend the tough and compassionate to be a real leader. Sink had a top job in the banking world, raised a family, helped her husband campaign for governor and has had a good run in her Cabinet-level post as chief executive officer of the state. I want her to talk about her life as a working mom, not just as a PTA mom. I don't care that banking is in a state of turmoil today and that bankers have lost their clout. I want to hear about Sink's accomplishments in business, government and in her family life. 

   Sink is the underdog in her race. She knows she needs to let the Florida voters know who she is and how she is different from her opponent who already has name recognition. She chose to talk about her personal story as a mom and as a child growing up on a farm. It's a good start. But  Alex Sink, if you are going to do us working mothers proud, we need less PTA and more of the complete package.


June 04, 2009

Recession has women leaders struggling more with work/life balance

     At dinner, I talk with my kids about my day. I share my work joys and aggravations. Other working mothers do this, too. Much more than dads. Why is that?

    It seems women, even the most succcessful ones, bring their work lives home and their home lives to work. In a new survey released today by FIU and The Commonwealth South Florida finds the majority of CEOs of 116 women-led businesses in Florida said having a successful day at work puts them in a good mood to assist their family. Two-thirds of women leaders are postive about work becaue they feel good about themselves in their family roles. And, an overwhelming majority of women leaders said they talk about work problems and concerns with their family.

     Balance is becoming a big concern.

   During the economic downturn, women are working harder to keep their companies thriving without having to cut staff. Not surprising, women leaders said they are struggling more with work/life balance. In last year's survey, 61 percent felt satisfied with their work/life balance. This year, it dropped to only 56 percent.

   For my Miami Herald article today, I asked Joyce Landry of Landry & Kling, one of the largest women-led business in the state, what she thinks of the drop in satisfication with balance.

   Joyce said the topic of balance comes up consistently when women business leaders talk shop.

   "I don’t know if exacerat or always there and relctant to talk abourt it haven’t wanted it to seem an issue. Always high on priority list for owmen, do tend to work to exclusion  f other things. Have to step outside of themselves . continual struggle women have to work through in careers.

    Like me, Joyce talks about her work concerns at home, more so than her husband, she says. "Women have fewer boundaries when it comes to blending business and family lives. It all becomes one. Maybe it's part of multi-tasking...women don't compartamentalize. My husband is able to separate that better."

     Why do you think women are struggling more with work/life balance? Do you feel women bring their work problems home more than men?

June 02, 2009

Why Hate Kate?

Jon&kate The Internet is heating up with bloggers who have strong opinions on Kate Gosselin.

One of the best blog posts I have read is on MomsMiami.com. Blogger Mama Sass asks, "Why Hate Kate?" In her post, she points out that Kate is shrew-like. She snaps at her husband on national television. She’s bossy. She may have even fooled around with her bodyguard. But why is Kate, the better half of TLC’s Monday night reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8, getting such a raw deal from the media? While that lame-o, college-dropout husband of hers wins over public opinion despite his alleged infidelity, tabloid magazine covers are crucifying his strong-willed wife as Mommie Dearest.

(Yeah, why is that?)

   Mama Sass points out that Kate merely is trying to balance work and family. She writes:  Kate’s only mistake is trying to milk as many freebies and dollars as she can for her kids out of her 15 fleeting minutes of fame. Any self-respecting mom of multiple multiples would scramble to do the same. How else do you feed, clothe and send eight kids to college? (Octomom, who’s looking more and more functional every day, just inked a deal with a British production company to start filming her own reality TV show.)

    Mama Sass goes on to write, "While Kate Gosselin is rushing around, writing books, appearing at speaking engagements, and wiping little butts, her "poor" husband wallows in the uncertainty of what he wants to do with the rest of his life. He certainly now has the means to go back to college and finish his degree, but he shows no signs of pursuing that. Or doing much work of any kind. This is the classic case of an overworked and exasperated mom shouldering more than her share of work while hubby lays on the couch, dreaming about surfing and forgetting to take out the trash. What woman wouldn’t snap at that?"

    So, what do you think? Are Kate's expectations of Jon too high? Are his expectations too high? Do you see any similarities to yourself or your partner at all in the Gosselins?