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12 posts from January 2010

January 31, 2010

Law firm chairman's message to young lawyers on work/life balance

Last week, I had an interesting conversation with Cesar Alvarez, the man who lead the Miami law firm of Greenberg Traurig to become one of the largest in the country. Cesar is a Cuban American who has tremendous pride for the opportunities available in the United States, legal profession and his law firm. For the last 14 years, he wielded tremendous power as CEO of the firm, what he calls a 24/7, 365 day a year job. My full interview appears in The Miami Herald.

I asked Cesar what he tells young associates about work/life balance. I also asked him about whether it takes tremendous personal sacrifice to be a good lawyer today. His response was pretty sobering.

Check out the video below and tell me your thoughts.

January 25, 2010

Structure to your day, not good for work/life balance?

 I know it's only Monday, but here's another reason you should look forward to the weekend -- it's when people are the happiest, according to the latest work/life balance research. That may seem obvious but new research published in the January issue of Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology reveals some interesting observations.

It turns out I was wrong about everything I ever thought was great about having structure in my day. Personally, structure makes me feel productive. But the study, blogged about in the Los Angeles Times, says even those of us who love our jobs feel happier on the weekends because it's when we have the least amount of structure in our day.

Even more, no matter what type of profession one is in or how much one is paid, everyone is happier on weekends. People love the freedom associated with weekends and even feel better physically.

Taking it a step further, people even said they feel more competent during the weekends than they do while at their day-to-day jobs. Researchers said the study reinforces how important leisure time is to well being. Think about that next time you want to cram all kinds of activities into your weekend.

"The relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing -- basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork," the lead author of the study, Richard Ryan, from the University of Rochester, said in a news release. The study was based on responses from 74 volunteers age 18 to 62.

What would you have said if you were polled? Are you happier when there's less structure and more freedom in your day? Do the findings inspire you to set more time aside for leisure?Smiling people


January 21, 2010

What are bad manners these days?

   In this digital age, I'm really starting to wonder what constitutes bad manners. Is texting in the presence of others bad manners? To me, texting is like having a private conversation in which the person you are with isn't a participant. Is that rude? I'm not sure anymore. Everyone around me these days is texting while I'm talking to them.

What is modern-day etiquette for business and social situations? Is it rude not to look a co-worker in the eye and say hello on the elevator if he is pressing buttons on his iPhone? I would imagine Ms. Manners would say yes. But the majority of the people I rode the elevator with recently were doing it.

   Yesterday, I spoke to the Women's Executive Club, Fort Lauderdale. The topic was balancing work life and the digital age. One woman asked me if its rude not to answer her client's phone calls late at night when that's the time most of them need to reach her. Clearly, no one should have to be available 24/7 but if that's when her client's need her, maybe it is rude not to answer their calls.

 I think in today's hyper-connected world, we need to set some rules upfront in the workplace to avoid coming off as rude: On her Works blog, Nicole Williams says: Before a big meeting, meet with your co-workers to review important points, including etiquette: “Remember, this is a big presentation—let’s have cell phones off” or “I know we’ve all seen this PowerPoint a million times, but the Miller Technology folks haven’t, so act interested and engaged during the entire presentation.” By reminding co-workers that good etiquette is expected, they just might do it. (Check out Nicole's quiz; How Well-Mannered are You?)

A seniors blogI read really made me think about my tech etiquette.  Cookie Curci writes about a friend who came to visit. "Instead of a friendly hug, I was given a dispassionate nod, and I had to wait while she continued a conversation on her cell phone. My friend continued her robust dialog a good 5 minutes before finally removing the uninvited, cellular intruder from her ear. I realize that my friend is a busy career woman and business must be conducted regularly on her cell phone. But it's just plain good manners to finish her phone conversations while in her car and turn off her cell-phone long enough to greet me properly."  

   Clearly, new technology brings a need for a whole new set of rituals, customs and, above all else, good manners. All this new technology in the world comes down to one thing -  human need to connect. But maybe, how we do this and where we do this may need to be reexamined.

What do you consider bad manners? Have you changed your mind lately about what you consider good and bad etiquette at work and home?



January 20, 2010

Marriage: a financial boost for men

 Fascinating information released today by Pew Research Center: While women used to get married for financial stability, not anymore. Now the men are doing it!

  Men are increasingly getting the biggest economic boost from tying the knot. The changes come after a period in which American women outpaced men in both education and earnings growth. What that means for marriages is that a greater share of women are married to men with less education and income. "In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men," said the report's authors Richard Fray and D'Vera Cohn.

  The Pew report focuses on people ages 30-44 -- a stage when typical adults have finished their education, married and launched careers. The Pew report also noted that today's Americans in this age group are the first such cohort in U.S. history to include more woman than men with college degrees.

   Here are some more interesting numbers: In 1970, only 4 percent of husbands had wives that earned more than they did. In 2007, 22 percent of men had wives that earned more. I bet that number is even higher in 2009.

    So what does this mean for marriage? To me, it looks like men have less reason to stay single. What does it say to you? Would you have guessed that this trend was taking place?


January 18, 2010

It's MLK day, are you working?

I am toiling away at my computer today, my kids in the background interrupting me every so often. If it wasn't for deadlines, I'd be at a park. I sure wish I was among the fortunate who have the day off.  In observance of Martin Luther King Day, nearly three in ten employers (28 percent) will give all or most workers a paid holiday today (Monday, January 18), according to BNA's most recent survey of holiday practices.

While that sounds pretty good, employers are not as generous this year as last. This year's time off numbers are down slightly from figures reported by employers in 2008 (31 percent), 2007 (33 percent) and 2006 (31 percent) but is still a marked increase over the more than two decade history of this holiday. Only 14 percent of surveyed employers made Martin Luther King Day a paid holiday in its inaugural year of 1986.

Who gave time off?

Larger organizations, with 1,000 or more employees, are more likely to give workers paid time off on Martin Luther King Day than their smaller counterparts (41 percent versus 24 percent).  Organizations with a union presence are more likely than those without one to designate Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday. And nonbusiness employers (such as government) are far more likely to make Martin Luther King Day a paid holiday. More than one-half of nonbusiness organizations (54 percent) will make January 18 a paid holiday.

If you are fortunate enough to have the day off, enjoy. If not, enjoy the slower pace of the day...it may mean a little reprieve from the mountains of email flowing into your Inbox.     

January 14, 2010

How to position yourself to negotiate

Pic_negotiation Negotiating has never been one of my strong points. But I've gotten better at it over the years. I recently felt my negotiation skills kick when I needed my teenage son to help me with a work video, pointing out what was in it for him (master new technology and use his sister's new computer). Of course, in business negotiations are more difficult, especially if you don't have the upper hand. If you made a resolution to improve your work life balance in the new year or if you want to get ahead in business, good negotiation skills are going to get you what you want. Apparently fewer women have this skill.

To take part in a successful negotiation, a woman needs to tie in what she needs—whether it be salary, maternity leave, flex time, or recognition—to how it can benefit the organization, says  Ruth Schecter of  Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University.

“In fact, women who link their needs to the good of the organization tend to receive better performance reviews, are more likely to be offered leadership opportunities, and are less likely to leave the organization,” said Deborah Kolb, PhD, the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women and Leadership at the Simmons School of Management and a Clayman Institute Faculty Research Fellow, who discussed the topic at a presentation called “Too Bad for the Women or Does it Have to Be? Gender and Negotiation Research over the Past 25 Years."

Step 1: You need to positioned yourself right to negotiate: "Often a negotiation is not solely about money but about the opportunity to take on a role or to be acknowledged for ‘invisible work.’ Many organizations sustain exclusive networks at the higher levels, so women need to negotiate just to get to that place,” said Kolb.  “If a woman does not have access to insider information that is embedded in the organization, she loses a position of power in the negotiation process.”

What's stopping women from getting to the position of power?

Schecter says women maneuvering through an organization can be hampered by factors ranging from expectations of lower goals to cultural and institutional mechanisms that create a gendered context—dynamics that women must learn to navigate.

Step 2: Women need to feel like we deserve to ask for whatever it is we want. We also need to learn how to deal with resistance —to expect to be put into a defensive position.

“It’s important that women understand their value to the organization, are prepared to deal with pushback, and can be creative about addressing new opportunities,” said Kolb. “When more attention is paid to the nuanced ways that gender can play out in negotiations, women can find subtle ways to deal with these dynamics.”

I've seen firsthand that negotiating successfully at work and home means showing the person you are negotiating with what's in it for them. But I think Schecter is right that women often underestimate their value when negotiating.

Do you see yourself negotiating differently in the new year?

January 13, 2010

Older workers want work life balance

Everyone strives for work life balance. But senior workers increasingly want and need work in their balance equation. Will employers actively try to hire and retain them? Or will they view older workers as less productive and more expensive? For now, there's a gap in the demographics that say older workers will be a huge part of the workforce and the reality that companies really don't want to put themselves out for workers of any age group, particularly seniors.

I wrote about the topic today and would love to hear your thoughts on whether employers recognize the benefits that seniors bring to the workplace.

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Seniors struggle to rebound from unemployment


Mario Gutierrez is 68, but still gets rewarded for his work at the Pepsi Bottling facility in Doral.
Mario Gutierrez is 68, but still gets rewarded for his work at the Pepsi Bottling facility in Doral.
At age 69, Mario Gutierrez arrives at the Pepsi Bottling facility at 5 a.m. and ends his work day about 12 hours later. By the time he heads home, he has visited about a half dozen customers, buying one a cup of Cuban coffee or chatting with another about their sales. While traditional retirement age was four year ago, for Gutierrez it's not even in his near-term vision. ``I feel satisfied,'' Gutierrez says.

In many workplaces during the last year, older workers haven't fared as well as Gutierrez, a 40-year veteran of the Pepsi system who still receives company awards for performance. In workplaces of all sizes, many older workers were the first to get the ax, mostly because of their higher salaries and healthcare costs.

As a group, they are finding it most difficult to rebound from unemployment. The number of unemployed workers age 55 to 64 has nearly tripled since the recession began, to about 1.6 million of the nation's 15.4 million unemployed as of November, according to the Labor Department. These unemployed jobseekers say it is even more difficult for them to find work because of what they see as age bias.


But even though they are looking for work in record numbers, demographers insist older workers represent the future. According to 2009 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people age 55 years and older in the labor force is expected to increase by 43 percent by 2018 and workers 55 and older will represent 35.4 percent of the labor force. The 21st century demographics have people asking: Can and will workplaces accommodate increasing ranks of older workers?

For now, they don't have to because unemployment is so high. ``Employers haven't felt the pain yet,'' says Kathy Lynch, director employer engagement at the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College. ``But the demographics are the facts.''

Recently, more than 44 medium and large employers participated in an interactive remote meeting organized by the Sloan Center. The organizers discovered most companies recognize the potential impact but don't consider the aging workforce a top priority. But there is awareness, Lynch says. ``Awareness is good because you can't have action until there is awareness.''

Lynch says ignoring the aging workforce will affect employers differently. For some, it may result in a disconnect with an aging customer base. For others, it might lead to a talent shortage or exacerbate a knowledge transfer issue.

Smart companies recognize the advantages of a multigenerational workforce. At Miami's Pepsi Bottling facility, about 30 of the 200 workers are 60 plus.


Paula Hopkins, regional sales director, says she has seen why companies need a blend. Her younger sales workers carry BlackBerrys and call on Wal-Mart. Her older workers, like Gutierrez, build deep-rooted relationships by being visible in the Hispanic community and create loyalty from the smaller grocery chains. ``They both have the same passion for the customer.''

Some employers are figuring out how to make the aging workforce work for them. Knowing that older workers would want seasonal jobs, Phil Clark, president and CEO of Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition, hires seniors as ticket takers, ticket sellers or security during the 18 days the fair is open each spring. ``Our oldest worker is 88,'' Clark says. ``They are great employees. They are punctual, they're dedicated, they have a strong work ethic, some of them have been working for us for 20 years.''

Of course, seniors still battle the perception that they are outdated, more expensive and difficult to terminate. ``We see that older workers are bypassed for training opportunities because of myths that older people can't learn new things,'' says Sara Czaja a professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and co-author of Aging and Work.

Ultimately, the impact of technology will affect all age groups. Rene Ward, founder of Seniors4Hire.org, says the recession has changed the attitudes of older workers. ``I see seniors taking initiative to retrain themselves.''


In Miami, Barry Johnson, chief executive officer of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, says he wants to help older workers with their networking skills, too. Many of his older members have been downsized or are confronting a gray ceiling, limiting their advancement at work. ``A lot of them have experience but skills that are no longer relevant.'' Johnson says the chamber likely will create a task force or a networking group to help these workers.

In the near future, Czaja says, employers will accommodate the increasing number of older workers through the work/life benefits traditionally requested by young parents -- flexible schedules, telework arrangements, contract work. She believes keeping older people productive over the next decade is crucial to a strong economy. ``We need to prepare for it.''

Send your comments and ideas to Cindy Krischer Goodman at cgoodman @MiamiHerald.com.

© 2010 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

January 11, 2010

Treat your spouse like a customer

I know exactly what's throwing my work life balance out of whack this week. And it's only Monday. You see, I've gotten into the habit of letting my work day stretch longer and longer. Are you doing this, too?

Fast-forward to the end of 2010. What do you see? Do you see yourself ending your work day in a timely way? Are you spending more time with your customers or co-workers than your family or spouse? I read an interview with Louis Upkins Jr. who wrote a self-help  book titled Treat Me Like a Customer: Using Lessons from Work to Succeed in Life. His book plays off the central notion that home life would improve if busy business executives cared as much for their wives or husbands and kids (and showed it) as they do for their most-valued customers. Here's an excerpt from a Q & A with Upkins in The Tennessean. His answers will wake you up.

Upkinsl On the surface, the concept of treating family members like customers sounds a little insulting — aren't wives, husbands, sons and daughters more important than that? It sounds insulting, sure, but the reality is that many times we treat our customers so much better than we treat our family. We take our customers to the best restaurants, plan the best trips for them, take them to the best golf courses or spend two months to think of the best gift for them. Yet, we'll pick up something for the wife at the airport as we rush home from a business trip, or we buy the Kmart "blue light" special.

My thought is … at a minimum … spend the same amount of attention on your family as you apply to your daily chores at the office. This isn't rocket science. We all have these skill sets.

For example, how do I communicate at work? I listen. How do I communicate at home? Sometimes I don't listen.

What are some basic skills that business leaders use with their best customers that can be applied at home, too? We are so polished and prepared, and we communicate so well in our business life. We are so responsive to our customers. But when it comes down to husband, wife or child, you find very little of that same DNA.

The whole premise of my approach is how we can put families back in the center of things. It's a matter of priorities. Be present with your child while you're taking them to school versus driving them somewhere while you're talking on the cell phone or on a conference call. Turn off the cell phone. Make it a rule.

Is it harder to follow these ideals in a down economy — when companies are firing people and asking those who remain to work longer hours or face being cut themselves? There is a fear factor that people have to grapple with. But I have also seen the current environment spark a huge wake-up call for many people. Maybe they're shaken to such a degree that their focus shifts to what really matters most to them.

In some cases, I think the impact of the weak economy — and mounting pressure at work — is helping some people make that leap to find a better solution, to do something more meaningful rather than being locked in a structure for the next 30 years that makes them very unhappy.

In some cases, the desire for a better work/life balance leads to career change

What's a typical first mistake that can lead to someone's home life and work life falling out of balance? I think the first mistake is to ignore the warning signs.

You look away from what you clearly see, and you start to make excuses. The excuses get easier, the more you use them. You don't listen to what you feel internally. We go and do things that are expected by others and that aren't part of our own DNA. It's not something you really believe in or value, but it's what everyone else does.

My advice is: Don't ignore your own "inside voice."

January 08, 2010

Five free ways to find a job, and work life balance

Work life balance can be tricky to find when you have no work. And when there's no work, there's no money to buy spiffy suits or travel to another city to find a job. The cycle gets frustrating. But here comes AOLjobs.com with an article about five free (or almost free) ways to help your job hunt. Some are so ingenious I just had to share the list. 

1. A cup of coffee: Depending on where you live, coffee can run 50 cents to three dollars. But where you get this cup of coffee is key. Doing homework on a company you'd like to work for is essential. But to get some inside information, you can hit the nearest coffee place near the company. These days, many companies don't serve free coffee anymore. Employees stop at delis, Starbucks, McDonalds, or Saxbys on their way to work. Sometimes they chat on line about the business, goings on, or even just gossip. You can gain some great knowledge just by keeping your ears open. (This works even better during lunch, but like we said, lunch is rarely free!)
2. Business Cards: Business cards are still an important networking tool for face-to-face interactions. You might want to make a couple different ones if you are looking at different industries or want to send different messages: one more formal, one more casual. At Vistaprint.com, 123print.com you'll pay less than $10 for 250 cards.

3. Haircuts: Many salons will have "Student Nights" where newer stylists will fashion hair for free in exchange for the practice. Students are watched by experienced stylists, so you rarely have to worry. Cost? Just the tip, which is at your discretion, but figure around $10. BumbleandBumblesalons call it the "Model Project." Cosmetology schools offer free haircuts too. But with that opportunity, if you have a complicated haircut, you might want to leave it to a graduate. (Cindy's note: Aveda has a school in South Florida and offers rock bottom prices on haircuts and manicures)

4. Free Networking: Organizations like NetParty.com arrange events that are FREE to attend. The company has chapters in 23 cities nationwide. The catch--make sure to RSVP or you will have to pay a cover charge at the door. Different cities have their own websites with events, such asAtlantaEvents.com. Lectures are your friend--there is usually a discussion or mingling opportunity afterward, a perfect opportunity to meet people. And no, there's no free lunch here, but you might find a free hors d'oeuvres or two. (Cindy's note: check out SocialMiami.com for a listing of free local networking events)

5. A college library at your fingertips. If you are researching industries, companies, and places to relocate, of course any search engine will return thousands of sites. But the Internet Public Library filters subjects for you to use your time more wisely. Information is well organized on a very user friendly site. In fact, you can ask an actual librarian questions to help you find what you seek. Another bonus--periodicals all available free through the site. Nine colleges and universities pool their resources to keep it current. (Cindy's note: the main libraries in most counties make computers available to the public with free Internet access seven days a week)

If you have any more suggestions, please share them with your fellow job hunters.

January 07, 2010

Who are the most satisfied workers?

Who do you think is more satisfied, the guy who made it to the corner office and calls the shots or the guy who started his own business and struggles to pay the bills? When it comes to work life balance the most satisfied workers are self employed. I can completely understand why that would be true, can you?  It feels good to have control over your own work schedule.

Self-employed adults are significantly more satisfied with their jobs than other workers according to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographics Trends project. Nearly four-in-ten self-employed workers (39%) say they are "completely satisfied" with their jobs, compared with 28% of all wage or salaried employees.

Why do they work? Money is one reason - but it's far less of a factor for the self-employed than for other workers. Nearly a third of the self-employed (32%) say the main reason they work is because they want to, compared with 19% of wage and salary workers. By the same token, the self-employed are less likely than other workers to say they hold a job because they need the money (50% vs. 38%). They also place a higher value on the intangible psychological benefits of working, such as feeling useful and productive, and are more likely to say they are working to help "improve society" (55% vs. 46%).

While it may be more satisfying, don't expect to get super rich from striking out on your own. According to Pew, while being your own boss may have many rewards, a hefty income isn't necessarily one of them. Even though they earn about as much as other workers, the self-employed struggle more financially: fully four-in-ten in the Pew Research survey say they just make ends meet or fall short, compared with less than a third of all wage and salary employees.

Basically, this survey shows the self employed are more satisfied and less wealthy. Interesting isn't it? If you are self employed, is your job satisfaction high? How is it affected by your financial success?