October 15, 2014

How to give our girls confidence

Bus6

 

Yesterday, a big pink and white bus pulled onto the campus of University of Miami. It is known as the “Confidence Is Beautiful” Bus and it's on a mission to build confidence in women and young girls.

It's a cool concept and the message it is spreading is important. Shelley Zalis, the founder of the bus, known more formally as The Ipsos Girls’ Loungewants women to feel confident in the workplace and build connections with each other that will help them advance. Her  40 ft. pink and white bus is decked out with a ‘confidence signature’ selfie station, hair and makeup stations AND there's an area of the bus where women can go for work/life advice!

Shelley says the idea behind the bus is to provide a place for women to get pampered and talk in a fun setting about issues such as equal pay, flexibility, and workplace respect. The UM stop was the pink bus' first visit to a college campus. It is on a National Tour and usually goes to conferences as a hangout to connect and inspire women in various career stages. More than 3,000 women have visited the bus.

I spoke to Shelley and she described the bus with lots of enthusiasm: One side of it is covered with writing from women who have expressed what they think good life at work should look like. The other side is covered with confidence selfies. Shelley's Lounge also is sponsoring the Equal Payback Project, a new national awareness campaign aimed at eliminating the wage gap between men and women—which just came out with a great (and a bit risqué!) video featuring comedian Sarah Silverman (watch here!)

As UM students wandered inside the bus yesterday and listened to soundbites from women's real life experiences in the corporate world. "We want these young women to go into the working world with confidence," Shelley explained to me. "We want to inspire them to activate the changes we want to see."

I love the idea of building confidence in young women and keeping that confidence high throuhout the career cycle. For many of us, that confidence wanes the first time we negotiate salary. Today, I wrote a column in The Miami Herald about salary negotiation. While writing it, I learned how intimidated women are to negotiate for more money. 

Money is a key area where girls and women lack confidence and that has to change.

I was shocked when I read this:

Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts USA  stated that while Girl Scouts earn $800 million a year selling cookies, only 12% feel confident about making simple money decisions.

Financial blogger Beth Kobliner notes that in a recent survey from T. Rowe Price, of the nearly 2,000 parents and kids surveyed, 58% of boys say that their parents discuss financial goals with them, whereas for girls that figure is just 50%.

This will make you cringe: Parents admit that they believe their boys are simply smarter than their girls when it comes to finance. A full 80% of parents who have a son think he understands the value of a dollar, compared with only 69% of parents who have a daughter.

Kobliner offers five critical lessons to impart to your daughters.

I think we all need to look carefully at the messages we're sending young girls and inspire them to be confident at work, with money management, and in relationships. While my generation of working women debate having it all, the next generation will be out there trying -- and hopefully succeeding!

September 29, 2014

Must you work overtime?

Last week, I was talking to a CEO who said to me, "I am not going to hire anyone anymore who can't work overtime."

He explained that at certain times of the year, he needs to ramp up, usually for only a few weeks at a time. But when an employee can't put in longer hours ( even if paid extra) it creates a problem for all.

I responded by telling him that many people have outside responsibilities that could prevent them from coming in earlier or staying later. That's understandable," he said. "But I have a company to run so a job at my company would not be for them."

There in lies the clash of business needs with real life responsibilities of many of today's workers. This is a complicated issue: Even if someone signs on for occasional overtime, what it his life demands change? Should a worker be allowed to say, ' I don’t want to work overtime and would rather go home?' And,  when does occasional overtime become more than “occasional”?

Allison Green at Ask A Manager says this:

* Generally, you should try to be flexible and accommodating when you’re asked to take on something at work outside of your normal work schedule, particularly when it’s temporary, but there’s a point beyond which it’s reasonable to push back. Certainly sleeping at work and working 18 hours days falls well over the line of reasonable (unless you knew you were signing up for that, such as if you were working on a political campaign).

* Your employer can require you to work whatever hours they want, and can change it at any time, unless you have a contract that states otherwise.

* A reasonable manager will work with someone who isn’t able to take on additional work hours, particularly when it’s many extra work hours, and particularly if the employee is willing to be flexible to the extent they can be.

* Not every manager is reasonable. But plenty are.

The CEO I spoke with said he  is upfront about expectations. His position on it made me wonder:  If overtime is mentioned during the interview process, could it eliminate your ability to get any flexibility on this issue in the future? 

Here's what you should know: There’s no federal law on the number of hours someone can be required to work or the length of a break (or even requiring any break at all); that’s all up to individual states.

CEOs have their eye on the bottom line and the health of the business, and they may forget that employees are persons with real needs and real responsibilities. I find it unrealistic for this CEO to think he can hire loyal employees who will be willing to work overtime at any given point in time. In life, complications arise with kids, parents, friends, community commitments -- even our own health. There will be some who will jump at the job because they want the opportunity to earn overtime pay. But will they stay long term?

 

September 03, 2014

Who to go to for advice

A few nights a week, my husband and I walk around the neighborhood for exercise and talk about our days. We often discuss work related problems that come up in a typical day. While neither of us asks for advice, it's natural to give it.  Often, we view the same scenario differently and give suggestions the other person never considered. 

Knowing how I interact with my husband, I often have felt that my boss' spouse had more influence on my future at a company than any other high level manager.  A new survey proves me right.  Most CEOs admit they consider their spouses the person they turn to first for advice on tough business decisions, more than senior members of their staff. 

According to a survey from the staffing firm Adecco, 37 percent of CEOs and business owners say the opinion of their spouse is what matters most to them. This is followed by their head of business development department (16 percent) and operations department (13 percent).  

“A spouse can be someone to discuss ideas or decisions off of without judgment or agenda. If you’re in a partnership with someone, you hold their thoughts and opinions very highly,” Joyce Russell, president of Adecco Staffing in the US told Business News Daily. 

For most of us, seeking advice is tricky -- particularly from a significant other. While I appreciate the business advice my husband gives me, at times, resisting it has created marital tension. Sometimes, when I just want to vent, he chimes in with a solution that I don't want to hear. 

My friend Jill, who owns her own business, says it has taken her a long time to ask for her husband's advice without feeling guilty if she doesn't take it or getting upset by his more practical appraoch to problem solving. She's convinced listening to her inner gut or her female mentor, rather than her spouse, has led to better business decisions.

Have you ever taken — or totally resisted — business advice from your spouse/significant other? Do you feel like your spouse knows you best and guides you well or doesn't asking for advice open the door to resentment or problems down the road?

 

August 19, 2014

Working parents biggest fears

I shouldn't say I'm shocked but I am. How is it that in 2014, at a time when most mothers and fathers work, we still fear that we will be fired when our family needs interfere with work demands?

It's interesting that men almost fear bringing up child care issues with their boss more than women do. A dad I know once told me I was lucky that I had a flexible work arrangement and said his boss would get angry if he asked for one. I urged him to ask but I don't think he ever did. 

A new Bright Horizons Modern Family Index survey of 1,000 working moms and dads with at least one child under 18 still in the home shows:

  • working parents fear family responsibilities could get them fired
  • fathers are just as stressed and insecure about work and family conflicts as mothers
  • 39 percent of parents fear being denied a raise because of family responsibilities
  • 37 percent of parents fear they will never get promoted while 26 percent worry about a demotion because of family responsibilities
  • 22 percent worry that family commitments will cost them key projects at work
  • 19 percent believe they won’t be invited to important meetings because of family obligations
  • Working parents are nervous to bring up key family-related issues with their employers

That's a lot of fear, isn't it? We all know that business is about making profit or showing performance but workers are the ones who make that happen. When we have to choose between leaving a sick kid home alone or going to work, that's a tough choice we shouldn't have to make.

Here's something all employers should note: . Those working parents who do feel supported by their employer report strong loyalty.

David Liss, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, said it well:  "it is clear that working parents throughout the U.S. are still struggling to manage all of their responsibilities, and many still feel that they cannot be honest with their supervisors about needing to be available and active in their family lives."

As a working parent, showing vulnerability to the wrong boss can be career suicide. And so, out of fear, we lie. In the survey working parents -- moms and dads --  admitted to lying or bending the truth to their boss about family responsibilities that get in the way of work. Some revealed they have faked sick to meet family obligations. Others said they lied about missing a work event because of a family commitment or the reason why they didn't respond to emails.

Again, all very pathetic but shockingly understandable.

Over my years as a working parent, I found a supportive boss makes all the difference in being a successful working parent and achieviing work life balance. If I hadn't had a supportive boss when my kids were really little, I couldn't have kept my job. The survey shows 41 percent of working parents agree with me.

Have you ever been fearful that family needs will get you fired? Do you think fathers get less of a break at work and have more reason to be fearful than mothers?

July 31, 2014

Women can become law firm partners - and have a life

As a young lawyer, Tiffani Lee found a partner who believed in her ability and helped push her up to the top ranks of Miami’s Holland & Knight. Most often, the opposite is true: Organizational mechanisms at firms push out women and people of color.

But in a room full of women and minority lawyers, I heard some great advice on how to change that pattern. Here’s an employer and employee guide for how to navigate the challenges that lead people to leave.


Inclusion: Don’t leave women and minorities on the fringes. Amy Furness, a shareholder with the lawfirm of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt in Miami, says having someone in a leadership role who recognizes and shows a commitment to diversity by his actions can help the message of inclusion permeate throughout the firm, which can be particularly important for those partners who may not be thinking about diversity when they choose staff to work on their cases. “Getting leadership involved in ensuring inclusion prevents [diversity] from becoming marginalized,” Furness said.

Accountability: It is easy to create company policies that promote diversity, flexibility and volunteerism and work/life control. But there are some partners who will tell young associates that if they want to be successful, they should not take advantage of those policies. That is where accountability becomes crucial.

Tiffani Lee at Holland & Knight, said partners at her firm are evaluated — and even compensated — based partly on how many opportunities they provide to women and minority associates and what they’ve done to support diversity and inclusion. “The only way to drive change is to factor it into compensation,” Lee says. At her firm, partners “are asked about who is on their team and how they are working with the client to ensure the team is diverse and and how they are supporting the firm’s broader diversity efforts.”

She says ties between a commitment to values and compensation happen at all levels. Associates perform a self evaluation, too. They are eligible for a diversity kudos bonus if they have done something extraordinary.


Flexibility: At some point, the success of the firm – and the diverse talent pool — will depend on whether it offers flexibility, Most associates want a reputation for getting things done; however, they want control over how and when.

“We need to change the mindset around flexibility,” Says Manor Morales, president and CEO of the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance. “When managers hear flexibility, they think people don’t want to work as hard. Flexibility is not just reduced hours but also control over hours. It’s a different way to approach work and people actually achieve increased efficiency."

At most firms, men are taking advantage of flexibility – although informally and quietly. Morales found at one firm, a senior male partner works from home every Monday, but few realize it. "Flexibility will be embraced when firms encourage people who have power to be open about how and when they use flexibility."

Succession: While most law firms have eliminated a mandatory retirement age, many of the boomers at the top will begin paring back in the next decade. As leaders retire, it creates opportunity for the next generation – and for more inclusion. Some firms already are planning ahead.

Nikki Lewis Simon, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami, says her firm has worked consciously to bring women and minority lawyers into leadership, onto the executive committee and onto committees that interact with senior management. This allows the firm to address issues of the next generation not just years from now, but today.

“I think the next generation of leaders will have a sense of mutual respect: With them, it isn’t us and them, it’s we. There’s an understanding that we all have stuff we want to accomplish outside the office.”

Transparency: Women who have made it to the top have this advice for others: Don’t over-explain.

Women tend to give a detailed explanation for why they need to leave early or work from home. “They give much more information than necessary,” says Yuliya Laroe, a lawyer and business coach. Laroe say that often hurts them when partners assume if they don’t see them in the office, they are with their kids. “We need to empower ourselves to believe it’s no one’s business as long as we have met our deliverables.”

Simon, a mother of five, says she advanced to partner while on maternity leave, and has been quite clear about her whereabouts to derail assumptions: “I let them know when don’t see me, it doesn’t mean I’m not working. It just means I’m not working here. I’m doing something to advance cause of the firm.”


Time management/work-life control: Getting to the top to become an equity partner and staying there is giant responsibility that requires the ability to bring in business and make a contribution to the firm’s bottom line while balancing home life and community involvement.

Morales tells lawyers to be strategic. “You could have activities that fill your plate but not all give you the same benefit,” she explains, adding that women tend to be on committees that don’t advance their careers. “When you’re asked, think, ‘Will this committee connect me with the right people? Is it valued in the firm? Or, is it just busy work?’”


Clearly, support for talented women and minorities needs to be evident at all levels. Says Laroe: “People don’t leave firms, they leave individual partners who make staying difficult.”


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Photo by The Miami Herald: Tiffani Lee with her mentees and her mentor pictured behind her.

July 25, 2014

How to negotiate workplace flexibility

After having two kids a year apart, I realized at that time in my career, I could not survive motherhood and news deadlines unless I negotiated flexibility. I asked for a four day work week. For me, the key to getting that schedule and finding some work life balance was the fact that I had proved myself and I was able to tell my boss exactly what he would gain by giving me flexibility. 

Today, my guest blogger, Tonya Lain, Regional Vice President at Adecco, the world's largest staffing firm, provides great advice for anyone who want to negotiate flexibility. Although Lain targets moms who want flexible schedules, there are dads out there who want them too. Her advice is useful to all.

 

Tonya
 

It seems a day doesn’t go by without reading or hearing about whether it’s possible for working mothers to “have it all” successfully, advance and balance their careers with their responsibilities to their children. Given today’s economy and cost of living, a family with two working parents is the norm, and in many cases an absolute necessity. A Pew Research poll shows that though the gap between the number of hours moms and dads spend with their kids and doing house chores has grown smaller in recent decades, women still spend more time than their spouses tending to the kids and home. This leaves mothers often feeling as though they are expected to be in two places at once.

 

A lot of this stress can be alleviated by pursuing a flexible work schedule – something 13 million Americans are doing. Stanford University conducted a study to debunk any misconceptions associated with the productivity, revealing that those working from home “were noticeably more productive, spending 9 percent more time on calls and handling 4 percent more calls per minute.” Even so, many of us aren’t prepared to have that conversation with our supervisors. Here are some ways to best make a case for a flexible working arrangement:

 

  • Do your research. Your company may already have guidelines about flexible working arrangements in the employee handbook. You may also want to consult with other moms in the company who have successfully negotiated a more flexible work schedule. This will allow you to develop a proposal based on what’s been done and what’s possible.

 

  • Determine what works for everyone. Really think about what arrangement would produce the best results for you and your employer—whether working from home three days a week or coming in later in the morning, allowing you to send your kids off to school. Consider how your employer will benefit as well. Will you be less preoccupied with how your children are being cared for? Will you gain two extra hours a day for working that you would normally spend commuting? Emphasize how this will produce results that will please everyone.

 

  • Establish quality control. Approach your employer with your research and a clear proposal on what your ideal flexible arrangement will be. This gives your supervisor a starting point to react to.  In the proposal, include recommended check-points to ease any doubts they may have on your performance. Suggest implementing frequent performance evaluations and communications standards, such as joining meetings electronically or establishing the expectations for responsiveness while you’re working from home. Emphasize a feedback system so concerns are communicated and rectified quickly. You may also want to suggest a trial run where both parties test the flexible working schedule for a month to three-month period before committing to anything long term.

 

Women today must take pride in all they have accomplished as far as their career and in their role as Mom. Carefully planning a conversation about work flexibility with an employer can help women gain the flexibility they need to make their lives less stressful and more productive.  

July 17, 2014

Lying to the boss about family obligations

Liar

 

A friend of mine who held a high position in an entertainment conglomerate told me that one afternoon, she lied to her boss about where she was going. She was going to her daughter's dance class. She had missed every class since her daughter enrolled. But she told her boss she was going to a business meeting. When she got to the dance class, she couldn't believe what she saw -- a top executive at her company who was there to watch his daughter. She begged him not to say a word to anyone and he seemed shocked that she would be worried about her job enough to hide her whereabouts.

I completely understood why she did it.

Working Mother Magazine reported today that some working parents (23 percent) admit to bending the truth to their bosses in order to meet family obligations.  

The Modern Family Index, sponsored by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, reveals that 48 percent of parents are afraid their family commitments and obligations could put their jobs in jeopardy. And 39 percent believe family responsibilities could prevent them from receiving raises. Many working parents also think that tending to family duties may prevent them from being considered in key projects (22 percent) and excluded from important meetings (19 percent). 

After giving birth for the second time, I asked for flexibility in my schedule. I remember feeling almost immediately that Iwas viewed in a new light and no longer included in brainstorming meetings about bigger projects.  

This new study found more than half of participants would think twice about asking their boss for reduced hours, working remotely or placing boundaries on responding to calls or emails. No wonder work life balance is a huge concern!

In spite of efforts in this country to promote and offer family-friendly workplace policies, many working parents still hesitate to tell employers that they need to tend to family responsibilities—and even fear job loss, according to the study.

Parents, what do you think about lying to the boss about family obligations? Is it necessary in some working environments? Do you think most bosses understand family commitments or as a country, are we not there yet?

 

July 14, 2014

How to sharpen your people skills

Last week I sat among other anxious parents at my daughter's college orientation. When the president of the university addressed us, telling us he was about to reveal the key to success in college and life, the reporter in me kicked in, eager scribble down notes on this crucial piece of advice.

And then, he said something so simple, I put my notepad down and just nodded my head in agreement. He told us the key to success is "people skills." In today's workplace, there usually is complaining, gossiping, and griping about anyone with authority who lacks the know-how to inspire, manage and get along with others.  After a few decades in the workforce most of us discover that its take people skills, rather than expertise, to be a successful leader. 

Today, my guest blogger is Corali Lopez-Castro is a shareholder at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, who concentrates her practice on bankruptcy and commercial litigation matters. Lopez Castro recently attended an event that emphasized the importance of people skills for women who want to get ahead. Here's her take on the topic:

 

Cori LC 2

I recently attended an event hosted by Lean In Miami, a local group of professional women founded by Stonegate Bank’s Erin Knight that is committed to empowering women to lean in to their ambitions and potential for success.

 

The keynote speaker at this event was Marlene Green. She is a leadership coach, author and two-time Emmy nominee with an impressive track record having worked with Fortune 500 companies and executives.

 

Ms. Green’s discussion topic, “The Art of Attraction – Communicating in a way that inspires and attracts others in the business community,” focused on how we should lean in to our careers by mastering our interpersonal skills.

 

The event was a perfect reminder that being career driven is not only about your technical expertise, but also about nurturing the human element of business, such as the way we communicate with others, and how this impacts our relationships and ultimately the bottom line.

 

From being present and engaged in a conversation, to being open minded and aware of your habitual ways and how others perceive you, the key is creating an everlasting connection with people. This means building relationships by remembering a person’s names when you meet them, establishing commonalities and creating value for others.

 

According to writer Darren Dahl of Inc.com, “relationships are the fuel that feeds the success of your business.” This follows Ms. Green’s mantra about mastering the art of attraction. Those who are positive, radiate enthusiasm about their profession, and offer support to their peers are creating value for themselves and those around them, which is a driving force to building and fostering relationships.

 

Since hearing Marlene speak, I’ve been more conscious of my actions when meeting new people, especially trying to remember their names and repeating it at the close of our conversation. The key is being aware of the situation, and I am definitely playing a more active role in communicating with others as a result.

As we juggle the many tasks that encompass being a working professional, we sometimes need to take a moment and gather perspective on “big picture” thinking about becoming a magnet for new business or expanding existing relationships and networks. After all, there is always room for improvement.

I encourage people to look deeper at the human side of business and the importance of enhancing these skills to be a better leader. A professional’s level of success is dependent on becoming an attractive asset for new business opportunities. 

 

 

July 09, 2014

Need more balance? It may be time to hire a career coach

Have you ever felt stuck with your career? 

I've heard a lot about career coaches but I wasn't really sure exactly what they could do for me. I felt that maybe career coaches were for top executives who want to become better leaders. But I found out a career coach can be a HUGE help to almost anyone at any level. 

My Miami Herald column today answers these questions -- When is the right time to hire a career coach and how can hiring one improve your work life balance?

Read on...

Feeling stuck in your job? It may be time to hire a career coach

 

Executive Coach Monique Betty, owner of Boca Raton-based CareerSYNC, coaching the staff of the Women’s Business Development Council of Florida

 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

If you’re putting in the hours and still not seeing the rewards, feeling undervalued or simply striving to be more successful, it may be time to hire a career coach.

When New York Times Editor Jill Abramson was fired last month, she had begun the process of working with a career consultant to work through some of the “management style” and “temperament” concerns that allegedly did her in. Like Abramson, most of excel in our jobs because of our technical expertise in our fields, but often, it is the “people” skills, such as managing and motivating staff, that trip us up.

A career coach can help you figure out behavior changes to help you advance, strategies for a new direction, or an action plan to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

“Think of a career coach as an objective person to talk to who doesn’t have a vested interest in anything but your success and satisfaction,” said Teressa Moore Griffin, an executive coach and founder of Spirit of Purpose.

One Miami executive hired a coach when her nonprofit women’s organization needed new direction.

At the time, Nancy Allen, president/CEO of the Women’s Business Development Council of Florida, was facing the high levels of stress common when nonprofits face board transitions and pressure to raise funds. Allen said that while working with a coach weekly for seven months, she defined steps to bring in new sources of revenue and new programming. Her coach also helped her scrutinize where to focus her time.

“I came out of it with clarity of purpose,” Allen said. “Most executives know what to do, but professional coaching helps them move beyond the minutia to set a plan of action, stay focused and accomplish defined tasks.” Now, Allen has brought her coach to work with her staff individually to develop their strengths: “I think it will lead to a happier, more productive staff.”

As the job market opens, more people, particularly younger workers, are turning to career coaches. In a survey of 12,000 professional coaches by the International Coach Federation, 60 percent of respondents reported an increase in the number of clients over the previous 12 months and more than 75 percent said they anticipated increases in clients and revenue over the next 12 months.

Coaching, once perceived as a luxury available only to senior executives, is increasingly appealing to younger generations, according to the International Coach Federation’s 2014 Global Consumer Awareness Study. Of the 18,800 workers surveyed, 35 percent of those between 25 and 34 years old said they already had participated in a coaching relationship.

Employers, spending once again on leadership development, are hiring coaches for managers, vice presidents and high-level executives who have hit an obstacle in their career progressions or face new challenges. Griffin said that like coaches who work with athletes, she encourages corporate leaders to see how a small change in behavior affects performance: “Often, the person thinks the organization is the problem. I have to get them to see that if they want the team or boss or customer to behave differently, change starts with them.”

Hiring a career coach is different from hiring most other professionals, and can be costly. Expect to pay $100 to $350 for a one-hour session, according to the International Coach Federation. Most professionals work with their coaches for six months to a year.

There is no official licensing agency for career coaches, which has led to a wide range of quality among those claiming to be experts. However, the International Coach Federation has built a worldwide network of more than 12,000 credentialed coaches with a minimum level of training and certification. When selecting, Miami career coach Marlene Green advises asking for recommendations, checking references and asking questions “just as you would when hiring an attorney.”

To be clear, a coach differs from a business consultant. Where a consultant identifies a business problem and gives a solution, a coach asks questions and encourages the client to find answers.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I have financial resources and time resources to get coached and am I in a place where I’m ready to have self-introspection?’ ” said Alexa Sherr Hartley, president of South Florida’s Premier Leadership Coaching. “You’re paying for a coach to help you figure it out, not to figure it out for you.”

After she was twice passed over for a management position at her company, Jenna Altman decided it was time to hire a career coach. “I felt like I was doing everything right and I needed to figure out why I wasn’t being promoted,” she said. Altman says her coach asked her questions that made her think differently about her strengths and weaknesses and how she adds value to her company.

She ended up asking for, and getting, a completely different position that she had never previously considered.

“When you have tried all the tools in your toolkit and you can’t move from your current state to your desired one, that is the help a coach provides,” Sherr explained. Research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of business success comes from personality — the ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.

Shockingly, only 15 percent is attributed to technical knowledge. But Sherr says that with coaching, those soft skills can be learned and practiced at work and home: “That’s why investing in coaching makes sense.”

 

 

 

June 30, 2014

Should you break unwritten rules in the workplace?

In my previous newsroom, there was an unwritten rule that no one could park in the covered parking area unless they were an top level executive. Yet, the parking spots there were plentiful. One day, a friend of mine decided to break the unwritten rule and park there. No one said a word and she enjoyed getting into her nice cool car after work.

It's odd how unwritten workplace rules get started.

This morning, I read an article in The Denver Post about unwritten workplace rules. It noted that some have been universally followed for generations - things like pay your dues, don't go over your boss' head and stay off the executive elevator.

The article went on to say that Millennials, the generation currently entering the workforce in large numbers, are seriously upsetting those conventions: They have taken a confidence into their jobs because they are digital natives and are used to knowing more about technology than their teachers and parents. 

"The workforce of the future doesn't get the unwritten rules of hierarchy," said Seth Mattison, founder of FutureSight Labs.

Mattison offered an anecdote shared by the chief executive of a distribution company with $4 billion a year in sales after a new crop of interns started. He was deluged by a steady stream of 22-year-olds rolling into his office asking to meet for coffee.

Reading that made me wonder if all of us, regardless of our generation, should break some of the unwritten rules. The only reason I began writing about work life balance was because I broke the unwritten rule of staying in the newsroom hierarchy and brought the idea of a work life balance column more than a decade ago to the publisher of the newspaper.

Sometimes, breaking unwritten rules pays off. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the risk is worth taking the chance. Millennials, more often, are taking that chance. For example, they believe age isn't a factor in who generates great ideas. They are willing to break unwritten rules to make their ideas heard, often going right to the top to get their ideas recognized quickly. 

That attitude should be embraced by all of us. 

Mattison says breaking unwritten rules successfully comes from earning small wins that build credibility. In other words, prove yourself first.

I've found the key to fulfilling work life balance often comes from proposing ideas that may seem, on the surface, to break the rules. In my experience, breaking unwritten rules can be a good thing --- if done smartly after you've earned some respect.