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13 posts from January 2009

January 29, 2009

Unemployment Insurance for Part-time workers

    The news about job cuts and unemployment is getting downright depressing. Here's some good news for workers: If you're a part-timer and lose your job, you may have a better chance at collecting unemployment.

    The new Economic Stimulus Legislation, which is on its way to the Senate, would give states incentives to make it easier for part-time workers to qualify for unemployment benefits. It also provide benefits to people leaving work for a “compelling family reason” such as domestic violence and the illness or disability of a member of the individual’s immediate family.

    An update to the system is a win-win for workers and employers, says Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, who has been a leading advocate for unemployment insurance reforms.McDermott said in a statement this month. “When we enable more unemployed workers to qualify for the unemployment insurance program, we put cash into the pockets of struggling families who will spend this money in their communities, supporting local jobs and businesses.”

     Others are wary of efforts to overhaul the unemployment insurance program, according to Workforce Management. They feel bigger benefit checks eventually could mean tax increases on businesses.

     Do you think allowing part-timers to collect unemployment helps struggling families? Or, will it create an unnecessary  burden on government and businesses?


January 28, 2009

Women may be to blame for pay inequality

    EqualpayWhat's going on in our workplaces? Why are women earning less than men? 

    Some say it is because we're choosing jobs that pay less, taking time out of the workforce and showing less ambition. Others say it is because men tend to hold the top jobs and tend to pay the men at their companies bigger salaries -- either because they like them more or feel they deserve it.

     In today's Miami Herald column I included comments by attorney Richard Tuschman of Epstein Becker & Green, who says: "I'm not suggesting some women don't get paid equal for the same work as men. But the numbers being bandied about suggest it's a huge problem and that's just not the case." (Tuschman writes the Florida Employment Blog)

     I've been thinking a lot about something a female lawyer said to me. Barbara Locke, a lawyer who went out on her own after 20 years at a big corporate law firm, told me women need to be more assertive about money. When we think we're paid fair, we don't concern ourselves with what others are making, she said.  She also belives women are too upfront about their parenting responsibilities or need for flexibility. For example, she says we tell the boss we're willing to take less pay because we need to leave by 5 p.m. two nights a week. Men will just leave early without bringing attention to themselves.

     I think Barbara absolutely is right.

     I was astounded when I looked at Fortune's lists of highest paid men and women.  The highest paid men earns almost 10 times what the highest paid women earns. Women are climbing the ranks but our paychecks don't reflect it. Barbara's not convinced they ever will.

     Are our choices to blame for our lower paychecks? Are women doing enough to push young girls into higher-paying fields? Are we negotiating hard enough for the highest salaries possible?

   Two new national bills, the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, will make it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination. But the threat of a lawsuit may not be enough to fix the problem.

      Barbara says it will take a generation or two or three before women have any chance at equal pay. Do you agree?

January 26, 2009

A fake work promotion

     Money is tight and everyone is looking to cut corners, especially employers. I'm seeing an old trick that's resurfacing in a big way: bosses appealing to the ego and stealing our personal time. They are doing this through a tactic I call, "the fake promotion" or what's also known as a fancy new title, more work and the same pay.

      Of course, an important sounding title is nice. It looks good on a business card and it makes you feel good. But find out upfront what comes with that fancy new title. Will you be taking on the job of your former boss -- without compensation? Will it mean longer work hours that cut into your gym time?

    A glance at the Movers section in my paper today reveals companies are boasting their employee promotions. But they are not actually hiring, rather just naming Joe Johnson to senior vice president. How many of you think there's actually money involved in those promotions? You can bet there's more work involved.

    I just read a blog post by Working Girl. She says her boss told her they were changing her title and it was a step in the right direction. But it didn't come with the raise or the announcement of a promotion. In her post  When a Job Title Means Nothing Karen Burns cautions workers to care about their title, just not too much.

   The reality is few of us are willing to turn down a promotion (even a fake one) when we're scared for our jobs. So, what about a negotiation? Sure I'll take the new title and the responsibility. Yes, I understand money is tight. But I'm going to need to leave early on Fridays once a month or I'm going to need to leave early on Mondays to go to yoga class?

    Would you consider turning down a fake promotion? Would you negotiate for flexibility when there's no hope that the promotion comes with a raise?

January 22, 2009

Things kids don't want their parents to know

Lately, closed doors are a big issue in my household. I'll come home from work and my 11-year-old son is on his computer with the door closed. Or my 12-year-old daughter has a friend over and they will close the bedroom door. Last night at dinner I riterated a house rule. No closed doors and especially, no locked doors.

But reading over the list of things kids want parents to know, I feel a little guilty (not guilty enough to change the house rule!). Nick News with Linda Ellerbee has been one of my favorite shows on television, tackling important topics from kids' perspective. On Sunday night, it aired Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Some Things I Want My Parents to Know…But May Not Tell Them

In the half-hour special, kids talked about these issues:

  • “Wanting my privacy doesn’t mean I’m trying to hide something.”
  • “I may not always be nice to you, but I don’t hate you.”
  • “Sometimes the way you view my friends hurts my feelings.”
  • “I worry about you just as much as you worry about me.”
  • “I want you to be my parent; I have my own friends.”
  • “Even if your opinion is different from mine, your opinion is still important to me.”

Jacob from Great Falls, MT, on why parents seem to hate it when kids want their bedroom doors shut, if not locked: “When the door is shut on parents, it opens their imagination.” Albert from Alpine, NJ: “It feels like they don’t trust you…and that kind of disappoints you."

Most of us are just barely making our way through this journey of holding jobs and raising kids. For me, I usually get my best advice from other working parents. But, hearing what kids had to say about their parents was enlightening. Click here to watch the episode online.

Nick_News_0109 _01HR

January 21, 2009

Should Obama go to work exhausted? Should you?



To be sure, yesterday was an exhausting day for Barack Obama. With inaugural balls lasting until well past midnight,  he will go to work tired on his first day as President. Okay, maybe the adrenaline rush will carry him through the day. Most likely, he'll wish for a nap around 4 p.m.

     Let's admit that most of us have gone to work exhausted at some point in our careers. Maybe you've been up all night with a crying baby. Maybe you traveled for business or pleasure and you ended up on a late night flight. Maybe your night out with the girls or boys was such a blast you couldn't bring yourself to leave until 1 a.m.

     But the alarm clock still went off in the morning. 

    I hate to admit this, but recently I became hooked on reading Twilight books. I stayed up some nights way too late to finish the books. At first, I still felt sharp at work. But after a few days, I didn't have the patience for the bureaucracy in my workplace that I would have if I was less tired. Exhaustion hurt my cope-level. I became easily frustrated with my inability to deal with my overload of e-mail and deleted mindlessly.

   If it's your kid keeping you up at night, a sleep expert to the stars offers the top seven sleep stealers and some great solutions on MomLogic.com.   

    Of course, that's physical exhaustion. I'm hearing more and more about mental exhaustion. One blogger write: I'm so mentally exhausted, it's making me physically exhausted!

  For some work these days is a creating a vicious circle. Stress at work can interfere with sleep. If you're not sleeping well, you're tired, and that puts you in a funk, and you have a horrid time at work, which makes you sleep worse. Experts suggest exercise in this scenario

    Do you think you can still be sharp at work when you're exhausted? Some will argue yes. Just gulp some caffeine and you're good to go. I'll argue no. I say your work will suffer. I'm hoping Obama doesn't make any big decisions today, especially later in the day when his eyelids start to droop. Has exhaustion ever affected your day at work?



January 19, 2009

Will your boss care if you watch the inauguration?

        I made few phone calls around town to find out who plans to watch the historical presidential inauguration tomorrow. The swearing in ceremony will start at 11:30 a.m. followed by Obama's acceptance speech. It's a little bit before the traditional lunch hour. But it seems like most people will head to the lunchroom if there's a TV and watch at least some of the event. Click here to read what some employers told me.

      For the first time ever, those who can't get away from their desks have the ability to watch inauguration events on their computer screens with CNN and even The Miami Herald streaming live. If you do watch on your screen, will you need to hide from the boss or maybe from clients? Will the boss be okay if you lose a few hours of productivity?

    Then there are those that are self-employed. If you are your own boss, will you give yourself permission to take time out from your work day to watch? I spoke to many workers who took a vacation day to go to D.C. and watch it live. Personally, I feel torn. I need to get a lot done at work, but I don't want to miss out on history.

     I think it's going to be interesting to see how people workplaces handle the inauguration. There is lots of discussion on the topic on BlueRidgeNow.com and on MomsMiami.com. What are your plans? Will you be resentful if you don't get to see it live?


January 15, 2009

Who will be spared in layoffs?

      I am flooded with response to my recent article titled, "When It Comes To Making Layoffs, Who Stays and Who Goes?"

     Jobcut_graphic_2                     The idea for the article came from a conversation with a manager who was having a tough time laying off a single mom. I'm convinced agonizing decisions about who to layoff goes on at every business that is downsizing. Although out loud, most will say the use a formula or specific guidelines because they don't want to get sued for discrimination.

    One woman wrote this to me: "Having been laid off right when my career was finally taking off taught me that one thing "go drinking with the boss." Let's face it: my dedication to my job above my kids in long hours and not taking their calls until I was in my car, my giving away great ideas for upper management to take credit for, masters degree, my years of experience, my speaking two languages were not enough. When the top executives sat down with the junior HR person to make up the list of jobs "being eliminated" those left untouched were those who had taken the time to socialize after hours or have a drink with co workers, bosses during business trips and/or offered to have parties at their homes."

     Based on her e-mail, I now ask you...how important do you think socializing is in the workplace setting? Do you think layoffs are strictly based on productivity or redundancies? Will you be spared if the boss likes you or cut if he doesn't like you? When everyone is equally as productive, how much emphasis do you think is placed on personal situations like being a single mother or family's breadwinner?


January 12, 2009

Gadgets that help with work/life balance

     Blackberry                      I'm amazed at all the gadgets that people are using to help them organize their hectic lives. I've started keeping my to-do lists and my shopping list on my cell phone after a friend showed me how much easier it is than writing them on scratch paper.

      Working Mother magazine says many moms are using a free online calendar from Google that let's you share scheduling information among linked accounts. The article says you can import area events with Google calendar and you can color-code events for different family members.

      Another tool busy moms like me are using is the Microsoft Outlook calendar, often carried on BlackBerrys and other smartphones. If both parents have Outlook, they can use it to schedule shared appointments. One mom said she assigns her husband tasks through Outlook, such as pick up Jared at soccer at 7 p.m. (I think I'll try it.) 

     I'm a Sprint customer and found it particularly interesting that you can sign up for "family locator" service, which allows kids' phones to act as a GPS tracking device. At any moment of the day, you can use a Web browser to check on your kids' whereabouts.

     Also, I'm really liking Facebook, which I have attached to my office e-mail, for sending messages back and forth with other moms in my carpool. And parents of teens know that text messaging is vital for shooting a quick message to your child while in an office meeting or on a business call.

        Alison Colvin, a mother of two and senior product-marketing manager quoted in Working Mother, says uses a toll-free on-demand teleconferencing line, coupled with Microsoft Live Meeting to go over presentations with a colleague in a different country. "We can look  at the same presentation, and he can be typing or writing with a little digital pen. I can see his comments and say, 'Actually, I think we should change it,' and I can type it in. It's almost like we're side by side."

     I know Wi-Fi gadgets are particularly hot right now -- devices that let you surf the Internet from the playground. Yes, technology can be overwhelming sometimes, but lately, I'm seeing all the upside.

    Do you use any gadgets to help you better organize your hectic life? Are you planning to try any new high-tech devices in 2009?


January 08, 2009

Workers say "no" to giving up work/life balance in 2009

    This is going to be a difficult year for business. And most of us want to keep our jobs.  But at what cost?

    FedEx Office, has checked the pulse of U.S. workers and found most of them claim work/life balance will be  more important to them in 2009 than it was last year. And, they're going to make some changes to get it, according to the Finding Better Balance" survey.

    Age made a difference:  A full 58 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe it will be more important to find better work/life balance in 2009, compared to 46 percent of those aged 35 to 54, and just 30 percent for the 50-and-over group.

   Here's how the workers' surveyed plan to take steps to get the ball rolling:

  • Take advantage of all vacation time (49 percent)
  • Prioritize projects (44 percent)
  • Create a weekly to-do list (42 percent)
  • Leave work at a reasonable hour (41 percent)
  • Take lunch breaks on a consistent basis (36 percent)

   Here are some suggestions from Tracy Brightman of FedEx:


Set your priorities and stick to them. Don't get sidelined by low-priority and last minute requests. Understanding the big picture and tackling the most important projects first will keep employees from burning the midnight oil unnecessarily.

Get the support you need. No employee, no matter how stellar, can do their job in a vacuum. It's smart to call in reinforcements early - including teammates, support staff, and external business services companies.

Put technology to work for you. According to the "Finding Better Balance" survey results, many modern technologies have helped America's workers attain better work/life balance. A full 77 percent of those surveyed said personal computers have been a major help in achieving work/life balance; 70 percent believe the same of the Internet and online business services.

    Are you seeking better balance in 2009? Do you plan to take all your vacation time this year? How about leave the office at a more reasonable hour? What else are you doing to reclaim personal time?

January 07, 2009

The New Year and Weight Gain

      As you try to stick to your New Year's resolution to lose weight or get in shape, while trying to excel at work and have a fulfilling personal life, think about this little truth: You hit 40 and weight gain just sneaks up on you.

     I laughed so much when I read an article in the New York Times by Michelle Slatalla. I think most of us can relate to her conclusion: "The older I become, the more I exercise and the less I eat. And yet, the fatter I am."


      "I thought I had it under control," Michelle writes. "For years I didn’t even bother to weigh myself because I thought all I needed was Spanx, the same Lycra and spandex flab-management system that helped Gwyneth Paltrow hide her haunting post-pregnancy paunch. I still remember how ecstatic I felt the first time I slipped on a pair of Seamless Mid-Thigh Shapers and managed to zip my tightest jeans. A sense of relief and well-being flooded me.

    "Unfortunately the good feeling didn’t last. Soon I had to start wearing two pairs at once. If only, like Gwyneth, I could have stopped there,"  Michelle writes and adds, ""before I knew it, I was wrapped so tightly that one night at dinner I warned my husband, “If I pass out, call the ambulance and make sure they bring the Jaws of Life.”

Spanx Michelle goes on to tell readers how she super-charged her exercise routine and discovered after she only  lost ... one pound? Like Michelle, I'm fighting weight gain in my 40s. I've always been thin, but I have to work much harder to fight belly fat and have vowed to find the time in 2009 to make that treadmill in my bedroom more than a piece of furniture.

     Michelle was able to get Dr. Maria Collazo-Clavell, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist who specializes in talking weight-gaining women of a certain age off the ledge, to give her advice.  “Mix it up,” she suggested. “You can’t keep increasing the aerobic forever, running more and more, however many times around the world. Add weight training or resistance exercises to work out specific muscle groups and you’ll see your body change shape.”

     So, I'm heeding that advice and mixing it up. But I take comfort in knowing if I get "too busy" to fight belly fat, there's always Spanx.

     Have you vowed to exercise more in 2009? How are you fitting it into your schedule?