Category Archives: Blogs

The power of time off

Just the other day, an executive recruiter asked me if I thought people still take sabbaticals. He told me is thinking about taking one. The recruiter also asked me if I thought there was a correlation between service professionals, their high stress levels and health issues. He thinks there is and that sabbaticals are the answer.

So, when I heard that every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook, it caught my attention. Interestingly Stefan mapped the life span of working adults and decided to take years from his retirement and intersperse it with his working life. The end result was creative and enjoyable for all.

Here's he is on Ted.com talking about the power of taking time off. I found it inspiring. Would you be brave enough to take a sabbatical?

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Giving your employer your Facebook password?

Facebook

How bad do you want to land a job or keep the one you have? Bad enough to give an employer your Facebook password?

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Yes, folks this is a new trend. Companies and government agencies are asking for employees' passwords so they can go on their social networks and have a look around.

I'm horrified. Bassett is too. But, he says, some job seekers can't afford to be horrified.

"I think asking for account login credentials is regressive," he said. "If you need to put food on the table for your three kids, you can't afford to stand up for your belief."

To me, this is just the latest step toward erosion of privacy. Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor, called it "an egregious privacy violation."  What should our expectation of privacy be anymore?

Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publicly available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. This should be in the back of our minds when we post ANYTHING in public view (like maybe St. Patrick's Day partying photos?)

But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks. Companies know this and that's why they want your passwords.

At least two states are proposing legislation that would ban public agencies from asking for employee passwords, calling it a violation of privacy rights. Can you believe legislation would be necessary?

But at the same time, employers need to know the risk to them.

Labor attorney Alicia Voltmer says they should be asking:  "Even if I have access, do I really want to look?" Voltmer, with Ogletree Deakins, says having the password to a social network site and looking at a candidate's personal page could open an employer to discrimination claims. "If an employer sees something about someone's ethnicity or religion and then doesn't hire them, could that be called discrimination?"

Voltmer says while hiring discrimination can be difficult to prove, it could be expensive and time consuming to defend.

Fox News reports that even companies that don't ask for passwords have taken other steps — such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.

To me, our Facebook pages are public but our passwords are personal. I think employers are going to far and employees should fight back with a big, fat, "NO WAY YOU CAN'T HAVE MY PASSWORD."

Readers, is there any circumstance in which you would you give your password to an employer?  Is asking for it crossing the line or just good business?

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

How to deal with a child care emergency

It's Spring Break in South Florida and many working parents are scrambling to find childcare while they have to work. I wonder, have you ever found yourself in a child care emergency?

Today, my guest blogger is Melissa Anderson, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Sittercity. Melissa has some great advice for working parents who find themselves in this situation. She is pictured below with her son, Kyle.

 Melissa A and Kyle

Every parent knows that emergencies are just part of life…no matter how well you plan, things are going to happen; it’s simply Murphy’s Law.  For me, a working mother of two, life’s unexpected problems always seem to come at the wrong time.   They go wrong for stay-at-home mothers as many times as working mothers – so no one’s immune to this situation.

Recently, my nanny called me to let me know she had come down with the flu and would be out for a few days.  She was very apologetic and I certainly understood.   She is wonderful extension of the family and my children adore her; but to be honest, I didn’t want a sick person – not matter how wonderful they are – getting my kids sick too! So I was happy she was taking the responsible course of action to stay home to take care of herself; but I found myself in a situation which many can relate to: I was suddenly out of a sitter – and I had a big presentation that day.  I couldn’t stay home and neither could my husband. 

Parents can relate to this, and it can lead to a state of panic: Where am I going to find a trustworthy sitter to watch my children in a moment’s notice?

 Luckily, I work at Sittercity, the nation’s largest and most trusted online resource to find amazing babysitters and nannies. At Sittercity, I lead a team who provide companies with Sittercity’s child and eldercare benefit program. Many companies offer Sittercity as an employee benefit to help their team members to have a Plan B – or backup plan. So every day, my team and I work with other companies to help their employees solve breakdowns in childcare arrangements both planned (school vacations, holidays and caregiver holidays) and unplanned (sick children, snow days, flu season, sick, nannies).  Now it was time for me to practice what I preach and put my backup plan into action.

In planning for such a situation, I had previously interviewed a number of sitters and had a list of my Sittercity backup sitters who are available at a moment’s notice.  I emailed all of my sitters at the click of a button through Sittercity and one responded almost immediately that she was available.  Sittercity’s Short Notice requests are usually met in just over two hours, but my sitter was at my house within the hour and my childcare crisis was averted.  I could go to work with my mind was at ease knowing my children would be well cared for.

Sounds easy right?  It is, but there is a lot of advance planning that goes into a seamless backup plan.  Here are some steps you can take to be prepared when you need a Plan B-Backup Care:

  • Check with your employer to determine if your workplace has a backup childcare solution – and feel free to call me if it doesn’t!

 

  • If your employer doesn’t have a plan, sign up with a babysitting service like Sittercity.com.  Sittercity.com has monthly or annual memberships that connect you with hundreds, if not thousands of qualified sitters in your area.

 

  • Develop a pool of babysitters at the ready.  Sittercity recommends a four-step screening process . Step One: Read the online reviews and ratings listed directly on caregiver profiles on Sittercity.  Step Two: Conduct an interview with all caregivers.  Step Three: Check a caregiver’s references (also listed directly on caregiver profiles on Sittercity).     Step Four: Run a background check.  Additional available checks include an Enhanced Background Check and Motor Vehicles Record Check.

 

  • If you haven’t developed a pool of sitters, you can use last minute tools on sites like Sittercity called “Sittercity Short Notice” which help you find new sitters within a an hour or two.

I hope these tips can help you with backup care.  Do you have any additional tips that can help working parents find a backup sitter?

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Should Peyton Manning Expect Loyalty?

Peyton_manning_0307

The media is abuzz in South Florida, tracking every move Peyton Manning makes and speculating whether he will join the Miami Dolphins. The guy must be used to media attention but still looks a little shocked at the circus scene that's playing out.

Just a few days ago, the  NFL’s star quarterbacks was cut loose by the Indianapolis Colts after 14 seasons of  brilliance.  I watched the awkward press conference and monitored the reaction as many Colts fans took to social media to direct anger and frustration at team owner Jim Irsay for letting the franchise icon go.

But should anyone be angry anymore about the lack of employer loyalty?

Both Manning and Irsay suggested that this outcome was forced by circumstance — Manning's injury and the contract that both parties had agreed to — and stated that their relationship remains strong. After Irsay spoke, Manning addressed the media as well as Colts fans in Indianapolis. "I do love it here," Manning said, holding back tears. "I love the fans and I will always enjoy having played for such a great team."

To me, the message this emotional parting sent to the public is that no one — not even the great Peyton Manning — can expect job security.

Sports is a business.Colts fans, like the rest of us, would like to believe that businesses value their employees. But CEOs do what they need to do for the business.

If there's one thing this current recession showed us, it's that superstars can lose their jobs, too. Over the last few years, I've received tons of email from shocked and devastated employees, who gave their blood, sweat and tears for businesses that closed or restructured or downsized. Suddenly, they found themselves out of work and having a hard time coming to grips with the lack of loyalty.

This new generation of workers watches the Peyton Manning press conference through different eyes. It understands that a job is temporary. The Millenials are always on the lookout for something better and who can blame them!

Can the rest of us come to grips with the new reality? Loyalty is dead on both sides. Job security is last century and very soon Peyton Manning will put on another team's jersey and go to work.

Readers, do you think this new reality has changed the way we work and live? Are we less willing to give a job our all, or more eager than ever to prove ourselves the best so opportunities will come our way? 

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

How to make someone miserable at work

Horrible boss
More than 20 years ago, I worked in an office with mostly female co-workers. Our male boss had a nasty, gruff manner and gave all of us lousy performance reviews. We could never do anything to meet his expectations. Every suggestion made at a staff meeting became an invitation for him to call us moronic. I grew to disdain this man.

Before long, most of my co-worker friends bolted. I had little work experience so it wasn't as easy for me to jump ship. But I was lonely and miserable so I didn't the unthinkable  — I quit without another job lined up. Not my proudest moment! 

Today, I read a story in the Washington Post that reminded me of those dark days. It's titled: How to completely, utterly destroy an employee’s work life.

Teresa Amabile,director of research at Harvard Business School and Steven Kramer, a developmental psychologist and researcher, are coauthors of The Progress Principle. They have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work and what makes them miserable.

"What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work. Many leaders, from team managers to CEOs, are already surprisingly expert at smothering employee engagement."

They give five steps to making an employee miserable:

Step 1: Never allow pride of accomplishment.  (At every turn, stymie employees’ desire to make a difference)

Step 2: Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. (Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible, and allow people no autonomy in meeting them.)

Step 3: Give yourself some credit. (Truly believe that employees are doing just fine  and that “bad morale” is due to the employees’ unfortunate personalities or poor work ethics.

Step 4: Kill the messengers.  ( if you do get wind of problems in the trenches, deny, deny, deny. And if possible, strike back)

Readers, have you ever been in a workplace where the boss or manager has completely and utterly destroyed your work life? Did it force you do to something as drastic as I did? Do you have any advice for others beyond — quit your job?

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Leap day: Do we really get extra time?

Leapday

 

Ahhhh….Leap Day. I want to believe that it means I get an extra day to get more done, but the week goes on as usual.

For those of you who earn a salary, you might consider it an extra day of work — a day you're slaving away for free. Here's what's happening: Most workers get a set salary for a typical year, which is usually 365 days. But there's an extra day this year so employers are getting more from you.  

Dale Carnegie Training's Michael Crom suggests taking a more positive spin: "This gives employees an additional day to excel and an opportunity to have 24 more hours to really focus on what they want to accomplish in the month of February."

When pondering Leap Day, my pal Laura Vanderkam asks:  Wouldn’t it have been fun if we did get an extra-calendar day? Monday, Tuesday, Leap Day, Wednesday… What would you do if someone gave you a bonus day? Laura says she had a realization:  "If people had more time, they’d do exactly the same things they do now. If you don’t find time for reflection or adventures in a 365-day year, you won’t find time in a 366-day year either."

So readers, I ask you: Are you choosing to spend your time in ways your find meaningful or enjoyable? If not, what can you do to change up your routine? 

On this "bonus day" I've decided I'm going to stop cramming more of the same into my scheduled life and open myself to more of the new. I was invited to play Bunco tonight. My first reaction was "How ridiculous! I don't have time for that!" The truth is, I have no idea how to play, nor do I know many of the women in the group that invited me. Why not open myself to meeting new people and learning new things? Four years from now, when Leap Day comes around again, I want to feel like I'm doing more than treading water to keep up with work and family. I want to feel like I made time for new experiences.

Readers, do you see today as a bonus day to have more fun — or just another day of work?

 

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Has Google usurped our parenting? Ask Google Dad

Yesterday, my 10-year-old  son wanted to know what triumph meant. I immediately pulled out my pocket dictionary and tossed it to him. He looked at me like I was from another planet and said: "Really mom?" He then marched over to the computer and put the word into Google.

I felt so old school!!!

Face it parents, our kids will do everything in their lives differently than we did. They will work differently, learn differently, play differently and it will be sooooo hard for us to come to grips with this new reality as we try to fit becoming more tech-savvy into our work life balance.

Today, my guest blogger is an old friend, Miami super attorney Spencer Silverglate. He shares his wise take and personal experience raising kids in the digital age.

Googledad
 

            Blood red.  Marbled to perfection.  Two 12-ounce slabs of New York’s finest, grass-fed, prime-grade, cut-it-with-a-fork, melt-in-your-mouth, beef fillets. Steak.  It’s what’s for dinner—at least it was last Wednesday. Except it wasn’t just another meal. 

        As I explained that morning to my 16-year-old son Cameron, it would be the night I pass on the manly pursuit of grilling dead animal flesh.  Just like my father passed it on to me and his, undoubtedly, to him.  Yes, that night I would hand over the apron and tongs to my son and reveal the family recipe for grilling steak.  He may have started the day a boy, but by nightfall, he would be a man. Barbecue Man!

         Imagine my shock when I rolled into the driveway at 6:45 that evening, accosted by the unmistakable aroma of sizzling meat.  Impossible, I thought to myself. I hadn’t even begun the lesson.  I stared in disbelief as I entered the house and saw my son on the back patio, hovering over the open flames that caressed the tender underbelly of the New York Strips.

           “What do you think you’re doing?!” I barked.  “You were supposed to wait for me.  And be careful, you’ll burn the steaks.  You need to cut ‘em open and check to see if they’re done.”

            “No, Dad,” he objected.  “If you do that, the juice will leak out.”

            “What are you talking about?” I snapped.  “I’ve always done it that way.”

            “Chef Ramsey says cutting the steak will dry it out like beef jerky,” he responded.  “You’re supposed to press the meat and feel for the same firmness as the fleshy part of your nose.”

            “The fleshy part of . . . who the heck is Chef Ramsey?!” I snarled.

            “Really, Dad?  Gordon Ramsey—quite possibly themost famous chef on TV.  I just watched him on YouTube.  According to Gordon, this is an 8 ½ minute steak.”

            I stood there slack-jawed for a moment and then walked away with the remnants of my male ego.  Probably just as well.  My son was putting the final grate marks on the best cooked steaks the old grill ever produced.

            The Steak Incident, and others like it, has caused me to question whether our role of parents has been usurped by computers.  There’s very little we can teach our kids that they can’t find on the Internet.  Only the computer generated lesson is “better.”  If you’re a kid, why ask a parent for help with homework when you can have a Stanford professor explain it online?  Why ask dad how to swing a baseball bat when Albert Pujols can teach you on YouTube?   Why ask mom for decorating advice when you can watch Martha Stewart on your smart phone? 

            What’s the capital of Iceland?  Wikipedia it.  How do you spell “chrysanthemum?”  Spell check it (I just did). How do you build a tree-house?  Google it.  How do you get to the mall?  GPS it. Who sings this song?  There’s an app for that. Where do babies come from?  You get the point.

             We were at dinner the other night and a disagreement broke out over the ways in which one may become a U.S. citizen.  My son, who recently studied the issue, explained the process to my wife and me.  Poor lad, he left out the one about marrying a U.S. citizen. I figured I’d impress him with my mental superiority, so I laid it on him.  He respectfully disagreed, explaining that marrying a citizen would yield a green card, not necessarily citizenship.  As my blood pressure began to rise, I figured I’d play the dad card.  You know the one: “I’m right because I’m dad.”  Before I could utter the words, my son already pulled up the facts on his iPhone. 

             The computer was right, of course.  The darn thing is always right.

             When I was a kid, what my father said was final.  These days what Google says is final.

            But have we moved forward or backward? We seem to be floating around in our own, ear-bud wearing bubbles streaming only preferred content.  Why listen to top 40 hits when I can live in the land of perpetual Bruce Springsteen?  For that matter, why bother interacting at all?  I may be sitting next to you at lunch, but I’m texting someone 300 miles away.  Today our personal relationships are not centered around work or school or church, but Facebook.  So what if we never leave the couch—we can still have thousands of “friends.”

           I take comfort in knowing that not everythingcan be replaced by machines.  Some things still need to be experienced, especially by our children.  They may be able to go online and learn about riding a bike, but they need a parents’ firm grip on the seat to steady the ride.  And maybe that’s the best metaphor for what parents provide their kids—a firm grip on the ride of life.   

            I realize of course that we won’t be getting rid of machines anytime soon, nor would I want to. Although technology has the potential to supplant relationships, it can also enhance them.  Anyone who has connected online to a forgotten high school friend can attest to that.

             Like anything in life, there must be a balance.  A harmony between man and machine that enriches rather than detracts from the human experience. Which brings me back to my son…

            Just the other day I was getting ready for a formal party and decided on a whim to sport a white pocket square to offset my black tuxedo.  Not being a hanky-in-the-top-pocket kind of guy, I had no idea how to fold the silken Rubik’s Cube.  Cameron happened to notice my struggle and casually suggested I go online.   Even though it wasn’t my first instinct, I had to admit it was a good idea.  A few minutes later I had a perfectly folded pocket square.

            So there you have it.  My family, just like my ebony suit and ivory handkerchief, now lives together in perfect harmony—with a little help from Google.

 

Googledad2

( Google dad, Spencer, and son, Cameron)

The Work/Life Balancing Act