Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Service of Women Confronted by the Same Old Hurdles

Thursday, November 4th, 2021


Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay

Working women of a certain age in senior positions have countless stories about meetings at which they were asked to serve or order refreshments, take notes or were talked over by a man who was praised for a great idea–the one the woman had just suggested but apparently nobody heard.

Sad to report that little has changed according to speakers and participants at an event I attended this week. Sponsored and produced by #DisruptAging from AARP and Tuenight, the topic was ageism and equity focusing on Gen-X women. Some attendees were younger than 41 to 56 and some older. I don’t know the demographic makeup of the viewers who were streaming the program on their devices. Note: All the tech people installing and running the streaming equipment were men.

Here’s a headline on the #DisruptAging website: “Don’t you hate it when people make assumptions based solely on someone’s age? It’s time we shed the negative stereotypes and unconscious age bias.” Anecdotally, I propose that ageism is worse for women than for men–especially women older than Gen-X. But enough about what I think–on with highlights of the program.

Margit Detweiler, a veteran on the topic and founder of Tuenight, welcomed attendees and introduced the speakers. The 40 over 40 website described her organization as “a cohesive, safe place for women ‘to hang out’ with their peers. It’s the ultimate book club meets Girls’ Night Out.” And about Detweiler, she “combats the idea that women over 40 are somehow meant to be put out to pasture rather than in the prime of their life. She’s truly walking the walk for the ‘over 40’ mission.”



Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

To ace the interviews for a job one of the speakers, Tracey Lynn Lloyd, used the formula for over confidence she’d observed resulted in the [irritating] successes by what she called the “mediocre white man.” She had the techniques down pat and snagged a prestigious marketing position which, in the end, she declined. As she didn’t tell the audience why, I asked her afterwards and she said she wasn’t qualified and that she wanted to be a writer, which she is. She admitted that her Dad was disappointed that she’d passed on such a lucrative salary, but she realized that money doesn’t mean that much to her. [I couldn’t help suggesting that most people are severely deficient in some part of every new job but admired her self-knowledge.]

Another speaker, Abby West, was urged by a friend in HR to ask for $20,000 more even though she was thrilled with the salary, bonus and stock options of a job she coveted. She did ask, after describing to us the reasons she was reluctant to, and with her friend’s guidance with wording, said that she was then offered “significantly more.”

Women continue to discount their worth. In a conversation during the break a manager said that the men who report to her consistently ask for raises–some twice a year–and that the women never do.

I was alarmed to hear Marcelle Karp, well on the road to 60, say she didn’t get a job, in spite of a stellar career that made her a match, because she didn’t have a college degree. She now has one and is working towards a Masters. And how old fashioned am I? I would weigh job history and success over a degree any day. Silly me: I know an organization that insists on Masters degrees for what I’d consider menial administrative positions.

Have you observed advancements for women in the workplace–no more coffee runs, note taking requests or discounting/ignoring their contributions at meetings? What about opportunities for those over 40 or 60–are women still at a bigger disadvantage than men? Is the most viable option to strike out on their own and give up hope of working for a large organization? In spite of the increased number of single mothers and women in the workplace, do companies still think of men as being the primary breadwinners which once was the excuse for paying them more? What do you suggest women do to change the paradigms about them?

Service of Worker Shortage

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Have you been impacted by worker shortage? The answer would be “yes” if you were trying to renew your passport. Debra Kamin reported in The New York Times that it could take 18 weeks to renew by mail vs. six to eight before the pandemic. Appointments at one of the 26 official passport centers around the country–if you hope to fast track a renewal–are almost as hard to come by as winning lottery tickets.

A shortage of Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers has created inordinately long Airport lines.

Photo: Hudson Garden Grill

Yet service was perfect at the Hudson Garden Grill located in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx last Sunday. One of my friends asked the waiter if they were serving monkey bread and he explained that the restaurant is short-staffed and not fully back to where it was before the pandemic, so not yet, but soon. [I’d never eaten, seen or heard of this bread. Next time.]

I was happy to find an item that was out of stock at the three CVS stores within walking distance of my apartment when I happened to be on East 72nd Street. The store was clearly short staffed as it took too many minutes to get someone to free the item from behind locked doors. And then there was trouble with an express checkout machine and only one cashier. A valiant very young man was trying to answer questions, assist at checkout and open locked items.

CVS usually sends a “how did we do?” query after I buy something and I gave my experience an 8–because I was so happy to see the hard-to-find item. There’s space to explain your score. I was blown away when the store manager wrote the day after my response. Here’s an excerpt of his email: “As the Store Manager, I deeply regret that we were not able to meet your expectations regarding the items you wanted being locked up and your checkout experience.

“Good news or bad, feedback from our customers helps us understand the experience for all, and when necessary, make improvements to meet your expectations. We will continue to get better at unlocking items. I truly apologize for the inconvenience. In terms of your checkout, we do have some new hires that we are training and it takes some time to get them up to speed. They will get better as well. I hope next time your experience is a 10!

“I would like to personally invite you to let me know how we are doing. Please respond directly to this email with the best date, time, and phone number to reach you.”

Now that’s customer service!

Has the worker shortage affected you? Have the businesses and services you frequent been able to work around it?

Service of Advice II

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Pauline Phillips, the Abby of “Dear Abby,” had just died at 94 when I first wrote about advice in January 2013.

I loved being a mentor to college students which is vaguely related. I devour advice columns and like to read Philip Galanes’ “Social q” column in The New York Times. What fun to be responsible for such a column as long as the questions–and my answers–don’t involve life and death.

Here are a few topics of recent Galanes columns:

  • “How can I tell my mother-in-law to buzz off?” [She intrudes on the writer’s little time with her parents on a visit home.]
  • “My son is being bullied, and I don’t know what to do.” [He’s a teenager.]
  • “How do I get  parents to stop bankrolling their adult son?” [Query from a sibling.]
  • “Do I really have to tip?” [carpet cleaning service staff.]
  • “Can my kids forgive their brother for his secret wedding?” [It was a surprise to both sets of parents who, along with one best friend, were the only ones in attendance.]
  • “I shouldn’t tell my employer I’m vaccinated, right?” [The writer was leery of the company. It gave gift cards to those who shared photos of vaccination cards.]

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

David Brooks wrote an opinion piece in the Times recently “Why is it OK to be Mean to the Ugly?” He noted that “We live in a society that abhors discrimination on the basis of many traits. And yet one of the major forms of discrimination is lookism, prejudice against the unattractive. And this gets almost no attention and sparks little outrage. Why?” I’ve seen it in action. All female employees of a company with which I was once familiar were remarkably beautiful–8 level attractive at the very least.

Brooks also wrote: “In survey after survey, beautiful people are described as trustworthy, competent, friendly, likable and intelligent, while ugly people get the opposite labels. This is a version of the halo effect.” He lists the interviews, preferred jobs and bigger salaries they attract, the better grad schools that accept them–even the number of times they are quoted by media. He praises Victoria’s Secret that has opted to change its strategy by switching out its body-perfect models for women with a range of silhouettes.

What questions would you ask an advice columnist? Would you enjoy that gig? What have you observed about what David Brooks called “lookism?”

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Service of Respect

Monday, January 25th, 2021

Photo: lean.org

I pluck a vital quote from last week that I hope will be imitated by organizations and companies around the land:

I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No if, ands, or buts.” —President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Zoom at the swearing-in ceremony for staffers of his new administration on Inauguration Day.

Photo:eskill.com

I’ve worked at companies that set one employee against the other–not a fit for me. I’m plenty competitive but I work best in collaborative environments. I’ve also worked for magazines or agencies at which bullying and nastiness didn’t exist because management didn’t practice or tolerate it.

For every personality there’s a management style that inspires. To do their jobs some need to be prodded which feels like abuse to me because I know what’s expected and when and try to deliver before deadline. Others do best if they respect–not fear–their clients or boss.

Do you think the administration staffers got President Biden’s message and will abide by it? Was he micromanaging? Are there situations in which such an approach wouldn’t work? In what environment do you excel?

Photo: proofhub.com

Service of Pride in Work

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Photo: youtube

Hair-raising

I have been going to the same hair stylist and salon for years. Support staff in the establishment changes frequently. Most recently this neighborhood business hired a hair washer who, when he’s finished rinsing, adds a spectacular head massage for minutes–no extra charge [though my appreciation appears in his tip]. Heaven. When not washing hair he never sits still, sweeping away every hair practically as soon as it hits the bright white floor. Who knows if he loves what he does but his pleasant nature and fervor insure that he’ll always get work. He’s at the salon a few days a week and is a bartender at night.

Hauntingly Charming

I forgot I’d dashed off a note to the manager of my apartment building. I admired the fall decorations that appeared in the entrance early in the month and the abundant flowers planted outside. When I passed him in the lobby weeks later he beamed and thanked me for my note. I’ve written before about him and the 510 apartments he oversees. He runs the 38 story building as though it was his private home.

Brick by Brick

In the 30s, east of Second Avenue in Manhattan, there are sterile streets spanning two blocks–no stores, no doors to apartments or offices–just road and narrow sidewalks on either side, which is unusual. The passages permit vehicles quick access to the Midtown Tunnel that runs under the East River connecting this borough and Queens.

I walk through one almost daily on my way to and from work [photo left and below]. It was out of commission and closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic for a few days to lay down new sidewalks and brick walls. This particular morning a crew was adding some finishing touches. As I sauntered past I said to the crew chief “looking good” and he stopped me to point out particulars of his men’s handiwork. He was so pleased someone noticed the brickwork and sidewalks and joyfully shared some finer points.

It is a pleasure to be around people who act as though they like what they do, who do their work well and with pride. Can you share examples?

Service of an Obnoxious Co-Worker

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Photo: npr.org.

A friend who directed a large department at a major corporation advised her staff about dealing with difficult people at the office. “They are like mosquitoes,” she said, “they can’t hurt you; they are just mindless irritations that you can swat away.”

Photo: youtube.com

At least one insufferable person works in almost every office, organization or business. Most of us have faced or observed them. “They’re the people who demean and disrespect you. They might steal credit for your successes, blame you for their failures, invade your privacy or break their promises, or bad-mouth you, scream at you and belittle you. As the organizational psychologist Bob Sutton puts it, they treat you like dirt, and either they don’t know it or they don’t care.” Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, wrote this and shared his tips on how to best endure in a New York Times article, “How to Deal with a Certified Jerk at Work.”

Photo: mindsight.clinic

Becoming defensive isn’t the solution, wrote Grant. He approached a heckler in the audience of one of his presentations. He called for a time out, approached the offender and said “You’re welcome to disagree with the data, but I don’t think that’s a respectful way to express your opinion. It’s not how I was trained to have an intellectual debate. Were you?” The critic had called him ignorant and said Grant didn’t know what he was talking about. After Grant sent him backup data, the fellow apologized. Dr. Sutton calls a person like this “a temporary jerk.”

Grant reported: “Research on the psychology of certified jerks reveals that they have a habit of rationalizing aggression. They’ve convinced themselves that they have to act that way to get the results they want.” The way conflict mediation expert Sheila Heen told Grant that she might respond to an aggressive person is by saying “Really? It was my impression that you were smarter than that, and more creative than that — so I bet you could come up with some other ways to be just as clear without having to actually rip somebody else apart.”

You might not be able to speak with a boss or manager this way so Grant suggested decreasing your independence and minimizing your interaction with the chief while at the same time increasing his/her dependence on you. Dr. Sutton had a different idea: consider the person a “spectacular, amazing specimen” for your study of jerks to change “your attitude toward the situation.”

How have you dealt with an obnoxious creature at work? What do you think the inspiration is for a person to act this way? To use my friend’s analogy of treating work jerks like a mosquitos, what repellant do you use to divert their attention? Are there any positive outcomes of surviving the negative dynamic?

Photo: wikihow.com

Service of Women Construction Workers: Positive Political Impact?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

A few weeks ago I was walking in midtown Manhattan and was taken by the sign above. That’s why Anne Kadet’s Wall Street Journal article also caught my eye: “Yes They Can! Program Boosts Number of Women Construction Workers–New York City’s construction unions say the portion of apprentice slots reserved for women has risen from 10% to 15%, and most are filled with graduates of the Nontraditional Employment for Women [NEW].”

Kadet wrote that the seven week tuition-free training program is done in a former Manhattan firehouse. The Blue Collar Prep program includes carpentry, electrical work, trades math, health and safety.

According to its website, the program was founded in 1978: NEW “prepares women for careers in construction, transportation, energy and facilities maintenance industries.”

Photo; new-nyc.org

Kadet reported: “NEW recruits and trains about 225 women a year to enter apprentice programs offered by the city’s construction unions…… Nationally and citywide, women fill just 3% of construction jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. NEW and union officials say that as a result of their unusual efforts, women represent more than 6% of the New York area’s roughly 100,000 union construction workers.”

Jennifer Wilkerson with the National Center for Construction Education and Research [NCCER] pointed to an anticipated shortage of trades workers, the strikingly low number of women currently in the industry and the fact that many women aren’t aware of the opportunities for them. Hopefully the word will spread about this way for women to make a lucrative living and more will.

“NEW’s incoming students usually earn low wages in traditionally female occupations, said Erik Antokal, the group’s assistant vice president for programming. Union construction jobs, meanwhile, typically pay $40 to $60 an hour, plus full benefits. ‘These are family-sustaining, middle-class jobs,’ he said.”

Photo: youtube.com

According to Kadet, “Some still have a hard time accepting women in hard hats. But NEW grad Erika Glenn-Byam said the culture has improved since she started working as a laborer in 2006. On one of her first jobs, a co-worker confessed that the men on her crew shared a secret motto: ‘Get rid of the women!’

“‘You guys need to grow up,” she told him.” After 13 years as a laborer she is buying a two-family house for herself, her mother and brother who has Down syndrome.

I admire people with construction skills and almost daily wish I had some. I’d not heard of NEW or programs like it for women–have you?– yet it’s been around for 41 years.

What do you think of women in construction? As their numbers increase do you think it will inflame resentment by men feeling women are increasingly infringing on their world or because it seems to be working, might it assuage tensions between men and women in certain industries with positive political ramifications for women?

Photo: nwic.org

Service of Performance Evaluations: Inequality for Women

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Photo: yourlifechoices.com.au

Words have always mattered, especially to those who make their livings writing, singing, reporting, performing in plays and films, giving speeches and the like. Today most are aware which words hurt or insult and use them with eyes wide open.

There is an area—performance evaluations–in which word choice unintentionally sends harmful or positive signals. The negative impact falls on women and their potential for leadership positions.

Photo: leanhealthcareerchance.com

I wasn’t surprised by the findings of two researcher/professor PhD’s and a PhD statistical consultant who studied the words most used for men and for women—4,000 of them–in 81,000 military performance evaluations. The Harvard Business Review published highlights of their findings.

For men the words were “analytical” as a positive and “arrogant” as a negative. For women, positive and negative words were “compassionate” and “inept” respectively. Any doubt which you’d hire if you were looking for a competent employee—an analytical or compassionate one? Which would you fire first if you had to choose between arrogance and ineptness?

David G. Smith, Judith E. Rosenstein and Margaret C. Nikolov explained why they chose the military as their hunting ground. “The top-down enforcement of equal employment opportunity policies, hierarchical organization by military rank and not social status characteristics, and recent total gender integration in all occupations are hallmarks of meritocratic organizations where we might expect less gender bias in performance evaluations.”

They found no differences in objective measures–grades, fitness scores or class standing.

Photo: helioshr.com

Back to the subjective measures, the focus of their conclusions. “Men were more often assigned attributes such as analytical, competent, athletic and dependable, women were more often assigned compassionate, enthusiastic, energetic and organized.” And to describe negative attributes “women were more often evaluated as inept, frivolous, gossip, excitable, scattered, temperamental, panicky, and indecisive, while men were more often evaluated as arrogant and irresponsible.”

The researchers’ wrote that their findings line up with others that also show that women often receive “vague feedback that is not connected to objectives or business outcomes, which is a disadvantage when women are competing for job opportunities, promotions, and rewards, and in terms of women’s professional growth and identity.” Female leaders are criticized for being “too bossy or aggressive” and yet advised that they should “be more confident and assertive.” Other research has shown that “when women are collaborative and communal, they are not perceived as competent—but when they emphasize their competence, they’re seen as cold and unlikable, in a classic ‘double bind.’”

The researchers wrote that when asked, most people think of men as leaders. Their study showed that “even in this era of talent management and diversity and inclusion initiatives, our formal feedback mechanisms are still suffering from the same biases, sending subtle messages to women that they aren’t ‘real leaders’— men are.”

Have you written performance evaluations using different terminology to describe men and women’s qualities and weaknesses? Have you run into this bias in performance evaluations about you or people you know? Do you know women who are analytical, competent, athletic and dependable—the positive words to describe men’s performances–or men who are compassionate, enthusiastic, energetic and organized, flattering words about women?

Photo: businessnewsdaily.com

David G. Smith, PhD, is a professor of sociology in the Department of National Security Affairs at the United States Naval War College. Judith E. Rosenstein, PhD, is a professor of sociology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the United States Naval Academy. Margaret C. Nikolov, PhD is an independent statistical consultant who previously taught at the United States Naval Academy.

 

Service of Using Economic Arguments to Mask Bigotry

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Photo: wxyz.com

I’ve got news for those who fear that immigrants will take jobs from Americans. Turns out there aren’t enough people in this country to handle the work that businesses need as it is. Unemployment stats on Friday were the lowest since 2000—3.8 percent.

That fact doesn’t faze some Republican lawmakers. They demanded “a vote on a bill that would lower legal—not illegal, but legal—immigration,” according to Gerald F. Seib. In his Wall Street Journal article, “An Immigration Debate Distinct From Economic Realities–There is a good case that America’s economy has never needed immigrant labor more than it does now,” he reported that 6.6 million unfilled job openings impact fisheries in Alaska, restaurants in New Hampshire, crab processors in Maryland and farmers. “For the first time in history,” he wrote, “there are enough openings to provide a job for every unemployed person in the country.”

Photo: alaskajournal.com

There were 66,000 travel permits allotted for low-skilled foreign workers requesting H-2B visas in January yet the federal government received thousands more applications. Seib predicted that the feds might add 15,000 more–not nearly enough. “The search for more highly skilled workers is even more urgent. The NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business] says that 22% of small-business owners say finding qualified workers is their single most important business problem, more than those who cite taxes or regulations,” he wrote.

In “Summer is Here. Where are the Workers?” Ruth Simon, in the same paper, reported that last year Congress refused to renew visas for returning workers–each had to start the process from scratch. She wrote that landscaping and food processing businesses are as severely impacted as restaurants. The demand is so great that the government made a business’s “winning” workers the random choice of a lottery because they were 15,000 short six months ago.

Back to Sieb. He wrote that “Demographers think that in the next three decades, the share of Americans aged 65 and older will surpass the share of Americans aged 18 and younger,” and he concluded that even though we “can handle…and may actually need” more immigrants “the climate is more hostile toward immigrants and immigration than at any time in recent memory.”

Photo: buildingacustomhome.com

Sieb attributed the 2016 campaign for moving a political party that generally favored immigration because it energized the American bloodstream to one that is “increasingly dominated by those with a distinctly darker view of immigration.” In addition to jacking up punitive laws against illegal aliens and refusing to offer permanent legal status to Dreamers, the conservative members’ bill would reduce the number of visas by 25 percent, to 260,000/year. The Cato Institute calculated that the reduction “would be closer to 40%, adding: ‘This would be the largest policy-driven reduction in legal immigration since the awful, racially motivated acts of the 1920s.’”

Immigration grinches posit that Americans’ wages should increase as a result though that doesn’t seem to be happening [take a look at last Thursday’s post, “Service of Hourly Work–No Bed of Roses,” as one example]. Seib attributes the true attitude “among many Americans that they are losing control of their country and its traditions—as in economic dislocation. The quest to control America’s borders has morphed into much broader sentiments.”

Stingy immigration quotas negatively impact small business. Would lawmakers take better notice if big business was affected? Immigrants have been absorbed here for decades. How best to allay economic fears of those blocking immigration today? Addressing the fear of loss of control is a bigger challenge: In addition to fighting with better education, any other ideas?

Service of Hourly Work–No Bed of Roses

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Photo: biggiesboxers.com

Hourly workers have more than minimum wage pay and taxes nibbling away at their income. They must fight to get the full wages due because of technology that gyps them and also upends and holds their lives hostage by changing their work schedules at the last minute.

Photo: work.chron.com

Rachel Feintzeig in her Wall Street Journal article reported something that doesn’t get sufficient attention. The headline: “Employees Say Time-Tracking Systems Chip Away at Their Paychecks–Employers maintain the methods keep labor costs predictable and reduce time spent recording breaks.”

Workers are suing American Airlines, Kroger and Montage Hotels & Resorts, to name a few businesses “for unfairly subtracting fractions of their hourly wages using time-tracking technology.” These “rounding policies” over years can amount to $thousands in lost pay.

Some hourly hospital workers are in the same boat as their counterparts in airline, supermarket and hospitality industries. Often they can’t leave a patient to grab a bite of lunch yet they are automatically dunned a half an hour of pay each day for a break not taken. Workers in call centers who stay past their shift to finish a call claim that the time “is rounded away.”

Photo: cheatsheet.com

The fines made against businesses represent chump change to employers who have saved $millions in unpaid wages. Elizabeth Tippett, a professor at the University Of Oregon School Of Law told Feintzeig that casino workers in Nevada were awarded $450,000 when the gaming company they sued saved $12.6 million in wages thanks to its rounding policies. After litigation costs the employees shared $207,500.

Photo: casino.org

The software creates a “heads I win, tails you lose” dynamic with employers holding all the cards causing additional miseries for hourly workers. Feintzeig wrote: “Time-tracking software is usually part of a broader workforce management system that records absences and schedules workers. These suites of software have come under fire from attorneys general in New York and other states for enabling employers to switch around shift assignments at the last minute, creating unpredictable schedules for workers.”

Time tracking technology is also big business–$12 billion worth. Clearly more than a few companies use it.

Do these workers have a prayer in today’s economic climate that favors the rich and ignores everyone else?

Photo: 123rf.com

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