Good Reads for Human Resources Professionals

The February 2010 issue of Law Practice Today, the webzine published by the ABA’s Law Practice Management section, is now available and can be read in its entirety at the Law Practice Management section’s website.  I was the issue editor for this edition, which focuses on the Human Resources side of management.  The articles are great and offer lessons that apply to all industries.  Continue reading

Should Women Shun Work-Life Balance Benefits?

Glass-ceiling research shows women continue to be harmed by gender stereotypes.  Managers continue to discriminate against female subordinates because they incorrectly perceive women as having greater conflicts between their family responsibilities and their work responsibilities than men, reports The Academy of Management Journal. Somewhat surprisingly, both male and female managers harbor this misperception.

The study, entitled “Bosses’ Perceptions of Family-Work Conflict and Women’s Promotability: Glass Ceiling Affects,” was conducted by members of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Managerial Studies. Lead author Jenny Hoobler commented that she expected that “[w]hat we’re talking about … is one of the subtle, entrenched forms of discrimination that make up the glass ceiling.”

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The study cautions women about using company-sponsored programs such as on-site child care, flex time or paid parental leave, which are designed to assist employees with work-life balance. The problem is that managers may view use of such benefits as confirmation of women’s greater susceptibility to work-family conflicts, and then view such women as less committed to the company and less promotable than their male counterparts who do not make use of such benefits.

The authors recommend that to reduce the potential that gender stereotyping will affect workplace decisions, companies should educate managers about their own possible biases and should be aware of and guard against allowing “biased perceptions of caregiving roles” to affect promotion decisions.

How Often Should Employees Check E-Mail After Hours?

If you’re an associate at the law firm Quinn Emanuel, the answer is “very, very often.”  According to legal tabloid, Above the Law, clients of the firm expect their attorneys to be on call 24/7.  Well, according to a memo written by a partner and circulated to associates, 24/7 may be “something of an exaggeration-but not much.”

In fact, the memo tells associates, they should check their e-mail while they’re in the office, as well as during off-duty time.  Specifically, unless there is a “good reason not to,” which the memo defines as “when you are asleep, in court, or in a tunnel,” associates are expected to check their e-mails once an hour. 

How would your employees respond to a directive like this? How would such an instruction affect morale, not too mention productivity.  This means that, when out to dinner, associates would have to check their Blackberries twice, maybe more, during the meal.  How romantic.

The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything

Maria Shriver is doing more than violating her state’s ban on cell phone use while driving these days. Perhaps her ambitious project is in part what compels her need to multi-task in the car (but please invest in a hands-free device, Maria, so the press can focus on your other admirable pursuits!).

As reported on Sloan’s Work and Family Network Blog, this week you will likely hear quite a bit in the media about a report being published by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress called A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything. The goal of this undertaking has been to provide an in-depth look at the status of women in America from a number of different perspectives and across a wide range of sectors – healthcare, higher education, law, public service, policy, etc.male female red blue

The report notes that while women constitute 57% of new college graduates, and while women have made great strides in the workplace, they still contribute twice the number of hours to dependent care and domestic tasks as men do. This disconnect means that—like it or not—employers will need to take steps to allow accommodate work-family issues to allow women (and other caregivers) to succeed in the workplace. It’s not just altruism that mandates this, it’s the employer’s bottom line.

Although there is proposed legislation to address some of the concerns (including paid sick leave), currently such measures are left largely to the employer. Although the report is ambitious and contains admirable goals, now is a tough time to pursue them. As we’ve discussed here before, the current attitude (although misguided) among many employers is that employees are lucky to have jobs and the last thing they feel compelled to discuss is “work-life” issues that may allow their employees to better juggle their demands outside of work. Nevertheless, as women continue to grow in number and rank in the workplace, this issue is here to stay.

October Is For: Work-Life Balance & Workplace Politics

Workplace Prof Blog reports that, last week, Congress designated October as National Work and Family Life Month.  The primary force behind the measure was the Alliance for Work-Life Progress, and the purpose was to encourage employers and employees to seek flexible work environments to better balance the needs of work and families.

October is also Workplace Politics Awareness Month.  So, how can we put these two noble causes together?  Continue reading

Women as Breadwinners

Unemployment is painful for anyone who wants to work but is unable to locate a suitable position.  With the increases in unemployment finally starting to lessen, the aftermath of layoffs has come into focus.  The manufacturing and construction industries were two of the hardest hit by the recession, suffering higher job losses than other industries.  Because these two industries employ disproportionately large numbers of males, men have suffered an equally disproportionate number of job losses. 

Since December 2007, men were at the receiving end of more than 74% of cuts.  Women, on the other hand, hold nearly 50% of payroll jobs, making them less vulnerable to financially motivated layoffs.  In June 2009, a record 1.4 million men left the labor force, as compared to a near-record 1.2 million women. 

The highest unemployment rate for men since the Great Depression was 10.1% in 1982.  In June, that number reached 10%. Post-Great Depression, the record for women was in 1982, 9.3%. Currently, it’s 7.6% today.

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What is less easy to quantify is the impact this shift has had on workplace and home-life dynamics.  As more and more women find themselves in a position of the sole wage earner, societal attitudes inevitably will be affected in some way, even if it’s not immediately noticeable.

Becky Beaupre Gillespie, of Good Enough Is the New Perfect, wrote a very insightful post detailing the struggle she and her husband have experienced in navigating their roles since he was let go from his job with a national law firm.  Her journey is surely one that many working women are experiencing across the country.  How it will impact the gender roles is yet to be seen.

A Turning Point for Women in the Legal Profession? Almost.

While in law school, I was defeated in the semi-final round of a moot court competition.  The reason for the loss?  My outfit. I’d worn a pantsuit and a female judge, who was a judge in real life, also, ridiculed the choice, telling me that no “real lawyer” would ever have worn pants to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was who we were “pretending” to argue before in the competition.  The harsh criticism came as a total shock to me and I’ve never forgotten it. 

Well, after these many years, I’ve finally been vindicated. In her first argument before the country’s highest court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, former Dean of Harvard Law School, wore a navy blue pantsuit and light blue blouse. So it seems that my judge was wrong.  A woman would and, in fact, did wear pants before the Supreme Court after all.  Does this brazen fashion choice signify a coming of age for women in the legal profession?  bw sexual equality male female scales of justice

Well, almost.

It would have been a far more remarkable silent victory but for the fact that it wasn’t silent at all.  Kagan’s choice was all over the legal newsboards.  Above The Law ran a story detailing the choice and discussing the outfit at length. The fact that her clothing garnered so much attention lessened the potentially important impact of what was surely a high point in Kagan’s legal legacy.  Had the media not found it so remarkable, Kagan’s pantsuit choice may have been a much more significant symbol of how far women have come in our profession.  But, by spotlighting it as a key point of interest, the news stories just reminds us that our fashion choices do matter–at least to the interested public. 

Nonetheless, the fact that Kagan was not dissuaded in her selection by the media’s interest does give me a great deal of satisfaction.  Would I follow Kagan’s lead?  I’d like to think so but I dare not speculate.  After all, an attorney with Kagan’s pedigree has plenty of reasons to be as confident as she was–she’s got the legal acumen to back up any outfit she “dares” to wear. 

See also:

Gender Discrimination & Dress Codes. Who wears the skirt, I mean, pants in your office?

Are Women Attorneys Being Stricken by a Pantsuit Pandemic?

The Pantsuit Pandemic Part II

Delaware’s Indian River School District Bans Cell Phones

Delaware’s Indian River School District has decided toSMS text marketing prohibit students from having cell phones, pagers, and other communication devices both at school and on school buses.   According to the Indian River’s School Board President Charles Birely, the District took this step because, cell phones are a distraction  that “have no place in the classroom.” 

Many public school districts have policies that restrict the possession and use of cell phones and similar devices at school. Such policies, of course, may give rise to legal liability when school officials seize or search a student’s phone.

Tweet Me! It’s Friday, for cryin’ out loud!

Twitter continues to gain popularity and I’ve jumped on the bandwagon.  Here are my “tweets” from this week, grouped into rough categories by topic.

 

Social Media

Video HowCreate an Account in LinkedIn (via Professionally Speaking) http://bit.ly/R130x Now you’ve got no excuse to avoid #social #networking

Using Twitter as a teaching tool (via #elearning future) Twitter_logo.jpeg

RT @mashable High School Admins Coerce Cheerleader for Facebook Password http://bit.ly/1O2xWf (and then disclose the info on her pers. pg.)

RT @fyiscreening4 Tips On How To Use Social Networks For Employee Screening (from N.Y. Law Journal)  http://bit.ly/j3zcv

RT @Twitter_Tips Top 10 Rules of Twitter Etiquette: http://ow.ly/iekG –Share this guide: http://bit.ly/44Vft3

RT @LissaLawyer: AmLaw Daily asks whether the Future is “Oh So Social” http://bit.ly/LmVpV

RT @HRSocialMedia: White House using LinkedIn to get comments from small business on health care reform http://tinyurl.com/lcnexv

Canada’s #privacy commissioner gives #Facebook a failing grade http://bit.ly/5VCoh (RT: @cybercourt)

RT @mashable Top 5 Funniest Fake Facebook Pages http://bit.ly/bkPDV. Slate’s fake Obama #Facebook page is a riot

 

Legal

FTC has postponed (again) the start of its “Red-Flag Rule” until November due to ?s re: how to comply. http://bit.ly/drImZ

Thanks to @MelanieMcClure for mention of my “anti-harassment policy tip sheet” http://tinyurl.com/mhh5hn

RT @Eric_B_Meyer: Philly Inquirer article rips Sen. Specter for wavering on #EFCA.

In Philly, $10m #verdict in police officers’ race-bias suit cut to $30k max per Title VII cap http://bit.ly/KJJoH

 

Presentations and Public Speaking

Delaware gets its own #Ignite night! (via The News Journal) YCST E-law did #Pecha Kucha back in April w/great response. http://bit.ly/OLi09

RT @pptninja: 31 Flavors of PowerPoint – Part I http://bit.ly/Dvdxb #ppt (Great post re: diff. presentation styles needed diff. settings

 

Work-Life Balance

WSJ’s The Juggle talks about how we handle pressure differently at home vs. at work. Is there anyone who doesn’t? http://bit.ly/xaNwW

RT @DrDavidBallardRT @jessicapeterson Employees financial problems cost employers $4.5 billion annually (BusinessWeek) http://bit.ly/TiM3b

 

The Paperless Office

RT @DisabilityTips 6 Myths of Going “Paperless” | Colorado Social Security Law http://bit.ly/nYAJV

Why are fed courts so opposed to #technology in the #courtroom? NY lawyers want the rules changed. Agreed. http://bit.ly/11WvzD

Great #acrobat article re: What You Can Accomplish With Adobe Acrobat Forms http://is.gd/1NqkM RT @acroboy: RT @wikiatech.

 

Management & Leadership

Here’s a real shocker from @nytimes: Corner Office: No Doubts: Women Are Better Managers http://bit.ly/3eFOVv (via @wbowser)

Great book on management: Not Everyone Gets a Trophy by Bruce Telgan. Supposed to be re: Gen Y but is applicable to all http://bit.ly/EB3mj

RT @hrmagazine: PricewaterhouseCoopers offers program to develop 1st-yr college students. http://bit.ly/M9H7s Great idea for #GenY!

The Power of an Almost-Apology

President Obama has made an “almost apology” to the police officer he offended with his “acted stupidly” comment.  The President made the comment when discussing the arrest of Black Harvard scholar, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., by Cambridge, Mass. police. The police were called to Gates’ home to investigate a possible break-in but ended up arresting Gates for disorderly conduct.  From most accounts, it seemed that both sides probably overreacted. No charges were pressed.  When later asked to comment on the incident, which was perceived as having racial undertones, President Obama said the arrest was a “stupid” thing to do.

Oh my.  Cambridge police, as you may imagine, didn’t appreciate the accusation that they, as a collective whole, tending to act stupidly.  3d businessmen communicating

Responding to the escalating pushback, Obama called Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, to “clear the air.”  At a subsequent press gathering, the President told reporters that he had called both men and invited them for a beer at the White House.  The President did not say whether his calls included an apology, nor did he apologize publicly about his comment.  

Many are now asking whether a true apology is necessary or appropriate, or whether it’s enough to simply “clear the air” and put the whole issue to rest.

My answer to this question is a practical one.  If “clearing the air” without a full-blown apology actually does the trick, then no apology is needed. But, more often than not, if you want to be sure that the matter is resolved, an apology is the way to go.  Remember, you don’t have to apologize for something you didn’t do. So, if your intentions were good but the words came out wrong, then apologize for your word choice. 

Is a public apology needed?  Again, I vote “no.”  If those persons who were offended by the comment, they were offended only on behalf of the individuals involved.  No slight was done to members of the public directly.  So, it makes sense that, if the individuals involved are satisfied with the President’s almost-apology, then the public should be satisfied, as well. 

In the workplace, conflict arises constantly.  Employees who understand the value of a sincere and immediate apology (or even an almost-apology), will avoid more senseless arguments, hurt feelings, and have less stress overall.  Plus, when you are the one apologizing, you feel as if you’ve conquered a big part of the conflict just by stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for your actions. Then, even if the conflict does not resolve, you can take away the satisfaction of knowing that you tried and then let go of the results over which you have no control.

With that in mind, be extra kind to your co-workers today.  It’s Monday, after all.