I had a conversation the other day with a co-worker of mine who attended a Women’s Only Conference for young women professionals. She’s a few months pregnant with her first child and was lamenting to me how disappointed she was in the seminars.
It might have been her hormones kicking in, but I, too, got a bit riled up as I listened to her talk about a seminar she attended called “work-life balance” which was primarily aimed at women with children who sought flexible work schedules so they could spend more time at home with their kids.
“What if you don’t want to work from home when you have kids,” my co-worker asked me. “What if you want to work full-time from the office? What then?”
Or better yet, I responded, “What if you don’t have kids and you still can’t quite get the work-life balance thing balanced (for lack of a better word)?” We then proceeded to talk about how we both can’t get around to cleaning up the apartment and how she recently outsourced that task because it never got done. As a sidebar, I’m not quite that bad.
But all this got me to thinking…
In all of the mania to protect those working mothers with children guard their sanity, have we forgotten about those unsung professional women so busy working we sometimes forget to have kids and also struggle with balance?
While most women my age that I went to college or high school with have already had kids and are opting to stay home or work part-time, there are still a number of young professional women (especially my peers at work) who are holding off or just starting the process right now. They are a different breed of women who spent enough years cultivating a career that they aren’t quite ready to let a munchkin (however endearing) deter their professional advancement.
Why aren’t these women being better accommodated for?
I work for a company that practices a pretty generous flextime policy towards working mothers and employees, in general. I‘ve also worked for places not so generous who paid lip service to this notion but didn’t carry through on the delivery. Having said this, I feel extremely grateful for my present set-up where women and men are encouraged to have a life outside of work and also nurtured professionally.
I do think that it would be nice if my workplace had an onsite childcare facility that was partially subsidized. It would prove beneficial for those mothers who wanted to work full-time, but were also seeking a more flexible, economically doable solution in terms of daycare. With the cost of childcare on the rise and most families opting for alternative approaches which still lend themselves to women working 3/4 or 1/2 of the time, it’s something that sends the message to employees that companies get it and they are willing to put their $ where their soapbox is.
A few weeks ago my husband and I watched a cute little indie movie called Outsourced. It’s about a VP of Operations/Customer Service Support who learns that his entire division is getting the pink slip and, to boot, their positions are being filled overseas in India, where apparently the company can employ 8 people for the price of 1 American.
Surely, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this scenario.
Global management firms, like Accenture, have staked, at least part of their reputation in recent years on their expertise in outsourcing everything from business infrastructures to operations. And for good reason. It’s cheap…And easy.
Wanna outsource to freelancers, IT companies, and web designers in India and Russia? Applications like oDesk allow you to keep track of your finances with remote employees “as if they were in your office.”
But at the end of the day they’re not. And there’s a value in being able to put a name to a face that no amount of savings from cheap wages can diminish.
My company outsources their tech and HR support services. Recently I had an issue with my direct deposit. Obviously, when it comes to money and pay, it’s already a sensitive subject. But when you have an already stressful situation compounded with a communication issue based on not understanding the person responsible for conveying vital information, well then it aggravates the situation.
It may be politically incorrect to say from time to time I experience this with my IT and HR (Employee Benefits) support and that it’s usually an accent that I can’t quite decipher, but it’s a reality and one that I wish could be resolved more efficiently. I usually end the call asking to be transferred to a supervisor just to be able to obtain the correct information. I spend on average 5 minutes on hold waiting to be transferred, in addition to the time spent trying to extract the information I need from the first person I’ve spoken to (which spans anywhere from 5-10 minutes).
I can’t help but think that if these types of incidents are enough to go noticed under my radar others must also be experiencing the same frustration. This frustration must lend itself to dissatisfaction.
According to outsourcing expert Lauren Pratt, such issues in communication often in end in increasingly tense work environments and unhappy employees.
This finding leads me to believe that in a perfect world where I had 0-5 tech or benefits-related issues/yr I might be able to aspire to some lasting euphoric state. Given my present rate of outbound calls, I might have to put that dream on hold for the time being.
I’m not good at passively waiting for things to happen. While this can be a positive trait in the workplace and as an entrepreneur, it can also be a deterrent to being an effective and efficient communicator.
I’ll explain why.
I didn’t define the word “things” in the first sentence. In my vernacular, the word “things” equates to thoughts, conversations, and people getting to the point.
I’m prone to ask a ton of questions and I feel my questions are all aimed at the sake of arriving at some sort oh “ah ha” moment. I like my eureka moments – in fact I like them so much that I’d trade in all the banter before and after just to have more of them more often.
Problem is that most of work and life consists of the before and after which is why people like me need to develop better coping mechanisms and have heightened self-awareness of our communication style because it can be read as impatient, short, and just plain ol’ insensitive. While I don’t think my personality reflects any of these words, my communication style might be saying this in not so many words.
I recently had the pleasure of learning from a presentation coach who taught me about employing certain techniques in my day-to-day. “Presentation,” he stressed, “is everything from the moment you enter the room to the second you leave.” He went on to say it’s not just when you’re giving a formal presentation that you need to “be on your best behavior.”
The strongest, best communicators are those that adapt their styles to accommodate for their audience. (i.e., they may be deductive by nature, but they know how to put an inductive client at ease by walking them step-by-step thru a process and save the grilling for someone who might share their affinity for Sherlock Holmes.)
Reading body language, non-verbal facial cues, power words (feel, think, believe, etc) that tip you off to a disposition (feeling/thinking) are all clues to getting you to arrive at better communication. Of course, being negative is never a good thing. Being happy is, etc, etc.
Communication style not only relates to work, but also has repercussions at home. I’m grateful that I have a husband who may have a tendency to tell a long story and arrive at a point late in the tale (usually a pet peeve of mine), but he’s also aware enough of my nature, to ask before he embarks on a story if I’m ready to listen and to let me know how long it will take.
For those of you thinking I’m high-maintenance, I might be, but I can also tell you that you may be like me. Point is if you can make it work communications-wise with a spouse, a partner, or any other kind of loved one and end the day respecting and honoring one another, you can at least fake it in the workplace for 40 hrs/week, 52 weeks out of the year.