Is this a promotion?” That’s the question I received from a former student. He has a new job title, and he assumed he had more responsibility and believed he would get a pay increase.
We need to talk” is an announcement that bad news is coming, and that’s a shame. We do need to talk. We need to instruct a new employee, explain why there’s a change in the work plan or tell someone she did great work. So why is it so difficult to talk about what really matters in the workplace? Some business managers are at ease talking with their employees but most bosses dread meeting with individuals or groups of employees about anything that won’t be good news, requires a bit of finesse or will generate difficult questions.
Good news from Congress is hard to come by but I think we have some, in a House bill called the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. The legislation, introduced in April by Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., would allow hourly workers to opt for time off at the rate of one-and-a-half hours for each hour of overtime worked. This is something employees have wanted for a long-time. Unfortunately this piece of legislation, written concisely in fewer than 1,300 words, is not getting the attention it deserves or an accurate reporting of how it would work.
It has become a rite of spring – the annual announcement that women earn 70 to 77 percent of what men earn on average or over a lifetime. The two pay gap studies most cited right now are from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). These organizations have a legislative agenda and a need to keep donations flowing in. I agree with many of their overall goals – improved access to daycare, parental leave, family friendly work hours and equal pay for equal work. But specious statistics and distorted data don’t serve their cause well. The NWLC study lead
Alvin announced that he planned to make cheese the focus of his life. He owned cheese-making equipment and held tasting parties in his dorm room. The career research assignment for his intro to business class was a breeze. Alvin had been researching cheese-related career and business opportunities for a few years. He was learning to speak French and planned to work in a fromagerie in France for the summer. Alvin was a hoot and a half and needed no career advice help. In each class I taught there were a couple of students like Alvin. They had interests that could lead to careers and they made good use of the Internet to research career possibilities.
A person with no children shouldn’t give advice to parents, but she’s entitled to make a few observations. Your children see the world of work through your eyes. They see you come home from work happy and excited or so miserable you don’t want to talk about it. They may see the long hours, dedication and worry of a business owner. They hear about the trouble caused by that dolt of a client. They hear about co-workers who help and those who hinder. They see the effort it takes to stick with a job and the pride you take from a difficult achievement.
Fair is foul and foul is fair; hover through the fog and filthy air.” With an apology to Shakespeare, what language is fair and what fouls the air in the workplace? My clean language has made a few co-workers uncomfortable. But I have also felt the need to censor myself when working in very conservative organizations. What is fair to one person is foul to another; therein lies the problem.
The Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963. Twenty years later it was still common for employers to pay married men with children more than single men, and women were paid even less. It was 1983 when I was told that my gender and marital status determined my pay rather than what I was responsible for or how well I performed my job. When I was hired by a college to administer their National Direct Student Loan program it had a default rate of 17.6 percent. Four years later it was down to 6.3 percent. Because loan payments were up and the defaults were down the college was eligible for hundreds of thousands more grant dollars and more loan funds were available to students. None of that mattered when it came to what I was paid. I was paid the standard rate for an unmarried woman. My boss fought for some recognition of my performance and I was given an “exceptional” 5-cents-an-hour increase.
I once heard the job interview process described as “two people sitting across from each other while lying.” Maybe that’s a tad cynical, but even if there are no blatant falsehoods a lot of exaggeration and misrepresentation comes from both sides of the interview desk. The Society of Human Resource Managers recently released a survey that shows nearly 50 percent of employees and 40 percent of employers feel misled and disappointed in the new job or new employee — even with multiple interviews, a job description, personality and skills tests, a good resume and references checks. So what can be done? The Blue Mountain Humane Society may have the answer. I couldn’t adopt my dog Charlie until he had stayed with me for a few days on a “get acquainted” visit. They wanted me to make an informed decision and living together for a few days was the best way. I wanted a walking partner, someone to make sure I exercised in fresh air and got my mind off the challenges at work. And what is more relaxing than watching a dog run and jump with pure joy as he snags a Frisbee?
There are no dead-end jobs. Every job requires skills and knowledge, and every job can be performed better or worse because of the talent, initiative and creativity of the job holder. Some jobs require very specialized knowledge and skills: air traffic controller, medical lab tech, dog groomer. They don’t have much of a career ladder, but they aren’t dead-enders, either. People in those jobs will (or will not) be reliable, show good judgment, and have the patience to work with difficult people. They will (or will not) show a desire to improve their performance and understand their customers and the business.