Random Thoughts–“Because I Did It That Way”-itis; Michelle Obama and Roger Clemens

On this day before the unofficial start of Memorial Day weekend, I thought I’d share some random work+life fit related observations and insights that wouldn’t necessarily fill an entire posting, but are interesting nonetheless….

Coverage of the Tuck/Aquent/Work+Life Fit SurveysFast Company, Bloomberg, and Time

“Because I Did It That Way”-itis: Over the past month, I’ve found myself having the same conversation with three male managers over the age of 50 years old. And the common theme is that they find themselves sometimes resisting offering flexibility to members of their team because they personally weren’t able to work that way when they were at that level. And in all three cases, the issues related back to the time they had sacrificed with their children.

As one man noted, “I look at these young parents who want to work from home periodically, or leave early and then work later after their kids go to bed, and I am jealous. I think of all the times I had to work late getting a project done in the office, and what I missed because of it. It’s not that they can’t effectively work from home or shift their hours, it’s just that I wish I could have done it. So I do find myself resentful and resistant.”

My response is always the same. First, I applaud them for their candor. Until we all start being honest about the outdated “because I did it that way,” beliefs that keep us from innovatively rethinking work, real change will be limited. Second, I point out that they had no choice but to work the way they did when their children were little. We didn’t have the technology and the 24/7 time zone business reality. So they need to give themselves a break. And finally, flexibility can still benefit them. Even though they aren’t parents of young children, they may be children of aging parents, or someone who wants to work in retirement. The flexibility ship has not sailed for them, so work with your team to make it a mutually-beneficial work+life fit reality.

Work+Life “Fit” Choices of Michelle Obama and Roger Clemens: Recently, the work+life “fit” choices of Michelle Obama and Roger Clemens made headlines. And they highlight two important issues—Language and Possibilities.

First, Michelle Obama made news when she decided to leave her current job and join her husband Barak Obama on the campaign trail full-time. The language used to describe her choice was, “Michelle Obama takes a career break to support her husband.” Okay, here’s the deal: Michelle Obama is NOT not working. I wouldn’t call participating full-time in a presidential campaign a break in one’s career—I would actually call it a major career enhancer no matter what the outcome of the election. Is she being paid? Probably not, but she is definitely working. So let’s be careful how we talk about work+life fit choices—It’s not all or nothing.

Second, Roger Clemens made news when he signed with the Yankees for a multi-million dollar contract that included a clause limiting the amount of away game travel he will do so that he can be with his family. Yes, Roger Clemens negotiated his unique work+life fit with George Steinbrenner, and George Steinbrenner said, “yes!” Now, obviously Mr. Steinbrenner is a businessman, and he realizes that Mr. Clemens’ proposal makes sense for the team. But I think that fact that this conversation even happened is a testament to the fact that there is no longer “one way” to have a career and personal life in baseball or any other field. There are countless work+life fit possibilities.

With that I wish you a very happy and restful Memorial Day Weekend!

2 thoughts on “Random Thoughts–“Because I Did It That Way”-itis; Michelle Obama and Roger Clemens

  1. Here’s the other interesting reaction: that single and childless people have a lesser need for work-life balance.

    I’m employed by a large European firm. I started on a contract basis with a non-traditional schedule, working 7am – 3pm (which fits well with the schedules of european colleagues). I do some volunteer work some late afternoons that is very important to me, so this worked well. I was very open about this with all concerned.

    When the firm offered me a full time job, the hiring manager — a 40 year old, single, childless American woman — told me that I would have to give up my volunteer work. I refused, and compared my situation to that of a staffer who might need to leave the office on time to get their kids from day care. She said, “But it is not the same.”

    (PS, I stuck to my guns, took the job; the hiring manager left the firm shortly thereafter, and things have worked out well!)

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