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The most important thing in a connected world is who to follow.
The Quote Of The Moment
The certain path to feeling creative is to find a constituency more ignorant than you and poised to benefit from your idea.
| Ronald Burt, Structural Holes and Good Ideas
As I wrote years ago, Social capital is all about where you are, not who you know:
So, if you want to learn the newest ideas first, find a structural hole or two and move there.
Jessica Grose unthreads some poor arguments for going back to the office, like the need for facetime, and how those arguments are directed at working mothers, particularly:
The way return-to-office preferences have been interpreted by some is unfortunately fatalistic for many parents, because there’s an assumption that lingers, even in a post-2020 world, that at the office, face time is king. The less face time you have, the old argument goes, the less opportunity you’ll have to advance, especially if you’re part of a historically marginalized group. Some fear that as more people return to the office, mothers, in particular, may be penalized, because remote and flexible work arrangements will become associated with them, creating a lower tier of workers: “You are mommy tracked to the billionth degree,” as the workplace expert Brigid Schulte put it to Politico.
Sample headlines and quotes from news organizations are a litany of pessimistic concern: “Parents Want to Work From Home for Good. But for Moms, the Effects Could Be Dire,” one headline from The Lily cautioned. “Why I Worry Remote Schedules Could Mean Fewer Women in the Office,” read the headline of a Washington Post opinion article. “A hybrid workplace has the potential to become an inequitable workplace, as in-office workers have more contact with managers and executives — while those who stay home fall out of sight and out of mind,” wrote Erica Pandey for Axios.
And those hand-wringing headlines almost seem to ignore the events of the past two years — as if we didn’t just prove, in a massive, unasked-for experiment, that workers can be quite productive and content working from home and managers are capable of adjusting workflows and processes to make a remote or hybrid “office” functional. There will always be institutional resistance to change, said Jennifer Glass, a University of Texas professor who does research on telecommuting. “You get managers who are inconvenienced by rethinking, because they’re already overworked. Even if it would make things more productive, there’s always this learning curve,” she said. Glass also noted that before the pandemic, many office workers worked from home all the time; they just did it at night and on weekends, so it didn’t get classified that way.
And moms-to-be -- in a rare positive arising from the pandemic -- have been able to sidestep a great deal of the hassles associated with being pregnant at work, because of being offsite, as Sarah Kessler reports, especially the 'benevolent sexism' when coworkers and manager seek to lighten the load for pregnant workers. And of course, the outright mommy-tracking:
Laura Little, an associate professor at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, began studying pregnancy in the workplace while she was working on her Ph.D. in organizational behavior, after noticing a change in how she was treated during her own two pregnancies. Fewer classmates and faculty included her in new projects, and some assumed she would take her career less seriously after becoming a mother, she said.
When she told one faculty member that she was pregnant with her second child, he told her she’d never get tenure. A study she conducted with colleagues, which was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2019, examined this apparent shift in treatment.
Pregnant women surveyed during several time periods in the study said they received less career encouragement, such as advice about how to navigate their organization, after they disclosed their pregnancies. Expectant fathers reported receiving slightly more encouragement after they revealed that they would become parents.
The Kessler piece is especially resonant since Kessler has been pregnant for the past nine months, and working from home. This means she's had an experience more like what a non-pregnant expectant parent usually does:
I didn’t intentionally hide my pregnancy from a majority of my colleagues. It just didn’t often come up. Which, I imagine, is how things often work for expectant fathers.
For parents-to-be whose bodies don’t broadcast the pregnancy, it’s possible to share news of an arriving child with close colleagues but omit it at client meetings.
In a recent research study, Ben Laker and colleagues found that meeting-free days had a huge impact on productivity and stress:
When meetings were reduced by 40% (the equivalent of two days per week), we found productivity to be 71% higher because employees felt more empowered and autonomous. Rather than being pinned down by a schedule, they owned their to-do lists and held themselves accountable, which consequently increased satisfaction by 52%.
Stress dropped by 26% with one meeting-free day per week, and down by 43% with two. productivity up 71% with two meeting-free days per week. What are companies waiting for?
Researchers Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John on How to Ask Great Questions:
Some professionals such as litigators, journalists and even doctors, are taught to ask questions as part of their training. But few executives think about questioning as a skill that can be honed. That’s a missed opportunity.
I am reminded of a recent interview of Gloria Steinem, who said 'If we would listen as much as we talk, and talk as much as we listen, we would have a kind of instant democracy.' Asking questions could be a democratizing force at work, as the researchers hint at:
Questioning is a powerful tool for unlocking value in companies: It spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and better performance, it builds trust among team members. And it can mitigate business risk by uncovering unforeseen pitfalls and hazards.
There are subtleties involved in asking great questions, but the outline is this:
Several techniques can enhance the power and efficacy of queries: Favor follow-up questions, know when to keep questions open-ended, get the sequence right, use the right tone, and pay attention to group dynamics.
Go read the whole thing.
The ecology of work: growing resilient, growing wilder | Stowe Boyd
Gaining deep resilience will require developing self-willed organizations, based on ecological and sociological insights.
Sigal Barsade, 56, Dies; Argued That It’s OK to Show Emotions at Work | Clay Risen recaps Dr. Barsade’s contributions:
“For a long time, emotions were viewed as noise, a nuisance, something to be ignored,” she told MIT Sloan Management Review in 2020. “But one thing we now know after more than a quarter-century of research is that emotions are not noise — rather, they are data. They reveal not just how people feel, but also what they think and how they will behave.”
Dr. Barsade, a professor at the Wharton School, was a leader in what is now called the 'affective revolution. She was one of the first to demonstrate that emotions are 'contagious' since people will unconsciously mimic others around them.
Slack survey finds 97% of Black knowledge workers want the future of the office to be remote or hybrid | Veronica Combs reports ' that remote work increases a feeling of belonging and makes it easier for Black employees to manage stress.' No surprise then, only 3% want to return to the office as opposed to 21% for white workers.