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Fixing work - a broader perspective starts here!
ALSO: hybrid is half of the week in meetings, a twist on RTO, what's the WFH swoosh?
Two new podcast voices
A few months ago I put out a call asking for other voices to get involved in the Eat Sleep Work Repeat podcast and I’m delighted today to add Ellen C Scott and Matthew Cook as regular hosts of the show.
You may have read Ellen’s brilliant writing in The Stylist where she is the Deputy Digital Editor and previously in Metro. She writes and edits pieces on work, mental health, relationships, and more.
Matt is the founder of theSHIFT, an award-winning learning consultancy that specialises in cultural change inside organisations. He’s basically a people enthusiast who has turned it into his job.
I’ll be honest I love talking about work but I was worried that my own perspective might be a bit limiting. First and foremost in my career I ended up as a boss and whether you intend it to or not that skews your perspective. Ellen and Matthew are here to help give a broader view. We loved recording the first episode and hopefully great things are to come. Take a listen here - there’s stacks of links to what we discussed in the show notes.
Meetings are eating hybrid work alive
You might have seen new research that dropped this week that finally held a mirror up to what our jobs have become in the last 4 years. WFH Research (which is from the oft quoted Nick Bloom) shows that knowledge workers who work hybrid are now spending half of their weeks in meetings. I suspect a lot of this is the need to chat to others, and it’s increasingly only solved by scheduling it.
Maybe there’s a bosses element here too? That some bosses have become mistakenly convinced that productivity means keeping people busy.
Harvard Business Review published a great piece by Erin Meyer this month about the complexities of managing in a diverse workforce. She talks about the challenges of leaders managing (and giving feedback) to employees who are older than them:
‘…sometimes referred to as status incongruence. This basically means that the status accorded your role in society doesn't match the part you're playing in the current context. One research project with 8,000 employees in Germany showed that when younger managers supervise older workers, status incongruence has a measurable negative impact on employees' happiness. It's not just that I feel strange treating my elder as my subordinate. As the researchers of this study concluded, the role reversal constantly suggests to the older subordinate that that person has somehow "failed to keep pace”.’
She gives a powerful story about someone bristling when they received feedback from someone younger than them:
‘A talented writer in his mid twenties, Connor was less flattering. "This is all right," he told Richard, "but you completely left your personality out. Your audience wants to feel that you're with them, but your individual voice is absent." Richard took it badly. "Something about getting feedback from this kid who has decades less experience than me felt very uncomfortable," he recalls. "My immediate reaction was to reject his comments. I wasn't ready to listen to what he was saying, let alone collaborate with him again." Not only was Connor decades younger than Richard, leading to status incongruence, but in Richard's Baby Boomer generation, feedback from someone who is not your boss is infrequent and inappropriate. Richard left the meeting shaking his head at this inexperienced kid telling him his writing was missing a clear voice. If you're leading a multigenerational team, the best way to deal with diverse expectations about feedback is often to outline explicit norms for how and when it should be given. That creates a common platform on which all can converge. Despite the discomfort Richard felt when receiving criticism from Connor, he understood that Connor was behaving in line with the culture of the team. This pushed him to stop and reflect. "After I got home, I started to think about the feedback I'd received," Richard says. "It became clear that Connor's had been the most valuable. The guys who come from my generation have a similar perspective to my own, but Connor's different perspective pushed me to see how to make my writing richer. He was right. My experience as a journalist had taught me to leave myself out of my writing.’
There’s been mixed reaction to this Wall Street Journal article saying ‘one firm has announced a return to the office that employees actually like’ but I’m strongly in favour of it. The firm has told employees that they have to be in the office for 3 days of 22 core weeks of the year. The rest of the time they can do what they please. There are many workers who resist any return to the office by focussing on their own needs and I understand that. But those people are also saying that being part of a team doesn't figure in their priorities. This approach feels very balanced but also demonstrating that some together time matters for the firm's culture
Nick Bloom, the Daddy Mac of WFH research says we should expect a WFH swoosh. (Erm, what does that mean? It’s gone down a little but it’s about to go back up again)
If you love internet drama about work then (the essential) Ryan Broderick breaks down the angry reaction to this tweet: