I read an article this week written by a male executive claiming that women derail themselves on the career ladder by demanding flexible work hours. I was so disgusted by the statement that I immediately deleted the link, so I can't share it with you.
It's not just that the man was saying that women need to commit to their work, as if they aren't committed when they ask for flexible schedules. The aversion I felt was due to the man focusing his remarks on women. Last year, USA Today reported a significant increase in men feeling conflicted over the work-life balance issue and wanting more time to spend with their families. The executive's statement stereotyped women and their priorities.
First, who says we are demanding more control over our time only because we have to pick up the kids at school? Many people work better under pressure from home. Many people work better when some of their time is spent on other pursuits besides work. Some of us know that maintaining regular exercise schedules strengthen our minds as well as our bodies. And the brain needs recovery time between intense periods of work to operate most efficiently and to produce creative ideas.
With our gloomy economy, isn't it clear that old leadership styles and work methods are inefficient and sometimes outright disastrous? Maybe underhanded practices got us where we are, but the failure of our corporate leaders to open their minds and innovate will only prolong the pain. Adding flexibility to work schedules could mean more productivity, not less.
We need to infuse life into our corporate cultures. We need different perspectives and styles in leadership. We need more women in decision-making roles and men who don't believe in the old models where power equals dominance, control and obsessively thinking about work.
Therefore, even if it seems like career suicide, I would love for both women and progressive men to stand up to the leaders who feel they have to "fix" their workers and teams. If we speak the same message, our unity can make a difference.
I recently pushed back against the request from an executive client to teach one of his teams how to make better decisions. He felt that he knew what the team needed and wanted me to go in and "fix" them. I felt that the team members were smart enough to tell me what they needed to reach their goals. When I asked them, their game plan for making better decisions included both changes in their structure as well as how they were given priorities from the senior management team.
Senior leaders need to listen to what we need to perform better. And we need to be clear about what we need so we can ask for it straightforwardly and with good reason:
In this time of crisis, grassroots efforts stand a chance of making a difference. You don't need to be fixed. You need to be heard. Share this post with both women and men so you can create a united voice for positive change.
Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D., is president of Covisioning, a leadership coaching and training organization working with a variety of people and organizations around the world to make better decisions, strengthen their relationships, and better collaborate for amazing results.
Follow Marcia Reynolds on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarciaReynolds