Archive for May, 2011

How Parents Can Add Cyber Safety Awareness to Their Busy Work+Life Fit

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Yesterday, May 17th, was National Cyber Safety Awareness Day, a reminder to all of us busy parents that we need to be cyber-aware about what their children are doing online. And most of us aren’t.  Shawn Marie Edgington, “Americas leading “Texpert” and cyberbullying prevention expert” wants to change that with her new book, “The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media,” and the One-Click Safety Series

Since she discovered the her own daughter was being threatened by text and on Facebook, Edgington has been on a mission to help protect our kids against the dangers that exist on the wild, wild web, and wants every parent to know that no child is immune.

As Dr. Oz’s new Sharecare.com expert, she plans to provide her expertise to help both parents and teens get the advice they need.  She is also the CEO of a National Insurance Brokerage where she provides risk management and guidance to clients across the country about the repercussions of inappropriate social media and harassment usage in the workplace.

In this guest post, Edgington offers important tips to help parents add cyber-safety awareness to their busy work+life fit.

For centuries, parents have been able to easily protect and guard their children… but with today’s technology, social networks and mobile messaging, it’s easier for predators and bullies to reach out and attack our children from anywhere and at anytime; silently and with ease.
Cyberbullying occurs when a minor uses technology to deliberately and repeatedly engage in hostile behavior to harm or threaten another minor, and is against the law.

  • Almost half of our youth experience some form of online harassment (Cyberbullying Research Center)
  • 71% of teens receive messages from strangers (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
  • Over half of teens have engaged in cyberbullying (i-Safe)

Most teens don’t tell their parents what’s happening in their online world, which is why it’s critical that parents take a pro-active approach and become aware of how technology can be abused and talk to their kids about the dos and don’ts for using technology.  When it comes to cyberbullying, prevention is critical.

Establish rules: If your teenager has a cell phone or access to the Internet or both, be sure to sit down with them and review the Rules of Engagement agreement for such use, and have them agree to your rules by signing the agreement.

Obey age restrictions: Obey age limitations set by social networks.  Facebook requires users to be at least 13-years-old.

Sexting and Internet avoidance: If your young child has a cell phone, make sure that it can’t access the Internet. If their phone has a camera/video feature, contact your provider to disable their MMS service.

Invest in Smart Limits: This service allows parents to “set text boundaries, disable text service after bedtime, and control who can be blocked from sending texts, among other benefits.

Check privacy and security settings, guard passwords: Double check all of your child’s security settings to be sure they are all set to private and instruct your child to never share their passwords with anyone.

Know your child’s friends: Frequently monitor who your child is connected to.  Be sure they are people that they know in real life, and people you trust.

Closely monitor Internet and cell phones:  Keep the computer in a visible place, and spot check text messages, videos and photos.

Think before posting: Help your child manage their online image and reputation.  Encourage your child to treat others online as they want to be treated in real life.  It’s crucial they understand what’s posted on the Internet stays on the Internet forever.

Limit Personal Information: Be cautious about how much personal information your child posts. The more detailed the information, the easier it is for online predators, hackers, etc. to use their information to commit crimes.

Ignore/Block/Report: Show your child how to ignore, block and report people who aren’t being nice to them, whether in person, by text message or on the Internet.  Help your child understand how important it is to not respond to any negative messages and to immediately report them to a trusted adult.

Contact the Authorities: The police take cyberbullying very seriously.  If your child is ever physically threatened or contacted by a stranger, notify the police immediately.

Children lack the maturity and experience to deal with a difficult situation like being the target of a cyberbully.  Children will look to a trusted adult to help them respond appropriately and get through difficult situations.  Knowledge is power!  If you are aware of what’s happening, you can get involved and facilitate change.  Cyberbullying is a REAL threat to teens. Educate yourself and protect your children from the hazards of networking online or using their cell phones.

For more:

Where are Men in the Work/Life Conversation? They’re Starting to Arrive

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(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com)

A couple of months ago, Selena Rezvani, author of The Next Generation Women Leaders, wrote an article in The Washington Post entitled “Where are the Men in the Work/Life Conversation?” I’ve grappled with this question for more than 15 years as I helped companies rethink inflexible ways of working so that everyone (not just women) could optimize his or her work+life fit.

But, I decided it would be more interesting to ask a man to share his insights.

Immediately, I thought of Dan Mulhern, whose moving and powerful letter to his 13 year old, Jack, “How to Be a Real Man” was published in last week’s Newsweek. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s raising the next generation of men.

Professionally, Mulhern writes, speaks, coaches and consults to help people” lead with their best self.” He’s authored two books on leadership and writes a weekly e-column called “Reading for Leading.” (sign up at www.danmulhern.com). Personally, Dan shifted from a 50-50 sharing arrangement to the lead parent role in 1998 when his wife Jennifer Granholm was elected Michigan’s first female attorney general and subsequently served two terms as governor. Their daughters were 8 and 7 years old, and son Jack was not quite a year old at the time of Jennifer’s first election.

Drawing upon his professional and personal experience, here’s what Dan Mulhern had to say about men and the work+life conversation.

Cali Yost: Welcome Dan. So how do you answer the question, “Where are the men in the work/life conversation?

Dan Mulhern: I think they are increasingly in the conversation. We are at a tipping point with a rash of articles about men, work and their lives. I think there’s a multi-level conversation about what is happening to men more broadly.

For a strong contingent of these men this is a really great opportunity especially for young fathers like Tom Matlack and The Good Men Project. I feel part of that group and it’s a huge celebration. For another group of people, it’s more of a reaction to a world that’s changed. When my wife burst into her new role (Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan), in a sense I had to change for her welfare, our family’s welfare.

Men have not been socialized to have these conversations about our work and other parts of our lives. These men who have chosen it are saying “Let’s talk about it. It’s cool.” But the other men are being swept along, less by choice.

Cali Yost: You’ve recently participated in a study of new fathers with the Boston College Center for Work and Family. What does that research tell us? What are the implications for men?

The Boston College Center for Work and Family New Dad Study confirmed two old findings and unearthed one new finding:

  1. There is a lingering pro-male bias, in the sense that people treated men as more mature and seasoned when they had children versus women who felt professionally penalized. Men felt propelled into adulthood, whereas, for women this new phase brought a lot of anxiety about their role and work commitment, and
  2. The new fathers really didn’t think about being the main caretaker. Out of the 32 study participants, only two new fathers gave serious thought to taking on primary role.

So Gen Y fathers are not that different from those two perspectives. But what was really clear and new with this generation is that men really want to be involved and part of the conversation.

Cali Yost: The National Study of the Changing Workforce reported that men had higher levels of work+life stress than women. I have found that to hold true in my work with companies. Yet, work+life is still entrenched as a “women’s issue.” What do you think will finally change this?

Dan Mulhern: There’s a triangle of influence that’s important if we want to make that change and involve men in companies. First, a male senior leader needs to speak openly and encourage the conversation. Second, a man has to be brave enough to say something about what he needs. And then, third, the managerial conversation with that employee is critical. Emphasis on the conversation including men up and down all levels of the organization is key.

I also think men need to be willing to talk about the issue honestly and openly. I have a friend who used to ask me to play golf and I had to say “no” because of taking care of kids. He would respond, “Your priorities are all right.”

His interest in my choices made a difference, because it’s not the same when women would tell me “You’re so great for taking care of your kids.” That seemed somewhat matronizing (like patronizing). I equate it to what it must feel like if you are a beautiful woman who completes an engineering project and a bunch of guys say, ‘You’re so smart.” Well, what did you think of me before?

Those conversations for me are important. Jennifer and I talked for years that this time would be “my time” after her term as governor ended. But instead I’ve found that I’ve really exalted in my family. I appreciate reading about other men who are also excited about their families on the Good Men Project. You don’t feel like the only one. What’s going to change the reality is men talking.

Cali Yost: What are the key changes related to men and work+life you’re trying to drive with your work?

Dan Mulhern:

  1. Help to make talk about what’s going on in work and life amongst men normal and safe. There’s never been a legal prohibition that’s kept men from being a primary parent. It was all internal. You didn’t show feelings, emotions unless they were manly feelings. Talk is the most liberating thing.
  2. In terms of who does what in parenting, we need to move away from gender and biology as the determinant toward competency and passion. In other words, each partner does what they like and are good at regardless of gender or biology.

The first two points are inter-related because if it’s not okay amongst men to talk about how you like to be with your kids then we won’t be able to accomplish the second goal.

I think that so many artificial barriers have already come down or will come down. We created a divide between life and work over the last 100 years. Farmers didn’t have a divide. There should be a real questioning in the work life movement of work life boundaries.

Sons and daughters benefit from seeing both parents working. The conversations with our son, Jack, are very different and that will create the change.

Cali Yost: Thank you, Dan. I knew you’d have wise insights into the question “where are men in the work/life conversation? The answer I hear is that they’re starting to arrive. And that’s good for all of us!

Top 3 Work+Life Fit Gifts I Hope Every Mom Receives This Year (Including Me!)

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In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to thank my two beautiful girls for the privilege of being their mom everyday.  Next, I’d like to recognize the other members of the joint Yost Family caregiving task force: my wonderful husband and my fantastic babysitter who has been a member of our family for 10 years.  

Now, to all of my sisters out there.  The amazing women I meet everyday who heroically fit all of the parts of their busy work and lives together, I’m giving you the same three gifts that I’m bestowing upon myself this year–Recognition, A Break and Men (not what you think):

Recognition That You Are Amazing

Ladies, we must do a better job giving ourselves credit for all that we accomplish whatever our unique work+life fit  looks like.  At the end of the day, instead of focusing on all of the things I didn’t do, I’ve started a practice of congratulating myself on the things I’ve done–big and small.  Join me!  Tell me how it feels and what a difference it makes.

Here’s a very cool way from MomsRising.org to recognize the mothers you love while advancing the cause of pay equity.  Click here to customize the “The Amazing Story of…” video.  Unbelievably creative.  I still can’t figure out how they do it. ( For more, check out the MomsRising Mother’s Day Blog Carnival)

Permission Not to Be Perfect (a.k.a Giving Yourself a Break)

In case you missed it, I recently made a confession in the “Secret Life of a Work/Life Expert” blog post for Good Enough is the New Perfect: I only get my work+life fit right about 70% of the time.  The other 30% I’m trying to hold it together like everyone else.  And that’s okay!!!  This year I want all moms to give ourselves (and each other) a break because remember the first gift…you are amazing!

Inviting Men Into the Work+Life Fit Conversation

Finally, this year I want every mom to reach out, grab the willing men in her life…and invite them to become part of the work+life fit conversation.  As my recent interview with Dan Mulhern in Fast Company proves, men are starting to join us.  But we need to welcome them with open arms because for too long the dialogue has only included women.  If we partner with men to create the new flexible ways we all need to manage our work and life, we’ll make progress a lot faster.  I know I’m ready, and I’ll bet every other woman is ready for progress too.

Happy Mother’s Day!  What are the top work+life fit gifts you hope moms receive this year?

Why Flexibility Won’t Work Unless Your Employees Are Your Partners

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(This post is the featured article in the May issue of the Flex+Strategy “How To” Make Flexibility Real newsletter.  )

Individuals can’t manage their work+life fit without some degree of flexibility in how, when and where work is done.  Conversely, flexibility in the way work is done can’t become a targeted business strategy if individuals don’t know how to use it.  And most don’t.

For individuals to use flexibility deliberately and thoughtfully, they need to have the right mindset, tools and training. Only then they will be able to capture and direct that flexibility toward a solution that meets their personal needs and the goals of their job.  Most can’t.

Creating this critical employee-employer partnership is the reason I wrote my book Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You (Riverhead, 2005). It’s also why we are the Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit Inc., to reinforce clearly the importance of both sides of the equation.

The truth is that a corporate flexibility strategy won’t ever be more than a feel-good policy or program if employees don’t know how to manage their unique work+life fit (not balance) and vice versa.

According to the Towers Perrin 2010 Global Workforce Study, employees know they are responsible for their own well-being but fear they don’t have skills to handle role .  They want more freedom and flexibility in their work, but need support to enable new level of self-management

But very few organizations prepare their employees to be effective flexibility partners.

Recently I presented to a group of HR professionals and asked “how many of you train your employees to develop, negotiate, and implement flexibility plans that are a win for them personally, their team, their manager and the business?” Only 1 person out of 50 raised their hand.

This group is not unusual.  According to World at Work’s 2011 Survey on Workplace Flexibility “most organizations do not specifically train employees to be successful” with flexibility.

Why is this?

Historically, the theory has been that we need to train managers (I say theory because according the same World at Work study manager training on flexibility isn’t happening either).  Managers do play a key role in the partnership.

Managers lay out the vision, provide the information and set the tone.  This creates the environment that supports the ongoing conversation and leads to solutions which benefit the business and their people. But managers can’t come up with the specific work+life fit answer for each employee, and putting them in that position is the fastest way to make him or her dislike flexibility.

If flexibility training for employees does exist, the focus tends to be on “how to” fill out a formal flexibility request form and worksheet.  Again, that’s important but only one small piece of the puzzle.

What’s the answer? (Click here for more and to read this month’s case study, “The Employee Who Learned ‘How,’ Stayed and Thrived.”)

Join us!  Friday, May 13th at 12 pm EST during the “Employee as Partner: Flexibility’s Missing Link.” Click here to register, and  here to have the Flex+Strategy “How To” Newsletter delivered monthly via email.