News From Challenger, Gray & Christmas

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Working Woman & Work/Life Balance


On June 1, Amy Reiter wrote a piece for Salon Mag entitled She works too hard for the money discussing a new book by ABC correspondent Claire Shipman and BBC World News anchor Katty Kay on the long hours women tend to work at their jobs, sacrificing time with family and friends and generally having little to show for it. Their book "Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success," outlines changes they have made in their own lives to strike a balance between family and career, and why workers everywhere should demand this balance.

This phenomenon of the too-hard-working female is nothing new; studies show that women will work much longer hours, and any working woman will tell you that they feel they have to do the work or else it won't get done. Now, despite and maybe to an extent because of the dismal economy, working women - and workers everywhere - may want to reevaluate their priorities and start working toward symmetry between work and life.

Recently, we here at Challenger have been constantly referring to the works of Dr. Lois Frankel on the subject of women and work, and one of the mistakes she finds among working women is the somewhat unexplainable, but completely understandable assertion that they must do the work of others, be it a subordinate who fails to complete the task or someone in a different department who makes inappropriate requests. This is not just true of women, but can certainly be said for all workers who find themselves with an unappealingly full plate. How can you assert your own priorities without painting yourself as a work-avoiding ogre?

It's not too difficult according to Frankel, and one of the best ways, although sometimes not the easiest, is to just speak up. When someone makes a request of your time that is really outside the scope of your position, say, "I'm really sorry, but I'm completely swamped right now. I don't think I can fit this in." You don't need to offer any other explanation. Don't feel guilty. You have your own job to do. If it's a persistant problem with the same person making unreasonable demands, talk to your HR exec, because ultimately, employers want their workers happy and feeling unaccosted. Further, do not take on a task you have delegated to your subordinate. Give advice on how he or she can accomplish it, but just because it may seem easier, doesn't mean you have to take it on yourself. They work for you.

Colleen Madden
Research Consultant