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The Power of Connection — Erica Dhawan on Work and Life

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

This week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with his former student and Wharton alumna Erica Dhawan (W’07) about her work studying the power of human connections and work-life engagement. The Founder and CEO of Cotential, a unique systems consultancy, Dhawan discusses the rise of informal networks and social movements as a result of our growing connectivity and how these interactions spur innovative thinking and inspire courageous change.

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Dhawan:

Stew Friedman: Tell us more about the kind of work that Cotential does.

Erica Dhawan: Erica DhawanI’ll frame it in a short story for you. A few years ago, a leading New York-based law firm realized something peculiar. It started when the CFO noticed that the Millennial associates at the firm were billing fewer hours than the firm’s historical average. This was strange because they were giving the Millennial associates more work than previous cohorts, not less.  More importantly, because law firms bill by the hour, this was also concern for the business. When the senior leadership team started to dig into this, they discovered that a group of 50 or 60 associates had all joined the firm as a class and created their own Twitter or chat-like tools to help each other solve cases faster.  The communication included questions like “Where can I find this legal citation?” or “Does anyone know that law school case we did? I’m working on a similar case right now.” Over time, this became a rapidly productive community that senior leaders had no idea about, but that was actually changing the bottom line.  Typically senior leaders would see this as a concern, but they ended up using this learning to their benefit.

SF: They would see this as a concern, because it was somehow beyond the standard way of operating?

ED: Yes. It was beyond the standard way of operating, but it also caused billing hours to go down. As we know, the legal industry is structured to make money through billing hours. The other interesting piece of this story was that these Millennial associates were to be promoted through an evaluation of their billing hours, but they were choosing to work faster with fewer hours in the service of getting the work done rather than in the service of the incentive structure of their industry. Eventually this law firm, along with others, decided to learn from these productivity enhancements. They are now hiring fewer people because they’re understanding from these informal networks how to get work done faster. They’ve created a Twitter-at-work program, for example, teaching lawyers at all levels how to use these tools to work faster. Now they’re challenging other standard practices and have created a task team to think differently about how performance metrics need to be changed in order to align with the new technologies and the new faster ways of doing work.

Cotential fits into this story because we help organizations identify these untapped informal networks, just like this law firm’s group of Millennials. We help them first identify, and then think about how to harness informal networks to become a source of value for the organization. Beyond that, we consider how a company can turn these informal networks into systemic sources of value across the organization, especially given that we’re living in a world of hyper-connectivity. Today, we can connect much faster, and that’s leading to immense breakthroughs, whether that means solving a business unit problem through a crowd or network or connecting customers in a way that gives insight to an organization to solve a problem in minutes rather than months.

SF: Is Cotential’s purpose to go on an anthropological search for innovation that already exists inside the organization, or do you introduce ideas for tapping informal networks that haven’t yet been tried?

ED: It’s a combination of both. I think there are many organizations that try to develop ideas on the outside of a company and help companies implement them, but then they never get executed. I truly believe that all the best ideas are actually inside the people currently in the organization, but they’re often not activated because there aren’t networks within the organization that enable these ideas to be generated, tested, and executed efficiently. Frito-Lay is an example of the positive potential that internal networks hold. At Frito-Lay, there are employee diversity groups, including a Latino group. A few years ago, the Latino group said to themselves, “Why don’t we have a Doritos guacamole chip? It would do so well with the Latino customer segment.” They came up with this new idea because they had already been “recombined” within Frito-Lay in this Latino network, and then they tested it and made it come to life.

SF: When you say “recombined”, what do you mean?

ED: I mean that they had already built an informal network within the company; they were already seeing each other on a consistent basis because of their membership in the Latino employee resource group. Because they were connected through this niche group, they were able to come up with this idea and pitch it to the product innovation department. This idea ended up being a $100 million product.

SF: Wow. That wouldn’t have happened had they stayed within their normal job functions and had not been able to communicate with each other across the firm in this informal network set up.

ED: Exactly.

Dhawan’s work demonstrates the creative potential that informal networks can bring to stagnant companies and industries. Have you ever witnessed the power of a chance encounter in generating a great idea? Is there anything that your organization does to encourage the development of casual connections across the firm? Join us in the comments below with your thoughts and experiences.

To learn more about Dhawan’s work, visit her organization’s website at cotential.co or send her a shout out on Twitter @edhawan.

Tune in to Work and Life tonight, Tuesday, April 8th at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Julie Smolyaksy, President and CEO of Lifeway Foods and the youngest female CEO of a publicly-held firm, and Maggie Jackson, former Boston Globe columnist and author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

 Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Changing Work/Life Priorities for Wharton MBA Men

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

This week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with men from Wharton’s MBA program about their hopes and expectations for their future careers. Siddharth Shankar (WG’14) and David Ash (WG’15) discussed how demanding work schedules make it difficult for new college graduates to cultivate their personal lives outside their jobs

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Shankar and Ash:

Stew Friedman: We’re talking about the summer internships that students typically do between their first and second years. What’s the downside to a hundred hour work week?

Siddharth Shankar:Siddharth Shankar  I think there’s much more focus on the pros and cons than there was even a few years ago. I think back to my time as an undergrad.  My main considerations then were definitely different from how I evaluate my life now as a graduate student.

SF: What’s changed?

SS: I think as an undergrad all I cared about was maximizing income and maximizing experiences without caring too much about doing things outside of work that really matter to me. Now as I think about post-graduation and working, I put much more thought and effort into considering what I am going to be doing that makes me whole as a person.  That’s not something that really figured into the conversation before.

David Ash: I think that’s definitely right. Out of college, David Ashyou think of your first job, and you want to jump quickly to a great place. I think people didn’t really see that first job as something they would do forever so the goal was to get to that first stepping stone and see where you would go from there.

SF: So you guys didn’t think that when you graduated from college you would be working at the same company for 35 years and get the gold watch? That wasn’t your model?                                

DA: I didn’t think of it as a possibility or even an option. Most people our age assume they’re going to go to many different companies.

SF: Have your priorities shifted?

DA: Yes. I think in graduate school it’s different. You have work experience, you’ve gotten a little money, you’ve been in a job, and you’ve seen potentially how hard it can be to balance work and life. The job MBAs choose to pursue after graduation takes into consideration what they want to do for both the short-term and long-term. Many people are thinking about having families in the shorter-term, and that’s an important consideration for them as well.

SS: In my first job after undergrad, it seemed like there was a wide divide between the folks who seemed to be available for the team at all hours of the night versus those who partied at the end of every week and tended to slack. At the time, I kept questioning why these people were not as committed to work as I was – “I’m putting in 100 hours per week, why isn’t everyone doing the same?” My myopic viewpoint of just thinking about me, my work, and not anything outside of that probably led to that impression.

SF: Do you have the opposite view now?

SS: I think I’ve had much more of a reality check and seen that there are things that those individuals were thinking about at the time that I probably needed to be think about as well. I think my tolerance for allowing for and respecting people who make choices to prioritize things other than work has definitely increased since business school.

SF: How does that effect how both of you are thinking about what you’ll do next with your lives?

DA: I’m still thinking about what I want to do next, but I am saying to myself for the first time, “I want a valuable personal life.” The change is in thinking that there’s more to a job than just “where I can go from here?” and “how does this position me well?”

SS: One difference I see between the time when my dad was working and now is that most companies are realizing that employees who give their 100% at work and do not take care of anything outside of that for the bulk of their early careers become a liability at later stages in their employment.

SF: So there’s a long-term cost associated with the burnout?

SS: Absolutely. I think, especially in consulting firms, all the successful partners that I’ve seen are not the ones who seem to embody the values that I had as an analyst, but quite the opposite. They carved out time for their families, and they were very deliberate and open with the team, like, “Hey, I have to attend this particular concert that my daughter is giving, so we can’t do a call at that time.” I really respected them for that, and they have since become role models that I will try to emulate.

SF: Is that consistent with what you’ve seen, David? That the people who rise highest are those who have full and varied lives?

DA: Definitely. When I started in consulting, I had the perception that for these hard-charging businessmen, it’s all about business. They might have been divorced multiple times or spend very limited time with their kids. I was very surprised though that all the partners I saw were still married and had good relationships with their kids. I have no doubt they put in a lot of work to manage that.

SS: I also think companies are doing a much better job these days with that. I always think back to my dad’s company in India and how different his choices were than those I have now. For instance, I never saw my dad the entire week. I’d wake up at 8 in the morning to go to school, and he’d be out by then, and then I’d be asleep by 10 at night, and he’d come in after I went to bed. I’d only see him on Saturday when he didn’t go to work and also maybe on Sunday. Now, there are so many schemes at so many of these companies that are recruiting on campus. Some consulting firms even have this option called “take time” where they let you take two months off every year to just do whatever you want. They look at it as time for you to recharge and engage your entire self in an activity that you consider rewarding. They expect that you bring that new experience and learning with you when you come back to work, which I think is amazing.

Tune in to Work and Life on Tuesday, March 19 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Wharton alum Erica Dhawan, Author, Speaker, Founder and CEO of Cotential, and Allison Karl O’Kelly, Founder and CEO of Mom Corps. Visit Work and Life for a schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Having a Baby While in B-School and More

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self.

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with current Wharton MBA students about how young women are thinking about their careers, families and future lives.

In the second segment, Friedman spoke with Kristina Milyuchikhina (WG ’14) and Meaghan Casey (WG ’15), about what it’s like to start a family while in business school and the importance of choosing a partner who not only shares parenting care, but also shares the same values and ambitions.  Following are edited excerpts of Milyuchikhina and Casey’s conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: Kristina, I’d like to start with your story. Unlike the other three students, you just gave birth last semester. How did you actually make it work here at Wharton?

Kristina MilyuchikhinaKristina Milyuchikhina: When I got into the Wharton MBA program, I was recently married and one of the important questions for me was to decide whether school fit in my plans to start a family. After discussions with my husband, we agreed that we would try to do both. I was able to leverage the University of Pennsylvania’s amazing medical facilities, an insurance plan that covers maternity, and the course match system at Wharton which allows you to construct your perfect schedule.

SF: Was the birth scheduled so that you were able to control the timing?

KM: It was a natural birth so it wasn’t scheduled, but it happened during fall break when I was done with finals. I missed only two classes, and I was back to school the next day.

SF: What was it like coming back to the classroom two days after giving birth?

KM: Profile Photo MeaghanWell my friends at school were shocked, but they were very welcoming. But it’s not only about support, it’s also about preparation. For example, getting into business school is a long process, and you have to prepare for it. In many ways, starting to have a family is a similar process, and you can prepare yourself for it as well. I did an enormous amount of research. I researched everything from facilities to logistics to apartments. I was plenty ahead in my course load. I was working with the MBA Program Office to get them ready to help me collaborate with professors if I missed any classes.

SF: So you really took control of those things that could be controlled.

KM: Exactly. Often in life when you see something happen easily, there is usually a huge amount of preparation standing behind it. That was my case.

SF: Meaghan, what brought you here to business school?

Meaghan Casey: I didn’t originally intend on pursuing a career in business. I am really motivated by social impact work, and for the past two years I worked with social impact entrepreneurs and non-profits in Washington D.C. and India. I came to business school because I really wanted to gain some of the skills and education that I felt could help make me credible so that I could more effectively continue living my purpose.

SF: What do you mean by living your purpose? What is your purpose?

MC: I think right now my answer to that is I would love to work in organizational development. I did management consulting for three years and then social impact for two years so I saw the very different work environments first hand.  I experienced very female-empowered to very male-dominated, and from very stressful and chaotic to very inspirational. Most recently, the entrepreneurs I had been working with had designed value-driven businesses where everyone from the bottom to the top of the organization was passionate about and empowered by their work. I thought to myself, “When I go to business school in the next two years, how can I learn to create a positive and productive workplace where people really feel empowered?”

SF: What are you being exposed to here at Wharton that helps you see the possibilities for greater freedom of opportunities for both men and women in the workplace?

KM: The Wharton MBA experience has been life-changing for me. The exposure to the tools, professors, and knowledge here is the best in the world. I’m focusing on three majors, because I realize that in the area where I want to be successful and create impact – corporate business development and strategic development – I have to be able to understand so many distinct issues that move businesses. Wharton is the perfect place to gain this kind of knowledge as well as the tools that will allow me to create change.

SF: Meaghan, as you think about your own personal future, what do you think about the “shared care” model – having women and men share responsibilities in their partnership?

MC: I love it. I think it’s fantastic, and I also think that more men should feel more confident and empowered to be advocates of shared parenting.

SF: How do we get there?

MC: I think leading by example is always effective, so I’d call on fathers – no matter where they are in their children’s development – who are holding back from developing stronger relationships with their wives or their children to let themselves step into that role and let it be known at their companies how they are integrating their work and their life. I think women do a great job role modeling this all the time, and many men do too, but I think that they can take a stronger stage.

SF: Kristina, is it a shared-care model with you and your husband? How do you manage this?

KM: First of all, it starts from the beginning. He is a partner at his company and was able to negotiate his relocation to Philly. That was step number one, because to have a little kid at Wharton without the support of your husband or in a long-distance relationship would be very tough and not realistic. He was also able to negotiate flexible work hours – sometimes he works from home, and that works out very well. The key here is to pick your life partner wisely, because while picking a career and a business school is great, we spend our lives with our families. It really is a very important choice.

SF: This is something that Sheryl Sandberg advocates – that the most important career decision you can make is who you marry.

KM: Exactly. That’s why it should be a person who shares your values, desires, and ambitions, and who also wants to have it all while you’re still young and strong. Someone who is willing go through some sleepless nights to get your family to where you both want it to be.

MC: I think you’re spot on. I think Jessica DeGroot, the radio guest from last week, said start the conversation early on in a collaborative way, talking through what kind of life do we want to build together as partners, what kind of family do we want to have, and how are we going to make time for our relationship and our family in a mutually beneficial way.

SF: What do you hope the world will look like by the time your newborn son is your age?

KM: I hope that by that time there will be more awareness for women who want to have healthy families and healthy careers to be able to combine both. For example, like me, women can consider starting families while in a top MBA program. I hope that there will be more support, not only on the side of their partners, but also on the side of business schools as well. I hope that by that time we will have the most talented women applying for business schools and not sacrificing their ambitions because of their fears that they will not be able to fit family in later on.

MC: I’m very inspired by Kristina’s story. Knowing that she’s been able to do both is the biggest sign of changing times. I think that the more people that integrate work and life successfully and the more normalized it becomes, the better off we’ll be in achieving 50/50 – the best talent coming from both men and women in corporate America.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, February 25 at 7 PM on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Deika Morrison (W ’94, WG ’08) and Jerry Jacobs, Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania,about work and life in different labor markets. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences. 

Wharton Women on Hopes for a 50/50 World

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self.

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with current Wharton MBA students about how young women are experiencing and thinking about their careers, families and future lives.  In the first segment, Friedman chatted with Nohemie Sanon (WG ’15) and Pamela Freed (WG ’14) about how they perceive the current role of women in business schools and in the workplace as well as what they hope to see change in the future.

Following are edited excerpts of Sanon and Freed’s conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: What prompted you to come to the Wharton School?

Nohemie Sanon:Nohemie Sanon For me it was about career progression. I was at a certain level in my career where I was ready to make the next move, and I wanted to make sure that I had the best education possible to help me get to that next level.

Pamela Freed: I knew that I wanted to go to business school ever since I was an undergraduate. My father had gone to business school and seeing how much it helped his career really influenced me. After three years of working at JP Morgan after college, I started to feel like my career was going well, but I knew that business school would help accelerate it.

Pamela FreedSF: Who are the important people – the key sponsors or mentors – who have influenced you and helped you get here?

NS: The key influencers would definitely be my mom, my family, and also mentors at work, such as my boss and other colleagues who really wanted to push me to make sure that I attained that next level.

PF: My parents definitely had a big influence. In particular, I think that my mom had probably a bigger influence on me than anyone else. She had a long career working in media, and growing up, I watched her passion for her work and how it gave her drive. That was really inspirational for me, and I always knew that my career would be something that would be very important in my life.

SF: What was the most surprising thing to you when you got here. 

NS: I was struck by the ratio of men to women. The class of 2015 has about 42% women, and I was excited to find that number so surprisingly high. As you walk through the halls of this school you don’t feel like it’s 42%, you actually feel like it’s 50/50.

PF: I think I was surprised by how much I learned outside of the classroom. One of the most rewarding things for me has been the extracurricular opportunities. I’ve been fortunate to serve as co-president of Wharton Women in Business this year, and I’ve learned far more from that than any class I’ve taken. As Nohemie mentioned, Wharton has 42% women, which is more than any other top business program, so the women’s community here is very strong.

SF: How has that particular experience shaped your thinking about the future?

NS: I think it’s not only very inspiring, but it also gives me hope that more women will eventually rise to the top of the ladder in a variety of industries. It’s a big signal to me that it’s possible for women to achieve that level.

PF: At Wharton, there’s definitely a sense that women are equal to men. You see just as many women participating in class as men. Women are receiving academic honors at the same rate as men and are going on to as good careers as the men here are. We’re equals while we’re at Wharton, I’ll be interested to see what happens when we leave Wharton, and how my male and female peers perceive their treatment in the workplace.

SF: The ratio of women at the top of organizations is not nearly the same as it is at the entry level. What do you see happening within companies today that is really going to make a difference in changing this gender inequality?

PF: I hope that companies will be able to implement more policies to help women find ways to stay, particularly after they have families. At Bain & Company for example, they have very flexible work policies – flextime and sabbaticals – for women who have had children, and they claim that 80% of women who are partners have taken advantage of some of these flex policies. If over time companies are able to roll out more flexible policies and make it the norm to take advantage of these programs, then hopefully more women will be inspired to stay.

SF: And are you optimistic or pessimistic about that?

PF: I’m definitely optimistic. I see senior female role models that I can aspire to be like someday.

SF: That’s so important to have people you can look up to and say, “Yes, she did it. Therefore, I can do it too.” Nohemie, was this an important consideration when you thought about your summer plans?

NS: Yes. Throughout the time that I was recruiting I’ve met all different kinds of women who made it a point to tell me about the infrastructure set up to support working mothers – for example, a facility where you can bring your child in the morning and then see them at lunchtime. It’s also incumbent on us as women throughout our careers to lean in and open ourselves to opportunities as they reveal themselves to us, especially after we have our children and raise them. Very often we tend to not accept and not be willing to step into available new roles.

SF: Why do you think that is? Why do you think women hold back from opportunities to advance their careers?

NS: Maybe, because of fear of not being able to provide for their family in the way that they want to. You want to be there for your family not only financially, but also emotionally, and you may hold back from opportunities because you’re afraid that you’ll miss important things like your children’s recitals.

SF: Is it different for men and women at Wharton? Do you travel in different worlds?

PF: I don’t really think it’s that different for men and women here. I think that Wharton is a very equal place and if anything I think that women may have an advantage here, because we do have Wharton Women in Business and all that it provides. All 700+ women at Wharton are automatically members. We do many things – we bring thought leaders to campus, we have workshops to help women with negotiations and communication, we have connections with alumnae, we have an annual conference with more than 400 attendees, and we even have social events such as golf workshops to make sure that women will be able to keep up with men in the workplace. Men are invited to many of these things but generally you see more women taking advantage of these offerings so I think that’s something that makes the women’s community very strong.

SF: As you dream about your future, what’s the most important change that you want to see happen in the world over the next 15-20 years?

PF: Something that Debora Spar, the president of Barnard College, talked about at a recent Wharton Women in Business event is the expectation that women place on themselves for perfection – a perfect career, a perfect family, a perfect life. I hope that in the future women will feel s less pressure to do everything perfectly.

SF: How might men help with this goal?

PF: I think Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter both emphasize the importance of partners and making sure that each partner is sharing the housework and sharing in child raising, for example. It’s important that both partners are part of the conversation about how each can each integrate work and life.

SF: What about you, Nohemie? What do you wish to see change in the next 15-20 years?

NS: I would agree with Pam, and I would also add that I wish to see a world where women allow themselves to be more involved in their careers if they so choose and also more involved at home if they so choose.

SF: What’s the one thing we could be doing at this school to make that happen faster?

NS: I think that women as a community could encourage other women to take a bigger role in their careers and/or at home.

PF: I would love to see more men joining these conversations, attending more Wharton Women in Business events, and talking about integrating work and life and how men can help women get ahead.

Visit the Forum tomorrow for the second segment of Stew’s conversation with current Wharton MBA students, Kristina Milyuchikhina (WG ’14) and Meaghan Casey (WG ’15), about what it’s like to start a family while in business school and the importance of choosing a partner who not only shares parenting care, but also shares your values and ambitions.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, February 25 at 7 PM on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Deika Morrison (W ’94, WG ’08) and Jerry Jacobs, Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania,about work and life in different labor markets. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences. 

What I Wish I’d Known: Get Credit for What You Already Do

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

What I Wish I’d Known is a series in which MBAs offer lessons learned about integrating work and life in their first jobs.

“I will never forget my first bad review. I was an Analyst at an investment bank in Milwaukee, and at the end of my first deal, I sat down with the Vice President to talk about my performance. He opened the conversation by saying, ‘You’re doing good work, but I’m afraid you’re not putting in enough time on projects, and that could really limit your long-term potential here.’ I was speechless. I had been at my desk seven days a week, 14 hours a day for the past two months. When I said as much, my boss looked confused and asked ‘Why don’t I see emails from you on nights and weekends?’ I had assumed the polite thing to do was to respect his personal time and delay the delivery of all my emails until normal working hours unless it was an emergency. I was putting in the wrong kind of face-time – visible where he couldn’t see me and silent where he expected to hear me.”

— Joanna, 28, MBA candidate

Joanna’s is a familiar story.  For many people, it takes a lesson learned the hard way to realize that how you work can matter as much as the quality of the work you do. Here are two insights to spare you the same hard knocks:

Know the norms about communication on- and off-peak time.

Face time and flexibility mean different things in different organizations. Joanna assumed that what counted was being in the office, but what mattered to her boss was not where she worked but how much time he was able to observe; she could work anywhere she liked as long as he was aware that she was putting in the time.  After that first difficult conversation, she started working weekends from home, sending all emails immediately.  She was as productive but spent less time because she was saving time on her commute and she was now getting credit with her boss for the work she was doing.. Recent Catalyst research found that most high-potential employees have access to some kind of flexibility at work, in hours or location. When starting at a new firm, in a new department, or with a new manager, ask about these unwritten norms. If you don’t feel comfortable initiating that conversation with your boss, ask your office mates, other members of your team, or colleagues who have worked with your boss before. This will help you both deliver on the real expectations at work while allowing you to have time for the rest of your life.

Look for ways to work smarter, not more.

For a smart and motivated new hire, the easiest and perhaps most natural response to Joanna’s boss would have been a chagrined, “Sure, I can definitely put in more time.” Our bosses are also smart, motivated people who want to get things done, and most of us will be challenged at some point about how much time we spend at work completing specific tasks or projects. Another common form the question takes is, “Why do you think it will take to the end of the week to finish this? Can’t you do it by Wednesday?” Joanna did an important thing when she answered by giving her boss more information and asking clarifying questions. Rather than immediately offering more time – thereby trading off time for yourself, your family and friends, and your other interests – be sure you understand what’s needed. It might be simply better communication. Protect the time you spend not working by leveraging the work you’re already doing.

Not working for a firm that offers flexibility, or wondering what happens when face time is non-negotiable? Visit the Forum next month for a What I Wish I’d Known perspective on realistic expectations for work/life integration at the beginning of your career, and first steps you can take toward more flexibility.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School. Reach her in the comments section of this post.

Manliness, No Longer Synonymous with “Macho”

Contributor: Arjan Singh

manlinessIn a sea of macho stereotypes, new voices are changing the face of manhood. One of them, a niche men’s lifestyle website called The Art of Manliness, publishes articles, such as On Being Neighborly and The New Dad Survival Guide, alongside tutorials on straight-razor shaving and the art of Krav Maga. Started in 2008 by Brett McKay, a former lawyer, the site eschews the cartoonish, hyper-masculine and macho images conjured by the word “manliness” in favor of the quest to become a well-rounded man in all aspects of life (not just at the bar and the gym). In the past, men were not generally expected to have a hand in the “feminine” tasks of raising a family, such as changing diapers or cooking meals. Today, however, the role of the man is shifting.

Family and Work – Not Just a Women’s Issue

Stewart Friedman, Director of the Work/Life Integration Project, has widely discussed the pushback he received in 1987 when he introduced the topic of family to a class of MBA students. Work and family, especially at elite business schools, has long been seen as a women’s issue, if it was discussed at all. However, a September 2013 Pew Research Center study found that 550,000 American men are staying home full-time with their children – nearly double the number of that from the 1970s – and this number is expected to increase. While many young men will now grow up to become stay-at-home-dads, an also-increasing number will become parents in dual-career homes. Discussion of family and the integration of work and life seeps into the classroom and public sphere with less pushback now than in 1987, with men embracing the issue of family and work.

Time to Take Action

We need conversations by men and for men. As Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement goes global, work/life integration continues to seem tailored for women. Yet a March 2013 Pew Research Center study found that nearly equal proportions of fathers and mothers are struggling to “do it all.” Evidence shows that men today spend three times as much time with their children than their grandfathers did.  If you’re a guy, bring to light these conversations with your friends, family and colleagues. And women – encourage the men in your lives to embrace their “manliness” and become better boyfriends, husbands, and fathers. Discussions with my peers – driven young men ages 18 to 24 – reveal that we have goals that go beyond our careers and making money. No longer are men okay with a “Cat’s in the Cradle” existence of broken homes and neglected children in order to rise professionally.  Indeed, this is what Friedman observed in his 2013 book about the Work/Life Integration Project’s study of the differences between the Wharton Classes of 1992 and 2012, Baby Bust:  New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family.

Deloitte Dads, otherwise known as the Fraternity of Paternity, are an example of modern day alpha fathers who are committed to work/life integration. The men in this group focus on time management, precisely tailoring their work schedules weeks in advance, in order to create more flexibility at home. In-person meetings are often moved to conference calls and “out-of-the-office” options allow for more flexibility at work and at home.  We need more groups similar to the Deloitte Dads that help men, both young and old, deal with the struggle of integrating all parts of their lives through bold and aggressive changes. Men, too, deserve to “have it all.”

For more on men and work/life integration, check out the Forum’s recap of Stew Friedman’s interview with Matt Schneider (W’97) on the rise of stay-at-home dads and their impact on families and businesses, and read about Stew’s conversation with Brad Harrington about the substantive shift in the role men play in their families and how organizations can support the “new dad.” For more conversations like these, tune in to Work and Life every Tuesday at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111, “like” the Wharton Work / Life Integration Project on Facebook, and subscribe to the Forum.

About the Author

Arjan SinghArjan Singh is an undergraduate sophomore studying economics at The Wharton School.

Wharton Students Discuss Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family

Contributor: Alice Liu

About Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family

Stew Friedman, director of The Wharton School’s Work/Life Integration Project, studied two Baby Bustgenerations of Wharton undergraduate students as they graduated: Gen Xers in 1992 and Millennials in 2012. The cross-generational study produced a stark discovery – the rate of graduates who plan to have children has decreased by nearly half over the past 20 years. Men and women have become more aligned in their attitudes about dual-career relationships, and, while their reasons for opting out of parenthood are quite different, they are doing so in equal proportions. In his new book, Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family, Friedman draws on this unique research to explain why so many young people are no longer certain they’ll become parents. He reveals good news and bad news: there is greater freedom of choice now, but new constraints are limiting people’s options.

Student Reactions to Baby Bust

At the Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women discussion events on November 5, 2013 and January 17, 2014, Wharton undergraduate and MBA students explored the compelling findings of the study and the actions that might emerge to help Millennials achieve greater harmony and less conflict in work and life across all stages of their lives and careers.

After approximately fifteen minutes of small group discussions, students reconvened to share the findings that surprised and affected them the most. All students were shocked by the overarching finding that only 42% of 2012 graduates definitely plan to have or adopt children, compared to the 78% of graduates who indicated the same in 1992. However, students also articulated a variety of specific insights and concerns about how the definition of family is changing. Kashfia Ehsan (W ’16) was surprised that Wharton graduates who, by and large, had benefitted from robust parental care and support are choosing not to give back by becoming parents themselves. On the other hand, Federico Velarde (W ’14) and Katie Simon (W ’14) noted that while our personal upbringings affect what we believe is possible in our own futures, there are many structural challenges that create conflict between what we desire and the reality of what is possible. As an alternative to parenting, Briana Thompson (W ’15) resonated with the finding that Millennials are choosing to structure their “families” around their friends rather than starting to form their own nuclear families at the outset of their careers. However, despite the benefits of having a tight-knit “family” of friends in our twenties, Arjan Singh (W ’16) expressed concern that we are redefining family to the point where children won’t be part of the equation anymore. Thus, while students saw reflections of themselves in the results from the 2012 graduates, they were also disconcerted by how much the definition of family has shifted away from having children in the past 20 years.

After discussing the findings, students shared new actions and choices that might emerge after reading Baby Bust.  Many students said they feel that their energy and attention is devoted to academics and job-searching and that they neglect the other parts of their lives – family, community, and self. One suggestion was to encourage the practice of trying to consciously and deliberately integrate work and other parts of life starting at the undergraduate level by establishing small goals, such as finding a new café in another part of the city in which to study or going out to lunch with a new friend.  Stew Friedman added that these ideas aligned with the concept of “small wins” outlined in his Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life curriculum, which focuses on integrating work with family, community, and self.

Morgan Motzel (W ’15) noted that the most important new action that she plans to take is to encourage her peers “to be enthusiastic about pursuing a wider range of career paths and lifestyles than those typically chosen by Wharton undergraduates.” In his article, “Why Do Harvard Kids Head to Wall Street?” James Kwak, Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, argues that the reason so many elite university graduates head to typical career paths like consulting or investment banking is because these firms make the recruiting process straightforward and guarantee future opportunities. To combat the difficulties of reconciling these challenging career paths with other life priorities, many students inthe discussions believed that expanding the dominant mindset from consulting and finance to include work in the social impact and public sectors might be a beneficial adjustment. Hanna Seminario (W’ 16) noted that in order to pursue a more individualized path, she planned to utilize the Penn Alumni Network to learn more about positions in non-typical fields. More generally, Morgan suggested that undergraduates should broaden their imaginations and considerations when making early career choices in order to explore a wider range of possibilities to be in a better position to integrate work and life throughout the duration of their careers.

At the end of the November 5, 2013 discussion, Stew Friedman asked, “How do we get men to care?” Arjan, one of two men in a room of fifteen students, posited that the nature of “manliness” is changing. He believes that in order to engage more men in the discussion, we need to not only redefine family, but also redefine manliness. Visit the Forum next week for a guest post from Arjan about the role of men in the work/life integration conversation.

If you are interested in joining the discussion about challenges and choices in pursuing greater harmony between ones values and ones choices in work, family, and the rest of life, “like” the Wharton Work / Life Integration Project on Facebook and subscribe to the Forum.

About the Author

Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences.

The Class of 2012

Contributor: Stew Friedman

This post is an invitation to the members of the Wharton Undergraduate Class of 2012 who participated in our study and to anyone else who might be interested in our findings and what they mean for individuals, organizations, and society. Welcome, and please comment.

In our extensive survey of the Class of 2012, we asked questions about career prospects and progression, personal values, family, views on the relationship of work with the rest of life, health and religion, civic engagement, and Wharton. We also asked these questions of the Undergraduate Class of 1992 20 years ago and then again in 2012.

If you are a member of the Class of 2012 and participated in our study you should have received via email a copy of your report by now, with your classmates’ responses to all the questions. We also included what the Undergraduate Class of 1992 said in response to the same questions, back in 1992 and again in 2012. We welcome your comments in response to these questions below or on other reactions and ideas you might have.

  • To what did you react most strongly in this report?
  • What was most surprising to you?
  • What would you like to say to your classmates about what you read?

If you aren’t a member of the Class of 2012, here are two links with information from this study:

We’ll be posting more on the findings and implications of this research here and in other media in the future, so please subscribe to this Forum for more to come.