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Walking Away from Wall Street — Sam Polk

Work and Life is a 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 at 7:00 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).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Sam Polk, a former trader for CSFB, the head distressed trader for one of the largest hedge funds in the world who left Wall Street because he wanted to live a more meaningful life, founding Groceryships, a non-profit that helps low-income families struggling with obesity, about what it takes to break addictive habits that keep you from leading the life you want and bringing your heart and soul to your work and career.

Listen to the complete podcast.

Stew Friedman: Sam, I learned about you when you wrote a much-talked about opinion piece in the New York Times For the Love of Money.  You described your evolution for Wall Street hedge fund trader earning $3.6M in bonus money at age 30 (and being disappointed with the small size of the bonus), your confrontation with your addiction, as you called it, to money, and your scary decision to leave this lucrative, but for you, empty and deadening life.  You ultimately founded GroceryShips, a company that feeds the hungry.  The reason I wanted to talk with you is that your story is such a compelling (and extreme) example of someone who was able, through a crucible, to find a way to truly live an integrated life.   Can you share with our listeners your story?

Sam Polk: Sam PolkI went to Wall Street when I was 22 years old, just out of Columbia. I remember going onto the trading floor and everything I wanted in life was right there.  I grew up sort of middle class. My dad read about successful businessmen in the paper every day and being successful was ingrained in me.  When I walked onto the trading floor, I could tell just by looking at the clothes people wore – their haircuts, their suntans (you could tell they played golf) – that I’d never seen people as wealthy as this.  And it was everything I wanted.

After the article I got hundreds of letters from college kids more or less asking me to help them get a job on Wall Street.

SF: But wait, the article was about you leaving Wall Street because you found that it wasn’t meeting your inner needs, though it was more than meeting your financial needs.  And they were asking you to help them get jobs on Wall Street?!

SP: I understand why. They hear that success is all about being rich, powerful or famous and these kids are insecure, they don’t have any of these things.  I was like that at 22 and just graduating. They’re getting strong cultural messages.  I think 3% of our cultural dialogue says “don’t be a money lender” and “money doesn’t bring happiness,” but 97% says “get as much money as you can, as quickly as you can” and Wall Street is the place for that. I feel compassion for these college kids, the culture says you’re important if you start a tech company and make a $1M.

I had a black car waiting for me when I landed, I went to countless World Series games, sat in the 2nd row at the Knicks games whenever I wanted.  It’s a tremendous feeling of power. I was living the life.   Making money feels good.  You come home and show your girlfriend, “look at this, I’m proud of this.”

The college kids want to be Lloyd Blankfein (CEO and Chairman, Goldman Sachs). I was like that.  They feel envy and I did too.  No matter how many millions I made. Trading was the coolest thing in the world. So I understand why these college kids are writing to me wanting to be on Wall Street and hoping I’ll be able to help them get a job there.

SF: So what happened? What changed for you? Why did you give it all up? Was there a moment? An epiphany?

SP: I began to realize that the stuff I was doing every day didn’t matter, even though I was being so well compensated.  There were so many moments including one during the hedge fund crisis.  Other brokers were against any new regulations on the industry, and I said, in a meeting in front of my boss, “but isn’t this better for the system as a whole.” And my boss said, “I can only think about what’s good for our company.”  My dream was to a billionaire; a billionaire was a hero.  The fact that my boss (who was a billionaire) was self-seeking made me realize that there was no end point. I have enough, let me go do what I was meant to do.

Kids wrote saying, “I just want to travel, take care of my family, I just want $6M.” I don’t have that.  And most people don’t.  If you get to $6M, you want $12M.  Money, power and prestige fill that hole.

SF: So, what about that void that you wrote about? You weren’t able to truly bring your whole self to work as a hedge fund trader, but now your personal passions fuel your work.

SP: I was trying to fill this hole inside me, this sense of worthless. The only way I thought I was valuable was Columbia, millions of dollars, a big loft apartment on Bond Street; those things you get when you are on Wall Street. Then I realized the hole is still there. We have this brief life and if you play out the Wall Street story all the way, you get $100M and the world thinks he’s successful.  But he’s spent his whole life getting money and accolades for himself.

SF: So how did you get out?

SP: I had a spiritual teacher, a Native American women, for whom I more grateful than anything I can imagine.  Three weeks into first internship I was dating this girl so out of my league; I was punching outside of my weight class.  She dumped me three weeks in. First love. I didn’t see it coming.  It was a devastating heartbreak. I could barely eat or get out of bed. But I had this internship, and besides this girlfriend, that was the most important thing to me at the time. I needed help. This girlfriend had brought me in to couples counseling with this Native American spiritual teacher who was the only counselor I knew.  I went every week. No Ph.D.  No Ivy League.  No thank you, was what I thought then. She had a completely different perspective from the one on Wall Street which was all about hierarchy, bigger, and more being valuable and important. Wall Street was all about the chase to get the top. And she said, “No, there is no hierarchy.  We are all equally valuable and that the value of the life is in the inner character, not in outside achievements.  It’s about treating people with compassion.”  I thought she was wacko. I wanted to know how can I get over the breakup so I can make money. At the beginning I believe her 10% of the time and I believed in the Wall Street philosophy 90% of the time.  But over 8 years it shifted, little by little until the balance went in the other direction; I believed her philosophy 90% and I believed in Wall Street’s 10%.   It was like in The Matrix, taking a red pill and seeing how the world really is.  On Wall Street people refer to other people by the size of their bank account; he’s a $100Millionaire. Money is the signifier.

SF: So, what happened when you left?

SP: I left when I was 30 and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done until then. (I know other people have it harder in life, but for me, that was the hardest thing I’d done.)

SF: What was the reaction?

SP: I heard, “I’m sorry you’re leaving.  I think y could have made a lot of money”

SF:  A bonus of over $3.5M was not already a lot of money?

SP: I had to give back half that year’s the bonus because I left. I gave up almost $2M to walk away. And I was in contention to be head of trading.  I’d been so focused on making money my whole life.  A lot of people didn’t agree. My Dad didn’t agree.  But I didn’t seek his counsel. There were different cultural values. My Dad was this guy focused on money and on himself and his extra-curriculars and not on me. As a kid I was desperate to impress him. Wall Street and my bosses were my dad. I was trying to impress my boss.

SF: So how’d you go from there to founding GroceryShips? And what is GroceryShips?

SP:GroceryShips is a health program for low income folks struggling with obesity. We go into a community, get applications from families, select 10 families who will receive food scholarships. We provide healthy cooking classes, emotional support groups, education about food, how to read labels, how to manage stress, deal with mental health, talk about childhood trauma if it’s affecting emotional eating. And we provide incentives. For example, if you and your family eat 5 fruits or vegetable a day or lose weight, we provide money for healthy food.  The support for these folks comes not just from GroceryShips but from each other.

SF: How did you come up with this idea?

SP: My family struggled with obesity. Two people in my family had bariatric surgery (stomach stapling). I went in the other direction with wrestling. But food was always in issue in my life. When I walked away from Wall Street one of the things that I was able to see is that in this hierarchy we on Wall Street we step over people as we strive to get to the top.  There’s waste in their backyards, highways in their neighborhoods; these folks are seen as not as valuable to those of us on Wall Street.  I spent my whole life climbing the rungs. And, of course, obesity exists in wealthy communities, but it mostly affects the poor. Groceryships focuses on equality, not hierarchy, and on reciprocity. We focus in people who need help, but we treat them as equals, with total respect. Reciprocity is the structure of the organization.  We’re a non-profit with an extensive nutrition and health curriculum.  We’re expanding into corporate wellness, and using those earnings to pay for low income in surrounding areas.

SF: Why would an organization hire Groceryships for their wellness programing?  What do they get out of it?

SP: if they’re looking for a wellness program, we’ll bring one plus their money will go to low income communities in their surrounding areas.  I believe that people are good and if you are faced with two choices and one has a social good component and it’s good public relations, then it’s an easy choice.  Companies use Groceryships both for corporate wellness and for civic engagement and for P.R.

SF: The changes you’ve made in your work and your life are quite dramatic.  What advice do you have for others?

SP:  First,Wall Street is not evil; it’s just that something was missing in my life. I now haveintegrity in the way of everything works together.  I work just as hard, but all with one thing in mind.   I’m living a life in line with my principles.  My life not perfect.  But there is no dissonance inside me.

When I left most people congratulated me, and said that they wished that they could do the same, but that they couldn’t do it yet. The idea is that they’ll do it as long as they can, to get the most money out of it before they can move on to what they really want to do.

So, I say to others: Respect where you are.  It’s hard to make a change like this.  If graduate from Wharton, for example, you can expect to make more than $400K/year in the next few years and then maybe about $3M or more per year if you go to Wall Street. That’s the straight and narrow, “right” path.  The left side is path you can’t see.  Inside every one of us is the unique compilation, the one path that no one has taken before.  It’s your gift to the world.  You can’t go right way, but you have to go left.  I made one huge trade that combined all my years of training, education and experience and expertise and in one trade I made $5M and I thought that with all these gifts, and talents, and opportunities, I could be doing something else. Take your Goldman Sachs or take a different path.

SF: What is your gift to bring to the world? How can you ask for help?  How can you explore and learn about other paths that will help you lead the life you want?

Sam Polk is the Founder and Executive Director of Groceryships, a former trader for Bank of America and the head distressed trader for one of the largest hedge funds in the world. After eight years on Wall Street, he left because he wanted to live a more meaningful life. He founded Groceryships, a non-profit that helps low-income families struggling with obesity. In January 2014, he published an OpEd about money addiction on the front page of The Sunday Review section of The New York Times. To learn more, go to www.Groceryships.org and follow on Twitter @GroceryShips, and Sam on @SamPolk

Join Work and Life  at 7:00 PM ET on Sirius XM Channel 111. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests and a roster of past guests.

Small Steps to Take Control: Cali Yost

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).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Cali Yost, CEO and Founder of Flex+Strategy Group and author of Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. Yost discussed the challenges today’s organizations face in creating fair workplace policies for a diverse group of employees,  and how individuals can take charge and make incremental schedule changes to yield long-term gains for their work-life integration.

Following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Yost:

Stew Friedman: What is your group doing to help people to think about the most important priorities so that they can perhaps gain more control and greater flexibility in their lives?

Cali Yost: Cali YostAs you know, Stew, it really has to do with giving people a simple framework to begin to think through how their work and life fit together and helping them be as intentional as they can about that fit, both day-to-day as well as through major life transitions. It starts with understanding what flexibility is available in their lives and what makes sense for their jobs, and then within that context, thinking about what they could do to be, work, and live smarter and better. One of the most fascinating things I’ve seen in my work is an ongoing struggle to get people to understand that there’s more that they could do to live better.

SF: Do you find, as I have, that people have more freedom than they think they have?

CY: Yes.  For example, if I survey people coming in to one of my sessions, trainings, or speeches, and I ask them, do you actively and deliberately manage your work-life fit day-to-day in an intentional way? 75-80% of the people would answer that question “yes” – agree or strongly agree. Most of them already think they’re doing as much as they can.

SF: But they’re deluding themselves? Is that where you’re going?

CY: Honestly, I really don’t believe people understand what intentional management looks like until you start walking them through the steps and showing them the possible impact if they just made some minor adjustments in what they’re doing. If they did, they’d probably realize, “Oh my gosh! Wait, I’m not doing that!” They’d understand that if they just did what you call an experiment or two, they would begin to see “Wow, there is more that I can do.”

SF: So, tell us what’s the process that you take people through? What are the questions that you ask?

CY: Well, I study this group that I like to call the “work-life fit naturals.” These are the people I estimate make up about 15-20% of the population in most of the organizations that I work with. They’re the people who just seem to be able to fit it all together and not break a sweat. I’ve always been fascinated by these folks. About ten years ago, I started to study them because I wanted to understand their secrets – what do they do that’s so mystifying to the rest of us? My goal was to ultimately come up with a very simple get-started practice for people – to jumpstart this process of individuals thinking about their own work-life fit. What I found was that the secrets of the naturals are really quite simple.

I broke the findings down into their simplest components. It starts with celebrating success each week – giving yourself credit for what you do, and not focusing on what you don’t get done because it’s never perfect – and then making what I call “tweaks”: small, meaningful actions in your day-to-day work-life fit. If you’ve planned ten of those tweaks for the week, and you only get six done, then celebrate the six, and don’t worry about the four. The naturals spend a lot of time thinking about what they do get done and don’t worry so much about what doesn’t happen. They always feel like there’s next week, so they don’t beat themselves up.

It starts with celebrating success, and then sitting down and reflecting each week to figure out what you want and what you have to get done over the next seven days, both in your work and in your personal life. Then comes really planning in those habits, not only the habits or the standard tweaks that you’re going to do week after week – exercising, checking in with your family, balancing your checkbook, taking a walk at lunch – but also leaving time for those special moments – having coffee with a friend who’s in from out of town, going to your son’s science fair, researching a vacation – things that don’t happen over and over again but are still very important to schedule in periodically. Finally, you put all of them into a combined calendar and create a priority list system.

This is one of the key differences between the naturals and the rest of us:  they run a combined work and personal calendar and use a priority list system. It’s all one, so they’re making decisions throughout the day based on a complete picture of their commitments. But what my research has shown is that most of us don’t do that – most people keep separate calendars and priority lists that they don’t refer to together throughout the day. Or actually they don’t even keep any kind of calendar, which is shocking to me.

SF: Because then you tend to be a lot more reactive and it’s hard to remain focused on the priorities – what really matters to you.

CY: Yes, exactly. So the tactics of work-life naturals that I just told you are not hard. And yet my research has shown that most of us don’t do any of those things.

SF: I guess that’s because the pressures from work seem much more intense, and we tend to give it priority, because the demands are greater. Why do you think that people don’t have calendars that represent all the commitments of their lives and instead tend to segment them and just have one for work?

CY: Here’s my theory: I think 20 years ago, when there were clocks and walls that separated work and life and clearly told us where work ended and other parts of life began, you could get away with thinking about the two as separate spheres. You could sort of skate by, and you’d be fine. You’d say “Okay, this is when I work, and this is when I take care of everything else.” But those clocks and walls are gone – technology and global competition have taken care of that. It’s just really hard for people to figure out where those boundaries are now. That combined calendar and priority list, though, is actually a way to begin to put some control up.

SF: Yes. Too many people are just reactive. The boundaries between work and the rest of life are created and managed now, in large measure, by ourselves, as opposed to by the clock on the wall.

CY: I think the problem of work overload is real. I think people are being asked to do a lot more. I think resources are tight, and I do not want to minimize that – however, I do think part of the challenge is that we as individuals have to start saying “yes,” intentionally, to more small things that are meaningful to us, which would help us be able to say a deliberate and thoughtful “no” where we have to.

Yost’s research illustrates that how we plan and prioritize our commitments can play a role in determining how in-control we feel over our work-life satisfaction. How do you schedule your responsibilities to your job, your family, your community, and to yourself? Are there certain segments of your life in which you feel the returns from your time input are more tangible and quantifiable, and therefore more immediately attractive? Are there any adjustments you can make in the way you plan and prioritize your commitments which might lead you to feel a greater sense of peace and accomplishment? Join us in the comments below with your thoughts and experiences.

To learn more about Yost’s work, you can check out her blog, read her book, or visit her organization’s website.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, June 10at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Nancy Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador, who’ll be talking about sleep and the lack of sleep affects work, and Sarah Sutton Fell, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs and 1 Million for Work Flexibility. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan Motzel Morgan Motzelis a rising undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.


Bring Your Humor to Work: Peter McGraw

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).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Peter McGraw, Director of the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado and author of the new book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny.  McGraw discussed insights from his research on the purpose and utility of humor in universal human interaction and shared proven strategies for using comedy to promote affinity, harmony, and innovation in the workplace.

Following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with McGraw:

Stew Friedman: How does the use of humor translate into the workplace? What was the most interesting insight you discovered about humor and its effect on work settings?

Peter McGraw: Peter McGrawFor one, I have come to the realization that work and play are not opposites – they are complementary. It’s certainly not the case that you could have a workplace that resembles the playground during recess, for example, because nothing would get done, but there’s good evidence that humor complements many of the things you want to get done in the workplace. One thing, for instance, is that people want to enjoy where they work. Good predictors of workplace retention are questions like – Do you have a best friend at work? Do you have a good relationship with you supervisor? Those kinds of things are facilitated by being able to have a good time and being able to have some fun. Workplaces are often stressful places, so being able to enjoy a few jokes along the way can help us get through the difficult times. Some of the work that we’ve been doing in the Humor Research Lab looks at “humor as complaining.” You take a situation that you are trying to complain about and instead you make humorous complaints about it. That tactic seems to be largely beneficial, especially when it comes to the idea of having other people support you.

SF: I think that idea could be helpful when put into practice. Some of our listeners might be interested in specific guidance on how to be funny in a way that is truly helpful as opposed to distancing people or alienating them with humor that is inappropriate or offensive.

PMG: That is always a big challenge because one of the things that follows from the perspective of humor as a “benign violation” is that humor can fail in one of two ways. First, an attempt to be funny can fail because you bore people – you don’t create sufficient enough violations. The worse failure, and the one that’s particularly a problem in the workplace, is that you fail to make a situation benign – you offend people or upset people.

SF: So, it’s better to be boring than offensive.

PMG: Certainly in the workplace, that is the case. We actually have two different names for these strategies which we talk about in The Humor Code. One that you can employ we call the Seinfeld strategy, named aptly after Jerry Seinfeld, who makes comedy out of nothing. His show is a show about nothing, where he basically points out what is wrong in the world. One of the nice things about this approach – and I think part of the reason why Jerry Seinfeld is so wildly popular and really doesn’t offend people very much – is that when he fails to be funny, Seinfeld just hasn’t created a sufficient enough violation. Instead, he just creates a benign situation. We call the other strategy the Silverman strategy, named after Sarah Silverman.  She starts with the violations and then has clever ways in which she makes those situations benign or okay, often putting them to a fun song, or saying them in a non-threatening sort of manner. The issue with this strategy, however, is that when Sarah fails, she commits a hate crime, and that’s really not a good place to be in the work environment.

My advice for the person who is eager to expand their comedic repertoire at work, especially folks in a management or a supervisory position, is to employ self-deprecation. When you engage in self-deprecation, you are essentially pointing out what is wrong with yourself, and by virtue of you doing it to yourself, you’re making that okay. Self-deprecation has two main benefits, which you often see in stand-up comedy. A lot of stand-ups begin their set by joking about the things that the audience can plainly see that seems wrong or amiss with them.

SF: Like how stupidly I dress or how ugly I am?

PMG: That’s right. So, first, that gets an initial laugh because it fits this idea of wrong-yet-okay very nicely – it’s a safe joke. But then, second, it also provides you some license, in that if you’re willing to criticize yourself that allows you to be able to criticize others.

SF: I see. So if you start with an opening where you are putting yourself down, that gives you license you to then have a critical voice toward others?

PMG: Yes, especially if you’re actually successful in making people laugh because that has even further benefits – we like funny people, and now we’re in a good mood, and so on.

SF: So that is a strategy people should try to employ; begin by making fun of themselves?

PMG: I do think that’s one good one. Another is finding a common enemy. For example, who or what is it that we all can agree upon and all of laugh about together? The real key when you think about humor in the workplace is that you want peoples’ jokes to be inclusive rather than exclusive – you want to bring people together, not push them apart. A clear guideline ends up being knowing and understanding your target. Yourself is a good target for you to choose because we can all laugh about that. It’s when you pick another person in the room, and some people are laughing and some people are not, when you could find yourself in trouble. You may be getting some laughs, but you also may be doing more harm than good.

Peter McGraw zeroes in on the benefits that well-placed humor can have for workplace effectiveness. , Research also indicates that humor can play a positive role in individual mental and physical health as well. Where have you seen the benefits of jokes, comedy, and laughter in your day-to-day being outside of work? Who and what are the biggest sources of humor you interact with in your personal life and how have they had a positive influence on your well-being? Join us in the comments below with your thoughts and experiences.

To learn more about McGraw’s work, you can check out his research, read his book, or visit his website at http://www.petermcgraw.org/

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, June 10 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Nancy Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador who’ll be talking about sleep and the lack of sleep affects work, and Sarah Sutton Fell, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs and 1 Million for Work Flexibility.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan Motzel Morgan Motzelis a rising undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Youngest Woman CEO Pursues Four-Way Wins — Julie Smolyansky

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 (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Julie Smolyansky, President and CEO of Lifeway Foods. Smolyansky became the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm at the age of 27. She spoke about how she became CEO of Lifeway Foods and how she implements Total Leadership concepts to integrate the different parts of her life.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Stew Friedman: Tell us the story of how you became the CEO of Lifeway Foods at such a young age.

Julie Smolyansky: Julie SmolyanskyMy family immigrated to America from the former Soviet Union in 1976. We were refugees and settled in Chicago. Through their entrepreneurial spirit, my parents founded a Russian food deli that eventually led to Lifeway Foods. They took the company public in 1988. For them, there was no work-life balance. I think it’s a nice luxury to be able to talk about it when you have all the resources and networks like we do now, but for an immigrant family it’s a little bit of a different conversation. My dad worked seven days a week. There were times when I really didn’t see him for months on end, because I’d go to sleep and he’d still be working, and I’d wake up and he’d already left for work. I saw my parents sacrifice quite a bit.

After I graduated college, I was in graduate school planning on being a psychologist. I had a bad experience in the field, so I asked my dad serendipitously for a part-time position in the company so I could finish grad school and reevaluate what I wanted to do. I saw how he was empowering people. I fell love with what he was doing. I left grad school after the first year and came to work for him full time in 1998. After all the years that I hadn’t seen him, I was reintroduced to my father as an adult, and it was really wonderful to establish a relationship with him.

Unfortunately on June 9, 2002 my father died of a sudden heart attack. It was a really traumatic experience for me. Not only was I mourning the loss of my father, the company at that point was earning about $12 million in annual revenue. We had about 70 employees and nationwide distribution. I knew that this was my father’s complete passion and everything that he had spent his life working for. I made a promise to him that I would do everything in my power to make sure that Lifeway not only succeeded, but that it thrived. The day that we learned my father had passed away, a handful of his friends were standing around in a circle within my earshot saying, “Sell your stock. This company is done. There’s no way that a girl can run this company.” That really pissed me off, to be honest, and it still fuels me every day.

SF: Earlier in the show I shared a story about how Daniel Murphy, the second baseman of the New York Mets, faced a great deal of criticism for taking paternity leave for the first few days of the season while his wife gave birth to their first child.  What are your thoughts on this?

JS: We need to redefine what it means to be man in society. I think we need to raise boys to be empathetic so that they can be good partners and so that we have a balanced, fair society. When a father and a son are throwing around a baseball in the front yard, and you hear the father say, “Hey, you’re throwing like a girl,” what message is that sending to the boy, and what message is that sending to the girl next to him? When I had my babies, my husband was with me the entire time that I was in the hospital, and he really bonded. He not only was with me through that, but he left his family business to raise our children full-time so that I could continue to scale everything that I’m doing. I think it’s great that moms and dads and other kids see him in the hallways as much as they see me in the hallways at school.

SF: How did the change in the definition of your husband’s role change your family and your business?

JS: We had to make the decision of whose career we would propel forward, and we were at a point when Lifeway was really exploding, and he said, “You’re really good at what you’re doing. Keep doing that.” I have daughters, and we both thought it would be a really good thing for them to see this change in role models. The fact of the matter is that, like myself, he also missed his parents growing up when they were building their business. He said it’s been the joy of his life to be able to raise our daughters and be there for them. Again, when we talk about redefining what it means to be a man, he is living proof of that.

SF: What are some of the most useful strategies that you’ve discovered as the CEO of your company for how you can be truly effective in the different parts of your life given the pressures that you face?

JS: One of the greatest things I did was read your book Total Leadership, and I spent a day and a half with you five years ago when we were starting our family. One thing that really hit home for me was the idea that we should not be striving for “work-life balance” per se, but that instead, we have to integrate our careers, our selves, our families, and our communities into one overlapping circle. I’m not perfect at it, but I think about it a lot. I sometimes get three out of four integrated, and I’m happy with that.

SF: What are some of the things that you do?

JS: For example, it’s important for me to be fit and healthy. I’m a better leader when I’m able to run, so I run marathons. Not only do I run marathons, but I also talk about them in my work, and I try to lead by inspiring my team to take the time to invest in their own health. I also raise money for an organization called Every Mother Counts, which advocates for better maternal health. I integrated that messaging throughout the company in a campaign where we donated money to the foundation every time a customer bought a bottle of our Kefir. I did all of that in the workplace, and I was also running with the stroller. That was my time to share with my kids and show them the importance of exercise. Through running, I’m working and raising awareness on the campaign we’re building at Lifeway, and I’m working on my own health and myself.

SF: That’s what I call a four-way win. You’re hitting on all cylinders. You’re making things better for yourself, your family, your community, and your business all at once.

Smolyansky candidly discusses her viewpoints on paternity leave, the role her husband plays at home, and her strategies for integrating work and life as a female CEO. She also speaks about how discussing work-life integration is a luxury her parents never had as they tried to build their business when they first immigrated to America. Do you, your parents, or someone you know have an experience similar to Smolyansky’s parents, or do you think work-life integration is a “luxury” accessible to only relatively wealthier families? How do you think first-generation immigrants can achieve work-life integration amidst the sacrifices they must make to establish a life for their families in a new country? Join us in the comments section with your thoughts and experiences.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, May 6 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Peter McGraw about the role of humor at work and with Cali Yost whether telework is a concept that can work. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.


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: When Work/Life Integration Doesn’t Mean What You Thought

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.

In my first week at my first job out of college, I worked from 8 am until 4 am every single day. I was working for one of the Big Three consulting firms and trying to get assigned to a competitive project – I wanted to hit the ground running, and I decided I was willing to do whatever it took. By the end of that week, I wasn’t sure I understood what I had gotten into. I asked a colleague who had started a year before me whether what I was experiencing was normal, and she was a little evasive about it – she didn’t seem to want to give me bad news. Another friend told me I should try to see my job – which I agreed was very intellectually engaging – as a sort of hobby, since I probably wouldn’t have time for any others. My hours did eventually get more reasonable – I got that first project, and it was grueling, but I also got some projects later that let me work a more normal 45-hour week. Over time, I figured out that when professional services firms talk about ‘sustainable lifestyles,’ they might mean sustainable year over year – not week to week.”

-Elizabeth, 26, MBA candidate

In an era when firms know that in order to attract Millennials, they must claim commitment to work-life integration and care for their employees, Elizabeth’s experience isn’t extraordinary. Her story and many others like it highlight two lessons for recent graduates:

Don’t be surprised by your work-life integration reality.

Candid conversations about realistic work-life integration expectations in your new organization will save you a lot of heartache. Talk to someone currently in the role you’re taking, or recently out of that role; your firm’s recruiting team may be able to recommend someone, or if you attend a university with related graduate programs, see whether any alumni of your company are on campus. Specific questions about day-to-day details often paint the most honest picture – “What time do you sign off email or turn off your phone most nights?” or “What activities that you were involved in during college are you still involved in now?” Answers like “After midnight” or “I don’t have much time for hobbies now” don’t mean the job isn’t a fit, as Elizabeth’s example shows; they just help you know what to expect.

See “integration” in a broader sense.

Many of us hope – and much of the public discussion on the issue encourages us to believe – that “work-life integration” will mean that at each point in our careers, we’ll be able to devote balanced amounts of time to our jobs, families, communities and selves – the latter including sleep. For many people, however, starting a career with a job that doesn’t permit that kind of balance right away is a strategic choice. The prevalence of entry-level jobs in investment banking and consulting alone suggests that many young people make this trade-off. Elizabeth is among them, and plans to return to the firm she talked about above after finishing her MBA. Your first job is a springboard, and long hours can be an upfront investment that pays work-life balance dividends later. Examples of those longer-term benefits might include fast access to more senior jobs with flexibility to define your own hours, or savings which enable you to take time off to travel, start a business, or have a family. This is one reason why “integration” is a better word than “balance” for the relationship between work and life. As Stew Friedman, Director of the Wharton Work-Life Integration Project, has said all the way back in 2004, “balance is bunk.” Few people truly “balance” the time they spend on work and life because we seldom prioritize them equally, and our priorities for each change over the course of our lives.

The first few years of your career may be a time when you don’t make it to the gym most nights and you trade off seeing friends on the weekend for getting sufficient rest. The key to making these choices truly short-term sacrifices and not the start of unhealthy habits is connecting your first job to your long-term plan, including a timeline. Laura Huang, Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Wharton, gives a great example of this kind of planning: “I took a job as an investment banker, and told myself it was for two years only, to save money and pay back loans – after that, I would go back to school or pursue something entrepreneurial. To commit myself to that deadline, the first appointment I put in my work calendar was ‘Hand in resignation’ two weeks before my two year anniversary, and I wrote my resignation letter in my first week.” It makes for a challenging first job, but integrating work and life over the course of years rather than days or weeks can enable the best long-term outcome. Just check in with your plan and your priorities regularly to make sure the job keeps moving you in the direction of your goals.

For more from What I Wish I’d Known, read last month’s article about getting credit for what you already do. Visit the Forum next month for the first installment of a What I Wish I’d Known series on relationships in the workplace, beginning with a perspective on navigating the change when work friends become real friends.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School.

Engage Your Personal Passions For Social Good

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

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 (mind, body and spirit).

In the first hour of Work and Life on February 25, Stew Friedman spoke with Deika Morrison about finding the intersection between personal passions, social good, and business success. Morrison is a former Senator and Deputy Minister of Finance in Jamaica, her home country; she co-founded and now manages MDK Advisory & Consulting, a media and publishing company Moonstone Blue, and a non-profit Do Good Jamaica.

Following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us what inspired you to found Do Good Jamaica and to start the Crayons Count project to serve children in Jamaica.

Deika Morrison: DeikaThe inspiration for Do Good Jamaica started with a book drive. There’s a very big problem with our education system in Jamaica. Although we have a national library system that serves every community through branch libraries and mobile libraries, and there are reading programs for children, they didn’t have enough of the proper books. I thought, “Jamaicans love to break records – with Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, we have the fastest man and the fastest woman in the world – so if I say, ‘Let’s break a Guinness record,’ I’ll get tons of books.” It worked – the world record was 242,624 books raised in seven days; we smashed that in the first day, and ended up with 657,061books in seven days. I was so inspired by the hundreds of organizations and hundreds of thousands of individuals that participated. It was fascinating to see how everyone could focus on a single goal and get somewhere.

Later, I wrote a children’s book, and my publisher at the time said, “You have to change this part of the book because most children in Jamaica don’t have crayons.” It turned out there were lots of things children in pre-school – which we call basic school in Jamaica – did not have. If they don’t have those materials – crayons among many other things – they are developmentally behind. I thought that was crazy, and said, “We just got 657,000 books – how hard can it be to ask for some crayons?” So for the last two years, we have sent a box of materials to every one of Jamaica’s 2600 preschools with 14 categories of recommended, developmental tools – crayons, books, play dough, puzzles, blocks, glue sticks, paint, paint brushes, paper, puppets, all sorts of things. We have also had an advocacy partnership with The Gleaner and a teaching training partnership with the US Embassy in Jamaica. We have a “learning lorry” – a renovated truck – that we use as a mobile classroom to train 60 -72 teachers each week. We break down the curriculum into plain English and encourage teachers to think about how to use the learning tools we’ve provided in order to meet curriculum objectives. I’m now working on a pilot project with 50 preschools to ramp up support even more, to include more teaching training, administrator training, materials, nutrition and health, everything.

SF: Have you had to ask people for help?

DM: Of course! I’ve had amazing friends and colleagues, and everybody felt empowered. Every single person involved is important to me. For the Guinness World Record book drive, if you give one book, you’re the difference between 657,060 and 657,061 books.

SF: You helped people see how they were contributing to a greater good, and that is the essence of what leadership is about. It’s a remarkable story. How has this affected your business life?

DM: My business life has gone very well because of it. I live in a small country, where the people you’re working with in the book drive are the same people you’re doing business with in the private sector. This is true of small communities everywhere in the world. We have shared interests, so there are people I do business with now whom I met through one of my many activities doing something for children. And I didn’t do it through “networking” the way networking is taught. I was trying to solve a problem, and in doing that, I included others and asked for their help. Out of that I’ve made a lot of friendships and business relationships. It’s just like people who play sports together. I love golf, and I know a lot of deals are cut on the golf course. I would encourage anybody who wants to do well in their business life to do other things, too, because it works.

SF: What advice would you have for people who want to make social action more a part of their lives?

DM: One of the things that really stayed with me about Total Leadership is that you can’t try to be four different people in your work, home, community, and self. You need to be one person for whom everything is interrelated. People look at my life and think I’m doing 100,000 things, and yes, I’m doing 100,000 things, but they actually all relate to each other in some way. I’m passionate about children. I’m also very passionate about Jamaica and about living in a country that’s becoming a better place. I would say the highlight of my time as a senator was working on education and legislation to protect children. It’s very important to me to try to make my worlds collide in that way. What I do with Jamaica is related to the children because the children are in Jamaica. My media company, Moonstone Blue, currently promotes Red Stripe (a famous Jamaican beer), Usain Bolt, and Bob Marley – those individuals were once Jamaican children. If you invest in them early, who knows who’s going to make the next Red Stripe?

If I were giving advice to others, I would tell people to start with themselves. Sit down and really reflect on what makes you happy, what is important to you, what gets you going. Suppose your passion is elderly people – you can say, “Who is in my family?” Start there, at home. Then take the experiences that worked at home to the local community center, and help some people there. It starts with what is important to you.

Deika Morrison holds undergraduate degrees in Environmental Systems and Finance from The University of Pennsylvania and The Wharton School, a Master’s degree in Engineering from Harvard, and an MBA from The Wharton School.  Follow her on Twitter @deikamorrison and on Do Good Jamaica’s blog.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, March 11 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Alyssa Friede Westring and Ashley Milne-Tyte about how young professionals manage multiple roles in work and life, and how women navigate the workplace for success. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School. 

Creating Four-Way Wins: Total Leadership Alumni on Work & Life

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, Friedman 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).

On February 18, Friedman spoke with Total Leadership alumni about how the lessons have enriched their lives since they completed the course. The purpose of the Total Leadership model is to improve performance in all four domains of life: work, home, community, and self by following these principles to create mutual value among them:

  • Be Real – act with authenticity by clarifying what’s important
  • Be Whole – act with integrity by respecting the whole person
  • Be Innovative – act with creativity by continually experimenting

In the first hour of Work and Life, Friedman spoke with four Total Leadership alumni about how following the principles of Total Leadership has allowed them to lead richer, more satisfying lives.

Richard Meene, David Tucker, Goshin Mizuno and Matt Jennings

Following are edited excerpts of the conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: How do you manage to do the things that are important to you as a husband, as a father, and as an effective manager?

Rich Meene: Richard MeeneTrying to figure out how to allocate our scarcest resource – time – is a challenge. I think one of the ways I juggle it all is to continually step back to self-reflect – take a look at the situation, engage with those people I care about, and ask for their opinion. Both with my job and with my household, I think we’ve established a habit of honest and intentional communication.

SF: You took the Total Leadership course here at Wharton three years ago – what are the lessons that stayed with you that you still use today?

RM: I continue to use the program to figure out who are the major stakeholders, what are the different pieces of my life, where am I over-delivering and under-delivering, and what types of experiments can I design to figure out how to put things in better alignment. For example, I noticed that people stopped responding at 6 PM, so instead of staying until 9 PM, I cut work at the office off at 6 and head home while my family is still awake to spend some time with my wife and kids. Then, when my family goes to bed, I go back and put in that additional time. This experiment has allowed me to reorganize my time to fulfill other domains of my life while still accomplishing the same amount of work. I was able to spend more time with my kids which made me happy, I was able to spend more time with wife which made her happy, and I was still able to meet the requirements of my job – all without getting frustrated that I wouldn’t be home on time. It was a multiple-way win for sure.

David Tucker: David TuckerTotal Leadership really teaches you how to define what success means to you. In the path leading up to becoming a Wharton undergraduate, the next step is always prescribed for you – here’s what you have to do to advance to the next level, here’s what you have to do to get a certain mark in a class. The hurdles are very clear. I found myself after graduation in a highly coveted management consulting job where, again, the hurdles are very clear. But at some point, because I had done all this introspection and all this work in Total Leadership, I realized that those benchmarks weren’t the benchmarks by which I wanted to use to measure my own success. I realized that I was stressing out about benchmarks that don’t actually matter to the people who matter most to me. So I started to think, “How can I change this situation so that I’m able to live a life that’s successful by my own terms?” I started by clarifying what risks I was willing to take. I struck out on a new job hunt, and instead of taking the job that seemed like a continuation of the path that I was already on, I ended up interviewing in the marketing field, which felt better aligned with my values. I knew that even if this choice was going to decrease my long-term earning potential, this was a place where I could feel successful based on how I define success.

SF: Rich, how do you think about success? How does success in certain parts of your life affect the other parts?

RM: In thinking from the perspective of a 15-year plan, I try to think less about what specific job I want in 15 years or where I want to live. It’s more about what I hope to have achieved living by my principles. If I’ve followed through on my principles – like successfully raising my kids and being a good husband – then that is success for me.

SF: David, what is it that you look to as you think about the next stage in your life and career?

DT: When I changed careers from the job that I initially had out of college, my partner elected to make a career change as well and is now preparing to enter medical school in the fall. That’s going to require me to have a conversation with my bosses about either changing the office that I work in or how frequently I come into the office. The Total Leadership principles have equipped me to have that conversation when the time comes. One of the tools I’m going to try to think about is how to define this change and how it might be beneficial for the people that I work with. If I can show them that I can meet all their demands even if I’m not physically present in the New York office every day, then everyone can still be happy with the end outcome, and I will still be bringing my full self to work every day.

SF: That’s exactly what I mean by four-way wins. You’re entering the conversation thinking about how this change, which is clearly good for you, your partner, and perhaps for other parts of your life, like friends and the local community, is also a benefit for your employer. How did you develop a greater sense of confidence and power in being able to adjust things to suit your needs?

DT: I think a lot of that comes back to defining who are the truly important people in your life and what you need to do to serve them and make them happy. When you are confident that the move you’re making is the right move to serve those critically important people, it’s hard to feel like that’s the wrong move.

SF: Goshin, Matt, how has Total Leadership helped you tackle the major challenges that you face in integrating the different parts of your life?

Goshin Mizuno: Goshin MizunoBefore Total Leadership, I felt passionate all the time but I didn’t know why I was passionate or what my purpose was. I found that I was aggressively and ambitiously looking for results rather than engaging with the stakeholders in the four domains in my life. After learning Total Leadership, I now feel like I have a gyroscope that tells me where my center of gravity is.

Matt Jennings: Matthew JenningsTotal Leadership has allowed me to have many different conversations with the key important people – the stakeholders – and one of the things that I’ve learned is that you have to approach different relationships in different ways. Some of the changes you want to make may be more immediate but for the longer-term changes, if you can define what you want your life to look like, then you can start working backwards and plant the seeds for a better solution in the future.

SF: We talk a lot in our course about small wins and the power of taking steps within your control to build towards a bigger vision. Goshin, how have your conversations with people that matter most to you helped you be more aware of the other parts of your life and become more purposeful?

GM: Engaging in dialogue with my stakeholders has allowed me to start understanding what they care about most. Before pushing my goals onto my colleagues in the workplace, I try to understand their goals and interests so I can be more respectful and considerate. Although I can’t touch the king in the first chess move, I can use my voice and my delivery to gradually start building trustworthy relationships. Before Total Leadership, I was always trying to solve the problem individually, but now, after Total Leadership, I delegate more of my responsibilities and goals.

SF: Matt, how have the stakeholder dialogues you’ve had given you more confidence?

MJ: Before the dialogue, I thought, “This person’s expectations of me are X, Y, and Z and that’s completely related to my job.” However, when I got into the conversation, I was surprised when they said none of the things that I had listed and, in fact, mentioned expectations that matched much more closely with what I had hoped. This conversation served as a great foundation for us to continue to grow our relationship, and it’s even helped create a new opportunity for me at work that doesn’t require as much travel as I’d been currently doing. So it’s a real win for the company, it’s a win for me in the career-sense, and it’s also a great benefit in the other areas of my life to be able to spend more time with my family, my friends, and myself.

SF: What a great example of a four-way win that blossomed out of a conversation with someone you identified as being important to your future about what matters to each of you. What I find with many clients and students is that they are afraid to have this conversation. What is it that’s terrifying about this conversation?

MJ: One, it’s the unknown. Two, it’s putting yourself out there. So many of us in the workplace and/or in our personal relationships don’t want to rock the boat, but sometimes you have to break some glass in order to build something new. And you have to do that in the context of understanding who are the important people in your life and what risks you are willing to take in order to better serve those people and yourself.

SF: Goshin, how did you discover your capacity to have these dialogues? What was the most important lesson you learned to be able to more effectively see the world through other people’s eyes?

GM: In my case, I know I can be a perfectionist, and sometimes it’s a disturbance to other people. By making minor adjustments to my attitude, I have reached an even higher level of achievement. I think that being humble – showing respect to others and praising their strengths while admitting my own weaknesses – has allowed me to bring others closer.

David Tucker received his undergraduate degree from Wharton in 2009 and is currently Vice President of Global Intelligence at UM Worldwide where he is responsible for conducting global research and serving as a thought leadership editor supporting UM’s “Curiosity Works” brand proposition. Follow David on Twitter @tuckerda where he tweets about his work (media, advertising, research) and passions (travel, travel, more travel, books, and personal finance).

Rich Meene received his MBA from Wharton in 2011 and has worked for the accounting firm PwC LLP since 2001, where he is now a Director. Rich works with Boards of Directors and executive management teams on projects involving corporate investigations, regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, process improvement, organizational change management and strategic planning. To learn more about his professional practice, visit the PwC forensics consulting page.

Goshin Mizuno received his MBA here at Wharton and is a Global Nomad, having traveled and lived in different environments, cultures and social regimes. He is originally from Tokyo but has spent nearly two decades outside of Japan.

Matt Jennings received his MBA in 2012 and is the Vice President of Program Management for the Construction, Transportation & Industrial Global Business Unit of De Lage Landen Financial Services, Inc.

Visit the Forum this Saturday for the second segment of Friedman’s conversation with Total Leadership Alumni, Sean O’Reilly, Eugene Lebedev and Judith Duval.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, March 4 at 7 PM on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Connie Gersick, Visiting Scholar at Yale’s School of Management abouthow women can implement three strategies to “have it all” and male Wharton students, David Ash (WG ’15), Siddharth Shankar (WG ’14), Vikram Madan (WG ’15), and Ben Shephard (WG ’14), about how today’s businessmen see their future work and family lives. 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 Is Really Bugging Employers about Work and the Rest of Life?

Contributor: Ariane Ollier-Malaterre, Associate Professor of Management

Director of the Research Center ‘Contemporary P@thways of Career, Life and Learning’ at Rouen Business School, France

In the midst of heated debates around a number of prominent employers’ decisions to cancel telework arrangements (e.g. Yahoo) and pioneering initiatives such as Results Only Work Environments (e.g. Best Buy), and of the vivid discussions on Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, I’d like to go back to the classics.

One of the most eye-opening books I have ever read is Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s Work and Family in the United States. I read the first chapter and suddenly there was light. There was light and I was able to make sense of my observations regarding work and life during ten years of business consulting.

In this book 35 years ago, Kanter drew on a well-documented historical analysis to explain why employers were having such a hard time with their employees wishing and needing to balance their work commitments with other life commitments. It’s all about loyalty: employers want to secure employee’s total commitment and are reluctant to endure competing loyalties such as the ones represented by families.

Work and family, in the eyes of employers at least, have been competing since the beginnings of the second industrial revolution. Employers have first used families to discipline and socialize newcomers, and then have either tried to swallow it up in paternalistic programs or to ignore it – the famous myth of the separation between the work and family spheres that leads employers to pretend people can leave their personal life and identity at the door and behave in a strictly professional way.

It seems that we haven’t done much progress since then. And that makes sense given the increasing loyalty demands of workplaces that need employees to be available and reactive around the clock in a globalized and competitive world.

What most employers seem to not be getting, however, is that work and life don’t have to be competing. Yes, daily schedules are often in conflict, and yes families and communities provide alternative places to the workplace that people can belong to. But work and family also enrich each other, as Nancy Rothbard has demonstrated in her research, and as Stew Friedman has shown in Total Leadership. Work and family nurture each other on a daily basis and on a life-time horizon. Win-wins are possible, when employers trust employees.

Why does this matter? It matters, obviously, for those employees who will or will not be given the gift of autonomy over the time and place that they work. This is well known and I want to highlight instead the invisible and un-discussed side of work-life balance. In that same seminal book, Kanter brought forward the invisible stakeholders of the work and family debate. She argued that employers’ demands on employees, and the supports they provide, impact not only employees’ health and well-being, but also employees’ families and communities.

An employer may have 100 persons on their payroll, and see only these 100 persons. Yet the scope of their influence expands to the children, partners and elderly parents of those 100 persons. It expands to the communities of those 100 persons. Whether or not employers and managers enable their employees to craft the combinations of work and life that will meet business demands and work for them impacts whether those 100 people will be able to spend time to invest in their children’s future, to care for their partner and loved ones, and to contribute to their communities. Kanter concluded that employers should include a “Family responsibility report” when they prepare their work-life balance and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports.

So Kanter had a vision. One that broadens otherwise narrow individualistic discussions of work-life integration, one that contextualizes work-life integration and carries hope for invisible stakeholders who are rarely centerpiece (for notable exceptions, see Ellen Galinsky’s Ask the Children and Friedman and Greenhaus on “children as the unseen stakeholders at work” in Work and Family — Allies or Enemies?).

Is this vision out of reach for us? I’d like to point to recent discussions I have had with PhD candidates who examine a new breed of organizations that make social responsibility the heart and core of their business strategy, instead of doing what they usually do and having on-the-side CSR initiatives. I would hope that these organizations would understand the scope of their responsibility in a broad way.

I’d also like to point to a paper that as a special issue editor I have just accepted for publication in the European Management Journal (see reference below): this paper by Sharon Lobel discusses poverty alleviation efforts of private sector companies in Brazil. She argues that some companies hold an “in-group CSR” view in which they develop poverty alleviation programs targeted to their employees and immediate stakeholders (e.g. suppliers), whereas other companies embrace a “universalist CSR” view in which they extend their programs to the local communities and beyond. This in my view truly reflects the spirit of Kanter’s vision and leaves me hopeful for the future.

As individuals and as managers, how you view work-life integration, how you view employee loyalty, has the power to change your life – and the life of many visible and invisible stakeholders.


Lobel, S. Forthcoming. Predicting organizational responsiveness to poverty: Exploratory models and application to comparison of Brazil and the United States. European Management Journal, Special Issue National Context in Work-Life Research edited by A. Ollier-Malaterre, M. Valcour, L. den Dulk and E. Kossek.