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Management Style and Work Life Balance
Old 02-26-2015, 12:11 PM   #1
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Management Style and Work Life Balance

Hi all,

A response on another thread about working from home got me thinking and questioning what your experiences have been in corporate america with having different managers and/or having managed different people. How were you managed or what was your management style in terms of overseeing work tasks and offering work life balance perks?

A few areas come to mind for me - things that I really value. I am at the beginning of my career (25 yrs old), and a large part of what I value is probably more "new school" and reflective of my generation's approach to working, mainly because (some - not all) older folks I have worked with have differing unspoken views/approaches, and because I've made comments to my parents (ages 60-65) before on these things below and gotten some eye rolls and questions.

1. Working out over lunch: I belong to a gym that is a 3 minute walk from my office that I typically use most days (there is also a sister gym I can use near my condo on days I am not working so it works out nicely). If we're busy, or have a team lunch, I won't work out. Sometimes I may be gone for 1.5 hours, but I always get my work done. If that means staying until 6-7PM, or coming home and working into the evening, I am happy to do that. Sitting at a desk >8 hours a day means that by hour 5, I am drowsy, unfocused, and restless. Getting out of the office midday to work out really helps me a lot in terms of my productivity and general well being. My boss has never made a negative comment on it, but I do suspect some people (people who don't do use their lunch hours to do personal things) have their judgments.

2. Working from home: Even though my commute to work is fairly reasonable (30-40 minutes), I do value being able to work from home during slower periods, or if things in my personal life make it easier to work from home (i.e., doctor's appointment midday, sick, traveling after work, etc). I mainly enjoy working from home because I find commuting and coming into the office to be a big inefficiency. When I calculate how much time it takes me to get ready and commute to and from work each day, the time I save can be spent in better ways. I do think it's important to have face time and interactions with your coworkers regularly, so it's not something I think should be abused. I can also be just as productive at home (if I want to be!), although it is easier to slack at home too

3. Vacation time: I find older generations aren't as willing to take vacation time. I am more than willing to use all my vacation time, and push the envelope to use more than alloted, assuming I am getting my work done. If I am busy or my team will be busy, I won't schedule a vacation. I think excessive working without breaks in life diminishes my productivity, creativity and efficiency drastically.

So what about you? What are perks you really value?
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Old 02-26-2015, 12:49 PM   #2
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I don't believe that this is an age thing, though perhaps there are some trends that I am not aware of. I'm 55 and everything you are doing are things that I did throughout my career - usually part of a small minority as you are. The key thing that I always tried to make sure of was that I was a top performer You can get away with being "different" if you are very good at your job. If you are just mediocre, then "different" is dangerous.
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Old 02-26-2015, 01:08 PM   #3
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As a manager & employee, I support (and do) 1 & 3. There should be no issues as long as work is not impacted. On 3, I do frown on folks consistently taking unplanned long vacation when the project is in critical period.

On 2 is where I see more issues. WFH too often have its short comings. It can lead to perception of the person being never around. It reduces face to face time with key peers and managers which can lead to communication issues, reduced networking (not good for people wanting to move up, build better working relationship), etc.. Then, there are a few WFHers who abuse it by using the time to go AWOL from work. I've caught an employee who was supposed to WFH one day but we could not locate him when a critical issue came up. I had to stopped the WFH policy for the group after that. Anyway, my recommendation is to use WFH wisely, especially, if one is still young and have inspiration to move up on the ladder.
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Old 02-26-2015, 01:34 PM   #4
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I always tried to leave for an hour a day. Sometimes though some of us weren't allowed to go home or leave the building for a day or two. Sometimes you worked 36 hours went home napped, showered, ate and went right back in, maybe a 8-12 break. That was the corporate expectation. We weren't saving people's lives, but someone was losing money.

Working from home just was ramping up as I got the IDKs. It was great on snowy days etc. However if I was in one of those 36 hour day problems, it made it worse as now I was disrupting DW with all day/night conference calls.

Vacations always took most of my weeks, if I had too many to roll over I'd always ensure I got mine taken. Given we were on leashes (cell phone), my voice mail always said I was somewhere with have limited cell access(power switch worked well).

My manager's never asked me to do anything they didn't do, so no problem. I recall one project that was so large they offered piece work for coding on the weekend, you had to put in 50-60 hours M-F. I got paid a lot to write assembly code Saturday and Sunday. The VPs and Directors were in there too, but didn't receive any direct compensation.
When I managed people the expectations were the same.
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Old 02-26-2015, 01:49 PM   #5
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I was always given lots of freedom with my schedule and gave a lot too. I recall one day one of my direct reports came in and explained that her son had a school activity and asked if it was ok if she took some time off in the afternoon to attend. I responded that that was fine... my bottom line was that she knew what needed to be done and by when and as long as the work that needed to be done was done on or before our established deadlines and that it be done in a quality manner that I didn't particularly care if it was done at 2 pm in the afternoon or 2 pm in the morning. I was demanding but I believe fair and flexible and my team did some pretty incredible things during my tenure. I was continually amazed that is we set stretch goals and gave people the resources and freedom to to them how they came through in the clutch.

That said, there are perceptions to be managed and it is important that if you take long lunches frequently to work out that you get your work done on time and be seen working beyond the normal work hours when everyone else may have left the office. I probably would have had little tolerance for someone who took long lunches to workout but habitually failed to meet deadlines or met deadlines but had frequent mistakes in their work.

I once was leading a project where we were the corporate auditors auditing a key subsidiary. One day I walked by the company store in the mid-afternoon and my (female) colleague was sitting there watching the television in the store. I walked up and asked her what she was doing. She replied that she was watching a soap opera. I told her that was not appropriate and she objected and countered that I took time during our lunch hour and read the Wall street journal in the company library. I actually had to explain to her that if the subsidiary president walked by and saw me in the library reading the WSJ during the lunch hour and walked by the company store in mid-afternoon and saw her watching tv that he would probably have very different impressions of the corporate auditors and that perceptions are important. She didn't get it and after she pulled the same stunts with another lead auditor after I was done with her she was fired.

Working from home can be a more complicated question depending on the company's culture and attitude towards working from home. In my last job I worked from home or was in the field and was rarely in the office. i did believe that I was more productive working from home as there were less interruptions and colleagues who poked their heads in for a short chat that inevitably ended up being a long chat. One of the challenges of working from home is cultivating and maintaining relationships and a certain amount of face time is useful, particularly before one plateaus.
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Old 02-26-2015, 01:51 PM   #6
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You sound very professional, and don't seem to be "flaunting" your exercise to make others feel bad (people who do that should be smacked). More likely, they hate to exercise, are jealous of your discipline, and have convinced themselves they have a right to criticize you to cover up their envy. This is nothing new and was prevalent 30 years ago, before working out was as common as it is today.

Just be aware that even though it is completely unfair, jealous people can really hurt you once they get their hooks in. See if you can win them over, maybe pay a little extra attention to them.

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Hi all,


1. Working out over lunch: I belong to a gym that is a 3 minute walk from my office that I typically use most days (there is also a sister gym I can use near my condo on days I am not working so it works out nicely). If we're busy, or have a team lunch, I won't work out. ....I do suspect some people (people who don't do use their lunch hours to do personal things) have their judgments.
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Old 02-26-2015, 02:18 PM   #7
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So what about you? What are perks you really value?
I knew someone online who had a great gym available right there at her megacorps workplace, and who could exercise during lunch hour. Showers and lockers were available. Plus, management looked the other way if someone spent a bit longer at lunch than technically allowed. That sounded like a wonderful perk. Imagine being able to work out every day at work like that! I would have loved working at a place like that.

Telecommuting would have been great, too.

But perhaps the reinstatement of old fashioned pension benefits should be considered before adding benefits like these.
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Old 02-26-2015, 02:28 PM   #8
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Ask Neil Patterson how he feels about the company gym. Tick Tock.

Actually he and the company recovered from that explosive rant. Created a lot of good paying j*bs, in the metro. It does make the point of how some management will use perception of certain events that can get a person(or group) subject to scrunity.
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Old 02-26-2015, 03:06 PM   #9
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I knew someone online who had a great gym available right there at her megacorps workplace, and who could exercise during lunch hour. Showers and lockers were available. Plus, management looked the other way if someone spent a bit longer at lunch than technically allowed. That sounded like a wonderful perk. Imagine being able to work out every day at work like that! I would have loved working at a place like that.
It is. Too bad that I didn't use it until this year when I plan to RE. Now I have been using it every day, I hate to say goodbye to the perk once I RE.
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Old 02-26-2015, 03:30 PM   #10
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1. Working out over lunch: I belong to a gym that is a 3 minute walk from my office that I typically use most days (there is also a sister gym I can use near my condo on days I am not working so it works out nicely). If we're busy, or have a team lunch, I won't work out. Sometimes I may be gone for 1.5 hours, but I always get my work done. If that means staying until 6-7PM, or coming home and working into the evening, I am happy to do that.
This was quite common at most offices I worked in during my military career. I certainly did it whenever I could. The gym was a 5-minute walk, so I could leave the office, go for a 10K run or work out with the weight machines, get a quick shower and be back at my desk in less than 1.5 hours, often including a ten-minute lunch (hot dog or the equivalent) on the way back. It was understood that you wouldn't quit for the day until everything was done, no matte what time that might be. I used to wonder how many civilians got to do the same thing, so I'm glad you have the opportunity. I encourage you to take advantage of it, and just explain to any questioners in the same way you did here.

One big difference for me was that military vacation time was quite different. We got 30 days a year, but they were calendar days, not work days. So if you needed to take a week off and that included both weekends, you were out nine of your vacation days, not the five that civilians would use. Also, since there were always important projects going on, there was no chance of taking any vacation time during a critical period. During my entire career, I never knew anyone who got to use more than about half of their allotted days in any given year.

As to management style, I was the original "management by walking around" kind of guy. As a middle manager I tried to have at least a few words with every one of my folks nearly every day. A very relaxed style and it worked wonderfully well. Never had a morale problem to deal with (except occasionally my own!)
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Old 02-26-2015, 03:49 PM   #11
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At my company they provide a corporate gym, weight room, showers, etc and a company subsidized medical center. Hard to complain. The new Wellness push is to get rid of all the smoking rooms around the campus and put in foosball, table tennis, etc. Management is trying to provide a more balanced work environment which I do applaud. Don't take vacation time to run errands if it takes less than four hours.

As a supervisor I get it that we all take breaks. Some smoke, some exercise, some read the Drudge Report. For me as long as you get your job done I did not care.

My wife will work from home at times (same company, different department) and that works well for her. I think I would be easily distracted . . . and have to be fired.
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Old 02-26-2015, 05:39 PM   #12
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It's not an age thing. It's more like enlightened self interest. You seem to have got it down just right.
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Old 02-26-2015, 05:57 PM   #13
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I do not think it is an age thing. It reflected what I did and appreciated in my career. I am now retired. Your question also asked, what perks do you value? I was really appreciative of the recreation programs. I played softball, basketball and hockey. There was a large park for the company picnic. All programs included retirees. And there was a 20 year club. Everyone with 20+ years of service, working or retired, were invited to a great banquet. So, beyond the personal stuff, the informal team work environment was great.
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Old 02-26-2015, 09:51 PM   #14
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1. Working out over lunch
Your lunch hour (not 1.5) is your time to do whatever you'd like
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2. Working from home:
IMHO - Working from home = not working to your full potential. You yourself state.
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..during slower periods
If thought you were more productive at home, wouldn't the busiest periods be the best time?
In your comment related to days you took a longer lunch.
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...I always get my work done
When at the office, if you're able to get a task done early, but there are 2hrs left before the rest of the day, usually some of that time will go towards new tasks. When at home "I did my work" may mean it's time to turn on the TV.
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I can also be just as productive at home (if I want to be!), although it is easier to slack at home too
My point..
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3. Vacation time:
You earned your PTO, take all of it. Be courteous and plan your time off well in advance, especially when it's many days strung together.

Your work/life balance (not uncommon for your generation) may be perfect for you. I'm not suggesting change. My point is that if there is someone who works through lunch, is in the office every day and doesn't use all their vacation time, don't be upset if they move ahead faster than you.

Who would you promote if it was your company?

I hope that in my writing out of my opinions here that no one believes that they are "set in stone". I welcome counter opinions. I believe that they would make me a better manager.
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Old 02-26-2015, 10:48 PM   #15
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#1 - I don't care about that, I would never use a gym at work (or in public for that matter). I have my own treadmill and weights for working out at home.

Besides, I prefer to eat lunch in about 5 or 10 minutes, so I can get back to work.

#2 and #3 are important though. I get 1 WFH day per week now and love it. And vacation is very important - I'm at 4 weeks per year now and make sure to take all of it. I usually schedule it 3-6 months ahead of time.

I'm not looking to get promoted, though. I've been in higher-level positions than the one I am in, hated them, and went to another company to get my lower-level role back (but at higher pay). Unlike many people here, I'm not shooting for management.

For me, the stress and responsibility of management positions isn't worth the extra money.
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Old 02-26-2015, 11:00 PM   #16
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IMHO - Working from home = not working to your full potential.
That is totally dependent on the position, the tasks, and the person.

When working on software development tasks that are well-defined and straightforward, I am definitely more productive at home. I can get a couple of 4-hour uninterrupted windows of concentration in a day, which keeps my flow going at full speed.

When I'm in the office, the best I can usually get is 1-1.5 hours without some sort of forced interruption.
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Old 02-26-2015, 11:33 PM   #17
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Old 02-27-2015, 07:09 AM   #18
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Your lunch hour (not 1.5) is your time to do whatever you'd like

IMHO - Working from home = not working to your full potential. You yourself state.

If thought you were more productive at home, wouldn't the busiest periods be the best time?
In your comment related to days you took a longer lunch.

When at the office, if you're able to get a task done early, but there are 2hrs left before the rest of the day, usually some of that time will go towards new tasks. When at home "I did my work" may mean it's time to turn on the TV.

My point..

You earned your PTO, take all of it. Be courteous and plan your time off well in advance, especially when it's many days strung together.

Your work/life balance (not uncommon for your generation) may be perfect for you. I'm not suggesting change. My point is that if there is someone who works through lunch, is in the office every day and doesn't use all their vacation time, don't be upset if they move ahead faster than you.

Who would you promote if it was your company?
Personally I would promote whoever does their job better. And that perception would have nothing to do with face time in the office. I have WFH a number of times, and was pretty much always recognized as the best worker in my group. Often when I was in the office I would take a long lunch, but it was always balanced by doing whatever it took to get the job done, whether that was longer hours working or whatever.

One of my old co-workers and an ER forum member doesn't even have an office, and hasn't ever met his boss (and I believe he never met his previous boss either). His work ethic is superb, and his contributions are well recognized.

I believe in a WFH situation, a boss who has the perceptions you've stated is the one not doing his job properly. Work effectiveness needs to be judged by performance, not face time. I can't tell you how many co-workers I've had that spend long hours in the office, but never actually produce anything. But in order to judge the effectiveness of a worker, the boss needs to understand the job and it's requirements. I've found that to be a difficult task for many of them, so they resort to shortcuts like face time to make their judgments. Not a good way to go for either the company or the employee.
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Old 02-27-2015, 07:44 AM   #19
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Personally I would promote whoever does their job better
My point, though I acknowledge it was omitted, was predicated upon equal performance between the two types of employees.

I'll certainly concede that there are some who have the discipline and work ethic to be very productive at home, you may be one. Believe it or not, I have two employees who work from home, one lives a thousand miles away and I see every couple of months, the other about a hundred and I see every other year. For those two, there have been many others who when given the opportunity have abused it.

Thank you for sharing your opinions.
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Old 02-27-2015, 07:48 AM   #20
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That is totally dependent on the position, the tasks, and the person.
I agree 100%, though my experience, it's mostly the person.

That could be because of positions/tasks/people I oversee , the people are the largest variable.
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