Girl Talk Career Blog

June 13, 2010

Steelers vs Dodgers: Who is Your Money On?

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 9:06 pm
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Recently I made a sports gaffe in front of my brother that tickled him no end.  Someone I know had been talking football to me. Me.  The last woman in the world who has a clue about sports of any kind since that just isn’t my arena (pun).  At any rate for some reason I brought home the word “Steelers” in my head from that conversation. Later in the week I chatted with my brother on the phone. Trying to sound as though I knew a thing or two about football I asked him quite casually, “are the Steelers playing the Dodgers anytime soon?”  Where the name Dodgers came from I don’t know.  Must have heard it on the radio that week.  Without missing a beat my brother managed to keep the stunned amusement in his voice on the down low and he replied “Lisa the Dodgers are a baseball team.” 

Ohhh.  So I guess the Dodgers won’t be playing the Steelers anytime soon eh?” was my brilliant comeback.  He finally let loose a snicker and replied “Well if they do I can’t say what the score will be but I’m reasonably certain the Steelers will kill them.”

I laughed hard at that one, not at all embarrassed by my own stupidity. Hey, I’m used to it. 

Later when I was reflecting on the hilariously stupid question I’d asked my brother and his pleasantly dry reply something occurred to me.  Would the Steelers necessarily “kill” the Dodgers?  I decided my answer to that unlikely hypothetical scenario is:  It depends. If the two teams agreed to play football then the Steelers will win by default. Clearly the Dodgers don’t want to find themselves in traction for the remainder of the season (and perhaps their lives) so that’s a no-brainer. 

Now let’s say the Steelers (even more amused than my brother) agreed to a baseball game against the Dodgers. If the Dodgers have a good manager they won’t allow this game to be declared a default.  They will show up.  They will be nervous but they will be there.   The Steelers will be there too,  as confident as lions about to go after a poor unfortunate Christian in the gladiator ring, snickering, hooting and hollering at the Dodgers.

If the Dodgers have a good manager they will make sure the Steelers are up first.  When this happens approximately 8 minutes into the game, everyone will know that the Dodgers indeed have a good manager.  So will the Steelers since they and the Dodgers will realize that the game is over. The Dodgers have won and soon they will “kill” the Steelers by a landslide. 

How do I know?

I know very little about sports but I do know this much. Football players and baseball players have to be able to do three things:

  1. Run
  2. Throw
  3. Catch

But baseball players have another skill required to play their game.  They have to be able to hit. Not the kind of hitting that a footballer does, you know full body impact and knocking the bejesus out of each other.  Nope. In baseball you need precision. You have to be able to hold a narrow bat, stand confidently at a plate staring at a potentially lethal weapon as it comes flying at your head (without protective headgear) at speeds of up to 100 mph easily, plan your timing, swing and hit that ball out into the park.  We know baseball players can do this and have been doing so since they could walk. We don’t know if football players can do that. My guess is they cannot or at least not anywhere near the professional level of a baseball player. About 8 minutes into the first inning the Steelers will have struck out and it will be time for the Dodgers to take their place at bat – confident, strong and ready to emerge victorious. The lions will be subdued and the Christians will take their place beside the Roman Emporer.

A good manager would have known this well in advance of the (hypothetical and admittedly ridiculous) game. He would not have looked at the size and weight of the footballers and said “uh oh. We done.”  He would have looked at the skill required to play the game, the likelihood of the Steelers to have acquired one particular poignant skill  and he would have known that this game was a no-brainer for his team.  He would have told them that in the locker room. The Dodgers would have started the game a little nervous and ended it bursting with confidence and pride. (And if they are a classy bunch they would manage not to point and snicker at the Steelers since they have more than evened the score on that one). 

How does that apply to you, Girlfriend, or to anyone in the workplace?  Muscle and hustle don’t cut it in this world.  Precision and skill cut it.  Results cut it.  Courage cuts it.  You can be the unflashiest and least likely-looking employee in a business and be quietly raking in commissions that would knock the socks off the biggest blusterer. When you get promoted and Ms. Big-Mouth doesn’t you won’t be at all surprised even though she and everyone else will be.  The squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease, not if you work for a corporation with a perceptive and not-easily-impressed CEO. In other words, a good manager.

When the recession hit Bay Street in Toronto, Ontario a lot of young MBAs stopped showing up at work in blue jeans and started showing up in 2-piece suits and ties.  Foolish mistake.  They were still operating on the muscle and hustle principle, the visuals and the bragging. If I was a CEO in such a company, the change in clothing wouldn’t impress me that this person wanted to keep his or her job. It would make me suspicious. Wasn’t she or he doing their best work before the recession hit?  Does the wardrobe change signify that I should take a closer look at their sales figures?  If they suddenly shoot up at about the same time my employee turns up in a Giovanni suit then the recession certainly has come to my office. That person will be fired and not because of company cutbacks.  Nope.  She’s out the door for consistently under-performing long before the recession hit (silly me, not figuring that one out until she conveniently waved that red flag for me under my nose).  She doesn’t want to keep her job because she’s a good worker and cares about my corporation and her future here.  She’s worried about paying her mortgage.  Fine.  Go work for someone else and pay your bills.  I want my people to appreciate their job opportunities with me.  I want them to want to be here for a lot more reasons than just the money.

Don’t worry about your $1,000.00 suited colleague in the next cubicle.  Don’t feel intimidated by the woman who keeps bragging about her latest client acquisition.  Keep on doing what you’re doing Girlfriend.  You’re doing just fine or you wouldn’t be there.  In fact my hunch is you can circle commissions around the loudmouth next door.

I’ll see you in the VIP office.

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May 22, 2010

Women in the Workplace: Welcome to the Jungle Baby!

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 11:58 pm
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Girlfriend before you start grumbling about how much you hate your job, how crappy the pay is, how much overtime you have to work and how much you hate your boss, consider women in the workplace in the mid-20th Century and how tough they had it away back then. In the late 1930’s at the outset of the 2nd World War women were necessary at work, in the office and in factories building armaments and anything war-related. They were trained as mechanics, plumbers, electricians, riveters, assembly line workers, you name it, we did it Girlfriend, truly a first in 20th Century history for women of the middle class. Now this is not to imply that women have never worked in factories or performed laborious back-breaking industrial labour. Consider the Industrial Revolution where women worked alongside men and children for up to 14 hour days for a pitiful wage and few breaks. However that is an entirely different era and not one I’m tackling in this blog.

Back to women in the workplace during the war. They worked hard, made superior weaponry and of course earned lower wages than men doing the exact same work even though women were more productive.  Women and beauty remained a significant focus and women had to be encouraged through media propoganda to protect their own safety by re-styling their long, curled hair into what became known as a Gibson roll.  Factories even installed beauty salons for women to have their hair rolled, then released from its pins and re-styled at the end of the day.

After their men returned from the war women were demoted and fired, making jobs available for men and enslaving women into the suburban housewife myth of the 1950s. Women didn’t want to be forced into suburban submissiveness although the American government, their men and the media worked hard at trying to guilt-trip them into accepting the status quo. Many women rebelled however and over time they were re-hired into assembly line work and other low-paying menial jobs.

When women entered the corporate workplace it was typically in the role of secretary or receptionist.  They may have experienced some triumph by re-entering the workforce but their battle had just begun. Let me interject for a moment. Receptionists and secretaries are as relevant to an organization now as they were last century and always will be (see my post Are Secretaries Doomed to Obscurity?)  I have great respect for them especially since I have worked as both over the years and thoroughly enjoyed the job for the most part, as well as learning how integral this role is to an organization. My point is not that secretaries are inferior, rather that women of this era were not hired for responsible, senior positions. They were offered virtually no powerful corporate opportunities. There were no women CEO’s or Presidents which hardly surprising considering both the sexist view of that time and how few women were encouraged to acquire a post-secondary education.  Many men and even women remained unimpressed by the number of women who insisted on the right to work. Americans and Canadians felt strongly that if a woman was married and her husband was employed she had no right to return to work but instead should embrace her role as a stay-at-home housewife.

However once middle-class society got it into its suburban head that women were returning to work propoganda slowly began to encourage the use of women in the workforce, albeit allowing for stereotypes to permeate supposedly women-friendly views. Incredibly office advice for women hasn’t changed much since then. Etiquette is extremely relevant of course but consider this delivery.

Along with women entering the corporate scene the issue of women and men co-mingling over the water cooler became cause for employer and spousal concern.  The notorious office romance began to bloom and along with it corporate problems. Sexual harassment was par for the course and not only was it not considered inappropriate it was blatantly promoted.  Over time the secretary became known as the “office wife” since she managed her male boss’s calendar, often ran personal errands for him such as picking up his dry cleaning and occasionally indulged in an after work drink with him. Uh-oh. For married bosses that arrangement occasionally turned into an office affair although in the 1950’s it was rare that a married man left his wife for his mistress. Divorce was frowned upon , it bore a significant social stigma particularly during the fragile post-war era, hence the higher percentage of lasting marriages.

That gender discrimination continues to exist in the workplace is unmistakable. Unfortunately some women try to overcompensate by working much harder in the same role as men, usually for the same or less money.  Others may behave like office bullies, operating under the mistaken perception that behaving in “tough guy” mode will enable them to maintain job security. That sexual and other harassment continues to plague women is undeniable and although there are many laws in place to counteract this behaviour harassment can be subtle enough or can cause enough jeopardy to a woman’s career that she is reluctant to report it.

However slowly changes are beginning to take place albeit in certain spheres under specific, limited circumstances. Have we come a long way? Undoubtedly. Do we still have a long way to go Girlfriend? You know it.  But next time you’re feeling pissy about getting passed over for a promotion (see my blog How to Be Your Own Change Management Consultant (and a little help from David Bowie)), or feel underpaid and overworked, take a glance back over the workplace history of women and take a little comfort in the opportunities you have educationally, professionally and financially. Had you gone through school and the work force when your mother or grandmother did there is no way you’d be sitting where you are now, and no way you’d be headed down the highly successful corporate path you’re carving out steadily and courageously for yourself now.