A useful exercise for moving forward on your idea, and for anyone else interested in this, might be to show examples of those phrases inside of actual messages, or written down from remembered conversations, and including the roles of the parties involved, with any names or other identifiable information redacted.
I suggest this because without that context I feel many of these phrases can be pretty benign.
A casual conversation with my wife about work/life balance is a very different thing than a supervisor calling me in to say that we need to speak about my work/life balance, or if I am speaking with a colleague about work/life balance.
Maybe the real issue we wind up with isn't how to word these things differently ("a rose by any other name..."), but rather how we can more productively and effectively engage with conversations about these topics. To go along with that could be a set of behaviors that we begin to work toward. Maybe instead of sending emails on Saturday night you can still write that Saturday night email, but we wait until Monday to send it if we're not expecting something to be done about it before then.
Or if you feel comfortable with a "Do as I say and not as I do" leadership mentality, you write it and send it Saturday night, but you have a frank conversation with your colleagues that, "I do this because this is what I like for myself, and my expectations for you are not that you will read and act on this stuff when you receive it." I bring this up because there are those of us who work on Saturday night not because of expectations or the feeling of pressure, but because we have achieved that type of balance where we enjoy taking some time to work during our life hours in the same way that we enjoy taking some time to live during our work hours.
Matthew Belskie, MSIS
Educational Technology Coordinator
School of Education
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Stack" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, September 16, 2013 8:44:33 AM
Subject: [CIO] Examining some expressions and behaviors
For awhile I've been bothered by some of the expressions that we commonly use to describe our work and culture:
- Work/life balance
- What keeps me up at night
- The "real world' as opposed to the "ivory tower" (See article in today's InsideHigherEd http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/09/16/essay-calls-end-comparing-academe-and-real-world )
There are negative connotations behind these. For example, to be a good leader you have to be stressed at all times.
I also wonder about behaviors that may send harmful messages to the staff. For example, if we use the weekend to get caught up on some work and send scores of email messages to our staff, especially in the evenings, are we communicating the expectation that they should be monitoring their email at all times regardless of what they are doing on a Saturday night?
If our staff members regularly monitor systems in the middle of the night in addition to working shifts during the day, and we accept it because we're understaffed, are we tacitly encouraging them to neglect their personal well-being?
If you share these concerns and would like to try and frame some kind of discussion for the EDUCAUSE Connect event in Chicago I'd be happy to work on a proposal with you.
The session could be as simple as brainstorming with the attendees a list of phrases and behaviors to avoid as leaders because of their inherent negative connotations.
We could also try to craft alternative expressions. For example, I could use help coming up with a replacement for work/life balance.
Let me know if you're interested in proposing a session together.
David Stack, PhD
Chief Operating Officer and Deputy CIO
University IT Services
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
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