Weekly Wrap: Men and the “Family” Excuse, Charging for Parties, Resume No-Nos

Leave it to Urban Meyer to personify a workplace issue as he heads out the door.

The now former University of Florida head football coach – he resigned (again) earlier this month – said he was departing for health and family reasons, but that explanation didn’t sit too well with workplace columnist/blogger Cindy Krischer Goodman of The Miami Herald.

She sees a double standard in how the world views it when a man resigns a high-profile position for “family” reasons versus the reaction when a woman tries to do the same. Here’s the gist of Cindy’s argument this week, from her Work/Life Balancing Act blog:

Meyer, 46, squirmed his way out of the job with time left on his contract by using the “family” excuse, that fallback explanation men use when they want their resignation to appear more palatable…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame Meyer or any top executive for stepping down when they are burned out. And, I’m sure Meyer does want to spend time with his kids. But that rarely is a top motivator for a man at the prime of his career… (but) what happens when a women cites “family reasons” for leaving a top job? Just ask Brenda Barnes. When she stepped down as head of PepsiCo’s Pepsi Cola North American unit in 1997 to spend more time with her children, people accused her of setting the women’s movement way back. Double standard? You bet.

Frankly, I tired of men hiding behind the “family” excuse for leaving a job under pressure. If men really want to spend more time with their family, they will advocate for change. They will make workplaces more family friendly so the workload is spread and people at the top can balance their job and see their kids every once in a while. The goal is not to make it either/or. The goal is to make it both.”

She’s right of course, and it doesn’t help Urban Meyer’s argument that he has now resigned in two consecutive years citing the same issues. Yes, the former Florida coach is a perfectionist and IS probably burned out and ruining his health. It is good for him to recognize that and step down.

But, Cindy’s also right that men usually get a free ride when they use the “family” excuse for leaving a big time, high profile job, while a woman in the same position would probably get zinged for not making it all work.

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Having a good balance between work life and home life is something ALL of us should be striving for. I give The Herald’s Cindy Krischer Goodman kudos for continuing to remind us of that, especially now during the holiday season.

Of course, there’s more than Urban Meyer and the push for more work-life balance in the news this week, and here are some other workplace and HR-related items you may have missed while doing your holiday shopping. Yes, this is a weekly round up of news, trends, and all sorts of information from the world of HR and talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Getting charged for the annual Christmas party. It doesn’t take much to get people venting about the excesses of the big banks that the federal government had to bail out, but at least in one small way, they may be trying to get a little more frugal. Yes, some are now charging employees to attend the Christmas party. According to CNNMoney.com, “One Morgan Stanley employee said she has to kick in $30 to attend her holiday shindig, which is going to be a small get together with her division at a low-key restaurant. The amount of money employees are asked to donate to the party fund depends on rank, she added, with the managers picking up the biggest part of the tab.”
  • And this year, office parties are down. Yes, it has been a slowly developing recovery from the Great Recession, and you still see the impact in a lot of ways – like the continued downturn in holiday office parties. According to the Los Angeles Times, this year they are fewer in number and much less elaborate. “Nationwide, 79 percent of companies will throw some kind of holiday event this year,” the newspaper reports, “a 2 percent drop from last year and down 16 percent from 2004, executive search firm Amrop Battalia Winston said. It is the lowest percentage in the 22 years the company has conducted the survey. ‘People have gone through a survival mode, and we still have one of the largest unemployment figures in our lifetimes,’ said Dale Winston, the company’s chief executive. ‘Companies are starting to do better, but many who aren’t holding parties just don’t think it’s appropriate or don’t want to spend the money.’ “
  • HR lawsuits in the news. No one likes a lawsuit, and that’s doubly true for HR pros. But here are a couple of interesting HR-related legal actions in the news this week. According to The Wall Street Journal, one is from the former head of HR at Lehman Brothers who “ is suing the failed investment bank for a half-million dollars, saying she was underpaid and denied bonuses in the aftermath of Lehman’s bankruptcy filing. Wendy M. Uvino, who ascended to Lehman’s top human-resources post shortly after the September 2008 bankruptcy, was denied promised bonuses and was eventually stripped of responsibilities until she was “forced” to resign, despite taking on a difficult role during a tumultuous time, she said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

In another case, a senior manager in the city of Philadelphia’s personnel department, who cooperated with an investigation by the city inspector general that led to the ouster of his boss, former Human Resources Director Tanya Smith, was subsequently fired from his job, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The complaint…alleges that Smith’s successor, current Human Resources Director Albert D’Attilio, forced Mark O’Connor into early and unplanned retirement after denying him a promotion and repeatedly making antagonizing comments about his sexual orientation. The complaint names the city and D’Attilio as defendants.”

  • Words to avoid in your next resume. If you do any recruiting or hiring, this is probably a list you know by heart – the most overused words found in resumes. Mark Lacter at LAObserved.com gives us the top 10, as found on LinkedIn, and if you are like me, you’ll chuckle at some of them. My favorites: “results-oriented” and “innovative.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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