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SHOP TALK : Good Work Will Take Pressure Off of Working Parents

May 09, 1994

Question: I took an exciting new job a few months ago at a big company. During my interview, I explained that I have a newborn baby and am not interested in working late hours. But with one deadline after another, I have been putting in at least 50 hours a week ever since I started. I'm in management, so I don't get compensatory time off. Still, this is a prestigious company, and I'd like to do well. How can I handle this situation without appearing less than dedicated and ending up on the "mommy track"?

--M.S., Tustin

Answer: You didn't say what type of work you were doing when working late hours to try to beat deadlines. Is it the kind of work that you could do at home, or do you have to work as part of a team?

If it is the former, perhaps some of this "extra" work could be done at home evenings or weekends. As long as the work gets done, your co-workers and supervisors probably won't mind if you're not working into the evening.

I can appreciate your concern with not wanting to be stereotyped because you are unable to always work late hours. Yet, if you are a valuable worker, and you are getting the job done, there is no logical reason why you should be viewed by colleagues as "non-dedicated." Succeeding in a company and being a good parent don't have to be incompatible.

This doesn't mean, however, that you won't be unfairly stereotyped. It happens all the time. The issue of impression management--controlling how you appear to others--is a hot topic.

A few years back, there was an entire book of research on the topic (Giacalone & Rosenfeld's "Impression Management in the Organization," Erlbaum Press). The upshot of some of this research is that people spend a lot of time trying to manage the impressions they make on others in the organization.

Careful impression management, coupled with good levels of work performance, should help you to keep from being stereotyped as "non-dedicated."

--Ron Riggio, professor of industrial and organizational psychology, Cal State Fullerton

Question: I'm a sales representative for an oil company based in Texas. I was transferred to the Irvine office five years ago. My wife, children and I are very happy here. But now my supervisor wants to start a three-year rotation system "to give other people a chance to live in California," and he alerted me that I have to go back to Houston.

When I moved, the company and I had an understanding that it was a permanent relocation. What can I do, short of finding another job--which wouldn't be easy.

--A.E., Costa Mesa

Answer: You need to make your supervisor aware of the understanding you had with the company that the move was a permanent relocation. Was there any correspondence that mentioned this fact? Who in the company promised you that it was permanent?

It seems that your case for staying would be pretty strong if you had some evidence of a promise, or someone who could vouch for it.

Your supervisor may not have thought out all the repercussions of this new rotation plan. Maybe you could make him aware of some issues.

For example, the moving costs and "downtime" while new representatives learn new territories and procedures could represent significant costs to the company.

A cost-benefit analysis might show that the plan doesn't make sense. There might also be resistance to the plan from other reps. Maybe some of them don't want to relocate to California. If you are unhappy with having to move, maybe some of the other reps will be too.

--Ron Riggio

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