I posted this work life article on Forbes this week but I wanted to share it with my readers.
The Tango originated in the streets and bars of Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century. That era was marked by great political unrest in Argentina. It was a violent dance of work, life and politics.
In her 1996 book, Tango and the Political Economy of Passion, Marta Savigliano says the Tango “brought together people of diverse socioeconomic status and augmented racial, class and gender conflicts.”
But the chaos was followed by socioeconomic progress. If you’ll allow me the metaphor. It gives one hope as individuals and big business tangle with the seemingly elusive quest for work life balance.
We’re living in uncertain economic and social times. There’s a revolution of sorts taking place as women now comprise half the workforce, gender issues in the workplace are daily talking points, duel-income families struggle with childcare while caring for their parents, workers are screaming for more flexible working arrangements and the economy skates on a dance floor of thin ice.
The voice of the worker grabs at the megaphone of the media. But we need to here more from that corner office.
The corporate machine is struggling. It must attract and retain skilled talent often without the monetary incentive to keep them engaged. Global competition is picking up in a ferocious way. How does a company reduce turnover, be mindful of health care costs and motivate employees when there is so much uncertainty?
Mingling with the Workers
Big business needs to take the lead on the dance floor of the work life merge. It means not only adapting to change, but staying on their toes and developing and implementing more efficient work life programs, even if such initiatives don’t immediately rank on the spread sheets. It might mean falling off the the high heel of the elite c-suite demeanor in a valiant attempt to do the “work life tango.” Mingling with the working class in a new way.
It’s risky. Like with the Tango, certain steps can be learned, but probably never perfected as every individual’s work life fit will likely be different. Furthermore company practices must also be tailored to fit their business needs.
The Dance of Leadership
The Tango between the working and living experience is building in passion and garnering attention. That means big business needs to adapt. It’s a revolution of sorts, but the mayhem can be harnessed if business leaders wake up.
In leadership guru Robin Sharma’s recent blog post: The 50 New Rules of Work, he writes:
“Leaders are at their absolute best during messy cycles versus during the easy ones. And messy cycles bring with them gorgeous opportunities.”
Corporate America is being prodded to wake up to embrace the creative chaos of developing better workplace practices for the sake of their employees work life balance and the bottom line.
Entwined legs, impassioned kicks, a close embrace, the intimacy of the Tango requires great precision and rhythm even in the chaos of a heart pounding tempo. Essentially, it is an emotional dance of disparate will. It’s a fitting metaphor for the dance between our family and working lives.
Companies cited in the following resource lists have chosen to dance with their employees in a new way leading the movement on better work life practices:
- The Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2011 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work features the latest winners of the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility.
- The American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, just awarded top companies for their work life efforts at its annual conference. Click here for their 2011 award winners.
- Women and workplace think tank Catalyst just honored a number of companies at its 2011 annual conference for exceptional initiatives that support and advance women in business.
- Check out the Great Place to Work Institute. I’m particularly interested in tracking how companies in the United Arab Emirates will handle this with regard to the treatment of women in business.