Are You a Jerk for Sending that Email at 9 pm?

No, you're not. But a growing number of people in the world will say that you are a jerk for sending that 9 pm email.

The reality is . . . it's complicated. Let's dig in. IMG_3423

You being a total machine and working to get things done isn't the issue. The issue is the perception that you're projecting your workhorse mentality onto others who report to you who can't match your speed, urgency, or general kick-ass vibe.

In today's world of empathy, mental health awareness, and work/life balance considerations, a growing population feels like you're part of the problem with your drive, ambition and . . .

. . . after-hours emails.  

A recent Wall Street Journal column cited a study of perceived urgency of after hours emails.  Here's what they found (link to full column here):

"We examined this question in a series of studies with a total of more than 4,000 working adults. We had participants take the perspective of either a sender or a receiver of a non-urgent work email sent outside work hours. We asked “senders” to indicate how quickly they expected a response and asked “receivers” to indicate how quickly they thought senders expected a response from them. We consistently found that receivers overestimated the need for a fast response—something we call the “email urgency bias.”

In both studies, we found that, on average, receivers assumed they needed to respond 36% faster to off-hours work emails than senders expected. What’s more, the receivers reported feeling more stressed by off-hours work emails than senders expected them to feel, and the stress associated with this unnecessary pressure resulted in lower subjective well-being.

Without question, when a work email comes in after hours, a lot of your direct reports are going to treat it with more urgency. As they should, if you're the boss. The best practice is laying some ground rules for what you expect when you send the after-hours email.

But before we dig into that, let's further define the players in this email game of after-hours communication. Below is my roster of the players involved.

There are Three Types of Managers When It Comes to Sending an After-Hours Email:

1--Fire away, let's get s**t done. You might or might not expect an answer to your after-hours email. But you'll be damned if you're going to worry about how people feel when you send late or weekend emails. By the way, I support you getting things done. Shine on, you crazy diamond. There's a reason you're in the seat you're in. The bottom line is if no one is sending after-hours emails, you probably don't have much of a company.  Don't shoot the messenger. It's true. "A" players aren't held captive by broad, over-arching calls for empathy. 

2--I'm not sending this now, it will be seen as anti-work/life balance. This manager has seen the light related to work-life balance and is not sending the message out when they think of it, making a note to send it out during normal business hours. Is this rationalization? Is this the most efficient path? I could argue that many of these messages would be delayed by getting busy. In addition, managers who can say they never send out after-hours emails probably aren't—wait for it—working after hours! I could also argue that managers who don't work at least some after hours and weekends are on average trailing from a total production/results perspective. Again, don't kill the messenger. All things being equal, a manager putting in fifty hours is going to outperform one who works only normal business hours. Hard facts from the salt mine.

3--I'm sending now but via Outlook's send later tool, so people think I'm cranking it out in the morning. Ah! The evolved manager related to after-hours emails. This manager says the following: "I'm here kicking ass after hours, but I'm aware that culturally, people are starting to be criticized for work/life balance signals with off- hours emails. I'm using 'send later' so people think my work day starts at 6:22 am." This manager works when they want to work and, if they don't need the response immediately, is winning the game of public opinion by timing messages to be more palatable. They're still crushing the team to get s**t done; they're just showing that they are evolved, even if they wonder why others don't work the way they do.

But let's not forget the employee side of this after-hours email exchange. You can talk about work/life balance all you want, but the reality appears below.

There are Three Types of Employees When It Comes to Email Management:

1--I respond within the hour to anything you send. Nights and Weekends included. You love them. Maybe they do need protected a bit. But damn, it's nice to know they're there.

2--I don't respond during nights and weekends, but I'm in control and you aren't disappointed by my timeliness of response. Cool. You still love #1 better, but you see this group and trust this group. We're good. Look forward to your response to the 9pm email in the morning.

3--I have trouble being responsive to email. It doesn't matter when it is sent, you'll rarely feel like you're a priority. The dirty secret to all the work/life balance world yelling about your after-hours emails is that even if you send all your emails at normal times, this segment still sucks at responsiveness. They're also probably the first ones to bitch about your work ethic and drive, and yes, your 9:31 pm email about the Sparkman account.  

Run through it, and your choices are clear. Keep doing what you're doing or adapt.

The Wall Street Journal article recommends making these disclaimers in your after-hours emails—I kid you not:

--“Even though I’m sending this email outside regular work hours, which fits my own work-life schedule best, I don’t expect a response outside of your own work hours.”

--“Note that you might receive this message outside of my office hours but that I have no expectation to receive a message outside of your office hours.”

--“Please know that I respect boundaries around personal time. If you receive an email from me during your personal time, please protect your time and wait to respond until you are working. It’s important that we all prioritize joy over email whenever possible.”   (KD note - !!!!!)

I honestly am fatigued by these messaging suggestions. The problem with these messages is that you're still the boss, and you need service on the things you need service on. 

I'd recommend the following options: 1) do nothing different and keep on rocking emails when you want, 2) adapt and use the "send later" option and still rock how you want to rock, or 3) make sure everyone on your team knows that you'll text or call them if you need an immediate reply to an after-hours email, which prevents you from the absurd messaging recommended above in every after-hours email.

If you're concerned about this, I'd recommend the "send later" option. It still says you're working harder than most and need people to be in range of your sense of urgency. I'd text people as needed without making the proclamation.

The bigger the company, the more you'll need the strategy in this area in years to come. Big companies follow broader society trends more responsively than smaller companies.

Your employees' feelings matter. But then, so do yours.

KD out.

-9:54 pm


COVID Vaccine Incentives/Penalties for Leaders, Ranked by Harshness...

Editor's Note: This post was published before the proposed Vaccine Mandate for all private employers with more than 100 employees by the Biden Administration in September 2021.

-----------------

We're just going to shut everything down for two to three weeks, and we'll be good.

--Everyone, late March 2020

-----------------

In a pandemic, wouldn't it be cool to say, "I don't know?"

Masks, distancing, hybrid school, vaccines and more. The reasonable position on all of it is that most of it makes sense. But, if you become absolute about your position and your position turns out to be wrong, it kind of undermines your authority to be absolute moving forward. This is the problem with COVID hot takes eighteen months in. Lalapalooza

Three weeks to flatten the curve.

Masks are effective. Wait, two masks might be better!

Say hello to leisure travel and eating out with freedom once you get the vaccine.

You can't get COVID once you get the vaccine.

Uhhhh. Like a lot of moderates, I'm stuck in the middle. I'm OK with how we've handled it to this point. Pandemics seem to be tricky (shocking!), and we've tried some stuff and have a vaccine. It makes sense. But we've been wrong enough on all the non-vaccine stuff that it's human nature that some people are going to be skeptical of the vaccine.

That's where you come in, HR Leader. Time to rally around the Covid vaccine.

What's that? You say you don't want to be involved? Good luck with that. Having no plan or point of view still means you have a position. With FDA approvals starting to roll out, you're going to be looked to for an opinion on how to maximize the percentage of your workforce that is vaccinated.

I'll stop here and offer up the reality. Different companies have different views on COVID and using incentives/mandates/penalties to get people vaccinated. If you are at a business that's not going to get involved with mandates/driving behavior, that's fine from my moderate point of view—you do you. This post is for HR and Talent leaders who have to help find the path to higher vaccination rates, because their business, leadership and/or boards make it a necessity.

Maximizing vaccine rates at your company is a game of incentives, threats and intrigue.  Especially in a tough labor market where it's hard to find people. In a morbid turn, the Delta variant probably makes it easier for you to take a stand related to vaccination.

That's why I'm here. To rank the Vaccine incentives/penalties—by harshness.

Here. We. Go. On to the rankings, from softest to hardest:

1--Incentives - You're so nice. Kind even. You're throwing out extra PTO days or $500 to get the vaccine. This is the least harsh of all the options. It's also the one least likely to move the needle, because you're likely just paying for someone to get the vaccine with more urgency than they would have anyway. They were likely to get it, and you gave them the final prod with a free Honey Baked Ham. Well played. Not likely to get you to 90% vaccinated, however.

2--Vaccine Mandates - I know what you're thinking. This isn't the harshest one? No, it isn't. If vaccinations are important to your organization, this is the one that signals where you're at. You can also talk about all the reasons why you're doing it: keeping people safe (really important for healthcare organizations), etc. There's nothing like clarity when you're trying to lead.

3--Medical Insurance Penalties/Surcharges - Delta Air Lines will impose a monthly $200 surcharge on unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company's health care plan, CEO Ed Bastian announced in a memo earlier in August. This is undoubtedly the harshest way to deal with employees when you want them to get vaccinated.

Why are additional premiums a dumb idea? Let's start with the broad strokes. If you want all your employees to be vaccinated, LEAD and go to vaccine mandates as your strategy. The whole, "it's going to cost you" strategy just leads to ill will, indecision, and creates a long trail of dissatisfaction in your organization. You're creating a class of people and asking others to look down on them. Just cut the cord, mandate the vaccine if that's what you want to do, and get ready to recruit.

If you need more of a reason than pure leadership to know why insurance penalties are a bad idea, let's so some math. I'm using the Georgia workforce for Delta Air Lines as an example:

Total Delta Employees in GA: 33,000

Estimate of count of non-vaccinated: 9,000

Annual cost of non-vaccinated insurance penalty per employee: $2,400

Total pool created annually by the penalty payments: $21.6 million

Cost per COVID hospitalization: $24,000

Number of Hospitalizations that would need to happen to use the entire pool: 900

I'd note here that Delta says their cost is north of $50,000 per COVID hospitalization. Clearly, they are self-insured and have access to the data, but all cites available show average hospitalization cost from $17K to $24K, so I used the higher number of those two.

To give you a sense of COVID hospitalization rates, Georgia has had 72,822 COVID hospitalizations since the start of COVID on a population north of ten million. If I plug in those numbers to the Delta population, it comes to a projection of roughly 237 hospitalizations (versus the 900 they've funded via the penalty) that could be expected over the same period. You could argue that the rate would be lower since we now live in a world with many vaccinated, but variants like Delta put that analysis at risk, so let's assume the run rate might be the same.

So the Delta program isn't looking to simply pay the costs of hospitalizations; they had to make the number much bigger to provide the penalty needed to move human behavior. Anyone who stays and pays that penalty is going to hate the company for the rest of their life. Gallup says employing people and making them hate you is a bad idea.

All of that to say the following. If you are at a business that's not going to push, that's fine from my moderate point of view—you do you.  

BUT, if you're going to push for vaccinations, incentives won't get you there. You can stop short of the vaccine mandate, but I'd argue things like the Delta COVID penalty are just going to create ill will. If you want people to be vaccinated, make the call and lead—and mandate the vaccine.

Good luck with the educational campaign. And fire up the recruiting engine regardless of your approach.

Leadership is hard.


Taking Sides Politically: Wrong For Your Company and For You as a Manager of People...

I'll start this post by saying this: I've been on the corner of "no politics at work" way before 2020 happened. I've been on this corner so long that I questioned the wisdom of many small business owners pressuring their employees to vote GOP in the 2016 election for reduced taxation and concerns about Obamacare.

Ah, 2016. Ah, Obamacare. So long ago, such a simpler, innocent time. Mitch and nancy

When you choose political sides at work, you're alienating and decaying trust with close to 50% of your workforce. Go back historically and look at the vote splits. We're a 50/50 nation.  To choose either side politically is a bad look for any leader. You shouldn't do it. The great ones don't choose, because they know it's a suckers game from a leadership perspective.

"But, KD," you say, "times have changed! There's right and wrong!" I hear you, so let's dig into the topic a bit on 3 levels:

--The post 2020 escalation of what politics at work means

--The trap of picking any political side as a company—big or small

--Managing diverse sets of employees as a manager of people

Ready? Let's discuss.

The Post 2020 Escalation of What Politics at Work Means

It used to be that talking politics at work meant comparing, discussing, and arguing simple GOP vs Democratic platforms. You know the issues: taxes, government, social programs, etc.  Those days are gone. Discussing politics at work has exploded into nuclear identity politics and more. Regardless of what you believe, endorsing a political view as a company or a leader polarizes people more than it ever has and forces people to take sides.

In addition, allowing politics to be discussed in the workplace or taking a position as a company invites future employee activism that detracts from your goal—to serve customers/clients and be great at what you do. We'll talk more about that in the company section of this post.

Finally, if you have people in your company who aren't for opportunity for all, a world without racism, and other issues being discussed these days, you should get rid of those people. But that's not really the issue we're facing inside our companies when we talk politics and social issues identified with political platforms. Both major political parties weaponize the issues, which decreases meaningful conversations inside our companies, because the weaponization makes the issues (DEI, BLM, etc.) too hot to debate.

That loss of meaningful conversation means many view company positions as one of two things: 1) a call to make a portion of the business and their time about the political/social issues, or 2) empty virtual signaling. Neither outcome is great.

The Trap of Picking a Side or Allowing Politics/Causes to Be Discussed as a Company

Do Black Lives Matter? Of course, they do. Is BLM as an organization the carrier of the message we want to get behind? Uhhhh....

No one I know (including my GOP friends) argues with the fact that we need opportunity for all, a world without hate, and reasonable approaches to all the social issues on the table. Be about that 100% as a leader.

But the world, organizational life, and humanity gets in the way the more you try and formalize and activate your support of a platform. Are you in the business of focusing all your energy on your clients, or are you ready to channel 10-20% of your time talking about social/political issues (increasingly the same thing these days) whether you want to or not?  

You'll have a cross section of employees in any company who want you to formalize this support of social/political issues. The last year has shown us that formalizing your support for any political platform or cause creates activism inside your company.

Case in point: you're a US-based global company, and you promote Pride Month in the USA (good) complete with a logo change for the month, only to be reminded by a small section of your employee base that you didn't change the logo for all of your other country-based social accounts. Turns out, there are parts of the world that don't want anything to do with Pride month or what it stands for, and from a business perspective it's problematic to push this promotion in those parts of the world. Your employees on the left are disappointed in you and active in telling you about it, and your employees on the right think the whole show is PR. It's complicated.

As you wade into the political waters, a small percentage of your employees will become vocal activists, wanting to spend a percentage of their time at work active on politics. This has become a big enough issue that two companies with liberal, left leaning founders—Shopify and Basecamp—recently reversed course and sought to put firm limits/eliminate time spent at work on political/social issues, reminding employees that the company mission to serve clients was what work was about. While the Basecamp communication was bungled in many ways (link to outcomes here), the bigger of the two companies, Shopify, locked down the politics at work discussion hard.  See the entire note from Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke here.

Summary of this note to employees from Tobi Lütke:

We're not a family, we're a team. You came to Shopify to work with great people. Our record on liberal values and equality of opportunity. Sometimes we see opportunities to help nudge these causes forward. We do this because this directly helps our business and our merchants and not because of some moralistic overreach. Slack trolling, victimhood thinking, us-vs-them divisiveness, and zero sum thinking must be seen for the threat they are: they break teams. Teams survive and thrive on the actions of the collective, and the cohesiveness of the whole. Poor performance and divisiveness cannot be tolerated.  

How do I insert 1,000 handclap emojis? Magnificent. Get back to work and stop wasting time on things that aren't in support of our business goals.

Managing Diverse Sets of Employees as a Manager of People

It's simple for best results as a manager of people. You don't routinely share your political views or hot takes on things that could be considered to be political with direct reports.

The reasons are pretty simple. As a manager of people, you're responsible for shepherding a group of direct reports through a given week, quarter or year.

If you've done a good job of hiring, you're leading a diverse team - which broadly defined, means your people don't all look, sound or think like you. You're in a position of power, so the more you broadcast polarizing information like political views, the more you risk alienating good people who aren't a carbon copy of you.

I'm not saying you can't be you. And note I'm 100% saying you should be clear that you're against racism an a supporter of other ideas of note. You can and should share those views, and it's an important part of leading on issues.

I'm saying that the stronger/hotter you are on a polarizing take - whether you come from the hard left or hard right - the more you risk shutting someone down on your team from talking to you, which almost always results in lower engagement and one foot out the door.

Managers from both the hard right and the hard left struggle with this. For best results, remember that in competitive election years, the country is split pretty much evenly between two political parties.

Some of you will email me and say, "But Kris, how do I find the line?" Well, if you're manager of people, that's what the money is for.

Your job is to keep all the good people on the bus. The team that successfully navigates 2021 and arrives at 2022 at a different place with the highest percentage of talented employees retained and rowing in the right direction wins.

Leadership is art. I'm sorry I'm saying you shouldn't share that op/ed you loved from The New York Times or Fox News with the team. 

Listen more than you talk. Connect with everyone on your team on a 1/1 level. Show empathy to all.


Resilience and the Art of Taking an "L" As a Predictor of Talent Success...

When it comes to long-term success for a working class professional in today's world, nothing is more important than knowing how to "take the L".  

Let me explain.

"L's were taken" or "Take the L" has been around in phraseology since the early 2000's.  Here's the Urban Dictionary cite:

TAKE THE L

Stands for "Take the loss". Frequently used to describe flunking a test, being dumped, being stood up, being beaten up or robbed, or losing one's money in the stock market, gambling, or through exploitative business schemes. I really took the L on that history exam. The-art-of-taking-an-l-header
 
While those cites are mostly from one's personal life, Taking the L as a skill is easily transferred to the professional realm.
 
Note from my personal life: I've got a son in an Engineering program, and it's been a challenging first couple of years. He's not a 4.0, but he works his ass off, and to his dismay, he doesn't always see correlational results to that work (from his view). I've tried to counsel him on what's coming for him in the professional world when he gets there. The guidance goes something like this:
 
"I take L's every week, sometimes every day in my business life. That meeting didn't go as well as it should have. Someone tells me "no" on new business. The L's are everywhere if you look hard enough."
 
We're trained by social media that life is nothing but success. Social media is bullshit, and comparison is the thief of joy.
 
Nobody loses on social media, and kids get a lot of trophies growing up these days. Everyone, it seems, is a snowflake.
 
But the L's are coming for them in life and at work.
 
With that in mind, the counsel to me son goes like this:
 
"In baseball, failing 8 of 10 times at bat (hitting .200) confirms you're no good. Failing 7 of 10 times (hitting .300) makes you an All-Star.
 
"Teams in Major League Baseball are desperately trying to get to a 92-70 win/loss record so they can make the playoffs (success!) as a Wild Card.
 
"Professional life is a lot like the MLB. You're trying to get to 92-70. Take the L and do the work in your career - there's a game the next day."
 
Of course, what we should be looking for is resilience in candidates as we recruit. Can they take a loss and rebound?  Resilience is hard to measure, and in my opinion, it's driven by a few things:
 
1--Behavioral makeup - Sensitivity as a behavioral measurement matters. Low sensitivity people can take rejection, high sensitivity people take longer to recover. Assertiveness is also a tag along trait we should measure as well to look at resilience. Taking an L in the workplace is going to make people with low assertiveness even more unlikely to get back in the game the next day.
 
2--How someone grew up and overall hunger level - Silver spoons haven't taken as many L's. Understanding how someone grew up can tell you a lot about how bothered they are going to be when Cheryl throws up all over their idea in a team meeting. 
 
3--Mentoring to this point in their career - It's true, guidance in the professional realm matters. The more you've had someone who has seen you fail and been a muse for you - in big ways and in small ways - the more likely you are to have resilience and the perspective that proceeded your desire to show up the next day and grind.
 
If you're looking for someone with resilience, spend some in the recruiting process digging into to how they bounce back and what happens after a big/small failure.  If you're looking to grow resilience on your team, talk more about reactions to failure and setbacks.
 
You want a team that can take an L.  Most of us are striving to go 92-70 in the game of life and squeak into the playoffs.

Talking Politics As A Manager in 2020: The Advice Hasn't Changed...

It's 2020, which means it's an election year.

Of course, there's more going on in 2020 than just an election - pandemic, resulting economic Dudestruggles, social movements and unrest, etc.

Since all of these things in an election year have been politicized, it seems like a good time to remind you of how to communicate your political views to your team and the rest of the company as a manager of people.

It's simple for best results as a manager of people. You don't routinely share your political views or hot takes on things that could be considered to be political with direct reports.

The reasons are pretty simple. As a manager of people, you're responsible for shepherding a group of direct reports through a given week, quarter or year.

If you've done a good job of hiring, you're leading a diverse team - which broadly defined, means your people don't all look, sound or think like you. You're in a position of power, so the more you broadcast polarizing information like political views, the more you risk alienating good people who aren't a carbon copy of you.

That's true any year, but especially in an election year. Since the events of 2020 have become polarized politically, you also need to be aware of polarizing your team on current events as well.

I'm not saying you can't be you. And note I'm 100% saying you should be clear that you're against racism and for safety related to COVID. You can and should share those views, and it's an important part of leading on issues.

I'm saying that the stronger/hotter you are on a polarizing take - whether you come from the hard left or hard right - the more you risk shutting someone down on your team from talking to you, which almost always results in lower engagement and one foot out the door.

Managers from both the hard right and the hard left struggle with this. For best results, remember that in competitive election years, the country is split pretty much evenly between two political parties.

Some of you will email me and say, "But Kris, how do I find the line?" Well, if you're manager of people, that's what the money is for.

Your job is to keep all the good people on the bus. The team that successfully navigates 2020, 2021 and arrives at 2022 at a different place with the highest percentage of talented employees retained and rowing in the right direction wins.

Leadership is art. I'm sorry I'm saying you shouldn't share that op/ed you loved from The New York Times or Fox News with the team. 

Listen more than you talk. Connect with everyone on your team on a 1/1 level. Show empathy to all.

Play to win in 2020.


BOSS Tip: Send an Agenda/Info For Your Meeting, Control the Narrative...

Capitalist Note: Quick hit today from the BOSS Leadership Series, the 7-module series of manager training designed to make your managers better leaders of people!

---------------------------

I see you and I sense it. You've got an escalating situation - either inside your own team that you manage, via cross-departmental relationships or interacting Agendaswith clients. Things are spiraling and it seems like you can't get ahead.

I'm not embedded with you, so the reasons for the spiral can be many, right? But let's assume for the sake of this post that you're on top of your game, the path you're pursuing is valid and correct, you've got the talent to deliver, etc. You're just getting chopped up repeatedly as you deal with your team, other departments, and/or clients. You just can't seem to get ahead of it.

I'm going to give you one small thing to experiment with to regain control:

Start sending out Agendas for the meetings you're holding. As a senior level course, send some reports with favorable data/info with the agenda for best results.

Meetings suck. They suck more when you're the host and you lose control of them.

Agendas let everyone know what you're going to go through in the meeting. They allow you to be in control, and they allow you to bring wayward conversations back to what you - the organizer - wanted to accomplish.

Data/Info sent with agendas that's favorable to your cause/goals help you establish credibility. To the extent you have enemies in the mix or people who don't agree with your approach, data and info sent with agendas can help you frame the narrative.

It's easy to hijack a meeting away from someone who's not prepared. It's harder when they sent the agenda.

It's even harder when they share an agenda with some reports and info that suggests their path is valid.

Control the narrative and prevent meeting hijacking by sending an agenda. Start with no more than 5 items, each described in 4 words or less.

The floor is now yours. You're welcome.