Employee initiative or employee management?

DH had separate conversations with his brother and his cousin this break in which they both said the same thing.

Whenever each asked his boss how he was doing, the boss said, you’re doing fine.  When asked to elaborate, the boss would say, you do what we ask you to do.

However, at end of the year evaluation, each was told that just doing what was asked isn’t enough to excel.  It’s enough to do ok.  But to excel each needs to show initiative and to figure out what to do before being asked to do it.

DH’s brother maintains that that’s just not his way, and if his manager were a good manager he’d manage DH’s brother so that DH’s brother would excel without having to show initiative (though he didn’t use the words “initiative”– that’s me not knowing how else to describe it) — he’d be told what to do and he’d do it and he would excel.

DH’s cousin’s situation is a bit more dysfunctional in that he actually gets in trouble for showing initiative and is thus getting severely mixed signals.  DH’s cousin’s boss sounds a lot worse than DH’s brother’s boss.

This made me think about education levels and management and what makes a good employee.

DH and I kind of agree with the brother’s boss.  We have PhDs.  We’re trained to have initiative.  We couldn’t do our work without a lot of self-direction.  We both supervise people without PhDs for whom we do the vast majority of the direction.  And it’s great when we get an employee who shows some initiative because they’re closer to the work and often see things that we don’t and it decreases our mental load (though it’s good when they ask before going off on a wild goose chase).  The PhD, in essence, is valuable in the work world because we don’t think there’s anything wrong with being asked to do self-direction and we expect to do it and we know how to do it.  Hopefully that translates over for humanities PhDs and other areas where supply outstrips academic demand.  That ability to work independently is worth money to industry and government.

DH’s brother has an MS (masters of science).  DH’s cousin has an AS (that’s the practical version of a 2 year community college degree– associates of science).  DH’s brother’s boss is fine.  DH’s cousin’s boss is pretty bad.  Why should you get education?  To make it easier to avoid terrible bosses.  And maybe each extra degree really does make you more productive– there’s a lot to be said for independent thinking and independent work skills.  Sure, there’s something to be said for being able to be a cog, but right now there’s a lot of people able to be cogs and not as many able to direct the gears on their own.  So gear direction is worth something.

So what do you think– should employees show more initiative even if they don’t want to or should good bosses be better micromanagers?  (That’s a loaded framing– perhaps you have a way to load it the other direction?)  Is higher education worth something?  Does it really teach thinking and self-direction?

Do you feel any pressure to be a “super mom”?

whatever that is

I don’t.  The only time I even come across this concept is when I accidentally click on the NYTimes or spend too much time on blogrolls full of professional mommy-bloggers making their money pretending to be SAHM.  (Oops, hear that sound?  that’s the sound of us losing readership because we’re terrible horrible people who could never make it on BlogHer. Whoops!)

From what I can tell it has something to do with being Martha Stewart + Sheryl Sandberg put together.  Not 100% sure there.  And not having an equal partner in parenting and taking care of the homestead, despite living with an adult husband.  Having a sparkly clean house definitely fits in there as a measure as your worth as a person.  Thank goodness nobody I know IRL ever talks about that kind of thing.  We would have to get a house-cleaner or something.

Maybe this is why people get weird about how much responsibility we’ve piled on our elementary schooler.  Maybe I’m supposed to be taking care of all that stuff under the super-mom rubric.  Meh.

This is kind of like that post where we asked if baking was a *thing* in reality or just on the internet.

I was flipping through mommy blogs recently and felt like I’d seen every single topic before and had already posted a reaction post, like 2-4 years ago.  Some of my reaction posts though aren’t very polite to post on people’s sites who are clearly hurting because the patriarchy is making them believe stupid things.  Still, I kind of wish I could.  WTF is up with people’s entire feelings of value and worth being wrapped up in whether or not their house is clean?  Oh wait, we already asked that two years ago.  Oh and Choice feminism, we’ve addressed you (we’re pro-, but not for the standard, why can’t we all get along reasons).  Women feeling like they have to say they’re not perfect, check.  Why we can thank our mothers for not feeling guilty for working…  And what is UP with all that guilt in parenting nonsense in the first place?  If you believe the internet, all women hate each other, are neurotic about the state of their houses, and are wracked with extreme guilt about their parenting choices (or are super defensive about not being parents).  That just doesn’t mesh with our reality AT ALL.  The internet is a super weird place.

Am I just oblivious and is this super-mom pressure really a thing?  Or is it yet another way the patriarchy introduces anxieties to women in order to make money off them?

On judging how poor people spend their money

DH has some extended family whose spending choices compared to their lack of income drives me nuts.  They’re always spending money on luxuries when they have the money (often on luxuries for other people) and then have no money when a small emergency strikes or their taxes were higher than expected or another debt comes due or what have you.  At Christmas we always feel like we have to send money to help out with the latest emergency, though we resist during the rest of the year when there isn’t a good excuse to give.

And it’s really easy for us to judge.  Back when we made little money, back when we had debt, we were frugal to the bone.  We got out of debt by spending money on no luxuries and sending every penny to the debt.  Then we built an emergency fund.  Then we started saving for retirement.  Only then did we loosen up and spend on things we didn’t need.  (Though to be honest, we started eating meat again after the debt was gone.)  I wanted us to be secure before we bought anything we’d wish we hadn’t in an emergency.

But honestly, these days, who are we to judge?  We spend a ton of money on luxuries, just different ones.  We have different priorities.

I think nothing of spending $200 on our annual umbrella insurance, who am I to judge a $200 game console purchase?  How can we judge a $1K granite-topped bar (relatives bought after a windfall) when DH has a $1K ergonomic chair (that he saved his allowance to get)?

The thing is, with us, our money is ours to keep and shelter.  We have no family to impress with conspicuous consumption.  They know we’re doing just fine and they live far away.  We have no childhood of deprivation to try to make up for (though neither of us had much stuff because our parents were often low income, we always had security, we never felt deprived).  We don’t have relatives telling us that we need to give any savings to even more impoverished family.  We’re not caught in the trap of having to spend the money now or give it away.

Possibly most importantly, even when we were living on low incomes with high basic expenses, we knew that situation was only temporary.  We could always and can always tell ourselves that we will have things in the future, when we are out of school and have real jobs, and it’s true and we’ll believe it.  It’s harder to think that way and stay deprived when you haven’t graduated high school and keep failing the GED.  Or when you’re a grandfather in your 30s.  If you don’t buy that  luxury now, you may never get it.  You may never have happiness or an item to show off.

Why can’t people just set up automated savings accounts that put the money away so relatives don’t know about it and people don’t feel the need to spend it?  Because when you’re low income, savings accounts can be dangerous.  Even the most basic bank accounts are expensive when you hit an overdraft fee that you can’t cover or bounce a check or make a mathematical error.  And sometimes you need to draw on that money and everything is empty and instead of just having no money, you have fees and more debt.

And yes, we think we would be perfect and save our way out of poverty, but it’s hard to say what we would really do in those kinds of situations.  We don’t have the pressure.  It’s easy for us to say we’d never be in that situation or we’d get ourselves out as soon as possible, but what would we really do?  People behave remarkably similarly when they’re deprived in experimental settings.  I’m not sure that my willpower is enough to dig out of that big a hole, especially if I didn’t have hope to go with it.

Is yours?

How can I tell if my problem is really a problem?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the patriarchy likes to force problems on people where none actually exist.  (By people, of course, I mean women and minorities mainly.  That’s kind of patriarchy’s thing.  White guys get fewer “damned if you do/don’t” manufactured problems.)

The internet is full of this kind of thing.  So we thought we’d give a tutorial with some examples.

“How can I tell if my parenting problem is really a problem?”

An excellent question.  Because sometimes your problem is a real problem that needs a solution, and sometimes your problem only seems like a problem because that’s what the patriarchy wants you to think, because if you’re busy worrying about something that’s not actually important, you’ll have less time to say, fight the patriarchy.  Bonus points if you get other people worried too. Answering that question is really simple in theory, though perhaps not as simple in practice– try it out and say what you think.

Step 1:  Notice that you think there might be a problem but (important!) realize that there may not actually be a problem… it’s possible that that’s just what they *want* you to think.  (“They” being the patriarchy, of course.)  This is probably the hardest step, and it might be one that you want to go through each time you’re irritated or worried, just in case it’s just the patriarchy messing with you and you can then attack the patriarchy rather than the perceived problem.

Step 2.  Ask yourself,  Is this really a problem? What makes it a problem? Why do I think it’s a problem? Here’s where you go… what are the consequences, is this actually hurting anything, do I just think it’s a problem because of culture or because someone told me it’s a problem even though nothing is actually being hurt?  Or are there real consequences?

Step 3.  Ask again, if this is actually a problem, is there a different underlying root problem.  (Crucial Conversations suggests something similar.)  Sometimes the problem you see is really just a symptom of an underlying deeper problem, and fixing the symptom is just a band-aid solution to a larger issue that needs addressing.
Here are some examples:

Biting at daycare is a problem because 1. If a kid does it too much they get kicked out and 2. Biting hurts people and we have an underlying belief that we shouldn’t hurt people that we would like to impart to our kids.  3.  Why is DC2 biting?  Is the actual problem that the kids are not being taught conflict resolution and ze’s constantly getting stuff grabbed from hir?

Sleep “issues” are a problem if A. the kid is grumpy from not getting enough sleep or  B. Mom and dad would like more quiet time (or more sleep). They are not a problem because C. Everybody else’s kid seems to sleep more or go to bed earlier so I must be doing something wrong or there’s something wrong with my kid. But many people complain about C without A being an issue at all and while simultaneously complaining that dad never gets to see the kid because the kid goes to sleep too early. If C is the only reason, then it is a non-issue. But it’s a non-issue that a lot of parents have (because most kids aren’t exactly average), so they commiserate in the comments and it builds as something that seems like it should be an issue. Complaining about sleep problems that aren’t real problems becomes the normal. Being anxious is the normal.  It doesn’t have to be.

So that’s our quick guide.  Do you have any examples you’d like to share?  What kinds of problems have you discovered were actually not problems at all?  When have you found that the superficial problem is actually masking a deeper issue?

How we visualize reviewers

Whenever I get a bad reviewer, I imagine him as either a obnoxious male graduate student or some idiot male professor who doesn’t know anything and doesn’t think he needs to find out because he hasn’t so far in his career.  And he’s rude because he’s got Dunning-Kruger syndrome and has been able to get away with it.

Good reviewers are always female in my head.  They give useful feedback and help to improve the paper.  They’re polite and professional.  (Because, of course, as a woman, you have to be or you get labeled emotional and unprofessional.  Men get excused, “that’s just the way [bigname] is.”)

Chances are the majority of the reviewers I get are one gender, but I want to not just say, “he” all the time when referring to one of the other, even in my brain.  And with “ze” it’s difficult to tell reviewer #1 apart from reviewer #3.  So rather than assigning random genders, I use this mnemonic.

Do you have mental images of the people who give you feedback?  What do they look like?

A thought or two on the advice industry

Advice books and blogs and so on are, in theory, supposed to make people happier.  In reality, they often seem to create anxieties in people that they didn’t even know they had.  I suspect that’s how they make their money.  They’re the Febreeze of the book world, especially if you have (metaphorical) allergies.  This is especially true of the parenting and lifestyle self-help industries.  It is shocking the number of google questions that find our blog asking, “What happens if I don’t sleep train.”  (Answer:  nothing– your kid eventually learns to go to sleep on hir own because the human race would not have survived if people couldn’t figure out how to sleep.  It is highly unlikely that adult problems with sleeping are caused by your parents not CIO when you were a baby.)

On the one hand, these different recommendations, which are usually in the form of hard and fast rules (You must live the MMM way or the LV way or the DR way or etc. etc. etc.) might get some folks to think, “Am I happy with what I’m doing now, if not then maybe I can change something.  Here are some things I can try.”

But, on the other hand, some folks think, “I thought I was happy but I’m not following that rule and someone else says I should be so now I feel guilty and maybe I’ll follow that rule and just not understand why it makes me less happy than I was before… until someone else tells me to follow the opposite rule and it may not work out either.”  Because a lot of people are followers who like to be told what to do or don’t have whatever contrary streak one needs to resist constant assaults to their self-confidence and common sense.  And that kind of sucks.

Discuss

Should you submit to the top journals?

Let’s assume you have a paper that you think is eventually going to land at a top field journal.  Should you aim higher (a general journal) first and then let it filter down the impact ladder, or should you just submit places you think it’s going to end up?  Should you start with a submission to a GLAM journal?

Viewpoints:

1.  No.  Only submit your best stuff that you think belongs there.  You only have a few shots at getting into a GLAM journal and you don’t want to use them up with crap.

2.  Yes.  Have you read the GLAM journals?  Yes, there’s super amazing wonderful stuff in there.  But there’s also a lot of crap that isn’t as good as your field journal stuff.  It’s a random numbers game with each of your papers having some underlying probability of acceptance.  If you never play, then you’re never going to win.

3.  Yes.  Submitting to top journals is a learning process.  You get feedback from the editor and/or reviewers on how to improve your paper so it will actually be able to land where it belongs.  This is especially important if you don’t have a lot of local people to give you feedback.

4.  No.  You may end up getting the same reviewer who already rejected you for a lower tier journal and they’ll be biased from having rejected you before.  Or they’ll just submit the same rejection as before even if you’ve changed the paper.  (On the other hand, if they do reread the paper, psychology suggests they’ll like it better the second time.)

5.  Yes.  The answer is always yes.

6.  No.  Why do you care?  You have tenure.  Just submit it the place where it’s going to get in right away and get it published so you can move on to the next thing.

7.  Yes.  You have tenure.  That means you can afford to follow long shots.

8.  No.  The patriarchy and the unfairness of it all means that your paper needs to be much better than the connected white guys’ papers are before it gets published in a glam journal.  Don’t waste your time.

9.  Yes.  If you never submit, you will never get published there.

10.  Yes.  If you submit good stuff, then the editor and referees may remember that you’re working on good stuff, even if it’s not of general interest and they will be more likely to remember to send opportunities your way and to cite your work in their own work.

Academic readers:  What do you do?  Do you submit one tier up from where you think you’ll place or do you start right at that tier?  What *should* you do?  Do you follow the same advice you give others?  Non-academic readers:  Should you generally aim high or go with the safer choice?

 

You'd BETTER be pleased to inform me

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