Must American Businesses Be Uncivilized?

At the White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama made this distinction:


“Family leave, childcare, flexibility and a decent wage aren't frills. They're basic needs. They shouldn't be bonuses -- they should be the bottom line.”

Despite research indicating that flexibility increases worker satisfaction and leads to more productivity, companies in the U.S. are largely dragging their feet when it comes to treating employees with dignity and respect. 

Some states are getting on board. California, Rhode Island and New Jersey allow workers paid family leave. Connecticut requires paid sick days; so does New York City. And 13 states have taken their own steps to raise the minimum wage.

So what’s the hold up, America?  Why is the United States the only developed country on earth that doesn’t have paid maternity leave?  How did we find ourselves on par with Oman and Papua New Guinea?

One reason is how we reason with people who could change this. The term “family friendly” puts them to sleep. It contains two words that together many senior executives consider feminine and soft – the antithesis of what they view as true leadership.

Words matter both connotatively and denotatively.  To influence the hard-hearted or misguided, you need to know and use their language.  Unfortunately, “family friendly” goes against the grain for those who associate the term with soppiness and a lack of task focus typically perpetuated by whiners.  What we need is a term that doesn’t give these people the heebie-jeebies.  

How about “civilized?”  After all, that’s what we’re talking about here, isn’t it?  What company doesn’t want to be civilized?  Moreover, the term doesn’t carry the baggage of “family friendly.”  To boot, it’s more accurate because it isn’t just families who benefit from civilized workplaces, but every individual and companies as well.

Women and men who believe in equal pay for equal work have grappled for decades with the negative connotations of the term “feminist,” often used as an insult and a weapon of derision, along with such perverted derivations as “feminazis.”  We don’t need to dispose of the word, but, like all words, one needs to know when they serve their purpose – and when they detract from it.

Let’s start talking more about civilized organizations. Let’s see how much backward-thinking businesses like being considered run by “ignorant, uncouth, knuckle-dragging standpatists.” 

Let’s see if we can’t get a little more recognition of leadership as a humane, gutsy endeavor (and not just the all-too-common bean-counter brand of “gutsy”), that in the end will bring greater rewards for those leaders who are forward-thinking enough to see it as such. 

photo: docstockmedia/shutterstock.com

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Saying no is hard. These communication tips make it easy.

You can say 'no' to things, and you should. Do it like this.

Videos
  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to things. Saying yes to everything is a fast way to burn out.
  • Learn to say no in a way that keeps the door of opportunity open: No should never be a one-word answer. Say "No, but I could do this instead," or, "No, but let me connect you to someone who can help."
  • If you really want to say yes but can't manage another commitment, try qualifiers like "yes, if," or "yes, after."
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less