Last week while we were discussing at my home blog the career development of the Navy’s newest Life/Work Balance/Integration SME (160+ comments there natch – update on the story here), regular reader LBG added this link to the discussion; a speech by former GE CEO Jack Welch at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference on June 28.
Jack Welch’s opinions and observations are, especially if you pay his speaking fee, worth a teleprompter’s weight in gold.
When it comes to Life/Work balance/integration, he has a nice bucket of cold water to counter much of the fluffy happy-talk we seem to exchange with each other on the subject.
“There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” Mr. Welch [said]. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”
Mr. Welch said those who take time off for family could be passed over for promotions if “you’re not there in the clutch.”
“The women who have reached the top of Archer Daniels, of DuPont, I know these women. They’ve had pretty straight careers,” he said in an interview with journalist Claire Shipman, before thousands of HR specialists.
“We’d love to have more women moving up faster,” Mr. Welch said. “But they’ve got to make the tough choices and know the consequences of each one.”
Outside the Navy, there is a vigorous debate, but inside the Navy, notsomuch. We identify the problem well and did a lot of work on it, but don’t seem to follow through with the conclusion we all know – an answer we don’t seem to want to hear. Understandable, as an incorrect opinion spoken too loudly in the ear of the person that owns paper on you is career poison.
We should be a bit more direct with each other though. The Navy isn’t GE, isn’t Princeton, and isn’t even Lockheed Martin. We are an armed service that should have as its first priority to prepare for victory in any global contingency the CINC points us towards.
There is a hard truth about career and family that we all know. Especially in the combat arms (as our Army brethren like to call warfare community professionals), you cannot have it all except in the most exceptionally unique circumstances, such as a stay-at-home dad (we have quite a few of those in the Navy, and they work).
As the latch-key son of an entrepreneurial mother – I know what the demanding schedule of a working mother can be and how it impacts the family for better and worse. However, Mom did come home every day except for rare trips out of town, and was always there on the weekends … well …. Sunday.
She also did not deploy for 6-months to a year. Neither did Dad.
I agree largely with Jack; there is no Life/Work balance/integration — there are only only Life/Work trade-offs. That is having an honest, direct, clearheaded mentoring conversation with your Sailors. Selling them a concept of having it all, when 95% can’t, isn’t fair to them, isn’t fair to their children, isn’t fair to their spouse/baby-daddy, isn’t fair to their Shipmates, isn’t fair to the Navy, and isn’t fair to the taxpayers.
What I don’t think we need to sell to the Navy that it has to adjust its mission to meet a socio-political agenda of questionable theory and unrealistic executability. I do not agree with ADM Harvey that in order to meet the challenges of motherhood in the Navy, we have to “Burn the Boats.”
The Navy is an armed service, it is not Campbell Soup. My $.02.
UPDATE: Just a friendly suggestion, astroturfing is not a good PR move into new media. It is much better to be open about what is or is not a Navy site.