By MARTY LEVINE
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher opened Staff Council’s staff retreat on June 15 by acknowledging that Pitt staff since March 2020 have been experiencing changes “bigger than just job creep.”
“There’s a lot of residual uncertainty that there’s going to be an enormous sort of movement in the workforce, people leaving jobs, starting jobs,” he said, citing a Newsweek estimate that 25 to 40 percent of workers would be seeking a change soon. “There has been shifts in what we’ve been asked to do, what we’ve been expected to do. There’s been shifts in our relationship with our work, with our supervisors and with our colleagues … I think the core issue is there is going to be change in our workforce; there’s going to be new flexibilities. I think there are new roles. … Are we appropriately recognized, supported and rewarded for the new jobs?
“It’s not just the jobs that have changed,” he said. “I think we as individuals have changed our expectations about work-life balance and about flexibility and about what we expect to get from our careers; they’ve also changed. And we should recognize that some of this is about a change within us and I think within that uncertainty and that change is a real opportunity.
“So this isn’t about going back to just before … How do we recognize the changes that have happened within us and around our workforce? How do we maintain what should be a real strength for the University, which is the high potential to grow?”
Dave DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations, reiterated Pitt’s new emphasis on flexible workplaces, saying, “I do expect many folks will be working more on a flex schedule” while allowing that “specific arrangements … will remain on our business needs … and will ultimately remain with our supervisors.”
The retreat’s main event was keynote speaker Stacey Lewis, founder and head of HR Interrupted in Long Beach, Calif., talking on “Yes, there is room for you too! Reimagining your professional path.”
“The workforce is contending with life-work integration,” Lewis said. “Notice I didn’t say life-work ‘balance.’ Life should always be first.
“You’ve got to know when it is time to pivot” and change your work life, she emphasized. Lewis laid out how to plan for the pivoting process, how to pay for it — metaphorically speaking — and how to decide on priorities.
One of her constant emphases was to leave work at work. She recommended telling your supervisor when your evening plans will not allow you to answer the phone or email — and that you won’t be responding to such things in general, when family or other personal activities are underway.
“Give yourself permission to move to the front of the line,” she said. “The last 18 months have shown us that everything is possible in the workplace.”
As an HR director, she also has no illusions that she is irreplaceable — in fact she recommends that all workers plan to be replaceable by sharing their knowledge with colleagues. In that way, they also won’t get stuck in their current position, deemed ineligible for a promotion just because it seems no one else can do their job.
The days when it was proper to make people feel they should be happy just to have a job are gone, she concluded.
Following her presentation, Lewis was asked: “How can we ask for help without looking incapable?” Seeking confirmation or clarification about what you believe is the right method, rather than wondering blankly how to do something, is the best way to question your supervisor, she said. She actually requires her staff to come to all meetings with a question about the organization, she added.
“What do you recommend for setting (work-life) boundaries when others don’t respect boundaries?” another attendee asked.
“Share early on: ‘When I’m here, you have me,’ ” she answered. But tell your supervisor: When with family, I’m not going to pick up the phone. I’m not going to answer email. “And then don’t pick up the phone. Don’t apologize. You have already talked about it.”
“How do you deal with negative staff?” she was asked.
“They can be toxic,” Lewis said. “I believe that positive energy begets positive energy. You acknowledge their energy and continue to pivot. You remain positive. You don’t isolate them. Show them the positive team and invite them in.
“You absolutely, fundamentally matter,” she said in ending her presentation. “And do you know why you matter? Because you believe that.”
Staff Council awards
In other Staff Council news, President Andy Stephany announced the winners of three of their annual awards:
Staff Council Endowed Book Fund (which benefits staff members’ children currently attending Pitt): Olivia Shea and David Puccio
Staff Council Mentor Award (which honors a staff member who has acted as a mentor): LaShanda Lemmon-Mangham, manager for the Robert Henderson Language Media Arts Center in the Linguistics Department
Ronald W. Frisch Professional Development Fund (which provides funds for staff development activities): Lorraine M. Pollini, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine; and Brooke J. Riley, Pitt Police Department
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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