Great expectations: Why it’s time for employers to listen to employees growing demand for change in the workplace

You may recognize Caroline Kim Oh as the executive coach who offered sage and compassionate advice in a recent Wall Street Journal story about how to reduce the burden of too many work check-ins. Caroline is the former president and executive director of iMentor, which connects first-generation students from lower-income communities with mentors to help them achieve their college goals. Her coaching practice focuses on leaders at non-profit organizations across the US.

I was delighted to be able to invite Caroline to contribute to this week’s 3 Questions With…

What would you do if you had more power?

Courtesy of Chong Oh


This is hard to answer and I don’t know why? Something about this question makes me feel like I’m a beauty contest participant saying, “World peace.” 

But honestly, I would love world peace. Helping people believe in science, starting with vaccines and climate change would be another big answer for me. And not just getting them to believe it but also get folks to actually do something about it. I just don’t know what I would do specifically if I had more power to achieve these things.

But then, of course, this begs the question, what am I currently doing about these issues with the power I do have now? So yeah, this one makes me uncomfortable. Great question.

What do you find yourself recommending to everyone right now?

CKO: Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges—it reads a little bit like a textbook, but this is a great book to come back to every time you are (or the world is) about to go through a major change. Like right now, as the world goes hybrid and we try to figure out what to wear to our first in-person work meeting in 17 months. I especially appreciated the idea of a “transition deficit” which is when one goes through too many changes too quickly, and at some point begins to crumble or implode at what is seemingly a small change, which leaves the leaders scratching their heads saying, “Didn’t see that one coming.” Sounds familiar?

Midnight Runners—I never knew until I started looking for Korean movies to watch with my kids during the pandemic, hoping some Korean words will rub off on them, that Koreans make the best action-comedy. The movie clocks in at under two hours and features an adorable bromance between two young men training to become police officers in the corrupt, dark, backstreets of Seoul. We all laughed our hearts out and were moved by their friendship and youthful sense of justice and duty. They are also very, very good-looking. You can stream it on Amazon Prime or Viki.

Who’s someone whose work more people should know about?

Tarika Barrett! Tarika is the new CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology by teaching school-age girls about computer science and programming.

Tarika makes you want to blurt out “girl power!” She’s got Ph.D. credentials (in learning and teaching) and dozens of years of experience at youth-serving institutions which include the NYC Department of Education, iMentor, and New Visions for Public Schools. And she embodies a warm, people-focused approach to leadership.

Girls Who Code, coming out of COVID-19, is cooking up some innovative ways to create and widen the pathways for young people from historically underrepresented communities, with a special focus on Black and brown school-aged girls, into opportunities to work and eventually lead in technology. Tarika also joined the board of McGraw Hill. Tarika is one of the best-kept secrets in the fields of technology and youth work, and it’s been a gift to see her leading from the front, not just from behind or from the side, as she has done for so many years.

On Point

There’s more to immigration than the border Here’s something many people don’t understand about the reality of immigration: it’s possible to have done everything “the right way”, to have the fanciest and most expensive lawyers you or your company can afford, and still be stymied at every turn by unexpected twists and complexity. Take the children of tech’s guest workers, people whose parents are on H1-B visas or in the years-long queue for greencards. Reporting for The Verge, Tanvi Misra shares the story of Sreeram who came to the United States from India in 2007, at age seven. Fourteen years later, Misra reports, “Sreeram has aged out of his dependent visa and has no clear pathway to citizenship. His only options are to “self-deport” and return to a country he no longer knows, or scramble for legal ways to stay that are neither easy nor guaranteed.” This is the situation facing some 200,000 people today, and it’s something I’m willing to bet few employers have considered.

On Background

A race to the top for how we think about the perks of the job You’ve seen the headlines about the challenges various industries have had in recruiting and retaining employees over the past few months for jobs of all kinds, from restaurants to investment banks to law firms. The pandemic has changed all kinds of dynamics in our work and professional lives, and one of them (at least for now) appears to be the balance of power between employer and employee. Last year, the Government Accountability Office found that Walmart and McDonald’s have the highest number of employees who rely on food stamps and Medicaid to survive. This week, Walmart said it would start paying 100% of the costs for college tuition and books for its 1.5 million employees. McDonald’s franchise owners are taking similar measures, including offering support for childcare.These are two of the largest private employees in the country, and HR departments and CFOs watch their moves on pay and benefits closely. It took a pandemic in which hundreds of thousands of people died to get us here, and not everyone I spoke to is convinced these moves will persist over the long term. For now, it’s worth asking the question: how can we anticipate and rethink the “rules” we’ve taken for granted about what people expect from their employers?

Mood board / Big Move:

In January, Monica Richardson became the Miami Herald’s executive editor, the first Black person to hold that role in the newsroom’s 117-year history. This week, she made news when she published her response to a racist email from a reader. As she told NPR, this kind of behavior from audiences “doesn't have to be something we get used to."
Courtesy of Monica Richardson

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