Chipped nail polish and other explosive work norms

by Nov 17, 20220 comments

Chipped nail polish and other explosive work norms


We live in a fast-changing environment. As we emerge from a global pandemic, all of us have been impacted in one way or another. Some were sick and are still suffering. Others lost family members. Many were made redundant or put on furlough. Mental health issues have spiked and women suffered disproportionately with an unequal distribution of the share of childcare and housework within households.

Note, I deliberately didn’t say women “assumed the greater load.” it’s time to say it as it is – their partners did not assume their fair share of domestic tasks and parenting, commonly called “adulting.”

We are literally re-thinking old notions about how we live our lives and especially work norms in our future places of work

Change and the Workplace

In a post-pandemic world, we are now navigating huge increases in energy costs and mass layoffs in specific sectors.  Organisations are still working next steps for their workplaces and the battle for the office continues unabated. Opinions are polarised on pretty much everything.

Tensions between office and home are not new and have been building up since the 80s. Work is a strange but all-encompassing thing, isn’t it? It’s a noun, a place and a verb. It’s something we do, somewhere we go, and can be part of our identity.

No one thinks twice about asking a total stranger “what do you do?” and they know immediately it’s shorthand for their professional activity. Despite Simon Sinek’s valiant efforts, most respond by saying “I am..” Your partner will tell you they are at “work” and are not to be disturbed. We proclaim to have “work” to do.

We never ask people what they are “homing on” or say we have “home” to do.

Historically anything done “at home” in the male-coded world of work has a lower value, unless you are an executive of course. Male.

Careerland and Jobland

Senior leaders (mainly male) are trying to resist #WFH initiatives. They promoted the notion of shirking from home” as a way to protect outdated leadership styles and real estate portfolios. CEOs talked about “jobland” and “careerland, ” suggesting that those who are looking for remote working are effectively killing their careers. With the way businesses are currently managed, proximity bias is real and it is indeed a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Many women are familiar with this concept and flex work has previously been considered the “mummy” track to the career cemetery. This approach is part of the problem and embeds stereotypes further. Senior commentators constantly offer workarounds for women to beat the system such as being more intentional and proactive in their careers. Women should be doing this anyway.

New work norms

I was delighted to discuss this whole topic around the direction of the workplace with Debbie Goodman, CEO Jack Hammer Global in her podcast On Work and Revolution. We talked about how the old workplace order is being overturned and with it a whole set of new work norms (complete with embedded biases) are sneaking into our business cultures.

We are all having to rethink and manage our expectations not just about where work will be located going forward but how we measure success, communicate and dress, even down to whether our nail polish is chipped.

Check the podcast for some insights on the frequently polarised and mixed messages on work norms in our future workplaces.

Better? Or not? The jury is out. Let me know what you think.

explosive work norms


“We’ve relaxed in lots of ways and the whole thing is like “it’s in the spin cycle and we’re waiting to see how it comes out.”

Listen to the Podcast: 





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Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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