“You Should Smile More” — and Other $#!+ No One Says to Men at Work

I am a feminist … It’s taken me a really really long time to accept this truth about myself — and in some ways I still struggle with the label. But there is no doubt about it. I am.

First of all, I am a woman — and all women should be about the things that help women. Along those lines, I support women’s causes and their efforts. Pay equality. Changing our worldwide rape culture narrative. More flexible work scheduling that allows for healthier and realistic work-life balance.

I’m 100% down with less sexism in the world in general.

Much like racial prejudice, there are levels and nuances to sexism. Male privilege is as pervasive as White privilege. It seeps into our every day conversations so much that we barely notice it … It doesn’t make people racist or sexist, necessarily. But sometimes it causes hurt and confusion unintentionally.

If we truly want to make our working worlds more unified places, we have to start noticing it and changing it.

And I really believe we can!

So here are a few common low-key sexist phrases to start with:

“You should smile more” … I’m a smiler. I have a wide array of facial expressions. But that’s not the case for everyone. The last I checked, smiling is NOT in most job descriptions.  No one ever suggests men smile more. No one coaches men to be more likable. Stop doing it to women. Stop asking women to explain and justify the looks on their faces with stupid expressions like “resting bitch face” — unless we’re making “shriveled c*%& face” a thing too … Otherwise, just stop doing this. Focus on facts, not facial expressions. 

“That’s a nice dress” … If you like my outfit, I don’t mind a sincere compliment. But that’s not the case for everyone. The last I checked, styling is NOT in most job descriptions. Men are rarely complimented on their clothes and shoes and stuff like that. No one coaches men to dress up or dress down to be more effective in their jobs. Stop doing this. Focus on vision and mission, not fashion. 

“Go home and have a glass of wine” … I don’t drink wine. I drink rum — and I’m developing appreciation for vodka. But TV and movies have created this fantasy of women who soak themselves in bubble baths after a long day while sipping chardonnay with a lone tear of frustration rolling down their cheek. That is not the case for everyone. It’s great to encourage someone to take a break and regroup — but don’t negate that with icky gender stereotypes. Focus on encouraging, not directing or narrating. 

“Did you change your hair?” … My actual hair style hasn’t changed significantly since 1993. But, again, I personally don’t mind a sincere compliment. That’s not the case for everyone. Men don’t generally hear feedback when they get a haircut or shave or anything like that. Men’s physical appearance isn’t a hot topic at work. It shouldn’t be for women either. Focus on the coins, not the coifs. 

“You look tired”… In my mind, I wake up #flawless every day. In reality, I know this isn’t totally true. My grind means long days, short nights and occasional dark circles. It’s off-putting to point that out to anyone; there’s no appropriate or comfortable response for this. For women, this comment ties back to the illogical ideals on physical appearance and the “Stepford” complex imposed. Again, it’s great to encourage someone to take a break and regroup. Don’t use backhanded compliments to get there. Focus on supporting, not judging. 

“Boys will be boys. You know how it is” … The last I checked, child labor was still illegal. I don’t work with boys. Everyone is 18 and up. That means everyone at work is an adult. Childish behavior shouldn’t be encouraged or tolerated. We shouldn’t dismiss or excuse inappropriate, uncooperative, rude and unprofessional behavior from anyone based on their gender. Focus on correcting and coaching, not condoning. 

I’m not advocating a workplace without general observations or compliments.  However, I am suggesting we be mindful and considerate in the words we choose. I am suggesting we be authentic in and accountable for the energy we bring. I am suggesting we be conscious and inclusive and accommodating of people’s differences in a way that doesn’t create weirdness, resentment or burden. I’m suggesting we be more kind and human with our resources.

And I’m suggesting we stop saying $#!+ like this and other shady, low-key or blatantly obvious sexist stuff at work … or be prepared to start catching feminist clapback.

When Good Meetings Go Bad

Once upon a time, I was in an all-day meeting. It started at 8am sharp and was scheduled to go until at least 6pm. Presentation after presentation. Lots of talking and lots of slides. Not a lot of breaks.

Sometime after lunch, I started to lose focus. My mind started to wander. And so did my eyes.

My eyes landed on the phone of the co-worker seated next to me. He was texting. I didn’t want to be obvious in my bored nosiness so I couldn’t see what was said. But I know what came back as the response.

Ta-tas. Puppies. Jugs. Tiggle-bitties … BOOBS!!! Big ol’ boobs!!!!

My co-worker was sexting. In the middle of the meeting. And in my nosy boredom, I’d stumbled on his girlfriend’s booby pics.

It was like a car crash.

I tried to look away — but I couldn’t. I was freaking out — but couldn’t say a word. It was so awkward and uncomfortable — and hilarious!

As it gets more difficult for management to be unreachable for long periods, it becomes more common to see smart phones in our meeting rooms … Inevitably this leads to people emailing about other topics during meetings and texting answers to quick questions from staff. It also leads to loafing behavior like gaming, checking social media, online banking, personal errand and calendar prep, and even sexting.

Have I done these things? Yep. Every single one. More than once.

It is nearly impossible to keep a room full of adults fully focused for a meeting, especially when it lasts all day. I’m not sure it is realistic to expect people to hold it together for that long when we all have so many other things pulling at us in any given moment.

Most employers nowadays don’t care. Attendees at meetings are welcome to bring their smart phones and tablets to meetings so they can multi-task.

Others find it upsetting. Attendees at meetings need to be focused on discussing and resolving the agenda items. And they need to show respect and appreciation for the meeting organizer by being fully present and attentive.

If you fall into the latter group and want attendees to be more focused in your meetings, here are a few tips you can use:

  • Declare the meeting a device free zone.  Instruct attendees to leave their devices outside the meeting or designate a place for them to put their devices while the meeting is in session.
  • Take longer or more frequent breaks. Schedule breaks specifically for device checking. We often don’t give enough time for lunch, restroom and checking/returning messages. Make sure your break schedule allots for this.
  • Call out abusers. If someone is more into their device than the meeting, politely call them out. Emphasis on polite. Suggest they take a break and step out to handle their issues in a way that doesn’t leave hard feelings or tension.
  • Gamify disruptions. At the start of the meeting, ask attendees to place their phones on the table upside-down. Let them know that turning their phones over will result in penalties like having to wear a funny hat or glasses or gloves. Keep a count and give a cool prize at the end of the day for the least distracted attendee.

Love them or hate them or love to hate them, meetings are a necessary part of the world of work. Whatever we can do to make them more effective, bearable and fun is worthwhile effort.

But the next time you’re bored in a meeting, DO NOT attempt to read your co-worker’s texts. There’s no telling what you’ll see.

 

From PIC — I Don’t Talk About Race at Work

Although my lack of melanin often confuses people, I am Black. I was born and raised by lighter-hued parents in a predominantly Black neighborhood, surrounded by my family and friends who were a wide array of brown and I was/am influenced heavily by Black culture and history.

Being in Human Resources as a Black Woman has always felt like a privilege to me. I have the ability to make sure there is job opportunity and pay equity and fair treatment for people who look like me. When someone is mistreated because of their race or their gender or some other external thing that has nothing to do with their work, I have the ability to make it right. And I take that responsibility very very seriously.

However, I don’t talk about race issues at work …

       Read the rest of  “I Don’t Talk About Race Issues at Work” on Performance I Create

“I Un-Friend You” — That’s Not How Management Works!

I lost a few friends on Facebook in 2015. Apparently, folks didn’t like things I was posting so they un-friended me.

A few let me know they were un-friending me before they did it. I was called things like “feminazi” and “race-baiter” by people I’d known for years. People I liked. People I trusted. People I’d been there for …  And that really hurt.

Ultimately, I shook it off and moved forward. I have to be true to myself and my feelings and my point of view. I have a lot of friends who understanding, respect and appreciate that. So I’m glad those who couldn’t handle it made the choice to bow out. And if “taking me down a peg” on the way out made them feel better, that’s fine too.

While I was sorting through my feelings on this, it occurred to me that I’ve done the same thing to other people … People at work.

People who pointed out managers who were jerks. Who pointed out co-workers who were rude or taking advantage of their team. Who pointed out high premiums or limited coverage issues with our benefits. Who pointed our low or lagging wages. Who pointed out the lack of diversity. Who pointed out lack of opportunity for development.

I un-friended them.

I un-friended them because their views didn’t align with the company. I un-friended them because they had the audacity to be vocal about their unhappiness with the state of affairs. I un-friended them because they didn’t think what we wanted them to think.

I labeled these people as “complainers”, “troublemakers” and “problem children”. I avoided them in the hallways and break areas. I stopped taking their meetings and answering their calls and responding to their emails. Eventually, if they back-off or back down, I looked to remove them from the organization.

After my experiences being un-friended on Facebook last year, I realize my approach needs improvement.

Improvement by listening. Improvement by considering their point of view has some merit. Improvement by acknowledging they might be right.

Un-friending might work on Facebook. But in management? That’s not how any of this works!

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