“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.

Not Your Typical Christmas Carol

any traditions accompany the Christmas season. Events – both religious and secular – bring joy, laughter, and much more to countless women, men, girls, and boys. Music is played. Carols are sung. It is the season to be jolly as each and everyone has their own story to tell. It is our tale – our story – just like the stories of Christmas. It is our Christmas Carol. When Sarah asked me to choose a favorite Christmas movie to write about, I have to admit my mind initially went blank. Then, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, the choice came to me – but with a twist. So, sit back and relax. Be prepared to enjoy my choice, A Christmas Carol. Yet, be warned and make no assumptions. This isn’t the typical Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol originated as a novella by Charles Dickens. Its publication in December 1843 resulted in the rejuvenation of the “Christmas Spirit” in both Great Britain and the United States after a period of Puritan somberness. The story describes a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. It has never been out of print since 1843. (Information courtesy of The story has been translated time and again into movie, animation, comic, television, and other media.

The story I tell you is about a character named Kazran Sardick. Kazran lived sometime in the future on a planet that was an Earth colony. Kazran, old in age and very bitter and alone, is first seen when a family comes to ask for one day – Christmas Day – with a family member. You see, Kazran’s family owns all the wealth on the planet and is the one-and-only bank.  A loan must be accompanied by “insurance” and that insurance was a family member – who is then frozen in suspended animation. Kazran refuses and, while doing so, receives a call from the President of Earth. A ship, carrying 4006 passengers, is headed for a crash landing on the planet and only Kazran can help. (The planet’s atmosphere could be adjusted to help buffer and ease the landing.) Kazran refuses saying “What’s in it for me? See if I care.”

The family is about to be escorted out when something – no, someone – comes down the chimney. Is it Santa?

No.  It’s The Doctor.

We see The Doctor change the present day Kazran by traveling back and meeting him as a young child. We see the doctor’s traveling companions – who are amongst those stranded on the crashing ship – take the role of Christmas Present. We see Kazran himself become the Ghost of Christmas Future. The story was ingenious, contemporary with a science fiction twist, and ultimately enjoyable. It is also a testament to the longevity of a story written over 100 years prior.

So, to all who may read this post, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a heartfelt Season’s Greetings. May your Christmases Past and Present be an inspiration to your Christmases of the Future!


This post was written by Kyle Jones. Kyle has over 20 years of experience in a variety of roles including human resources, social media, customer service, and recruitment. He’s the current Social Media Director for the Pine Belt Human Resources Association and the Co-Social Media Director of the Mississippi SHRM State Council. Kyle has served in volunteer roles on both the local and state level since 2007. He was recipient of the 2012 Mississippi Spirit of Human Resources Award.

He has written posts for company, HR and social media blogs and shares his passion for HR and Social Media on his blog, HR to WHO. Follow him on Twitter @kylemj6977 or on LinkedIn.

Newbie, Schnewbie!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have heard me vent my frustration with our newest staffer, Nadia. She was a recent college grad with a HR Management degree but no actual HR experience when we hired her. The closest “new” person to her has been with us for over 3 years and arrived with over 5 years of experience — not to mention the predecessor was with the company for over 15 years before she retired — so Nadia’s inexperience really sticks out. Developing her into the HR Superstar that I know she can be has been an uphill battle the whole way — and the journey has just begun!

Nadia made a big error recently when processing bonuses for some employees. She failed to pay a few people and paid a few people who weren’t eligible. This is at least the fourth time she’s processed quarterly bonuses and I couldn’t understand why she was making the same errors. She didn’t offer much in the way of explanation. And her only suggestion to make sure the error didn’t happen again next quarter was to automate the process.

Um. Yeah. Ok. Because, clearly, the rest of us weren’t smart enough to think of that … Sheesh.

I was looking for some inspiration and ideas on how to help Nadia understand why everyone was so concerned without crushing her spirit when I stumbled upon this 2009 article by Upstart HR’s Ben Eubanks. So it is with joy that I give “honey” to Ben in this post because, not only is his advice spot-on, but he’s also a brilliant blogger and an all-around great guy!

Ben’s article reflects on the lessons he learned when first starting his HR career. They are so simple, yet poignant: 1) use the available technology to your advantage, 2) connect and network with other, more seasoned HR professionals and 3) show initiative with enthusiasm.

In the case of my sweet newbie Nadia, it was her shortcomings in these 3 areas that were holding her back from reaching her full potential.

1) Nadia isn’t technically savvy. She isn’t the worse but she isn’t the best, either. Pointing out all the processes that could be automated is good — but actually being able to do the automation would have been so much better.

  • Like Ben said in his article,  HR technology is the future and new HR professionals should gain and use knowledge of it to establish and advance themselves. HRIS databases and report writers are pretty similar so comprehensive understanding of one will generally translate to another. Proficiency in the Microsoft Office suite is also great because most information can be extracted from the HRIS into Excel to be used in Access, Word, Power Point and Outlook. Being a whiz at any of these will begin to establish expertise.

2) Nadia wasn’t networking. She didn’t talk to the other staffers, keep in touch with former classmates or teachers, or engage in social media. She wasn’t a member of any HR professional groups and didn’t read anything beyond her text books.

  •  There is a fantastic community of HR professionals out there just waiting to share all they know to help people who want to know and better understand everything HR is about. Whether you are a newbie or a veteran HR practitioner, if you are not taking advantage of these resources, you’re doing yourself and the people who rely on you a disservice.

3) Nadia wasn’t taking initiative or showing enthusiasm. To her credit, she did ask a lot of questions about the hows and whys behind the reasons for our policies. But she clearly resented the administrative tasks associated with her job and seemed hesitant to go the extra mile.

  •  Every HR Superstar has done their time filing papers and entering data and sucky stuff like that. It comes with the territory, almost like a rite of HR passage. There is a lot to be learned, gained and gleaned from the tedious parts of HR. Don’t be in such a rush to get to the fun and juicy stuff that you miss the fundamentals. And don’t ever make the mistake of looking down on those tasks or the people that performs them just because you have education.

Now I can approach my newbie Nadia with a new plan in mind that will hopefully get her on track to stay! If she is going to move from HR faux to HR pro, she’s got to improve in these areas — and the good news is it will not take much effort for her to get there.

But if she doesn’t use any of the tips, at least I’ve come away with more ideas on things I can do to engage and improve. I’ve also been inspired with another post series … Stay tuned!


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