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At some point in our lives, we will all need an ally. Women and men need to be allies for each other and work towards gender diversity and inclusion.
An ally is someone who is willing to take action in support of another person, in order to remove external barriers that impede that person from contributing their skills and talents in the workplace or community.
Being an ally takes courage because it might mean speaking out against comments or jokes that are racist, homophobic, sexist, etc.
If the people making those jokes are people like you and you’ve known them for years, it might mean they stop inviting you places, and start to exclude you. It also means that even if the person is another woman, you need to step up and speak up.
It might mean recommending a talented male employee for a promotion, who keeps getting passed over because they are disabled, and people making the decisions don't think he can do the job because of his disability and don't bother finding out.
It might mean even reporting another woman to a manager at a higher level, because they refuse to stop harassing another employee based in their gender, age, race/ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
It might mean that if no one else steps up, the bully will single you out, and hopefully you'll have an ally who will stand up for you.
It might mean that by stepping up as an ally, you've helped your company turn a profit, because you've helped create a workplace where everyone has an opportunity to excel, and where customers across the whole diversity spectrum love to do business.
It also means that you have to support the people who support you, no matter how different they are from you.
-Simma Lieberman, "The Inclusionist"
Joyce Roche in her book The Empress Has No Clothes talks about the impostor syndrome head on.
"The impostor syndrome, at its core, is a distortion in the way we see ourselves. The trouble is that we believe the warped image to be reality--the "truth" we've somehow managed to hide from the rest of the world. We are petrified that we will be discovered and spend nearly all of our energy guarding against that possibility.
One of the most difficult aspects of the imposter syndrome is the fact that it demands that we keep our feelings a secret. Don't stay silent. Find a way to speak about your fears. Whether you do it with a trusted friend, a coach, a mentor, your partner, a therapist, or in a journal, give voice to all the feelings churning inside. (Writing to yourself can be one of the most effective methods to face the impostor syndrome. It was for me and many others)."
Does negative stress sometime feel like it comes on suddenly, without warning? If so, it's likely that it has actually been slowly growing but you haven't been aware of it until it’s almost too late. That’s why it’s so important to realize when stress starts creeping up.
Keep a check on your stress levels by keeping a record. Rate your stress levels on a scale of 1-10 (1 being not stressed at all, 10 being stressed to the point of being dysfunctional ,or severely limited in terms of your activities). Jot down in a bulleted form your emotions, behaviors, etc., and your stress rank.
This doesn’t need to be a time intensive activity. Spend just a few minutes each day writing on a small notepad you keep next to your bed, at your desk, etc.
After a few weeks, look back and try to identify patterns in your stress (computer crashes, particular corporate events, interactions with certain individuals). Look for ways to reduce stress by eliminating these stressors or triggers, and if that’s not possible, look for opportunities to build in stress-releasers (exercise, baths, sleep-ins, etc.)
The point is to focus on your emotions and yourself for a few minutes each day. Because this exercise is self-reflective in nature and helps you feel grounded, it is a powerful stress-fighting tool itself.
Once you’ve done this for a few months, it can become a quick mental exercise, and you can forego the pen and paper altogether. Like a vital stats check on your mental health, you can monitor your stress levels automatically and determine when you need a dose of a stress-relieving activity.
-Simma Lieberman, "The Inclusionist"
If taking a vacation isn't a practical option for you at the moment, what can you do to unwind and feel more balanced?
Know yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Know what gives you a sense of peace and balance, and what makes you feel off-kilter. If you relax by reading, set aside some time to do that. It makes a difference in your day, if you do something relaxing right before sleep in order to wake up calm, relaxed, and stay focused throughout the day. If you want more time to be with friends, schedule that time in your calendar. Keep a notepad by your bed so your can write down those brilliant ideas that keep you awake all night. It will be easier to fall asleep once you write them down.
Don’t wait for the "right time" to relax…you will likely always be busy.
Wherever you go you bring yourself with you. It doesn’t make a difference if you are on a cruise, relaxing at home, or playing golf. If you do not know how to create an internal sense of balance, you will feel the same as you always feel wherever you are.
Balance can be a state of mind. Take a slow, deep breath whenever you are feeling rushed and overwhelmed. It will help slow down that feeling of always being rushed and worrying about the next task, while you’re doing something else that needs your full attention. Take a break from multi- tasking and try doing one thing at a time.
It might feel strange but you’ll be calmer, more productive and strangely enough you’ll get more done in less time.
-Simma Lieberman, "The Inclusionist"
Our online community answered the question, "What makes a powerful woman?" Take a look at their responses.
Video Editor--Alexa Payesko
Almost any time I read an article or hear someone speak about life work balance, the solution is the same--take time off, take your family on a cruise, take your family with you. There are a lot of people who do not have the real time, budget, or desire to do these things.
You may not have a “traditional family,” you may be single, a single parent or are taking care of your own parents. There are those of us who don’t want to wait for the big trip but want to have a sense of peace and balance every day.
Here are my suggestions:
Get rid of the old mantra that you have to do it alone. No one achieves professional success without help from others. Think of your friends, family and colleagues as your personal community and get over any reluctance to ask for help.
Community brainstorm session. Invite some of these personal community members to your house, tell them that you are feeling overwhelmed, tired, overworked, stressed and out of balance. Ask them to share their own best practices and ideas of how to adapt a few to your life.
Let your community offer their resources. When my partner of 18 years passed away and I became a single mother of an eight-year-old boy, I had no idea how I could continue speaking across the country, do what was necessary to run my business, and stay sane. Friends and colleagues came together and helped create a community for my son. People were willing to stay overnight, and take him to activities while I was away, or needed to attend meetings. My son was taken to baseball games, movies and trips, so that I had time to myself for reflection, exercise and socializing with adults. If you are a parent, this is when carpooling can be a good idea. If you don’t have children, and are feeling overwhelmed and you are working all the time, ask people in your personal community to come and get you for lunch, coffee, a movie, etc. When they show up, make sure you go. The workaholic world will function without you for a few hours.
-Simma Lieberman, "The Inclusionist"
Spring is here, and with it come all of the season's holidays and festivities.
Grammy Award-winning country musician and Food Network star Trisha Yearwood shared with us two of her family's favorite Easter recipes.
Trisha is the best. She has enthusiasm for whatever she undertakes.
Try her recipes. Enjoy!
Baked Ham with Brown Sugar Honey Glaze
18-20-pound smoked ham, water added, ham hock removed
1 16-ounce box light brown sugar
1 cup (8-ounce jar) clover honey
Adjust the oven racks to accommodate a large covered roasting pan. Fit the pan with a shallow rack. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Unwrap the ham and rinse it in cold water. Place it on the rack in the roasting pan. Cover the pan with the lid and open the vents in the lid slightly to allow steam to escape. Bake the ham for half the estimated cooking time. (Total cooking time is about 20 minutes per pound.) Halfway through the estimated cooking time, in a separate saucepan, mix the sugar and honey until smooth. Pour the mixture over the ham. Continue baking ham, basting occasionally with the drippings in the roaster.
Check for doneness at the end of the estimated cooking time by inserting a meat thermometer at a meaty point (not into fat or touching bone). It should register 160 degrees F.
Allow the ham to stand for 15 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to set.
5 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, and diced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan or pressure cooker (see note). Add 2 teaspoons salt and enough water to cover the potatoes. Boil the potatoes for 30 minutes, or until they are tender when pierced with the point of a knife but hold their shape. Drain the potatoes, transfer them to a large mixing bowl, and allow them to cool completely. Add the chopped eggs, mayonnaise, and sweet relish, and fold gently to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note: The potatoes may be cooked in a pressure cooker. Sprinkle salt over the potatoes. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and pressure-cook for 5 minutes. Release the pressure immediately and drain and cool the potatoes.
Even in the face of challenging situations, there are things you CAN do to stay resilient.
What is that mysterious quality that allows some people to be poised under pressure while others of us are bobbing to keep our heads above water? Here are three practices from psychologist and corporate resilience trainer Sharon Melnick that will help you focus and move forward:
Take control – or let it go. We often experience stress when we feel out of control. But we can be proactive. What aspects can you act on and what are those you can’t? Focus ALL your attention on where you can have an impact. Take 100% responsibility for that, and don’t expend energy on what you can’t change.
For example, my client had a boss who was a screamer. For months, he would yell at her in a meeting and she would be rattled for the rest of the day, wondering if she should leave the company. But I taught her a breathing technique to calm herself and not be hijacked by her boss’s negativity. She remained confident by understanding that his behavior was due to his limitations, not hers. She also began to frame her requests with his agenda in mind. Within a few weeks, she could leave meetings feeling positive and she was able to get a buy-in for her big idea.
Train yourself to stay steady. Do you want to stay cool-headed in the face of challenges? Your physical reaction to stress can make your emotions more intense. By learning to relax your body, you’re more likely to stay composed and collected.
Your nervous system has two parts to it, an “On” button that gives you energy so you can respond to perceived threats, and an “Off” button that brings calmness and rejuvenation. Though our bodies evolved to have a balance between the two, persistent stress means most of us are almost always switched "On." We are therefore only using the part of our nervous system that sets us up to worry. Make it easier for yourself. Try pressing the “Off” button with a one to three-minute deep breathing exercise that will instantly relax you so you can shift your perspective and see more possible solutions.
Don’t project the worst, project the best. No matter what challenge is in front of us, our knee-jerk reaction is to worry. But that only serves to drain our energy more. Why not visualize the solution? Here’s how:
Exercise: Imagine a time in the future when the challenge has been worked out. Put yourself in this scenario. Ask your ˜future self” what she would advise you to do right now. By realizing that there is a solution for every problem, you are more apt to find creative alternatives.
It’s too easy to get distracted on our way to the top by people, places and things we can’t control. It’s a way that we sabotage ourselves.
We can get sidetracked by the needs of others, sudden seeming emergencies, and small irritations that take up mental space and interfere with our staying on the strategic course we’ve set for ourselves.
Sometimes we think that only we have the power to handle a situation, help a friend or give the right advice. We might think that not taking control in these situations is giving up our personal power. It’s hard to let go but the reality is the more we try to solve other people’s problems or push them to follow our advice, the less control we have and the less energy is left to take care of our own careers while other people who are not burdened with the need to “help” or who are able to stay on their path, pass us by.
That’s when we have to let go of people, places and things we can’t control. By letting go, we hold on to our own goals and our own possibilities for success and moving forward.
Each of us has to decide whether our own success is important, whatever success means to each of us. We have to know on a deep level that our needs are so important that we don’t put other people’s needs ahead of them. This is the time to take action, and take control of our actions. When we find ourselves wavering in our convictions, or doubting our worth or self-love, that’s the time to call on the people who love us and will keep us on track. That’s the time to call on our personal crew that I wrote about last week.
-Simma Lieberman, "The Inclusionist"
We interviewed Lisa Shaub, hat designer extrodinaire. Take a look at her new styles for Easter, the Kentucky Derby, and other spring celebrations. And hear her insights about starting a business and being a mom.
Video Editor--Alexa Payesko
Do you have a group of people that will listen to you, give you specific reasons they love you, and will tell you the truth when you ask?
Every woman needs a crew. A good crew is a group of people who:
Support you taking risks to achieve your dreams. They will never say, “What makes you think you can do that if no one else has?” “Just do what everyone else does,” or “Don’t take that risk.”
Prop you up when you feel like you will fall. They don’t tell you not to worry, or not to be afraid. They ask about your worries and your fears and help you find solutions. They help you prepare for success, and also assure you that if you fail, you can get up, learn from it, and be even more successful.
Hold you accountable for you’re your commitments, and don’t make excuses for you. They are willing to push you beyond what you think your limits are. Your crew will understand your feelings and then help you develop a new perspective.
In my last post, I talked about women using their power to leave environments that drag them down and serve as life obstacles.
We also have the power to seek people who cheer us on, help us solve problems, and maintain a perspective of possibilities. We can develop the habit of surrounding ourselves with people who are curious, excited about life, willing to have new experiences, and don’t feel threatened by other successful people.
-Simma Lieberman, "The Inclusionist"
This week I want to talk about power and how we exercise it. I’m often in workshops where women tell other women not to be afraid of their own power and to stop giving it away.
A power that many of us don’t exercise is the power to leave. For some reason many of us get in the habit of going to a job we don’t like, complaining about the people who work there, how the boss is taking advantage of us, or people are gossiping all the time. All of that may be true, but we don’t have to stay or engage with people who disrespect us and who try to sap our power and self-esteem. Sometimes we don’t know we’re entering a toxic environment until it seems like it’s too late.
But it’s not too late. As hard as it may be to leave a job or situation we’re used to, we can start looking around for something better. Don’t get comfortable with dysfunction or think that people belittling you or bullying you is normal.
Start looking for a change, and while you’re looking to move on, use your power to leave the room when you’re with people who seem toxic. Toxic people are like the flu, they keep spreading. You don’t have to stand still and get infected.
Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you have the power to leave. Next time you start feeling like a victim, stop yourself and start a discussion about possible solutions. Ask your friends for support as you take action.
At any time in a conversation with someone who is disrespectful, you have the power to refuse to interact, or respond. Take control and don’t be afraid to say, “I’ve had enough, and I’m done until you change the way you behave toward me.”
-Simma Lieberman, "The Inclusionist"
It's a new month, and that means a new career coach here on WomenWorking.com. Simma Lieberman, aka the Inclusionist, is here to answer your career questions. She will be contributing articles throughout the month of April. We'll let her introduce herself!
I’m Simma Lieberman, a consultant, speaker, and executive coach based in Berkeley, California. For the past twenty years, I’ve been helping organizations create inclusive work cultures where everyone can do their best work. I've helped women throughout the world develop strategies to leverage their talents and skills in order to be seen and heard the way they want to be at the office. This month, we’ll focus on ways you can take your place and space in your professional life — and get control of your career at last. To check out my new e-book, 110 Ways to Champion Diversity and Build Inclusion, and learn more about me, visit my website.
Intrigued? Check back tomorrow for Simma's first post. To ask a question or make a special topic request, send an email to administrator [at] womenworking [dot] com, or leave a comment here on the blog. Here's to another month of workplace wisdom. Welcome, Simma!
We asked our Facebook community how they handle rude people. Here are some of their insights.
Minelle Mir: I don't. I simply smile and don't judge because I don't know what they are going through in their life. It's slightly more difficult but more compassionate.
Tricia Kasheta Kind: With a smile! I don't let negative people control me.
Maria Louisa Clifford: I'm extra polite. If they're being rude on purpose it infuriates them, and if they're not no one loses out. It's a win-win.
Heather Earley: Depends on the situation. If it's of a professional nature, I smile and carry on as usual. If it's someone I don't know in a conversation or a casual setting, it depends on my mood. I might ignore them or I might look at them with my "whatever" facial expression…Most times I smile and ignore it.
Jenn Bacchus: No one is worth the aggravation. Walk away with a smile and be proud of who you are!
Vanessa Bott: I will not be degraded by people with a low self image. I will just walk away.
Sharon L. Crawford: Situations are different just like people. If I can ignore I will, if not [I try to] just be as nice as I can and remember they may be having a horrible day...and that one act of kindness could help their thinking.
Tiana Thorpe: With understanding. Who knows how bad or good their story has been so far and it's not up to me to judge..Maybe I've been brought into their life to help guide them to a more positive one. No harm in trying.
Staci Rodriguez: Spread love, light, and compassion. Be the observer. Be kind.
Ann Strzelczyk: I just say, "Have a great day" and smile big, as I walk away.
I had the privilege last week of meeting Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. I asked him to write a piece for our blog about anger and violence. He shared a story about when he was younger and a lesson his grandfather taught him that is very powerful.
"When I was living with Grandfather I threw a three inch butt of a pencil [away] because I thought I deserved a better, longer pencil to work with. Instead of giving me a new pencil my grandfather made me go out and search for the one I discarded. It took me about two hours to find it and then he taught me two lessons:
First, that even in the making of little things like a pencil we use the world's scarce natural resources and when we waste them we are committing violence against nature.
Second, rich people and rich nations over consume the resources of the world, depriving others of these resources who then have to live in poverty--that is violence against humanity.
To make me understand this lesson properly, he made me build a genealogical tree of violence, with Physical Violence and Passive Violence as the two branches. Each day I had to examine and analyze everything I had experienced during the day--things that I may have done or experienced--seen or read about. Then I had to place them in the appropriate places on the tree.
Physical violence was easy to define--they are all the acts of violence in which physical force is used. Murders, rapes, wars, killings etc., to name a few.
Passive violence was more difficult largely because this is the kind of violence no one is aware of. Wasting resources or food, discrimination, oppression, greed and the thousands of things that we do every day which hurt people some where.
The one question I had to ask myself was: If the action I am contemplating was done to me would I feel happy or would it hurt me? If I concluded that it would hurt then that was passive violence.
Within a few months I filled a whole wall in my room with acts of passive violence. Then Grandfather explained the connection between the two. The Passive Violence that we individually and as a society commit causes anger in the victim. And the victim then resorts to physical violence to either get justice or get by force what he or she is denied legitimately.
What this introspective exercise revealed to me was that we are in the throes of a deep-rooted culture of violence that brings out the worst in humanity. This culture of violence has affected our speech, sports, entertainment, education, religion, science, in fact every aspect of our lives. It is a cancer that is destroying our humanity from within."
Arun recently wrote a children's book called Grandfather Gandhi.
Many of us become complacent and get stuck doing the same things, not challenging ourselves to grow. If our lives seem stale, it’s because we haven’t taken some risks. By using our creativity, we can envision our next steps.
For example, one woman I know received a promotion at work. She says, “I was comfortable with my old job as a secretary for our account management group. I was making good money, so there was really no need to change. But I was bored.” She began thinking about what she could do for her company that would have a special impact and shared some of her ideas with the team leader. “When one of the managers left, an opening became available. I decided to apply for it, and to my amazement, I got it. I feel anxious about whether I can handle the position, but as a friend reminded me, what I don’t know, I can learn.
Excerpt from In Her Power: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self, by Helene Lerner. Beyond Words/Atria Paperback, 2012.
Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a difficult, demanding boss. While we often feel helpless in making this situation more tenable, there are steps we can take to help smooth things over in the workplace, and make the relationship more palatable.
Understand their motivations: What motivates your boss to be difficult or demanding? By figuring this out, you are able to act accordingly, and hopefully head it off. Perhaps they don’t like to be caught out of the loop by their boss, and like to be updated ASAP on team projects. You can control this and make their life easier by filling them in with regular project updates so that their own manager never catches them unaware.
Anticipate their needs: And be sure to be one step ahead of them. Perhaps traveling to sales meetings gets them stressed out because they like routine and don’t like being out of the office. Make sure to secure their schedule as far in advance as possible, building in extra time for travel, etc. Present it to them ahead of time, prior to them asking for it, to ensure that they are comfortable with it and to allow ample time for tweaks and changes.
Identify triggers: Does your boss flip over misspellings or lateness? These are things that you can (usually) control. Use spell-check AND your own eyes to read and re-read documents that you are sending out on their behalf or ones that they will be copied on. Don’t hesitate to ask a co-worker to proofread your work and let them know you will return the favor. If your boss is a stickler for timeliness, make sure to build an extra 15 minutes or so into your commute.
—Pamela Weinberg, Career Coach
It is tempting to view human transactions in simple cause-and-effect terms. If we are angry, someone else must be to blame, or alternately--if we are convinced of our innocence—we may conclude that the other person has no right to feel angry. The more our relationships in our first family are fused (meaning the togetherness force is so powerful that there is a lost of the separate “I’s” within the “we”), the more we learn to take responsibility for other people’s feelings and reactions and blame them for our own. (“You always make Mom feel guilty.” “You give Dad headaches.” “She caused her husband to drink.”) Likewise, family members assume responsibility for causing other people thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Human relationships, however, don’t work that way—or at least not very well. We begin to use our anger as a vehicle for change when we are able to share our reactions without holding the other person responsible for causing our feelings, and without blaming ourselves for the reactions that other people have in response to our choices and actions. We are responsible for our own behavior. But we are not responsible for other people’s reactions; nor are they responsible for ours.
-Excerpt from The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships. By Harriet Lerner, PhD. William Morrow, 2014.
While gossiping around the water cooler can be a fun diversion from time to time, making it a habit can interfere with day-to-day job duties and even worse, lead to some tough dynamics in the workplace. Some offices have more drama than General Hospital, and it’s best to be a viewer, not a participant in the on-going soap operas. Here are some ways to avoid getting pulled into the fray:
Be professional: No matter what’s going on in the office, don’t allow yourself to be pulled into the negativity. When you partake in the gossip and negativity of office politics, you can end up on the level of sniping co-workers. Once you react to their less-than-professional behavior you become part of the problem. Take a step back and focus on doing your job. When your co-workers get together to gossip, try your best not to be drawn into those conversations. Be selective as to what type of group you align yourself with in the office, and keep in mind that your reputation is paramount to your success.
Keep your integrity: Remember who you are and keep in touch with your values—are you a trusted member of a team, or one who will do anything to get ahead? Be aware of your actions, and make sure that they align with your values. It may help to set boundaries when it comes to how you interact with the people around you. Remember that you are in control of your own actions, and that although you can’t control the office dynamics, you do have mastery over your own reactions and personal integrity.
Stay balanced: An office filled with drama and politics can be extremely stressful, especially when you’re doing your best to stay out of it all. You can end up dreading going to work each day and be very stressed when you are there. Find ways to deal with the tension by taking breaks during the day when possible by meeting a friend for lunch, taking a walk, or closing your office door to take deep cleansing breaths every few hours. Try to make your weekends relaxing and to plan diversions that are restorative rather than hectic.
The bottom line is protecting yourself and your career by being smart about how you participate in office politics and drama. Be aware that it exists, but be careful about your role in it. Try to look at the big picture and stay clear as much as possible—be a leader in the effort to create a peaceful work environment.
—Pamela Weinberg, Career Coach
See today as a blank slate--the past is gone and the future is not here yet. You have an opportunity today to create your life as you would like it to be.
Food for Thought:
How will you make today special?
What people will you choose to connect with?
What habit would you like to let go of?
Allow for some reflective time to look at what's important to you. Let new ideas surface. The time for personal change is now. Take a small step outside your comfort zone.