Studies have shown that companies with diversity in their top teams produce improved financial results. Yet according to McKinsey, women hold less than 20% of the seats on corporate boards and executive committees in both the US and the UK and, from Forbes, only 4% of Fortune 500 company CEOs are female.
Recent news stories have also revealed that women earn 14.9% less on average than men for the same job. In a Gender Salary Survey conducted by the Chartered Management Institute, it’s suggested that a woman can earn £423,000 less than a man in her career.
So, how can we ‘sharpen our elbows’ and make it in a business world that for many still seems like an old boys’ network?
1. Be confident
An article in The Wall Street Journal asked the female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies for their tips on how to be successful in business. Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint, said, “The most important factor in determining whether you will success isn’t your gender, it’s you.”
It’s pointless trying to change the system – the only thing we can truly change is ourselves. Be confident in yourself and speak up. Be heard. Have conviction in what you’re saying. If you truly believe in something, this should come naturally. It’s not about being a “bitch”, it’s about being confident in who you are and what you stand for.
2. Know thyself
Find out what is really important to you. What drives you? What is your purpose? This is more than just what you want to be (i.e. a job title) or what you want to achieve, it’s the ‘why’ that’s important. This is what engages the emotional part of your brain and when you use this to its full potential, it’s extremely powerful.
If you can really clearly define your purpose, it will give you a clarity and motivation to succeed in what
you want to do.
3. Do your research
Now that you “know yourself,” develop yourself. Build up your skill set in any way you can through formal training, learning, reading – anything. Developing your communication skills in particular will serve you well.
The next component of this is to know your market. Truly understand the market, the customer, the business. Delve into the details that others might neglect or miss. Seize every opportunity to contribute valuable insights.
4. Take risks
This is commonly mentioned by female leaders. Challenge yourself constantly by taking risks in the projects you take on and the roles you seek out. Doing this will generate a strong motivational force and result in valuable on-the-job learning. Hopefully, you’ll get the recognition you deserve but if not celebrate on your own.
5. Celebrate your achievements
It’s a harsh business truth but sometimes, you won’t get the thanks you deserve or the praise that you want. Internal motivation is a powerful tool and it can be truly disheartening if you aren’t being motivated externally as well. That’s why it’s important to consciously make an effort to recognise your achievements.Write down the positive things you have accomplished. Outcomes you have achieved. And enjoy them! Celebrate with friends and family. Reward yourself.
Ultimately, the business world still has a long way to go before men and women are equal. But we can make a difference in the world of work, one woman at a time. It’s not about competing with men, it’s about being the best version of ourselves.
About the author: Sue Stoneman is CEO and founding partner of learning and development agency, NKD Learning. She is a change management, employee engagement and learning and development expert. Prior to setting up NKD Learning in 2005, Stoneman spent over 20 years in a variety of PLC and private equity businesses, including British Airways, Hyundai, Barclays and Terrafirma. She has a breadth of experience as a board director, having held senior positions in Marketing and Sales, Customer Operations and HR.
Remember when the exclamation “I’m engaged!” was almost always immediately followed by the question “when’s the wedding?” In today’s business environment, engagement takes on a whole new meaning, referring instead to how engaged, dedicated, and loyal employees are to their organization.
According to one recent article published in Human Resource Executive Online, HR leaders are increasingly preoccupied with engaging their workers. After all, engaged team members are more likely to exert discretionary effort, have lower absenteeism, and are more loyal to the organization. Engaging employees is in every organization’s best interest.
While it is evident that engaging workers is important, recognizing how to do so is a little trickier. Although many organizations realize the importance, only 29 percent of the population is actively engaged. Studies have shown numerous variables go into employee engagement and, based on Avatar HR Solution's Key Driver Analysis of over 3.3 million responses, include the following key engagement drivers,
- Organizational Culture – work/life balance, diversity, etc.
- Career Development
- Management’s Leadership Abilities and Relationship with Employees
- Strategy and Mission
- Job Content
- Open Communication
- Coworker Cooperation/Satisfaction
- Availability of Resources to Perform the Job Effectively
While these factors all play a role in engagement for most individuals, it is crucial to consider the fact that everyone is unique. Women, for example, may be driven more by different factors than men. Many past posts on this blog have discussed women’s desire to “have it all,” indicating the importance of work/life balance. Women may be more engaged and dedicated in a job where they have the flexibility to balance both their personal and professional lives. Additionally, research has shown that women tend
to focus more on building close personal relationships with other individuals. Men, on the other hand, dedicate more time to practicalities. This dichotomy could reveal that women are more likely to be engaged when they have closer personal bonds with coworkers/managers.
Thus, it is important for HR leaders to avoid the “one size fits all” approach to engaging employees. Every employee is different, and there is no key formula for engaging all of your workers. One of the most effective ways to truly understand what engages each individual is to ask. People appreciate the opportunity to provide input about their job, and it’s a straightforward way of establishing an engagement plan for your team members. Additionally, it allows you to further develop your relationship with your staff.
Questions such as “what about your job makes you enjoy coming to work in the morning” and “do you feel your skills are being utilized effectively” can help shed light on the drivers of engagement for employees. You’ll be surprised at what you find out. Remember, however, that the key is not in simply asking the questions, but actually putting what you learn into action. Your employees will appreciate the individual attention you are giving them, and their engagement will be a great reward for your efforts.
Engagement in the workplace may not be the same as a personal engagement between two people, but the key is that both are relationships, and relationships take work. Dedicating effort to understanding what engages your workers will allow you to create the most effective action plans to improve engagement. Don’t wait to engage your employees. Make the effort now.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Melissa Herrett is Associate Marketing Project Manager for Avatar HR Solutions. In this role, she strategically works to position Avatar HR Solutions as a leader in the quality improvement services industry and contributes posts to their blog. You can connect with Melissa on Twitter at @EngageEmployees.
Recently I was in a rented a car with a GPS. For whatever reason, the GPS was off (putting us at least two streets south of where we were at) and so we turned it off and I pulled out a map to figure out where we needed to go.
I hadn't held a map in my hands in a long-time. It felt good yet slightly disconcerting. When I was a kid, I always got the front passenger seat which made me the de facto navigator, so on trips I usually ended up with the map. I was a good map reader, and we were rarely lost.
Being rusty with a paper map, we drove around a little bit to get to our destination.
These days, with GPS, I'm lost a lot.
I'm not blaming the GPS industry; I'm only saying it is an inexact technology that sometimes fails to appreciate certain nuances. It's existence has caused me somehow to lose touch with my inner map-reading capability and when forced to go back to old school, it took some time to acclimate.
Since that trip, I've been thinking about the value of tactile learning in the workplace. Believe me, my life revolves around a computer and it is an important part about how I interact in the working world, however I think my skills are better because there was a time when I had to figure things out without it. Two examples come to mind:
- Back in the early days of my career, I wrote a lot of copy for things like newspaper articles, advertisements, brochure text, etc. Back then, there was no such thing as Pagemaker and so my layouts were done on a lightboard, using paper strips, an Exacto knife and hot wax. Doing layouts that way was part of getting material “photo ready”. At that time, I learned a lot about how to make things line up properly without the benefit of kerning software or the justification feature. I would say that today I have an eye for space because I used to have to spend so much time getting space right in the first place.
- In my first few years in human resources, I worked in the compensation arena, mostly on developing pay equity plans. This involved determining the proportional value of jobs, and the only resources I had to do “sum of least squares” calculations was graph paper, a ruler, a calculator and a pencil. Sometimes it would take a
whole day to figure out calculations which now would take less than 10 seconds on Excel. Staring at the dots on the paper though helped me to understand compensation patterns and trends. Every once in awhile when I am thinking about design, I go “old school” and do some of the work manually, just to get a better feel for the options.
There are countless articles out there focusing on the value of experiential learning for adults and the workplace. Tactile learning is of significant value to most adults and is a great form of experiential learning. In order to master something, first the learner must experience something directly, e.g. they must have concrete experience and then be able to conceptualize what it means and to look at the options or possibilities. To use my example above, I came to understand compensation trends by physically plotting them, looking at options and then creating a design. I wonder if I would be as good at compensation design today if in reality Excel had always done most of the work for me.
What else in HR has tactile learning value? So many ideas come to mind, from operating machines on the shop floor and understanding process flow before writing job descriptions to understanding the day-in-the-life of staff before recommending policy changes. But this is just HR, and HR is a small part of most workplace operations. Think about how much better our employees could be at their jobs if they better understood the old-fashioned concepts and grounding behind their work, which often can only be done by figuring things out manually.
My point is that I feel sometimes like we have lost skills or capabilities simply because we discourage manual learning due to the time involved, and therefore miss out on great opportunities to more broadly apply what can arguably be a deeper skill set.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.
You’ve seen the generational labels – Boomers are workaholics, Gen X’ers are hyper-individualistic and Gen Y’ers are attention-craving. Also known as “Millennials”, the Gen Y crowd now inhabits and shapes the workforce. If you’re a Millennial, perhaps you’ve seen the media’s portrayal of your reputation in the workplace.
Generalizations lump everybody into one, big, homogenous group. The narrative on the Gen Y generation is filled with words like spoiled, entitled and demanding. Is it unfair? You bet it is. But here’s the deal – Millennials who point out the bias only reinforce the stereotype of spoiled, self-entitled whiners.
My career advice for Millennials?
Play against typecast.
Show the people in your work life that you are so different than that meme.
Your savvy co-workers and managers will look past the unflattering media portrayals of your generation if you give them a reason to do so.
Do these four things each and every day to avoid being pigeonholed:
Be all-around awesome. Sometimes, Millennials think that being uniquely “who they are” is enough to qualify for a pat on the back or a promotion. Not true. You need to be amazingly awesome at what you do as well. It’s the value you provide to your company that will get you noticed and rewarded.
Work hard. I know you do this already, but keep this in mind – strive to understand others’ definition of “hard work”. I’m not suggesting that you cave to the mind set that “hard work” = “putting in hours”. Just know that if you’re working for a dinosaur with this mindset, you’ll need to help him/her understand that you can get results while hanging out at Starbuck’s and checking your Facebook page.
Be easy to work with. Learn to how to use facetime on ipad
e=”text-decoration: underline;”>tactfully tell your older, technologically challenged co-worker how to do things more efficiently. Do less eye-rolling at the stupid company crap, more strategizing on how to fix it. Keep the drama to yourself – professional workplace communications should not look like a reality-TV show confession-cam.
Leverage your age. One of the best things you have going for you is the vigor of youth, so use that energetic spark with those skeptical, road-worn co-workers. Keep in mind that even if your idea is super-fresh, chances are, someone else has thought of its derivative at some point. A good way to test the waters before pitching your idea is asking “What’s been tried before?” and following up with, “What’s your assessment of why it didn’t work?”
Is this old-school advice? You bet. Work holism may be out-of-date, but working hard never goes out of style. Statistics show that many people of the Millennial generation are forgoing working for large companies because they don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy. Fair enough. But know this – organizations of all sizes demand people who deliver and know how to work with people.
Surprise your boss and co-workers by showing some old-fashioned attributes and you’ll be able to build a career that fits into your overall life’s objectives. And isn’t that one of the best things that the Millennials have taught us all, no matter what our generation?
photo credit: Jennifer V. Miller
About the author: For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter as @JenniferVMiller.
Offices are a place of business… usually. The line between work and personal lives is being blurred as 9-to-5 jobs go out the window and professional and personal lives blend.
A direct comment that could be deemed sexual harassment is now an irregularity in physical places of business. Social media is a more subtle outlet for sexual harassment. With policies and procedures in place for more direct harassment, companies may be overlooking social media sexual harassment. Ensure every employee enjoys a harassment free work place by taking action now.
What is social media sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment online is very similar to in-office incidents. Both are unwelcome sexual behaviors, which could be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. This includes sexually suggestive behavior, offensive photos, repeated requests to go out and written emails. However these aren’t the only possibilities. Social media is just the newest outlet.
- Social media sexual harassment can include cases of bosses or coworkers making unwanted sexual comments, suggestions and advances on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
- Whether these actions take place during the work day or not, if the employee being harassed feels uncomfortable by a co-workers comment on a friend’s wall or after receiving a sexually-based tweet, sexual harassment is taking place.
Some may feel the anonymity of online communities, or the nature of social media sites themselves, promote sharing without professional accountability. This may be thoughts on another co-workers looks, sexual orientation or something completely different. While sharing is encouraged through social media networks, lines can be blurred when it comes to distinguishing between personal use and professionalism,
How do I address it?
Addressing sexual harassment is often a training HR departments conduct with staff shortly after hire. Most businesses have policies in place for how a case of sexual harassment should be handled and reported. However, when it comes to social media, many are at a loss. Create an ope
n environment where reporting a case of sexual harassment can be discussed without fear of judgment or confidentiality breaches and put a policy in place that is social media specific.
- Always ask for evidence. You want to get as much information as possible whether it’s a link, screen shot, etc. Ask to see it yourself online when possible to make sure no editing has taken place.
- Talk to both parties. Much of what we say is in our tone and body language. It is easy to misconstrue a text, IM or Facebook message. Hearing both sides of the story is incredibly important when it comes to dealing with a case of sexual harassment that doesn’t take place in person.
- Look for patterns in the alleged harasser. A one-time incident may be a miscommunication, but repeated messages that make another feel uncomfortable isn’t – especially after the matter has been addressed.
- Make sure your sexual harassment policy includes information regarding personal emails and social media accounts. Having a policy in place will not only encourage those being harassed to take action according to procedure, but it may play the role of deterrent for future cases.
As a part of the HR department, or as the entire HR department which is often the case at small businesses, recognizing that in-office sexual harassment can transcend working hours and platforms is essential to addressing any situation that arises. Work with your company to create a social media section of your sexual harassment policy so it is clear what is crossing the line as personal and professional lives blend with social media. Friending a co-worker on Facebook may seem like a good idea, but sometimes it’s just better to leave it at the office.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
In my last blog post, Leading Executive Conversations: The Executive Perspective, I shared that leading an executive conversation should start by understanding their perspective on a particular subject. Now, we’re going to discuss framing the conversation.
Executives expect to hear three key things in a conversation. First, they need a message that defines, “what’s your point?” Near the beginning of the conversation, you need to tell the executive what you want and what the benefits are. Second, you need to share an outline of the conversation so that the he understands what you want to accomplish and believes it is possible to do so in the meeting. Finally, you need to explain how it will add value to the business.
Many say their challenge with executive meetings is that no matter how much they prepare, the executive just seems to take over. Executives hijack meetings when they don’t have a clear message or they don’t understand how you plan to prove the message. Good executives work from frameworks and clear takeaways. So, I’m going to show you a framework that addresses those issues.
The most common framework we use with clients is three simple concepts: SITUATION…SOLUTION…NEXT STEPS or IMPACT.
Here’s why we like this.
Most people begin with their solution or recommendation. After all, it’s what you’ve researched and what you want the executive to approve. But, it can quickly derail a conversation. The executive is more interested in the current situation such as what’s working now, where you think the gaps are and what you see other companies doing successfully. All of this is part of framing up the SITUATION. An executive’s decision about your recommendation will be based on how you see the challenge and what you think can be accomplished by solving for it.
Usually, the SITUATION is the point where you want to create dialog with the executive. You want to be sure that the executive agrees with some of the assumptions you made going into this project.
Framing the SITUATION looks like
a funnel with three parts. It represents starting the conversation wide and then bringing it down to a specific initiative. Remember, the C-suite perspective is external and very interested in trends and insights going on in the industry not so much about specific tools.
We recommend that you guide this part of the conversation by first discussing the external aspects of your topic such as trends and results, what other companies are doing and insights on what works.
Then, bring the topic inside the organization by discussing what’s changed in your company, where are you investing and what are the returns?
Finally, lead the conversation to a specific program, tool or initiative. That’s your SOLUTION!
You will always need to present the SITUATION before you offer up a SOLUTION because the SITUATION is where you establish your credibility.
The SOLUTION is a high level overview of the recommendation. Not about features or work flow process, but more about outcomes and what would be different if implemented.
Finally, NEXT STEPS are important with top executives. Too often, we view success as meeting with them again. Not likely, they prefer to move things along and you should have in mind what you want to ask for as a next step.
I’ve seen impact and results from this framework time and time again. It does work! The hardest part is keeping the conversation at the right level. I hope the framework and the funnel concept will be useful to you.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Sally Williamson is the industry leader for improving the impact of spoken communication and executive presence. As President and founder of Sally Williamson & Associates, she specializes in executive coaching and developing custom workshops. She is a thirty year veteran of developing key messages and coaching for professionals to improve their executive presence and overall impressions. Her book, The Hidden Factor: Executive Presence, has received rave reviews.
The statistics spouting the importance of networking are sprinkled in every career article from the small college newsletter to major international publications. We all feel the pressure to expand our network, meet new people and make a stellar first impression.
As a career coach working with MBA students who are looking to get connected in the business world, the most common question I encounter is about networking. In this tough economy many of students I work with are also juggling multiple roles such as full time professional, involved parent or caretaker. I often get an exasperated look when I bring up the importance of networking because the thought of adding another item to an already full to – do list is overwhelming.
Here are some of the best, most applicable, tips on how to network with limited time.
- Be prepared. You don’t have time to waste so come to any networking event with a plan. Know who is going to be attending, look them up on LinkedIn, find any commonalities you have to discuss, and then make the connection. This creates meaningful networking and allows you to leave at a reasonable time because you had a plan of attack.
- Be focused. I say this because I have been there, in the moment at a networking event, and all I can think of is my kids waiting for me at home, the school project that needs to be done or the paper that isn’t yet written. That makes the networking meaningless because your mind is elsewhere and you won’t appear genuine. You might as well have not been at the event at all. If you have taken the time to attend, then make sure to make it worthwhile and be present.
- Utilize an established network. When you have children at home, going blindly to a networking event outside of your network will be more challenging and take more time, and you may not find others there who are in your same situation (i.e. balancing mult
iple roles). It makes most sense to attend a networking event affiliated with your school (undergrad or grad), company or passion (think volunteer groups).
- Join a professional association. Yes, the dues are high but you have access to a ton of networking events each month and you can pick and choose which events best fit your life and schedule. Many are breakfast events which are the best way to squeeze in a little professional networking during a jam packed day without impacting your “at home” or “at work” responsibilities.
- Network everywhere. A dear friend of mine from California recently networked her way into her dream job. How? She met the hiring manager at her daughter’s toddler dance class! She started chatting with the other parents, made a great contact, kept in touch, one thing led to another and voila! Networking as a parent is unique in that many of the people who are sitting next to you at your son or daughter’s after school events are also professionals and may be able to impact your career.
Ultimately networking is about building relationships. As a business professional there is nothing that will impact your career success more than having a strong network. Make time for growing your network in a way that works for you.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara, and Brooks Institute, where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR and Job Dig.
Have you ever helped a friend or family member move? If you have, did the friend or family member try to bribe you with pizza or drinks to get you to agree to help? Lugging boxes up and down stairs isn’t fun, so offering a treat of some sort makes it easier to coerce your loved ones into maneuvering your gigantic couch through your narrow doorway.
Nonprofit organizations rely upon the kindness of strangers. Getting volunteers to help out and making them want to come back is one of the most important factors that nonprofits face. To be successful, they have to build a community of commitment.
The techniques used by nonprofits can be a huge benefit to HR. After all, if these techniques can encourage people to work for free, applying them to a business can help to increase employee motivation.
1. Inspire people
Inspiration is the driving force behind most nonprofit organizations. Once you can get someone to genuinely care about something, it is much easier to get them to spare some of their time or money.
Even if your company isn’t saving lives or helping puppies, you can still be a source of inspiration. You might enact a mentorship program to help develop your employee’s careers. You could start a wellness initiative to make it easier for your team to get healthy. Being a positive influence on your employees can go a long way towards creating a pleasant work environment.
2. Create goals with clear results
How many times have you seen a fundraiser use imagery to show how close they are to their goal? If the goal is raising $10,000, then seeing a bar graph creep closer and closer to the top of the chart is a clear indicator of how close (or far) the goal is.
When a team has a clearly defined goal in sight, it can propel them forward. Knowing what they hope to achieve and being able to see exactly where they stand can be an energizing influence on their work. If a goal isn’t reached, it can be a learning experience to figure out what went wrong and what could be improved for next time. If the goal is met, employees have something tangible to be proud of and celebrate.
In order for a nonprofit to get volunteers to work efficiently, every detail has to be organized. You can’t throw hundreds of volunteers into an event without telling them what to do and who to report to. Not only could disorganization ruin an event, but it could also deter volunteers from returning.
Being well-organized is more than just assigning employees a job title and place to sit. It is about making sure that each employee knows what their job entitles, how to do it and why it is important. They should know how their role relates to others within the company and who is responsible for what. Streamlining business practices is a lot easier when everyone knows their individual role and how it fits into the whole.
4. Make them feel appreciated
Nonprofits have mastered the art of the thank you. They know that it is important to keep volunteers and donors happy, so they make sure to demonstrate their appreciation. Letting volunteers know that their work is valued helps to foster a sense of teamwork.
Feeling under appreciated is one of the most common reasons why people leave jobs. It can be really disheartening to work incredibly hard on something and feel as though no one even noticed. Employees that feel valued will work harder and stay with a company longer. Do all you can to show employees that the work that they do is important and appreciated.
People work to get a paycheck, but volunteers work because they want to make a difference. Getting paid employees to feel that same sense of drive can do wonders for the workplace. Passion will outwork ambivalence every time.
Any tips for getting your employees to truly care about their work? Do share!
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Erin Palmer works with Villanova University on programs such as Masters in Human Resources. She happily writes for a living and enjoys mentioning that fact to people who think that Writing and English majors will never find a job. She loves to meet new people, so reach out to her on Twitter as @Erin_E_Palmer.
It begins on Friday. “Got any plans this weekend? What are you doing? Are you going to the
big game big concert craft sale at the VFW? Will you be having a cookout party crawfish boil for the holiday weekend?”
And it ends, momentarily at least, on Monday. “How was your weekend? What did you do? Did you go anywhere? Did you do anything?”
It’s office small talk that allows people to appear somewhat interested in the lives of their fellow cubicle dwellers. More than likely, Glen in Purchasing could really care less that Carmen from Marketing is attending the Annual Furry Convention to be held in Pittsburgh (well, ok, that might intrigue him a bit…), but he feels the need to ask.
But I’ve noticed, throughout my working years, that this idle chatter can turn into yet another form of workplace one-upmanship. I’ve heard the sanctimonious inflection in a woman’s voice as she answered “I retiled the bathroom Saturday morning, applied weed-and-feed to the lawn, hosted a small gathering for 8 on Saturday night and then, after church on Sunday, tackled that smoked salmon w/ foie gras recipe I’ve been meaning to try. It was a light weekend.” And I‘ve witnessed the blank-stare and faintly disguised superiority from the questioner when someone (oh wait, that was me) answered “I did absolutely nothing.”
Perhaps it’s a cliché because it’s true when we admonish people to “take time to smell the roses.” Why must we feel the need to be doing-something-every-minute? After a busy, hectic and structured work week filled with meetings, appointments, phone calls and tasks, isn’t it just enough to stop, relax and not feel the need to DO?
In our quest to appear busy and engaged a
nd active and plugged-in we seem to have collectively embraced the viewpoint that just being in one place (i.e. HOME) for a span of time longer than it takes us to sleep and bathe is now seen as some sign of societal disengagement. Weekends spent cuddling one’s children on the couch under a comforter, reading a book for the pure enjoyment of it or even mindlessly watching VH1’s marathon of “100 One-Hit Wonders” are all perfectly acceptable ways to spend the weekend – aren’t they?
Yet, I’m convinced; we sometimes ask others how they spend their leisure time for the primary purpose of making judgments about either their lack of ambition or their lack of creativity.
Occasionally I pull my car into the garage on a Friday evening and don’t venture out beyond our property line again until Monday morning. I eat cold pizza for breakfast and cereal for dinner. I watch The Princess Diaries and Sex and the City reruns. I read Happy Hollisters books and pretend I’m in 2nd grade. I deep cleanse my pores. I take a nap in the morning and then, just for good measure, I take another one in the afternoon.
Then, come Monday morning, I go along with the small talk and ask my colleagues what they did over the weekend while I answer their queries as well.
And when I state “I did absolutely nothing” I do so with pride.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Robin Schooling likes gadgets, coffee, wine and football and insists upon surrounding herself with people who are curious and have a desire to try new things. After 20 plus years in HR, she is fully aware that HR is fun, frustrating, rewarding, maddening and important … and she loves most-every minute of it. You can keep up with Robin at her blog HRSchoolhouse.com and on the Twitter at @RobinSchooling.
Two years ago, my oldest sister turned 50. I think I was more traumatized than she was. Since then, I’ve given a lot of reflection to growing older. My sister hitting that milestone first was actually a blessing because it affords me plenty of time to think about my life, my work and getting older. I have the luxury of time on my side as I adjust to the reality of reaching the half century mark myself.
I remember when I was 39, my optometrist warned me that I would increasingly struggle to read small print. I laughed in her face. “No thanks, not happening,” was pretty much my response. And I did just fine for a long time. My husband is almost ten years older than me and when he asked me to read small text, I would smile or maybe even tease him playfully while I helped him out. When I finally started to encounter my own difficulties deciphering tiny letters, I discovered that it was no laughing matter. Imagine if you can’t read the small print before you sign a contract; if you can’t read the directions on a bottle of cough syrup; if you can’t read the ingredients on a food label to check for allergies. Not being able to see is not funny; it is an inconvenience, an annoyance, and possibly a hazard. I began to understand one of many reasons ADEA protects workers over the age of forty and I started stashing reading glasses by my bed, in my purse and at work.
I used to adroitly avoid questions about my age. When I first met my friend Shennee, she would ask how old I was and I had a lot of answers, everything from, “Ten years younger than my hubby,” to “Older than you,” to the sassy, “Old enough to sidestep that question.” But I the more I thought about my evasive tactics, the sillier they seemed and I grew increasing comfortable answering, “Forty eight.” Why should I hide my age? Why would I want to try to pretend to be 40, so that people whisper, “Wow, she looks really old for her age.” Why would I want to pretend to be something I’m not, or hide who I really am? That’s not living authentically.
Along those lines, I am working toward growing out my gray, or at the very least my pronounced Stacy London streak. (Here, I imagine collective gasps from many of my readers.) As far as I can tell, growing out gray hair is increasingly obvious and painful the longer one waits to start the process. I would rather take the plunge now when silvers are in the minority than wait until I’m completely white. I know from others who have completed this journey that I should expect criticism from many directions, overzealous suggestions that are
obnoxiously personal–as well as bastions of support gratefully received from unexpected corners.
Even as I admire my new silvers, I wonder how it will affect me at work. Will it be harder for me to attract young workers? Or will I gain more respect and credibility from some people? And what if I decide to change jobs? Will that be harder with gray/silver/multi-hued hair? My mid-life reflections also cause me to stop and ask where I want to go and what I want to do next. What do I want to accomplish for the rest of my life? Do I want to start over at a new organization or stay where I am? What new projects do I want to embrace? Should I write that book of memoirs of my African childhood?
I know this is a somewhat personal post, but this issue affects all of us, especially women. Women are judged by their appearance and feel great pressure to a degree most men couldn’t begin to fathom. Our society worships youth and beauty. We all struggle with issues of identity and appearance, and getting older can be a quite an obstacle course to navigate. (I once joked that in retrospect, I am grateful I was always “reasonably attractive” rather than “devastatingly beautiful.” Growing old gracefully is probably easier for me than someone in the latter category.)
In addition, as HR people, it doesn’t matter if we are 27 or 57, we are also faced with the possibility that our organizations may intentionally or unintentionally discriminate on the basis of age. I would imagine most of us have stories of blatant prejudice; I know I do. I will also say that my organization is very happy to recruit workers in the second half of their careers for some of our hard-to-fill professional positions. These more mature folks bring years of experience, advanced skill sets in many areas, and on top of that, they’re probably not going to jump ship tomorrow.
So enough about me. What about you? Do you have any personal reflections on growing older? On women with silver hair? Or thoughts or stories about age-related discrimination in the workplace? Is it rare? Rampant? Something you’re concerned about?
Photo: Robin, a real life Facebook acquaintance 18 months into her transition
About the author: Krista Francis, SPHR, is nonprofit HR Director and sometimes Acting Executive Director. She lives outside of Washington DC with her soccer-crazy hubby, two active teenagers, a neurotic cat and the best dog in the world, Rocky, aka Party like a Rockstar. In her loads of free time, she tries to keep her scooter running, tests margaritas for quality control purposes and blogs at aliveHR. You can connect with her on Twitter as @kristafrancis.