Happy Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year which is typically the second new moon after the winter solstice, started February 16th. This is different than the solar new year, which started January 1. Habit makes us want to map something unfamiliar to something we know. Which is why people unfamiliar with this start to look at me as if I am speaking a foreign language as they try to make sense of why the lunar new year occurs on different days, depending on the  year. I struggled with algebra the first month; I thought I was losing my mind. I could not seem to remember the value of “x.” It took a while to understand the concept of “solving for x” and that x was unknown.

Often, new things don’t have a one to one mapping. You miss new functions and features when you take something new and focus on how to make it do something old. This is very apparent with devices, some users have basic functionality while others it seems, have a totally different device. Making this transition requires thinking about what you need to do, rather than what you used to do.

As we welcome the year of the dog, what are the things you are holding on to the way you used to do? How can you look at work and life with a new perspective for the new year?

 

 

You Can’t Always be Your Best; But You can Avoid Acting Your Worst

My favorite cashier at Target – Karen. Sure, I could do the self check out, but I always laugh with Karen It wasn’t always that way. In 2013, Target had reported that hackers stole data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards of shoppers who had visited its stores during the holiday season. In February of 2014, Karen asked me if I’d like to save 10% on my purchases today by signing up for a Target Credit Card. Really, after Target just had a data breach of over 40 million, do you think a credit card is really a good idea? The people in line had their aha moment, and Karen just said ok. Not my finest moment. I was “that” customer. Sanctimonious and rude. Karen was just doing her job. You know, we can’t always be our best, the very best there is, no way. But you know what, we can avoid being the worst.

At work, there is the possibility someone is having their absolute worst day and that’s reflected in their interaction with you. Yes, it’s natural to be cautious going forward. After all, you can’t tell if it’s an anomaly or a pattern. I was fortunate with Karen’s graciousness.  Inside voice occurs to me now before I make that perceived clever comeback; where in inside voice means, it stays inside my head. This week, are there times when you should use your inside voice?

 

 

Let’s Talk; #MeToo, #HeToo, & #WhatNow

Put down the phone, walk away from the tweets and posts and hashtags and let’s talk. Drop the defenses and attitude for a few moments. #MeToo shed light egregious forced assaults, degrading groping and humiliating innuendo in the workplace. Now, Three months post Weinstein, what sound likes “embarrassing choices” and “regrettable sex” have crept into the conversation. This week, I asked two men, “What impact has #MeToo had on you in the workplace?”

“I’m scared. I don’t know what to say or do.” 

“I’m not saying anything to anybody, period.” 

Harassment is to create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive. If men are scared, we have to ask, has #MeToo created a hostile and intimidating environment? Seriously, we need to talk. The good guys are replaying conversations,  examining their behaviors and realizing they have #HeToo” stories. But they aren’t talking.

Women haven’t come forward sooner because of shock, fear and stigma. Over 20 years ago, a male friend told me he was molested repeatedly by his mother’s friends when he was in high school. He felt helpless, confusion and shame. When he sough supports and help, he was met with belittled and met with ridicule, yeah right, you’re a guy, how does that even happen or dude, you should be loving life. After a few attempts, he shut down. Don’t doubt, men have #HeToo. The tendency is to think, well that is rare, but, how would you know? Men don’t talk. In the workplace, men are approached by women in power and have to respond with a firm, “you are making me uncomfortable.” The providence of #MeToo is both men and women in the workplace.

People are messy. The odds are good you will have a workplace incident, but none of us are particularly inclined to have an uncomfortable conversation. Yet, it’s pretty basic. Be prepared. At the moment, you’re shocked, you try to think back to what may have provoked this, you want to be fair and reasonable. Tick, tick, time, time is passing. You need to have a response ready, such as “that is inappropriate”, “you’re making me uncomfortable,” “would you find this behavior acceptable if someone did it to your daughter, “etc.. Your objective is to respond immediately, seriously and firmly. Avoid the nervous laughter. You are setting a boundary, your expression says back off, I’m putting you on notice, this is not OK and it should be done with the first incident to prevent others.¹

Look, good people are scared. The not so good people; it’s doubtful they have had a brilliant moment of clarity. They don’t magically change. So all of us have to define the boundaries and own it. This week, let’s talk. Ask men how they feel about #MeToo and if they’ve experienced a #HeToo. Ask women what makes them uncomfortable in the workplace. Let’s talk about the differences and the degrees of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. Let’s talk to each other rather than at each other. This is an incredible time rich with opportunity to learn and grow, if we shift from the hashtags of me and go into the future of we.

 

 

¹The service industry is problematic, and not a matter of no and boundary. I can’t even begin to break down what needs to happen in this sector. Attitudes shifts and policy changes are overdue, support those advocating for a better work environment.

You don’t know what you don’t know: How do you learn?

If you don’t know, what you don’t know, how do you learn? Follow me here. In the realm of knowing versus don’t know, there are 4 possibilities.

1. You know what you know
2. You know what you don’t know
3. You don’t know what you know
4. You don’t know what you don’t know.

And that last one is dangerous. You don’t know what you don’t know. You see some crazy stuff in the workplace, someone is dressed totally inappropriately, someone says something that makes you question their suitability for employment and the list goes on. You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s your personal blind spot. This highlights the need for mentors; having people around who you trust and respect AND are willing to enlighten and impart knowledge to you. They leverage teachable moments with you.

There is a lot of stuff I don’t know and I know I don’t; this includes a long list of things, I don’t want to know or need to know. What you don’t know you don’t know is for things that are important to you. So, when was the last time someone told you something you didn’t know you didn’t know? Think about that and this week, notice if this happens. If it doesn’thappen at all, consider, do you need to increase your circle? Just in case you don’t know, for the people who are there to tell you what you don’t know, you don’t know, be thankful.

 

 

Zero Tolerance? Disruption, Change and Policy

“You will feel a little discomfort.” A little discomfort is squinting in bright sunlight. A little discomfort is your underwear wedged in your butt crack. This feels like my teeth are being flossed with a very slender wire, this feels like a sharp object is being shoved into my gums. This is not discomfort, this is pain. I am not numb and I feel every part of this gum surgery. On Thursday, I took a phrase at its basic value and distorted reality to make it true. I thought myself  weak, or maybe I didn’t have a good idea of discomfort.  I missed the obvious, the anesthesia had worn off.

What about the words, slogans and branding that you hear, what do they mean? In the wake of #metoo and #timesup, companies have stated they have a zero tolerance policy. What does that really mean? Is it “feel good” public relations? In schools, zero tolerance policy mandate automatic punishment, such as suspension or expulsion, for infractions of a stated rule. While sounding good ideologically, what does it mean in practice? Results and studies over the last decade show these types of policies are ineffective. In companies with “zero tolerance” around discrimination and harassment, what does it mean, especially if these organizations offer no training?

Decidedly there is a difference between an inappropriate comment, inappropriate touch, inappropriate behavior and assault. I ask again, what is zero tolerance. It’s illogical to treat these four instances the same yet none have are acceptable in the workplace. As we make the transition to respect and dignity, when does the conversation start? Many companies have released “statements.” Change is more than a decision; issuing a statement is not a cultural shift; a start does not mean a finish. As a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in the 80’s, I received a well thought our letter with the recommendations we adapt gender inclusive language. The letter was addressed Dear Sirs. We were a progressive idea trapped in a default setting. David Foster Wallace said the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about and used the fish parable to illustrate.

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

We’re at a point of disruption with a broad spectrum of sexism. This present two challenges. One is to acknowledge a repressive construct is in place, the default setting. The other is, disruption requires construction; if you break down an existing paradigm, what comes next? This is policy and this is the tricky part. Effective policy is somewhat like a recipe. To reach a desired outcome, there are ingredients and an environment that makes it a success. A recipe can be tested and tweak. It can evolve over time to meet the current needs. At any time, you can test it to see if the results meet the intent. As we emerge from #metoo and #timesup, what’s the construct, what’s next. For companies heralding zero tolerance, what’s the policy? Is it working? On a personal level, what is your policy? When something seems to be wrong, do you speak up, engage, educate or tolerate?

I stood stunned and simply replied, “that is inappropriate.”  In the vortex of sexual harassment, here was a man saying something indisputably awful to me. Substantiating, just because there is a heightened awareness of an issue, a hashtag and movement, there is not an immediate behavior change. It was my role to set a boundary and accept an apology when offered later. There is no change unless we all change.

If you’d ask me last Wednesday, would you do gum surgery without anesthesia, I would have given you a withering look and disdainfully said no; yet in the moment, there I felt everything.  The reality was different; I mentally tried to rationalize pain as discomfort. I’ve done a far better job with responses for the spectrum of sexual misconduct. What are your policies?  As a woman, do you have your policy? As a man, if you were standing beside me and heard the offending comment, would you have spoken? Be more than a hashtag; be disruption, change and policy in the making.

 

 

 

Sweet Home Alabama: King, Wallace, Trump & Racist Adjacent

Because people were bombing black churches and he preached

Because blacks had the right to vote in 1870 and Jim Crow laws kept them from voting and he marched

Because he protested the Viet Nam, a war in which McNamara admitted we couldn’t win and he spoke out

Because his message and actions were nonviolent

Because this Martin Luther King birthday, I pay homage to the man and the legacy. It is a day I sit in amazement of the strength, belief and fortitude it took to be the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.

On January 14, 1963, King’s contemporary, George Wallace took the oath of office as governor of the state of Alabama. In his speech, the line that stood out was:

In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

In September of 1963, Wallace attempted to block 4 black students from enrolling in 4 different elementary schools in Huntsville. After federal intervention, they were allowed to enroll on September 9, 1963 to which Wallace responded “The President (John F. Kennedy) wants us to surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-communists who have instituted these demonstrations.” On Sunday, September 15, 1963, when four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the steps located on the east side of the church; four dead and twenty two injured. These acts of violence did not deter King or weaken Wallace.

From March 7 – March 25 of 1965, King led the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabamawas for voter rights The march started with 600 and ended with about 25,000 people for the end of discriminatory practices barring blacks the right to vote such as poll taxes, literacy tests which were applied subjectively. After Bloody Sunday were marchers were beaten and bloodied by state troopers as they approached the Edmund Pettis Bridge, President Johnson in a speech said,

“Every man should have the right to vote and that the civil rights problems challenge the entire country, not one region or group. “ and the President asked Congress “to help him pass legislation that dictates clear, uniform guidelines for voting regardless of race or ethnicity and that allows all citizens to register to vote free from harassment.” 

 Johnson went on to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that August it was a step forward, but by no means a fait accompli in race relations. On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. In 1970, in a run for his second term as governor, Wallace ran what has been called the most racist campaign ever. Wallace aired television advertising with slogans such as “Do you want the black bloc electing your governor?” and circulated an ad showing a white girl surrounded by seven black boys, with the slogan “Wake Up Alabama! Blacks vow to take over Alabama” It’s worth noting that Wallace stated, “I’ve never made a racist speech in my life.” It seems fitting to end the story on Wallace here and cast him as a villain; but I can’t.

It gets more interesting. During his third run for US president as a democratic candidate, in 1972, Wallace was shot in an assassination attempt. He tried for a fourth run at the presidency in 1979. Then in the early 80’s, he contacted civil rights leaders he’d opposed in the 60’s and 70’s including now Congressman John Lewis who suffered a fractured skull during Bloody Sunday. He made phone calls. He gained the support of the African-American electorate and in 1983, became governor of Alabama for the third time AND made more African-American political appointments than anyone else in Alabama history. The Johnson tapes describe George Wallace is described as someone who does not listen and does not trust anybody.  One of his three wives said, “I don’t believe George needs a family. He just needs an audience. The family as audience wasn’t enough for his ego.” What caused the reversal? Is it possible once shot and confined to a wheelchair, he had to trust and take counsel in his recovery and everyday life. Is it possible, the vulnerability changed the ego?

NPR aired an interview Recy Taylor from a few years ago as a follow-up to a speech by Oprah Winfrey last week during her Golden Globe acceptance speech. In 1944, 6 men kidnapped and raped her as she was walking home from church. Despite being told to keep quiet, Mrs. Taylor reported crime. The first trial ended after 5 minutes of deliberation by a jury of all white men ad dismissed. The second trial, the defendants admitted to the rape,but the all male, all white jury refused to indict. Her home was firebombed. There were some who said, well it was consensual, that Mrs Taylor was a prostitute. She received death threats from white supremacist for 25 years until moving to Florida. The state of Alabama apologized in 2011. The sentiment was, well that was the time, that’s how we were raised, everyone did it. Is this a legacy we want to embrace? Because Alabama is all of us and it’s happening again.

In the recent Alabama Senate race is the story of Judge Roy Moore. A man who was removed from the Supreme Court of Alabama for refusing to obey a federal court order. A man banned from the mall in Gadsden, Alabama because of his predatory behavior toward young girls. When accusations of sexual assaults came forth from women who were 14 and 16 at the time, his supporters said, well it was different back then, we don’t know if it’s true. An exasperated Charles Barkley finally said to Alabamians, “We’ve got to stop looking like idiots, do not vote for Roy Moore.” It was a win for Doug Jones.

Because he refused to shake the hand of Angela Merkel

Because he said to Billy Bush, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything; Grab them by the p****. You can do anything,”¹

Because after Charlottesville he said “violence on both side”

Because he said ofMexicans, “They are not our friend, believe me. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Because he said of Carly Fiorina in a Rolling Stone interview “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you

imagine that, the face of our next President? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

Because 19 women have accused him of sexual misconduct including assault

Because he said Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here

 

Some media outlets have spun his last statement, “well he said what we were all thinking.” Oh as he himself said, “I used strong language” His supporters when interviewed said, they don’t believe he said it, but if he did it’s not good. Today, he said, “I am not a racist, I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.” Yes, and as noted before, George Wallace said “I’ve never made a racist speech in my life.” How do we want to go down in history. Is this another time when racism, sexism and assault go unchecked because, it is the time and we can’t be sure?

How many times will we flunk this test?  How will time treat your views and opinions? Will you say, well that was the time or will you say, that was the time, but I did?  We don’t have to be perfect, but we have to be. On this Martin Luther King day, what will you be? What do you stand for?

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Pain and Exhaustion on an Ordinary Day

“The doctors say it’s never going to get better. A nap won’t help. She’s not lazy. She struggles with pain and fatigue every single day. She has lupus, fibromyalgia or arthritis and it’s not the same as your cold or body pain. The most frustrating part is people look at her and say “you look good,” while her body is being attached inside.” My brother posted this on Facebook this week; he quoted something he’d seen that describes my sister-in-law’s. By the time she was diagnosed I had some familiarity with the autoimmune disorders and fibromyalgia other friends.

Everyone is shocked when the cancer diagnosis comes. But cancer is visible, there is a before a during and after. When we say, you look good, it’s after a battle with chemo or radiation, hair loss, weakness or bed stricken. With cancer, we can process what is going on. We can cheer the journey to recovery or mourn defeat. But how do you support, autoimmune disorders if there is no recovery?

My friend with lupus was relieved when diagnosed, but frustrated. ”I tell people what’s wrong, I have lupus and  I’m in pain. But,  they say, well you look good. Well, how am I suppose to look? Do you think I”m not going to comb my hair,  wear makeup, or get dressed?” Busted. I know I have said similar things. Many of the comments on my brother’s Facebook post, were things I have said in the past.

Those comments are about me. My brain is trying to process how I would cope. Well of course, I’d get a second opinion, I’d try diet, exercise and I have heard many people have hidden food allergies that mimic diseases. The truth is, I can’t handle ” it won’t get better.” My comments are all about me and what I would do, for me. I  forget I am having a conversation with someone who is in constant pain.

What would you like people to know, what’s the most biggest conception about autoimmune disorders, what therapies have you found useful, etc. There are many ways to have a conversation without “try,”because if you have a conversation, you often find your “try” has been “tried.” Maybe it’s not the person with an autoimmune disorder that needs to try, maybe it’s you who need to try? Try to listen, to learn about the disorder, even go outside your comfort zone and correct people who dismiss autoimmune as all in someone’s head. Sure, some of these conversations may be uncomfortable, but think about the constant discomfort and pain this group is in. I found Chronic Mom to be a good start to get an idea of the autoimmune world and struggles.

 

 

 

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