Your Personal Career Defense Toolkit

Talking about your experience and being open to other perspectives is the most important way to make change. Be open to other people disagreeing with you, but stick to your perspective if theirs rings false. Talk about your experience of sexual harassment as if talking about it is a gift to your listener. It is. Below are my initial steps in how to address workplace harassment. These steps, and those to follow on this blog and in my book Career Defense 101, are intended to prepare you to talk with an attorney, should you choose to do so, and should be protected under attorney-client privilege. Providing this information does not make me your attorney, but you can use these notes to help any

Diagnosis: Creating and Administering a Cultural Health Survey

The first step toward a healthy workplace culture is diagnosis, which can be done by conducting a Cultural Health Survey. I am not going to walk you through exactly how to create your own Cultural Health Survey because there are so many different, practical ways that it can work. You could send a text message or an email with the right questions. You could use a form like Google Surveys, Survey Monkey, or WuFoo. You could do a Facebook poll if that’s the way that is easiest for you to communicate with your people. However, an anonymous survey is always going to get you better information than one that requires employees to identify themselves with their answers. I offer a short sample of a c

Identifying Allies, Building Support, and Reclaiming Power

After you assess your situation and identify unacceptable behavior, the next thing to do is to identify the allies around you that will support you. You don’t need to build a formal group or have meetings or anything, just be specific about the people around you whose opinions you trust and provide you support. Even if your list only includes your cat, put her on there. An ally is someone you can tell about your experience and get realistic feedback and perspective from or someone who supports you no matter what. It’s not necessarily someone who agrees with you (although it can be), but it is someone whose opinion you respect and someone who will give their opinion with respect to you. It is

How Leadership Affects Long-Term Efficiency

When you hire someone to do a job for you, you probably just want that person to do their job so that you don’t have to worry about doing it. Those of us who have trained another person know it is not that simple. We invest more at the outset in training a new employee in order to save countless hours and allow company growth later – that is the tradeoff. The same is true with finding out about cultural health problems employees are experiencing. It is an initial investment and effort that has the potential to lead to tremendous productivity later. When I was first hired as a new associate, working for a law firm, I had previous experience managing groups of employees in retail, teaching for

You Are Here*: Labeling the Problem In Your Workplace Culture

I remember that when the harassment I was experiencing was at its most extreme, I lost all ability to even appreciate a warm house on a rainy day. My entire body was consumed with fear about harassment and despair about who I was and what I deserved. I was afraid all the time. Understanding the law and how it applied to my situation was no help in reducing my fear – instead, it added a level of pressure and confusion because it is impossible to get a straight answer about how the law applies. I was afraid I would do something wrong and ruin any legal claim I might have and I was afraid a legal claim would ruin my career. I wanted to talk about what I was experiencing, but I thought it made p

3 Steps to Creating Healthy Workplace Culture

Diversity of identities and perspectives is good for problem solving, for reaching new audiences, good for business, and is essential in a healthy workplace. Even if you are starting with a homogenous workplace now, using my steps of diagnosis, appropriate confidentiality, transparency, and power dynamics facilitation will make your workplace safer and more productive and set the groundwork to hire employees to increase diversity. They will also allow you to become the type of leader who knows how to effectively promote and encourage the expression of diverse perspectives, while not allowing their differences to create division from unsettled or unnoticed conflicts between your employees. As

The Inclusive Leader: Honoring Perspectives and Owning Biases

When I am at speaking events, I often get questions like, “What about people who are just misunderstanding and unreasonably interpreting innocent behavior as harassment?” or, “How is your process going to help me know who is right and who is lying?” People (men and women) remind me that the accused are “innocent until proven guilty, so how do we balance that with supporting victims and not go too far? On the other hand, you may have followed social media hashtags like #MeToo, #TimesUp, #BelieveHer, and #SayHerName, which are strongly advocating for a shift in how we listen to stories about violence against women. There is a dramatic polarization right now in culture in the United States betw

Sexual Harassment and the Law

Let's dive into Strategy 1: Law. Whether or not you are asking in the back of your mind, “Do I have a legal case?” it will help you to have an understanding of what the law can do for you – and what it can’t – in order to end harassment in your life for good. Because I don’t know your story, and I may not work in your state, this is not legal advice. This is a very, very rough description of how the law works federally and in many states and what it protects. Protections around discrimination are different from state to state and country to country, so it is very important to talk to a local attorney about how the law applies to your situation before you do anything that might affect a legal

Seven Strategies to Stop Harassment and Advance in Fulfilling Work

It is important to be deliberate and strategic in the way we talk about and deal with sexual harassment. In Career Defense 101 (my first book), I explain the seven strategies I use in teaching my clients how to defend their careers from sexual harassment so that they can advance in fulfilling work. Those seven strategies are... Strategy 1: Law. When women do not understand how the law applies to their particular situation (or whether it applies at all), they often accidentally do things that make it more difficult for the law to protect them. When a client comes to me, I first consider the law and help them understand how the law applies to their situation. Usually, this is somewhat simple.

Opportunity, Inclusion, and Growth

Many employers believe they are working toward solving discrimination by simply hiring a “diverse” workforce, and that is a great first step. Most of the early legal work in Civil Rights has also been to provide opportunities to groups with disadvantaged characteristics so that they have the opportunity to participate in areas they had been banned from (for example, owning property, having careers, and voting). The problem we’ve seen with this is that it is one thing to hire a person of color into a job, but it is an entirely different thing to keep her and allow her to advance in her position. It is one thing to say, “I’ve given this employee the opportunity to do well in his job, now it’s

What the Evolution of Hygiene Can Teach Us About Harassment

“You shouldn’t tell that story to people. It makes you sound weak,” a guy I knew in law school said. I had just told him how, when I lived in Ukraine, I visited my friend Vanessa in central Ukraine. We got on a bus alone, with only ourselves and the two bus drivers, late at night. We expected the bus drivers to take us back to her area of town. Instead, they drove out into the corn fields and tried to feel us up. They asked us if we liked to party, as Vanessa gathered keys and a broken antenna as weapons around her. We both looked out into the dark cornfields as the bus drove away from town, thinking we may have to fight these men or run out into the fields to save ourselves. I spoke Russian

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