Quit Work, Stay True to Your Self

Staying true to your self includes knowing how you feel about your place of employment and working consciously with those feelings. Your emotions might bring you to spring out of bed some workday mornings, to stay late agreeably, or, in Greg Smith’s case, to quit.

And then write about it in the New York Times.

The former executive director and head of Goldman Sach’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa was mad as hell, and not gonna take it anymore.

Among his criticisms:

The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave.

Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore. Continue reading

Yes, Gender Impacts Journalism

Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, recently said “The idea that women journalists bring a different taste in stories or sensibility isn’t true.”

Really?

These are surprising remarks from the first woman to be placed at the top of the Times masthead. Still, we sympathize with her fantasy that gender doesn’t matter in journalism, and Ken Auletta’s story last year in the New Yorker offers a hint why Abramson would maintain this narrow-minded view. He reports:

When Eileen Shanahan, who went on to become a well-respected economics reporter, arrived for an interview with Clifton Daniel, the assistant managing editor, in 1962, she hid her desire to become an editor. “All I ever want is to be a reporter on the best newspaper in the world,” she told him.

“That’s good,” Daniel responded, as Shanahan told the story, “because I can assure you no woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times.”

You see, @JillAbramson is in a tough spot. She aligns her worldview with that of past senior editors, perhaps to show that as the Times‘ most powerful woman executive ever, she won’t subvert the patriarchy. If she were more frank about the gravity of being the Gray Lady’s first female executive editor, she’d likely pay a tall price. She’d:

  • be attacked by her colleagues
  • need to defend herself
  • feel seduced away from her formal task of leading the newsroom, and ultimately
  • waste her energy and be de-authorized in her role.

An experience none of her predecessors faced on account of their gender.

And in being so politic, she misses the truth. What truth?

Continue reading

Come Out at Work: As Inexperienced

Try to find someone on LinkedIn who acknowledges his inexperience. OK, you can find a few, yet out of 150 million+ users, rare is the individual who openly claims his lack of practical knowledge.

Until now.

Thanks to Sir Richard Branson, we see that a dearth of experience is less of a problem, and more a path to advancement.

In a recent Q & A at Entrepreneur, the chair of the Virgin Group debunks the stigma of inexperience. He writes:

A lack of experience does not have to be a liability — it can be an asset. It is something you should play up when you discuss your ideas with prospective investors, partners and employees.

He drives his point home with a personal story:

I have always used my own and my team’s lack of experience to our advantage. In fact, at our first venture, Student magazine, we used our newcomer status to secure great interviews and generate publicity — people were excited about our new project and wanted to get involved. Our inexperience fed our restless enthusiasm for trying new things, which became part of our core mission.

Don’t you love the way he turns something potentially mortifying into an opportunity, and seizes it outright? Perhaps it’s time for you to come out at work with your inexperience.

As Branson points out, you have nothing to hide, and a lot of business to gain.

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Craig Ferguson is Happy to Fail. Are You? [video]

It’s easy to feel anxious on the job: the pace moves too fast, it moves too slow; people get in your way, people avoid you; you fear success, you fear failure. Sometimes that’s just before 10:00am.

While the nature of anxiety is complex, we know that a fear of failure tops many “What Makes Me Anxious at Work” lists. Although not Craig Ferguson’s. His would probably be alcohol.

The host of The Late Late Show was recently the subject of Eric Spitznagel’s “Playboy Interview” where he opened up about his approach to work, and how his alcoholism influences it:

There are nights I go out there [on stage] with nothing. Sometimes I can sell the sh’t out of it, and sometimes I can’t. The difference for me, how I’m comfortable doing it without the alcohol, is I’m quite happy to fail. Failure is always an option. That’s why I fell in love with MythBusters. When those guys took two big rigs and spray-painted failure is always an option! across the sides and then crashed them into each other, I thought, These are my people.

You hear that? Ferguson’s happy to fail. And he’s wildly successful! He’s won a Peabody Award and his talk show will likely be renewed through 2014.

How is this possible?

When you’re comfortable with the potential for failure in your work, you know you’ll be OK with the outcome. In fact, your “failed” outcome will likely be instructive: perhaps you’ll learn something, or feel a certain way that helps you grow, or in Ferguson’s case, maybe hilarity will ensue.

To be open to the possibilities of post-failure is to be confident in your creativity and your skills of analysis, which together can move you forward from a setback. You analyze the situation, then creatively determine your path forward.

As a bonus, the relief you experience from being unafraid helps you relax in general, and ground you in the present moment.

Failure has always been an option for all of us; Craig Ferguson is wise to work with this fact rather than repress it. If you embrace the potential for failure, note how your approach to work changes. Then enjoy the success that follows.

Watch the video footage of failure below, in care of Ferguson’s favorite Mythbusters:

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Come Out at Work: As a Person

It  seems so silly; who doesn’t know that you’re a person?

You might not guess the answer.

In a recent article called “Last of the Cave People,” National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins related his experience following the Meakambut, “one of the last cave-dwelling, seminomadic peoples in Papua New Guinea.”  With him was Sebastian Haraha, an ethnographer whose purpose on the journey is described by Jenkins as:

To pinpoint the exact locations of the Meakambut’s caves with a global positioning system. He hopes to register them under the National Cultural Property Act, so the homeland of the Meakambut will be protected from logging and mining.

Noble work! Then after witnessing the Meakambut men and women struggle for survival without much help, Haraha becomes disillusioned with his efforts. Jenkins writes:

He was compelled to temporarily abandon his plan of mapping the Meakambut’s caves—the goal of which is to save their habitat, and thus ensure the continuation of their culture in the future—in order to save their lives in the present. He says the choice was clear. He is a human first, an ethnographer second.

“Protecting the caves? What does it matter—if there are no Meakambut left?” asks Sebastian.

Haraha invokes his humanity first, and his professional role second. Which may be more profound than we realize.

Continue reading

Come Out at Work: With Your Humor

We recently taught a one-hour course on how to reveal and engage your whole self at work, and during the discussion about what specifically we hide from others, one participant said he hid his sense of humor.

A funny thing to hold back, true?

Most people enjoy laughing, especially at work where toiling can be so serious.  The participant offered that he’s shy with it because his sense of humor is dark.

Ah, dark humor. It’s defined by dictionary.com as “a form of humor that regards human suffering as absurd rather than pitiable, or that considers human existence as ironic and pointless but somehow comic.”

As in revealing most parts of our selves, we’re likely to attract some people and repel others by bringing a dark sense of humor to the job. Yet is there a net gain by opening up? For an answer, we look to the published research.

Sarcasm can be a form of dark humor, and a recent study by Ella Miron-Spektor in the Journal of Applied Psychology concludes that sarcasm enhances creativity at work.

How?

From the Occupational Digest of the British Psychological Society:

Sarcastic comments need to be actively made sense of, as they stand at odds with the true situation, such as giving high praise to mediocrity. Parsing such paradoxes by looking at them in different ways might kick us into a mental gear ready for complex thinking.

So you might kick-start your colleagues’ creative problem solving by showing your sarcasm on the job. Can the same be said for a generally dark sense of humor? We’d like to think so.

And is there a way not to harm anyone on the job with your biting sense of humor? Yes. As long as you’re working to bring your whole self–which includes your active listening skills and compassion for your coworkers’ feelings–you’ll remain aware should a teammate become upset by your humor.

From there, you’ll moderate your self, because you know that feeling free to exercise your whole self at work brings privileges, and responsibilities.

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7 Secrets to Center Your Self at Work [video]

It’s one of the most underrated ways of doing work.

In the course of a day, we tend to chase appreciation and approval of our work, and avoid confrontation and criticism. Problem is, it’s almost impossible to feel secure and grounded when these things come from outside of our selves.

We need ways to feel more centered in the workplace. Webster’s dictionary defines being “centered” as being “emotionally stable and secure.”

What does that mean?

Alicia Graf Mack has an answer. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company dancer was recently interviewed by William C. Rhoden about the dancer as athlete (video below), and along with Gia Kourlas’s interview in TimeOut New York, we see an outline of Mack’s insight about how to be more emotionally stable and secure on the job.

Here are the dancer’s 7 secrets to center your self at work:

1. You can tolerate pain. Writes Kourlas:

[Mack] suffers from an autoimmune disorder classified as reactive arthritis, which led to swelling and pain in her joints … [She] began teaching dance… What happens when you start teaching? You start dancing again.

Alicia Graf Mack loves to dance so much, she willfully works through her physical pain to do so. Really, for what kind of work would you accept physical pain?

2. You can’t tolerate pain. Continue reading