Come Out at Work: As Undocumented

If you want to change the world, that is.

We’re reminded of the pain and anguish that can be part of revealing your true self at work. While exposing our vulnerabilities often makes us stronger, it can also come with great risk. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas knows first hand, and in the New York Times he recently asked the journalistic questions to himself and published the story of coming out as an undocumented American.

Born in the Philippines, at the age of twelve Vargas was sent by his mother to live in America with relatives.  He earned a merit-based scholarship to California State University San Francisco, and through diligent work–and sometimes illegal means–as a first year student he gained employment at The San Francisco Chronicle. Vargas built on this experience, and procured journalist roles at other preeminent media outlets such as The Philadelphia Daily News, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

But his identity as an undocumented immigrant took unsustainable amounts of energy to hide. In the Times, he recounts: Read more

When is it OK to Change Your Mind? [video]

Let’s get right to the answer: always. It’s always OK to change your mind at work, as long as you remain thoughtful and emotionally grounded in your decisions.

Case in point: New York State Senator Mark Grisanti (R-North Buffalo) who spoke on Friday during the Marriage Equality Act floor debate. Said Grisanti:

I have never in the past four months researched an issue or met with so many people and groups on a single issue such as this.  I have struggled with this immensely, I can tell you that.  I have read numerous documents, independent studies, talked with a lot of people on both sides of this issue.

As a Catholic I was raised to believe that marriage was between a man and a woman.  I’m not here however as a senator who is just Catholic.  I’m also here with a background as an attorney, through which I look at things and I apply reason.

I know that with this decision, many people who voted for me will question my integrity a short time ago.  I tell you though that I have studied this issue.  For those that know me, they know that I have struggled with it.

To those whose support I may lose, please know that in the past what I was telling you, and what I believed at that time was the truth.  But by doing the research and ultimately doing what I believe to be the right thing, to me shows integrity.

I would not respect myself if I didn’t do the research, have an open mind and make a decision  — an informed decision — based on the information before me.  A man can be wiser today than yesterday, but there’ll be no respect for that man if he has failed in his duty to do the work.

I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage.  Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife who I love, or that have the 1300-plus rights that I share with her?

We admire the way he openly works the various parts of him self: Catholic, senator, attorney, man and husband. And in addition to the signing of the glorious bill into law, the result of his actions include Governor Mario Cuomo’s accolades. The New York governor referred to Senator Grisanti as “people of courage and people of principle.”

To be sure, in exploring the act of changing your mind, we don’t mean reacting impulsively, or not remaining true to what you believe (*cough* CindyMcCain). We’re talking about the necessarily introspective re-consideration of an idea or belief.

Watch Senator Grisanti’s whole, yet brief, speech.

What have you experienced when you’ve changed your mind at work?

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Come Out at Work: With Graves’ Disease

Superstar Missy Elliott has revealed that she’s living with Graves’ Disease, the autoimmune disease linked to an overactive thyroid gland. Symptoms can include insomnia, irritability, heat sensitivity, muscular weakness, eye changes, lighter menstrual flow, rapid heart beat, and hand tremors. In a public statement she said:

I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease about three years ago but it really hasn’t slowed me down at all. I rocked my performance on VH1 Hip Hop Honors’ tribute to Timbaland last year. I’ve written and produced a bunch of Grammy-nominated, #1 hits… I toured the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. And on top of all that, I’m working on my new album. I feel great. Under my doctor’s supervision, I’ve been off medication for about a year and I’m completely managing the condition through diet and exercise.

While Elliott may not be in tune with the nuanced influence of her physical condition on her work, we can sense the relief she feels in relating her life events of the last three years. She simply wants to be heard and understood.

It seems so simple: being heard and understood on the job. Yet experiencing both can be truly powerful, and bring you great joy.

Have you listened to — and understood — a coworker of yours today?

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Let Out Your Inner Drummer [video]

We loved The Carpenters back in the day, and “Superstar” remains up there among our all-time favorite songs. The duet comprised Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard Carpenter, based in Southern California. What you may not know is that Karen identified first as a drummer, and as a singer second.

Which can be hard to believe given how silky her voice was. Take a look below at the absolute joy she exudes while banging those drums! Her drumsticks seem to be a natural extension of her hands.

While Karen desired both to drum and sing for the Carpenters, Richard wanted her not to hide behind the hulking drum sets, and to be seen more fully at the front of the stage only singing. It was a more commercially appealing proposition, and so Karen came center stage, away from her beloved drums.

Legend has it that her new placement on stage ultimately contributed to her demise. It seems without the creative and rhythmic outlet of drumming, along with difficult family dynamics and–oh, yes–international stardom, Karen Carpenter developed anorexia nervosa. She succumbed to the eating disorder early in 1983.

What do we learn here? If you have a strong desire, or something essential in you — a talent and drive for drumming, or a proclivity to create order out of reams of data —  exercise it! Let it all hang out, and not only will you feel freer at work, you’ll likely meet great success.

It would have been exciting to see what would become of the Carpenters’ success had Karen stuck to the drums.  We’re bummed that we’ll never know.

What do you have inside of you that needs to be let out?

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Reveal Emotions, Decrease Anxiety

The newest champion of bringing your whole self to work is Anne Kreamer, who recently published It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace. She distilled the essence of her book in an article called “Taking Emotions to Work” printed this weekend in the New York Times.

The last paragraphs of the article zero in on a message we promote at Whole Wide Work, that there are productive benefits to feeling and relating your emotions on the job. From the Times article:

I like to imagine that if men and women were to express more emotion routinely and easily at work — jokes, warmth, sadness, anger, tears, joy, all of it — then as a people we might not feel so chronically anxious and overwhelmed. By denying the range of emotional expressiveness intrinsic and appropriate to the workplace, we find ourselves at a loss for how to handle this brave new boundary-less world.

Overtly acknowledging how and in what measure anger, anxiety, fear and pleasure color and shape our working lives can help us manage those emotions and use them to our benefit, both at work and at home.

What we’re striving to avoid is anxiety, usually the culprit in worker malaise, and often the product of suppressing feelings on the job. So the more you let out, the less anxious you are. And naturally, the less anxious you are, the more productive you can be.

The reviews of the book are in, and those seeking a better understanding of anger in the workplace, for example, may find some relief in these pages.

Have you decreased your anxiety in the workplace by revealing more of your feelings? Do tell–

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Come Out at Work: As Bereaved

When you Google “Haig Chahinian,” you easily come across a blog we created in memory of our sister, Alice, who died in a car wreck nearly five years ago. To be sure, it’s full of raw pain and anguish, not atypical after losing a loved one.

A few months ago we wrote to the alumni association of our high school alma mater and asked the newsletter editor to remove the reference to Alice’s blog. We received no answer, and thought about asking again, because we’ve felt somewhat exposed by those Google results. Ironic, right? We’ve spent years writing and publishing that chronicle on the World Wide Web, so go figure.

Well, on one hand, we’re working so diligently to be seen as an expert on the intricacies of professional development, and when we feel vulnerable, Alice’s blog seems like a liability. On the other, we know that whoever may experience a family member’s death and then read the blog will find comfort. We are proud of what we’ve written, and how we initially cut our blogging chops there.

Ultimately, we decided to stand by the Google results, and in effect we’ve come out as bereaved.

What does this mean about the work we do? Three things. 1. We’re in a helping profession, and the blog is a resource for those with a similar family event. 2. It represents an absolute truism about us, that we readily relate to pain and sadness that may be present at work.

And 3. We had a beautiful sister.

Have you come out as bereaved at work? How has this influenced your experience?


Come Out and (Press) Play

June is LGBT–lesbian, gay, bi and trans–Pride month, when queer folks and allies come together in the name of pride and the pursuit of equality, inside and outside of the workplace.

Coinciding with the occasion, In the Life Media has produced a series of videos called “LGBT Executives Speak Out” in which corporate and non-profit leaders reveal their advocacy work. Press the play button to view the segment above, which features Bobby Wilkinson of State Farm Insurance.

The series is an interactive supplement to “A Message of Hope” viewable in its entirety here.

How do you like the videos?

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