Challenges to Engaging Your Whole Self at Work

A friend of ours, “Karisma,” last month attended a two-day course on lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) issues in the workplace, and left with her head spinning. What happened may surprise you.

She’s a counselor in a New York City high school, and two colleagues attended the learning program with her. We connected when she was somewhat distressed shortly after the seminar; the primary issue, in her words, was:

I tried to ‘come out’ at work during a two day training and it was a disaster for me. Internally I felt so upset I cried all the way to the ferry, obviously not a good look. I’m better now than I was, but I am still thinking about Monday and my re-entry to work.

Like many people, Karisma has preferred to separate aspects of her work life from her personal life, so the struggle to reveal her self to her coworkers is real. Still, by thinking hard about her actions and feelings in the context of her job, she’s well equipped to reap the rewards of revealing and engaging her whole self at work. Let’s look at how the events unfolded.

Karisma relates how the opening go-around began: Read more

How to Get Angry at Work

Our first guest post! The publishing arm of the American Management Association recently asked if we’d consider featuring their book Conflict 101, we said yes, and thus received a free copy of the management guide. It’s an emotionally-grounded look at how to fight fairly from 9 to 5, including how to reveal your anger productively. We asked if author Susan Shearouse would be up for writing an article for WN. We’re so pleased; here it is. -HC

When you get down to it, there are LOTS of ways to get angry at work:

  • The guy in the next cubicle keeps asking you the same questions over and over again.  When are you supposed to get your own work done?
  • Your boss comes in half an hour before quitting time with another assignment, plops it on your desk and walks away.  Seems like he pulls this every week.
  • The co-worker claims credit for the report when she turned it in.  Say WHAT???  There would be no report if you hadn’t spent hours feeding the information to her, then editing her work so that it made any sense at all.

We can work up a good mad-on just thinking about these things.  But then we hit the bigger problem: What to do with our anger once it has gotten to a rolling boil?

Blowing up can feel so satisfying in the moment.  Just telling them what you think will surely clear the air and then you can get back to work.  But it usually creates a bigger mess that is difficult to clean up. People’s feelings get bruised and a wall of distrust starts to go up.

Stuffing it doesn’t often work any better.  The problem isn’t resolved, sometimes it just gets bigger. Even though you try to forget about it, the resentment lingers, lying in wait for the next offense.

There must be another way…

Here are some things you can do the next time you feel yourself beginning to simmer with anger: Read more

Sisters Doing It for Themselves (Brothers Are, Too) [video]

The foundation of our civilization is shifting. Feel it?  NEW New York City, or Non-traditional Employment for Women in NYC, is paving the way (couldn’t help it) towards ground-breaking (stop us!) change in the limits we all place around professional development.  Check out the organization’s mission:

Founded in 1978, NEW is a sector-based workforce development program that prepares women for careers in the construction, transportation, energy, and facilities maintenance industries. NEW focuses on skilled, unionized jobs in the trades with starting wages averaging $15 per hour, benefits, and a path to higher-wage employment.

Totally hot! Not only is the promise of career advancement exciting, this is an organization that clearly encourages every member to bring her whole self to work. In the construction field, we’re talking about revealing and engaging the full extent of your strength, stamina and dexterity, plus so much more.

Now women aren’t the only ones pursuing less traditional occupations. There’s an increasing number of men taking up the role of C.E.O. support system, also known as “husband of the C.E.O.”  From the New York Times story on the men who support women C.E.O.s:

Asked at a Barnard College conference what men could do to help advance women’s leadership, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the landmark “Men and Women of the Corporation,” answered, “The laundry.”

When women and men eagerly take on non-traditional pursuits, we all benefit. These pioneers demonstrate the hard-won fulfillment and freedom that can come with eschewing the trappings of gender.

Watch the stories of some of New York City’s strongest:

This video almost brings tears to our eyes. It’s a shining example of bringing your whole self to work, for sure.

Image via

Don’t Evaluate Your Performance [video]

Word’s getting out that performance evaluations can do significant damage in the workplace. From “Get Rid of the Performance Review” in the Wall Street Journal: “[An evaluation] destroys morale, kills teamwork and hurts the bottom line. And that’s just for starters.”

What to do?

Listen to Courtney Love, natch. We just can’t contain our unending adoration of her.

In an interview last year supporting Hole’s album Nobody’s Daughter, rather than evaluating her performance, she deconstructs it.

There’s a subtle, yet significant difference between the two approaches.  An analysis describes something from different angles, without necessarily drawing conclusions.  In contrast, an evaluation judges it. What do we learn from being judged? Not so much.

Yet from an analytical breakdown, we derive plenty. Love analyzes her recent work experience in typically forthright form.  The gems:

[In Austin, Texas] I engaged the audience more, I gave them more. I don’t know if I can do that all the time. Because I give too much when I give. And I don’t know that people are appreciating what they’re seeing, and even if they are, I don’t know if that’s enough for me. So I’m very conflicted about my job.

You note her open ambivalence about her livelihood?  Nearly all of us feel ambivalent about some aspects of our employment.  In thinking critically about her relationship to her work, it feels like she’s learning about her self as she speaks.

The internal conflict continues: Read more