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Editorial: How *not* to advocate for women at work

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sexism seems to be a never ending cycle. But just because you’re not being sexist yourself doesn’t mean your ignorance or complying isn’t spurring it along.

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Ever-present sexism gremlin

It’s no secret that women have had more than a fair share of workplace challenges, especially in terms of pay inequality, limited promotion opportunities, and overt sexism in many situations.

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There is a fair amount of literature, research, and training to help deal with those challenges, but there is certainly a lot of work to do. (Check out some of that research on pay inequality here: https://iwpr.org/issue/employment-education-economic-change/pay-equity-discrimination/ )

Helping vs hurting

And while many men endeavor to be comrades to the women we share our workspaces with, sometimes a well-meaning statement can actually be quite damaging to our female colleagues.

Frankly, (us) men need to be better allies to our female team members, and there are a few fronts from which we can start to do that. One of those areas is tackling the issue of benevolent sexism.

Subtle sexism

Benevolent sexism, is an (often subtle) approach to which we characterize women as something that needs protection.

This manifest itself in a lot of different forms.

Statements on how women have “motherly instincts” are more caring, compassionate, “make good secretaries or nurses”, they are so much more beautiful, etc. – and this type of sexism ultimately serves to put women in a subordinate status. What makes it so insidious, is that it sounds so nice.

Benevolent Sexism

Glick and Fiske coined this term, and their research supports that this type of sexism is just as problematic as that overt, and sometimes violent, hostile sexism.

Now the question going forward is what can you do?

As men, how are we supposed to confront this in the workplace?. Because sexism is a man’s problem as well – harmful male stereotypes are built on sexism towards women. Here are a couple of recommendations from this guy to my fellow men:

1. Admit it when there is a problem.
The first step is recognizing that even if you believe you were trying to be “nice” and that people should “just take a compliment”, that you have demeaned your colleague and done a professional and likely personal disservice. Be accountable.

2. Focus on her competencies.
All of us want to be taken seriously as professionals. Focus on the quality of the work, not just things like “you’re so sweet, what a team player”. Research shows women are more often described as communal, rather than focusing on their own skills and abilities. [Office1] When you describe or praise your female colleagues, focus on their competencies and what they are bringing to the table.

3. Appearance is not the start.
Avoid an over focus on appearance, looks, and perceptions of attractiveness.

4. Credentials.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Marcus, and this is my colleague, Brenda.”. What’s wrong with this sentence? The answer: Brenda is also a doctor in this example. When Dr. Marcus introduces by her first name he has undermined her credibility and authority as a medical professional. Provide the same level of respect you would give your male colleagues by honoring credentials, licenses, and education.

5. Respect boundaries.
Being a woman in the workplace does not mean there is an open invitation to be overly casual, informal, or not observe the same personal space boundaries that you would with a male colleague, regardless of position.

Off ya go

There is more to be said to this message, but these are five things to start with. Let’s take an approach that successfully allows us to recognize the incredibly valuable contributions from our female colleagues, and start telling the nicely dressed, but utterly atrocious colleague called benevolent sexism that it has no place in our organizations.

#ByeByeBenevolence

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Opinion Editorials

How to turn your complaint mindset into constructive actions

(EDITORIAL) Everybody knows someone who complains too much. While being open is important for mental health, constant bellyaching is not.

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Everybody knows someone who complains too much. While being open is important for mental health, constant bellyaching is not, so here are a few tips on turning your complaints into constructive actions.

It’s important to understand the difference between “complaining” and “addressing.” Talking about problems which mandate discussion, bringing up issues slated to cause larger issues down the line, and letting your boss know that you have the sniffles all fall into the latter category due to necessity; complaining is volitional, self-serving, and completely unnecessary in most contexts.

Complaining also puts you in an excessively bad mood, which may prevent you from acknowledging all the reasons you have not to complain.

Another point to keep in mind is that complaining occasionally (and briefly) isn’t usually cause for ostracization. Constant or extensive complaining, however, can lead others to view you as a largely negative, self-centered person — you know, the kind of person literally no one actively seeks out — which is why you should focus more on redirecting that negative energy rather than using it to remind your barista why they gave up their dream of becoming a therapist.

Complaining stems from two main sources: the need to be validated—for example, for others to know what you’re going through—and the need to be comforted. Addressing a chronic complaint mindset, then, is largely about validating and comforting yourself. This is a simple solution which nevertheless can take years to manifest properly, but you can start by doing a couple of things differently.

“Focus on the positive” is perhaps the hokiest advice you’ll get from anyone, but it works. In virtually any situation, you can find a positive aspect—be it an eventual outcome or an auxiliary side-effect—on which you can concentrate. Think about the positive enough, and you’ll talk yourself out of complaining before you’ve even started.

It’s also good to remember that no one, no matter how much they care about you, can handle constant negativity. If you find yourself constantly hitting people with bad news or tragic personal updates, try mixing up the dialogue with some positive stuff. That’s not to say that you can’t be honest with people—friends, family, and colleagues all deserve to know what’s going on in your life—but make sure that you aren’t oversaturating your listeners with sadness.

Lastly, keep your complaining off of social media. It’s all too easy to post a long Facebook rant about being served cold pizza (no one likes cold pizza on day one), but this just results in your loding a complaint reaching a larger number of people than vocalization ever could. If you have to complain about something in earnest, avoid doing it anywhere on the Internet—your future self will thank you.

Being honest about how you feel is never a bad thing, but constant negativity will bring down you and everyone around you. If you can avoid a complaint mindset as a general rule, you’ll one day find that you have significantly less to complain about.

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Opinion Editorials

What Musk’s tweets say about toxicity of modern work culture

(EDITORIAL) Musk is an inspiring figure, but his recent tweets speak volumes of what’s wrong with work culture, especially in tech.

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Oh, Elon. Haven’t you learned yet? No? Your beautiful, sweet, brilliant mind. I don’t know whether you need a hug or a stern talking to — maybe both — after your crazy, erratic tweets, but Elon Musk’s Crazy Tweet of the Week™ shows a huge problem growing in the tech industry and modern work culture.

In case if you missed it, here’s what went down:

1. On Sunday, the WSJ wrote that Tesla is the “hot spot” of young job seekers and engineers, in spite of or even because of Musk.

2. Par for the course, Musk responded on Twitter with the following comments:

3. Twitter exploded with replies such as these:

If anything, this opens a discussion on a toxic tech — and honestly, American — work culture. But we’ve written about that. It seems like we’re slowly learning that 40 hour workweeks are often okay, and here’s why:

Elon isn’t normal and we shouldn’t compare ourselves.

The thing is, Musk does get more done in the average workweek than a normal person. But this is because he’s brilliant and has figured out ways to beat the system, and he has a million different ideas that other people are implementing. Elon shouldn’t compare himself to the average person, because, well, he isn’t. It’s clear he’s brilliant (and knows it), so we shouldn’t compare ourselves to him, either.

Something we can take from him: learning to automate the remedial tasks and spending our time to maximize efficiency and not waste time. And for the average person, that probably means getting a good night’s sleep or eating well (that means not just drinking Soylent. Looking at you, developers!) so you can actually be effective the next day at work or with your loved ones.

Improve your efficiency.

Are there productivity tools that you haven’t been using that you can? Are you tracking your time and how you’re spending it? If you’re an entrepreneur, or better yet, solopreneur, are there small tasks that take a lot of time that you can do better, faster, stronger? If you need some ideas, check out the years of tips accumulated here on AG.

Elon knows where his strengths don’t lie, and he has a lot of people doing those jobs. So take some of the things he does, but take it with a grain of salt. But unlike Musk, treat your employees well, don’t burn them out, and empower them to do the tasks you don’t do as well.

Most “average” humans have normal responsibilities: families, maintaining a healthy lifestyle (this means sleeping well, eating well, and exercising), and maintaining balance with other interests that make us better employees, bosses, and entrepreneurs. Remember: you’re a human being, not just a worker bee. Don’t let Elon’s Tweetstorms lead you astray.

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Opinion Editorials

How to crush your next remote job interview

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Working remotely is becoming more and more popular. Learn how to excel during a remote job interview.

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As the career landscape continues to change, so does the way in which we interview. With an increase in remote workers, there is also an increase in video interviews.

What immediately comes to mind for me was three years ago when I had a video interview with the fabulous COO of The American Genius. Since the company is based out of Austin, and I’m in Chicago, we had a video chat to see if I’d be a good fit for the company.

While it took some of the pressure off being able to be in my own home for the interview, there was definitely the con of…being in my own home for the interview. Fear of any noise or interruption posed as a slight distraction.

Like an in person interview, there are some pressures that go along with a video interview. The main one being that you need to sell yourself as an extremely responsible individual who can handle the freedoms and rigors of remote work.

Employers are looking for accountability in their remote workers. You must be able to execute your tasks in with a heightened amount of self-discipline.

This can be done through use of time trackers and proactive reporting. Keeping track of each task you do, and the time spent doing it, will provide something tangible for your employer. Be sure to explain during the interview that this is something you will provide to the employer.

Next, because there is a change in environment, and arguably a change in responsibility level, the questions asked during the interview may be different from your standard interview.

A few questions that may pop up to keep in mind: what hours will you be working? What is your remote experience like? Is this something you’re seeking for supplemental work, or trying to do full-time? What is your home workspace like? What tools do you use to keep yourself on task? What is your preferred method of payment?

In turn, there are some questions you should be prepared to ask, as in any other interview. For example: What would a typical day look like if we were working together in-house? Do you offer advancement opportunities? How many of your team members work remotely and how do we all stay in contact?

Working remotely can be a whole different beast in terms of proving yourself to your employer. Having yourself fully prepared for an interview can help start you off on the right foot.

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