Bliou Enterprises


Posts Tagged ‘sexist’

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Ideally, we want a job that requires us to work mostly on the tasks that we excel at, along with other duties that will stretch us to learn. Unfortunately, work doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as Percy* and Rosalyn* discovered.

Percy* described himself to me as a “fixer.” He said that, with most jobs he’s had, he comes into a new office and finds, “Well, a mess.”

“But, I’m very good at straightening out the mess and reorganizing systems or creating new ones, so that the whole department functions much better over time. People can find things and better understand everything, and it all works faster and better, as my systems are put into place.”

Eventually, though, after a few years, the systems that Percy has created or fixed are in place, and there’s only so much “tweaking” to be done to them. They’re up and running – and Percy wants something else to fix. This works fine now, pretty much. His work here is essentially done.

“I guess, to put it bluntly, I get bored and need another challenge,” Percy explained. “I don’t know exactly how to find that kind of job, though. You can’t really say, ‘Hey, do you have a mess that I can clean up?’”

This Fix It! didn’t seem as difficult as Percy believed, because I often have clients who will find a job listing, then go to the company’s website to learn more . . . and respond, “Oh, there’s no way I would apply for that job! They are SO disorganized!”

I suggested that Percy simply do the same search pattern – in reverse. Once he found the jobs and companies that he was interested in, research the company’s website and see how desperately in need of organization they really were. (A company’s website can be very revealing on this point.)

How easy is it to find answers to several basic questions? Are their job listings on various job sites also on their website? Do they have events listed that are current, or from months ago? How many clicks does it take to get to their donation page . . . and to complete a donation? Can you find a name and phone number of a real person, if you have a question?

Once Percy found the companies with the worst managed websites, I instructed him to write his cover letter with three basic points:

•      His interest in the current opening
•      Three suggestions to improve the company’s site immediately (implying that hiring him would yield more)
•      A brief summary of more substantial improvements that he made at previous employers

It’s important to give the potential interviewer merely a taste of your skills, and not give away everything prior to being hired, however. I explained to Percy the need to portray during the interview how, at each of his previous employers’, they went from “pre-Percy” to “post-Percy,” which, of course, was always a much better scenario.

This tactic landed Percy a position with a company that was rebuilding several systems at once – and wanted someone to manage all of them. Percy was glad to have another long term project to tackle, and they were equally pleased to have someone with his track record in charge of it.

Rosalyn* was constantly feeling that she didn’t “fit in,” where she worked. She saw others come in after her and be more welcomed – and promoted – although she knew her work was at least as good.

Eventually, a friend of hers suggested that perhaps she was being shunned for not filling some social expectations. Namely, all of the other women in her department were married and either had children, or were planning to. Rosalyn had neither.

As it turned out, Rosalyn was seriously involved with someone, and considering marriage. Upon hearing this theory, she wasn’t certain whether or not to share her engagement news at the office, once it became official.

Much to her dismay, her friend was correct, and Rosalyn was not only suddenly warmly embraced with such gestures as an office bridal shower, but she began getting more important assignments and shown a new sense of respect for her abilities on the job.

“The only thing that had changed, as far as they could see, was the band on my finger!  How in the world does that make me better at my job?”

Even this new found respect, hollow as it was, turned out to be short-lived, however. Rosalyn’s “honeymoon” was over several months later, when she realized that the other women in her department – and office – expected her to share all of her detailed plans for children: when, how many, which gender(s) she wanted, what order, their names, etc.

“I knew I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t,” Rosalyn told me, since her choices were between not sharing her future plans, or telling all of these women that she and her husband didn’t want any children.

This was clearly the time that Rosalyn decided to Forget It! and search for a position in an environment that cared much more about her professional accomplishments.

“I don’t mind an organization that is family-friendly,” Rosalyn explained, “But this was too much. They judged me by one standard and one alone . . . and it had nothing to do with the job I was hired for.”

Because she had been burned in this particular area and wanted to avoid it, I coached her to steer a bit toward family life during the interview. Certainly, it’s illegal for an employer to ask questions about marriage and children, but some cues can be picked up during chit chat.

For example, if she were in a manager’s office, she might notice a family portrait, or a piece of artwork made by a child and make a flattering remark that starts a bit of conversation. Some parents will coach little league, etc. How (and how much) they comment can be indicative. Also, of course, researching potential employers online can reveal PTA members and such.

Rosalyn ended up working for an organization that had a healthy mix of employees, and noticed this, in part, because of some of their clubs, such as a running club, that was popular in the company fitness center. The center also had some “Mommy & Me” classes, etc., and that was fine, too.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others. Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Tisha* turned negatives into positives

Nadine* realized that she couldn’t move up

Does My Manager Believe in Me?


Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

After the honeymoon period is over, your job might not be what you thought. What clues do you look for while interviewing so that you’re not surprised down the road? See what Natalie* and Olympia* learned at their new jobs.

Natalie* was pleased when she discovered that her new job was literally across the street from where she was now living!  “What could be better than that?!” she thought.  No more commute, no being late for work, no gas bills or parking, etc.  It seemed like a dream come true!

“I should have known better,” she told me, six months into her job.  “I’m old enough to realize that anything that seems too good to be true must have a catch to it.”

Although Natalie actually liked the work she was doing, there was too much of it – and she didn’t appreciate the fact that she was always the person chosen to do it.

“If my boss ever needs someone to work late, he always picks me.  Same thing for coming in early – or weekend work.  Because I’m across the street, I have become the de facto pick-up-everyone’s-slack worker!  I’m sick of it!”

“Also, I’ve noticed that I get more criticism for being late,” Natalie added.  “Now, I realize that I don’t have to drive through traffic as others do, but I’m rarely late – and there are other reasons that people are late.  Besides, I’m always working additional hours, so you’d think he’d be gracious about it, but no . . . “

Natalie and I discussed what to do about her manager’s situational ethics, since he appeared to be understanding about all the other employees’ family situations, commutes, etc. – but not hers.  She was interested in a workaround, if we could find one that didn’t lead to her being double teamed.

Something recent Natalie mentioned that had helped her situation had to do with her mother, who had had surgery.  When Natalie needed some time off to take her mother to the hospital – and subsequently stay with her over the weekend – she noticed that nobody at the office contacted her for any evening or weekend work.  (Her mother doesn’t live near the office.)

I suggested a several-pronged plan of attack, to give her manager and co-workers the impression that she wasn’t home, even if she was:

•     Publicize to people at work an exaggerated need for her mother’s convalescent care, which will require more regular and extended visits from Natalie to her mother’s home
•    Change interior decorating, such as curtains, etc. to her apartment, so that it isn’t apparent when she is or isn’t home from viewing across the street
•    While at home, park her car not within view of the office, so co-workers aren’t aware if she’s home or not
•    Don’t call the office from home, or otherwise publicize your whereabouts during days off.

Once Natalie followed these guidelines, her manager – and other staff members – read the cues she laid out for them, and responded in kind.  She was able to Fix It! and remain in her job.  She was pleased that this method allowed her to keep her private life private . . . and public life . . . well, public.

Olympia* was having difficulty getting a position in marketing when she had moved to this new area, since she didn’t have many contacts, so she was pleased when she finally landed her position with this company, but after a while she felt singled out – and not only because she was “the newest employee.”

What she noticed very soon was that she was the only woman in the marketing department, and whenever there was a boring or meaningless task of cleaning up this or that to do (whether figuratively or literally), her director would end up finding a reason for her to do it.

In the beginning, she simply complied, but this was beginning to get ridiculous.  She finally challenged him and said, “Actually, I’m really busy with (project).  Couldn’t ______ handle it?”

This is when she saw not only her director’s horrified reaction, but her “co-workers’” as well.  It became obvious that they never saw her as a co-worker, and that it wasn’t a coincidence that her predecessor was the only other woman in the department.

“I certainly didn’t have to guess about how my pay stood up next to the other guys’ in the department, once I found out that I was a glorified secretary!”  Olympia exclaimed.  It took us several months to find her something else after that, but this was the turning point when she decided to Forget It!

Olympia made a concerted effort in subsequent interviews to be acutely aware of not only how many women were on staff in each organization, but what their positions were . . . and how they were treated, spoken to, and so forth, during her time there.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Bonnie* and Caitlin* work to redefine what’s acceptable

Virgil* and Zola* are unprepared for gossip

Gertrude* and Hector* find teamwork almost impossible


Fix It or Forget It?

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Over the years spent designing resumes and coaching people who are interviewing, I’ve heard a variety of stories about the workplace – usually this or that situation(s) which has led someone to begin looking for a new position.  Often, it’s not the job or work itself that leads someone to leave, but the environment, people, lack of mobility, etc.

Once they come to me, the question often becomes “Should I start looking – or just forget about (it)?”

On Fridays, I’m going to give examples of Fix It or Forget It in the workplace, and I invite you to send me examples that you’ve either encountered, or know about from someone else.  I’ll be sure to remove or alter any identifying characteristics in the story, including names.

Here are two examples to begin with:

Brenda* told me that a (male) co-worker of hers was continually making unflattering comments about her physique:  “Looks like you’re not working out as much, lately, huh?  Putting on some weight there, aren’t you?”

After a few weeks of this, she finally mustered up the courage to approach their shared supervisor about it – also a man.  This was not an easy thing for her to do, as she is not confrontational.   She rehearsed what she was going to say, how she wasn’t complaining about his performance, but his comments were bothering her, etc.

Her supervisor’s response:  “Hmm . . . well, you haven’t been working out as much lately, have you?”

She was so stunned and flabbergasted at his unexpected response, she stammered, “Well, no. . . I’ve been pretty busy working on ____ and ___,” and she tried not to cry in front of him.  (She didn’t succeed in not crying while recounting the story to me, however.)

In Brenda’s case, the conclusion was to Forget It, and we worked on getting her another job!  Educating her supervisor would seem to be a full time job in itself, so why bother?

For Charlotte*, however, she was able to Fix It:

Charlotte was relatively new to her position – about 6-8 weeks on the job, doing database management and already known as the geek.  She was attending a staff meeting at a small organization where there was no agenda and everyone took a turn speaking his/her mind around the table. . . whether they really had anything to report or not.

One older gentleman decided to “report” on his relocation near the women’s restroom and his tally of how many daily visits each woman made to the bathroom, chiding some of the “sixes and sevens”!

Although the (all male) senior staff were visibly embarrassed, they said and did nothing to stop his “routine.”  The mostly young junior female staff giggled nervously.  Charlotte was new, but when he continued another few minutes, she had had it and decided that someone had to intervene – yet diplomatically.

She offered to lend her data skills to “assist him” with his statistical research project and began citing some mathematical errors in his “calculations.”  This finally led the CEO to stop the spectacle and continue the meeting.

Two positive things resulted from Charlotte’s actions:

The gentleman came to her office the next day (obviously sent) to apologize for his actions.  After he explained, “I was just kidding, you know,” Charlotte told him that a woman had later thanked her for speaking up.  He was shocked – and possibly learned something.

Agendas were instituted for staff meetings the following month.  If a staff member didn’t have something to submit, they didn’t speak.  Policy had been changed!

Particularly in this market, it’s important to look carefully at the situation overall and see if it is time to start looking or if you can assess what needs to change to make your current situation better.  A critical analysis can pay off so that, if nothing else, you feel more self assured that you are making the correct decision.


Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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