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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Hoping you’re wearing green so that you don’t get pinched (do you remember doing that as a kid or is that just something out of my own crazy childhood??). We’re changing things up a bit with an opinion piece but we still got Tuesday Truths!
Last week I was a panelist as well as the moderator for a Women’s Information Network (WIN) panel on Bridging the Generation Gap at the Workplace between Boomers, Generation X (my generation) and Millennials. It was a great interaction and we certainly created dialogue and prompted questions not only about generational uniqueness but also the layered nuances that each of us have experienced as women and to our individual experiences as women of color or as a member of the LGBT community. Intersectionality is something that we can’t ignore as all generations converge in the workplace.
With a less homogenous professional environment, we’re all navigating how to best move forward with our companies’ missions while handling office politics and a variety of personalities. How does anyone get anything accomplished? My associates are either getting younger or I’m just getting older 😉 In all seriousness, every cycle I tend to work with people who are recent college graduates and I always tell people that I’m not the perfect boss. However, I strive to create an environment where people feel that they are valued for their work.
Politics can be fast paced and expectations need to be set from the beginning. My office’s official hours are from 10am-6pm. Since it’s somewhat casual being that my house is also my office, I don’t really want anyone to have to stay past 6pm and with such a late start time (I remember working in campaign season when I had to report in at 7:30am), there really is no reason to why anyone should be late. I’m such a stickler with being on time (my definition of being on time is 15 minutes before the start time) that if you start off late with me, you’re going to get major attitude. Knowing what your manager considers important that may not be important to you, is key to making your own life easier. I say this from the get-go. You should be beating me to events and there are going to be times when you’ll beat me to the office because I’m doing things outside of the office that informs our work. If it’s the height of fundraising and we’re doing west coast events, we’re working later because we deal with the time difference and then we may have east coast events the next day where we need to be at the site by 7:30am. It can all be a blur but I recognize that everyone puts in a lot of hours and once the quarter starts anew, I want my team to feel refreshed – take a few hours off, blow off some steam and lets get back to work. I try to take my team to lunch once a week so that we all get a chance to ask questions of one another that is outside of the work setting. It’s a good way for people to socialize and to get to know one another better. I talk more about what we’re doing and why. A lot of my former staff enjoyed the lunches for the food alone but it was also a forum for them to ask questions and to learn. It also better informs me of what my team maybe facing if I’m too busy during the week to take notice of any problems. I’m not here to make friends but I’m here to empower you to have a better job performance. I liken it to being a coach. From the beginning, there’s always an understanding that staff will not be working for me long because it’s a shared goal to get you to the next place. A lot of jobs don’t have that understanding because they’re bigger and built to engage individuals to fulfill a particular function. When I worked on presidential campaigns, there wasn’t an employee manual. My role was to get my voter contact numbers in and move the needle forward. We’re not too concerned about the touchy feely aspects of managing. There were no such things as job performance reviews or a real HR department. So when it’s time to transition to a work place where those things do exist, it can be awkward.
Expectations are how partnerships are formed and team work product is evaluated. I will readily admit to when I screw up to my staff. They expect me to give them clear instructions and when I don’t, it shows in their work. Procedures and processes are very clear cut (we have memos and outlines on just about everything) so when we don’t follow them, we have created situations that will cause problems. I ask what’s not working and why. If there has been a fundamental change (a client has asked for a new procedure etc), we adapt and change the memos to reflect that so that we’re all on the same page. If you as a staffer can help create more efficient processes, your value has increased in my book. Less time working on getting something done with the same quality of work is a good thing. All that being said, I’m working in a profession that allows for a lot of flexibility. Those individuals who are at a different economic status may be working hourly positions and that is a different environment in terms of negotiating and expectations. There is no one size fits all. It gets tricky when women are advocating on behalf of women when the constituency in itself doesn’t fit into the same mold either. I respect Sheryl Sandberg’s efforts because it brings a necessary conversation but we also need to engage those individuals who don’t have the same kind of flexibility. The New Republic highlights that in the article about #leanintogether.
You see that I haven’t really talked yet about intersectionality even though it’s a topic that is just underneath it all. Generational uniqueness in communicating with one another is a challenge all into itself and then layer anything else on top of that and you have quite a pickle. How do we have better conversations so that our generational uniqueness allows us to evolve and better understand one another? Is it possible to educate? As a person of color, I grew up with an Asian mother and a Caucasian father in a predominantly African American neighborhood but I would have to remind myself that I was Asian American by looking in the mirror. Why? Because I really didn’t take notice of race and in that I had to learn about challenges and discrimination through the experiences of my friends and colleagues. I didn’t have real first hand knowledge and that is an example of the privilege that I grew up with in my life. As a result, I try to inform myself by talking with others in my community of their experiences and learn about micro aggressions/prejudices that are common. Just like we can’t pigeonhole generations, every constituency has had varying degrees of prejudice within their own constituency. This topic is never going to be comfortable but the more it’s discussed in a safe environment without judgement and fosters steps for improvement, it helps all of us to evolve.
I was asked earlier about an article that I shared about how allies can best help in this cause so I’m sharing it here and I also wanted to share a post where it helps to outline a way to which a dialogue can get started that may be a good jumping point for your own workplace. Got comments/questions – drop them in the comments section!!
Now for Tuesday Truths!
- Even as I try to provide a resource for those who are less experienced, I also strive to provoke thought to my peers. Here’s a good one as we start to reach a point in our lives when we begin to think about life after work: retirement! In my personal definition, it means that I will still take an active part in politics and be happy to watch from the sidelines, but it also includes time to explore new adventures and interests.
- If you’re just starting out in your career and want a little direction so that you’re going down a strategic path, you may want to check out these steps and advice from leaders who want to share their experiences. If you’re already on your path but need help to focus or you’re feeling stagnant in your current position, these same steps can help you as well. All great advice to having a better experience in your career.
- It doesn’t come as a surprise that I’m a huge advocate for training. I spent part of my weekend training the DC chapter of the New Leaders Council on fundraising. Having started my political career in the Training Department of the DNC, it really has affected my perspective on how training helps to engage our constituencies. A former DNC colleague of mine, Joe Fuld makes an excellent point about the future of the progressive movement and training in a recent blog post. Check it out!
Thanks for reading/sharing and if you have comments, drop them in the comments section!