Anita Hill and Coach Joan (Joan Tabb) meeting, 2017
I had one of the most amazing experiences last week. I had the opportunity to personally meet with Anita Hill for a private talk of about twenty minutes when she was in San Francisco for a speaking engagement. Anita Hill, a lawyer and professor, was the first to publicly discuss sexual harassment in a Congressional federal hearing. It was 1991 and she testified that her former boss, Clarence Thomas, who was being considered to be a Justice of the Supreme Court, had sexually harassed her and should be disqualified for the appointment.
Anita Hill has been a hero of mine for decades. I value her immense bravery for opting to speak up and speak out. She spoke out about sexual harassment on the job when it was not yet widely discussed. It was happening, and it had been happening forever, and it had happened to me at around the same time, but it was not a part of our national discourse. It was an unspoken dark place that Anita Hill insisted the Judiciary Committee and the entire country visit via her testimony.
In fact, when she gave her testimony about Clarence Thomas, Hill was treated with dismissiveness. When she testified on television to Thomas’s disgusting and inappropriate behaviors, I believe many women and some men knew she was telling the truth. Nevertheless, her testimony did not receive the consideration it should have.
Clarence Thomas was not held accountable, and to this day he sits on the highest court of the land in a lifetime tenured position as Supreme Court judge, rendering decisions that impact millions of Americans.
I am writing this career advice article today to remind us all that we must speak up for respect and fair treatment, and our voices must be heard.
Meeting with Anita Hill was especially powerful as I had the opportunity to share with her my personal story. I experienced sexual harassment at work around the same time she had. I was in my mid 20s and worked for a large advertising agency in NYC. My manager was a serious alcoholic but in the two years I worked for him I learned to do his job. When he passed away I assumed I would be promoted to his position. My assumption was wrong. A middle aged man was brought in replace him. I was to be his assistant. It was awful. Not only was I not given the position I had earned, but the new manager harassed me and I left.
Unfortunately, I did not speak up. I did not speak truth to power. I was scared. I was ashamed. I quit my job and put myself in the precarious position of unemployment, leaving behind two years of excellent work, cut short by harassment.
We must educate and enlighten ourselves and our work communities to encourage respect and opportunity for all. We must judge people based their words, actions and behaviors. Those are the things that matter, that we should be judged on. We should never be accepting of behavior that demeans anyone based on gender, race or sexual orientation. And we should speak out if we see that kind of behavior.
We need to be trained and sensitized to the conscious and unconscious biases we bring to the work place and the inequities they cause.
If you are in organizations that provide sexual harassment training, diversity programs or opportunities to dialogue among your co-workers of different backgrounds, please take these opportunities seriously. Get involved, and participate. If your organizations don’t address these issues, request that they do.
And, most importantly, speak up if you see something wrong. Speak up if you are being harassed or if you see someone being harassed. If you see inequitable treatment speak up. Become an ally or an advocate. Speak truth to power.
I internalized, learned and grew from Anita Hill’s bravery. As the years went by, I became an empowered and outspoken advocate for myself, my colleagues, my employees and my clients.
It was so gratifying to have had the opportunity to thank my role model, live and in person. Anita Hill has gone on beyond her role as a brilliant lawyer and law professor to become an advocate for change in social policy on many levels. I encourage you to get to know Anita Hill. By learning her story I hope that you, too, will become empowered to stand up to for truth, respect and equal opportunity in the workplace.
May you have the courage to speak truth to power,
Re-Imagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home , Anita Hill
Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power , Anita Hill
Dear Coach Joan,
HELP! I’M LOST! I am committed to my new job and was told it would be a challenge. But without guidance and instruction I feel like I am blindfolded and headed for real trouble.
The good news is that I’ve landed a very challenging new job with a lot of responsibility, significant compensation increase and it’s in just the industry I love, design work. The bad news is that my manager is giving me so much autonomy that I really don’t know how to do my job! I have five direct reports and there is a fairly complex process by which we do our work. We carry dozens of projects at a time and all must be correctly done through th all stages. Much of this is new to me, plus I am now supervising the work of five other professionals, several who seem to resent me as they competed for this job, too. Much of the time my manager is out of the office and I’m pressed to make decisions that I often don’t feel qualified to make.
Awaiting your advice,
Yes, this is a RED FLAG situation and you need to alert your manager ASAP that you need her input. Tell her you are so appreciative that she hired you and has faith in your capabilities but that you are smart enough to recognize when you need some counsel and training.
2. ASK FOR RESOURCES: And if there are classes, blogs, webinars, books, professional training that can directly help you on the job. You also might ask her if there are other people and resources you can turn to when she is not there. You also might ask her to re-introcued you to your team, establishing your credentials and capabilities so your direct reports realize why you were selected for the job.
3. A SHADOW DAY: You also might want to see if she can commit to a day of working with you closely so you can let her know when specific issues and questions come up that you need her experience and knowledge about. A shadow day where you can do the work together and discuss her thinking and decision making process would be very helpful.
4. READ OTHER DEAR JOAN ARTICLES: And Nancy, please read my past Dear Coach Joan articles on both ‘Smart Ways to Start a new Job‘ and ‘6 Ways to be a Great Manager‘. Do a weekly status report and let your manager know that this has proven to be an excellent planning, accountability and communication tool between you and your manager. In it you list your key accomplishments for the week, plans for the next week and any open issues.
In the long run this kind of communication and conversation should help you get the training you need while building an honest and candid relationship with her.
Onward to your proactive communications, training and job success.
I’m confused. I’ve had 4 jobs in the last 15 years and none of them seem right to me. I’m in my late 30s and I feel there must be a better way for me to spend my working hours. I have a bachelor’s degree and always earned good job reviews, but my life is focused on TGIF. I can’t wait for the weekend, and want to find a way to enjoy my life during the weekdays, too.
I feel for you. Life should not be only lived on the weekends. There must be a way to find a better fit with more fulfilling and appropriate work for you on your weekdays!
Having coached hundreds of people with job and career transitions I am happy to share with you the model I’ve developed to help people come up with the right employment niche. It doesn’t mean that once you identify it you can find it immediately. It often requires a stair-step approach, sometimes getting in on a lower level, sometimes taking the time to earn a new credential, etc. But the first thing is to use this 3-step model to at least identify your niche so you can then work toward it.
The model has three parts:
Bob, the process I suggest is both internal and external. It starts with you figuring out what makes you tick and makes you happy. Then you need to look at the real life skills you can bring to an employer and ways you perhaps need to add to your employment toolbox to qualify for employment in that niche. Then you need to find the organizations and companies that would be interested in your unique drivers and skills, connect with them and make a great case for your candidacy. And of course, develop and practice telling your unique career story in a clear, compelling and passionate way, including anecdotes and examples to make it come alive to your listener.
Onward to you making all 7 days of the week enlivening ones!
Dear Coach Joan,
I’m running scared. I thought I had the perfect job. I’m in my mid-20s, working full time, and completing my college degree online. I’m in luxury sales for a European car company and have been #1 in sales for almost the last two years. The job was the perfect fit for me. High end cars have always been my passion and key interest, so I’m extremely knowledgeable, and I have naturally good people skills.
But the selling model in my industry is changing and my income is going down, fast.
The dealership has already doubled the sales force, and the commission plan has gone way down. I’m on track to make half of what I made last year.
Is it time for me to get a new job? And how do I move forward when the whole industry seems to be changing?
And where should I look if this is the only thing I know how to do, and the only thing I’m good at so far?
I feel for you. This is a tough time, indeed. And in the world of careers there are periodically tough times. This is one of those times.
First off, I’d like to recommend a book called Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. It was written during the last big recession when many people lost their jobs and had difficulty accepting the changing times. Many were taken by surprise, and this book explains that when change is thrust upon you, ready or not, you must change, too.
But how do you navigate your change? Let’s look at what you can leverage going forward, and how you can pivot to find new avenues for success:
Michael, this is a great time to learn to wake up to change, greet it and respond to it. It’s not easy but it is necessary because change does inevitably happen. And please do not quit your current job until you find a new one. You look much more attractive to employers when you have a job.
Please follow the five recommendations I made for you and let me know how you’re doing.
Onward to your career success!