Advice to my daughter – You signed your first contract.

You’ve just finished your trial period and you’ve finally received your first contract – the infamous Graal. I know that you’re relieved, ecstatic, after this little victory. However, you’re still very aware that life is starting now and that the challenges to come are at least as hard as the past ones. Thus, once you’ve celebrated on social media, called your best friend, and drank champagne with your family (in this order), it’s time to prepare for the next step.


Your colleagues appreciate you, they consider you like a young girl who is really motivated and brings a bit of fresh air to this slightly dusty service. A few even went to the bar with you to celebrate your new contract.

Now that you’ve managed to fit in, it’s finally time for you to make your mark in the service. So far, you were mainly there to learn, but now it’s important for you to prove that you bring some added value to the team.

Normally, you’ve already identified your allies. Those who will defend you when you say something dumb, who are infinitely patient when you ask a million questions (I know how annoying you can be in those moments) and who always find time to help you in your training. This first group is like a little cocoon where you feel good, and you’re welcome in all circumstances. However, there are also other types of colleagues. This second group is made of the neutral ones, those who ignore you because: “You understand, miss, we’ve seen a lot of young ones like you. We are still here and we have better things to do than to waste our time with this new recrue who may not make it past Spring.”

They’re not even the worst. There’s a third group of colleagues, more negative, who have decided to make your life hell, because for them, welcoming a novice rhymes with hazing: “She needs to suffer as much as we did when we started, following this wonderful tradition that we’ve created”

There’s your new challenge. Conquering the recalcitrants.

Why? Because during the first three months, you learned everything you needed to know from the first group. Now, you need to get to know the second group, and even the third one. This is going to require more patience, and you’ll need to be more strategic, but it’s a sinequanone condition to expand your circle of acquaintances and prove that you have what it takes to be a leader. With the first group, it was easy, almost anyone can be friends with them, but you now have to put your leadership skills forward and prove that you can be a part of any team.

There are several proven successful methods, like going for coffee breaks, asking about Sunday activities, knowing the children’s names, and even the grandchildren if needed, and showing an increasing interest in their projects. I’m not saying that it should be forced, or that you have to be a hypocrite! No, just remember that we’re all human and that if someone is a bit cold, it may only be because they don’t know you.

Is it all? No, not at all, that would be too easy.

You were humble during your training and you tried to avoid being seen as the pedantic young girl who thinks she knows it all. It’s a great quality, which people sometimes forget about, and I’m proud of you. But now, it’s time to show what you’re worth. If you don’t want to be seen as the ‘nice little one’ forever, who’s agreeable to work with and always there to help, but that no-one can imagine in a leadership role – even in the far far future, then it’s time to act now, before you get put in that box. And believe me, it’s so difficult to get rid of such a label that you often end up identifying with it and acting as is expected of you, entering a vicious cycle.

You’re seeing the company with fresh eyes. You graduated from a great engineering school. Clearly, since you arrived, you must’ve seen a lot of things that have shocked you or surprised you, and your head must be buzzing with ideas to improve current processes, both in the working life and in the projects that you’ve studied. No?

But you’re scared. Scared that your ideas might be stupid, or worse, that what you say might embarrass you in front of your colleagues. Afraid of being the one who’s going to question the established order and particularly afraid of confronting Robert, the guardian of traditions. You know that there’s little room to maneuver, and Robert has accepted you but he’s keeping an eye on you and was very clear about the fact that your youthful charm won’t lower his harsh judgment on your competencies.

It’s now time to step out of your comfort zone. You can keep using your angelic air to ask questions on the processes that are more and more precise and inquisitive. And slowly, you’ll start suggesting ideas for improvement.

And to make sure that you’ll actually do it – that you won’t spend the next ten years in your little cocoon, regretting the fact that you didn’t shake the system, I have a challenge for you. You pick whichever project you want, you give yourself three months (or less, but not more), and you come back to me. When I say ‘come back to me’, I won’t get offended if you’d rather do this challenge with a friend.

And in three months, we meet up. If you won, dinner’s on me, if not, dinner’s on you, in my favorite restaurant. This project is yours – it could be, for instance, to get rid of all the plastic bottles in the office, or it could be something more in line with the industrial processes. It really doesn’t matter.

What matters is to start a ‘disruptive’ project, with a measurable objective, with a reasonable deadline, to prove that you have the power to change things when you put your heart into it.

Good luck (this would be a good time to shake hands) and see you in three months.

Recipe 3 – Do not take things personally

It may seem contradictory to some of my previous writings… indeed, I advocate finding a job that we love, with values ​​in which we identify. This often involves personal commitment.

And that’s exactly why I want to write about this topic. It’s so easy to take everything personally. A negative e-mail? “My boss does not love me”, a project rejected? “My boss does not love me”, comments on our action plan? “My boss does not love me”, I was not invited to an important meeting? “My boss does not love me. “

Do you realise that you sound just like Calimero *?

It’s true that it can happen, a boss who doesn’t like us. That can be terrible, especially if it turns into harassment. But before we get to that point, let’s make sure that this disenchantment is real.

 We all have natural affinities and colleagues we “like” more than others … It’s human, of course, but that does not justify treating people differently in the workplace.

 So, how do we dissociate the work from the affect?

 The first thing to do is to sit down and think. Don’t let your emotions take over.

And then, ask yourself what the reason of the rejection/oversight/etc. is.

A project can be rejected because it is badly put together, it was badly sold, or it is not just in the current strategy of the company. You really have to step back at that point. It can be difficult, if you’ve been working on it for months, to accept all this wasted time, but it’s often an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and ask for a meeting with your boss to understand what could be improved next time. Above all, avoid building a bad reputation by reacting emotionally. Getting offended and rejecting criticism will only worsen the situation, and give the image that you’re arrogant.

Most of the time, once we accepted that there can be good reasons for our project to be rejected, things get better.

But there are the other moments… the e-mail that’s a bit too direct, or even aggressive, following a delay on a project; the meeting that we haven’t been invited to; the e-mail on which we weren’t copied…

There, it is even easier to take it personally … “If my boss respected me, she/he would not write to me like that.”

Except that it depends on the type of boss. I’m one of those bosses who get straight to the point and who consider that sending a direct email to someone on the team is a sign of trust. Because this person knows that I am very busy, and we know each other well enough to avoid wasting time.

A few simple rules to follow in this case: (after having passed the infamous “I’ll sleep on it”)

1 – Wonder if the boss is doing the same thing with everyone? (or more simply, avoid paranoia)

2 – Put yourself in the shoes of the boss – Would I do the same if I were in her/his place? Is he doing it to increase efficiency for example? Does her/his level of stress explain certain shortcomings (even if his role should be not to pass on this infamous stress)? Or was it simply a human mistake (because we all make mistakes, and it’s alright)?

3 – Is it really that bad? Am I not overreacting? Sometimes, when tired, it is easy to exaggerate very trivial signs

4 – Did we interpret the tone of the e-mail correctly? The problem with e-mails is that they are, by definition, silent. There is no tone of voice that goes with them and that allows us to understand if it’s humor, or if the tone is benevolent. So, in doubt, always think that it was written in a positive way. This will avoid stressing too much.

And if none of that works, if you continue to think there’s a problem, then sometimes the best is to break the ice and just calmly ask your boss or colleague what’s going on.

But in the end, you always have to assume that they’re attacking an opinion, a position, or sometimes a role, but very rarely a person. So we send Calimero* back to our childhood cartoons and we go back to the office with a beautiful smile!

Note – Of course, I’m talking about normal relationships at work. In case of harassment, it’s a whole other topic that I’ll discuss one day in an article.

* For the young generation who might be reading me… Calimero is a little black chick who walks around with his eggshell on his head and a bundle on his shoulder. His favorite phrase: “Life is really too unfair!”

Don’t take No for an answer

One day, I was asked to give an inspiring speech to a hundred young professionals with high potential from a big company. I wasn’t a speaker, but they’d contacted me because I had impressed a few managers during a round table.

In my speech, I shared the secrets that had allowed me to reach an executive position. Recipes that I am proposing  to share with you through a series of articles:

First piece of advice: “Don’t take No for an answer”.

(I’ll say it now, this only applies to the professional sphere. In the personal environment, No always means “NO!”)

I’m going to tell you a little anecdote that I’d mentioned in my first article, but this time to understand it from the perspective of the “no”.

Enrolled in engineering school, I go to the career fair. Having met a field engineer shortly before, I am absolutely convinced that it’s what I want to do – this, and nothing else! So I head towards the company stand and tell the recruiter that I’m interested in the position. He looks at me from head to toe and answers “No”. It could’ve ended there and I wouldn’t be here today. But it made me angry. What do you mean “No”? Why “No”? You don’t know anything about me or my CV. I won’t take this no. I’m asking for an explanation and I won’t leave until I get one. Plus, my CV as a future graduate is rather good. I’m president of the student union and I led the biggest event of the school, organized a charity project in Mali… so there’s no logical reason for this no, except maybe… But even 30 years ago, you couldn’t tell a woman that she couldn’t apply for a job on the only basis that she was a woman. So I stay there… one hour, two hours… until I wear him out. He ends up giving me a questionnaire, probably to get rid of me. But a few months later, here I was, in Warri – Nigeria, starting as a field engineer on an oil rig, only woman amongst 80 men.

But why did he say No? That’s the real question. Truth is, I’m putting him in a situation he’s never faced before. He has never recruited a woman for this job and never imagined that a woman could go have a little walk on a rig. He’s not prepared at all for such a request. By addressing him such a direct request, I’m taking him out of his comfort zone. Most people fear the unknown and panic. They say No, without really knowing why. It’s an automatic defense mechanism, simply because it’s never been done before and the obstacles seem impossible to jump (that being said, although it’s not the subject of this article, he wasn’t completely wrong…it was so complicated that I later wrote a book about it, La Pétroleuse).

Except that following your boss’ instructions without ever saying No rarely allows you to accomplish things that are out of the ordinary and to evolve in your career.

So every No needs to be analyzed before being accepted.

If the No comes after an intense time of reflection and the study of all the ins and outs of the project with your superior, then it might be valid. Although, it could also mean that it has been argued poorly, and that the data collection work and the facts to support the theory are not comprehensive enough. So this is the time to ask yourself if there’s a possibility of reopening the debate later, once you’ve built a stronger case. However, you can’t let it become obsessive, because you can sometimes get a second chance, but rarely a third.

If the No comes immediately, peremptory, we fight back. The war is not over yet.

Maybe a similar experience has been tempted, unsuccessfully. It’s important to understand what didn’t work and take it into account so that you can write your new proposal in a way that shows that a positive result is possible if we change certain parameters. It’s also plausible that new technologies have made the impossible possible. However, be sure not to make the assumption that maybe you were wrong and that you underestimated some data. That’s also what experience is for!

But if the No is just a boss who has decided not to move, or who was in a bad mood that day, then it’s more complicated. Having a fight with your boss is rarely a good idea. In this case, try to negotiate the right to test your idea, either through a pilot study or on a little, risk-free site. Basically, the idea is to create tangible evidence that our project is feasible on the field, rather than through slides.

And if all of this doesn’t work, especially if it has happened more than once, then maybe your mind is too innovative for this society and you need to decide if you want to continue doing what you’re told without questioning it, or if it’d be preferable to find a greener patch of grass that would fit your personality better.

In each new position that I had, I questioned the established order, I transformed the job. It wasn’t easy and I often faced a lot of uncertainty and Nos from my managers, but I found a way to bounce back and bring them onboard.

If you asked me today what allowed me to climb the ladder, this refusal of the established order would definitely be one of the main reasons.

My first steps on a platform – part two

I was telling you in a previous article about my first steps on a platform, explaining the little hassles I faced. Today, I would like to discuss with you the notion of human relations. As you can imagine, being the only woman amongst 80 men wasn’t always simple.

During the first trips, I stay in the shadow of my tutor. I try to remain unnoticed, I make myself as small and possible and don’t go anywhere without him.

Being in training, I am not sure I understand what is happening around me, which doesn’t help me to assert myself. I’m not ready for the slightest confrontation; I don’t feel armed for that.

Nevertheless, my skillset expands rapidly. I become increasingly comfortable and start to gain in confidence.

And then one day, my tutor is called urgently on another mission. Ours isn’t finished, but what is left is easy enough for me to take over the project. There I am, alone for the first time.

A few minutes after his departure, while the helicopter is still in sight, the phone of our work unit rings. A voice, obviously a man’s, tells me that he’d like to get to know me better. My answer is icy : « this phone call is a mistake and I will forget it. But if you call me again, I will file a complaint against you to the head of the platform. »

You might be wondering, why such a violent reaction to this request ? Because this innocent request occurs in the middle of the sea, and I’m the only woman on board. I need to establish the rules from the start. And what might come off as a nice introduction in a normal environment cannot be allowed on a rig.

Thankfully, positioning myself from the first day was enough to build my reputation and no-one bothered me from that day on.

What happens if you don’t react like that? Actually it happened when a young intern joined us. She was much more polite than me, so she quickly became overwhelmed with requests of all kinds. Once again, nothing aggressive or mean, but it made her very uncomfortable and I had to intervene to make it stop.

A first clarification from the beginning is enough. Once the rules are established, it becomes possible to have friendly relations with colleagues, very nice indeed, because any kind of ambiguity has vanished. Again, I’m talking about an extreme environment. A woman who works in an environment that is almost exclusively male often understands the rules of the game as a result of an unpleasant experience. To avoid that, it is better to be firm from the start. Observe for a while, step-up and don’t let ordinary sexism shake you.

A few weeks later, once my training period is over, my first mission begins. It is a disaster. 30 years ago, we were constantly juggling with tools that take measurements at the bottom of the well, tickling the limits of that technology (> 120 degrees…etc.). Breakdowns can happen and our formation teaches us how to deal with them. My first solo job… and my first failure. This is a rather minor one, which doesn’t affect the hydrocarbon reservoir area, and therefore has no real impact. However, I submit a file with inconsistent results and erratic measures. The client, angry, seizes that opportunity to try and switch engineers to get « rid » of me. Long story short, he’s not willing to do me any favors and is certainly not ready to accept the inconveniences resulting from my inexperience. Having a woman on board is already complicated to manage, so he doesn’t tolerate any mistakes on her part.

I haven’t often been confronted to this kind of sexism, which requires women to be better than men and which doesn’t forgive anything. My boss supports me and I return to the same platform shortly after. This time, the mission runs smoothly – so much so that the client later asked my boss not to replace me. Once I had been accepted, he started appreciating what this feminine presence was bringing to the overall work atmosphere.

The first steps are difficult, to better walk the next ones.

My career as a female engineer: How I was hired to work on an oil platform.

Welcome to my blog on Usine Nouvelle, for which I am preparing a series of articles that I could call “What is it like for a woman working in a very masculine industry? ”

After all, does my male counterpart understand what we are facing? Does a young engineer fresh out of school know what is really waiting for her?

The idea is not to talk about statistics, quotas, laws, salaries, etc. I want to share my experiences in an environment still too little feminized, and above all to understand the invisible difficulties, the famous unconscious bias and other obstacles that hinder the career of a woman in the industry. As a starting point I will return to the beginning of my career. After 30 years of working in the oil  and then cement industries, my recruitment now seems a distant memory.

How did I enter the oil industry?

When I was a student mechanical engineer at INSA Lyon, like many young people of my age, I did not know what I wanted to do, but I was sure of one thing, I did not want a routine job, or to work in an office. It was then that I discovered the profession of field engineer and it was love at first sight, a profession perfect for me! At a recruitment forum, I made my way to the Schlumberger stand, an oilfield services company, and I asked the recruiter how to apply for a job. He looked at me nonchalantly and said “This is not a job for you,” without asking me a single question. Even though my CV was more than acceptable for a fresh-out : A humanitarian mission in Mali, an industrial internship in Brazil and presidency of the Student Government at my University, all by the tender age of 21 years.

I told him that I would not budge until he gave me a plausible explanation so I stayed there … 1 hour … 2 hours … 3 hours … Faced with my unshakable motivation (well, more likely to get rid of me) he finally gave in and gave me a questionnaire, followed by a job interview, punctuated with sexist questions: “What does your mother think of your choice? “. Me: “Do you ask this question to men? “. Him: (embarrassed): “Ahh… no”. Me: (calmly): “So you do not really need me to answer? “.

Was I dealing with a particularly sexist company and a misogynist recruiter? Not at all. I had in front of me a person who had never dealt with the recruitment of a female engineer, and who just did not know how to handle it[1].

Today questions so openly sexist are rarely heard of. Recruitment processes are formalized, male and female candidates receive similar treatment.

Voila, that’s it!

Problem solved. Article completed.

Signed: Magali Anderson

Yeah right………..

I wish I could finish my article there, except that differences still exist. The sexism I faced was undeniable and indefensible because it was so visible. Today for certain industries it exists, but more obscurely. For example, sexism can be found in the way a job offer is written or in the very masculine image that an industry projects itself, offering the impression to women that they are not suitable for it.

There are two issues. Companies that don’t know how or want to recruit women, and women who do not know they can access certain industries

I suggest to start with the problematic company. The recruiter is faced with the fear of introducing a disruptive element that could change the dynamics of the group. And not just any element, a young graduate woman, who has not yet proven herself or acquired legitimacy. The recruiter must therefore leave his comfort zone.

To make this possible he will recruit a ground-breaker, a woman with a strong character who can manage in this male dominated environment. That’s good, but is it sustainable, and above all, what about all the women who are very competent but less “driven”? The trailblazers are not necessarily going to change the mentality of the group because they blend in. The fight is really won the day any woman, regardless of her personality, can integrate.

As a company, how do you motivate recruiters to recruit more diversely? There’s not plethora of effective short term methods : numerical objectives. Recruiters will have to find ways to attract women. Change the speech, better explain what these industries are like, get female employees to say why it’s great to work there. Often that’s all it takes. You will find motivated female candidates who do not want a routine job, looking to embrace a career that is “different” and who will flourish in male dominated work environments.

Next, the candidates, my second problem.

Self-censorship still exists, meaning many women cannot imagine themselves working in certain jobs. This can simply because there are not enough visible model roles. Ladies, we must change this.

Answer job postings, dare to be different, choose to be out of your comfort zone. Then, when you are in front of the recruiter, conduct yourself as you would normally do for any job interview, except that it may take a little more time and effort to show that you are quite capable of working in their industry. Your engineering degree is proof that you are capable (I am sure that all engineers will know exactly what I mean here) !

A fight from the past? I still meet managers who tell me “but our industry does not attract women”. This, to someone who started on an offshore oil rig in Nigeria, the only woman in the middle of 80 men, more than 30 years ago? Today an industry that now recruits + 25% of female engineers? Seriously?

This article is a cry from the heart, addressing women and men. My career and those of many others, show that the success of women in a male work environment is possible.

Recruitment is only the very first step but a very important one. If women do not choose to enter the male-dominated industries, the mix will not increase (Obvious, I know, but worth being stated!).

I dream of a day when entering these sectors will be as natural for a woman as it is for a man, and that so-called masculine or feminine industries will no longer exist. It will just be industries. Quite simply.

[1] Schlumberger has since become a leader on the subject by starting their Gender Diversity program in 1994

Kids Benefit From Having a Working Mom

The research that we were all waiting for:

“There’s a lot of parental guilt about having both parents working outside the home,” McGinn says. “But what this research says to us is that not only are you helping your family economically—and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love—but you’re also helping your kids.

Women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time, according to research by Kathleen McGinn and colleagues.

by Carmen Nobel


Here’s some heartening news for working mothers worried about the future of their children.

Women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time, according to a new study. Men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members.

“There are very few things … that have such a clear effect on gender inequality as being raised by a working mother”

The findings are stark, and they hold true across 24 countries.

“There are very few things, that we know of, that have such a clear effect on gender inequality as being raised by a working mother,” says Kathleen L. McGinn, the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who conducted the study with Mayra Ruiz Castro, a researcher at HBS, and Elizabeth Long Lingo, an embedded practitioner at Mt. Holyoke College.

McGinn’s previous research, with Katherine Milkman of Wharton Business School, found that female attorneys are more likely to rise through the ranks of a firm (and less likely to leave) when they have female partners as mentors and role models. McGinn, Castro, and Lingo wondered how nontraditional role models influenced gender inequality at home—both in terms of professional opportunities and household responsibilities.

“The link between home and the workplace is becoming more and more critical as we have two-wage-earning families,” McGinn says. “We tend to talk more about inequality in the workplace, and yet the inequality in the home is really stuck.”

In developed countries, employed women in two-parent households report that they spend an average of 17.7 hours per week caring for family members, while employed men report devoting about 9, according to the researchers. At the same time, women report spending an average of 17.8 hours per week on housework, while men report an average of 8.8 hours.

The Global Effect Of Working Moms

To gauge the global effect of working moms, the researchers dug into data from the International Social Survey Programme, a global consortium of organizations that conduct social science research, and studied 2002 and 2012 responses to a survey called “Family and Changing Gender Roles.” They supplemented these data with data on employment opportunities and gender inequality across countries.

The survey included several pages of questions related to gender attitudes, home life, and career path. The researchers were primarily interested in the answer to one key question: Did your mother ever work for pay, after you were born and before you were 14?

“It didn’t matter to us if she worked for a few months one year, or worked 60 hours per week during your whole childhood,” McGinn says. “We weren’t interested in whether your mom was an intense professional, but rather whether you had a role model who showed you that women work both inside and outside the home. We wanted to see how that played out.”

The research team aimed to find out whether growing up with a working mom influenced several factors, including employment, supervisory responsibility, earnings, allocation of household work, and care for family members.

Survey respondents included 13,326 women and 18,152 men from 24 developed nations. The researchers based their analyses on responses collected from the 2002 and 2012 surveys. They categorized the countries by their attitudes toward gender equality, both at home and in the workplace.

“Liberalizing Egalitarians” were those countries where respondents’ attitudes toward gender were already egalitarian in 2002 and became even more so over the following decade (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, and Slovenia). “Stagnating Moderates” leaned slightly egalitarian in 2002 and remained stagnant in the following decade (Israel, the United States, Great Britain, Spain, Australia, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Austria, Japan, and Taiwan). “Stagnating Conservatives” started off with conservative attitudes toward gender roles in 2002 and stayed that way (Chile, Latvia, Mexico, Philippines, and Russia.)

Men tended to report more conservative gender attitudes than women-with the exception of Mexico, where women were more conservative than men, McGinn says.

The researchers controlled for factors including: age; marital status; religion; years of education; urban versus rural dwelling; average Female Labor Force participation in the respondent’s home country during the years the respondent was 0 to 14 years old; Economic Freedom Index in the respondent’s home country during the survey year; Gender Inequality Index in the respondent’s home country; and Gross Domestic Product in the respondent’s home country. Stripping those things away, they focused on the effects of being raised by a mother who worked outside the home. “The direct effects are significant across the board,” McGinn says.

The data showed that men were just as likely to hold supervisory jobs whether or not their moms had worked outside the home. But women raised by working mothers were more likely to supervise others at work.

Effects On Income

The data also showed that while being raised by a working mother had no apparent effect on men’s relative wages, women raised by working moms had higher incomes than women whose moms stayed at home full time. The one exception: women who reported conservative attitudes toward gender equality. “It’s only for earnings that having conservative gender attitudes reduces the effect of a working mom,” McGinn says. “For all of the rest of them, having had a non-traditional role model at home has a direct effect on the outcomes, regardless of attitudes.”

As for men whose moms ever worked outside the home, they were more likely to contribute to household chores and spent more time caring for family members. “Growing up, what was being modeled for sons was the idea that you share the work at home,” McGinn says.

Women spent about the same amount of time caring for family members, regardless of whether their moms worked outside the home. However, “When we segmented just for people who have children at home, we found that women who are raised by a working mom actually spend more time with their kids,” McGinn says, adding that this includes women who grew up to become working moms themselves.

“There’s a lot of parental guilt about having both parents working outside the home,” McGinn says. “But what this research says to us is that not only are you helping your family economically—and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love—but you’re also helping your kids. So I think for both mothers and for fathers, working both inside and outside the home gives your kids a signal that contributions at home and at work are equally valuable, for both men and women. In short, it’s good for your kids.”

The Work Conversations We Dread the Most, According to Research

When we need to have a difficult conversation, we tend to postpone it.. Letting the situation worsen.. Why?

Having been on both sides of the barrier, I can tell that a dreaded conversation is difficult for both sides. For example, you might find difficult to ask for a pay rise, but in general, it is also difficult for the manager to answer such request.

The best scenario is when both come out of the discussion happy. Winning and make the other lost is never a victory. The battle is won, but the chances of winning the war are now fading dangerously.

As the article says it very well, in fact, most people strive for this win-win.

Article here (with graphs):

The next time you head into a conversation you’re dreading, rest assured that the other party is probably equally uncomfortable. Better yet, your counterpart may even go out of his or her way to make you feel at ease.

These findings come from a recent survey conducted by Fractl in which we asked nearly 1,100 people about difficult conversations at work.

Approaching tough conversations with a combative mentality, where one person wins and one loses, is a common mistake that often results in neither party feeling satisfied. Yet our study found that most people actually plan on being agreeable and considerate when walking into a difficult conversation — nearly 66% of respondents told us that they’re likely to go out of their way to make the other person feel comfortable. The same number said that they’re likely to concede that they played a role in creating an uncomfortable situation, while 81% will acknowledge that there are multiple perspectives. More than 75% of respondents said that they’re likely to be direct and concise. That’s all good news for someone who’s about to have a difficult conversation; you can rest assured that most people are starting from a collaborative mindset.

As you can see, taking a combative approach and assuming the other person is “out to get you” is probably misguided.

What’s more, your counterpart is probably just as nervous as you are. Which conversations really make people squirm? Negotiating a raise was the most distressing: 58% of respondents feel uncomfortable having this discussion. We found people feel most comfortable apologizing for a mistake or discussing a lack of clear direction.

Women reported more discomfort around negotiating a raise than men did, with more than 66% of female respondents feeling very or somewhat uncomfortable. Just over half of men shared that sentiment.

Managers should take particular note of the data showing that even if you walk out of a challenging discussion feeling good about the outcome, your employee may not share your outlook. Our respondents were significantly more likely to feel satisfied with the outcome of a difficult conversation when they were the higher-ranking employee. More than 75% felt satisfied with the outcome of a conversation with a direct report, compared to 46% feeling somewhat or completely satisfied with the results of a discussion with a supervisor.

So how can you have more productive conversations that end with both parties feeling satisfied?

A majority of people (85%) told us they are likely to prepare for a tough conversation. This is a step in the right direction, but how you prepare is important. Be sure to:

Determine what you want to get out the conversation, but “don’t go in planning to ‘win’ the conversation,” says employee relations consultant Fran Sepler. “If you want a raise, for instance, you may need to start with other goals, such as having your work fully appreciated, having input into your compensation, and making sure you’re being paid equitably.”

Do your homework on your worth. Knowing how valuable and marketable you are will give you more confidence to ask for a raise and alleviate fears around negotiations. Make a strong case for your pay increase by coming to the table armed with a list of your contributions to the company and salary survey data on comparable roles.
Treat the conversation as two people working together to solve a problem. Executive coach Kristi Daniels recommends using this simple framework, from the book Powerful Conversations, which gives both sides ownership over the conversation and outcome:

What’s Up: Tell your side of the situation and ask the other person how they see it.
What’s So: Get to the facts, and remove any emotional charge from the conversation. Discuss the impact on each of you, the team, and the larger organization. Ask the other person what they think.
What’s Possible: Discuss possible solutions or alternatives, and ask the other person for the same.
Let’s Go: Commit on both sides to taking action with accountability included.
Notice how each step of this framework includes input from the other person, which will ensure that both parties feel heard and understood. This applies to your pre-conversation preparation too, when you should look beyond your own perspective and think about how the other person views the issue. You’ll have greater success by showing that you’ve considered several perspectives.

During the conversation, pause your own agenda to really listen to the other person’s side. Karen Hough, CEO of ImprovEdge, says, “When we’re nervous or scared, we rush to tell, fix, or manage.” Aim to diffuse the emotional charge, hear the other person, and come out with a solution. According to Hough, “It’s amazing how often a quick reset on the approach totally changes the way a person deals with their boss and creates incredible outcomes — raises, promotions, and strong relationships.”

Kerry Jones is the Inbound Marketing Manager at Fractl, where she specializes in content marketing featuring their proprietary research.

Erase “Work-Life Balance”: Change the Conversation (With Yourself)

I never thought about it this way, but I actually find this article very interesting!

If you think about it, every time we use the phrase “work-life balance”, we automatically picture a balance. Meaning, it is difficult to keep it “balanced’, but also, if one side comes stronger then the other one will automatically go the other way. Why? It does not have to be that way. “That assumption can produce the judgment that a woman who is successful at work must have a messy home life, or vice versa. “

I agree with the author – let’s remove that concept from our vocabulary!

Full article here:

“Yesterday my daughter described a disagreement she was having with a friend at camp. She exclaimed that her friend’s idea was “so stupid!” I remarked that her words were not very descriptive of the point she was trying to make and rather likely to stir up anger in her friend, making things worse. I suggested that she demonstrate that she herself is not “so stupid” by coming up with words that more effectively communicate her opinions and solve the problem with her friend. (She rolled her eyes but said nothing more, so I can only hope something sunk into her consciousness.)

The exchange made me think of the importance of words and their impact on our thoughts and actions.

If I had my druthers, I would erase the phrase “work-life balance” from our collective consciousness. I’ve been in this field (first as a researcher, now as a coach) for more than two decades, and I strongly believe the notion of “work-life balance” sets us up for failure for three reasons.

First, the phrase is not balanced in and of itself. On one side you have work and on the other, life. In reality, work is a subset of life. Equating the two reflects our society’s bias toward and overemphasis on money, employment and production. Even if we change “life” to “family,” the phrase is still problematic because it implies that family doesn’t require effort or work. It also suggests that work cannot be pleasurable or meaningful.

Second, “work-life balance” is problematic because the act of balancing is often precarious. What comes to mind is a tightrope walker or a unicyclist; a slight shift in the wind or a bump in the road could lead to a fall with serious consequences. Moreover, the perfect state of balance can be fleeting. Achieving balance requires much effort for just a moment in time.

Third, “work-life balance” implies that when one side goes up, the other must come down. That assumption can produce the judgment that a woman who is successful at work must have a messy home life, or vice versa. It perpetuates the belief that career has to be at odds with family. It ignores the fact that family life experiences can often inform and help improve career, and vice versa.

So what term should be used instead? My beloved mentors at the Families and Work Institute, Terry Bond and Ellen Galinsky, devised the notion of “navigating” life. Galinsky describes it in her book Ask the Children: What America’s Children Really Think About Working Parents. It better explains what actually happens in life: we are each trying to manage what we care deeply about — whether that be career, family, hobbies, interests, passions or religion/spirituality.

As a coach, I have learned that we have to navigate consciously and continuously; it is a process, as well as a goal. My clients and I focus on the present as well as the future. We tweak what we do each day so that we feel a little less overwhelmed and stressed. Doing that helps us face the inevitable daily challenges and surprises that come along with a bit more grace. We find that over time we are able to navigate life with greater ease and joy. For examples, check out some of my clients’ stories here.

My clients and I have discovered that successful navigation starts with how you talk to yourself:

Don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t already figured it all out. Start by telling yourself, “If it were so easy, it wouldn’t be such a challenge for all of us. It’s a process. I’m starting to navigate in a new way now.”
Take just one baby step with an exploratory attitude: “Let’s give this one small thing a try and see what happens. I’ll get to the other stuff later.” If the baby step doesn’t work, most likely it’s because it wasn’t small enough. Try again with an even smaller step.
Because the brain is wired to register what has been left undone or went wrong, make a conscious effort to recognize your daily accomplishments big and small. For example: “My child/boss had a meltdown that threw a wrench in my plans, but I dealt with it!” Better yet, make a got-done (as opposed to a to-do) list each day.
Don’t compare yourself with those around you. For example, tell yourself, “Her situation is different than mine. I have unique children, values, resources and so on, so I need to find what works for me.”
I hope you’ll give these steps a try and let me know what works for you!