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Jonathan A. Segal
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I am pleased to share my latest post to Entrepreneur.

We read a lot about “boys’ clubs.” They are power circles of men, mostly white, who control, formally or informally, organizations or silos within them.

The gender demographics of the senior leadership team may be relevant but is not dispositive as to whether a boys’ club exists. I have seen organizations with senior leadership teams lacking in gender diversity that are not, in my opinion, run by a boys’ clubs. Conversely, I have seen organizations where the numbers at the top look good in terms of gender diversity but a core boys’ clubs calls the shots.

So, how do you know if you have a boys’ club? Of course, there is no test. So, I have created one. Warning from this lawyer — write your answers on a piece of paper and then throw it away. Don’t want your self-evaluation to be used against you in litigation by a plaintiffs’ lawyer.

Now, as for each of the five questions:

1. If you generally agree, answer A
2. If you are not sure, answer B
3. If you generally disagree, answer C

1. We don’t have a boys’club.

Almost everyone knows that boys’ clubs exist. But many believe that they exist only at the employer next store. Certitude is a good thing. But, on this issue, a little doubt is a good thing. Indeed, if you are sure that you don’t have a boys’ club, you probably do. So give yourself:

– 2 points for A
– 0 points for B and C

2. We don’t need a system for raises or promotions.Merit will prevail.

Often the gender gap at the top is because women don’t have the opportunities they need to get there. Absence of meaningful opportunities also contributes to the gender pay gap. No one system works for all. But “no system” never works.

No system often leads to what the EEOC calls “people like me” bias. Those in charge of opportunities give them to those just like them — often other men. So some vehicle to measure equal access to opportunity is essential. Merit will prevail but only if there is equal access to opportunity. Time to score it:

– 2 points for A
– 1 points for B
– 0 points for C

3. More than a few informal meetings are held in bars.

Social inclusion is a form of business inclusion. Information is shared, strategies are developed and relationships formed and/or cemented. Of course, many men don’t relish business in bars. And, there are women who do. Bu the local watering hole is often the club house for the boys’ club. The same is true of the golf course. Let’s score it:

– 2 points for A
– 0 points for B and C

4. The pay gap is due to employer practices and employee choices.

There is no doubt that there is a gender pay gap. Those who doubt it sound as credible as men who deny the existence of labor pains because they never have experienced them. But the gender gap is not due solely to employer practices. If you step out of the game to be the primary caregiver, when you step back in, you will make less. And, women are still more likely than men to be primary caregivers. As for points, the pattern you may have predicted no longer holds.

– Subtract 1 point if you picked A (you have thought about the issue.)
– No points for B or C, but if you picked C, you may see bias in certain cases where it does not exist.

5. Women mentoring women is essential to shutting down the club.

No. And here’s why. There are fewer women at the top so women mentoring women will deprive women disproportionately of access to the top. The burden of gender equality cannot be put entirely on women (particularly since men and women alike benefit from gender equality). The benefits to cross-gender matching are significant in terms of what each gender can impart and learn.

– 2 points for A
– 0 points for B
– Subtract one point if you picked C (again, you have thought about this issue).

Now, add up all of your points, subtracting points where you have earned them.

If you have five points or more, you may have a boys’ club in your organization but don’t see it. If you have fewer than 5 points, you still may have a boys’ club somewhere in your organization, but you are primed to help dismantle it.

About Jonathan A. Segal
1301
author_image
Jonathan A. Segal is a partner at Duane Morris LLP in the Employment Group. He is also the managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute. The Duane Morris Institute provides training for human resource professionals, in-house counsel, and other leaders at client sites and by way of webinar on myriad employment, leadership labor, benefits and immigration topics. Jonathan has served intermittently as a consultant to the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years, providing training on employment issues to federal judges around the country. Jonathan also has provided training on harassment on behalf of the EEOC as well as providing training on diversity to members of the United States intelligence agencies. Jonathan is also frequently a featured speaker at national, state and local human resource, business and legal conferences, including conferences sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Pennsylvania State Chamber of Business and Industry. Jonathan’s practice focuses on maximizing compliance and minimizing legal risk. Jonathan’s particular areas of emphasis include: equal employment opportunity in general and gender equality in particular: social media; wage and hour; performance management; talent acquisition; harassment prevention and correction; and non-competes and other ways to protect your business. You can find him on Twitter @Jonathan_HR_Law .
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Jonathan A. Segal
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I am pleased to share my latest article posted to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

We all know that employees do not leave their personal selves at the workplace door. The experiences we have outside of work inform who we are at work.

That is why we spend so much effort – or we should – on helping develop a culture that makes it easier for employees to manage work and life. But, there is one part of life that is often left out: death.

That brings me to Option B by Facebook COO and author of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, and her friend and psychologist, Adam Grant, a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Originals. A fantastic collaboration, Option B is based on Sheryl’s loss of her husband, Dave, and her painful but inspirational journey forward.

Option A is the employee’s life with the loved one. Option B is surviving without him or her.

While the focus of the book is emotional resilience, the book is also a clarion call for leaders (and other colleagues) to be more supportive when an employee loses a loved one. The platitude, as Sandberg apyly calls it, “sorry for your loss,” is not enough.

Here are eight (8) recommendations for business leaders (and other colleagues) to consider that are based on the book (as well as my own experiences and observations.)

1. Bereavement Leave 

Many companies provide a few days of paid bereavement leave. That may be enough for some, but it won’t for all. It was not for Sandberg. Consider offering more unpaid time, where feasible. Of course, if PTO is available, be flexible in allowing the employee to use it.

2. Talking with Employee

For some, it is easier to give grieving employees time off than it is to speak with them. Sandberg wrote about employees avoiding her so that she felt “isolated.” And, we are talking about one of the most successful and powerful leaders in America.

Sandberg states that people were afraid bringing up the subject would remind her of Dave. When I heard Sandberg speak, she said “you cannot remind me of Dave.” His absence is never absent.

Don’t avoid the person or the topic—unless you receive a signal to do just that (discussed below).

Talk with the employee. But what do you say? Or, not say?

3. Please Avoid

Be careful not to say things that you may intend to be comforting but may come off as dismissive or designed to make you feel better:

  • “He is in a better place.” No he’s not.
  • “With time, you will feel better.” That may be true, but bromides like this are not helpful at the time.
  • “I know how you feel.” It’s not about you.
  • “Everything happens for a reason.” And, there is a reason I want to get away from you.

 

4. Offer to Help But 

Easier to know what not to say than it is to be clear on what to say. Well-intentioned people often say “how can I help?”

But, as Sandberg explains, this well-meaning gesture shifts the burden to the grieving person to find a way for the colleague to help them. No bad intent, but a bad result.

Don’t ask generally “how can I help.” Instead, ask “can I do X?” Or, just do it.

Pick up a task for the employee to get rid of a loose end. Do something kind, like buying them a cup of coffee. Do something specific!

5. And, Getting More Direct 

So, now we have dealt with doing. It’s time to get to feelings.

Should you ask how the person is feeling? How should you ask?

As an initial matter, don’t ask if you don’t want to hear. Ask only if you sincerely care.

Avoid “how are you” and ask instead “how are you today.” Why?

Sandberg: “I described how a casual greeting like “How are you” hurt because it didn’t acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary had happened. I pointed that out that if people instead asked “How are you today?” It showed that they were aware that I was struggling to get through each day.”

6. Should You Relate? 

Sometimes, in the act of caring, we share our own loss to let the person know we have a sense how the person may feel. But, we remember, we all grieve differently.

It is okay to share a loss and mention that you may have an idea of how the person feels. But don’t pivot to your loss. Not the time for person to take care of you or for you to work through your own grief.

This is delicate balancing act. I try to say: “I don’t know how you feel but I lost my dad and it was and is very hard for me. I am available to talk if you want to talk about the loss of your dad/mom.”

7. Be Careful How You Care

I know: caring can create legal risks. If an employee tells you they are depressed, and you later terminate them for poor performance, they could argue that you terminated them because you perceived them as mentally disabled.

But there is a real risk not caring, too. Employees who at their emotional nadir remember who helped them when they are emotionally stronger. If they don’t feel they were cared for when they needed it most, they may leave your organization.

Sandberg: “Providing support is both the compassionate and the wise thing to do.” The support engenders “a more loyal and productive workforce.”

Further, you can mitigate the legal risk but listening more than talking. That’s a good idea independent of the law.

Also, avoid clinical labels, such as “depressed” in talking with or about the employee. Again, this is good ideas independent of the law: you are a colleague; you are not the employee’s therapist.

So care. Just do so carefully.

8. Give the Employee What They Need

Not always obvious, it is not about making you feel good about helping. It is about trying to make the unbearable a little less so for your colleague.

And it’s not about the golden rule: Sandberg:

“Growing up, I was told to follow the golden rule … instead of following the golden rule, we should follow the platinum rule: Treat others as they want to be treated.”

Some employees may want to talk. Other employees may want to keep things private. Respect their wishes, either way.

There are a lot of ways as colleagues we can help with Option B. Thank you Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant for talking about the Elephant in the Living Room.

 

About Jonathan A. Segal
1296
author_image
Jonathan A. Segal is a partner at Duane Morris LLP in the Employment Group. He is also the managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute. The Duane Morris Institute provides training for human resource professionals, in-house counsel, and other leaders at client sites and by way of webinar on myriad employment, leadership labor, benefits and immigration topics. Jonathan has served intermittently as a consultant to the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years, providing training on employment issues to federal judges around the country. Jonathan also has provided training on harassment on behalf of the EEOC as well as providing training on diversity to members of the United States intelligence agencies. Jonathan is also frequently a featured speaker at national, state and local human resource, business and legal conferences, including conferences sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Pennsylvania State Chamber of Business and Industry. Jonathan’s practice focuses on maximizing compliance and minimizing legal risk. Jonathan’s particular areas of emphasis include: equal employment opportunity in general and gender equality in particular: social media; wage and hour; performance management; talent acquisition; harassment prevention and correction; and non-competes and other ways to protect your business. You can find him on Twitter @Jonathan_HR_Law .