Dressed for corporate life.
Will I miss it? Not likely.
Only the people.
Dressed for corporate life.
Will I miss it? Not likely.
Only the people.
Yesterday afternoon I wrote a post in advance, then “scheduled” it so I could read it in the morning, edit and publish. Apparently WordPress ate the 700 word post. Oops. I have no idea how that happened. But spending a lot of time trying to recover a lost document is a waste. It’s best just to get started on the next one without a lot of drama or delay.
This morning I will meet with a VP for our Corporate Science and Technology division at work, my director’s boss. He has been a career mentor for me, and my director has encouraged me to meet with him once a quarter as I figure out my next move.
I am typically anxious about what to wear to such meetings.
My work “costume” has been evolving a lot in the past year or two. I already wrote about “grown up clothes” in a previous post. I had always read that you should dress for the position to which you aspire, or at least a level up, not necessarily the position you have. In corporate leadership functions at my company, that typically means for women dresses and heels.
As someone more comfortable in jeans and t-shirt, that was a transition for me. But I embraced my feminine side and realized that dresses are actually more comfortable than pants most of the time. A friend of mine likes to say they as comfy as pajamas but people actually think you look nice! She’s right about that, except during Minnesota winter, when they just seem stupid when your legs and feet are cold for the sake of fashion.
Work clothing can be a kind of “armor” we put on in the morning, to convey a sense of authority or power. As long as we feel comfortable with what we wear, and it does not “clash” with our sense of ourselves, I think it can enhance our confidence. Fake it until you become it, as Amy Cuddy says in her Ted Talk. A few wonder woman poses before a big event will not hurt either. Your body language may speak even more highly than your clothing, so it is worth being mindful of how comfortable you feel and what you project.
I realize that what I project at work does not really capture authentically who I am, and I am trying to figure out if I can bridge that gap. My husband bought me riding chaps last year before our summer motorcycle trip around Lake Superior. A friend teased me about it because he thought of chaps as a sex fetish thing. But hubby likes to say “dress for the slide, not the ride.” I know that my work colleagues would probably be shocked to see me dressed in jeans, chaps, and a black motorcycle jacket. It definitely does not alight with my work costume or the image I have sought to project at work.
At the same time, the motorcycle gear “costume” expresses my desire for freedom and for being engaged with the world in a different way. In a very practical sense, it is safety gear. And it is also represents a different part of my identity that is not something I feel comfortable bringing to work.
As I write this, I also know that the mask I wear as part of my work costume is getting a little old and tired as well. Having to feign enthusiasm for a job that is “over and done” for me in a fundamental way takes a lot of energy. It is not something I can do for much longer.
I believe that when we bring our whole, authentic selves to work we excel and produce our best work. Maybe there is room for that in my corporation, and maybe not. It is worth speaking up about my real feelings and thoughts to see if this is met with acceptance or with rejection. Either way, I will know whether I might find some other place in the organization or whether I need to move on.
Costume change, please!
Sometimes telling the truth feels like a very brave and vulnerable act for me. Not everyone wants to hear the truth. Sometimes I do not like to even admit the truth to myself. I am getting better at it. But it takes practice. As I have started “unbuffering” my life, I realized I was trying not to see some truths that were bubbling up.
Truth seems straight-forward. Just be honest. Yeah, and risk offending people? Risk being banned from my tribe? Risk the job I have now, because my soul is telling me my time is limited there?
Today I will have my semi-annual career discussion with my director. At our company managers are required to have three annual discussions with staff: goal setting/planning, career development, and performance. I like it that managers are encouraged to work with employees on career development. It is actually my favorite part of being a manager because I love developing my team.
I told my director in our last career discussion back in August that I do not intend to stay in this position long-term, and that I intend to make a move outside of clinical research. A couple years back, he had thought I may be his successor when he retires, and he just turned 65 so I know he was not happy to hear this. But it is an emerging truth for me, and while I like the IDEA of a promotion to director, I know in my heart that I am done with this part of my career in clinical research.
There is a lot of dysfunction in the division where I work. Large companies (and we are too large now) have a lot of bureaucrazy (spelling choice deliberate) that can be aggravating. I am considering other positions within the company, because I think my networks and professional skills could contribute in other ways. I believe in the mission overall, and that is a big driver for me.
But I am not committed to staying at the company. In truth, I want to be self-employed rather than working for a very large (80,000+ employee) company. But I was recently reminded by my hospital visit that having good health insurance and good benefits cannot be taken for granted. Self-employment takes planning, some savings in case of “dry spells” between contracts, and a lot of self-discipline.
I was a self-employed consultant about 11-12 years ago and I really enjoyed it, until it became clear that I was great at bringing in the business, but not as great at executing it all by myself. Fortunately I knew other consultants and could work with them to get projects completed. Since I struggle with a.d.d., I have to be careful not to get distracted by too many separate projects. Ironically that is part of what makes me successful in my current job though – I am fairly good at juggling a lot of things and switching back and forth.
I take comfort in knowing that my meditation practice has helped me learn how to focus and be more intentional with my time and commitments. But I still have some fear about making the leap. I do not want to burn any bridges – actually there are a number of potential “clients” at my current company that could be a source of business.
Today my goal is to be as honest as I can with my boss, knowing that he may have some wisdom to share with me on the topic. He has told me in the past that the development work I do can be taken with me anywhere, at this company or my next endeavor. But he has spent 43 years at this company, and I know we disagree at where our division’s leadership has chosen to focus.
My real challenge is that I do not know EXACTLY what I want to do next. I have a lot of ideas, and things I am willing to try, but I do not have a clear idea of what that means for me. I have been toying with the idea of a side hustle for women’s leadership development, specifically working with Latina women. I also love the idea of teaching “Design Thinking” workshops while using the Medici Effect to recruit diverse cross-functional teams.
I love coaching and helping people with their career development and leadership development. If HR did that kind of thing at my company, I would definitely look in that area. Maybe what I need to do today is ask for some development coaching in order to discover this “next big thing” that I want to do. I am not sure if my boss would support that, but it is worth asking for, right? The worst that can happen is that he says no, but maybe he will offer an alternative.
If you have any advice on having these sorts of conversations, please weigh in. Otherwise, think good thoughts of courage and bravery in my direction today. Much appreciated!
I would like to make a toast to the end of patriarchal rule in America. Why?
It seems to me, with the almost daily revelations of men who have inappropriately groped women, or used their power to threaten and intimidate those with less power than them, we are reaching a new consciousness in our culture. It is a consciousness that will help women and men to feel empowered to fight the power structures that do not serve us.
I told my husband yesterday that I have recently discovered that about 99.9% of my women friends have had at least one (most more than that) of the following traumas in their lives: 1) being groped or harassed; 2) being intimidated, bullied or abused; 3) hating their body or suffering from an eating disorder. It is really astonishing.
All of these traumas are ways women (and men) are held hostage to a patriarchal power structure. But to me, bringing all of this out into the open, revealing it, confronting it and discussing it, is the first step to healing. The balance of our planet has been disrupted. The yin and yang of feminine and masculine energies need equal measures to be most effective. We must move away from toxic masculinity toward a more inclusive world view.
Strangely enough, I think the shock of electing a president that has a history of woman abuse may have unleashed a powerful tide of feminist action. After the initial shock of the election, some of us realized we would need to get to work in a more deliberate and strategic way to start dismantling patriarchy in any and every way we can.
For me, I had to take some time to reflect, journal, take care of myself and do some checking in with what types of activism will sustain me over the long haul. Back in my 20’s I was the campaign manager for a successful city council race. Despite being an introvert, I had the fire of Wellstone’s recent death in my soul. My desire for more progressive leaders to carry on the work fueled my efforts.
It was exhilarating, exhausting and satisfying. It cost me more money than I had, my career as I took time away from work to campaign, as well my family (a year after that my husband and I divorced) and possibly my sanity. I would not trade that experience for anything. But at the same time, I knew direct action in politics could not be my choice this time.
This blog is a part of my activism and commitment to be part of some larger story of the evolution of our culture. I work in a corporate patriarchy right now. While there are amazing efforts made to recognize that diversity drives innovation and better decision-making, it is still highly masculine in its structure. I do my part in creating an inclusive culture where I work. Sometimes I have to confront the “machismo” of the Latin American cultures as well in my quest.
Overall though, what I know is that patriarchy and corporate bureaucrazy do not serve us. These concepts are linked in my mind and I will explore the connection in a future post. When our political and organizational structures are not designed for inclusion, we all suffer. When women cannot be heard, or men must suppress their feelings in order not to appear weak, we all suffer. When we cannot fulfill the totality of our human experience because cultural norms teach us this is unacceptable, we all suffer.
I will be happy to toast the sunset of patriarchal rule because we are ready now to step beyond it. As a human species, we continue to evolve as we grow and change and develop new understanding about our interconnected natures. When we fully embrace all genders and all people as valuable and with potential for contribution, we all succeed. When all do better, we all do better. Women and men. Yin and yang.
I am not naive about this process. Like many movements, it will have a dance: two steps forward and one step back. So many of us believed our nation had evolved significantly in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected President. It is true, we had evolved since the turbulent 60’s when civil rights were at the forefront. But then, it felt like we stepped back again in 2016 when we regressed to a person who’s treatment of women is unacceptable.
But I find hope in the fact that his 62 million votes was 3 million less than her 65 million votes. Only a patriarchy would find a way to “invalidate” the math of the majority in an artificial way of maintaining the states rights slavery preservation that originated the electoral system…but I digress.
Will you join me in toasting the sunset of the patriarchy?
I am a woman who often “walks” in a man’s world. In the industry of medical devices, there are a lot of engineers, and most of them are men, sadly. In the division where I work, which serves patients in Latin America, I often run up against challenges in systems that do not serve people. I also typically am in meetings where women are the minority (leadership), and Latina women a much tinier minority.
Systems rarely seem to serve people. It is people who serve people. Systems are set up sometimes to automate or provide tools that can help, but of course these are just the inventions of people. Systems serve a purpose, but it seems they can outgrow their original purpose at some point, and they can become inefficient and wasteful, the bigger they grow.
There is probably some natural growth maximum, beyond which systems start to break down and people start to work around those systems rather than through them. Even if the system is truly broken, it is hard to see this, because the people who know the “work-arounds” are there to keep the bigger corporate machine running. Managers and directors are often too far removed from how the work actually gets done. Since the workers bees rarely have much power in these systems, they do “what they have to do.”
Large for-profit corporations serve themselves, and work to increase their revenue to invest back into the business, so they can develop more products or services to offer to their customers. Businesses create jobs, and jobs employ people and pay income, so people can spend money and re-invest back into the system. Income is taxed, so the infrastructure that allowed for a stable market to allow job creation in the first place can be maintained, repaired and improved. It seems like a reasonable system, if significant investment goes back into R&D rather accumulating at the top.
Granted, when you make medical devices that are life-saving technology, profit is not all bad. If we re-invest a large portion of profit back into new inventions and technologies that can help people, that creates a “virtuous cycle,” and more new products get created to help more people. As long as not too much money gets funneled into padding corporate executive salaries and unnecessary layers of bureaucrazy, it is good for all, one might argue. (Every time I try to type bureaucracy it comes out with “z” automatically – this is Freudian, I realize…)
This is how basic economics works, yeah? There is the micro and the macro, and I learned much of this stuff back in college half a lifetime ago. Much of what humans do is “rationalized” as logical and a natural consequence of economic factors. However, a large proportion of behavior is not rational, but based on other factors: love, passion, a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning in what we do. It is not so easy to quantify the true factors that drive human behavior. While money is a motivator, especially for those that do not have enough, when you do have all of your basic needs met, many people start to ask: is this all there is?
Humans survived based on our ability to form stable connections and to take care of families and tribes. It is not so surprising then, that when it comes to choosing between things and people, sane people typically choose people. They value the connections in their lives. It is about quality and not quantity, and it is about REAL people, not facebook friends. We know from extensive research and neuroscience that we are wired for connection, and we are wired for struggle.
Some missions are worth pursuing, like helping patients and creating life-saving medical technologies. Unfortunately the corporate structures that grow to support these goals can be stifling. They can dull our creative impulses and allow people to “hide out” in places where they appear to do work, while being unchallenged and under-utilized. As I consider where I want to use my skills in my next career move, I cannot help but think this time I’m gonna shop small. Cuz this bureaucrazy is killin’ me, man!