As the #MeToo movement has galvanized public attention around the problem of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, an unintended side effect of this scrutiny has been increased anxiety among men of “accidentally” harassing a female colleague—i.e., having an innocent remark or gesture misinterpreted as sexual and being accused of an offense he had not intended. In some cases, this is leading male corporate leaders to shy away from spending any time alone with the female colleagues or subordinates who work for them. The Washington Post took a look at this phenomenon last month:
In Silicon Valley, the chief executive of a midsize company asked his human resources manager what he should do about the undercurrent of tension around issues of sexual misconduct. Stop having dinners with female employees, he was advised. In fact, stop having dinners with any employees. Lunches are okay, dinners no way, HR told him. Another investor said his colleagues have canceled their one-on-one meetings with female entrepreneurs.
LeanIn and SurveyMonkey recently put some hard numbers behind these anecdotes, finding in a survey that “almost half of male managers are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together,” and that 30 percent are uncomfortable working alone with a woman: more than twice as many as said so before the recent series of high-profile sexual harassment stories were reported in the media. Also, the number of male managers who are reluctant to mentor women more than tripled from 5 to 16 percent since these stories came to light.
Whitnie Low Narcisse, head of advisory programs at First Round Capital, has run three rounds of mentorships since launching the venture firm’s mentoring program in 2016, bringing together 100 mentor-mentee pairs. First Round Review passes along some of the key lessons Narcisse has learned about how to cultivate a successful mentorship. Her first rule? Don’t call it a “mentorship”:
A little ironic for an article all about mentorship, but nearly all of the mentors we spoke to identified use of the word as the number one reason they were dissuaded or disinclined to talk to someone. It carries some negative connotations with it: it’s a time suck, it implies a very close relationship with someone you may barely know, it sounds like a long-term commitment. Direct asks like, “Will you mentor me?” are a universal turn off. …
To this point, if you’re a mentee sending an ask, you want to be very clear and explicit about why you targeted this person. Do enough homework to briefly explain why you’re looking for guidance relevant to their experience. That way, you don’t have to use the word ‘mentor.’ Instead, you’re inviting them to apply their considerable knowledge on something they’ll find intellectually engaging and impactful. That’s how people want to feel — not that they’re taking on an additional obligation.
Narcisse recommends an approach to mentorship that is formal yet flexible. Mentors and mentees should commit to a series of regularly scheduled meetings, mentees should prepare a focused agenda for each meeting, and the pair should set specific goals together and measure progress—but the schedule shouldn’t be too rigid, meetings shouldn’t feel like lectures or question-and-answer sessions, and goal-setting doesn’t mean homework. Most importantly, mentorship shouldn’t be a one-way street.
Much of Narcisse’s advice can also apply to the challenge of asking someone in a more senior position in your company, especially your manager, for help and feedback in the context of performance management.
The US workforce includes roughly 9.8 million veterans, roughly 32 percent of whom served in the armed forces after 2001. These veterans and their spouses have become a focal point for progressive employers seeking to hire from a diverse and often highly qualified pool of talent that is often underutilized. Thanks in part to these efforts, as well as the work of many organizations dedicated to connecting vets with job opportunities, the number of unemployed veterans in the US has declined substantially over the past four years.
Organizations that make veteran hiring a priority do so not only out of respect for their service and sacrifice, but also because they recognize the value veterans can bring to their organization as employees. Our analysis at CEB, now Gartner, finds that veterans are slightly more productive than non-veterans and have lower turnover, by 2-3 percentage points. In fact, the average veteran employee contributes an additional $7,500 to an organization’s overall performance.
Yet despite the extra value veterans have to offer, many employers still shy away from hiring them due to misconceptions about their characteristics, abilities, and needs. At CEB’s ReimagineHR event in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Chris Ford, founder & CEO of the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO), led a panel discussion on strategies for recruiting and retaining veterans with Mark Erwin, Special Assistant to the Secretary at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Ret. Major General Paulette Risher, Chief Programs Officer at Still Serving Veterans, and Dan Goldenberg, executive director of the Call of Duty Endowment. The panelists shared a number of important and in some cases surprising facts about veterans in the American workforce:
1) Veterans Can Be Hard to Find and Don’t Always Self-Identify
The first thing an organization needs to do if it wants to hire veterans is find them. Veterans can come into the hiring process through three different pipelines: While some may come straight out of the military, Erwin explained that fully half of the 250,000 veterans who transition to civilian life each year use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend college, and so will be found through campus recruiting. Countless others, meanwhile, are already in the workforce, but they are not always easy to spot.
Since launching its new job listings feature earlier this year, Facebook has made a series of moves to position itself as a direct competitor to LinkedIn. Even if it has little chance of overtaking the Microsoft-owned professional networking site in the job search market anytime soon, the social media giant clearly sees growth potential in this field. Just in the past month, Facebook has integrated job listings into its Marketplace platform and revealed that it is testing location targeting for advertising, including potentially job ads.
Facebook’s latest move in the professional networking space entails testing a way to connect users who are looking for mentors or mentees, TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden reports:
Our first look at the mentoring service came from a source, who had found a couple of references to mentoring in Facebook’s code. They appear to be fragments from a set of guidelines for mentors, introducing them to the program[.] Later, we found that another person spotted an internal run of how the feature would look on the mobile app. It appears that the app matches a mentee’s interests up with those of the mentor’s, and by way of introduction, gives them a list of points they have in common, including friends, education, geographic location and — most importantly — profession[.]
Faced with a large number of women in STEM fields who exit the workforce mid-career, many employers in the tech sector have been looking for ways to bring these women back, both to address overall skills shortages and to improve diversity and inclusion. These women are typically mothers who leave their jobs either to devote their time exclusively to raising children or in response to workplace cultures that don’t allow them to balance family and career; though they may not intend to drop out of the job market permanently, in their fast-changing fields, a career gap of just few years can make it very hard to re-enter—and some of these women have gaps of a decade or more.
To help them get back on their professional feet, some companies have launched re-entry initiatives or “returnships”: internship or mentorship programs for mid-career employees that enable them to rapidly update their skills and re-establish their professional networks. Erin Carson at CNET profiles IBM’s re-entry program, a 12-week internship that places mid-career women with STEM backgrounds in one of the company’s various business lines:
Participants get a mentor and work on an actual project, whether it’s in data analytics or programming. The idea is that the program can create a smooth transition for its interns, get them up to speed and give managers a chance to see the interns’ work before hiring them.
Mel Jones believes it is. At the Atlantic on Friday, she examined why many organizations are having trouble developing successful mentorship programs, arguing that they often “don’t have the buy-in they need from executives to succeed, and many people find them to be formulaic and pointless”:
There are many problems with the existing model of corporate mentorship, says Jennifer Labin, the principal partner of TERP Associates, a firm that specializes in creating public- and private-sector mentoring programs. “Mentoring programs have become this band-aid,” Labin says. She adds that, in her experience, programs are often “thrown together by overworked, overwhelmed people who’ve never built mentoring programs.” Many people in these roles have often never even been mentored themselves, according to Labin. …
What makes this so dangerous for companies is that there is more harm to be done by bad mentorship than their is good to be done by great mentorship.
A new study suggests there is a disconcerting side effect of racial discrimination in the workplace. Writing about their findings at the LSE Business Review, Belle Rose Ragins, Kyle Ehrhardt, Karen S. Lyness, Dianne Murphy and John Capman assert that “like second-hand smoke, the negative effects of racial discrimination at work can affect third-party bystanders”:
Ambient racial discrimination is a workplace stressor. Our surveys of employees from a variety of organizations and occupations revealed its potent repercussions for employees of all races. Those exposed to racial discrimination in their workplace were more likely to report physical symptoms of stress at work, such as upset stomach, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and hand tremors. They were also more likely to experience insomnia and had more stress-related absenteeism than those not exposed to ambient discrimination. Ambient discrimination also affected employees’ organizational commitment; those who were exposed to racial discrimination at work reported less commitment than those not exposed. These findings illuminate the pernicious and potentially widespread effects of racism at work.
So what can organisations and managers do? Organisations clearly need to develop inclusive climates and eliminate workplace racism, but entrenched attitudes make this a challenge. Racism often emerges in subtle and sometimes even unintentional ways through jokes, comments or by forwarding “humorous” emails. Organisations can attempt to regulate behaviours, but employees may engage in racist behaviours without being fully aware of their racism or the repercussions of their words and actions.
Another suggestion the authors make is that “high-quality mentoring relationships” can help mitigate the effects of secondhand racism: