Category Archives: Inclusion

My Boss Is Young Enough To Be My Child!

Mental Model of Boss

Younger Bosses

It happens to all of us–no matter how successful we are–if you stay in the workforce long enough, you’re going to have a boss younger than you.  Why does this matter?  Why do you care?  Yeah, yeah, it shouldn’t, but to most of us it does.  I’ll go back to harping about mental models.  We have a mental model of what a boss is and that we need to look up to a boss and someone who is younger doesn’t deserve that.  So why does our mental model require that our boss be older than us?  Back in the day, when people entered the organization immediately after high school or college and then moved up the organization step by step, the bosses were 55-65 year old men who retired and made room for the next person  (Oh, by the way, back in those same days, women only had some non-boss roles –I very specifically remember when people (both men and women) had the same issues with women bosses–bosses were NOT supposed to be women!!).  I know there are lots of people who don’t remember those days.  Most of the people, though, who are struggling with younger bosses now do remember those days.  In fact they are mostly from those days.  Things are different now.  It’s time to change our mental models.

I certainly had the experience of working for bosses who were older than me who were not as smart, or knowledgeable or skilled at their job as me (I’m sure it was no one who reads this blog, though:-)).  Age didn’t have anything to do with this.  Neither did race or gender or even educational backgrounds.  You aren’t guaranteed good bosses.  Given that, though, good bosses come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders and educational backgrounds.  There are people who are younger than you who have more knowledge than you about somethings.  There are people who have less education, less experience, or talent who can be good bosses for you.  Good bosses bring what the job and the team need AT THE TIME.  So change your mental model.  Start thinking about what you need in a boss and stop assuming that someone younger than you can’t bring it.  I know twenty-somethings who are better people managers than most of the middle managers that I know.  I know fifty-somethings who can explain technology better than tech professors.  One of the very best Executives I ever knew only had a high school education, but he sure knew how to gather information and make a quick and effective decision.  He had an instinct that I’ve never seen in anyone before or since.  I had a female boss, back in the days when that was rare, who focused so completely on the customer that she changed the culture (and the profits) of the organization.  She did it before it was “THE THING TO DO.”

Mental Model Actual Bosses

My point is that you’ve GOT to stop thinking about bosses as if they should be a certain gender, race, education or age.  Ask yourself what your boss brings to the table.  What does s/he bring that you don’t have?  How and what can you learn from him?  How can you improve the chemistry/relationship with her?  How can you earn his respect?  Unless you are knocking at retirement’s door, this is not the last boss you will have.  Bosses will come in more different versions as our world changes.  Get used to it.  Get good at it.  Especially if you want to be the boss.

1 Comment

Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Career Goals, Communication, Diversity, Inclusion

Reactions To My Discrimination Post

generations at work

Reactions to Reactions To My Discrimination Post

I had readers respond to my Are They Discriminating Against You?  Probably. blog post in a couple of different ways.  First, one reader challenged me about “accepting” discrimination.  He believed that I should advocate challenging the ‘discriminatory behaviors’ of others through complaining to the powers that be and/or Human Resources within the organization, or through the legal system.  I certainly don’t mean to suggest that those aren’t legitimate avenues.  It depends on your goals, though.  Do you want to help fix discrimination long term?  In your company? For everyone?  Then routing yourself around the problem and going to find some place and someone(s) who can judge you for what you are and what you bring and make decisions based on that (as suggested in my last blog) is NOT the solution.  Challenging the status quo is the right thing to do.  Go for it.  Those of us who wimp out on that will really appreciate you.  And support you.  And do whatever you need us to do.

If you need to get a job this month, then you need to find a place that doesn’t discriminate.  You need to find decision makers who are smarter, have better judgement and who are worthy of you.  Leave the others in the dirt–where they belong.

The other people admitted that they themselves discriminate and were unhappy with doing so.  One person who reacted wrote that she found herself sometimes on the side of being a discriminator.  She finds herself feeling the way about young people that older people used to feel about her.  Yet another person who responded–same issue–being a discriminator–just can’t break her thinking of older people as ‘time to go-ers.’ The good news is that both of these readers don’t think that it is ‘right’ to think the way they do–they just feel justified.

So What Do You Do?

I guess my first advice is to acknowledge that there is a huge “humans are this way” element to this. We think of people who are different from us as, well, different.  Not as good.   And then my second advice is to do what I do–struggle with yourself every day to challenge this thinking.  Instead of seeing the instances when the young or old person, does something completely wrong, look for when they make sense.  Work really hard to see it from their perspective.  What do you know that they don’t know that would change their perspective.  What EXPERIENCE (not advice or ‘telling’) could you help them have that would help shift their thinking.  Don’t give them the experience and then take credit for it.  Give them experience and let it go.  Give them the experience and try to figure out the next one that will lead them to an understanding of your point of view.  Think of it as an experiment.  Keep trying things.  Try with one person.  Try with two people.  Compare.  What worked and why.  What didn’t work and why?

Now experiment  with yourself.  Listen to your language.  Are you “them” and “us” -ing?  Are you plopping damning stereotypes on a whole category of people?  Work to see each as an individual.  Note the ways in which the person is ‘different’ from the stereotype.  Another thing we humans do–we make fairer judgements about others who we see as ‘exceptions’ to the stereotype.  “Well, s/he is DIFFERENT.”  Of course s/he is–we are ALL different.  None of us completely fit the damning stereotype.  The sooner you can stop applying that stereotype, the sooner you can stop discriminating.

Go for it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Diversity, Inclusion, Personal Change

Are They Discriminating Against You? Probably.



Not only is it likely that someone (or several someones) are discriminating against you, it is also likely that you are discriminating against someone (or several someones).  It is human nature that we like/trust/believe in/select those who are like us more than those who are different from us.  So . . . Europeans choose Europeans, Americans choose Americans, young people choose young people.  Then there is the problem of stereotypes.  We believe them–without even being aware of them for the most part.  We believe that ‘old’ people aren’t as capable as people our age. We believe that young people aren’t ambitious (at least the latest generation).  Asian people are smart at math.  Women aren’t ambitious because they’re going to go have babies. White men are more ambitious than black men.  And on and on and on.  These stereotypes cause us to discriminate, sometimes without our even being aware of it.  Stereotypes are as  wrong as they are right.  In fact, those of us who are the subject of the stereotypes usually believe they are wrong–period.  I say all of this to acknowledge that discrimination is alive and well in all of our behaviors.   I’m not in any way defending it, just acknowledging it.

So what?

There are laws against discrimination.  There are rules against discrimination.  There are lots of reasons for all of us to struggle against discrimination by others and ourselves.  There are people whose whole existence is focused on the struggle against discrimination.

Can you wait?  Can you wait until everyone stops discriminating against you?  I can’t.  I think it’s time to take the battle on directly.  I think it’s time to work around/through/over and under discrimination.  Just because the decision makers at your organization think you are too old or too young, that doesn’t mean that that is the case at other organizations.  You have a responsibility to yourself to find a place to work that values you for who you are and what you bring to the table.  You need to find a way to make a living that values who and what  you are.

I talk to people who are absolutely sure that they are being discriminated against.  That makes them feel like there is nothing that they can do about it.  They are the age they are.  They are born black or Hispanic or Asian or female, and nothing can change that. True.  There are places, organizations, friends, decision makers, and opportunities where it doesn’t matter.  Go find them.  You are not sentenced to the status quo.  You choose it.

Do something different.

You are not stuck.  When you graduated from high school you didn’t think about this the way you do now (unless, of course, you just graduated from high school).  Life and your experiences have made you believe that people are discriminating against you.  Wipe all that experience off your radar and ASSUME that someone out there can and will believe in you and what you can do.  Go FIND them!  Where are they?  Make people prove that they don’t believe in you instead of assuming that they don’t.  To be clear, I’m not saying they AREN’T discriminating.  I’m saying, don’t let that rule your life.  Go work someplace else.  Go work for a different boss.  Find a way to make a living (including working for yourself) that doesn’t let those who discriminate against you prevent you from doing/being/having what you deserve.  I know that it might be hard.  I know that it would be a lot easier for all of us if discrimination wasn’t a factor.  Don’t let it prevent you from living your life, making a living, being successful.

And then focus on your own discriminatory behavior.

1 Comment

Filed under Derailment, Diversity, Executive Development, Inclusion, Job Hunt, New Job

My Boss Doesn’t Listen to Me!

What Language Are You Speaking?

My first question to you is– Are you speaking your boss’ language?  And, I’m sure your answer is, “Of Course!”  But are you really?  One of the most important tools that I use to help people understand this problem is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.  The Myers Briggs is a tool that enables great conversations about your personality and the personalities of others.  It is one of many tools that can facilitate these conversations and investigations..  I like it best because of the research behind it, but it doesn’t matter if you use this tool.  Just look at your own personality/behaviors/interactions through the lens of a tool that helps you evaluate yourself in the context of interactions with others.

Anyway, Myers Briggs divides people into 16 different types using four dichotomies:

  • Extroversion(E)————————————Introversion(I)
  • Sensing(S)——————————————–Intuition (N)
  • Thinking(T)——————————————Feeling(F)
  • Judging(J)——————————————–Perceiving(P)

Myers Briggs assigns personality types based on these dichotomies. I am not going to go into Myers Briggs in detail here. Check it out on the Internet. Or pick a different tool, such as DISC, to apply what I’m saying here. The point is, a ESTJ (Extrovert/Sensing/Thinking/Judger) looks at the world very differently, processes information and needs to be communicated with differently than a INFP (Introvert/Intuitive/Feeling/Perceiver). The practical impact of this is that if your boss has a different type (or DISC profile) than you, then it is highly likely that the problem is not that you aren’t listening to each other. The problem is most likely that you are both sending messages out into the universe and they are falling into space without being “heard.”

What Type Are You?

For example, someone who is an MBTI “Extrovert” gets his ENERGY from interacting with people. He goes to a party and gets energized.  An MBTI “Introvert” gets her ENERGY from being alone, from reading, from spending a quiet evening at home.  An Extrovert might take a break at work and walk around and talk to people to get a second wind.  An Introvert boss might see this as an employee who is wasting her time.  A MBTI “Senser” boss needs hard cold facts to make a decision.  An “Intuitive” employee will struggle to tell the boss how she knows what she knows.  She just “knows” it.

I frequently do the exercise in class sessions where I divide the “Judgers” and “Perceivers” into separate groups and have them plan a vacation. The “Judgers” plan everything right down to when and where they are going to go buy new underwear for their vacation. The “Perceivers” are lucky if they actually come up with a destination and a mode of transportation.  Both of these are adequate plans (for the ones doing the planning) and completely deficient and faulty plans for the other group. So, if you are a “P” and you have a “J” boss, your plan is unlikely to be considered a “real” plan.  If you a “P,” the “J’s” plan is likely to be serious overkill.

These communication gaps cause more problems at work than probably anything else.  I highly recommend the book, Type Talk at Work, How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job, by Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen, to provide you with examples and strategies to deal with these gaps.

So, Fix It

So . . . since this is a problem on both sides–boss and subordinate–why should you step up and do something about it instead of your boss?  Of course your boss should do something about it.  I tell all the leaders that I coach that they should (and of course, they have the same problems with their bosses, too).  If your boss isn’t doing it, though, you have limited options.  You can go on failing to successfully communicate with your boss (framed as “my boss won’t listen to me), or you can work on these skills, develop the ability to successfully communicate with any boss (framed as “my boss always listens to me) and you can succeed at what you’re trying to do.

I had a boss for whom I used to prepare long, detailed (and if I do say so myself) brilliant reports that answered all his questions.  He would take them, set them aside and repeatedly ask me questions that were answered in the reports.  I finally figured out that not only was he not reading them, he also didn’t value the time that I put into preparing them AT ALL.  I started paying attention to the kinds of questions he was asking, and put together a VERY SHORT bullet  list that answered the questions.   (OK, this was a long time ago, and I’m a lot smarter now.)  He stopped being so frustrated with me and I stopped being so insulted that he was ignoring my work and we became much better boss/subordinates for each other.

Stop being so frustrated with your boss and solve the puzzle of HOW to communicate with him. (By the way, if you have an employee who won’t listen to you, re-read this post substituting the word boss with employee and save me from having to write another post:-))

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Career Development, Communication, Executive Development, Inclusion, Leadership, Reframe, Success

White People Don’t Know They’re White

Before I Explain What I Mean

First, let me tell you why I’m writing about this.  This is a post about people not knowing what they don’t know.  When you don’t know what you don’t know, it really gets in the way of being effective.  If you are completely unaware of something, then you are missing out on a whole world.  If you are basing your understanding of the world on the assumption that everyone thinks like you, you CANNOT communicate effectively because you are starting from the wrong place.

Now Let Me Explain

I have to be careful how I explain this.  I told a close friend that white people don’t know that they’re white–several times–and  years later a conversation made it obvious that not only did she not understand what I meant, she didn’t believe me either.  I have always thought I was pretty aware of the issues of race relations. I know now that I really didn’t have a clue.

A few years ago, I worked for a large minority organization.  I was one of two white employees.  I was aware of my “whiteness” all the time.  My mind did that to me.  It made me think about it all the time. There are lots of studies about this–we notice differences.  Most importantly, we notice how we’re different.  I was aware of my difference.  It was a new experience for me.  Minorities feel this all the time–wherever they are in the minority–in the grocery store, at movies, at restaurants.  That awareness–that you are different–and the assumptions you make about what the others are thinking shape your interactions with people.

A Fish In Water

If you never have a minority experience, though, you never become aware of your “whiteness” or your “otherness-of-any-kind”  (this doesn’t just apply to white people–it applies to all majorities).  If you never have that experience, then you never really “get” it.  Being white in many communities in the United States,  is like being a fish in water–the fish isn’t aware of the water.  It just exists in that environment.  There is a lot of baggage that goes with that water–privilege, history of mistreatment, institutional racism–that many white people are not consciously aware of.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, though.

The hyper awareness that minorities experience helps create the assumption that white people are equally aware of minorities.  They aren’t.  Of course there are situations where what I’m saying isn’t true.  And certainly, there are racists who are more aware.  Most white people, though, are not only unaware of their own “whiteness,” they are pretty oblivious to non-white people, too. They don’t walk into a grocery store and notice all the minorities.   At a conscious level.  There is stuff happening at the subconscious level, though, for everyone.

I learned from one of the best professors I ever had, Dr. Martin Gooden at Wright State University, that there is a thing called in-group favoritism.  People see  members of  their in-group as having positive characteristics and members of their out-group as having more negative characteristics.  This applies to OKC Thunder and Dallas Maverick fans, to Democrats and Republicans, and to majorities and minorities.  This happens without our thinking about it, at the unconscious level.  It has very far-reaching impact though.  It gets in the way of openness to getting to know each other.

Let’s Make It Better

So, why is this important? Because it plays out all over the place.  Non-white people don’t experience the freedom of not thinking  about being a minority.  They also aren’t aware of what they experience at the unconscious level–their unconscious assumptions. White people don’t understand that  non-white people have a difference experience.  And all that unspoken/not understood stuff plays out at work, at church, in politics, everywhere.

Until we understand this and pull it out into the open, it never gets any better. That means that we need to talk about it.  We need to understand the tricks our brains play on us.  We need to understand the water we swim in.



Filed under Communication, Diversity, Inclusion