The Diversity Council of Australia has launched a new campaign to encourage more inclusive language in the workplace.  There is a new campaign, #WordsAtWork which is going viral for all the wrong reasons, and as usual, the focus in discussions about this very important subject have been hijacked because of one thing uttered by the Chair, David Morrison AO.

Mr Morrison said that language plays a critical role in shaping workplace cultures, in particular in how people are able to reach their potential regardless of age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.  You can see his video here.

It is true that language can impact how people feel – if a male supervisor uses the term ‘girls’ in a disparaging way when referring to a group of women at work (or men for that matter!), it can be disrespectful, especially if it is repetitious.

The campaign is about people carefully using their language to ensure that it is respectful and accurate and does not demean or exclude anyone.

Mr Morrison said that personally he had decided not to use the word ‘guys’ when greeting work colleagues and this is what has social media, as well as main stream media in uproar, and unfortunately has derailed the important message of basically being respectful to your work colleagues.  It is true that ‘guys’ has come to be a generic term referring to both men and women.  I work in an almost exclusively female environment and we often greet each other with ‘Hi guys’ or ‘Hey guys’.  The point is of course that our work culture is one of respect to start with, so that even if someone was offended by the use of this word, they are empowered to say something about it.  Not all workplaces are like that.

The important message from this is straight from the DCA website, and this is the message that we should be remembering:

Why language matters:

Language is a powerful tool for building inclusion at work. It can be used to create a sense of being valued, respected and one of the team (included) or of being under-valued, disrespected, and an ‘outsider’ (excluded).

Research demonstrates that inclusive cultures are high performing cultures – they deliver greater performance and productivity.  How we speak to and about each other influences how we treat each other, and this builds our workplace cultures. Studies show that:

  • Non-inclusive language contributes to and continues stereotyping
  • Non-inclusive language harms people who witness it as well as the intended targets
  • When used in job interviews, non-inclusive language results in applicants from excluded groups finding the position less attractive, and experiencing less motivation and identification with the position than those who are exposed to inclusive language
  • Non-inclusive comments in the workplace can have an insidious effect on individuals from the excluded groups, impeding their advancement at work by presenting them as incompetent and not suitable for leadership roles
  • Frequent non-inclusive experiences at work have just as harmful effects as more intense but less frequent experiences (e.g. sexual coercion and harassment)
  • Non-inclusive jokes can lead to tolerance of hostile feelings and discrimination against people from excluded groups.

This has made me think about how I speak to others in the workplace and how unconsciously my language may impact others. How can you make sure your language is inclusive and not demeaning to others?

Top tips to be a Linkedin all star

Top tips to be a Linkedin all star

I am still surprised by the number of people I meet you do not have a Linkedin profile. I meet these people often for the first time when doing a preliminary interview for a role, and it is one of the first things I tell them to do.

No matter what you personally think of Linkedin, it is a truth universally acknowledged that all recruiters and most employers use Linkedin as a recruiting tool, and if you are serious about your career you will need to have a Linkedin profile, and use it effectively.

  1. Make sure you have a professional looking profile photo. Don’t use glamour shots, photos where you can see someone has been cropped out, or a photo of yourself in a social situation. The photo should be simple, clear, and professional. It doesn’t have to be a mug shot, though! Did you know that if you have a professional photo you are 14 times more likely to be found on Linkedin?
  1. Personalise your url. To do this, click ‘edit profile’, then on the wheel next to your Linkedin public link below your profile picture. This will bring up a box that says:

Your public profile URL

Enhance your personal brand by creating a custom URL for your Linkedin public profile.

Edit the Linkedin URL automatically created to shorten it to your own name – this will ensure your name is one that comes up first in any search for someone with your name. If your name is already taken, add a ‘1’ to the end of it.

  1. ALWAYS add a personal message when connecting with people – for example ‘Dear Bronwyn, it was lovely to meet you at the xyz event. I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linkedin’.
  1. Your headline is what you DO, not where you WORK.
  1. Your summary should be written in the first person, not as if someone else is writing about you.
  1. Follow organisations that interest you (hot tip – other law firms publish content that may be educational).
  1. Join groups in your area of interests.
  1. Participate in group conversations.
  1. Follow thought leaders.
  1. Publish content – whether your own, or shared content from other Linkedin members, thought leaders, or published articles.

Most people spend approximately 17 minutes per month on Linkedin, with 13% of people using it on a daily basis.

Are you a Linkedin all star?

Christmas Networking – What is worth saying yes to

‘We must catch up before Christmas’ someone says to you on the phone as you open yet another email with an invitation to a pre-Christmas drinks function, and your heart sinks.

Networking has never been more important, to raise your profile and that of your firm, and build your personal brand.  At this time of year, it seems that you could be networking full time and not doing any actual work.  Leave aside the fact that you need time to purchase Christmas gifts and plan for lunch with relatives.

So it is important to maintain your equilibrium and stamina at this time of year, and also maintain your nextworking

Work is still important and must remain your main focus – keep the Christmas break in mind as you work through the days until you can have a break.  Make a task list at the beginning of each day and review it at the end of the day and week.  Just like 30 June, 24 December is usually a deadline for a lot of clients wanting their work done so that they can enjoy the break too!

Choose your events carefully – there will be many invitations coming through the mail, email and social media, and these will not just be work related.  Ask yourself if you need to say ‘yes’ to all of them?  If work related, will clients be there?  If no one’s feelings are going to be hurt and it feels like it is just ‘one more thing’ you need to attend you should probably politely decline.  If it is a friend you haven’t seen for a while, suggest a catch up early in the New Year when it is a bit quieter, and set a date for that.

Look at your diary carefully – if you have already accepted three invitations in a week, a fourth will probably be too much.  Look at your diary as well for work related deadlines – going out for Christmas drinks to be followed by karaoke is also fraught with danger if you have a major deadline the following day.

Keep an eye on consumables – and by this we mean your weight.  Drinks and canapés are plentiful and you will gain weight if you are not careful.  Just having three drinks is the equivalent of an entire extra meal, so rethink the cheese platter at the end of the night.

On that note try and get exercise at the beginning of the day.  Not only will it help keep the weight down, it will clear your mind and give you energy for the day ahead.

Only 4 weeks to go – you can do it!

Harassment at work one of top three worries for women

Wouldn’t it be nice if all workplaces were safe, with a great culture, and open enough for people to raise concerns where they needed to?  Unfortunately, many workplaces are not, and particularly for women.

A recent survey commissioned by Thomson Reuters Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, found that, in G20 countries, the third thing women at work found most challenging was harassment – after the gender pay gap and work-life balance.

It would have been interesting to see the results of a similar survey conducted with male employees – because I am sure work-life balance would also have been in the top three but not the gender pay gap and harassment (other than perhaps bullying as harassment).

Interestingly, the survey  found that almost 30% of women surveyed had experienced some form of harassment whilst at work, but of those, only approximately 60% felt able to raise concerns – most women ‘suffer in silence’, rather than speak up.Workplace Harrasment

You can read more detail of the survey in the Australian Financial Review here – it is particularly interesting to see that women in India, fed up with the never ending reports of sexual assault have decided to speak up more often.

Why is it that most women can’t or won’t speak up?

There are many reasons.

Sexual harassment, in particular, is usually found where the perpetrator is in a position of power over the ‘victim’, so that there will be fear as to the impact on career prospects.  If the person doing the harassing is in a decision making position over the other person’s career or salary, then it is easy to see why an accusation will not be made.

Another reason is fear of not being believed.  If the person to be accused of sexual harassment is someone who is liked, revered, ‘happily married’, held in high esteem with an unblemished record  etc, then who would believe you if you raised a complaint?  The fact that most sexual harassment cases have only two witnesses – the perpetrator and the victim – make these cases very hard to investigate.  Look at the end result of the Rolf Harris investigation – women remained silent for fear of not being believed, but once one person spoke up, others came forward.

The victim can also feel that they are somehow responsible – if the event took place at a function where a few drinks had been held, it is even more unlikely that a woman would raise a complaint, preferring to pretend it never happened.

The truth is however that unless women speak up, harassment at work will continue – and not just against the same person.  Other people may suffer as well.

Speaking up can be hard, but if you have been sexually harassed, make sure you do these things:

  • Make notes of the event in question
  • Take someone with you when you go to speak to HR or another senior person
  • Make sure you know what you want to achieve – an investigation can be very hard to go through, so if all you want is an acknowledgement that the behaviour was inappropriate, a commitment that it won’t happen again and an apology, then say so. Talk through the options with the senior person with whom you are speaking
  • Make notes of that meeting and make sure you follow up
  • Any further incidents should also be noted, particularly if you feel in any way victimised

Speaking up can be hard – but sometimes staying silent is harder.

Block out your time

Are you a slave to your calendar? Do you always tell people ‘I’m so busy’ or ‘I’m so stressed’. You have deadlines. Things to do. Emails to deal with. People to see.calendar

How do you manage large reports or drafting, or big jobs.? DO you start and then pause to answer the email notification you received, or the phone call that came in?

Our brains are learning to be distracted more easily, and lose focus. Modern life and the pressures of being available to answer phone calls and emails while doing other things, is not just creating the expectation that we will do these things; it is teaching our brains that we don’t have to concentrate on one thing at a time. If we stop concentrating on a task it can take up to 25 minutes to regain focus when we return to the task (Pearse and Sheehan, One Moment Please). While we think we are very clever multi-tasking, we are, in fact, taking longer to do all of those things.

If you use your calendar for your client appointments, you wouldn’t interrupt your client meeting to tell the client that you have to take a call from another client; or that you need to go to the drink machine to get a diet coke; or that your supervising partner wants you to email a document.

Get smart about your calendar and use it to block out uninterrupted time to complete those big projects.   This means people will see that you are unavailable for meetings. To do this effectively:

  • look at what you need to do in the day, and what is most important
  • block out the time you need to focus on the most important task
  • let people know what you are doing and that you need this time (remember communication solves most problems)
  • Turn your phone onto silent
  • turn off email notifications
  • shut your door if necessary or go somewhere quiet where you can get on with it and not be disturbed
  • if needs be, ask permission to work from home and get up early and, in the words of Nike, “just do it

I guarantee this will work for you if you focus on what you need to get done, and re-train your brain to concentrate.

And if it works for your work life, just imagine what you could achieve with your health and fitness goals.

Forget about smoking – sitting is now bad for your health

Sitting for long periods of time at a desk has now been suggested as having the same detrimental effect on our health as smoking.

In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald Sarah Berry referred to two different studies that showed that for every hour of watching TV while seated, we cut 22 minutes from our lifespan. The other study showed that smoking shortens a smoker’s lifespan by 11 minutes per cigarette. As Ms Berry pointed out, people who sit down and smoke for long periods are in big trouble. There are no studies to our knowledge which show the effect of someone who smokes but who walks around while smoking!sitting in a chair

For those of us who work in office environments, this comes as quite a shock. More and more professional services firms are embracing the “open plan” office format with moveable desks that encourage people to stand up while they work. We’ve long known from a workplace health and safety perspective that sitting for long periods of time at a computer is detrimental to our health – it is bad for our eyes and musculoskeletal system, and can cause headaches. Most organisations encourage those sitting at computers for long periods of time to get up and walk around every now and then. But very few people actually take that advice, preferring to continue working, or just not thinking about it.

Those who are lucky enough to work in an environment which encourages staff to get up and walk around will have the opportunity to do this. But if you work in a job where you are largely sitting at a desk in front of your computer all day, how do you prevent the ill health associated with sitting for long periods of time?

  • If you have to make a phone call and don’t need to make notes of it – stand up while you do so. This is a discipline that will take practice and conscious thought in order to change the way you work.
  • Don’t fill a jug of water up at the beginning of the day. Get up and frequently refresh your water glass from the tap rather than from the jug on your desk.
  • If you have to go to the bathroom, go the long way.
  • If there are internal stairs at your office use them instead of the lift
  • When you finish one job, stand up and stretch your legs before starting the next.
  • While you’re sitting down, do individual leg raises in turn, while you’re working. This is also a good left brain/right brain exercise.

Do you have any other tips to become less sedentary in the office?

How flexible is your work place?

I recall a conversation with a young woman recently who wanted the opportunity to work from home one day a week. The only reason was that she travelled for an hour each way to and from work and she wanted to reduce the stress and be more productive with her time. She said that her supervising partner was not very keen on the idea at first but then she convinced him.

When I asked her how she smiled and said ‘I pointed out that most Fridays he left the office at lunch time to drive to the sunshine coast to go windsurfing’. Some might say that is a cheeky response, but she had a good relationship with him, and as she pointed out, she was planning on being available to clients and colleagues on her day at home, rather than in a wet suit on the water.flexibility

It was not that simple of course. While she overcame resistance, she had to make sure that her supervising partner, the other partners, her team members and clients were all going to benefit, or at least not be disadvantaged by the new arrangement, so she agreed to a two month trial period.

After two months her billable hours were better and communication had improved in the team, largely because she took responsibility for making sure everyone was informed of whatever they needed to know, and neither clients nor partners were the slightest bit concerned about her ‘absence’ from the office. In fact her supervising partner is now considering working from home on a Friday, from the sunshine coast, to save time driving!

Does she have a secret? This young woman is a very determined and focussed person and she provided her tips for making it work:

  • never assume the team knows what you are doing
  • over communicate if necessary
  • always prepare for your day away from the office on the day before
  • flexibility is a privilege so it is up to you to show how it can work and work well
  • practice reciprocity – if there are times you are needed to work longer hours or work in the office on your ‘at home’ day, then do it
  • put yourself in the shoes of your colleagues – what would you need to make it work?
  • Express gratitude to those assisting you, and often
  • communicate about problems and be open to many views

This is a good example of flexibility in action and how good communication can overcome even the toughest barriers. Do you have any advice for making flexible work, work?

Personal Branding – who are you?

“Personal branding is about managing your name — even if you don’t own a business — in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records. Going on a date? Chances are that your “blind” date has Googled your name. Going to a job interview? Ditto.” – Tim Ferriss, Author of the 4-Hour Work Week.’

Coca- Cola.  Gucci.  Prada.  McDonalds.  Ferrari.  KFC.  Telstra.  Disney.  These are brands that are well known to all of us.  The owners of those brands (and note that I use the word ‘brands’ not organisations), go to great lengths and great expense to protect those brands. branding

Law firms, too, are engaged in developing their own brands.   It is only in relatively recent times that branding has become associated with individuals.

When you think about it, most of us already have a brand and may not even know it thanks to the digital world in which we live.  Everything published on social media that is public, shared with the world, creates a perception of us as people – our interests, our values, and the people with whom we associate. Even things posted by someone else can contribute to our image and we don’t even know it.  Ever had your photo in the social pages with your name to it? There is a good chance that photo will appear on a search of Google images.  If it is a photo taken at a ‘priests and prostitutes’ fancy dress party, for example,  you may not want potential employer or client to see that photo.   So the question is, how are you going to cultivate a personal brand that shows clients (and potential employers) who you are and what you stand for?  This is something that is within your control, so make sure you do control it.

In creating a personal brand you have to decide what you want to be known for.  This of course may change over the years as you work towards developing a specialisation – but decide early on what personal attributes or values you have that you want people to be able to see.   Whatever else your personal brand is, as a professional person, part of it will need to be that you are good at what you do.  In time, your brand will include that you are an expert at what you do.  This is going to require continuing education and training, as well as making sure people know that you’re an expert.

Think about it carefully.  What do you want to be known for?  How can you stand out from the pack?

Managing Work Life Balance

Workplace flexibility has become an essential component of any attraction and retention strategy. In fact, flexibility in the workplace is one of the key factors in maintaining an employee’s motivation, loyalty and commitment to their employer.Managing your balance

Certain employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Employers can only refuse these requests on reasonable business grounds. An example of a flexible working arrangement can include a change in location (e.g. working from home) or a change in hours of work (e.g. changes to start and finish times).

Under current law, employees who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger;
  • are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010);
  • have a disability;
  • are 55 or older;
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence; or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

An employer can only refuse a request for flexible working arrangements on reasonable business grounds. An example of a reasonable business ground is the requested arrangements are too costly or other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request.

Outside of the categories regulated by law, “Employers of Choice” are allowing other employees to alter their working arrangements either on an ad hoc basis or on a more permanent basis. Today is the age of the “digital worker” and half of Australia’s working population use the internet to work from home or on the go. Many employers recognise that there can be many benefits in an employee working from home e.g. more often than not workers who work from home don’t work a standard 9am to 5pm day but end up working longer hours and thus there is increased opportunities to get the work done.

Additionally, there are financial benefits to employers having employees work from home. Employers with a home workforce (or part home workforce) save money on overheads, desk space and absenteeism at work becomes a non-issue.

Given the law surrounding flexible working arrangements, it is therefore necessary for employers to implement an ongoing communication strategy to ensure employees are aware of workplace flexibility, and managers and staff know what is available and how a flexible work arrangement can be established.

The development of a flexible work strategy will contribute to an organisation’s “Employer Brand” and will greatly assist in the attraction and retention of staff.