29 October 2010

A Woman's Success and Strong Supervision

When I think back on my own career in trades, I am reminded of my favourite boss that I had when I was only 20. I had been in the trades about 3 years at the time that I started to work for him. He would have been considered an ally to women because he had a standard that he held himself to and he didn't put up with any bull... on the job. He set the tone for how the organization worked.

As often happens, there were times when things didn't go as planned and this guy tolerated no nonsense. He called people out on issues taht were below standard. He treated people fairly. His treatment of people made an impression on me and became the gold seal standard for what to look for in a boss. I had the good fortune to know his family personally and he was the same way no matter where he was - a gentleman to the core. He was principled and didn't back down from what he believed was fair.

I have witnessed this again recently as a female company owner I know went on the job and saw one of her employees verbally abusing a co-worker who was not able to advocate for himself. There was no time for diplomacy. The abuser's actions were having and impact on the rest of the workers. She walked up to him and loudly proclaimed that he had fallen below the standard and he didn't like being caught. He threw down his tool and walked off the job. The other (male) workers thanked her afterwards for her support. They enjoyed having a boss that was on their side.

We all want to go to work and do a good days work for a good days pay and maybe have a bit of fun doing it. That might happen more often if there were strong leaders onsite that had strong sanctions against unacceptable behaviour. I've been fortunate to not only have experienced it myself but watched a woman doing it well also. Women make great tradeswomen and they also make wonderful supervisors - it's natural I think to have those in her care get along with one another. Way to go sista...

3 October 2010

You gotta know....

The Gambler - a song by Kenny Rogers has a line that says "You gotta know when to hold up, know when to fold up, know when to walk away, know when to run."

As I was listening to this recently I was thinking how this wisdom applied not only to gambling, but also to women as they work toward a successful career in the trades. There will be times when using good judgement will require that you "know when to walk away, know when to run".

Knowing when to speak up, Knowing when to let it go, Knowing when you're wasting precious energy are all skills that will serve you well.

If you want to break it down a little further you will notice that you're only knowing "when".....

When is it time to go to the supervisor with a complaint about a co-worker for example? I would have to say that there should have been an attempt to solve the problem on your own first. Developing the skill to advocate for oneself has many benefits. It sends a message that you're strong. You don't need to be rescued. Imagine if everytime someone at work did something you didn't like, you went to your boss and complained. You'd get a reputation after a while. Even as children we were encouraged to solve our own problems at some point. It's good business.

But...there's always a limit. If you're tangling with someone who gets a joy out of irritating you then it may be time to crank it up. Let me give you a concrete example. I was walking through a worksite one day when a man made a very sexist comment to me. I turned to him and quietly and politely told him that I was offended by his remark. He laughed and then when I walked by again - he once again repeated the remark, obviously delighted by my discomfort. I walked over and asked him once again, a little firmer, to please not say it again. But he blatantly laughed out loud and said it again loud enough for others to hear. I informed him that if he didn't stop, I would have to go see the supervisor. He chuckled as I walked away.

The next time I walked past him, he repeated the remark in front of 8 co-workers. I didn't speak to him. I went to my supervisor and lodged a formal complaint. He was reprimanded and forced to apologize to me.

That's the only time I've ever had that kind of response from a man. I find people in general are very reasonable but you have to learn that there will be times when you are out of your comfort zone and at those times you have to "know when to walk away, know when to run". Do you know?