HR View on Mike Pence’s Stance on Women

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USA Today photo

Some of you may know that I teach Human Resources (HR) and do Corporate Training. I have taught many courses including  Business Etiquette, Business Ethics, Human Resources regulations and Cultural Diversity. When I do Executive Coaching for Businesses, we discuss not only business related topics but also personal conduct in the workplace.

I try not to watch the news or read the paper. The news bothers me and I find it depressing for the most part. Yet, I find that my friends always fill me in on what’s going on as it relates to my passions. A sweet friend told me on Friday about the media frenzy surrounding Mike Pence following the Billy Graham rule about not being alone with a woman (other than his wife). This was reported first by Laura Turner of the Washington Post article here about Karen Pence and her support of her husband. The description at the start of the article is surprisingly sweet, giving examples of how Mike Pence and his wife support one another and care deeply as a faithful, married couple. It’s towards the middle of the article that raises questions about the current times, stating “But colleagues and employees engage in a relationship between grown-ups who ought to be able to have an appropriate work-related conversation or a meal together” [bold & italics mine]. True, if we all could get along, then maybe people who are grown-ups wouldn’t sue one another or talk about each other behind their backs either. The very next line gets to the heart of the matter “Affairs start in secrecy, and to guard against them is good.” This is why Billy Graham started his rules – so that all he did was out in the open. As an Evangelical Pastor on the global stage, he had to protect himself and guard against things that could be misconstrued by others.

I am shocked at the media backlash this has garnered. Given the amount of lawsuits served up in the HR field, male and female relationships in the workplace are tenuous. For people in higher positions, this can mean being at further risk for workplace lawsuits and also personal lawsuits. For example, I generally advise managers to keep the door ajar when doing performance reviews (good or bad ones – doesn’t matter) so that employees will not charge them with duress or false imprisonment. Before you balk at that, there have been cases where someone of the opposite sex claimed both sexual harassment and also duress during a closed-door performance review. She stated that her male boss made inappropriate comments to her, said that he would raise her ratings for sexual favors and then wouldn’t let her leave because the door was closed (not locked, but simply closed). He denied all accusations, he was well-respected by his staff, but the company settled the case out of court because they did not want to go through the expense of fighting he said/she said in public.

The same holds true for lunch time conversation or long car trips. Why put yourself into that position with someone of the opposite sex? Why not invite someone else to go with you? My recommendation is always this: if you are a female in a position of authority and you want to invite a male to lunch to discuss something, have lunch in the company break room or cafeteria, where others can publicly see you and you are accessible. Do not go to another location outside of work by yourselves. Invite another person to go. This way, if there is an accusation of wrongdoing, at least you have another witness present.

I believe that both Billy Graham and Mike Pence are both correct on this issue, not just from a religious viewpoint that honors and protects their spouse and marriage but also from a secular, business viewpoint. Placing yourself into a situation that can cause doubts and show favoritism can cause tongues to wag in the workplace. This is a great way to invite lawsuits. I’m not the only one with this viewpoint. In a blog  titled “When Genders Matter” by Molly Donovan for The Muse, the same idea is supported. It’s not just a matter of male and female anymore either. The same principle holds true for transgender and LGBT orientation. The person across from you could be another female who may make sexual advances towards you as a female boss. It could be a male employee having lunch with a gay manager who might make inappropriate advances.

In this day and age, it’s good to error on the safe side. Yes, you may offend people when you leave the door slightly open. Yes, you may offend people when you ask for someone else to join you on the one hour drive to the client meeting. However, at the end of the day, you may find that it’s a bit easier to sleep at night knowing that you are not crossing the lines or sending out messages that could be misinterpreted by others.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and profound insight, 10 so that you can discern what best, that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.… Philippians 1:9-11

As Christians, we are held to a higher standard by God. We are to look towards Christ and not allow ourselves to be placed in situations that may mar our witness. May we choose to err on the side of caution and use the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment to conduct ourselves in a way that’s stated in Philippians 4:8 ~ “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ”

Think about how the world will perceive you when you go out for lunch or go for drinks with that ONE female employee after work. Think about what that does to your reputation (man or woman) in the workplace. Think most of all about what message that is sending out about you as a child of God. Mike Pence is suffering from media backlash, but from the examples given about his daily choice to not be alone with women, his witness as a Christian man is to be blameless in his interactions with others. May we all strive to focus on what God wants and not what the world wants. Amen.

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Let’s Talk

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My husband & I are Marriage Mentors. We developed the Marriage Mentoring Ministry at our last church and by the grace of God, are helping to create a new Marriage Ministry at our new church. It is an amazing blessing to work with couples who are either seriously dating, are engaged to be married or are newly married. We are NOT counselors, nor do we give advice. This is how mentoring differs from other things. More on that later in another post.

I have taught Business Communication for Undergraduate Business schools since 1997 – coming up on 20 years! Much of what works well for the workplace can and does work well for the home. It’s just that we tend to be more polite to those we work with than those with whom we live. It’s a fact. Familiarity adds to the casualness with which we approach relationships that are close to us. While we take care to watch our words at work, it doesn’t always happen to me at home. I am mostly talking about myself here… I don’t want to point a finger at you because when I do that, I know that four other fingers are pointing back at me (in my case, that is literally true, as I have one husband and three kids! Ha! Ha!).

I taught a Conflict Resolution course earlier this week to College Interns. They were absolutely NOT interested in the session or me, until I asked them how many of them were in a relationship. Most raised their hands and that’s when they got connected into the topic. Sometimes, we think that this stuff we are learning at work does not apply to anything other than work. When you can link things at work to home, that’s where learning becomes valuable and memorable to others.

Talking to others about personal matters is not easy. In the study of Conflict Resolution, I usually start off the session by asking them to think about how conflicts were handled in their home when they were growing up. Did their parent(s) yell? Were they passive aggressive or always trying to keep the peace? These behaviors can definitely influence how you react to conflict.

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There are several ways you can approach conflict resolution – I also wrote about conflict & perspectives in my blog titled “Bridges, Balconies, & Burquas“. The first is to know your behavioral style. Most inventories (DiSC, Myers Briggs, Jungian, etc) are based on two dimensions: Task & People (horizontal axis) and Direct & Indirect (or in the figure, Outgoing/Reserved). There are free online tests you can take (& I encourage you to take them!) to find out how you fall into these quadrants. No matter what you take, the main questions are:

  1. Do you tell people directly how you feel about certain things or do you beat around the bush in order to spare feelings?
  2. Does interaction with others (maybe 20 min or more of talking) energize you or leave you making a mental laundry list of all the things you needed to get done in that time you just spent?

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Answers to those questions will allow you to figure out which side you land on – if you are energized with interactions with others, you will fall near to the “I” and the “S” side. If you are not, then “D” & “C” are more your style. If you are direct, you will go towards the top half of the circle and if indirect, then “C” & “S” may be more like you. Nothing is etched in stone, but knowing how you like to be approached is a good start to communicating with others.

Lack of Communication is one of the top reasons for divorce in a marriage. It is also one of the main reasons why employees leave (1. My boss & I didn’t get along OR 2. My co-workers & I didn’t see eye to eye). That’s it. It’s really that simple. When we start to see where someone might fall into the style spectrum, it’s easier to understand that them being quiet doesn’t mean they don’t like you – it simply means they are processing information & are being Contemplative! In other words, they are actually taking the time to think about what you just said! How many times do we misunderstand what we just saw in another person and shake our heads? The answer: I just did it today! 🙂

So, before you decide to say “Let’s Talk” to someone, you may want to consider how they like to be approached, how they view the world (=differently than you) and also what you may need to do in order to come to a good resolution. If we thought things through on a daily basis, maybe we wouldn’t waste so much energy in assuming a negative situation. The Bible says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.(NASB – Philippians 4:8). That is a great place to start. In addition, Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” When you watch your words and think for just a second before you speak, it can make a complete difference in the way you approach others and in return, how others approach you.

If you would like to learn more about the DiSC assessment or any of the things I wrote about, I would love to hear from you!

Careless Trust

Yesterday, I was doing training for a private company on the merits of Mentoring in the workplace. It seemed like every conversation led back to building trust. If you cannot trust your employer or co-workers, you will not have a productive workplace. In fact, it would be quite dysfunctional. In a study done by the founders of Airbnb (an online Craigslist type of site for renting out your home to complete strangers who are traveling), they found that in 1972, 46% of people said that others were generally trustworthy. Today, that number is down to 32%, resulting in a lower trust of everyone – from identity theft, to fraud, to organizational ethical situations like Enron and Sony Executive emails.

There’s no doubt then that employees don’t want to share personal information with others and make deeper connections. But that’s where things get lost. We complain about how management doesn’t understand my needs or lament about lack of communication. The complaining doesn’t stop there either. It trickles down into a lack of trust for your spouse or family relationships. Let’s face it: there is a strong correlation between personal growth and trust.

I love Focus on the Family’s article on building trust in a marriage. I think those rules also apply to the workplace. They said that the Hebrew word Batach (baw-takh’) means TRUST. Not just that, but it has more meanings: bold, careless, confident, secure. You can see the application in Psalm 91:2

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

When the psalmist uses Trust here, he is speaking of being careless. This is literally without a care! When was the last time you were without a care or worry? Seems incredible, but that is what true trust means- when we can be at peace in our relationship and not worry that someone is going to talk behind our back or break a confidence at work. When we can trust our spouse to go on a business trip and not worry about them breaking  their vow of marriage, when we can trust that our children are really where they say they are with their friends.

I believe there is a formula for building trust. I call it “The Three C’s.”

Credibility

Confidentiality

Consistency

Credibility – speak the TRUTH. Some take this to mean blurt out what you are really thinking. Please don’t do that. We are called to speak the truth in LOVE (Eph 4:15).

Confidentiality-Keep your mouth shut. So difficult and tempting to share, but that sharing that seems harmless can turn into vicious gossip in about 20 minutes… And then come back around the office to bite you in the behind

Consistency – I had a boss once who was all over the place. She was sweet one day and sour the next. She would lavishly praise your talent and then tear you up for the same thing. It was stressful to be around her. You never knew what you were going to get from one day to the next. Being consistent means being fair. Give benefit of the doubt. Allow your relationship to flourish by building and encouraging, even while giving constructive criticism.

These are not easy to do, but then anything that’s worthwhile takes time. When you start trying to raise your awareness and practice trusting others, while building trust, you will find that you will become careless… In a good way!