Recently, the Pixar Animation Studio created a short film about the difficulties of a new employee trying to work in a white, male-dominated environment when she clearly doesn’t fit the mold. The hero of the film (a pink ball of yarn named “Purl”) struggles to be accepted and starts to lose her unique identity in the process. The film drives home the importance of workplace diversity and inclusivity. And it’s also really entertaining! Click the link below to watch!
I will never forget the first time I was invited to attend a project team meeting for a large project. I was so excited and proud to be asked as a non-scientist and administrative assistant to attend this weekly meeting. Here I was, finally sitting at the table as a “team member” — or so I thought. I offered up my one relevant idea and was dismayed when it was immediately pooh-poohed. Fifteen minutes into the meeting, the co-lead for the project joined the meeting via telecon. He blithely offered up the very same idea and that launched a long and fruitful discussion among team members on how to implement that idea.
There are all sorts of reasons why my idea might not have been considered. It might have been too early after my invitation to start contributing to the meeting. It might have been because I was a relatively junior member of the team. Or perhaps (and I must admit that this is what I tend to think), it was simply a case of gender bias.
As dismayed as I was at the time, I think that this is an opportunity for all of us to change for the better. A recent article in the New York Times suggests that men in leadership positions should actively encourage contributions from women. It cites the example of President Obama calling only on women for questions during a press conference. It suggests putting more women in leadership positions. It also suggests providing opportunities for women to provide their contributions anonymously. As an institution committed to progress, I am optimistic that, if we do these things, we will be able to benefit equally from everyone offering their ideas – without regard to their seniority, gender, age, or race.
Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, is an expert in the ways in which men and women communicate and the misunderstandings this can create. Her first book, You Just Don’t Understand, is available on Amazon, and she also has a blog on the Huffington Post.
Once known as Persia, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the 18th largest country in the world. The country is about the size of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Spain combined. The population is about 70 million. The country’s official language is Farsi, but almost half the population speaks another language. Most people (90%) belong to the Shia branch of the Islamic faith, but other religions are represented as well. Whatever their ethnic or religious backgrounds, most Iranians celebrate a common holiday, Norooz, the Persian New Year.
The first day of spring or the vernal equinox is barely noticed by most of us, but for the people of Iran, this day (when the sun is directly overhead at the equator) has special significance. It marks the beginning of the Persian New Year, and is the most important day in the Persian calendar.
This ancient holiday is called Norooz (sometimes spelled Norouz, Nawruz, Newroz, Nauruz, Nawroz, Noruz, Novruz, Nauroz, Navroz, Naw-Rúz, or Nevruz), and it begins sometime between March 20th and March 22nd. In Farsi, Norooz means “new day,” and most of the traditions that surround the holiday are connected with rebirth and renewal, befitting the first day of spring.
Most Persians begin to prepare for Norooz by spring cleaning their houses. Shopping is part of the preparation, and people will buy new clothes for the special day. On the night before the last Wednesday of the year, Persians celebrate Chahârshanbe Sûrî, the festival of fire. People make fires – usually in their backyards – and friends and family leap over the flames. As they do so, the tradition is to recite “Zardî-ye man az to, sorkhî-ye to az man,” which literally means “My yellowness to you; your redness to me.” Yellow is symbolic of sickness, and red symbolizes strength and health.
Persians prepare a Haft Sin table. Haft means seven, and Sin is the letter S. So the Haft Sin table includes seven items starting with the letter S in Farsi. These items are:
- Sabzeh – lentil sprouts to symbolize rebirth
- Samanu – a sweet pudding, a symbol of wealth and good fortune
- Senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree (Elaeagnus angustifolia) and a symbol of love
- Sir – garlic symbolizing medicine
- Sib – apples for health and beauty
- Somaq – sumac, a deep red spice, which is the color of the rising Norooz sun
- Serkeh – vinegar, a symbol of age and patience
Visitors to Iranian houses are often surprised to find that there are more than seven items on the table, and many of them don’t start with S. These other items vary a little according to region and culture, but usually include a hyacinth (sonbol), a mirror, sekkeh (coins), pastries, decorated eggs, a bowl of goldfish, a bowl of water with an orange in it, rose water, and a holy book.
Although most Iranians are Muslims, there are other religions in Iran too. So depending on your religion, the book on the Haft Sin table may be the Qur’an, the Bible, the Torah, the Avesta, the book of Zoroastrian texts, or the Kitab-i-Aqdas (the book of the Bahá’i faith). Finally, a poetry book honors the literary traditions of the Persian people.
During the twelve-day holiday, people visit friends and relatives. On the thirteenth day, everyone celebrates Sizdah bedar by leaving their houses to have a picnic in the open air. After the picnic, they take the sabzeh (the sprouting lentils) and throw them into flowing water. The idea is that the sabzeh have collected all the sickness and bad luck of the household, and it is now thrown away.
Because of the relatively large Persian-American population in the United States, Norooz is typically associated with Iran. However, the holiday is celebrated in other countries in the Middle East and Central Asia too, including Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Iraq, Albania, Turkey, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.
If you have to interview candidates for employment, you need to be very careful about the kinds of questions you ask a prospective employee. Many questions could get you or the institution into trouble. And remember that many lawsuits don’t actually originate in the interview room — they often start in “friendly” conversations between the interview room and the parking lot. That’s where these “accidents” so often happen.
So we all know that you shouldn’t be asking candidates about their race, gender, religion, marital status, age, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, sexual preferences, or age. And most people won’t ask about these things directly. Rather, they stumble upon them. Here are a few examples:
- The candidate has an accent. You find it perfectly charming, and you’re almost sure that the candidate is Italian. Besides, his first name is Luigi. It’s quite exciting to speak to an Italian because you’ve just returned from a vacation of a lifetime in Italy. Your curiosity is aroused, and you ask the candidate if he’s from Italy.
- You have ended the interview, and one of your colleagues asks how your children are. You answer, but you instinctively don’t want to leave the candidate out of the conversation. You ask the candidate whether she has children too.
- The candidate tells you that she speaks Spanish fluently. You’re impressed and wonder how the candidate achieved that level of proficiency. You ask where she learned her Spanish.
- The candidate tells you she lives in a part of town where you’d love to live, but it’s rather expensive. You’re curious and you ask whether she bought her house before the market went crazy. You should never ask a candidate whether she owns her home or not!
- The candidate describes his family life and activities with his children. He talks about how they like to take vacations together, and how they are planning a trip to Orlando in the summer. “But this time, it’ll be just me and the kids,” he says. “Can’t your wife go?” you ask. This is, of course, doubly illegal. You’re not only asking about marital status, but you’re also implicitly asking about the candidate’s sexual orientation.
- You’re pretty sure that you recognize the candidate from somewhere, but you’re not sure where. Then the candidate tells you that she lives in the same neighborhood as you. The puzzle is complete. You’re almost sure you saw her in church last Sunday, and you ask her whether she goes to your church.
- The candidate says she went to the same high school as your husband. You wonder whether she knows him, and you ask when she was there. You have now implicitly asked the candidate how old she is!
These kinds of questions seem at first to be so innocent and so friendly, but they’re exactly the kinds of things that can get you into very serious trouble. Just remember to be very focused and make sure that your questions are all about the candidate’s ability to do the job and only that!
You can make friends after the person comes on board!
I have business cards, but I must admit that I find it harder and harder to see the point of them. Quite often, I will ask a colleague to send me an email with contact information because that’s efficient and environmentally friendly.
If you travel globally, however, think again. In many cultures, particularly Asian ones, the exchange of business cards is something of a ritual. It isn’t just important to do it — you also have to follow a few basic rules. Here are a few tips:
Giving Business Cards
- Make sure your business cards are in pristine condition. Carry them in a case. (Never use a rubber band to hold a stack of them together.)
- Present the business card as if you are giving a gift. Use both hands, if possible. Otherwise use your right hand. Make sure that the person can read it immediately without turning it around.
- If you often do business in a particular country, consider having your card translated with one side in English, and the other side in the local language. Include the international country code for your telephone number on your card. The United States should be written as +1, for example.
- Present your card while standing. Never “deal” your cards as if you are playing poker!
- Always have your business card ready to present. In some cultures, not having a business card is rather like refusing to shake hands.
Receiving Business Cards
- Thank the person for the card. In Japan, a quick bow is appropriate.
- Accept the card with both hands. Handle it carefully and delicately.
- Take your time to read the card carefully.
- After studying the card, begin a friendly conversation that acknowledges that you’ve absorbed the information on the card. You may like to comment on the person’s profession, the office location, or the company.
- After sitting down for your meeting, place the card in front of you.
- Never write on a person’s card. And don’t even think of shoving it in your back pocket and sitting on it.
“I am scared to death of public speaking!”
“I wish we, as a department, could take a team building seminar. These outside vendor workshops are too expensive.”
“I was promoted to a supervisory position! What information should I know as a new supervisor?”
Do these statements sound familiar to you? If so, you’re not alone.
Every year at the Benefits Fair, it amazes me how many people are not familiar with the Office of Talent Management and Organization Development, specifically the Learning and Development Programs. The Learning and Development (L&D) office offers a variety of developmental training for JHU’s full- and part-time faculty and staff – and it’s “free” as long as you register and attend! These courses are funded through the Benefits Office and they are part of your benefits package.
To answer your questions above, some of the sessions available to you are “Speak Like a Pro,” individualized “Team Building” sessions, and a variety of supervisory courses through the JHU Supervisory Training Program. For more information on these sessions, simply log in to myLearning with your JHED ID and password, and explore all of your options!