BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history


Posted by YWM on November 29, 2011

By Patty Tanji
Open Workplace

“The guy leading the way is the one with all the arrows in his back”

“Bravery and valor” is one of my signature strengths.  If you want to know yours head over to Authentic Happiness powered by some great research by positive psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania.  I’m not sure to whom the above quote is attributable but thought it appropriate for me and anyone else who feels the calling to speak the unspeakable, and do the undo-able.   As I journey through my own experiences on a path to becoming self enlightened — its important to know a few daggers will be hurled my way.  The key to surviving and thriving in a world that wants me to conform to someone else’s definition of success is to live life on solid footing, knowing who I am, and what makes me feel most alive. That’s my definition of success. And, it would be great to have some company.

As a person who woke up one day with a business degree in one hand and a 9 month old in the other, I believed I could change the world, or at least make our workplaces more family friendly.  I was not prepared for the opposition I would encounter along the way.  The status quo is firmly entrenched in the human psyche and that includes how we do business in America and throughout the globe.  Any threat to intervene in a world by revealing a different perspective will meet resistance from within and without.  Even from the very people we thought were on our side.

For many years advocates like me for family friendly workplaces have been praising the bottom-line benefits of creating workplaces where people could bring their whole selves to work.  We now know that any usage of telework, job sharing, or reduced work week policies are met with the ‘stink eye’ of resistance.  Despite the evidence that employees who have control over the time and timing of their work makes for more productive workplaces and financially stronger organizations, the status quo way of doing business, views employees who participate in flexible work arrangements as less dedicated, less ambitious and not team players.    As a result we see fewer women in the c’suites, and other executive positions in our organizations.  Lets not forget the men who are also negatively affected by workplace cultures that reduce the value of an employee to the number of hours at the office.  The ‘daggers in the back’ of the modern workplace.   (Don’t get me started on when work actually begins and when it ends — take a look here if you are curious.)

When I posted in a social media group that we, as leaders, might view the Occupy movement as an opportunity for creating more human centered democratic workplaces that embrace a shared a vision and purpose with everyone in the organization,  accountability, integrity (see Worldblu’s list of democratic principles),  the daggers flew as resistance to change became apparent.  Here are some of the responses — fraught with fear and frustration at the thought of a changing the business landscape:

1. If we continue to attack and impede, rather than reward risk takers and visionaries our society will grind to a halt. If we keep choking the golden goose we will have to live off what we have been and not what we can be. When we stand up for our rights, it becomes impossible to focus on delivering value. If we fail to deliver value, someone else will.

2. The closer you get to the source of the food and value chain, the more the luster fades of “wouldn’t it be nice if? I do believe wholeheartedly in responsible management, but we can’t take a Boston cookie-cutter to an Appalachian coal mine, or Kansas wheat field and expect the same results.

3. Milton Friedman who once said “the social responsiblity of a corporation is to make a profit.” Profits create growth, growth creates profits, profits and growth create jobs but more importantly they create opportunity and hope for people…that 99%

4. Earth to Patti this war, as in business is war, survival of the fittest. My competitors are trying to take mine and I’m trying to take theirs. We’re not in kindergarten where everyone plays fair in the sand box. Human beings are not wired that way.

5. Patti’s on the right side of socialists every where. So you’re right if we become a socialist country she, you and the occupiers will be on that so called right side.

Some of these points are very valid ….even the ‘earth to Patti’ comment but more importantly I thought it interesting the use of the war metaphor and the unhealthy view of competition. This is why our workplaces are not family friendly and that is why our efforts as advocates to create more inclusive workplace cultures have stalled. Change is hard but change we must.

So, since my DNA compels me to opt-out of the status quo, in more ways than one, and opt-in to something else that is more creative, loving, and democratic, I embrace the daggers as part of the landscape.  Best keep my shields up!

This article first appeared on My Open Workplace

Patty Tanji works with local and state government agencies and the State Legislature to ensure the
elimination of gender-based disparities in public employment in Minnesota. Her work allows for pay
equity in the workplace, which positively impacts the lives of Minnesota women who work in the public
sector. Her work directly impacts the economic power of these families.

She will receive the Woman of Distinction award on December 1st from Century College and the Century College Women
and Gender Studies Department for her professional accomplishments and for her work in improving the lives and increasing opportunities for women and girls.

Follow Patty on twitter


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