Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. But contrary to popular belief, not all conflict is bad. Sometimes when we embrace difficult conversations at work, it’s an opportunity to grow, innovate, and even strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. One of the most important things on how to handle difficult conversations at work is remembering the power of taking a pause before you react or respond to a situation. Ultimately, you can’t control how people react, but you always have the power to choose your response.
Dealing with Difficult Conversations at Work
Friendly reminder — not everything deserves a reaction or even a response. You can either step into conflict or step away from it; the choice is always yours. Embracing your power of pause also enables you to:
-Take a few deep breaths or walk away from the situation.
– Refrain from judgment and do a quick self-check.
-Gather your thoughts so you can ask a few clarifying questions.
-Consider the other person’s perspectives or objectives.
Think Conversation, Not Confrontation.
Once you decide that a discussion is needed, here are a few tips to help you prepare for a difficult conversation:
Silence the noise, get rid of distractions and do a quick self-check on the story you are telling yourself.
At any given moment, we have a gazillion stories going on in our head — especially when we’re in the middle of a conflict. The biggest mistake we make is reacting off of a story we’ve told ourselves about a person or situation. Many times, we’re assuming, overthinking, and even playing out scenarios that may be true or false.
Seek facts before feelings.
-What evidence do I have to support this story?
-Are you feeding the stories in your head based off of your past experiences? What else it could it be? Self-awareness is key: How have you contributed to the problem?
-What is your purpose for having the conversation?
-What do you want to avoid?
-Why is it important to have this conversation right now?
-What do you hope to accomplish?
-Describe your ideal outcome?
-What is the common ground or mutual interest that you both share?
Prepare to have a discussion and approach the discussion from a place of curiosity.
Starting from a place of curiosity (e.g., give a person the benefit of the doubt) helps to rebuild trust with someone who may have hurt you. Plus, it helps to create a mutual understanding about finding solutions which benefit the both of you. Also, take a few moments to imagine you don’t know anything about this person or situation. Sometimes this can help you see things from another person’s perspective and assess their needs at the time.
Watch your tone and be aware of your verbal and non-verbal communication.
For instance, typing on your computer or scrolling through emails or your social media feed while speaking to someone, sends the message that you don ‘t value a person’s time or what they have to say.
Strive to ask more open-ended questions. Here are a few examples:
I’d really like us to get to a place where we can ______________ and avoid__________. When ___________ occurred, I felt like _____________. Can you help me understand why (describe the problem and the outcome) ________________. Take note, the more you show interest in learning about the other person’s perspectives the better chance you have at reaching a positive outcome and mutual agreement. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to agree, but validating that their views are just as important as yours sets the tone for respect and a new way ahead.
I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about ___________. I value you as ___________so I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well. What are your thoughts about _________?
I notice we have different views about _____________________. So, I’d like to hear your thoughts about____________ .What challenges are you having with____________? What part of__________ makes you uncomfortable? How can we work more effectively as a team?
If we considered __________, what does success look like for you? What are the top two things you’d like to see from me?
To make sure you understand the person correctly, restate what has been said—this also sends the message that you’re actively listening to them.
Fortune 500 Company Corporate Board Diversity at All-Time High
A new report from the Alliance for Board Diversity (ABD) and Deloitte, reveals that women and people of color represent 34% of all corporate board seats in Fortune 500 companies—placing board diversity at an all-time high.
Here are some key findings from the study:
-Black woman gained 32 board seats in 2018, an increase of 26.2% from 2016.
-Black men gained 26 board seats in 2018, an increase of 8.5% from 2016.
-Black and Asian women achieved the largest increase in board seats; black women at a 44.8% increase, and Asian women at a 30.8% increase.
-Companies are increasingly re-appointing minority board members to their boards rather than seeking out new directors.
“The increase in boardroom diversity over the last two years is encouraging, but we must not overlook that Caucasian/White men still hold 66% of all Fortune 500 board seats and 91.1% of chairmanships on these boards,” said Linda Akutagawa, chair for the Alliance for Board Diversity and president and CEO, LEAP (Leadership for Asian Pacifics).
“While progress has been achieved, there is still much more work to do,” said Deb DeHaas, vice chairman and national managing partner, Deloitte Center for Board Effectiveness.
‘Wokeness’ in the Boardroom
Corporate America has been responsive to the wave of activism, particularly across social media, in regards to racism, sexism, economic inequality, and various other societal ills. Last year, Nike interjected itself into the heated debate over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem pre-game, to protest police brutality. The athletic apparel company made the symbol of the kneeling movement, Colin Kaepernick, a star in one of its ad campaigns.
The risk of offending customers who disagree with protesting on the field seemed to be worth taking. Nike’s sales increased 31% after the Kaepernick ad backlash.
Recently, Gillette, a Procter & Gamble brand, released an ad in line with the #MeToo movement, urging men to take responsibility for sexist behavior of other men. The ad is inciting both praise and outrage.
It’s not yet known how the controversial ad will affect P&G’s bottom line; the company is set to release its Q2 earnings next week (but so far, Wall Street speculation is favorable).
Burger King is the latest company to wade into political waters after posting a tweet poking fun at a misspelled tweet of Donald Trump’s.
due to a large order placed yesterday, we’re all out of hamberders.
just serving hamburgers today.
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) January 15, 2019
CNN coined this ad trend “woke advertising.” This “wokeness” has presumably made it into the corporate boardrooms as the growing diversity board diversity numbers seem to evidence.
Despite Spate of Black Executive Board Appointments, Challenges Persist
A number of high-profile black executives have been appointed to the boards of some of the world’s largest companies. Last November, Nike announced the appointment of John W. Rogers, the CEO and founder of Ariel Investments L.L.C. to its board. Retired AMEX CEO Ken Chenault sits on the boards of Facebook and Airbnb. Edith Cooper, the executive vice president and global head of human capital at Goldman Sachs was added to Silicon Valley company Slack’s board.
As progress is made, challenges remain. One issue is that most board appointments come from the C-suite level and from the pool of corporate CEOs, in particular. The number of black CEOS at the corporate level has shrunk in recent years. Chenault actually discussed this issue with Black Enterprise in a recent interview.
“We have a long way to go,” said Chenault. “As I’ve said publicly, I think it’s embarrassing that the number of African American CEOs has actually been reduced from eight years ago. That’s a serious problem. From an African American perspective, we are underrepresented. We can talk all the theories we want. People talk about the complexity of this issue. I know that there are very qualified people. They just haven’t gotten the opportunity.”
While it’s important to celebrate the achievement made in diversifying American corporate boards, there is still the need to build up the pipeline of qualified black executives that can ascend to the C-suite.
First Black Man Elected President of the American Nurses Association (ANA)
Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, President of the American Nurses Association
A distinguished leader, Dr. Grant has more than 30 years of nursing experience and is an internationally recognized burn-care and fire-safety expert. He previously served as the burn outreach coordinator for the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals in Chapel Hill. In this role, Grant oversaw burn education for physicians, nurses, and other allied health care personnel and ran the center’s nationally acclaimed burn prevention program, which promotes safety and works to reduce burn-related injuries through public education and the legislative process. Grant also serves as adjunct faculty for the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, where he works with undergraduate and graduate nursing students in the classroom and clinical settings.
Grant is frequently sought out for his expertise as a clinician and educator. In addition to being a prolific speaker, he has conducted numerous burn-education courses with various branches of the U.S. military in preparation for troops’ deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2002, President George W. Bush presented Grant with a Nurse of the Year Award
for his work treating burn victims from the World Trade Center site. In 2013, Grant received the B.T. Fowler Lifetime Achievement Award from the North Carolina Fire and Life Safety Education Council for making a difference in preventing the devastating effects of fire and burn injuries and deaths within the state.
An active participant in professional organizations, Grant is a past chair of the National Fire Protection Association board of directors and served as second vice president of the American Burn Association board of trustees. He also holds membership in Sigma Theta Tau and Chi Eta Phi. Grant served as president of the North Carolina Nurses Association from 2009-11. In 2002, ANA honored Grant with the Honorary Nursing Practice Award for his contributions to the advancement of nursing practice through strength of character, commitment, and competence.
Grant holds a BSN degree from North Carolina Central University and MSN and PhD degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Nursing in 2014. He is the first man to be elected to the office of president of the American Nurses Association.
Risha Grant: Black Women Need Allies in the Workplace
Risha Grant, the founder and CEO of Risha Grant L.L.C., an award-winning diversity and inclusion consulting and communications firm, recently posted a thought-provoking and provocative question on her Facebook page:
“What do Black people do that irritate White people?”
The responses from white people evoked counter-responses from black folk ranging from seething outrage to an appreciation for this open dialogue.
However, Grant is not simply being a provocateur. For the past 18 years, she has helped major corporations tackle their people problems and solve their diversity and inclusion issues. Now she wants to help you form the relationships you need by equipping you with tools to build allies.
In an exclusive interview with Black Enterprise, Grants speaks about how black women can tap into their power and eliminate what she has coined Bias Synapse, easily remembered as BS, in the workplace.
The Foundation of Allyship
Black Enterprise: Why is building allies at work critical for black women?
Risha Grant: Black women are commonly and unfairly stereotyped as angry and uncompromising. Building a support system of allies is critical in keeping those misconceptions in check. Additionally, building authentic relationships with other co-workers can help you to excel simply because these allies will understand, support, and speak up for who you are and how you operate. From a collaborative standpoint, working with allies allows others to experience your work ethic, creativity, and problem-solving ability. This will provide your allies with the knowledge needed to tout your abilities to the leaders within your company.
In an earlier conversation, we spoke about some of the pillars of alliances being authenticity, communication, and trust. What else would you say is key to the equation of allyship?
Collaboration, strategy, and equality. All these pillars are instrumental to the success of creating allies, but collaboration is the secret sauce to creating an allyship that will boost you to the C-suite. Collaborating allows others to truly understand your superhero powers as they see you fully flexing your leadership muscles. When it comes to strategy, it’s important to always have one. The strategy keeps you on point in recognizing who you should be seeking out as allies. Create a list of the qualities and abilities you need in an ally to climb the next step on the corporate ladder. Equality is super important because being someone’s ally can be draining at times. You want to make sure that you are reciprocating what you expect from others. There is nothing worse than becoming a drain on someone else in your quest to get ahead but when you are needed, you never have time to fit them into your schedule. Make sure you are equally vested in your ally’s success. Not only will it make them want to support you more, but it will also become a point of praise regarding your personality.
How can women form authentic relationships with their co-workers?
Being open, honest, and inclusive are the keys to building authentic relationships. Women, especially black women, may find this somewhat difficult because we have not typically found that we can trust people at work. We tend to lean on and confide in other black women because we are comfortable with them but it’s important that we open our circle up and give people a chance to experience our greatness. This is done through the inclusion of others. Opening yourself up to new experiences will enrich your work and personal life. Authentic relationships should happen organically but there is nothing wrong with planning your strategy for success. Be careful with honesty. Honesty is important but brutal honesty without tact does not build relationships, it destroys them. Meet people where they are. That means, address them with your honesty in a way that it can be received with grace and not humiliation.
Getting past the BS
Some women have been mistreated in some form by co-workers, how can they move past that so that they can build some kind of trust and positive working relationship?
Grace. I heard it said that the hardest thing we will ever do as humans is to forgive people who have never asked for our forgiveness. It’s important to do this for our own peace and success. You can’t build trust without forgiveness, so don’t make that your goal. Understand who you are dealing with and then work with this co-worker in a way that makes you comfortable. You can certainly still build a positive working relationship but keeping work at the forefront is instrumental to your own level of comfort. Learn to manage through your co-worker’s weaknesses for your success and that of your team.
Can you elaborate more on what you call the “pecking order” when it comes to how black women have to select allies in the workplace?
Black women must be strategic but bold in selecting allies. White men are at the top of the hierarchy and everyone else falls in between while black women are consistently at or near the bottom of the hiring and promoting pool. Black women need to focus on finding an ally that will not be envious or have the scarcity mentality. This means that certain people feel there is not enough to go around so becoming your ally could stop them from achieving some level of success. I recommend creating allies with white men, but it needs to be white men who recognize the power and privilege bestowed to them because then they are powerful allies. They can move mountains to support you and won’t worry about how it will affect their upward climb. But, remember you always want to give back what you are getting.
Allyship is a two-way street
How can women stand with their allies when tough times arise and still protect themselves?
This is tricky. At best, you may lose standing at work with your peers and at worst, you could lose your job. This is where ethics and character take center stage. We must support each other and typically suck at it. There is power in numbers and you never know when you will need someone to stand with you. Be a voice when someone is silenced but most importantly as you stand courageously with your ally, do so respectfully but document everything. It’s better to show it than to tell it.
What are some of the office behaviors that people should stay away from as they seek allies?
Pissy Polite people! This is a phrase I coined in my book to define consistent but subtle actions that poison work environments and co-workers. These are seemingly polite people, but their actions are accompanied by a subtle sarcastic undertone that makes it apparent that they don’t really like you or it’s a behavior exuded by individuals who feel obligated to be polite but can’t fake a sincere action. Overall, follow your gut instincts and not the office gossip. You could miss out on a powerful ally and friend if you don’t get to know people for yourself.
The return on relationships
What are some of the doors that open when you have allies?
Leadership opportunities, friendships, more responsibility, promotions and an overall, more positive work experience because you know someone is down for you and wants to see you succeed.
A Day In The Life of Black Model and Entrepreneur Afiya Bennett
It’s not every day you hear about someone getting the opportunity to be mentored by iconic supermodel Naomi Campbell. But in 2014, black model Afiya Bennett appeared on Campbell’s TV series The Face, and the coaching she received on the show laid the foundation for a successful modeling career. Beyond modeling for Maybelline, Fenty Beauty, Nine West, Mac Cosmetics, Nike, and Levi campaigns, Bennett also landed features in editorials for Vogue Italia, L’officiel India, Glamour South Africa, Marie Claire U.S./Indonesia, Instyle Magazine, Essence, and Self. With no plans of slowing down, the Brooklyn native also snagged a role as a Global Brand Ambassador for Fiji Water. Now, with the launch of The Afiya Collection, a luxury hat line offering a vegan-friendly range of materials including leather, patent leather, and wool—she adds entrepreneur to her long list of boss moves.
Fueled by the discouragement she received from people about her ambitious nature, she chose luxury military/biker styled caps not only to represent fashion and style, but to send women a message of strength, versatility, and ability to turn fear into greatness. Below, the Wilhelmina model takes us through a day in her life of casting calls, photo shoots, and running her own business.
My daily schedule varies from day-to-day depending on what brand I am shooting for and if they’re based in New York. Typically, I wake up at 7:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. call time. When I wake up, the first thing I do is pray and thank God for waking me up another day. I normally eat breakfast at 9 a.m. I am a huge coffee lover, and most times breakfast consists of a cappuccino and eggs, nothing too fancy. After that the hustle begins.
My client list ranges from shooting campaigns for Nike and Nine West to editorials for Grazia and Vogue. Between running to castings, catching flights to shoot in the States or out of the country, working out, attending red carpet events, staying on top of your social media and building a brand, and maintaining a smile on your face, being a model is far from being all glamorous.
The three biggest misconceptions about models are one, models don’t eat, two, models lives are all glamorous, and three, models are uneducated.
All are false. I can certainly tell you I love food and being a model is way more than being pretty. Lastly, I have a degree in media communications and business. People would be most surprised to know that models have some of the lowest self-esteem. Although we live a life that may seem picture perfect on the outside, we are in an industry where we are constantly being critiqued and compared to our counterparts. No woman should ever be made to feel small.
I created the Afiya brand because it embodies standing together in solidarity. It’s for ladies who do not want to take ‘No’ for an answer. The Afiya Collection is here to inspire young girls to keep their heads up by following their dreams and not backing down. This collection is for women around the world to be reminded that strength is always in numbers, and it is time to make those numbers count.
Lunch always varies based on what is being served on set, but I never try and eat anything too bad, where if I got the booking of my dreams tomorrow I couldn’t bounce back
By the end of the day, I am often running home or running to an event. When it comes to meetups, I like to surround myself with other successful models, business owners, financial advisers, and personalities—all areas in my life that I am striving to be better in. A good friend once asked me if I had one more hour in the day what would I do with it and I responded I would invest it into myself and my business.
Once I walk through my door at home, I begin checking orders, shipping hats, and updating my marketing plan. It’s safe to say, I have long days. Dinner usually consists of chicken with sweet potato fries or brown rice and salad. The last thing I do before I go to bed is to pray the same as when I wake up. We live in such a crazy and unpredictable world. I love to acknowledge God in every aspect of my life both big and small; and when I do that I am just grateful to make it through another day.
Retirement Calculators (and Facts) for Real Life
Stashing money away for the golden years can be a huge burden for many people. In fact, saving for retirement is the leading financial stressor for Americans, a new study from Lincoln Financial Group shows. Further, 90% of U.S. residents report stress about their financial situation impacts their daily mood.
The study by the Radnor, Pennsylvania-based financial services company indicated people know that saving for retirement is imperative. Some 57% of Americans say it is important to have room in their budget for a retirement plan. Yet, individuals put household necessities, utilities, and transportation ahead of retirement savings.
“Saving for retirement doesn’t have to be stressful, and it doesn’t have to be difficult,” says Jamie Ohl, EVP, president, Retirement Plan Services, Head of Life and Annuity Operations, Lincoln Financial Group. “It’s all about taking small steps over the course of your working life to help you achieve the retirement you envision.”
Another revelation from the American Consumer Study is that only about half of Americans are confident about saving for retirement, and just a quarter say they don’t plan to retire. The recent study included 2,501 respondents.
The good news is there are steps people can take to help boost their confidence about retirement savings and enhance their ability to retire.
For one, waiting to save can cost you and impact your financial future. This calculator shows the effect that delaying savings can bring. Another point to consider is that a small change now can make a big difference later. For instance, consider cooking your own meal versus eating out once a week.
This calculator shows what that could mean. For instance, that action could add $113,000 to your retirement account.
People also should look at ways to protect their income in retirement. The study suggests many Americans are approaching their retirement years “unprotected”—meaning their savings are not shielded from rising healthcare costs, outliving savings, and other forces. Individuals should talk to a financial adviser to gain options—perhaps utilizing an annuity for instance—to discover ways to help turn retirement savings into sheltered lifetime income.
Interestingly, the study also found that about 1 in 4 Americans don’t plan to retire due to financial uncertainty in the future. Among its findings:
- Forty-nine percent of us plan to retire, while 24% don’t plan to retire.
- Twenty-seven percent will not retire because they do not have a good picture of what their financial future will look like.
- Some 26% of people are looking to live comfortably and keep their current lifestyle in retirement.
- Fourteen percent of Americans plan on beginning a “second career” later in life, while 32% aren’t sure and might consider the possibility.
- Of those wanting to begin a second career, 25% say it is because they want to continue to have some income, and 17% say it is to keep busy and try something different.
- More than 3 out of 4 Americans say they anticipate living in their own home once they are retired. That is particularly true for Young Boomers and Old Boomers (82% and 83%, respectively)
- Forty percent of Americans are not now contributing to a retirement savings plan.
- Some 24% of Americans with a formal retirement plan say “I wish I can retire earlier so that I can enjoy my time off doing personal things.”
- Americans without a formal plan are more indifferent, with 1 in 3 saying “I feel no particular way about retirement.”
African American Women Who Made U.S. Military History
Whether it’s defending our country on the front lines or providing support to U.S. soldiers and civilian employees, African American women have made significant accomplishments in the Army.
Women’s Memorial compiled a list of trailblazers that helped paved the way for some of today’s Army leaders.
1st Lt. Nancy C. Leftenant
In March 1948, 1st Lt. Nancy C. Leftenant became the first black woman to become a member of the Regular Army Nurse Corps after joining the Reserve Corps in February 1945.
Margaret E. Bailey
In 1964, Margaret E. Bailey, Army Nurse Corps, was the first nurse to be promoted to lieutenant colonel. In 1970, she went on to become the first black nurse to hold the rank of colonel.
Capt. Clara Adams-Ender
In 1967, Capt. Clara Adams-Ender became the first female in the U.S. Army to qualify for and be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge. In 1976, Lt. Col. Clara Adams-Ender became the first woman in the U.S. Army to earn the Master of Military Art and Science degree from the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Command Sgt. Maj. Mildred C. Kelly
In 1972, Mildred C. Kelly became the first black female sergeant major in the U.S. Army.
S. Sgt. Joyce B. Malon
In 1974, S. Sgt. Joyce B. Malone became the first black woman to earn airborne wings in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Brig. Gen. Hazel W. Johnson-Brown
In 1979, Brigadier General Hazel W. Johnson-Brown became the first black woman general officer and the first black chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
In 1987, Irene Trowell-Harris became the first black female general officer in the National Guard.
Brig. Gen. Marcelite Harris
In 1995, Brig. Gen. Marcelite Harris, USAF, was promoted to major general, the first black woman to attain this rank.
U.S. Army Sgt. Danyell Wilson
In 1997, U.S. Army Sgt. Danyell Wilson became the first black woman to earn the prestigious job of guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Edwina Martin, Fannie Jean Cotton, and Evelyn M. Brown
In 1951, Edwina Martin of Danville, Virginia; Fannie Jean Cotton of Jackson, Michigan; and Evelyn M. Brown of Shreveport, Louisiana were the first three black women commissioned as officers (second lieutenants) in the Air Force. All three graduated from the Air Force Officer Candidate School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
In 1969, Capt. Diane Lindsay, Army Nurse Corps, was the first black nurse to receive the Soldier’s Medal for Heroism.
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