Thriving not Surviving

Strategies to go from merely surviving to THRIVING for women in STEM

Fear of Speaking Up

My second boss after graduating told me I was brutally blunt. He wasn’t wrong. He wasn’t being mean, yet it took me about 5 years to figure out the real message behind this comment. The idea that I was too blunt kept me quiet for several years so that I didn’t screw up and hurt my career chances.

What he wanted me to learn was that I could communicate a message without hitting everyone over the head with a 2x4 every time. I needed to learn how to better deliver my message based on the audience I was talking to. Simple in concept, harder to apply.

I’m not saying that, as a woman, I had to change everything about how I was talking to people. That’s not the case at all. This is something we do naturally in our everyday life, and we need to be intentional with it at work. How we talk to our kids, our spouse/partner, our parents, our siblings, our neighbors, the barista at the coffee shop varies because we have different relationships with each of them. When...

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Save your sanity with work boundaries

Things are crazy right now. Are we working from home or not? Are kids learning in school, virtual, hybrid, or home school? Do we go out or do we stay home? How can I get a break from being on 24/7? Can we get delivery, carry-out or do I need to cook again? It’s exhausting!

Add on to all that stuff workplaces are ramping back up. More work is needing to be done, often by less people or in fewer hours per week. Some of this would be overwhelming alone, and all together it’s way too much for anyone. So, it’s time to give yourself credit for all you’ve accomplished and the fact you have kept things together so far.

How can we move forward without going completely off the deep end? First, know you are not alone, even if it feels like it. The world is upside down right now. We all need to find our balance again and we will find it.

Now that you’ve accepted that you are managing to get through the mountain of challenges it’s time to create a strategy for...

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Us versus Them Helps No-one

When we find ourselves thinking in terms of us versus them, we are starting down an ugly path. This creates competition and the need to win. This is great in sports and yet it is very detrimental elsewhere.

Creating a situation where there are “sides” sets up a confrontation. It is very rare that people will be able to maintain a sense of curiosity if someone else is arguing that their side is correct. We get defensive and more entrenched in our stance, then we will go on the attack to prove our point. It creates hostility and shuts down the ability to find a solution.

This is not to say that it is possible to avoid conflict in every case, it’s not. We have different opinions, different experiences, different ideas and that’s great. Yet, it can lead to disagreements on which approach will work best or how to proceed. The key is to keep an open mind and actively listen to the other perspectives. Who knows you may learn something new! Equally we should expect...

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What are you teaching them?

Each one of our interactions with others teach them something about us and vice versa. They may learn we are kind, caring, rude, get angry quickly, is very sensitive, stay calm and collected, or will stand our ground. We also learn how the other person behaves in various situations. Each of these nuggets of information shape our interaction with that person over time.

Years ago, I had a phone conversation with someone who was so angry and was berating me for not having the answer he wanted. I shared what was fact and it set him off. I finally spoke up and told him if he continued to yell, I was hanging up. He sputtered and said I wouldn’t dare. My response was “How long have you known me? Yeah I will.” He settled down and we resolved the issue. Our calls after that were not always great, we were in a terrible situation at work, and yet he never raised his voice again. He learned I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of abuse.

Flash forward a decade and I find myself...

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Let me tell you about…..

You know that person, the one who when you ask them what time it is, they tell you about their watch, how it was made and why it’s the best watch EVER. They can be exhausting to deal with and yet they have great knowledge and all the data you need to back up their recommendation. So how do you find the right balance between too much information and too little?

Recognize that if someone is giving you more information than you want to hear it could be for a couple of reasons. First, it might be their style to be overly analytical and want to have all the data first. Second, they could have been taught to bring everything to the table in previous situations. Third, they lack confidence so they will give you everything to make sure they didn’t miss anything.

Here are 5 tips to help you manage the information flow:

  1. Set boundaries: Ask the person for their top 2 reasons, their biggest concern, their top 3 picks, one example, or give them 3 minutes to make their case. Let it...
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Are you a firework?

Fireworks go up with a big bang when touched by a spark. They make a load noise and burn bright for a moment. While most people enjoy the show, most don’t like the noise. Yet every year we get excited for the holidays where we can watch shows from others or create our own. Fireworks can also be dangerous to the one lighting them, or to those around if things go wrong.

Every time I see a firework show I am reminded of several people I know, who can blow up quickly, make a lot of noise and put on a show with their anger. I’ve labeled them as fireworks because they are fun to watch on occasion, and yet they can do harm to those that get too close.

These people tend to react to situations instead of responding. They take offense quickly; they lash out instead of listening and they make a scene when things don’t go their way. It can be very effective in getting people to back off and leave them alone or in getting their way on something. Yet it is detrimental in the...

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Rights and Responsibilities When Speaking

communication Jul 01, 2020

When we are at work, we have the right to speak up on topics we have knowledge of and to share our opinions on things that impact us. As with any right we also have responsibilities to speak up when we see a problem and to listen to others who have expertise and ideas of their own. This can be a fine line for many people, particularly for women. It’s important to remember that we were hired for a reason and we need to speak up as needed.

Here are 4 times we need to speak up:

  1. When we are the expert. Too often a woman expert will let men speak on their topic of expertise because they jump in first or someone turns to them. Women need to get much more comfortable stepping in and saying “From my experience in…..” or “Based on my experience…” or even “In previous positions I have seen…” 
  1. When we see an error or problem. Each of us has unique experiences and we may have learned a lesson that others haven’t. We...
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Was the Right Message Delivered?

communication Jun 30, 2020

Years ago, my boss came into my office very angry and asked me to move a meeting to a different time. “Okay, why do I need to move it and when were you thinking would work?” was my response. Her response was for me to figure it out because Tom was tripled booked at the time of the meeting and so he would be able to make it. I was curious about that since Tom had accepted the meeting and I knew he was planning to call in. “Well, I looked at his calendar and there is no way he’s going to make so move the meeting.” And she she stormed out of my office to send Tom an email about managing his time better. As I was looking for a new time to have the meeting Tom calls me to let me know he got an email from my boss about the meeting time. He was working on moving the meeting with his boss and the other meeting was on his calendar for information only so he could attend as planned. Which was great as it was a time sensitive topic and no other time worked for...

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5 Tips to Assert Yourself in Conversations

assertive communication Jun 26, 2020

Conversations, when done well, are a two-way exchange of ideas, concepts, or information. Sadly, all too often they are not done well. One person dominates the conversation or in a group one or more people are shut out and never get a chance to speak. To make the most of our communications we must learn to be assertive.

Assertive communication is a balancing act between my right to my thoughts / opinions and respect for your thoughts / opinions. It requires us to stand firm in our ideas and right to be heard while keeping an open mind and listening to the ideas of others. Stand too firmly and you become aggressive and shutdown or shut out other voices. By only listening you may become too passive and never get your ideas out into the world. Strike the right balance and everyone leaves the conversation feeling heard and having learned something new.

5 Tips to Being Assertive in Conversations

  1. Be Confident: Know that you have a right to speak up. When in a conversation or a meeting...
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Please Believe Me

communication credibility Jun 24, 2020

I had transferred to a new factory two weeks early when I was asked to stop in to answer questions from the field service reps. One of the reps, Pierre, was really frustrated that a problem he raised several years early had not yet been resolved. I hadn’t dealt with him at my previous location, so we didn’t know each other, and this is the first time I’m hearing about the issue. My response was “This is the first I’ve heard of the issue. Please believe me, I’ll look into and make sure we get it addressed.” He was less than enthusiastic with my response since he’d heard it for years with no results. Now I’m starting to sweat it, I don’t want these reps to be skeptical of our support or not trust us to fix problems. How do I get him to believe that I will address it and that I find the situation unacceptable? As I looked around the room, I realize one rep I had worked with several times was there. I looked at Mike, said...

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