Do It Afraid, Talk About #MeToo

Mistakes to Avoid & Tips to Succeed

It’s been nine months since #MeToo was sensationalized in the media, and where are we now?

Companies are continuing to struggle with simply saying the words “me too.”   Men are retreating from the conversation according to LeanIn.  And, now more than ever, we need to have this uncomfortable conversation.  We need our allies to acknowledge that we don’t have it right yet and we are not perfect.

If we are waiting for leadership to say the “right thing,” we will be waiting a long time.

Silence is not okay.  If you are not talking about it, you are losing money.  Research on unconscious bias shows that when people do not feel like they can be their authentic selves at work, they cover.  Covering means they pretend to be someone they are not to fit in.  This is exhausting, and tends to happen more to underrepresented groups (women, LGBTQ, disabled, race, etc.).

When people feel they cannot talk about the social issues or things that they care about, companies do not get the full potential from their employees.  Because they are spending so much time covering, they are not as productive as they otherwise could be.  They become disengaged, and do not feel valued, and their work suffers as a result.  Gallup studies on disengagement estimate that this costs companies $450 billion to $550 billion annually.

You want to talk about it but you do not know how. 

I have facilitated this tough conversation with leadership teams around the country and internationally, and offer some simple steps to have a productive conversation:

  • Create a safe place. That might be 1:1 or in a team setting.  Depends on the team.  1:1 conversations are best in a quiet public place.  Do an anonymous survey before to get the team primed and solicit real feedback.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Exercise those powerful “what” and “how” questions.  My new favorite is “what is it like to be a woman at our organization right now?”  Trust me, it will not bet met with tears or an hour long sermon.  You will learn more in 10 minutes than you did in years working with someone.
  • Do it afraid. A male ally of mine, Jason Barnaby, shared this phrase with me.  It is so true.  Be vulnerable with your team.  Tell them you feel uncomfortable.  Don’t cover.  Tell them you care and that is why you want to talk about this.
  • Ensure privacy. If someone has been a victim of sexual harassment or bad behavior, they are unlikely to speak up for fear of the consequences.  If you are in a leadership position, document the conversation and share it with the appropriate channels (HR, legal, etc.), and make sure the accuser’s name is protected from the person in question.  I like saying up front, “I will be sure to protect your privacy.  Yet, depending on what you share, I may need to document it and investigate further.”

Gender equality is a tough conversation, but it does not have to be.

That is why we have the Five Questions to Get the Gender Equality Conversation Document.  This is not easy.  This is the tough stuff leaders have to do.  Engage with your team.  Have a dialogue.  I promise you will not regret it.