1. Offer to start a parking lot
Author and security engineer Keirsten Brager recently tweeted,
“Share your professionally acceptable way to tell dudebros to stfu during your pres & have them wondering if you just did that. I’ll go first.
I appreciate the dialogue, but I’d like to redirect everyone’s focus to the content I’m presenting. I budgeted time for Q&A afterwards.”
From the responses to her tweet, we can tell that this an opportunity for allies to step up. We can and should be aware when someone interrupts a presenter or asks an off-topic question. When this happens, we can step up and offer to start a “parking lot” of topics to address later. Then, with a nod to the presenter, proclaim, “I’ve got this…you can keep going.”
2. Learn how to say co-workers’ names
Sravya Chirumamilla, MD, tweeted this inspiring and heartfelt message of gratitude:
“I started new job and am blown away by everyone saying my name. Found out they had been practicing for months. For someone who is so often faced with ‘oh that’s too hard, can I just call you Dr. C?’ it felt so welcoming. I am immensely proud of them for making that effort.”
Instead of asking if we can make up a nickname for someone’s long or hard-for-us-to-pronounce name, let’s practice how to say it until we get it right. Not sure about the pronounciation? Just ask.
3. Learn from “OK Boomer” comments
Let’s face it. “OK Boomer” and it’s counterpart “OK Millennial” are ageist and disrespectful. Unfortunately, these phrases are popping up in workplace conversations. As NPR reported,
“Outside of family, the workplace is where generations interact the most. People are living — and therefore working — longer than ever. Now, for the first time in history, the workforce spans five generations, from the Silent Generation, in their 70s and 80s, to Generation Z, just entering their 20s.”
As a result, generational differences and debates are likely to surface.
When hearing an “OK Boomer” comment, let’s look to learn from it. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to challenge the way things have always been done, an opportunity to innovate, or an opportunity to think outside the box.
While we’re on the topic of boomers…
4. Don’t ask an older employee, “How long do you plan on working?”
This week, the Wall Street Journal published Older Workers Have a Big Secret: Their Age. In it, we read this cautionary tale:
“Patti Temple Rocks knows how tough it can be for older workers. Now 60, she was moved from an executive position at a Chicago-based communications company last year to a less influential job, despite having received strong performance reviews, she says. ‘I felt devalued when I least expected it — when I felt I was at the height of my skills and knowledge,’ says Ms. Rocks. When she told her boss she wasn’t happy with her new position, he asked, ‘How long do you plan on working anyway?’ she says. (Ms. Rocks’s ex-company declines to comment on her tenure.) She left the company, wrote ‘I’m Not Done,’ a book about ageism in the workplace, and now is working as chief client officer at ICF Next in Chicago, a unit of ICF International.”
Allies, let’s support older employees or job-seekers in their career development, and not sideline them because of their age. Never ask them, “How long do you plan on working?”
5. Retire “guy” from everyday language
While many people use “guys” to refer to a group of people of all genders, there’s a growing sentiment that “guys” refers only to men. We were reminded of this when we saw the following tweet from software engineer Vivian Qu:
“Pro-tip: maybe don’t use this template when messaging non-male devs…?
‘Hi I’m [CTO of company], looking for a product-minded iOS engineer. You look like you could be that guy!’”
Here at Better Allies, we’re working hard to retire “guy” from our everyday language. Want to join us?
P.S. If you’re still thinking “guys” is gender neutral, check out this photo of a restroom door.
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