Sunday, June 19, 2016

Stop Talking About Sex at Work

Recently I received the following comment on my post: My Co-Worker Won't Stop Talking About Sex:

I'm having an issue at the moment. I work in a very small workplace with only women where I am the manager. Our oldest employee (29) has been describing her sex life in GRAPHIC detail to my youngest employee (15). I have NO idea how to handle this. I've already rang my area manager and he's getting onto HR about it. Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

You are the manager. Pull this employee aside immediately and tell her she needs to stop talking about her sex life at work, her conversations are inappropriate and unprofessional and that HR has been contacted. HR will most likely perform an investigation and will at the very least place a note in her file and send her to harassment training. They also may give her a written warning. HR departments do not mess around with sexual harassment complaints.

A few weeks ago I had a question from a different anonymous commenter describing sadistic sexual activities a co-worker wanted to perform with her. (Her comment was too graphic to post). Her question for me was if she reported this harassment to HR, would they think she was a co-conspirator if she had initially played along.

My answer:

No. No. No. They will not. It sounds to me like you initially didn’t want to be mean, but your co-worker has now become bolder, you want him to stop and are afraid to tell him so yourself. Plus, the things he is saying (putting you in a cage, etc.) are scary and need to be taken seriously.  

While reading her question about playing along I couldn’t help but be reminded of the new male manager my company hired. In a casual conversation about getting his company vehicle repaired he asked me if I’d come along and sit on his lap. I don’t remember exactly what how I responded, I think I made up an excuse why I couldn’t. I didn’t play along, but I didn’t tell him he was out of line either. Unfortunately, these type of comments continued. I’m not sure what his motives are other than a boast to his ego, but I am offended. It bothers me that he thinks of me as a female, rather than the professional I worked so hard to be. No wonder women feel the need to dress in drab colors and not draw attention to their femininity. I now don’t acknowledge his flirtatious comments and stick to business when talking to him. As I write this post, I can’t remember the last time he made a suggestive comment.

As a follow up to my previous post, the co-worker I talked about has not talked about sex since I told him he was being inappropriate. As to the female who shared her favorite sexual positions with her co-worker was finally promoted – twenty years after the incident and with reservations from HR. 

Talking about sex at work is a major career blunder – knock it off.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole Plakias

Why I wanted to read Anastasia Cole Plakias’s book The Farm on the Roof: What Brooklyn Grange Taught Us About Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Business:
Since "good" business books is one of my favorite reading genres I immediately added Plakias’s book to my reading list after receiving the following email from a marketing coordinator at Penguin Random House:

I met Anastasia Cole Plakias and the other founders of Brooklyn Grange on their rooftop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Of course, there was “the wow factor” of standing on a farm in the middle of the concrete jungle. That night I enjoyed the aroma of fresh basil and listened to Anastasia jokingly lament keeping their adorable but expensive chickens. But mostly, I was impressed with the team. The group spoke so eloquently about how they’d come from backgrounds as diverse as food writing, finance, and hospitality, but had been drawn to this project—building the world’s largest commercial rooftop farm.

In The Farm on the Roof, Anastasia describes how she and her cofounders quit their jobs in the middle of a recession to turn their passion for food and farming into a functioning business. What they discovered was a world rich in opportunity, challenges, and hard-won losses. Today, Brooklyn Grange has established itself as a self-sustaining business that harvests more than 50,000 pounds of organically cultivated produce per year and partners with numerous nonprofits to promote healthy and strong communities.

But their story is about more than just farming. It serves as an instructional guide for anyone looking to start a project that is successful while making a positive impact. Anastasia writes with a wit and flair that transforms anecdotes about partnering with investors (some of whom supported the farm for reasons that had nothing to do with farming) and lease negotiation into scintillating, edge-of-your seat tales from the front lines of entrepreneurship.

As a creator of original content who writes with purpose, I believe you’ll be blown away by the Brooklyn Grange model. They’ve figured out a beautiful intersection of commerce and community. And at its core, The Farm on the Roof is an incredible story about utilizing whatever resources you have to turn your backyard idea into a sky-high success.

My thoughts on the book:

If you are looking for a book on how to create a rooftop garden or an agricultural book you will be disappointed in this book. The Farm on the Roof: What Brooklyn Grange Taught Us About Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Businessis Plakias’s account of how Brooklyn Grange, a company she co-founded in 2010,went from a dream to a viable socially conscious business over the course of five years.

I enjoyed Plakias’s writing style which is never academic and the entrepreneurial insight she provides:

Plakias and her partners quickly learn that in order for their business to be sustainable they needed to be profitable and in order to be profitable they needed alternative income streams. To do this they added events and began hosting classes. They also slowed down their growth plan and concentrated on the two gardens they already had. They discovered a good site with a landlord whose values complemented their own is more important that expansion.

I came away with a few tips for my own garden:

Kale, herbs and tomatoes are their most profitable crops. Summer squash needs a lot of space and carrots take 80 days to reach maturity. And I think of them every time I try to harvest lettuce in my husband’s newly created garden – the rows are too wide. A lesson they learned after the first couple of harvests and ended up changing ed their row’s depth during a redesign.

Bottom line:
The Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole Plakias is a valuable read for start-ups looking to create a socially conscious business or for those who enjoy reading about business or are looking for  entrepreneurial advice. To learn more about Brooklyn Grange visit their website. I would love to attend one of their butcher paper dinner events.

Do you enjoy reading about business? What business books do your recommend? 

Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing me with a review copy of this book.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

The E-Myth Revisited: A Book Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Why I read Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City:

I was a renter in the City of Milwaukee for five years before moving to the suburbs. During that time I spent a few months living in a not-so-nice neighborhood on the north side to save money. I ended up breaking my lease early, moving and losing my security deposit after my landlord refused to make necessary repairs. Fortunately, I had options,  the money to pay another security deposit and a new landlord that didn’t bother to call my previous landlord for a reference. When I heard Matthew Desmond had written a book about Milwaukee’s rent scene I had to read it.

What is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American Cityabout?

Wanting to understand the role housing played in poverty Matthew Desmond, a sociologist, moved to Milwaukee. He lived in a trailer park on the south side and in a rooming house located in the black north side. Both allowed him to befriend two landlords and interview numerous renters. His book is an investigative account of the lives of these landlords and eight renters who he followed for over a year.

What I learned:

The details of this book are heartbreaking and hard to read. It took me two months to get through the entire book. I had no idea how Milwaukee (and cities like Milwaukee) are set up to fail our poor residents and families. The renters are far from perfect, but once their lives take a turn for the worst it is easy to fall into a cycle of poverty that is difficult to escape.

For the most part poor renters are trapped:

Financial guides recommend spending no more than 30 percent of your income on housing while many of the renters Desmond met spent up to 80 percent of their income on rent in substandard housing often with plumbing problems, no refrigerator or stove, and broken windows. (Apparently it is okay to rent out a unit in need of repairs as long as you disclose the defects up front). High rents don’t leave much to pay utilities, child expenses or to be able to purchase a reliable automobile to drive to work. Once tenants fall behind in their rent it is only a matter of time until they face eviction.

Most landlords won’t rent to those who have incarcerations or evictions on their record, so the system is designed to keep them out of good neighborhoods, good schools and decent housing.

Desecration of neighborhoods:

When a long-term resident of a neighborhood is evicted the block they lived on suffers.
The key link in a perpetual slum is that too many people move out of it too fast – and in the meantime dream of getting out. With Doreen’s eviction, 32nd Street lost a steadying presence – someone who loved and invested in the neighborhood, who contributed to making the block safer, but Wright Street didn’t gain one. (Pg. 70)
Shocking accounts:

When a landlord learns she isn’t liable for a house fire in which a tenant’s baby died (she did not have enough operating smoke detectors) she asks if she is obligated to return their rent money. The fire occurred just after the 1st of the month. She was not.

The nuisance property ordinance:

This ordinance allows police departments to penalize landlords for the behavior of their tenants. Most properties were designated “nuisances” because an excessive number of 911 calls were made within a certain timeframe. In Milwaukee the threshold was three or more calls within a thirty-day period. (Pg. 190)

Each time this happens the landlord receives a nuisance citation. In almost all cases, the only course of action accepted by the Milwaukee PD is eviction.

Why is this a problem?

A battered woman either has to keep quiet and face abuse or call the police and face eviction. This ordinance also prevents neighbors who should call 911 when they hear sounds of abuse to stay quiet and mind their own business.

How much money these landlord’s make?

Granted most people are not up to the task of renting to those living in the inner city, but those who do are making money. This is achieved despite tenants not always making rent payments on time or not full.  Landlords make money by not making necessary repairs, purchasing cheap properties and charging high rents. 

Final Thoughts:
Matthew Desmond only included the stories in Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City he was able to verify as accurate and backed up all of his findings with extensive research. I enjoyed that despite having been present for many of the events included in the book Desmond kept himself out of the story until the final chapter. Evicted is written in a conversational tone and would be a great choice for a social justice book club. I guarantee you will have a lot to talk about.

I highly recommend this book.

To learn more about Matthew Desmond and his project go to this website.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Note, some of the links included in this post are affiliate links.