Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are You Wearing Jeans Today?

Today is International Denim Day:
This is a day in which people around the world wear denim in honor of those who have been raped and to educate society about rape.  This campaign came about after an 18-year old girl in Italy was raped by her 45-year old driving instructor in the 1990’s.  Her rapist was initially arrested, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to jail, but his conviction was overturned on appeal.  Why? Because the woman was wearing really tight jeans! The Italian Supreme Court presumed since the woman’s jeans were tight she must have assisted him with their removal concluding their sexual encounter had to have been consensual. Enraged by this verdict, the women of the Italian Parliament protested that very day by wearing jeans to work.  This protest evolved into the first Denim Day in LA in April 1999 and has continued every year since.
I only recently became aware of Denim Day:
I learned of it when reading, Student McKenna Nerone is generating support for rape victims through Denim Day, an article on JS Online about McKenna Nerone’s project Share a Pair. Nerone, a high school senior, created Share a Pair as a project for a senior’s honors seminar. Her goal is to raise awareness of sexual assault and the dangers of blaming victims. She hopes to collect 1,050 pairs of jeans for Denim Day.

Why 1,050 pairs of jeans?
Nerone calculated during the time she spends each week in class 1,050 individuals are sexually assaulted. According to, every two and a half minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.
Nobody wants to talk about rape:
Not everyone was in favor of Nerone’s project.  She encountered objectors who felt rape was a taboo topic.  This taboo is precisely why Nerone went ahead with her project. She feels it will benefit both her high school and the greater community.  She is quoted in the article as saying:
“I want to make people start talking about it. Nobody wants to talk about rape.”

The topic of rape and sexual assault is rarely addressed in school, Nerone said and she wants to change that, along with a common misconception.

“Many people think that if you’re going to be raped you need to have this criteria,” she said listing weight, physical attributes and tight jeans. “But no that is just not true.”
Thank you McKenna for making me aware of International Denim Day and for the awareness you have created. Knowledge and education is the first step in fighting the rape culture that continues to be prevalent in our society.

McKenna Nerone is donating all of the jeans she collects to Pathfinders, a local nonprofit that helps youths and young adults who are survivors of sexual assault, homelessness and mental illness.

I’m wearing jeans today.  Are you?

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Co-worker Won’t Stop Talking About Sex

I have this annoying co-worker, who over the years has shared too much information about his personal life. For the most part he’s harmless, but when he starts talking about his sex life I get uncomfortable. 

Early on when he began working for our company, he would look me up and down then ask me my dress size, overly compliment my wardrobe then tell me stories about how his wife wouldn’t have sex with him. One day when he started telling me about a dream he’d had about me the night before I lost it. I cut him off mid-sentence, rudely told him I didn’t want to hear about his dream, that I didn’t want him to ask me my dress size anymore and to stop talking to me about his sex life. I also told him some women would consider these actions sexual harassment. Looking back, his dream may not have been sexual, but at the time I didn’t want to risk hearing about it.

My co-worker didn’t talk to me again for almost a year which didn’t bother me a bit. Then slowly he began initiating conversation and before I knew it he was back to talking about sex again. Recently he’s added sexual jokes and comments about other employee’s sex lives to his topics of conversation.

At a recent going away party this employee made a joke about our President’s sex life in front of everyone including our President’s 70-year old father and our human resource manager. No one acknowledged the joke or laughed. Instead, someone quickly changed the subject.

It baffles me that no one sits this employee down and tells him to knock it off. Not only does he talk about sex with me, but when he thinks he has a funny story or joke he walks around the office sharing it with everyone.

Friday morning he was at it again, making the rounds telling his latest joke about our President’s sex life when I decided I’d had enough. I turned to him and said, “Fred, this isn’t appropriate conversation for the workplace.” He looked at me and repeated my comment, “This isn’t appropriate conversation for the workplace?” I think he got my message, but I’m sure he will be back at it in a few weeks. I’ve decided from now on every time I hear him talking about sex I’m going to repeat my previous comment or tell him he is being unprofessional.

And for those of you who talk about sex at work:

Doing so diminishes your credibility. This goes for women too:
There is this story about one of our female employees who traveled with a male co-worker to an out of state conference many years ago. According to the male co-worker, she talked about her favorite sexual positions the entire length of the trip. To this day, when this female employee’s name comes up for promotion her male co-worker who is now a VP shares this story along with his opinion this employee is not professional.

Not everyone will find your joke funny:
Not everyone has the same sense of humor. When you joke or talk about sex you always run the risk of offending someone. Plus, someone who laughed at your jokes last week may for no obvious reason find them offensive or not funny this week. I once worked with a guy who liked to tell a couple of his female co-workers he’d like to see their lips around a Pepsi bottle or a banana. Sure enough, he made this comment to a new temporary employee and she reported him to HR for sexual harassment.

You are a disruption:
Your jokes and stories are unproductive and disruptive. They stop work- flow and provide fodder for employee gossip. See next topic:

You are drawing unwanted attention to your appearance:
When talking about your sex life you may be providing a visual image to your co-workers they do not want to see. Let’s face it you may not actually be a “ten” and your co-workers may find these visual images repulsive.

Do your career a favor and remember conversations about sex are not appropriate for the workplace.

Have you had a co-worker who talked about sex in the workplace? How did you handle it?

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

When a Salesperson Refuses to Hear the Word “NO”

I receive quite a few phone solicitations from salespeople in my job as accounting manager. Ever since I read Gavin De Becker’s book The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence, I’ve been paying more attention to how these salespeople respond to my “no” and whether or not they try to:
Discount the Word “No” or refuse to accept the word no.
Most of these callers counter my “no” with asking when they can call again or by telling me when they plan on calling again. Others ask for the reason behind my “no” or push for a face-to-face meeting. Recently a caller told me I sounded angry – well yeah - I thought I was answering an important phone call and instead had to tell you for the 3rd time I wasn’t interested in your paperless document system.

For the most part, these calls are harmless interruptions. My “no” is on behalf of my organization, so no matter what a salesperson says or tactic they use they will not be able to manipulate their way into working with my company. This isn’t always the case in our personal lives and sometimes these conversations can be manipulative and damaging.

Take Michelle Shaeffer's story for instance:
When Michelle refused to work with a potential business coach the coach called her a liar and told her she’d never succeed. This conversation was so damaging it left Michelle in tears and full of self-doubt for weeks. She felt like a complete failure, didn't know what to do except give up and almost did. 

Several warning signs Gavin de Becker provides in The Gift of Fear help us conclude this sales person is manipulative and not to be trusted:

Michelle’s intuition told her so:
One of the reasons Michelle initially declined to work with this coach was because she wasn't sure they were the right fit to work together. Clearly Michelle’s intuition kicked in and was telling her something was off with this relationship.

The Unsolicited Promise:
This coach offered a "no pitch" strategy session claiming she wasn't going to sell during her introductory call. Sounds to me like she was saying I’m not going to sell you anything, I promise.

Discounting the word “No”:
When Michelle declined and explained why, the coach told her she had to put the program on a credit card if she really wanted to reach the goals she'd shared with her. The coach was refusing to accept Michelle’s no.

When Michelle told the coach she didn’t have a credit card. The coach responded with, "Everyone has credit cards" and if Michelle wasn't willing to be honest she’d never succeed in business.” Typecasting always involves a slight insult and usually one that is easy to refute. The coach wanted Michelle to refute the statement “she’d never succeed” by producing a credit card.

After reading Gavin’s book I hope to be more cognizant of manipulative sales tactics in the future. Instead of taking criticisms and insults to heart, I hope to use them to conclude this is not someone I want to work with.

How to know you are hiring the right coach?
In Ann Daly’s recent post The Secret to Hiring the Right Coach she offers the following advice:
When I was searching for a post-divorce therapist, I asked my friend Dusty--herself a therapist--what I should look for in an initial session. How would I know if the therapist was offering me value? Dusty's response was immediate: "You should get at least one fresh way of thinking about your situation."

And that's the one thing you should get from your first conversation with a coach, too. If you don't, keep looking. Reputable coaches won't charge you for an informational consultation.
Thanks Ann for that excellent advice. 

You can read Michelle’s post, "She Called Me a Liar and Said I'd Never Succeed" in its entirety here.

Have you encountered a salesperson that refused to hear “no”?

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