I was putting together a talk about the values that we have at aSweatLife.com, the content site I founded about four and a half years ago. Slide one proclaimed “everything is better with friends,” which is our way of saying that all arenas of life – work, play, fitness and side hustles - benefit from partnerships.
Slide two was stark-white and I stared at it for more than a handful of minutes before I realized that was it:
It was the only thing that really drove us forward and made us stronger.
That was a hard lesson for me to learn after I’d spent the bulk of my life thinking and operating as if I could do it all myself.
I was taught to figure it out. Find a problem. Solve a problem. Ask for help only if you really need it. The most telling illustration of this in my childhood was a time when my mom told me, a demanding five-year-old that she did not have time right that second to braid my hair. I locked myself in my bedroom, kneeling next to my bunk bed twisting and untwisting strands of my hair until I figured it out.
I operated that way for more than two more decades before I realized there’s loneliness to that sort of existence and in business not only is it lonely, it’s limiting. It just took near burnout to figure that out.
After running aSweatLife by myself as a side-hustle, I read an email from a reader offering to help. It wasn’t the first email like that, but I was just tired enough to read it and spread just thin enough to consider this perfectly timed, well-written email. Over coffee, we talked about where I saw the site going and quickly I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. Three years later, she’s still writing for aSweatLife along with 20 other people.
Because we write about the intersection of health, happiness and fitness, we know the human connection makes you happier and happier people are healthier with potentially improved immune systems, but I still have to learn some big lessons for myself.
In that slow and methodical first year, Kristen, aSweatLife’s first contributor helped me take the walls around my city down and welcome in partners internally and at other complimentary companies. Here’s what we learned.
1. Partners show up. This aspect of relationships is the most important for us. Making commitments and honoring them shows your team and your partners that their interests are your interests too.
2. Partners share resources. Sometimes we can’t give our partners our time, but we can help connect them to someone who can – helping to forge connections within our network is rewarding.
3. Partners work through mistakes. Human relationships hold business together, but they’re filled with miscommunications and mistakes. If you insist that no one around you makes mistakes, they’ll learn to fear accountability for their mistakes, which leads to blame-seeking. Instead, partners work through mistakes, learn from them, figure out how they can be prevented in the future and move on.
4. Partners celebrate success. We live by a couple of mantras at aSweatLife that I’ve had to reiterate to myself as I’ve worked my way out of my old mindset and into this one. This most important is “your success is not my failure” This helps us to shift our thinking from, “how can I stop you” to “how can I help you.”
The magic is that when you do partnership right, all four of those pieces come right back to you.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.