Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Special Thanksgiving “Thanks” to Our Amazing Emergency Responders

Driving through one of Los Angeles’ many canyons recently, I came across an unfortunate accident. A car had crashed headlong into the side of the mountain. It was awful. First responders were already on the scene: half a dozen firefighters were maneuvering stretchers down the gully to the injured people. It was nothing like on TV. It was ugly, laborious, the firefighters had to sweat and strain to get the injured up and out. Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter, affixed tubes and breathing apparatus and other necessary life-saving equipment to the injured as they were loaded onto the paramedics’ truck. Traffic was held up what felt like forever until sufficient police back-up could arrive to safely manage the necessary detour.

Once again, I was reminded of how amazing our emergency responders are, be they police officers, firefighters, paramedics, or members of our armed forces called out for such duty, as in the case of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. For example, the unexpected sight of a convoy of Arkansas Game and Fish officers driving down to Florida with fuel, coolers, boats and ATVs for Hurricane Irma victims.

It may seem strange to dedicate a Thanksgiving post to emergency responders, but that is exactly what I am doing. For as easy as it is to forget about emergency responders when there isn’t a crisis going on, they are miracle workers when there is.

Without a word of complaint, emergency responders dive into situations that would terrify most of us, and often at the risk of their own lives. In doing so, they rescue countless individuals who would otherwise perish in flame, flood or other disasters.

The Federal response to current crises is staggering. Take a quick look at the FEMA website if you’d like an idea of the magnitude of the humanitarian response. There is far too much for me to include in this brief post.

But beyond the response to major events, our emergency responders are there – morning, noon and night – for whatever, whenever and wherever they are needed. Which is why thinking of them at Thanksgiving, being grateful, whatever your political persuasion, for a governmental system that has made possible such life-saving efforts, is so important.

Personally, I take cookies to my local fire station every Thanksgiving. It isn’t much, I know, but it’s what I can think to do to express my gratitude for their “being there” in every sense of the term.

So in addition to my thanks this Thanksgiving for the many blessings in my life, for my friends, family, and furry “kids,” I will give thanks to these courageous individuals who give so selflessly of themselves that we may – hopefully – live, even when life goes terribly awry.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Six Ways To Say No To Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

As recent revelations about Harvey Weinstein show, sexual harassment in the workplace thrives on silence and secrecy. Once sexual harassment is held up to the light of day and victims come forward, it becomes almost impossible for the harasser to continue his or her inappropriate and hurtful behavior.
Victims have two strong weapons: a willingness to speak up loudly and firmly, and a willingness to disclose what is going on to those who can take action. Here are six ways to foil workplace sexual harassment and to hold perpetrators accountable.
1) Educate Yourself
Know your rights. Every company has an employee handbook that defines the procedure to follow if you feel you have been sexually harassed.
2) Stand Tall
Whenever someone by words or actions does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, draw yourself up, look them in the eye and say in a firm voice (louder than you would normally speak): "Please don't do that. I don't like it." If they laugh or say something like "I was only joking," say directly, "It's not funny to me. Stop. I don't like it." Your distress should be made crystal clear.
3) Honor Your Feelings
Don't assume that you are overreacting or being oversensitive. Stand firmly behind your convictions. Many people find this difficult because they want to be liked by everybody. If a person who makes you uncomfortable does not like you, so what? Your happiness and well being are far more important than being liked by unlikeable individuals.
4) Show and Tell
A co-worker may do something that could be innocuous, but it still makes you uncomfortable. For example, if a co-worker suggests you get together for a drink after work and you prefer not to, you can respond by saying: "What a great idea, I think we should all go out together; let me see what Mary and Tom are doing later." This kind of response diffuses a potentially private and unwanted intimate encounter and makes it into an innocent social event.
If the individual really wants to have some company to wind down after work, including other people will be fine. If the person wants to get you in a potentially sexual setting, they will be put off by the public nature of the situation.
5) Keep the Baby, Throw Out the Bath Water
Sometimes a situation is ambiguous. For example, a boss may want to talk to you about a promotion, but suggests meeting after hours to do so. You are uncomfortable with meeting after work, but most certainly want to discuss a possible promotion. Rather than dismissing the entire situation as unwanted, keep what is worthwhile and appropriate, in this case, discussing the promotion and changing what is inappropriate, the after-hours meeting: "Yes, I'm very interested in discussing a promotion, and I'm available anytime between 9:00 and 5:00 here at the office."
Your boss will either get the hint and respect your preferences, or will not, in which case the situation is no longer ambiguous.
6) Document and Report
It is in your best interest to report any incident of sexual harassment immediately. If you are not sure if something constitutes sexual harassment, err on the side of caution -- report it. Write a brief description of what happened, by and to whom, name of witnesses if any, where the harassment took place, the date and the time. Whenever you report inappropriate behavior, do so in writing even if written documentation is not required by company policy. Keep a copy of the complaint for yourself.
You have the right to work in a sexual harassment-free environment. Respect that right and use the above techniques to help others respect it as well.