Work

Venture capital discrimination

Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator—the tech accelerator that supports early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing—has funded a number of successful start-ups including Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit. Despite this, in 2013 he made a controversial comment about how he evaluates potential companies. He managed to both offend many foreign-born Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and reveal a prejudice common among venture capitalists.

“One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent,” Graham told Inc. magazine. “I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and [you] can’t [do that] if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent.”

Invisible disabilities at work

It is easy to see that someone in a wheelchair has a disability, and workplaces are becoming much better at making accommodations for them. But what about people whose disability doesn't show? Chronic illnesses like heart disease, lupus, or diabetes aren't visible to others. Neither are mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Because of this, it's much more difficult for these workers to get the support they need.

How people approach deadlines

According to The New Yorker, as the last day to complete a task approaches, people respond to the pressure differently. Some, perhaps well-adjusted and diligent people, jump in, figuring that the anxiety of an unpaid bill or an unfinished project is far more painful than the difficulty of sticking to a sensible schedule. However, others live in denial until the last minute, when they bolt to the end, vowing that they’ll do it all differently next time. And still others dismiss deadlines altogether, believing them to be at best imaginary and at worst contrary to creativity.

When you become your career

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), many people with high-pressure jobs find themselves unhappy with their careers, despite working hard their whole lives to get to their current position. What happens if you identify so closely with your work that hating your job means hating yourself?

Psychologists use the term “enmeshment” to describe a situation where the boundaries between people become blurred, and individual identities lose importance. Enmeshment prevents the development of a stable, independent sense of self.

The work culture in many high-pressure fields often rewards working longer hours with raises, prestige, and promotions. Also, certain careers or career achievements are often highly valued in an individual’s family or community. When high pressure jobs are paired with a big paycheck, individuals can find themselves launched into a new socioeconomic class.

Do you know how to rest?

Our society has taught people to always work hard. People are learning how to be more productive, but they also have the idea that they should always be busy. These people think "busy" and "productive" are the same thing. When these people finally rest, they feel bad. They think they are lazy. They might even work until they break down from tiredness. 

American psychotherapist Sarah McLaughlin says 70% of visits to the doctor are because of stress-related issues. She suggests people start taking care of ourselves as much as we try to achieve tasks. She says that we need to think more realistically about ourselves, “If this task does not get done today, it does not mean I have failed. It just means that I will get to it tomorrow.”

Here are some pieces of advice from two psychotherapists, McLaughlin and Pantha Saidipour, on how to forget about work before resting:

Dealing with slow periods at work

According to The Harvard Business Review, most people are able to focus on getting work done during the peak, but how we handle slow periods also has a dramatic impact on our overall productivity and happiness. 

When the pressure is off, we might over-invest in email or focus on unimportant items or errands, thinking we have plenty of time. To counteract this tendency, aim to start each day with a clear plan. You have to be more deliberate about planning than you would during a busy period.

Slower times at work present an opportunity to enhance your entire life, if you take advantage of them. Consider professional development activities that you would not normally have time for and add them into your daily plans. These might include attending an industry conference, brushing up your CV or taking an English class online. You are making an investment of time that will either help you in your current job or open up future doors.

Consultancy will survive COVID-19

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted the consulting industry in ways that seem potentially ruinous. But do not lose hope. Yes, consultants are used to traveling a lot, and widespread travel restrictions make that impossible. And much of consultancy work is done face-to-face in internal and client meetings, which can’t be done when gatherings are prohibited. There is also the fear that businesses will suspend contracts in the economic downturn.

But we have an advantage this time that we haven't had in past catastrophes. We have the internet. We can have virtual meetings, share documents online and even give presentations with conference software that lets everyone be in the same “room” at the same time. So travel restrictions are less disruptive than in the past—people can do much of what’s needed almost as well from home.

High heels at work

Men jam their feet into high-heeled shoes and walk back and forth, some falteringly, others with unlikely confidence. Some women watch, gauging the men’s reactions while sympathizing with each other’s stories about wearing the torturous items masquerading as fashion.

They were all participants in a recent event in Tokyo held to highlight the plight of women forced to wear heels in the workplace, in an extension of the #KuToo online movement. Organizers of the event gave the men stilettos with 5-centimeter-high heels and asked them to quite literally walk in a woman’s shoes. The experience allowed the men to understand the discomfort and inconvenience that come from walking with one’s heels raised.

One key tool for inclusion at work

The key to inclusion is understanding who your employees really are, particularly those in underrepresented groups. One of the best practices for this is to segment employee engagement survey results by minority groups.

Many organizations conduct employee engagement surveys, but most neglect to segment the data they collect by criteria such as gender, ethnicity, generation, geography, and role in the organization. By only looking at the total numbers, employers miss out on opportunities to identify issues among smaller groups that could be leading to employee turnover, as the views of the majority overpower those of minorities.

Tired? Maybe you're actually lonely

More and more people are feeling both tired and lonely at work. In analyzing the General Social Survey of 2016, close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work.

What’s more, there is a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: the more exhausted people are, the lonelier they feel.

This loneliness is not a result of social isolation, but rather is due to the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout. The problem seems to be pervasive across professions and up and down corporate hierarchies.

Loneliness, whether it results from social isolation or exhaustion, has serious consequences for individuals. Research by Sarah Pressman, of the University of California, Irvine, demonstrates that while obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, and smoking by 50%, loneliness reduces it by a whopping 70%.