Transgender Workplace Diversity Network

Event Details

September Blog Toss

Time: September 21, 2008 at 12am to September 27, 2008 at 12pm
Location: Online
Event Type: Blog, Toss
Organized By: Jillian T. Weiss
Latest Activity: Sep 26, 2008

Event Description

The September "Blog Toss" will happen during the week of September 21 through 27. Here's how it works. I have asked a member to write a short blog post on a Question Of Importance, which will appear on the site's blog for all to read. The author then "tosses" the question to the next participant, who writes their response the next day. The question will be the same for all the participants, and it's interesting to see how responses differ.

Here's the Question for the September Blog Toss: "From your personal experience, what have you found to be the top factors in determining whether you were successful or not in a new workplace environment? Give an example."

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Comment by Randi Bernabei on September 26, 2008 at 12:46pm
Hello All. I apologize for not weighing in sooner. I didn't realize I had to check in here in order to follow the discussion, and I was waiting to hear from the first person.

The most important factors to my own successful integration into a new workplace are somewhat difficult to assess. Up until 1998 I was a member of the military. Each military member has a rank designation letting them and everyone else know where they stand in the pecking order, artificially imposing a degree of stratification that has little relation to one's natural ability to assimilate. This is more than that inherent in any organization where superiors have the ability to fire subordinates; significant legal consequences can attach to activity that would be merely bothersome in the civilian sector.

I transitioned full-time in 1998. My comments relate solely to my brief employment history between retiring in 1998 and entering private practice in 1999.

Openness: I found it important to be willing to be open to honest, well-intentioned questions my co-workers might pose about my transition. I did not bring up the topic, nor did I dwell on it, my willingness to answer my immediate co-workers sincere well-meant questions (no matter how ignorant the query) went a long way toward me being readily accepted. I also had to be willing to firmly and directly counter others' occasional assumptions about who I was and was not. One co-worker assumed that I was a gay man in drag, and referred to me in masculine terms. When we were alone I politely asked him when he had ever known me as a "he". He then told me his assumptions as to my sexuality, which I corrected. He subsequently became a good friend on the job, and later off the job as well.

Humor: It helps to have a sense of humor. I think being willing and able to appreciate and share humor with colleagues is critical to one's ability to function in the workplace. Ever more so when one requires the assistance of co-workers to perform one's job.

Enjoyment: I think it is more important that I enjoy what I do than to do what I enjoy. I find that if I can find some enjoyable aspect of my job I can better challenge myself to perform better. Packing boxes and parcels into air freight container pallets or semi-trailers for UPS was not my dream job, and I worked there only long enough to find more substantive employment. Still, I approached my job as if I were playing a 3-D version of the Tetris video game, which not only helped pass the time, but enabled me to excel at my task and enjoy it in the process.

Opportunity for Creative Challenge: I have always worked well in situations where I have had some degree - even a small one - of room to exercise some creativity in how I do the job. I could never spend an entire shift - let alone a career - simply attaching widgets to wodgets in a manufacturing assembly line. No challenge there, and no way to perform the task except exactly in the prescribed manner. Let me try to tweak the process, though, to make it more efficient, productive, safer, etc., and I will be much happier and more productive.

Meaning/Purpose: I have always needed to feel that my work has some purpose, some connection to a larger goal. Ergo my legal advocacy over the past 9 years. My contribution does not have to be that big, however, but I still need to know that what I do matters, so feedback from the organization is important as well. After all, if my work does not matter, why bother even showing up?

I could go on, but I have used my quota of electrons for the moment.

Comment by Linus Bourque on September 21, 2008 at 7:35pm
For me the biggest factors are:

1. Enjoyment of what I do. Yes, it's great to be paid gobs of money for what I do but even more important I love what I do. I'm lucky enough to get both right now.

2. Avenues for advancement. While I enjoy what I do it's nice to have avenues for advancement and the ability to move to other positions or improve on what we know.

3. Friendly environment/good fit. In many work environments, they often become the 2nd family given the amount of time you spend there. If you enjoy your job but hate who you work with, that's no fun either. The ability to enjoy the people and the job help.

4. Good work/life balance. I enjoy my job but I have more to life than my job and want to be able to do both. Ensures that this boi is happy all around
Comment by Sarah Siegel on September 21, 2008 at 3:53pm
Consider the blog tossed to you (whomever you are)!
Comment by Sarah Siegel on September 21, 2008 at 3:51pm
From my experience, the top factors in my success or lack of in the workplace have been my:
  • Skills
  • Reputation
  • Appearance
  • Enthusiasm
  • Sense of humor. These factors seem obvious, and I want to give an example re: appearance: I'll never be the cute, small, curvaceous type of woman that makes some conventional men most comfortable to work with. Instead, I'm tall, with a gender-ambiguous voice, features and energy, and a number of transwomen have assumed I'm post-op (I'm not, but rather, have always been just over the border of female and so I try to have a winning personality that people want to be around, since I know that most people are afraid of ambiguity. That strategy has served me well so far.
    I want to give a somewhat light-hearted example of how appearance nearly disqualified me from an assignment most recently: My colleagues, Suzy Deffeyes and Eric Rybczynski and I were co-facilitating a workshop at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, "Engaging in Virtual Worlds for Real-world Business Value." Suzy, who prides herself -- as a software engineer -- on wearng jeans to work routinely, told me that she wouldn't present with me at the conference unless I improved my avatar's appearance; she exclaimed, "That default hairstyle, Sarah! And your clothes -- there are some new items that are free out there...."

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