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After studying Human Resources and learning about the definition of sexual harassment, I realized that I had been harassed at almost every job I have ever had! Being young, when a male supervisor made off-color jokes, I didn’t realize that it could have been considered harassment. (Heck that could happen at any age.) But harassment is really defined as unwanted attention. How does a co-worker or supervisor know it is unwanted unless they take their shot and you tell them “no.”

handshakeOf course, there are times when the “shot” is way over the line and no reasonable person should ever take that lightly. If you are ever in that position, state your position clearly. If that doesn’t work, contact your Human Resources Department.

But yesterday, for the first time since I started my own business, I had a client proposition me. This client came right out and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’d be interested in a mutually satisfying engagement.” I simply told him no. His response was, “Well, I had to ask.” I wasn’t confrontational about it, wasn’t offended or defensive about it, I simple stated that I was not comfortable with his offer.  I then told him that now that he knew my position, if he asked again, he would have to find a new assistant.

Afterwards, I talked to my business coach about the situation. She suggested that I could have told the client that the reason I was not interested was because I was devoted to my husband. She suggested that sometimes when people know the reason for our actions, they may take the information better, especially when we are trying to maintain a future business relationship.

While I don’t believe I owe everyone an explanation for my decisions, I do think this suggestion would have worked better in this situation. It could have saved my client from feeling rejected.

Only time will tell if this situation will cause problems in our business relationship. From my side of the table, I feel that I stated my position and am ready to continue our business relationship.

Have you had similar situations? If so, how have you handled it? Any suggestions on how else I could have handled it?


“Joe” received one of those mass e-mails at work from a friend about how Company A’s logo really represented the devil and all the supporting documentation about that suspicion. “Joe,” being like many of us, hit “forward” and sent it on to his list of family and friends.

Here’s the kicker: As the e-mail was forwarded from friend to friend, no one bothered to delete the long list of senders. Of course, it ended up on the desk of one of Company A’s executives. Company A was a client of Company B where “Joe” worked. Company A was now looking at an insulting e-mail from one of their clients! Needless to say, Company A was not happy and contacted executives at Company B to complain. “Joe” almost lost his job because it caused great embarrassment to Company B.

How could this have been avoided? The best answer would be to NEVER forward mass e-mails. But I’m fairly confident that won’t happen because we all get them and some of them are pretty funny.

Failing that, consider these:

  1. If you receive mass e-mails from family and friends at a work e-mail account and want to send it to your family and friends, send it to your personal e-mail account first.
  2. Before forwarding any e-mail, make sure you delete the previous senders’ names and the names of the other people who were included in the e-mail chain.
  3. When you send it to your family and friends, hide their names using the “BCC” feature of your e-mail program. This keeps their e-mail address out of everyone else’s hands.

Any other e-mail horror stories you’ve run into? What was your “kicker?”


WONDERING WOMAN: I have been working in my current position for several years and I get rave reviews from my superiors and co-workers. Yet, time and time again, I have expressed my interest in a higher-level position, but nothing has happened. Do I stay in this job or jump ship? –Mary Kay M.

ANSWER: I’ve actually had this happen to me–several times. I was so good at making my boss look good that he didn’t want to promote me to a different position. The curse of being too good at what you do! After several experiences, I gathered my courage, tucked away my “entitlement” feelings and asked my superior exactly what I needed to do to move up to the position I wanted. When he gave me the answer, I did exactly what was requested of me–additional education, talked with those who currently held the position I wanted, dressed for the job I wanted and kept my attitude positive. I ultimately did get the position, but there are many people who do exactly what they are told to do and nothing happens. This is the time to take your skills (even the new ones you gained while trying to qualify for that desired position) and start knocking on some new doors. There is no such thing as wasted time, because every day you learned a bit more about who you were, what it took to get the job done and working in a professional environment.

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, Certified Total Image Consultant

An Ounce of Prevention talked about keeping arguments from developing. What about when “someone else starts it.” Sometimes you are the one who is the “you” in someone else’s blame game. Then what?

Four itty bitty words. Very difficult to say in many situations, but very simple words: You May Be Right. Think about these words. They don’t say that the other person IS right, only that they MAY be right. It doesn’t say you are wrong, only that the possibility exists that the other person may be right.

Learn to keep the focus off the problem and on to the solution. Blame and defensiveness keep the focus on the problem. Once you offer “You may be right,” the next step is to move toward a solution. For example:

  • Missed a meeting and are being accused of being disorganized?
    • “You may be right. My calendar says we were meeting at 3p rather than 2p. Can we reschedule the meeting to next week?”
  • Surprised when your spouse brings a friend home for dinner and accuses you of forgetting that he told you?
    • “You may be right. My memory was that you were going bowling. Do you prefer delivery pizza or Chinese food?”

“You may be right” is NOT the correct response in every situation. If someone accuses me of stealing money from the company, I’m going to defend myself! This is reserved for those occasions when you are trying to keep minor irritations from developing into major problems. Will it always lower the flame? No. Sadly, some people just like to be confrontational. But every confrontation takes at least two people to keep it going. At any point in the confrontation, you can decide to walk away. Sometimes walking away starts with “You may be right.”

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, CTIC

Your image is about more than your physical appearance. It is about how you handle yourself in normal situations and, more importantly, how you handle yourself in difficult situations.

Let’s say you are sitting at a restaurant waiting for your friend/client who, at this point, is 15 minutes late. You continue to wait another 30 minutes and finally give up and go about your day.

Steaming Sally calls her friend/client and at the first opportunity asks, “Why did you stand me up!” Defensive Diane replies, “I don’t know what you are talking about, you stood me up yesterday!” Steaming Sally then starts to defend her position that their meeting was for today, to which Defensive Diane digs in her heels and staunchly defends her position that it was yesterday and tells Steaming Sally, “You need to get a handle on your calendar!” And on it goes . . .

Secure Sally, on the other hand, calls her friend from the restaurant after she is 15 minutes late (why wait another 30 minutes) and says, “There must have been a miscommunication. I’m sitting at the restaurant because I thought we were meeting for lunch today.” Deliberate Diane says, “Wow, my calendar said the meeting was yesterday and I was wondering why we never connected!”

Notice the difference in the initial assumption? Steaming Sally assumes that Defensive Diane has erred and goes on the attack. “You” statements, those that point the finger at someone else, are a good way to start a fight and ultimately ruin a relationship–personal or professional.

Secure Sally on the other hand knows there is a problem, but she doesn’t assume that it is Deliberate Diane’s fault. There are no “you” accusations in her statements. A “miscommunication” does not assign blame to any one person. It is shared between both people. Deliberate Diane does not accuse Secure Sally of anything, either. She merely states a fact–that her calendar indicated that the meeting was the previous day.

It may very well have been Diane’s fault or it could have been Sally’s poor organizational skills. It may have been their secretaries who mixed it up! Who know? But more importantly, who cares? “You” statements keep you mired in the problem. Keeping blame out of the picture allows both people to “save face” and reschedule the meeting. (And each may have learned the importance of confirming a meeting the day before the allotted time.)

Which brings us to another saying: Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, CTIC

WONDERING WOMAN: Can a professional woman cry at work?

ANSWER: It really should matter whether you are a man or a woman, crying in the workplace is considered inappropriate because it brings too much attention to the person crying and causes others to be uncomfortable.

Crying at work, whether you are a man or a woman, sends the message that you are not in control of your emotions. If you are not in control of your emotions, upper management may wonder whether they can depend on you in other stressful situations.

We all know there are people at work who have bad days and unexpectedly vent their anger on innocent bystanders. Your emotions might kick in because you are taking the display of anger personally. As a former HR professional, when a manager vents on a co-worker, it is the manager who is acting inappropriately. Keep this in mind the next time your manager, or another co-worker “dumps” on you and this should help you keep your emotions under control. Many find that clearing their throat or coughing helps provide a distraction while they regain control.

Many years ago a co-worker suddenly died. She was at work one day and the next morning we received notice that she had died. There were tears in many eyes—both men and women. In this type of situation, co-workers can help each other deal with their grief. Similarly, receiving notification at work of a tragedy can bring the onset of tears. The best thing to do in this type of situation is to remove yourself to a private area (office, restroom, parking lot) until you can regain control over your emotions. Rarely will this type of emotional display negatively impact your professional image.

What are your thoughts? Are there times when it is acceptable for a professional woman to cry at work?

Pat Roland, CTIC

Wondering Woman Question: What is the most effective way to give constructive feedback to a manager/friend/co-worker who has very strong opinions and feels they know best?

ANSWER: First understand that you cannot force anyone to change. Additionally, if there is any sort of power struggle, the manager wins automatically. It doesn’t mean they are right, but upper management has already placed them in a position of authority.

When providing any sort of “constructive criticism,” it is important to phrase things appropriate. What you may think is constructive criticism may be received as an attack. Start statements with “I think . . .” “I feel . . .” Statements that begin with “you” are usually received as an attack. Next, be sure to state observations rather than making judgments. For instance, if your co-worker is always late for meetings, you may feel your time is being wasted and judge this as rude. Telling someone they are rude is a judgment. The reality is that you are the one who is having a difficult time. When you explain your difficulty, take responsibility for your own issues. For instance, “I feel like I am not productive when I am waiting for you to arrive at meetings. Should I plan for our meetings to start 5 min later than the original time? Could you call me when you are headed to the meeting so I can continue to work at my desk until you are ready to start?” In these statements you are looking for solutions to problems rather than demanding that someone change their behavior.

If you are lucky, your manager/friend/co-worker may offer some insights as to their behavior and may make a conscious effort to be more timely. But they may not make any changes to their behavior nor offer any insights. Ultimately you are the one who has to deal with the situation. If someone is always late, then change your expectation. While you should still arrive at the appropriate time, bring other work with you that you can do while you are waiting so you no longer feel like your time is being wasted.

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, CTIC

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