Mental Illness in the Workplace

We tend to give mental illness an image from movies as One Flew over the Cuckoos Next or Girl, Interrupted. While the movie represents a form of severe mental illness, it is the subtle and quiet forms that often go undetected as well as ignored.

The workplace is a breeding ground for mental illness. Environments over the years have changed where we are all pushed to go over the top beyond to deliver at all costs. The system across the board is constantly downsizing and people are tasked to do more work in less time and with fewer resources. We are constantly connected to technology where there is no break from the pace or the demand for answers, even when on vacation. We have little room to catch our breath and the “press” weighs heavily on our souls.

The sad part is that we all have played a part in the creation of the toxic environments. We are conditioned to do what the boss says or use the “water cooler” as a place to vent rather than going to the source of one’s discomfort to solve the problem. That in itself fosters a vicious cycle of negative behaviors. I have seen jealousy at the root of many interoffice problems whether that looks like a leader’s ego running amuck, an employee bringing a personal wound to the workplace that continues to play itself out rather than seeking professional help as well as co-workers trying to sabotage another’s work to save face.

One’s internal psyche can repeatedly get battered if there is not a balance of joys in the workplace versus negative competition. It is not just the workplace’s fault because we all have a choice on how we will respond to a situation. If challenges in our personal lives are taking over who we are in the workplace, it is our responsibility to take the steps to constructively reduce the outside stress or approach a manager or HR for support. There are so many Employee Assistance Programs available that often go unused. There are many employers eager to offer guidance to a struggling employee. We are often afraid to reveal ourselves or not comfortable talking to anyone. Again, there are choices.

It is the responsibility of managers and co-workers to pay attention to changes in their co-workers behaviors. Many times if it’s not talked about, maybe it will go away. That is so far from the truth in any situation. The unspoken is often the ticking time bomb.

This is a conversation deserves more than one entry so it will be continued throughout the month.

NO Means NO!!!!

Haven’t we all heard that phrase, especially as women, plenty in our lives? When a woman says “no” to sexual advances, it means NO, plain and simple. If you cannot get that through your thick skull then expect a well deserved black eye. I have given a few in my 53 years when “NO” was not honored. When I read media coverage of sexual assault cases against women, I still read “well, she really meant yes.” No she didn't, you idiot. We said NO and if you are suddenly deaf that is your only restitution.

This is a charged topic for me because I have friends who were victims of sexual assault and it breaks my heart that any women, or any human being, is not heard or honored when they chose to decline sexual advances. The recent well publicized events in India, against women, are horrifying. What has our society become where still, no matter what part of the world, a man gets to dictate how to treat a woman?

On multiple occasions throughout my professional career and at networking functions I am approached by a male colleague inappropriately. Even though I was very clear about NO, including the fact that I am a lesbian, that still did not seem to be enough for them to courteously go away. Their exit would often be accompanied by a slanderous comment.

There are many women who have graciously said NO to their male bosses’ advances. Sometimes that’s been enough and other times, the woman has been shamed or made to feel uncomfortable because she took a stand for herself. I know women who have left a job because the level of discomfort was unbearable. How unfair!!!

While I could go on about this topic, there is a larger part of me that really has no words because my heart gets so overcome with sadness on how women are treated. We should not be subservient to any person whether it is male or female. We get to have a voice and if the voice is not being heard, then we have to fight back until it is heard.

Advances to another person can also be emotional harmful. When a woman has chosen to leave a harmful relationship, we have to be strong enough to break off contact, not respond to emails/texts/voice-mails. If we left the relationship, there was probably a really good reason. More often than not, if there is physical or emotional abuse, the other person will cover up the behaviors to win you back but eventually, you’ll be right back in the soup.

For all of us, female or male, we can feel in our souls when an interaction is harmful and we have to trust our feelings enough to walk away, to say NO and say YES to honor ourselves.

Best regards,

Betsy Cerulo, CEO
(o) 410.715.4040

Wearing the Financial Pants

Many times we hear the phrase “who wears the pants in the relationship”. What I have noticed is that it’s typically used as a poke intimating that the woman has more control in the household as well as a man may be weak. It’s amazing the jokes we have tolerated over the years and for that matter, how men are marginalized as well if his spouse/partner is strong. It is as if being referred to as strong is a bad thing or perhaps what is really being thought (…but not said) is that she may be “the B word”!! Either way it’s wrong to put down both genders with that phrase.

Back to the pants!! Last I looked, I put on my pants the same way as any other person so now it’s time for women to wear them proudly. Did you know Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, was one of the first women on Capitol Hill who wore pants to work? Here is an excerpt from an article in The Washington Post in 1993:

Once she won, Mikulski, with her very presence, changed long-held ideas about what Senators should look like. And what women should wear. Mikulski and her fellow Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) mounted a protest one weekend that amounted to something rather simple: they wore pants and told female staffers to do the same. From then on, the rule changed and the pantsuit became routine, but it didn't go over so easy. "The Senate parliamentarian had looked at the rules to see if it was okay," she said in a CNN interview. "So, I walk on that day and you would have thought I was walking on the moon. It caused a big stir."

If we have long referred to pants being for men, it’s time for women to wear the pants as well. “The Pants” historically suggests confidence, strength and assertiveness. What I have noticed is that more and more women are taking the household finances by the reins so that the relationship unit has equal knowledge. Over the years, I have seen female friends at a disadvantage through divorce or death of their spouse because they had no idea of how their husband ran the household. My own mom didn’t know how to write a check when my dad died in 1968 which was very common and accepted in that era. Today, there are still women who do not know the full picture of the finances. While there is nothing wrong with that, it gives women more peace of mind to be in complete partnership with the finances. What if the worst happens in divorce or death? We all need to be prepared. This goes for all same sex couples. Though this appears to be a gender issue, it’s really about both people in the relationship to be fully engaged in the household finances and own their financial power. It is prudent for both people to fully understand the finances and for both to “wear the pants.”

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar

As we celebrate the second week of Women’s History Month, I am reminded of the courageous women before me who spoke loudly on behalf of our equal rights and fair treatment. Sometimes the quest for fair and equal treatment begins by simply speaking up. This past weekend I was waiting in line at a deli and when the cashier asked for the next order, the man next to me quickly gave his order without even taking into consideration that I was standing behind the person who just left. Probably, pre age 50, I would have acquiesced and let him go politely waiting my turn as a good girl should do. Post 50---Nope!!! I said as a matter of fact “excuse me, (not like Steve Martin on SNL, though that is what I really wanted to say) I am next in line” and stepped right up and gave my order. He stepped back in huff. That’s right “step back”!

I know many women, including myself over the years, who have kept silent in emotionally abusive situations, choosing not to cause a stir or afraid to confront based on our individual experiences . Our gender has been conditioned starting as young girls to be seen and not heard or letting males have the louder voice. Society has created this monster of what was perceived as appropriate behavior since the beginning of civilization. Poor Eve even was blamed for giving Adam the apple…like he didn’t have a choice!!! How about that her ability to influence was so masterful that she convinced another human being to take a risk and try something new? Was it so bad that the result caused humanity to be posed with choosing between right and wrong? I think life is beautiful in every way. It’s all about perception of a biblical story written by men. This way of thinking is not only wrong, it just doesn't work anymore.

So the way we, as women, can up-level the vibration of the power of women is how we show up in our day-to day-lives. There will always be women in most every walk of life who are way out of the box doers & thinkers who will continuously carve out new paths for us. I am thankful for them. But it is our persistence and mindfulness on how we respond to life’s experiences that elevates our cause every moment of everyday. There are times when saying nothing is truly the higher road to take yet when “nothing” compromises our soulful happiness, it is time to take an inventory of what is driving the silence. If the answer is fear, it’s time to stretch that comfort zone and find your voice. I bet it is a beautiful voice!!! We are women, let us ROAR!!!

Best regards,

Betsy Cerulo, CEO
(o) 410.715.4040

Show Me The Money

March is the Women’s History Month. We have come a long way baby…or have we come a long way, baby? This phrase is worth pondering when women still have to fight for equal pay for the same job as men. I am so done on this issue because it’s downright WRONG that men are still holding women back from being compensated for the same darned job and we are allowing it!! When you are a woman from a second diverse category or even throw in a third, we are walking through quicksand to have fair action taken as a result of our loud voices. Women are stepping up to the plate to end this madness yet the facts show that the male decision makers are not giving us our fair pay. They are not negotiating on our behalf. This is why women need to challenge whatever number is handed to us. Challenge the status quo and when done wisely, women will continue to excel beyond our wildest dreams.

What if every woman walked out on their jobs for one day? The worldwide economy would stop in its tracks. Women are and have always been the backbone of business because there are more of us women in the lower wage jobs that keep the economy moving.

Patricia Arguette was inspiring by addressing the topic of wage inequality when she received her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It was the shot heard around the world. It was refreshing to see more female celebrities utilize their platform infighting this battle.

Forbes Magazine released their Top 25 Billionaires list this week and worldwide there are a total of 1,826 billionaires with 197 of that number being women. A little less than 11%. Why is that? If you tell me that men are smarter than women I will come through this blog and slap you silly!

I know in my industry, the doors open faster for male owned firms. The government has even designed a “set aside” for Woman Owned Small Businesses because they acknowledge that women need to receive more of our fair share of government business. Yet, we still are not the predominant voices in Washington or Wall Street. While we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go and I truly believe that when the American people elect a Woman President, maybe then we’ll have truly broken through the glass ceiling.

My advice to women is the same thing I say to myself in the mirror every morning. Never, Never, NEVER GIVE UP!!!

Best regards,

Betsy Cerulo, CEO
(o) 410.715.4040