For the next few months, I have been asked to pose as “The Dragon Lady,” on the LinkedIn Group, women-in-business.net, giving career and business advice. Below are my first twelve letters and answers.
Dear Dragon Lady – Is it time to quit? How much should I tolerate (April 6, 2011)?
I’m working as a marketing manager. There are a lot of men in workplace and sometimes they talk about something that will just make me feel uncomfortable. As if they don’t respect the fact that I’m a woman. For example: they will talk about women’s various orgasm sound (In the office), the way some women dresses or walks, they also try to flirt with me, etc. The environment is hard, but the payment is good and I kinda stuck in a situation where I need some money. Should I quit?
Dear Should I Quit,
In the United States, there are laws against sexual harassment in the workplace. I don’t know what the laws are where you work. Write down everything that that has made you uncomfortable (who was involved, when it happened, where, what happened, anyone else who was there, etc.), go to your manager or your human resources department and tell them what is going on, and ask that it stop. Speak up and speak out. Be a part of making your workplace respectful and safe for all employees.
Let me know what happens.
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady (February 21, 2011),
I’ve read some of the recent postings – in particular talking about working Moms, and I’m a bit upset.
I am a “workaholic”. There – I’ve admitted my compulsion.
But I LOVE work! I love the challenge of what my job is about, I love making progress, I love working with the people I work with and for, and our clients. I’m doing quite well at work also. I’ve gotten several promotions in the past few years, about once every 18 months, and I have no desire to leave my company at all.
Having read some of the other postings in this group though, I can’t help but feel miserable as a failed mother. I’m afraid to comment with my picture and name attached to my feelings because my viewpoint is considered heresy from the viewpoint of motherhood.
I have two adorable kids. They know I love them, and I spend as much time as I can with them, but my career comes first. My husband also shares this viewpoint, and together we agree on this approach. Work or any career that we enjoy for that matter is what propels me through life. But I have to admit that this motherhood issue does pull to me from time to time.
Am I a bad mother to have this attitude? I tell myself that my kids will be okay. The maid takes care of them during the day, and I see them every morning when I’m not traveling, and most evenings when I get home.
Why do men get to enjoy their careers, but women do not?
Author and mom Ayelet Waldman says it’s time for women to get over it and get on with it. In her new book, “Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace,” she explores the anxieties of raising a family, why moms judge each other and why they need to give themselves a break. Here’s an excerpt:
Being a good father is a reasonable, attainable goal; you need only be present and supportive. Being a good mother, as defined by mothers themselves, is impossible. When asked for an example of a good mother, the women I polled came up with June Cleaver and Marmee, from “Little Women.” Both of whom are by necessity, not coincidence, fictional characters. The Good Mother does not exist, and she has never existed, not even in those halcyon bygone days to which the arbiters of maternal conduct never tire of harking back. If the producers of “Leave It to Beaver” had really wanted to give us an accurate depiction of late-1950s and early-1960s motherhood, June would have had a lipstick-stained cigarette clamped between her teeth, a gin and tonic in her hand, and a copy of “Peyton Place” on her nightstand. But still, this creature of fantasy is whom the mothers in my sample measured themselves against, and their failure to live up to her made them feel like bad mothers.
I have two daughters who are now grown up. When they were three and five, I went back to work full time. At the same time, my husband started traveling every week for his job. That first year when I started back to work I was miserable everywhere I was … I never felt that I was a good employee or a good mother because I felt that I did not have enough time to do either well.
Looking back, I was as good a mother as I could be. What I gave my children was love, security, patience and fun. I taught them to use their intuition and be problem solvers. We did things together on the weekends like go to the zoo, museums or parks. Each Friday night was “family night” where they got to pick what we ate and what games we played or movies we watched. When I look back on those years, I remember that I felt guilty that I was working full time but I also remember the hugs, the laughter, and the feeling of accomplishment I had from managing a full time job and home. And, I remember how much I enjoyed my job and the new friends I made there.
You are who you are. You love your career and your children. Give yourself a break and enjoy both.
The Dragon Lady
P.S. What do others think? What have your experiences been? What advice do you have for “Blue”?
Dear Dragon Lady: How can I find a job as a middle aged woman (in China?)
At age of 40, be eliminated by the society? (February 14, 2011)
Society actually I mean career, work, and job. No company wants you any more, as you are not “younger” anymore.
From last October I have sent out about 40 resumes to look for an accountant or office manager work, and four months past, none interview chances, none company gave me a call inform me for a interview. I asked myself, why? Can’t it be said I am already eliminated by career at age 40?
All job advertisement saying like this “we are looking for people with 1-3 years working experience, or 3-5 years working experience, or 5-10 years working experience, so far I only read one adv was looking for an employee with over 10 years working experience.
How come at age 40 is no longer wanted by any company? What am I going to do to support myself? Sincere when rich working experience was become disadvantage not advantage ?
Dear Job Seeker,
My grandmother had an expression that I remember from when I was a little girl, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” By that she meant to take what you have and use it to your best advantage. What you have, as a middle aged woman, compared to younger workers, is more experience, wisdom, judgment, responsibility, and patience. Demonstrate those assets in how you describe your accomplishments in your resume and during interviews.
Remove dates from the Education portion of your resume and put older achievements under “Career Milestones”. Include volunteer, community outreach and extracurricular activities to subtly diminish concerns about your vitality and energy level. Highlight computer and technical training to demonstrate that you are current with the latest technology.
Research companies before you go to an interview. Make sure that you look polished and put together. Walk into an interview briskly and be energetic. If you have the opportunity, describe times when you worked well with younger workers. Consider taking a lower salary to compete with younger workers.
What advice do others have?
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady: I’m too smart for this job! How can I get noticed? How can I get greater opportunities (January 23, 2011)?
Thank you for the past answer all the problem those girls, and also for the other ladies too.
I thought I could handle the problem myself, I have right now. It seem I cannot! I do my best on my job almost 6 months since I join this company. I had some ideas from time to time and I presented to another colleagues. They all think those a good idea. So, I tried to present to my manager. He wasn’t even try to listen to my idea.
I sense that since I started to try to present idea to him. I feels like, I’m a intern that my work he gave me. I can do so much more, but he not give me any chance to shine.
I just started my career in this company. I don’t want to give up in 6 months time. I read a lot of book said, “Don’t give up on your first career thought, do your best and don’t give up!” They all have a similar idea, I just wrote. How should I do to get those ideas to him? I’m not try get his position right now. I’m just 24 I still have a lot to learn. Also I knew that good for my career, not 2 months here, 3 months there.
What can I do to get better opportunity?
Dear Too Smart,
Here are some reasons why you may not have been successful in selling your ideas to your boss:
You may not have earned your boss’s trust yet.
Your boss may be considering many other ideas now and your idea may not stack up against the others.
Your boss may be busy and you have not chosen the right time to talk with him or her.
Or you don’t know how to sell your ideas.
Here are some tips for how to sell your ideas:
Write your idea down.
Be sure that your idea relates to current issues, goals and objectives that are important to your boss.
Structure your idea from your boss’s perspective.
Find statistics that show why your idea is a good one.
Prepare best-case scenarios of your idea in action.
Minimize the downside and risk.
Create an outline or presentation that illustrates your idea.
Share your idea with people you trust who are higher than you on the organization chart. Ask for their feedback and make appropriate changes.
Try to generate positive momentum for your idea with peers and management.
Approach your boss at the appropriate time.
Start small. Break your idea into small steps or parts.
Propose doing more research first.
Volunteer yourself or your department to try out your idea.
Use inviting, not pushy, language like, “It might be helpful if we …” or “I was wondering if we could …” or “Perhaps we might …”.
Ask your boss what he or she would like you to do as the next step.
Be open to change. Very few ideas go from conception to implementation without some change. The challenge is to get your idea going.
Be respectful. If your boss isn’t interested in the idea, accept it. Thank your boss for his or her time and leave it at that.
What about the rest of your? What have you done that has worked out when presenting ideas as a new employee? Let’s help “Too Smart” get really smart!
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady (January 16, 2011),
I am Chinese. I worked in a local company before I came to the new company. The new company’s boss is an American. He is not a Mandarin speaker.
My work is call a lot of people who are in the high position of their company. Telling them what we are doing now and hope they can join us.
The first day I came to the office. I really want to know some details of what they have been talking about. It really took me a lot of time. But my boss told me that “You waste a lot of time. You don’t need to do that. Just make a call and tell them what we are doing now.”
But in my opinion, we must know something about the company so that we can know what they want. Make it easy to let them join us. But my boss don’t think so. So I made a lot of call and sent a lot of emails. But I don’t think it worked very well.
Americans are tough to work for.
Dear “Americans Are Tough to Work For”,
I don’t know what you are selling and to whom, but, from what you say, it sounds like you have the right idea. What about Googling the companies you are calling first to get a quick idea of what they do? That way you would get information to help you make the call without using your boss’s time.
What about coming up with a few open-ended questions that would help you, and the companies you are calling, understand if joining your organization would benefit them? You might ask something as simple and straight-forward as … How would joining our organization help you?
What do the rest of you think? What advice do you have for “Americans Are Tough to Work For”? Have you encountered anything similar when working for an American?
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady (January 11, 2011),
Maybe you can help me with a problem I have been having. I am a recent ExPat arrival to Shanghai so maybe you can have some advice for me. I have been told not to worry, since it’s a common issue, but I cannot help asking for your advice. Currently, my office is in the process of finishing a deal with a prospective client. However, we have been in the process of finishing this deal for months! Are these guys just being polite and are just afraid to say no? Or are they really interested like they say they are and I just have to hang in a little (or a lot!) longer?
I welcome your advice oh wise dragon lady.
I have never lived or worked in China. However, there are many members of this group who have a lot of wisdom and experience to share. Will you all please give your thoughts to “Waiting” about what she can do?
In the meantime, I did a quick Google search and found an article that may help you. It is called “Seven Rules for Closing a Deal in China” and can be found at http://www.bnet.com/article/seven-rules-for-closing-a-deal-in-china/204806
Let me know if this helps.
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady (January 4, 2011),
I’m an expat, and have been working in China for almost 10 years. Before that, I worked in NYC for 12 years. I’m not a Mandarin speaker, but all the staff that I work with are strong English speakers.
For as long as I can remember, my single biggest management issue has been that of sharing information in China. I’m not sure if it’s a Beijing cultural issue, or if it’s China wide.
Last week one of my staff members resigned. She did it in a way that was rather abrupt. No advanced notice. After she was gone, I realized that I was in deep trouble. I had kept her around because she was a rather pleasant person to spend time with, but clearly when she left she had a plan, and that was to leave me high and dry with regard to the work she had done. None of the messages back and forth with suppliers were easy to find, I couldn’t find anyone’s phone numbers, or traces of arrangements that she had made. I surely should have prevented this problem from occurring in the first place, but now it’s too late.
This isn’t an isolated incident though. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for how to deal with staff who feel that “information is power.” How can I convince people to share more information? Keeping it to herself didn’t result in any advantage to her, and there’s no way that she could have taken it with her to her next job. The job that she did at my company was so unusual.
So now I need to prepare for the next staff member to take her position. How can I make sure she or he shares information?
Here are a few thoughts: 1) Could you call the staff member who resigned and ask her for the information you need?; 2) What about having all of your staff write their procedures down and put them into a Procedures Manual so that any staff member could pick up and do anyone else’s job in case of an emergency?; 3) How about creating a shared workspace? A shared workspace is an area, hosted by a Web server, where colleagues can share documents and information, maintain lists of pertinent data, and keep each other up to date on the status of a given project.
Studies show that building a supportive and sharing corporate culture enhances knowledge sharing. What ideas can you share with Expat about building a supportive and sharing corporate culture in her office?
P.S. Have you tried to learn Mandarin?
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady: How can I get a raise in this company? (December 28, 2010),
I have been working in my company for about a year and a half. I believe I am a hardworking woman, I’m reaching my goals, and I feel satisfied with my work performance.
Something has been happening, and I really don’t know how to act. It turns out that most of my colleagues are getting a raise in their salary. This has been happening for 3 months now, and my concern is that I believe I deserve a raise as well. How should I deal with this issue? How to ask my boss for a raise, when he hasn’t shown any intention of giving me one?
Thanks, Broke and Broken
If you want a raise, the first thing you should do is to read your employee handbook and learn what your company’s pay practices are. If the standard practice is to offer salary increases once a year after an annual review, for instance, you are unlikely to receive a raise at any other time. If your company offers more frequent increases, you might have a better chance asking for a pay raise. However, if your employer has announced that the pay raises will be four percent across the board, as an example, you are unlikely to negotiate more money.
Research the market pay rates for your job through the Internet, by networking with employees in similar jobs in similar industries and through professional associations. If you are already paid above your market pay rate, negotiating a pay raise could be difficult.
Make a list of the goals you have accomplished, new skills you have acquired, and additional responsibilities you have added, to show how you have contributed more than your job requires.
Set up a meeting with your boss to discuss your compensation. Stay calm and reasonable throughout the meeting. Don’t tell your boss that you heard that other coworkers received higher raises than you. Talking about what someone else received tends to turn a boss off. Don’t give an ultimatum, demand or threat unless you have another job already waiting. Do have an amount in mind; if your boss asks you what raise you have in mind, you don’t want to go blank. Your boss may want to do research first, so don’t expect an answer when you meet. And, if you still get turned down, nicely ask why and what you need to do to qualify for the highest possible raises in the future.
Good luck! Let me know what happens.
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady (December 19, 2010),
Hello I hope that you can help me with a problem I am having. I have recently come to china about a year ago and I still find I have a lot to learn about the Chinese culture, especially in the work place. My question to you concerns acceptable dating culture in the workplace. Lets say I have this friend named Jane. Jane has recently felt she has a mutual attraction with one of her co-workers. Jane thinks that this man is very handsome and engaging and is pretty sure this man feels the same way.
Jane understands the guidelines and polcies at the corporate headquarters in the United States, but she wonders if what is OK on paper (in the USA) may not be OK in workplaces outside of the US. Before I talk to my higher-up before asking about inter-office romances, I wanted to hear your wise opinion.
Thank you Dragon Lady,
Breathless in Beijing
Before your friend dates a coworker, tell her to first check to see if her company has an employee dating policy. If your friend or the man she likes is a manager or has a high-ranking position within the company, they may need to inform Human Resources that they are dating. If your friend and this man have a supervisor/subordinate relationship, the company may transfer responsibility for performance reviews, promotions, work assignments, and pay raises to a different party.
Advise your friend to take the time to learn as much as she can about the co-worker whom she likes. Is he related to the boss? Is he already in a relationship? Is he prone to gossip?
Your friend needs to be honest about her intentions. If she is only going to be living in China temporarily, make sure that the man she likes understands this.
If the co-worker your friend is interested in tells her that he is not interested in her, she should drop it and not continue to pursue him.
When you are dating a coworker you have what is called a “dual relationship,” which means that you have two different types of relationships (business and romantic) with the same person. Even if your friend and this man do not plan on seeing each other after the first date, they should still talk with each other about any possible workplace conflict.
Advise your friend to talk about sexual harassment with this man. They should agree ahead of time that if either party starts to feel harassed that it will be openly discussed, and that either party is free to terminate the relationship if any type of harassment develops.
Public displays of affection may be frowned upon in parts of China. Kissing and holding hands in public may be considered improper. At work, your friend and this man should agree not to flirt or make any one around them uncomfortable.
For many women in China, having sex is a sign of a serious relationship that is headed towards marriage. Thus, engaging in sex should not be taken lightly.
Tell your friend that going to visit her boyfriend’s hometown may be seen as a step towards marriage. Accepting the invitation may send the wrong message to his family.
Last, I would remind your friend she is a guest in China, and, as an unofficial representative of her country, every action that she takes may be scrutinized. Having a boyfriend in China can help your friend become better acclimated to the culture and who knows, she may fall in love!
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady: HELP! I’m being micro-managed to death! (December 12, 2010):
We are all in the tension.
My boss is a very very very micromanagement person. Every single report given to her will be so many little problems. There wasn’t a complete work which no need to change in her point of view. Everybody in the office is fear to talk with my boss, especially me who is the assistant of her.
She always rushes out of her office and stands behind me for a while and find some problem in my typing or my working processes. After working in this company 2 years I have already build up my work procedure, how come she always makes troubles.
She likes to shout at anyone with small mistakes, everyone in the room is in the tension.
No one, in any work environment, should subject himself or herself to verbal abuse. Here is a true story. I once worked on a project with a senior executive who was brilliant but who sometimes shouted publicly at people. I was told that he went through a new assistant about every year because he fired them or they quit. The company tolerated his behavior because his contributions were so valuable. Years later he was fired.
The executive asked me to create a PowerPoint presentation and send it to his assistant. I did. The next morning, he left an angry voice mail for me, and copied my boss on it, furious that he had not received the PowerPoint presentation. I called his assistant and asked her if she had gotten the presentation I had e-mailed to her the previous day. She said that she did not recall receiving it so I resent it. I waited on the phone to make sure that she received it. Once she did, she sent it to her boss.
I decided that I could not allow the executive to treat me that way. I went to his office and asked to meet with him then. Even though I was trembling, I told the executive that I had sent the PowerPoint on time, that I was upset that he had not checked with his assistant and me about this, and that I could not continue to work with him this way. He looked at me for a long time and finally said that he might have been mistaken. I thanked him and left. It was a quick conversation but a significant one. I was able to hold my head high by letting the executive know what my boundaries are. A year later, he put my name in for the company’s Teamwork Award, which I won.
It was a risk and I could have gotten fired but I would rather get fired than work in fear.
What do you think? What stories and advice can others share? Would this strategy work for you? Why or why not?
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady: I’ve gotten myself into hot water – how can I get out? (December 5, 2010):
I am in trouble, because my supplier and my colleague are angry at me. I delayed our company payment. I forgot to send the invoice to my account department, for sure I didn’t send the invoice my supplier would have been paid by us. My colleague knew that our supplier haven’t start processing of the payment. He send a very aggressive email to track after our supplier payment. Our supplier replied also very aggressive email back to me and cc him. Now both of them knew that this problem caused by me.
Now our supplier they try many different ways to get the payment. So, our supplier still hasn’t pay yet. I don’t know what to do… 🙁
Dear In Trouble:
We all make mistakes. In my experience, the best thing to do if you make a mistake is to say so as soon as possible, allow the people who are angry at you to vent, apologize and mean it, and then do whatever you can to make things better. What you don’t want to do is berate yourself. Remember that you are human.
Could you let the account department know what happened and ask them if they can expedite payment? What might you do, in the future, to encourage your colleague to come to you first if he finds a problem?
What about the rest of you? Do you have advice for “In Trouble” and would you tell her about a mistake you made and what you learned from it?
The Dragon Lady
Dear Dragon Lady: The boss who contradicts himself (November 28, 2010);
I have a problem and I don’t know what to do. I working in banking industry and have a male manager. His my team manager. He likes people kissing his “a”, but I don’t like to do that. I just do what I have and need to do.
I created a report system between department. Another department like it and they think it useful for them. One of our team member didn’t like it and refuse to use and complaint to my manager. My manager said that somebody complaint your report system. I had already talked with another department manager and they all like it.
So, I asked him which department complaint, and replied said all of them. I said, “If all of them, then stop use it. So, no one will complaint again.” But he refuse to stop using it. I also asked him what kind of things they complaint about. He’ve got nothing to say.
This issue is still hanging.
The Dragon Lady
You raise two excellent issues and questions. Regarding the first issue, kissing up, my advice is to be pleasant and professional to everyone, be true to who you are, and give praise only when you believe it is deserved. I find it best to be my authentic self and it sounds like you do too!
About the second issue, hearing that some people like the reporting system you created and others don’t, I suggest that you find out what they don’t like and fix it. Why don’t you meet with the team member who doesn’t like the reporting system you created and ask him or her why? Keep asking “why?” until you understand what their issue is. Put yourself in that person’s shoes and ask yourself, “Would I want to use the reporting system? If not, why not? What would entice me to use it?” Once you fully understand this person’s concerns, figure out what you need to do to so that he or she will want to use the reporting system. But, make sure that any changes you need to make to satisfy that person won’t adversely affect the people who already like and use the reporting system. Work to solve the problem long term.
Explain your suggested changes to all of your stakeholders; i.e., each department that will use the reporting system and your boss. First, get their okay and then implement the changes. After a few days, check back in with everyone. If there are any new issues, listen to what people have to say and work to solve the issue. When everyone reports that they are satisfied, report that to your boss. And thank your boss for bringing the issue to your attention. That way you can compliment him authentically.
Please let me know how this works out for you.
The Dragon Lady
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