When you’re one of the only women in the office, developing the genuine relationships you need to advance can be a challenge. Look for easy ways to connect: Get to the office 10 minutes early and walk around to see who else is in. Use 30 seconds in the elevator to catch up with a colleague, or to find a time to do so. Arrive five minutes early to meetings and talk to someone you don’t know (instead of hiding behind your phone). Walk to the train with a coworker who’s going your way. Being fully present in the office can help you make many more crucial connections. And don’t force yourself to take up hobbies or participate in activities just because your male colleagues like them. If golf isn’t your thing, that’s OK. Decide what you do like and invite a few colleagues along for the fun.
When you really need a favor from someone you haven’t talked to for a while, reaching out can be awkward. Re-break the ice by sending them an email with a clear subject line, like “Reconnecting.” Early in the body of your email, acknowledge that some time has passed since you last spoke, and briefly update them on what you’ve been doing professionally. This will provide useful context for your request. Then let them know what kind of help you need. You want to sound friendly and confident that your request is something they’ll want to say yes to. But give them an easy way to say no, and offer to return the favor either way: “I’m sure you’re really busy, so thanks in advance for considering it. Please let me know how I can be helpful to you, either now or in the future.” And then stay in touch — that way it won’t be awkward the next time you want to say hello.
Working parents sometimes worry that they’re letting down their kids by spending too much time at the office. Once your children are old enough to understand, address this concern head-on by having open, honest conversations. Talk frankly with them about the pressures you feel and what you truly want. Don’t blame your company for the times when you can’t be flexible or you’re stressed at home; the last thing you want is to teach your children to despise the idea of work. Instead, model by example. Help your children understand that the time you spend away from them is one way you contribute to the family. Talk about your passion for your work and the skills you’ve developed to excel professionally. And if you’re going through an especially busy time, explain to your children that you want to put them first and that when you can’t, it’s hard on you, too. Feeling sad together creates connection, which will help them learn that your occasional absence is not a reflection of your love for them.
If you want to excel in a new job, you can’t rely on the orientations and meetings that HR sets up for you. Take control of your onboarding by cultivating connections up, down, and across the organization. Figure out who the influencers are in relation to your role, and get to know them face-to-face. And don’t make the common mistake of assuming you know what your top goals should be and how best to communicate with your new manager. Ask your boss questions to better understand how you will be evaluated and to identify potential early wins: “How do you prefer to give and receive feedback and be kept informed?” and “What should I accomplish in the next six months?” Keep in mind that the goal isn’t to become a hero by tackling the biggest problem right away. Instead, go after something that can be achieved quickly and that delivers operational or financial results.
Most managers dedicate significant amounts of time and energy to ensuring they’re being fair. But it’s inevitable that some outcomes will be perceived as fair by some and unfair by others. Don’t assume your decisions will speak for themselves: Be transparent about how and why you made the call. For example, if you want an equitable promotions process, with certain competencies or styles counting more than others, make your intentions known to the team. If you want an equal sharing of bonuses, to reinforce the importance of every employee, be up front about it. Remember, as the manager, you have the discretion to make those calls. And if someone accuses you of being unfair, don’t beat yourself up. As long as you have thought carefully about what the business needs, and made your decision as objectively as possible, you have done your job. You’ll always have an opportunity to restore balance with the next decision.