I want to spin a little bit of psychology with a little bit of a new perspective so that we can actually take a different approach to addressing workplace gender issues.
This type of approach is much more effective, cost effective, and compassionate than HR practices adopted to date which try to isolate gender issues to whether or not sexual discrimination laws were broken.
When something happens at work that involves a gender topic or concern, the standard practice has been to get all judicial about things. But when we do that, the WHOLE human isn’t cared for, and the root of the issues persist.
People continually walk away from gender-related issues at work feeling hurt, isolated, misunderstood, punished, and the truest issues unresolved.
So here it is –
The greatest unnamed issue in gender-related concerns in the workplace:
Trauma projections. Aka – what’s already under the surface, waiting to trip us up.
Trauma imprints live in all of us, and they are often related to gender in a power-dominant culture. In a culture where some had power and others didn’t, that means that traumas were rampant. That’s just the truth.
People have experienced traumas, traumas live inside the somatic / body system and deep in the subconscious brain of the person, and people go to work.
The imprints of trauma, no matter where or when it occurred in someone’s life, don’t shut themselves off when someone goes to work.
Trauma projections are also very unconscious. People often don’t have any idea that they are taking the old effects of trauma and putting it onto a new person or situation.
I’ll give you an example of how I did this in my education career, because I always believe in honesty. I have learned and share from my lived experience, and I have no shame in that. It’s part of my superpower of being able to go to the tough places with people to help to truly transform the root of the issues.
I had had previous unsafe situations in my life with males in positions of authority, and so years ago when a male boss acted with authority in a dominating way, I projected that he was being dangerous. This feeling was very real to me, and may indeed have had merit in the situation. This traumatic response in me affected what I thought of him and then also how I behaved toward him and work. It amplified the “gender issue,” and even though there was a real and present-moment issue, there was also stuff from my past that amplified the trauma of the present moment. When I reported it, all of those reactions were a part of what I reported.
So our experiences of the past, related to gender in an old-paradigm of power and domination, impact our present moment experiences. This is happening, it’s very understandable, and it is not cause to dismiss a current issue as irrelevant and it is also not fair or effective to involve the past in the present.
How does a workplace even begin to consider making space for this when the point of a workplace is said to be things like effectiveness, efficiency, and profit?
- You of course provide benefits for mental health, as a minimum. Support people in the whole of who they are and see workplace effectiveness improve. However, don’t stop there.
- Get innovative with your responses when issues arise. Develop your mechanisms for care and connection, which will help to diffuse a trauma response if there is one. You can also provide opportunities for coaching and mediation with employees involved in “disputes,” which can save in turnover and treat people with a deeper level of honor, letting them know that you value the whole of their experience and care about them. Be careful not to punish employees for what may actually be a trauma projection. Instead, become trauma-informed.
- Check your workplace fear-meter of how nervous you are that a gender-related issue will be reported. Is your leadership on edge? Schedule a call to talk with me or another DEI representative today if so. Without a doubt, if leadership holds onto fear or avoids the issue, a major event is bound to happen. If the fear-meter is high, the response to the inevitable situation will be to seek to immediately suppress it, which is not your highest potential. Innovation starts in leadership getting curious about themselves and how to increase a sense of safety throughout the organization.
- Get real about your own gender-related traumas of the past. What stories and fears do you carry? How does that affect your behavior at work? Do you ignore, attempt to avoid, attempt to persuade, or have a tendency to fight? These are subtle, but the unconscious will rule your life until you bring it to light.
- If you are an HR firm, consider consulting with me to bring a new lens to your scope of services. The way that we have addressed gender and sexual discrimination in HR has been very limited, in my opinion, and a more holistic approach and understanding will make your firm more competitive as the workplace continues to innovate.
My services can certainly allow your employees to get the support that they need, so that they can go back to work, and so that they can feel more altogether supported – because you care.
www . SarahPoet . com / reconciliation
Please refer my services to those in your network and I thank you for doing so.
I love being of support where it matters most, and where few others can effectively go.
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