Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Why You Should Read Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook Post

Sheryl Sandberg's Facebook post

Resilience by Alan Levine via Flickr CC

Amid the excitement of my daughter finishing her first year of high school, and a pending visit to Syracuse to visit my parents, it has been an interesting week. I’ve been in a good writing groove, patching some holes in the early middle of the book. And in Mussar, I’ve been practicing Loving Kindness, which led me to read Sherryl Sandberg’s Facebook post about the grieving process for her husband, who died of a freak accident at the age of 46.


It is heavy and moving. If you have ever experienced grief, you’ll know what she is talking about. If you haven’t, you’ll learn that grief is not what we see in the movies. Grief is an adult woman who is held by her mother every night as she cries herself to sleep.


Sandberg taught me a lot about Loving Kindness. Loving Kindness is doing something for someone else, with no thought of a reward, even if they don’t deserve it. Loving Kindness goes beyond being nice. It is one of the three elements that the world is built on, and thus acts of Loving Kindness also have an element of sustaining other people.


Sandberg’s openness of her pain is a gift to the world. She teaches us what to say and what not to say to someone in grief, and she offers community to those who are suffering grief around the world. She also shares how she has opened a space to talk about it with her uncomfortable colleagues. We are given an opportunity to practice Loving Kindness by reading her words, and sharing her pain in silent fellowship.


This may seem scary or unappetizing. Life is stressful, and who needs to take on someone else’s grief? We all do. Last night I was meditating on Loving Kindness, and I had an image of a brick with a smiley face on it. Then there was a second brick, then another and another, and before long a huge wall was built that stretched up to the heavens and in all directions. The world is built on Loving Kindness.


Someday we will be the one in grief. Someday we will encounter someone who has lost the person they love the most in the world. I guarantee you, when that day comes, you’ll be happy that you read the post because it will teach you how to act.


Now, we can saver that Today Is Not That Day. We can celebrate and be thankful for all that we have. If you haven’t read Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook post, read it now, and then do an act of Loving Kindness.

Report Says Women Should Speak Less to Get Ahead at Work

Marissa Meyer: Powerful Woman

Marissa Meyer: Powerful Woman via Flickr CC

Did you see the blockbuster article in the NY Times by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant discussing why women don’t speak out at work? Women who present ideas in meetings are often ignored, or are talked over by men, who run with their idea. When I told my daughter about the story she sat up straight and said “That happens to me!” She is 14, a freshman in high school.

In addition, they quote research from Dr. Victoria Briscol at Yale, which found that

“Male executives who spoke more often than their peers were rewarded with 10 percent higher ratings of competence. When female executives spoke more than their peers, both men and women punished them with 14 percent lower ratings.”

While anecdotally I believe the talking over women story, I find the research shocking. Surely this is not happening on a conscious level. I went and read the original research paper, and there was an interesting nugget that did not make the times article: Women in positions of authority who spoke less were perceived as more powerful than women who spoke more, and men in positions of authority who spoke more were perceived as more powerful than men who spoke less. In fact, the women who spoke less has similar scores to the men who spoke more, and vice versa. They speculate that men and women may want to have different strategies for how they use their power at work. (See page 14.)

What does this mean for someone looking to find the proper Humility balance? As a reminder, Humility balance is defined as “Not more than my place, not less than my space.” When talking more is counter productive is is better to stay Silent? On the flip side, maybe remaining quiet is perpetuating an unjust social hierarchy, and it is better to trail-blaze, in the hopes that over time both men and women will become more comfortable with women asserting their power.

I don’t know the right answer, other than to reaffirm that this research shows that women are right to be concerned that speaking out can be held against them. Now that we know, we have an opportunity to check our reactions to people in power.

What do you think? Do you buy it?

It is important that we spread the word about unconscious bias. Please share this post!

Lessons From Jason Collins: Coming Out As a Parent in the Office

Mother With Child by Mzacha via rgbphoto Face hidden to protect her career?

Mother With Child by Mzacha via rgbphoto
Face hidden to protect her career?

Jason Collins article is the first active professional male athlete to come out. Collins wrote a first person account of his life before coming out, and how he feels now. He stayed in the closet for fear of consequences to his professional life, and as a result “endured years of misery.” Now, Collins is looking forward to living an authentic life. The feared backlash is no where near what it might have been, and the majority of the feedback, at least in public, has been positive.

As I read Collin’s article, I was reminded of how hard it can be to tell the truth in the corporate world. And I don’t mean telling the truth to your boss or to customers about a work issue. I mean telling the truth about yourself.

Where I live, in Silicon Valley, it is common to have openly gay coworkers. But there are many people who are living in the closet, hiding their authentic selves at work for fear that it will impact there career. What closet are they in? The parenting closet.

For example, for many years, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg secretly left at 5:30 to pick up her kids because she was concerned about the impact of being perceived as a “working mom” on her career. In the words of Collins, “It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret.” Granted, Sandberg’s secret was not as big as Collins, but it must have been a drain on her.

Corporate executive Karin Hurt wrote on her blog, Let’s Grow Leaders, about the difficulty of keeping her divorce secret. She had just been promoted to a major leadership position in a fluid post merger environment. Plus, her new position required frequent travel to another city.

Hurt wrote “I had been very deliberate about keeping that hidden. Even my new boss did not know what I was going through. I had heard enough discussion about the concept of “single moms” needing extra care and support so they could come to work on time and not call in sick when their kids were sick. I thought, I’m not like that. I’m a different kind of single mom… I’m an executive. I’d better just keep all this to myself.”

Collins wrote:
“By its nature, my double life has kept me from getting close to any of my teammates. Early in my career I worked hard at acting straight, but as I got more comfortable in my straight mask it required less effort.”

Hurt wrote that when she was discovered as a single mom, there was a backlash.

“You lead all these meetings where we work on programs to make it easier for single moms… and NOT ONE TIME… do you mention that you are one. What else aren’t you sharing?” Another teammate of Karin’s told her “we are starting to wonder about you. You know all about us, but we know nothing about you.”

Collins wrote “A good teammate supports you no matter what. In professional sports, it really is all about teamwork.”

We talk about teamwork in the corporate world. In a thriving workplace, people have a shared sense of mission, and e support each other. There is one little drawback – in my experience, you will be supported as long as you act a certain way. A corporation can breed a sameness, an unwritten code of conduct about how to act and even how to dress. Try showing up at Google wearing a suit and tie. You wouldn’t feel comfortable, and you wouldn’t fit in.

So it was a logical act for self-preservation for Collins, Sandberg and Hurt to keep part of their lives hidden. Attitudes have changed dramatically over the last few years about being gay, and it is wonderful that Collins has enough support to feel he can be successful as a gay athlete.

And with leaders like Sandberg and Hurt, now is the time for women not only to Lean In, but to come out as their authentic selves.