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Unforeseen and Unintended Consequences

By Tatyana Fertelmeyster - 02.02.2017

For many years I have been working with foreign executives coming to the US on international expat assignments. Here are a few things I would normally tell them:

  • There is almost always some kind of elections season going on. And when elections are over we all go back to work. Politics is politics. Business is business.
  • We don’t talk politics at work.
  • We don’t bring our emotions to a workplace either. Keep them to yourself.

As I am figuring out a new approach to this conversation, I want to pose a few questions to Human Resources and Employee Assistance Professionals:

  • Do you have employees who cannot reenter the country right now? What kind of a leave from work are they on? Is it a paid leave? Will they have a job when they finally manage to board the plane and clear passport control?
  • Is there any provision to support their families? Especially if a person who is stuck in limbo for at least next 90 days is a main or only breadwinner? Do they continue to be covered with an employment-based health insurance?
  • Are EAP services being offered to your employees who cannot return home? Or to your employees whose loved ones cannot return home?
  • What is happening to your work teams considering different strong opinions people have in an aftermath of a stormy weekend?
  • Do you have employees who are hot from protest lines? Do you employ Muslims who feel that their community is under attack? Do you employ people who believe that the Executive Order on Immigration is the best thing ever? How is it going for all of them to be at work today?
  • Is yours a global company and if so – what is happening to your global teams today? There are many cultures in the world where people are used to bringing both politics and emotions to work.

There are so many more questions to ask, to consider, to search for answers.

Human Resources are about Humans.

How are Humans doing today at work?

As promised – No Politics, Just Business.

Are White women hypocrites in expecting Black women to support white women gender initiatives

By Jean Mavrelis - 11.11.2016

Last night I couldn’t sleep, and was texting with a Black woman friend who is an attorney.  I asked if I could quote her:

“As a professional, I regularly hear white women question black women about why we are active in black professional associations and less so women’s professional associations. We are scolded for seeing ourselves as Black first and women second. They treat our point of view as disloyalty to them…. The hypocrisy of the situation is what is so maddening”

I agree.

I was conducting a women’s retreat for the federal government when a Native American woman asked, at the beginning of the session, “What about women of color”?

A white woman replied, “We’re talking about gender here, not civil rights”.  That exchange offered the group an opportunity to sort out who they were.  Sadly, most of the white women in the group assumed sexism could be compartmentalized from racism.

When we say “Women and people of color”, where are women of color?  They can be in both categories, but when white people say “woman” they generally mean a white woman, otherwise they mark the category: Black women, Asian women, etc.  We talk about our Black friends and are Latina friends, but we don’t mark “friend” if the person is white.  White is normative for white people.

Black women hearken back to Ida B Wells’ famous saying, “Ain’t I a Woman Too” when white women tried to get the vote without joining forces for Black suffrage.

Whenever we do a social mapping exercise in our sessions, we ask people to break into groups.  If there is only one Black woman, she will invariably prefer to be her own group, or join a group of Black men, because for Black women, race “trumps” gender.  They, as well as their co-workers, see themselves as Black before seeing themselves as women.

White women did not vote to protect immigrants from mass deportation, including children who were born and acculturated here in the U.S.

We didn’t vote against potential return to “stop and frisk” laws even as we watch police abuse of young black men. Race isn’t on white women’s radar.  White women have to see racism and xenophobia as our issues, too. Until that happens, Black women will see white women’s gender initiatives and issues as too one-sided–basically just theirs.

White women who voted against Hillary

By Jean Mavrelis - 11.11.2016

Who are the white women who did not vote for Hillary, when they did vote for Barack Obama, and probably would have voted for Michele Obama if she were running instead of Hillary.

They didn’t like Hillary.  They voted against her more than they voted for Trump.


They saw Hillary as a male identified mean girl who isn’t caring and nice. From the beginning, when Bill Clinton was running, she was taken to task because she said she didn’t bake cookies.  This was seen as an affront to homemakers.

“Who does she think she is?”

“She’s after power, or she would have left Bill.”

“She makes too much money for her speeches.”

“She’s hawkish.”

“Her voice is annoying”.

The litany goes on.

Little girls in elementary school will create an “I hate so-and-so” club if any girl acts too powerful.  White women are not encouraged to be competitive.  White women on my tennis team struggle with their own competitive instincts, and don’t like the other team if they seem mean and don’t smile.

I have written about 5 categories of white women in Corporate Tribalism: Narcissists, White male identified/assimilated, Obedient rule governed, People pleasers, and Evolved. The biggest category is the people pleasers.

Hillary is not in that category.  She seems more male identified to me, and what I’ve read about her childhood with her father backs that up.  But she could also be in the “evolved” category of women who can be for themselves and also, be for the good of the whole.  Hillary certainly showed she could be evolved in so afar as she can be for herself, and for women and children.  And she proved that legislatively.  But something about her was a little too male identified for many white women.

Hillary doesn’t exude warmth. People who have met her says she does one-on-one, but the camera couldn’t reveal that, and Hillary was held by white women to a standard of perfection around being a people pleaser – someone who is caring and nice.  She didn’t make it for many white women. They saw Hillary as part of the establishment.

What does the establishment mean to white women?  It means members of the “good old boys club”.  I voted for Obama rather than Hillary because I saw him having more womanist values than Hillary.  He was raised by a grandmother, while I’ve read that Hillary identified with her father.

Studies have shown that women in top executive positions are more male identified.

Well, that’s the game, she “leaned in”.  I have talked to women executives who said they had an epiphany, “At some point in my career I realized that if I wanted to get ahead, I was going to lose friends.  I couldn’t be for myself without shame or guilt the way white men can”.

Well, Hillary lost “friends”.  She didn’t have that elusive something white women “people pleasers” look for when they judge other women.

Trump didn’t have it either, but he is held to a different standard. Many women don’t expect him to “get it”.  They expect bravado, and their sense of a powerful man isn’t necessarily one who is caring and nice.

We need to begin raising sons and daughters who are valued for being evolved: being able to have agency (the ability to know what they want and go for it), and still keep in mind the good of the whole.  Hillary does that, but many white women didn’t trust it.

Evolved women, who saw Hillary as the subject of her life, had less of a problem, but still wanted her to be more “likable”.  They relate better to Elizabeth Warren who doesn’t come across as establishment male identified, even though both women combine caring with passionate advocacy for issues larger than themselves, something women identify with and respect generally.

Trump can be for himself without shame or guilt, but certainly has no idea how to be for the good of the whole group.

We will have to watch him like a hawk.  Or, as our Buddhist colleagues might say, we need to extend loving kindness.

I’d like to do both.

Outer Space

By Jean Mavrelis - 09.01.2015

As we go through life we create what our friend and colleague, Jack Condon, calls “A sense of place”.

I like to imagine myself creating my sense of place inside a “bubble of being”.  Sometimes the reality I “imagine” is a physical place, but often it’s a psychological state of being.

At times our “bubbles of being” are shattered for a multitude of reasons: changes in age, work, relationship, parenting, loss, or even all of those.

During those times of change, we are “outside the bubble”.  We’re free floating and it’s scary and unsettling not to be within a bubble of predictability.

However, there’s also a lot of freedom in that outer space to create  the next “bubble of being”.

As I move toward retirement, one of my “bubbles of being” is about to pop and I haven’t imagined another one yet.

My past “bubbles” are floating around me.  Some stuff repeats in each bubble from my earliest sense of being (siblings, for example, and messages from parents).  But there’s always something new. And I think the bubbles keep getting more crowded… haha.  Maybe in the end we discover that after we pop the last bubble, we all end up in the same big bubble.

Diversity Outside the Office Door

By Tatyana Fertelmeyster - 08.17.2015

There has been a lot of talk later about the numbers – who is hiring whom and how percentages look. This conversation is here to stay but I am not that interested in adding my efforts to a counting process. I am much more curious about a “now what?” question.

Let me step back for a moment here and share a couple of conversations with you. The first one happened about 10 years ago when I was asked to provide a cross-cultural training for a young woman who came to Chicago for a 2-year international assignment. She was from Russia.

She worked for the HR department in her company’s Moscow office and they now brought her to work at the headquarters to get a bigger picture and add some global management skills to her resume. This woman (whom I will call Olga) and I spent two days together in most fascinating conversations. One of our discussions was about diversity.

“Diversity? – Olga said. – Sure, we have a diversity component in our HR in Moscow. We are an American company after all. But honestly – why do we need it? We hire the best candidates based on their credentials, skills and abilities. And we treat them well. If the best candidate happens to be a Chechen – so be it”.

And then, in the same breath, she says: “Yes, we know that this person can be beaten up on a way home. But what does that have to do with us?”

Another conversation happened a few years ago during one of KMA diversity trainings.

We were working with a group of engineers in a corporate office in the Midwest. At one point an African American man in his 30th gets up and addresses his colleagues. “When I come to work- color does not matter for me. I am here to work as all of you are. I am here to be successful. What I don’t usually bring into the office with me is what happens to me outside of the office door”.

He then proceeds to share that just a day before, on Sunday afternoon, he was driving home with his wife and their baby after visiting relatives. Their car was stopped five or six blocks away from their house. “A police officer kept us on a side of the road for at least half an hour in a summer heat. He wanted to know what we were doing in that neighborhood. The fact that he was looking at my driver’s license with my home address a few blocks away did not seem to make any difference”.

“As I said, – he concluded, – I usually don’t bring this kind of stuff to work. I try to keep it all separate. But this is too fresh and it happens all the time!”

Back to numbers – let’s hire statistically perfect combinations of people. Let’s have all kinds of diversity initiatives.

And let’s watch a lot of our efforts going down the drain while we let our office doors dictate what we do and do not do about differences.



Sandra Bland and The Grapes of Wrath

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.24.2015

At the end of Steinbeck’s, “The Grapes of Wrath”, Mama Joad asks Tom as he flees from the union busting police, “Where will I find you?”  Tom says, “Where ever anybody stands up for injustice, “I’ll be there….”

Many White People don’t understand that Ms. Bland’s response to the officer, as shown in the video, was ultimately about preserving her dignity.

Ask yourself, “Why do so many white people comment, “If she had only complied with the officer, none of this would have happened?”

One White friend of mine said, “When I’m stopped, I immediately wonder what I did wrong, and I’m super respectful to whatever they ask”.”

For her, being stopped is about how to act in front of the power of the law enforcement officer when you have committed a violation. Not not all equal or equivalent to having been stopped essentially for being Black.

A white woman in Ms Bland’s position in Texas would have probably never been stopped for lane changing without signaling. But if she were stopped for that infraction, she’d assume the officer was a jerk, and “work” him by saying, “I’m soooo sorry, officer, I won’t do it again” and the officer would probably have let her go with a warning.

Why is it different for a Black woman being stopped? For her, to have smiled at the officer and say, “So sorry”, “Yes, sir, I’ll put out my cigarette, officer. I won’t do it again”, and otherwise “know her place”, would have seriously compromised her dignity, and, for Ms Bland, at that moment, it was not about just getting out of that one situation.  It was about standing up against all the oppressive abuse of power by white men against Black people, including the “legal” rape of Black women during slavery.

She would feel “dirty” if she didn’t stand up for her rights.

Let me offer a couple of analogies:  One young white Jewish man and his colleague were working in Munich and stopped in a club after work for a beer.  Some local German fellows sat down with the “Americans” and after a bit told an anti-Semitic joke.  This fellow said, “I’m Jewish”.  Suddenly the tenor changed, and some large guys came and stood behind him.  His friend said, “Let’s go”.  And they left.

Afterwards, the young Jewish man felt “dirty”. The experience conjured up all the horror of his relatives who had been in Nazi camps and the shame of many Jews for perhaps not having put up more resistance.

For Sandra Bland, simply complying with outrageous orders felt like that.  She stood up for herself and for her ancestors.

Ms Bland is a hero in my book.

Tom Joad would be proud.






Generational Similarities & Differences Across East Asian Cultures

By Adrian Chan - 07.09.2015

The current issue of The Economist, July 4-10th 2015 has an article describing some issues faced by China’s super-rich kids, “Lifestyles of the rich and infamous,”

For a more comprehensive and complete discussion & analysis of the Chinese and other East Asian generational cultures along with business implications, see the KMA 2014/2015 article, “Generational Similarities & Differences Across Cultures: East Asian Cultures.”

The SCOTUS Ruling– From Within the Asian Community

By Adrian Chan - 06.26.2015

Asian response to today’s historic SCOTUS LGBT decision follows the metaphor of Onion (older, traditional, stable, layered generation) & Ocean (younger, dynamic, change/advocacy-oriented, tech-oriented generation) whether born in one’s native country (like China) or born in the USA (like American Born Chinese).

The more Ocean-oriented gens tend to be receptive to LGBT lifestyles and welcome the equal rights & equal dignity values, while the more Onion-oriented gens tend to more opposed.

China’s long history shows receptivity & tolerance to LGBT values as far back as the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), but this has changed during modern times.

The KMA website Resources section lists (among other valuable items) the film, The Wedding Banquet (1993) as a modern day example of the younger gen’s receptiveness to LGBT.


The Good, the Bad, the Sad, and the Ugly

By Thomas Kochman - 06.26.2015

Commentary and Comments from the KMA team:

Charleston, South Carolina

Angela D. Henderson

Although this is a celebratory day for the LGBT community, it remains an immensely sad day for those in, and around, the African American community. Indeed, it’s somewhat disconcerting — this juxtaposition of joy on one hand and tremendous grief as the funerals in Charleston, SC continue.

These are peculiar times. From a business perspective, the buying power of the LGBT community is immense — that alone ensures that issues of importance to that community will be heard and, eventually acted upon. Case in point, the ways in which the networks air same sex programming is at an all-time high. Conversely, the buying power (influence) of African Americans remains insignificant — particularly as it relates to justice system fairness and influence.

During the arraignment for the monster that murdered the bible study group in SC last week, the judge, for some reason only known to himself, felt the need to speak about the grief of the killer’s family — this was as inappropriate as it was disturbing. Would this Judge have made the same comments if one or more of the victims were personally known, and therefore made human, to him? There is a feeling, in the AA community, that the loss of black lives in American society is an acceptable one.

The combination of in-custody murders, the all to frequent shootings of unarmed youth, and last week’s bible study shootings are eerily reminiscent of times long past — all of which are deeply disturbing.

Angela Byars Winston

As celebration spreads, mourning continues. A Luta Continua for peace and justice.

Tatyana Fertelmeyster

Today is also a day of the first of nine funerals in South Carolina. Based on legal decisions, race discrimination was supposed to be over a long time ago.

Kenneth Addison

See Monica Lindsey Ponder’s article in the Huffington Post.


Supreme Court Ruling On  Gay Marriage

Leah M. Rouse

Tough stuff in Indian Country….mostly split along lines regarding religious orientation when examined closely. Here is a link from Indian Country Today.

Here is another link on gay marriage within the Navaho nation.

Luis Vazquez

I am excited from New Mexico, even when our governor tried to stop it, we passed it a while ago and all celebrated. Now we can really celebrate and my niece can finally marry her partner in her own state. Some mixed reactions due to religion, but overall positive. Hard to believe in New Mexico.

See the following link on Latino reaction to the Supreme Court ruling.

Tatyana Fertelmeyster

Being LGBT is not a crime in Russia. A propaganda of the LGBT lifestyle to minors (whatever that might mean) is an administrative (not criminal) offense. But in Russia everything is open to interpretation.

Charleston and SCOTUS Ruling

Gudy Grewal

The Supreme Court decision yesterday, about making marriage legal for the LGBT community, created a milestone in the US history. Now the law in United States of America dictates that LGBT people also have the right to get married, just like their heterosexual counterparts, granting them (LGBT) the institution of marriage. Yes, this right for marriage for LGBT people was overdue and USA happened to be one of the very few developed/ democratic countries that needed to pass this. While we rejoice about this, let us also keep in mind the struggle that LGBT community went through and the many lives that were lost. Let us be cognizant of the fact that homosexuals had to fight every inch of the way for their birth right of marriage as humans- a right that heterosexuals take for granted. As the international community always looks up to America, I hope that this law will become a role model for other democratic countries like India. India’s Supreme Court went backwards in history by recriminalizing homosexuality in late 2013, when it upheld a British colonial-era law of 1880s. This law states and punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” with up to 10 years in prison. Due to this Indian law, homosexuals are not safe in India. Over 500 LGBT people have been arrested so far this year.

Also, as we Americans rejoice about the U.S. Supreme Court decision, there have been other very painful events that have happened in the last two weeks. Hatred amongst human beings is still very much a part of the U.S. culture. The Supreme Court decision (for LGBT people’s right to marriage) came on a day when funerals were being held for the nine American lives lost in Charleston, South Carolina. It took these beautiful nine people to die to even start taking action about the removal of the confederate flag over Government buildings- a flag that symbolizes slavery and has no place in current America.

So, while I join by homosexual fellow beings in their celebration of a great milestone in their struggle for equality, my heart still remains heavy with sorrow for all the lives that we have lost and continue to lose in the name of racism, almost non-existent gun laws, and other discriminatory acts in America.


The SCOTUS Decision

By Rita Wuebbeler - 06.26.2015

I’m VERY VERY grateful the Supreme Court decided in favor of legalizing gay marriage in ALL US States today. I’m beyond exhilarated, excited and happy. AND: this decision also brings tears to my eyes – tears for all the people that have had to suffer, hide, lie and be in pain because they did not have that right when they needed and wanted it. And even though this is a very sweet “Marriage Moment”, the fight for equal rights for LGBT people in the US and all over the world is far from over.

The work continues – so that discrimination at work is no longer possible in ALL US States, so that we have equal access to health care in ALL US states and a host of other rights we don’t have yet.Let’s celebrate today AND be mindful of what lies ahead of us.

[Business & workplace implications of today’s LGBT SCOTUS decision can be found on the KMA website].