Monday, April 28, 2008

How does a newcomer to a job deal with a veteran?

Dear Diversity Diva: I’m new to my job and work in a department where there is a distinct divide between the people who are fairly new to the organization and the people who have worked there for years. How do I get along without stepping on any toes? — Newest Egg to the Dozen
Dear Newest: The tensions between newbies to a job and respected elders can definitely be an issue. And being a respected elder has nothing to do with age, although that can be a factor. It has everything to do with who has sat at the workplace table the longest.
Some departments or organizations have frequent turnover or at least a fairly regular infusion of new personnel.
But other workplaces can become very insular from not changing over the years. And for someone new to that environment, it’s often the unofficial roles and positions that workers have settled into that can create tensions. Sometimes it is because certain individuals feel threatened; most of the time it’s just because of unconscious discomfort with change.
At its heart, diversity is about differences coming together in a community of people who have to interact. And at no time are differences going to show up more prominently than when a new person first enters a place where you spend the bulk of your waking hours.
Unlike other diversity issues that are cultural and/or unchanging, eventually you’ll no longer be the new guy or girl. Your way of doing things — from how grumpy you are before your first cup of coffee to what font you use in your memos — will be judged, evaluated and picked over until people just get used to you.
Until that awkward initiation period passes, all you should focus on is learning and doing your job, being pleasant and asking necessary questions of the respected elders to let them know that their institutional insight and knowledge is appreciated and respected.
For those more thorny problems that directly impact the work, you will have to judge whether you want to tactfully and informally seek clarification about work details with your boss or supervisors.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Is there a stigma associated with depression?

Dear Diversity Diva: I have been diagnosed with clinical depression. Even though I’ve brought in documentation, my boss is being difficult about letting me take a leave of absence. What should I do? — Worn Out From Depression
Dear Worn Out: Depression is a huge issue in the workplace affecting millions of Americans. Unlike other areas of diversity that are lifelong issues, depression can strike anyone at any time and can affect every area of your life.
I can’t personally address the issue of your employer approving your leave of absence because of the legal and human resources issues that impact how your employer interprets your policy and documentation.
However, your diagnosed depression is an illness and should be treated like any other health issue, such as heart disease, cancer or a car accident that may physically affect your ability to do your job. However, depression sometimes is perceived as something a person can just “shake off” like a summer cold.
I’m assuming that in addition to your direct supervisor, you are talking with the HR department about what kind of leave you need and for how long.
Employee productivity is no small issue for an employer, and while it may seem as if it’s just a matter of organizations being mean, insensitive overlords who don’t really care about their employees, in some cases it’s a matter of them trying to distinguish between the employees who really need time off and the ones just trying to get away
You should research what kinds of leave are available to you and be willing to ask yourself some hard questions. Are you willing to take an unpaid leave of absence if your employer approves that? Also, is your depression tied to your job or profession, thus requiring you to decide if you need to make a bigger life change in addition to addressing your depression?
Here’s a good resource on depression that will be useful to both you and your employer:
Good luck on getting the help and support you need.