Last week as I was preparing for our team to begin working remotely, I was thinking about how this might work. 

I am an empty nester, so working from home is not nearly as complicated now as it was when our daughter was underfoot. However, many of the FTF team members have small children and spouses who are also providing essential services during this time. People are trying to navigate multiple roles – parent, teacher, team member, spouse, adult child to an aging parent and more – but in a much more chaotic environment.

It is not lost on me that there is no way it can be business as usual for the next four to eight weeks. I literally can’t expect that team members will be at their desk from 8-5 when they are trying to feed children meals and snacks (then help with cleanup), put younger kids down for naps, provide assistance or direction for schoolwork, break up the latest spat or make sure their kids are not occupying themselves with screens all day long. And laundry. Don’t forget the mountains of laundry.

They’re also spending their energy trying to nurture other relationships in their lives and help family members/friends who have lost jobs, are ill or very susceptible to Covid-19 who may need their help in this challenging landscape. Not to mention, everyone is trying to keep surfaces wiped down to prevent the spread of sickness.

A couple of days ago, I received an email from leadership guru, Patrick Lencioni, that I think is worth sharing. 

He reminded us that right now, all of us are in uncharted waters so we need to be exceedingly human. As in, as leaders/employers, we need to demonstrate real concern for the fears and anxieties people are experiencing both professionally and personally. A lot of people, including those of us who lead companies, feel like we have been punched in the gut.

Next, he pointed out that now is the time to be especially communicative with our team members. Check in on people. Share what you know even if there isn’t a lot of new information. Pass along resources that you think might be helpful to them. (First Things First actually created a page with resources for self-care, marital care and parenting specifically to help people during these uncertain times.)

Lencioni also encouraged us to lead with creativity. There is no way we can do things the way we have always done them, so try new things. It’s likely you have already created regular check-in times with your team members. Instead of only talking about work, allow them to share how they are being creative at home, give them the chance to share stories, movies, games and resources they have found particularly helpful. Your team needs to know you get it. This kind of bonding will bring the team closer long after this crisis is past.

In my experience, great leaders do not see themselves as better than the people on their team. In fact, they surround themselves with team players who are passionate about the mission and understand that the success of the work is dependent on the success of the team. Now is not the time to only look out for self, but to recognize that we are all in this together. Even in and especially in times of unprecedented loss, the leader sets the tone for how the team moves forward. 

Truth be told, probably all of us who lead are concerned about how we are going to pay bills and make payroll over time. No doubt, income and donations will be less and billable hours will decrease, but in the midst of this, we absolutely cannot forget the human factor. Pushing people harder will not make things better and they will certainly not forget how they were treated in the midst of this crisis.

Lencioni closed his email with these wise words: 

“What you should avoid is seeming cold or impersonal in the name of ‘business as usual,’ or being absent or inconsistent in the name of ‘giving people space,’ or being afraid to try something new. These unprecedented times call for you to stretch beyond your normal comfort zones and be even more vulnerable than usual. Six months from now, you’ll look back and be glad you did.”

As the CEO, I know the FTF team is looking to me to lead through this time. I honestly have no idea what the future holds. I do know for this moment in time, I can be gracious with folks as they try to figure out how they will juggle everything. Nobody’s schedule is going to look exactly the same. I have to recognize that some of our team members are early birds and some are night owls. Some people need total quiet to work and others can work through the noise, no problem. Giving them some flexibility to accomplish tasks is key. People are already super stressed, weary and anxious. Adding to that will only make them more unproductive and decrease the bottom line. With these things in mind, I am looking for ways to help bring calm as we continue to serve people through our work by making one wise decision at a time.

When groups of women who work together become pregnant at the same time, workplace conversations usually surround the fact that the department will have a hard time when these women all take maternity leave.

Contrast that response to a story that hit the airwaves about seven firefighters at the same fire station in Oklahoma. Their wives became pregnant around the same time, but no one really commented about how the station would operate while these dads took time off to be with their newborn babies.

While moms are essential to infant care, many people often overlook or don’t discuss the benefits to mom and child when the father is more involved in the caregiving process.

Articles from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) highlight the fact that father-infant bonding is just as important as mother-infant bonding. In fact, delayed bonding can alter the long-term course of paternal involvement as the infant progresses throughout childhood and adolescence. It can also increase the risk of paternal postpartum depression.

According to the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing:

  • Fathers reported that they didn’t start to experience fatherhood until birth.
  • Mothers reported that they started to experience motherhood as soon they discovered they were pregnant. 
  • Although most fathers expect to bond emotionally and immediately with their newborns, some fathers still did not feel bonded to their infants as long as six weeks to two months after birth.  

Successful father-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period offers several benefits for the infant: 

  • It reduces cognitive delay,
  • Promotes weight gain in preterm infants, and
  • Improves breastfeeding rates.
  • Research shows that when the father frequently visits their prematurely-born child in the hospital, babies are more likely to get out of the hospital sooner, develop their brains better and have more psychomotor functioning. The more the father can be there, the better the child tends to improve.

A study by Kyle Pruett at Yale University showed that even for children born full-term, the importance of father involvement is enormous. 

  • A father breathing on the child when it is first born helps the bonding process to occur and changes the dad’s brain, too. 
  • The sooner the father gets involved with the child, neurons in the male brain begin to develop and connect with each other – mimicking the mother instinct. 
  • When fathers are involved, their oxytocin levels go up and testosterone levels go down, and Dad is satisfied from the emotional intimacy with his child. Mother and child benefit from that, too.

“Father-infant bonding is an issue that is not discussed enough and is just as important as mother-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period,” said AWHONN’s Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “It is vitally important for a father to interact and bond with his newborn to help the infant’s development and to reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression.”

Dads can bond with their unborn children by talking, singing or reading to them in the womb. AWHONN offers these tips to help dads continue the bonding process after the baby arrives: 

  • Jump right in. Don’t be afraid to begin immediately caring for and loving your baby. The more you hold your baby, the more comfortable and natural it will feel.
  • Take a night shift. Once mom is breastfeeding well, she may want to let you give the baby a nighttime meal. This way she can get more sleep and you will have the opportunity to bond with your newborn.
  • Read your newborn a book. Your newborn will enjoy the rhythm and pace of your voice while you read a book. In these early months, it’s not about what you’re reading; it’s about reading itself.
  • Initiate the bath. Bathing your newborn will enhance bonding and provide a multi-sensory learning experience.
  • Create a bedtime ritual. Infants will learn to depend on the consistency and predictability of a nighttime routine.

The research is solid that fathers profoundly impact the lives of their children, even as infants. While you may be hesitant to take time off from work to be with your newborn because you think bonding with Mom is more important for the baby, you might want to think again. This is actually a one-time opportunity to give your child a gift money can’t buy – time with you, and more benefits for your family than you realize. 

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 21, 2019.

“You got an iPhone?” said the millennial to her grandmother. “Why did you get an iPhone? You don’t need a smartphone. Do you even know how to text? I think you should just stick with making phone calls.”

“Yes, I got an iPhone. And, I do too need an iPhone if I’m going to keep up with you and everybody else. I can learn to text,” said the grandmother in an exasperated tone.

“This ought to be interesting,” the millennial said under her breath as she rolled her eyes.


You have more than likely experienced a conversation with someone from a different generation about communication these days yourself. It may have been about tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, paper versus electronic means, or any number of things. 

While it seems that most generations may have a preferred method of communication, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t capable of adapting and adjusting in order to keep the lines of communication open.

Perhaps the place where communication differences seem to be magnified and often collide is in the workplace, where at least four generations typically work together. Some have five, which can definitely make for some interesting communication dynamics. This is especially true as communication methods have expanded in recent years.

Here’s a quick look at communication preferences by generation:

  • Baby boomers tend to appreciate face-to-face and personal interaction, which often drives millennials crazy. 
  • Gen Xers want direct and immediate communication. They are content with email, but get really excited if you allow them to express themselves with a whiteboard. 
  • When it comes to millennials, instant messages, texts and communicating through social media are the order of the day. And, if they do call you and you don’t answer, don’t look for them to leave you a message because that’s not typically in their DNA. 

Needless to say, there is plenty of room for miscommunication.

Here’s the kicker: not everyone fits “the mold” when it comes to the way they communicate to their peers and across the generations. This is why we need to guard against making assumptions about a co-worker or a grandmother just because they hail from a certain generation. Plenty of people have said, “I’m a millennial, but I communicate more like a Gen Xer.”

There are several keys to effective communication between the generations:

  • Remember that no one on the planet is a good mind reader. Get to know the people around you and their communication preferences. Be willing to flex and get out of your communication comfort zone. Ask, but don’t assume you know how a person wants to be communicated with.
  • Value the differences. Instead of looking down on one generation or the other for the way they prefer to communicate, seek to see things from their perspective. Their preferences make perfect sense to them. For example, no matter the age, most people appreciate receiving a card or handwritten letter in the mail. At the same time, a quick text saying, “I’m thinking about you and hope you have a great day,” typically will bring a smile to the recipient’s face. Neither one is wrong, just different.
  • Be willing to learn and engage with others’ communication preferences and teach them about yours. Making the effort shows that you care.

Communication differences have always existed, and there have always been barriers, whether it was having to pay for a long-distance call or waiting on a long-anticipated letter. Even though technology has made it faster, and in some cases easier to connect, it has also amplified our imperfections and heightened anxiety when it comes to communicating with others. Think being in the middle of a conversation and your watch starts vibrating because you have a call coming in. Resisting the urge to look creates anxiety and distracts you from the conversation at hand.

Good communication skills can be learned and fine-tuned, and we can all grow together in this area. If you want to be a better communicator, take the time to observe, listen and ask questions without assuming your way is the best or the only way. It can truly enrich your relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 14, 2019.

Work, carpool, laundry, grocery shopping, menu planning, PTA meeting, dinner with the in-laws, school festival, clean the house… the list of things that need time and attention seems endless.

Do you ever lie awake at night because your mind won’t shut down from thinking about all you have to do?

Have you ever felt like trying to keep everything in your life together is like trying to hold a beach ball under water, and if you let go things are going to explode?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are in the boat with many other women. Unfortunately, this isn’t a healthy place to be.

“I am seeing more and more women in my office who are experiencing stress at work and at home, relationship issues, peer pressure and a battle in their own mind about what it means to be healthy,” says psychologist Jan Sherbak.

“Unfortunately, many of them are not handling the stress well. They find themselves depressed, feeling anxious, unable to quiet their mind and in general, miserable. In order to cope or dull the pain they use substances, food, obsessive focus on their body or simply withdraw from life, all of which interferes with the quality of their life.”

When one area of life is out of balance, it impacts other areas such as physical and spiritual health.

“In spite of feeling like things are out of our control, the truth is there really is a lot women can do to feel more in control of their lives,” says counselor Jessica Jollie, owner of Yoga Landing. “Studies show that when we exercise and have quiet time, whether it’s meditation or prayer, it impacts how we feel physically and how we respond mentally to all that we encounter throughout the day.”

If your life feels like it is reeling out of control, here are three tips you might find helpful:

  • Take five minutes to just breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths can be very calming.
  • Instead of leaving your “to do” list whirling around in your mind, write it down. Some women have a pad of paper on their nightstand so they can write down something that comes to them in the middle of the night instead of fretting about forgetting it by morning.
  • Take a technology break and go for a short, brisk walk. Just getting out in the fresh air can make a huge difference in your attitude and your ability to tackle a problem.

“This is a huge issue for women to tackle,” says Meg Brasel, a nurse midwife. “I see so much of this in my practice – women not thriving because they are overwhelmed. This doesn’t just impact the woman, it impacts everybody around her. Our goal is to give women tools to help them thrive at home and in the workplace.”

In late 2018 Geoffrey Owens, known to many as Elvin on “The Cosby Show,” was spotted bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s. Social media blew up when a picture of Owens appeared, but instead of praising his willingness to work, people made disparaging comments about his job.

After discovering what was happening, the first person Owens contacted was his 19-year-old son, saying, “I’m really sorry if this embarrasses you.” His son sent a beautiful response that moved his father to tears.

An interviewer on “Good Morning America” asked Owens about the social media comments. He responded by saying, “This business of my being this Cosby guy who got shamed for working at Trader Joe’s, that’s going to pass… but I hope what doesn’t pass is this idea… this rethinking about what it means to work, you know, the honor of the working person and the dignity of work. And I hope that this period that we’re in now, where we have a heightened sensitivity about that and a re-evaluation of what it means to work, and a re-evaluation of the idea that some jobs are better than others because that’s actually not true… Every job is worthwhile and valuable.” 

What message are we sending to our children when society is willing to shame someone for an honest day’s work?

According to Fit for Work, both paid and unpaid work is good for our health and wellbeing. It contributes to our happiness, helps us to build confidence and self-esteem, and it rewards us financially.  

Additionally, working keeps us busy, challenges us and gives us the means to develop ourselves. It can create a sense of pride, identity and personal achievement. Work enables us to socialize, build contacts and find support, and it provides us with money to support ourselves and explore our interests.

There are health benefits, too. Working people tend to enjoy happier and healthier lives than those who do not work, and work has been shown to improve physical and mental health.

Perhaps a paradigm shift is in order where instead of teaching children that certain jobs are beneath them, we teach them about the importance of a work ethic and doing every job well.

Here are some ways we can all promote the value of hard work:

  • No matter what the job, encourage others to work to the best of their ability.

  • Model a strong work ethic.

  • Equip your kids with the skills they need to earn a living. Chores can help them get ready for work outside the home.

  • Avoid the temptation of giving your child everything. Allow them the opportunity to work for it.

  • Help them connect the dots to how the work they are doing (or not doing) impacts others.

If people weren’t willing to fulfill certain positions, imagine how it would impact your life. It’s definitely a great teaching moment for kids to think about as well. Every job is important. In fact, a ripple effect takes place when one person does not fulfill their responsibilities at home, in the workplace or in the community.

Tyler Perry once said, “Developing a good work ethic is key. Apply yourself at whatever you do, whether you’re a janitor or taking your first summer job, because that work ethic will be reflected in everything you do in life.”  

Are there days when you feel like you never left the office or you just don’t have the energy to deal with the many demands of home life? Without even knowing it, many people are living life on the edge these days. They have this feeling that something isn’t exactly right, but they can’t quite put their finger on what would make it right. 

Commitments, deadlines, long work hours, endless carpooling, sports teams, being “driven,” corporate goals looming with emphasis on the bottom line, trying to be actively involved in the community and raising a family are all things people expect at work and at home. 

At a time when there is a lot of push for being more efficient and using less people-power to get the job done, people seem to be on the verge of becoming just another “machine” for meeting the bottom line. According to experts like Dr. Richard Swenson, author of “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives,” this way of thinking is putting a strain on us and on our society.

So many employees live for the weekend, but actually never get a break because they are tethered to technology. Not responding to emails over the weekend can make us feel guilty, and then Sunday rolls around and it feels like we never disconnected.

 One executive’s workday begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. In order to deal with family needs, she leaves her job around 5 to take care of the immediate family needs, grabs something to eat and heads to her home office for another couple of hours of work. 

It doesn’t matter whether you are a super-organized person or not; plenty of people feel like they just can’t get ahead. There’s no rest for the weary and certainly no margin in so many people’s lives.

More and more workplaces are developing family-friendly policies, and that’s good for families. But if your company’s policies aren’t meeting your particular needs, it may be time to reevaluate your situation. If you are thinking about creating more margin in your life, ask yourself what changes you need to make. It may take a while to implement your plan, and you may even have to take a pay cut, but realize that those changes could lead to less stress and more overall happiness.

“Many times these types of changes occur only after experiencing a trauma such as a death in the family or a serious illness,” states leadership development consultant, Dr. Zelma Lansford. “People get so caught up in what they are doing because they think what they are doing is important. Then something happens that causes them to ask, ‘Is what I am doing getting me what I want?’ Often the answer is no. 

“The key is getting people to ask the question, ‘Is what I am doing important and essential in my life based on everything I believe?’ before a traumatic experience comes along. People have to ask themselves, ‘If my life were going to end in the next two months, what would I be doing differently?’ We need to frequently revisit our priority list and focus on what really matters. What used to be so important can often become insignificant. An alignment of our values with work and activities can give meaning and satisfaction to our lives. A realignment moves us to a solid approach to life – which tends to create more margin.”

When it comes right down to it, most people will not look back on life and celebrate the time they spent at work. Instead, they will celebrate the relationships they have had and their positive impact on generations to come. Before taking on any additional commitments, consider asking yourself, “In two months, two years, or 10 years, will I be glad that I did this?” Often we don’t think one more thing is going to make that big of a difference, when in reality it may be the very thing that sends us over the edge.

When Susan Packard was 25 and working in a sales position at Home Box Office, she saw an opportunity to advance in the organization.

“I went to my boss, Bill Grumbles, and told him I thought I was the right person for the position,” says Packard, co-founder of HGTV and author of New Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace. “He paused, looked at me and said, ‘Susan, do you want to run a company some day?’ I replied yes. He proceeded to tell me why I did not want to take that particular position and educated me on the types of jobs that would best position me for my future aspirations.”

That was the first of many educational moments for Packard as she began her ascent to the C-suite. She went on to be founder of Scripps Network Interactive and co-founder of HGTV.

“A few years ago, a friend of mine said she thought my story was interesting and I ought to consider writing a book for women on navigating the workplace,” Packard says. “The more I thought about it and the more time I spent mentoring women in the workplace, I realized my friend was right. There are many lessons I have learned through the years that could be beneficial for other working women.”

Packard’s book serves as a toolkit of behaviors and strategies to help women advance in the workplace. She refers to the behaviors and strategies as gamesmanship. 

“I talk about why it is a bad idea for women to act like men, the importance of composure, why women need to create a network around them of people they trust, how to dress and why competition isn’t a bad thing,” Packard says.

Another strategy in Packard’s book is the art of brinksmanship to gain an advantage without clearly stating your goal. In poker, this is the art of reading “the tell.”

For example, Packard recalls taking her HGTV CEO to meet with the head of Tele-Communications, the cable industry’s leader at the time. They arrived for the meeting and had to wait two hours. When the meeting finally began, the guy stated his company’s position. Packard believed it was ridiculous. About fifteen minutes into the meeting, Packard stood up and declared the meeting over. When her CEO asked why the meeting went so badly, Packard replied, “It did not go badly. We actually won that round. They wanted us to beg. We needed to tilt the power in our favor.”

It took two years, but they eventually closed the deal. Packard contends it is that kind of dealmaking that helps perfect the art of business brinkmanship.

The book cover has a queen chess piece with a king chess piece in the shadows. Packard explains that the queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board. She is the only one who can move any direction on the board. Similarly, women in the workplace are adaptable, mentally fluid, and typically can juggle a lot of balls simultaneously. Women have unique opportunities to shine powerfully and positively. There’s no need to hide behind the shadows of men in the workplace.

Stowers Machinery, in partnership with Caterpillar, has a scholarship program called “Think Big.” It pays recipients about $13 an hour to apprentice in the shop and it reimburses tuition and other school-related costs. The student must maintain a B average to receive the scholarship.

Workers alternate between working eight weeks at Stowers and going to school for eight weeks. After they earn an associate degree, Stowers will hire them full-time.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for someone, yet we have the hardest time giving away the scholarship,” says Rhey Houston, Stowers vice president and Chattanooga area manager. “We have a full-time recruiter who goes to every high school in the area, looking for potential scholarship recipients, and it is still almost impossible for us to fill the slots.”

One interested young man contacted Stowers about the scholarship. He was awarded the scholarship during his school’s senior night. But he worked only a few days before telling his supervisor, “I’m not cut out for this kind of work every day.”

“Unfortunately, he is not the exception to the rule,” Houston says. “We have had several success stories, but they are fewer and farther between. It is baffling to me that people do not want to take advantage of an opportunity to work for a well-established company that pays well and offers full benefits including a 401k.”

Houston knows he isn’t alone in his frustration. He regularly talks with companies in the area who lament not being able to fill positions.

“I recently spoke with a guy who said, ‘I can’t grow my business because I can’t find people to hire who have driver’s licenses,'” says Houston. “Another guy told me he would be able to have five additional machines running if he could just find people to drive them.”

Approximately 9,000 people are looking for jobs. It’s difficult, however, to fill more than 15,000 job openings in the greater Chattanooga area. Why is that? It’s partially due to lack of education, or perhaps lack of driver’s licenses.

What is wrong with this picture? Employers are complaining they can’t find qualified workers and people are complaining they can’t find jobs. Somewhere along the way there is a serious disconnect.

In an article titled The New Unemployables, Aaron Renn shares a conversation with his father, a retired quarry superintendent. While the job wasn’t glamorous, his dad said they offered some of the area’s best wages, full benefits and profit-sharing. Still, hiring and keeping employees was hard. The overwhelming majority of applicants weren’t viable enough to interview. Plus, one-third of those he hired failed to last even six months.

Renn surmises that perhaps what we are seeing has nothing to do with job availability or wages. It may have everything to do with the basics, instead. The basics include having a high school diploma and reliably coming to work every day.

In the book Creating an Opportunity Society, the Brookings Institution’s Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill offer a solution. They say that to avoid poverty and join the middle class (at least $50,000 annual income for a family of three) U.S. citizens need to complete high school at a minimum, work full-time and marry before having children. 

Doing all three decreases the chances of being poor from 12 percent to 2 percent. It also increases the chances of joining the middle class or above from 56 to 74 percent.

It’s possible to combat the “unemployable” problem and break the cycle. Healthy adults must model and promote the importance of education and a strong work ethic in homes and communities. Additionally, we can mentor those who have no example to follow.

Sara* was sick and tired of the way she was being treated at work, so she decided it was time to leave. She totally planned to let her boss know how she felt about things on her way out. 

There was no way to know that three years later she would be interviewing for another job – and her interviewer would be the very person she unloaded on when she left her former workplace.

“This is not unusual,” says Pamper Garner Crangle, President of Pamper Garner and Associates, a consulting firm that helps companies manage and measure “people problems.”

“People get emotional and feel the need to vent before they leave a job. They often don’t care how they come across because they are leaving. But, I try to remind them that how they express their frustration is very important in the world of business. I tell people that your reputation often precedes you. If you handle things poorly at one company, chances are good that it will get around to other companies in the area. Like Sara, you never know when you will have to interview with someone you threw a tantrum in front of years ago.”

Studies indicate that lack of loyalty is one reason people feel justified in leaving a company badly.

“Years ago most people were very loyal to their place of employment,” Crangle says. “Today, many young people have seen their parents work in a loyal fashion for many years, sacrificing time for their marriage and family relationships, only to be downsized. So they have decided they don’t want to put in extra hours or put their personal ownership in the workplace.”

Even if you don’t feel a sense of loyalty to your company, there are good reasons not to leave on a sour note. Two of those reasons include future references and job possibilities.

“I think sometimes people forget the importance of relationships,” Crangle shares. “In a day and age where broken relationships are all around us, people tend to think of leaving a job like trading in a used car for a new one or getting a new cell phone.”

Regardless of whether you feel loyal to a company or not, attitude and presentation can make or break a conversation. Believe it or not, saying goodbye respectfully and finishing well can impact your long-term career.

You can avoid burning bridges when you leave your job by following these tips:

  • Give a proper notice. Two weeks is generally acceptable, but in some cases more time can ensure a good transition. Offering to work out a longer notice gives the company options and allows you to leave on a good note.

  • Keep your comments positive. You may be unhappy and ready to tell your boss some ways to improve the workplace, but should you? Your best bet is to keep your comments positive – or at least balanced. You never know what the future holds.

  • Stay focused. When you know you are leaving, it is easy to let things go. Staying focused and completing any unfinished business is powerful when you are looking for references in the future.

  • Do a good job training your replacement. Help and support your replacement as much as possible. Even if they want the scoop about the workplace, keep your comments positive and respectful. If they ask why you are leaving, give an appropriate answer. Perhaps you could say it was time for a change or you need to experience a different environment. Or maybe you could say that your priorities have changed. You don’t have to go into detail.

There are many entrances and exits in life, both personally and professionally. Your reputation hinges on the first impression and the last impression you leave. It is sometimes tempting to sever ties with others, but we live in a small world. Although it takes more effort, it will benefit you to maintain a good relationship with those for whom you worked. You never know when you will run into those people again.

*Not her real name

There is no doubt that sexual harassment and assault is a real problem for women and men, and the #MeToo movement has brought attention to it like never before. In the midst of the conversation, though, it seems like it would be a huge mistake to view all members of the opposite sex as the enemy.

We can take advantage of this moment in time to individually and collectively do our part to make this world a better place – one where we teach and expect men and women to value each other. That will bring about real and lasting change in relationships.

Believe it or not, there are still men who are respectful of women and are actively encouraging them, promoting them in organizations, and holding their opinion in high esteem.

While the #MeToo campaign has produced some long overdue constructive conversation and accountability for inappropriate behavior, there is a potential downside. Some experts believe the campaign has created a climate of mistrust between men and women, leaving many guys feeling fearful and anxious that a behavior with good intention could be taken out of context and come back to haunt them. Some guys are choosing to give up even trying to be in relationship with women.

It is unfortunate that many men who actually look out for the best interests of women say they are scared to death that something they do or say might be misconstrued. Opening a door or pulling out a chair is considered common courtesy by many, but some find it offensive. While they may not say anything, when a man other than a loved one calls a woman hon, darlin’, sweetie, kiddo and/or a pet name, it typically doesn’t go over well. In fact, many women would call it condescending.

Findings from a survey conducted by LeanIn.org found that since the media reports of sexual harassment emerged last fall, almost half of male managers say they are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity such as mentoring, working alone or socializing with women. Specifically, senior men are 3.5 times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior level woman than with a junior level man, and five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior level woman. Almost 30 percent of male managers are uncomfortable working alone with a woman—more than twice as many as before. The number of male managers who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled from 5 percent to 16 percent. This means that 1 in 6 male managers may now be hesitant to mentor a woman.

Dr. Richard Weissbourd, director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard, along with his team, stumbled upon some troubling findings as they sought to identify young people’s challenges and hopes, and who influences the way they think about relationships. Of the more than 3000 young adults and high school students surveyed, at least one-third of respondents said: It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television; and that too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

Surely we can do a better job of teaching relationship skills early on to help girls and boys learn the difference between healthy, respectful behavior between sexes and sexual harassment. Here’s how to start:

  • Don’t leave it to your child’s imagination to figure out what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in relationships.
  • Model respectful and healthy interactions with the opposite sex.
  • Talk about sexual harassment – what it is and isn’t. Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome, unwanted pressure, verbal, visual, or physical contact of a sexual nature. It is any repeated or deliberate action or behavior that is hostile, offensive, or degrading to the recipient.
  • There is a big difference in flirtatious behavior and sexual harassment, but sometimes the line can be blurred. Discuss boundaries and why they are important.