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When you are the only Black employee, or one of a few, it can make it difficult to be completely yourself at work.iStock

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Job postings and corporate ‘About Us’ pages often include a statement about the company fostering an environment where employees can bring their ‘whole selves’ to work.

But how often do these claims reflect reality?

“I think it’s a scam,” laughs Melanie Blackman-Gushway, who has worked in postsecondary education in the Toronto area for 10 years. “That’s my dream. That’s my vision [for] any place that I work, but the reality is that’s not the case.”

Bringing your whole self to your job can be challenging at best and career limiting at worst, specifically for marginalized and racialized peoples.

Tanya Sinclair is the founder of Black Human Resources Professionals of Canada, a not-for-profit founded in 2020. She’s also the director of people and culture at technology firm Leap Tools.

“For us, bringing our full selves to work essentially means you are able to be yourself,” she says. “You don’t have to modify your speech pattern, you don’t have to minimize an accent, you don’t have to say to yourself, ‘Oh, this hairstyle will not please the predominant culture that’s in my workplace.’”

Read the full story here, including how bias and tone policing can make Black employees feel like they don’t belong in corporate Canada.

The right (and wrong) way to quit your job

There was the flight attendant who ended a 28-year career by grabbing a beer and deploying the plane’s emergency exit. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour of criminal negligence.

Then there’s the fast-food employee who posted his resignation, and an f-bomb, on the restaurant’s outdoor neon sign.

Even when it’s exponentially less adversarial and well-planned, quitting a job can be awkward.

For Marie, a 36-year-old Montrealer, the COVID-19 pandemic led her to a career change but she wanted to maintain the good relationship she had with her former employer.

“I was there for three and a half years,” she says. “It was important for me to make the transition as easy as I could for my past employer out of respect for them and the relationships that we built and also for all the trust they put in me for the years that I worked there.”

Marie and her supervisors agreed on a three-week exit, giving her time to wrap up projects as much as possible and provide a smooth transition.

“I did everything in my power to make it easy for them,” she says. “It’s something, changing jobs, and it’s a hard process. There are a lot of people involved.”

There is a right way to leave your job even when you can’t wait to get out the door, says Tiffany Uman, a Montreal-based career strategy coach.

Read the full article here.

Why your organization needs a scent-free policy

Even after a few minutes in an enclosed space with very strong scents, Sweta Regmi gets the start of a crippling migraine. It can be perfumes, cleaning products or fabric softeners.

She is one of an estimated 16 per cent of the Canadian population sensitive to environmental triggers such as scents, 5 per cent of whom suffer severe symptoms such as headaches, sore throat and sneezing.

As offices return to in-person work, people with scent-related allergies are crossing their fingers that colleagues and supervisors remember avoiding strong smells can be an issue.

“Be cautious,” says Ms. Regmi, a career coach and founder of Sudbury, Ont.-based Teachndo career consultancy. “Evaluate yourself. Do you really need to put that strong [scent] on? Some people love it… but it comes at a cost for other people.”

Several human rights cases across Canada have established an employer’s obligation to address scent sensitivities in the workplace, and scent-free policies have become increasingly the norm over the past decade.

Yet it still doesn’t seem to be taken seriously as an inclusion and disability issue, Ms. Regmi says.

Read the full story here.

In case you missed it:

The challenges and rewards of building a business with your best friends

Having a bestie for a business partner can mean greater security and trust, but it can also be tricky when money and friendship are on the line.

Sunny Sabbini, who calls herself a couple’s counsellor for co-founders and business partners, says that business partnerships can be like marriages.

“There are different parts of ourselves that only appear when in a work environment,” she says. “Oftentimes friends are surprised when the relationship becomes strained upon working together or when facing a crisis.”

Read the full article here.

Four steps to increasing gender equity on corporate boards

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented on corporate boards across Canada. A recent review found that among the 237 new listings on the TSX and TSX Venture exchange last year, less than 16 per cent of board seats were filled by women.

Diversity disclosure rules don’t seem to be doing the trick, so what will? Jennifer Reynolds, CEO of Women Corporate Directors Foundation, says there are actions companies can take the close the gender gap.

Read about the four steps here.

Ask Women and Work

Question:

Over the past year I have been experiencing some mental health issues including anxiety and insomnia. I’m receiving treatment, but I’m still having trouble with fatigue and concentration, which has been affecting my work. I’m wondering about the best way to approach this with my employer. How much do I need to disclose and how should I go about it?

We asked Katharine Coons, senior manager, workplace mental health, CMHA National, to field this one:

We spend most of our waking lives at our jobs and our mental health isn’t something we can leave at nine and pick up at five. Speaking about our mental health challenges isn’t always easy, especially in the workplace.

First, it is important to note that a mental illness is considered a disability if it impacts one’s ability to complete everyday tasks. In Canada, telling your employer about a health condition that affects your ability to work is called disclosure. When an employer creates conditions to assist you in managing your work and disability, this is called accommodation. Everyone has the right to ask for and receive reasonable accommodation.

Disclosing a mental illness to your employer is a personal decision that can be complex and should be made with care. If you decide to disclose, take time to seek guidance from a health-care professional and/or legal professional.

Begin by considering the resources available within your workplace. Does your workplace have an accommodation policy in place? Are there union representatives or anyone else within the organization you can talk to about accommodation either in general terms or in strict confidence?

Remember that you have rights and can set limits. Know that you do not need to provide all the details of your mental health challenges in order to receive accommodation and you do not need to share your diagnosis. Your employer only needs to understand how your illness impacts your ability to function at work. In the case of a mental illness, this could mean things like changes in memory, ability to concentrate or difficulty working early in the morning.

If you have decided that you would like to disclose, plan what you’d like to say and who to say it to. In order to have a solution-focused conversation, come prepared with ideas for accommodation based on what types of changes would work for you. Run through the conversation on your own, write it down, or rehearse with a trusted friend or family member.

Remember that you are not alone. There is help and likely others in your organization have had similar conversations.

The information and guidance suggested above is not meant as medical or legal advice and is only intended for educational purposes. Should you find yourself in a situation where you believe you are being treated unfairly regarding your disability or related accommodation, please seek appropriate professional assistance.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at GWC@globeandmail.com.

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