Why Every Workplace Needs to Shift From #MeToo to #WeToo

by Debra Bednar-Clark

We’re living in tricky times right now. As women find their voice with the #MeToo movement, a lot of really good guys are losing theirs.

As a former Facebook executive and now leadership coach at DB+co, #MeToo in the workplace has been a big topic of discussion with many of my male colleagues and fellow leaders. As I’ve talked with many men, I’ve discovered one thing is abundantly evident: Men understand and support the #MeToo movement. But, at the same time, some have developed a very real fear of how to deal with the new normal.

They wonder: Do I give a compliment? Is it appropriate to give a hug? Can I invite a female colleague to happy hour? They’re not sure how to act or what to say, so they’re shutting down a part of who they are for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. That is inherently problematic. After 20+ years building and leading high-performing teams and cultures, the one thing I know for sure is that whenever someone feels like they can’t be true to who they are, it’s doing all of us a disservice.

To create an inclusive workplace, we need to be inclusive. Instead of asking: “How do I deal with the #MeToo movement?” every leader needs to ask themselves: “How can we shift the #MeToo movement to a #WeToo movement?”

The answer is to foster leaders who are present and WHOLE. Most of us have the business skills to do our jobs well but lack the equally important emotional ones. Here are a few universal emotional traits, whether you’re a man or woman, that every leader must have, now more than ever:

1. Understand We’re All Inextricably Linked:

Being inextricably linked means being conscious of the connection between you and your colleagues and recognizing how those relationships impact one another individually and collectively, directly and indirectly. We don’t work in a vacuum. What is happening with one person on our team impacts us all. Once you realize that we’re are all inextricably linked, you are working at a high level. Navigating this new world requires more empathy than ever — from both women and men. For women, it’s helpful to understand that some men are still learning how to connect with women in the workplace (which means we can’t automatically assume the worst of men). And, for men, it’s important to respect the unique leadership, management or communication styles their female colleagues may bring to the table. Our diversity of thought, perspective, and approach is what drives innovation — and we need to foster that diversity with empathy.

Here’s one action item to help you realize this trait:

Think of three leaders who have shaped your career thus far. If you’re new to the work force, think of your former teachers and mentors. Now think about how they were different. How were they similar? What was it about their style that resonated with you? Can you see how their differences were strengths? And can you see how they were authentic to themselves, not trying to imitate another person?

2. Get Comfortable with the Discomfort:

The workplace is evolving—and no one has all of the answers. And, with that, there are ebbs and flows. For men, it might feel highly stressful and stifling. For women, it might feel like a long time overdue. To shift from #MeToo to #WeToo, each side needs to put down their swords and embrace the tension that comes with change. Tension can be a good thing. It means we’re testing and learning and because of it we will ultimately yield a better outcome because we’ve identified something that needs our attention. We’ve consciously addressed it. And hopefully, as a result, we’ve stretched ourselves into a new way of thinking, being, and doing that makes us more effective as a whole. Great leaders are great because they embrace the discomfort rather than resist it.

Here’s one action item to help you realize this trait:

Think of a professional relationship or task at work that is causing you stress or filled with tension, even if it’s only very subtly. Can you name it? And if so, can you think of not only why there is tension, but more importantly, what you can do about it? Ultimately, how can you grow from addressing this head on?

3. Create Personal Connections:

Too many relationships at work have become transactional, which creates distance and misunderstanding. If you’re wondering how to talk to someone, that’s a signal that you need to better understand that person. What are their values, beliefs, experiences, fears, aspirations, goals and challenges? To shift from #MeToo to #WeToo, everyone needs to take the time to learn the answers to these questions. Because to be a great leader you need to align someone’s strengths, passions and skills to the needs of the workplace. When you sincerely care about someone, you’re not only going to yield a result that benefits the team and organization, you’re going to create a colleague who understands what it means to achieve impact together.

Here’s one action item to help you realize this trait:

Take inventory: Can you name at least one personal fact or interest of each of your colleagues or direct reports? Do you know when their birthdays are? Where they went to school? Grew up? Pets? Children? Favorite sports teams? As you glance at their workspace, what can you learn about the pictures on their desk? What other personal items are they sharing or keeping close by? How can you use these to start a deeper conversation?

To create a workplace that works for everyone means that we need to bridge the gap between men and women. My hope is that during this uncertain time, more people have the fortitude to stop, look within, and better understand how they can become part of creating a workplace that is more inclusive rather than divisive.


Your browser is out-of-date!

This site utilizes modern web technologies. Please update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now