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    Inspired to extend a helping hand to ambitious women working in corporate America, a veteran executive offers honest, practical, slightly irreverent advice about navigating companies that are run and populated predominately by men: how to interpret their sometimes surprising behavior, avoid common mistakes, flourish with the good guys, deal with the bad guys, and nurture a wonderful, satisfying career in a non-traditional role.

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  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    The Spirit of the Discreet Guide
    FIRST PRINCIPLES
    The Facts of Life
    In and Out of the Men’s Room
    Tuning In and Dropping Out
    Hold It Right There, Lady
    Skeptical Spectacles and a Critical-Thinking Cap
    YOUR SISTAS AND YOU
    Whose Girl Are You?
    Taking Care
    You’re Different, and That’s Only Mostly Bad
    Impressions and the Real Thing
    Sistas
    EARLY MANEUVERS
    School Days
    Your First Company
    The Cubette
    NAVIGATION TIPS
    Guiding Lights
    The Big C’s: Competition, Challenge, and Conflict
    DANGER—FALLING COCONUTS
    Sit Down and Shut Up
    How Do You Get Anything Done?
    He Doesn’t Think You’re Very Smart
    But Don’t Be Dumb
    TOUCHY SUBJECTS
    After Hours
    One-on-One: Danger Zones
    Sex At Work
    GUYS, GUYS, GUYS
    The Big Guy
    The Good Guys
    International Guys
    The Messed-Up Ones
    Bad Guys
    Super Bad Guys
    YOU’RE A BIG GIRL NOW
    Managing—Between a Rock and a Hard Place
    Work—Why You’re Paid
    THE EXECUTIVE WOMAN’S DILEMMA
    What? I Can’t Hear You
    Courage
    Common Sense
    A Powerful Combination
    THE PRIDE OF THE LIONESS
    Power and Risk
    Leadership
    THE DIAMOND

The Hidden Risk of Business Travel: Scandal

In my first book, The Discreet Guide for Executive Women, I devoted a whole chapter to sex in the workplace and cautioned my readers that sleeping with a colleague can be the quickest way to ruin a blossoming career. Certain conditions heighten the danger of making such a mistake, and many of those are on hand when you travel: alcohol, fatigue, after-hours socializing with male colleagues, and distance from home. It’s no surprise that Ellen Pao, who later sued her venture capital employer for sexual discrimination, first got into trouble by sleeping with a co-worker while on a business trip to Germany. That set the stage for the jury to question her judgment and ultimately rule against her.
 
A friend recounted a situation she got involved in when a female subordinate slept with a male co-worker at a sales conference. My friend was directed by her managers to “talk to” the young woman and reprimand her for her behavior. “What about the guy?” my friend objected. “How come he isn’t being ‘talked to?’” Unfair? Yes. Sexist? Yes. But it’s a clear indication of whom society and corporate America blame when sex happens during business travel. It behooves us to pay attention to that. Women will pay more of a price than guys will if stuff happens while traveling.
 
Business travel often throws workers together in a context that doesn’t exist at home, or at least not to such a degree: eating and drinking together, learning each other’s habits, getting to know each other more intimately. People can grow close when they travel together—you just don’t want that to cross a line that you’ll regret. It may be up to you to step back when you pick up on a vibe that is going in a direction that you’re not comfortable with.
 
So be alert. If you find yourself out with colleagues, and the conversation starts getting too risque, keep it simple and just go home. Had too much to drink? Go home. Run out of conversation? Go home. Find yourself one on one with someone when everyone else has left? Go home. These are all dangerous situations to get yourself into. Your professional self will thank you in the morning for not taking unnecessary risks.
 
Watch out for your male colleague too. If his attitude toward you starts to shift toward flirtatious, be ready to cool that down. If his reserve starts to break down, cut that off. If he’s a good guy, he doesn’t really want to get involved with you—he just might be a little lonely, or jet lagged, or mad at his girlfriend. If he’s someone you care about, you can help him from making a mistake, and he too will appreciate that in the morning.
 
This is not to say that you shouldn’t participate in social events when you’re traveling. Those are great opportunities to build relationships and have fun. Your colleagues and customers can get to know you in a more casual environment which can be very beneficial, especially if you don’t have many chances to bond in the workplace. But be vigilant that you maintain your professional face and reputation, even as others let their guard down. Making a scene, getting drunk, mouthing off, or hooking up with someone are all behaviors that you want to stay way away from. You want to return from your trip with success stories, not new doses of shame and guilt.

 

© 2016 Jennifer K. Crittenden

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    Click here for the "New Opportunity, i.e., Looking for Work" Issue - Sep 2016.

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  • About the Author

    Raised on a farm in southern Indiana by an idealistic professor and a feminist homemaker, and after language and film studies in Europe, Jennifer was an unlikely candidate to graduate from a leading business school and enter corporate America. To her surprise, she excelled in her new world and spent the next twenty years building a scintillating career, rising from Financial Analyst to Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary, working for big pharma and biotech companies in the US, Europe, and the UK.

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