All posts by powerofthebox2018

Cathy Denault is a Human Resources Professional who brings over 20 years experience in areas such as Employee Relations, Recruitment, Talent Management, Labor Relations and Learning and Development strategies. Cathy has worked in a variety of industries such as Health Care, Publishing, Manufacturing and Real Estate. Cathy holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Albertus Magnus College. She is both a national and state member of the Society for Human Resource Management and holds both the SPHR (Senior Professional Human Resources) and SHRM-SCP (SHRM – Senior Certified Professional) certifications. In addition to her work experience, Cathy was an adjunct trainer for Naugatuck Valley Community College and designed and delivered training programs for their Business and Industry sector. Cathy’s passion is regarding women’s empowerment and has authored a self-help book titled “Inside the Box, Protecting your Power”, as well as delivered seminars to local women’s groups.

I’m a Pre-#Me – How I Survived before the #Metoo Movement

I am a pre-#Me. To be clear, that does not mean that I am or was a “premie”.  Confused? Let me explain the difference. If I were a premie” that would mean that I was a baby that was born before my actual due date from my mother, but that was not the case with me. I was born a healthy full-term baby, with a big appetite and I have the pics to prove it.  As you may know, many premie’s are born into high risk situations.  Babies that decide to make their entrance early into this world typically have a team of doctors on deck ready and waiting for them, and when they finally do arrive, they are rushed into incubators and placed on all kinds of life support.  The tremendous amount of care afforded to these babies is to ensure they are given every opportunity for survival. The baby usually spends their first few weeks in the ICU so they can be monitored and given the love and attention and the acute medical care they need to get them out of the danger zone.  All of this is necessary to ensure that that beautiful baby is given the best odds to thrive and succeed, thereby possibly increasing their chances of making it in the world.

So how does a premie differ from a pre-#Me?  A pre-#ME, is someone who has lived in a world of sexual harassment before the #Metoo movement was ever even a movement.  My pre-#Me story has striking similarities to that of the pre-mie above, however.  It turns out that I was hired into a company based on my skill set, and I was a valued member of the senior leadership team.  I was “fed” juicy assignments and I was respected by my coworkers and colleagues.  I was living and working in a world that was comfortable and “nurturing”, so to speak. But then much like a pre-mie, something went terribly wrong.  My boss at the time, and someone who had a tremendous amount of power in the organization began to slowly poison my lifeline and attempted to blur the lines of our professional relationship. I endured having to change my schedule so that I wouldn’t be caught in the line of sight to be subjected to the barrage of his unwelcome behavior.  So, for a while, I did what so many other women did at the time, and maybe still do.  I tolerated the behavior.  I “laughed it off”.  I told myself that it wasn’t “that bad”.  I endured having to change my schedule so that I wouldn’t be caught in his line of sight, especially on Friday’s where he would wait to ask what I was doing over the weekend and then ask for “adult company”.  When I would politely decline, I was always subjected to the silent treatment, or bouts of anger, and the cycle would continue.  I did my best to keep my head down, and I tried to plow through. I did it for the sake of my job, for my reputation and ultimately because it was the “safer” route.

Until one day, I couldn’t, and realized I shouldn’t.  So, I finally stood up and I said, “no more”.  His repeated attempts on my psyche began to take its toll on me and over a long period of time, I felt unable to thrive in that environment. And therefore, I made the decision to leave the company, but did so prematurely.  I did not leave because it was the best time professionally to do so. I loved my job in that organization and I still had great work to do.  I did not leave because I had found a better position that paid more or because it was a stepping stone to bigger and better things.  I left before my time without another position to go to.  And I did it before the #Metoo movement gave women “permission” to do so.  This is the very reason why I consider myself a “pre-#Me.

Unlike my premie counterparts, I did not have a team surrounding me to help me survive.  I did not have a built-in support system who assured me that I would be okay and rallied around me.  With very few exceptions, I did not have the encouragement from friends or family members.  As a matter of fact, I had the exact opposite.  People that I knew both personally and professionally started to keep their distance from me.  I became a liability to them, even by association.  Many recruiters would not talk to me or work with me.  Coworkers or colleagues I used to work with were reluctant to help me network with people they knew.  If I was lucky enough to garner an in-person interview, I was put in a compromising position to explain why I left a job without another one to go to. If I was honest about why I left, I received the polite hand shake and then I was ushered to the door and told “they would get back to me”.  They never did.  If I did bend the truth (I cannot or would not ever lie), then I was met with skepticism and the end result was largely the same.  It was extremely frustrating to know that I was the victim in this situation, but I was the one who was treated like I did the crime.

What I ended up being forced to do, was to put myself in my own self-induced “incubator” for two years to try to heal and build back my strength, because at that time, I did not have the #Metoo sisterhood to lean on.  You see, before the #Metoo movement, I felt alone, vulnerable and ashamed, and yet I knew there had to be other women who were in the same shoes as me, but also felt they had no voice or thought they would be believed.  I’m not sure I will ever be the same after that experience as there are scars that will never fully heal.  But I decided that this experience was fuel for me to find a way to help other women who have felt they’ve lost their personal or professional power due to this illegal behavior, and I took the time out and I wrote a self-help book on empowerment.  I consciously made the choice to take this horrible experience and use it as a platform to help others.  I learned a lot in those two years about resilience, perseverance and doing the right thing especially in the face of adversity.  And the one saving grace from this experience, and what I now know is that just like a pre-mie, this pre-#Me is a fighter and I have developed survival skills that have made me stronger and more resistant to keep quiet despite the odds against me.  The #Metoo team came to fruition two years after I needed them, but I made it through anyway.  And I will continue to thrive and I will continue to support the cause. I will always be grateful to those brave women who were able to pave the way for the rest of us.  A huge thank you to Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano and countless other women, and especially Tarana Burke, for raising awareness and making this a “mainstream” topic.  We owe you a lifetime of gratitude.  But if, like me, you too were a pre-#Me, I would love to hear your story and how you overcame the challenges you faced before it became “acceptable” to do so.


Women Just Don’t Get Along in the Workplace…

Yes, that is what I heard from a senior leader of a small company I was consulting with who was discussing morale issues in his office.  He went on to say that “men do not have the same issues in getting along with each other and that this is what happens when you have an office full of women”.

Whoa! As an author on women’s empowerment issues, as well as my many years of Human Resources experience, I was shocked and saddened at this gross generalization and his assessment of the problems he was having in his office.  It was shocking to me that his first response was to blame a whole “gender” for his company’s work-related issues.  Of course, I could not resist probing further and asked him what was specifically contributing to these morale issues and really delve into what those reasons were. In other words, what were the actual behaviors that were being exhibited, how, and most importantly WHY?  “Well”, he began, “one of our managers was trying to address performance issues with her employee and she blew up at her and wanted to walk off the job and now wants to quit”.  He went on to say, “This never would have happened if it were men involved, as they are more reasonable.”

Hold up now!  Talk about a controversial statement!  Maybe I should have retorted “well, if it was men, they would go home and get a gun and shoot the person who gave them the feedback!”   But that would be wrong.  Equally as wrong as the generalized statement about women, in my humble opinion.  But fighting derogatory comments with other derogatory comments is never the answer.  What is the more logical approach was that I began to peel back the layers of this onion, and lo and behold, it turns out that the manager in question was newly promoted into her role and had next to no experience in providing constructive feedback to her subordinates.  Secondly, the person she was providing feedback to had only been with the company for less than 60 days and was struggling with learning concepts of her new job.   Long story short, they were both feeling overwhelmed with their new responsibilities and this combination created a perfect storm that manifested as tension on both accounts.  After assessing the details behind the “why” this happened, it became clear that from an HR perspective, that the root cause was due to a lack of training and proper onboarding for both employees, in their respective roles.   The bottom line was that the company failed to provide the manager with the tools and foundation for her to be able to deliver feedback successfully, and she floundered in trying to “figure it out” without proper guidance and support. Additionally, the company also failed the employee by not doing continuous check-ins to determine her level of competency and comfort in her new role.  They were both feeling unsuccessful and this was manifesting outwardly, which was creating low morale throughout the office. I would argue that anyone, male or female would have had some kind of a reaction to this lack of support.

This situation really resonated with me however, because as you now know, it ultimately had NOTHING to do with “women not getting along”.  But sadly, this is bona fide sexism and is something that is very real and clearly still pervasive in the workforce in 2018.  Interestingly enough, when I shared this scenario with some of my female colleagues, a few of them too, echoed back the same sentiment as the senior leader did.  This was the most surprising observation to me, that women (even younger women) have bought into these gender stereotypes and believe that women are irrational, emotional, competitive and can’t get along.  I did my part that day to educate that senior leader and I helped him implement a foundation for both new and newly promoted employees going forward. But I feel like that wasn’t enough.

The whole situation made me realize that sexism is a topic that needs to be discussed more broadly and I feel a responsibility to raise awareness that this kind of thinking still exists in workplaces everywhere.  But awareness is not enough.  It’s time to demonstrate an unwillingness to tolerate these outdated generalized statements and proactively address them when we hear it, both in and out of the workplace.  We all need to do our part to both educate men that this mindset is no longer acceptable and to empower women to stand up and become vocal advocates in their quest for equal rights.  Only then will we be able to crush these outdated modes of thinking and move in the right direction.

Cathy Denault, SPHR is the author of the book “Inside the BOX-Protecting your Power- An Empowerment Guide for Women”, and a Human Resources Executive with over 20 years’ experience in a variety of industries.

Empowerment for Women

Here is a sneak peak from my new book “Inside the BOX-Protecting your Power”.

Chapter 1─What Exactly Is Your BOX?

The Search for the Hole-y Grail

As you have learned through the introduction of this book, the typical way you have always thought about a box will be completely changed in the following chapters. That is why it’s important to define what the difference is, since your box will never be the same once you start reading further. If you think about the general definition of a box─Webster’s dictionary calls it “an enclosing, protective case or housing, sometimes including the contents” ─it seems pretty straightforward. In this book, however, the word box takes on a similar yet very different meaning. Sure, it’s definitely an enclosure of sorts, but for the purpose of this book, it is “the vessel that houses your female power and energy and encases your unique talents and abilities in a place of influence, worthy of protection. Therefore, a box now becomes your Box. What you will come to learn is that your Box is capable of amazing things, some of which you may be aware of and some that may surprise you, because it is at the core of your very being─a living, breathing microcosm of all the people, places, experiences, likes, dislikes, values, needs, wants, secrets, and passions that make up your true self and that ultimately makes up the awesomeness of you! Just like your fingerprint, no one has a Box quite like yours because yours is unique, filled with everything you’ve ever put in there, both good and bad, up to this point in your life. Your Box is capable of magical things, such as bringing men (and women and children) to their knees, bringing you earth-shattering pleasure, and shaking up the status quo whenever you walk into a room! Your Box is your power!