Bekah Nye isn't particular about pronouns.
"I honestly don't care if anyone calls me sir, he, they, she. I don't care what someone calls me at this point; I don't feel like I need to label myself for anybody else," says the Manager of Business Operations at mobile game developer Zynga.
Bekah realized she was nonbinary when her younger sister saw that an actor had recently come out as nonbinary and asked Bekah what it meant. (Bekah is fine with people addressing her with "she/her" pronouns, as that's how she presents, so that's what we'll use in this piece.)
"As I was reading about it, I realized, 'This is me.' I was explaining about the actor and myself at the same time," shares Bekah. "I don't need to identify as non-binary to identify as who I am, though. I'm simply trying to be myself to the fullest, and it's come naturally along the way."
After growing up in a religious household and navigating the impact it had on her identities, Bekah came out as bi in high school, and now prefers to identify as queer—though she still has a strong aversion to labels.
"Labels are important; I understand the use of them," she says. "They're very important for us to be able to communicate with each other because otherwise we don't know how. But trying to fit that label into a box has been difficult."
Bekah has realized that she does best in environments without boxes. And that's exactly what she found at Zynga when she joined four years ago.
Finding the right environment for her
Bekah first heard about an opening at Zynga via a close friend. "I got this text, 'There's a position open that's perfect for you, send me your resume this second!'" remembers Bekah.
That's how she got in the door—but she didn't take the job just for a chance to work with her friend.
First, Bekah wanted a more flexible workplace, one that wouldn't ding her if she arrived ten minutes past her usual time. She liked Zynga's relaxed and non-micromanaging approach to work culture.
Second, she wanted a place where she felt like she could really be herself. "I had a little bit of whiplash from past managers; I hadn't really had a good long-term manager up to that point," she said.
She got a good first impression from her would-be manager at Zynga, and it turned out to be right. "He saw my potential and my personality and simply kept encouraging it," she says. "I realized that Zynga was a safe space to be. It helped me realize that I can allow my personality to come out safely without fear of my job, and in turn that's what helped me feel more comfortable in coming out in the LGBTQ world."
Feeling safe at Zynga and confident in her work skills helped Bekah feel confident in who she was, and in communicating that to her team. Now Bekah is out at work and has joined Z Pride, Zynga's LGBTQIA+ ERG.
And she's excited to share her experience with others and to let them know there's room for them at Zynga, too. Even doing this interview is an example of that.
"Somehow, I made it through the obstacles and hardships of my early life. Somehow, I made it here. I'm at Zynga with awesome benefits, a good-paying job and amazing coworkers. How can I not use this platform to speak from the rooftops of what a human-being can accomplish?" she asks.
Navigating a world of labels
Bekah recently applied for a home loan. When she filled out the paperwork, she decided to leave the gender section of the application blank. She'd heard how single women got offered worse APRs than single men. "I didn't want to be treated any differently based off the gender I was assigned at birth," she says.
She's run into the limitations of gender at work, too. Bekah is currently mentoring two young women, one of whom is a new manager; in a recent meeting, Bekah gave her advice she'd been given earlier in her own career: "Be more assertive."
"She straight out asked me, 'But what if I don't want to be?' I had never thought about that before. I'd been working so hard to fit in that I automatically did away with being softer; I was more assertive so I could actually speak at meetings, so I could properly represent myself," says Bekah. "I'm still mulling about how women can come up in an industry that is male-dominated and still keep their feminine sides while still being heard and working effectively in the workplace. I don't have a good answer for that right now."
When it comes to asking about gender identity, whether at work, at the bank, or in life, Bekah generally believes in letting people define for themselves how much they'd like to share. For example, a manager might be well-intentioned in asking everyone in a meeting to share their pronouns, but that can put some people in an uncomfortable position.
"Asking people to share their pronouns in a way is asking them to out themselves," says Bekah.
One of the issues Bekah has with labels like man/woman or straight/bi/pan is that they mean something different to different people. "Take gender fluid—I understand what gender fluid means to me, but I don't fully understand what it means to everybody else. With that being said, I don't know if I can take that label because I don't know how others define it," she explains.
4 ways to find the right space for you
Bekah has some advice for people who might be struggling with expressing their full identities at work:
- Be true to yourself. "It's going to make you a hundred times more comfortable than anything else," says Bekah. "You're the only person you have to live with for the rest of your life. You have to put up with yourself, whether you like it or not. So be true to yourself first."
- "You don't have to share if you don't want to." Bekah urges "patience, empathy, and understanding, not just with self, but with others too, because you can't expect everybody to be the same."
- Create a safe space for yourself first. "Maybe you can't have a safe space outside of your home or in a work environment, or maybe it's even hard to find a safe space in your home, but there's always the opportunity to find a safe space within yourself," she says. She suggests trying activities like meditation, yoga, swimming, drawing, or breath work to find an outlet for emotion. Bekah's personal favorite is singing, particularly Beyoncé's "If I Were a Boy." "I usually think, 'It's too quiet, it's not going to affect me.' Two minutes later I will be singing at the top of my lungs, tears running down my cheeks. Singing really helps," she says.
- Be patient. "Don't let go of either a dream or who you are. In time, things will change, and things will shift," she says. "Consistency and determination will always win in the end."
6 Tips for Companies & 5 Tips for Individuals from Indeed's Group VP of ESG, LaFawn Davis
Earlier this month, LaFawn Davis, Indeed's Group Vice President of Environmental, Social, & Governance, joined us as part of our Diversity Reboot Summit to talk about the 'shecession' experienced by many women, and especially women of color, as a result of COVID-19.
LaFawn shared some great tips for companies and individuals looking to be part of "the great rehiring." If you're looking to find a new role, or to ensure that you help bring back diverse talent displaced by COVID, check out her advice below, and catch her complete talk here or by clicking the video above!
Q: What would your advice be to companies that are looking to step up their diverse hiring in 2021?
My advice: Good intentions are no longer good enough. Nobody wants to hear what you meant to do, wish you could have do, intended to do. Nobody wants to hear that you can't find Black Women or any other dimension of diversity. We're obviously out here.
My squad and I have a saying "Impact over intentions." So, if 2020 was the year of good diversity and inclusion intentions, let's make 2021 the year of actions and impact.
So, now that we got that out of the way. If you're looking to step up your diverse hiring. Stop and get your house in order. Because you shouldn't just want to hire a diverse workforce, you should want to grow and keep them too. So there are 5 things, ready?
1. Focus on long-term systemic change.
There's a lot of momentum — and need — for change right now. It's not just about a message of support or donating to a cause one time. Take a look at your own systems. How do you hire and grow employees? Do your succession planning, talent reviews, recruiting and other processes have built-in biases? Is equality part of your core values? Are you actively working toward change? Recognize that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Above all, hold yourself accountable for the way things are, then work to improve.
2. Take a close look at your data.
Share it internally to be transparent with employees of where you are now. When possible, share it externally to be visible and accountable (I'm happy to announce that Indeed will be releasing its own diversity data this summer). Use it as a baseline for comparison against what you hope to achieve.
3. Change behavior.
Focus on behavioral changes throughout the company with an emphasis on coaching, training, and having crucial conversations with managers. Leaders and managers set an example for the entire workforce. If employees see the behavior of managers or leaders in a negative light, a true sense of belonging is difficult to achieve.
4. Representation matters.
If leadership roles are perceived as exclusive to many members of the workforce, then a broader sense of belonging will continue to elude many employees. People in leadership roles should reflect the diversity of a company's workforce. Observing someone "like me" in a leadership role helps attract and retain talent and motivates workers to pursue roles with greater responsibility.
5. Create Policies And Procedures Reflective Of The Entire Workforce.
As you work through new or existing policies and procedures, be aware of barriers experienced by different populations. Take, for example, the case of caregivers. More scheduling flexibility for calls can go a long way for employees who share their home workspace with others and must tend to family responsibilities while working remotely.
Q: Do you have advice for individuals that are looking for new career opportunities, especially women of color who might have lost their previous jobs during the pandemic?
Adaptability has always been an important part of an individual's career progression - even before COVID-19, it is especially important now.
It is important to show a potential new employer how your abilities adapt to a new role or a new industry. Focus on skills more than just experiences because skills can be applied in so many different ways. So… I'll give you 6 things for this one.
1. Perform a professional audit. Taking some time to understand your qualities, qualifications and values can help focus your career transition and narrow down your career path options if you haven't already. Doing so can also help you understand how you might position yourself during the job search.
2. Identify your hard and soft skills. Soft skills are often the most transferable, so identifying them early can help you understand the ways you might bring value to a new role or industry. Taking inventory of your hard skills will help you identify if there are certain industries that might be easier to transition into.
3. Highlight your biggest career wins. Communicating the impact you've made throughout your career can help employers quickly understand the value you'll bring to their organization, even if you come from another role or industry.
4. Utilize online job search to your advantage. Pay close attention to the requirements and duties of jobs so you can evaluate whether the career would align with your skills, interests and values.
5. You just need to meet "most" of the qualifications. Try to focus on positions for which you meet at least 60% of the qualifications with your transferable skills. Meeting 60% of the qualifications isn't a hard rule, but it's a good general guideline to help you determine whether it's worth applying for.
6. Get a sense of the company. Before interviews, do some research to learn how inclusive a company is. Peruse the organization's core values, its social media accounts, and any recent statements in support of marginalized groups. Pay attention to the interviewers themselves. Is the panel diverse or are you likely to be an early "diversity hire"? If the interviewers seem to be emphasizing "cultural fit," ask what that means. Basically, be an active participant in the hiring process. You are also interviewing the company, as much as they are interviewing you.
In honor of Black History Month, we've been reading some of the great books written by four of the talented Black speakers that joined us at our recent Diversity Reboot Summit—because Black History Month isn't just about looking to the past, it's about elevating the Black voices that are helping to build a better present and future.
Have you read any of the books below? Let us know what you think!
By Valerie Jarrett
"The longest-serving senior advisor in the Obama White House shares her experiences as an Iran-born African-American woman as well as a family member, lawyer, public servant and government leader at a dynamic period in American history."
By Carla Harris
Wall Street veteran Carla Harris shares wisdom and actionable insights to help you take the next step in your career.
By Tiffany D. Cross
"A breakout media and political analyst delivers a sweeping snapshot of American Democracy and the role that African Americans have played in its shaping while offering concrete information to help harness the electoral power of the country's rising majority and exposing political forces aligned to subvert and suppress Black voters."
By Dr. Matthew F. Delmont
"Black Quotidian explores everyday lives of African Americans in the twentieth century. Drawing on an archive of digitized African-American newspapers, Matthew F. Delmont guides readers through a wealth of primary resources that reveal how the Black press popularized African-American history and valued the lives of both famous and ordinary Black people. Claiming the right of Black people to experience and enjoy the mundane aspects of daily life has taken on a renewed resonance in the era of Black Lives Matter, an era marked by quotidian violence, fear, and mourning."
I thought about writing this blog piece like one of those quizzes that used to be on the back pages of Seventeen and Cosmo where each question would offer several answers of varying point levels and you'd pick one answer per question, tally up your points at the end, and match your score to one of several possible results.
But then I realized that someone suffering from burnout (or on the cusp of it) probably didn't need more busywork added to their plate.
That's especially true during a pandemic that's already stretching our mental resources thin. An August FlexJobs survey found that 75% of people have experienced burnout at work and 40% have experienced it specifically during the pandemic.
So instead, I've done away with the addition. Here are eight simple yes-or-no questions to ask yourself about burnout. If you respond "yes" to more than one or two of them, proceed from there to the second half of this article, where I've shared tips for healing from burnout and preventing it in the future. If most of your answers are "no," I congratulate you on finding the elusive work-life balance and/or having built a career that works for you and/or finding a supportive company and boss and/or being impervious to the stress that wrecks us lesser beings. In all seriousness, if that's you, please do leave tips for maintaining calm and avoiding burnout in the comments before you close out of this tab and go on with your day.
8 questions to ask yourself about whether you're burning out
Per the World Health Organization, burnout is a work-specific issue defined as a "syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." It goes farther than having a rough day or week and refers to a general sense of exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness at work.
Based on a guide to burnout from the Mayo Clinic, here's what to ask yourself about whether you're burning out:
- Have you been feeling less capable at work?
- Are you feeling more exhausted than usual?
- Would your coworkers or clients say you've been acting more irritable or impatient than normal?
- Do you feel less motivated to do work?
- Have you found it hard to concentrate on your work responsibilities?
- Do you feel less satisfied by your achievements than you have in the past?
- Do you find yourself wanting to call in sick more often?
- Have you experienced physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomach issues?
What to do if you're burned out
You can approach burnout in one of two ways. The first focuses on treatment and the second focuses on prevention. For the highest chance of successfully reducing burnout over time, you should work within both approaches.
First, you can seek to cut it off at its source by fixing the root cause of burnout. Some of those causes and ways to address them include:
- Unclear job expectations. If your role has changed recently or you've gotten a new manager, you might not have a clear idea of what it is that you need to do to succeed, making work feel like an ambiguous mess of stress. To fix it, sit down with your boss and go over what you understand that's expected of you, including key responsibilities and the metrics that will measure how you're doing on them, and ask your boss to correct your understanding or to fill in any gaps.
- Unreasonable pressure. Whether you're regularly asked to complete tight-turnaround work, forced to make do with less resources than you need, or given more work than you can complete, feeling sustained pressure at work can be one of the major factors behind burnout. Flag your situation to your boss, and, if they don't engage well, to your HR liaison, and ask what changes to timelines, processes, schedules, or workflows can be made to make things a little less stressful. This might not be possible in all fields, like for paramedics, for whom no amount of workflow magic will reduce the time pressure they sometimes face, so keep that in mind, too.
- Unfair treatment. If you're facing workplace issues like bullying, favoritism, or being underpaid for your work, it's not surprising that you're having a hard time feeling fulfilled by it. These are some of the thorniest issues to unpack at work, but if you think you can do so without further endangering your mental health or job security, you owe it to yourself to try. Bring it up in your next one-on-one with your manager or consider going directly to another manager in your department or to HR if it's your manager that is the problem.
- Overall lack of job satisfaction. Have you ever felt fulfilled at work? If not—if this bout of burnout is just a more intense version of the malaise you've long felt upon starting your workday—consider switching your job. Do some serious reflection on what kind of work has made you feel satisfied and look at job boards to see what else is out there. If you're going to spend the majority of your waking hours working, try to make sure you're not stuck in a role that drains your energy and gives you nothing in return.
Second, you can reduce feeling burned out by changing how you react to stress. Even the best job will include some tough moments, and you need to have a robust mental toolkit for responding to them. Keep this advice for approaching stress in mind:
- Set boundaries. You're paid to do a specific job—not to worry about that job for every second of every day. Utilize notification settings for Slack, email, and work calls to make sure that you're not getting dragged into work updates after work hours. Set up a system that works for you and don't feel bad about using it. The email can wait.
- Prioritize activities that give you energy, especially if your work doesn't. It's not enough to just stop working and expect energy to flood your system anew. You need to identify the things that bring you that sense of excitement and joy, whether that's cooking, reading, talking with a friend, working out, meditating, or being creative. Set up your day so that you always have time to do something just for you at the start or end of every work day.
- Treat yourself like you would a baby. No, not with mobiles and pacifiers but yes with serious commitment to your basic human needs. It's maddeningly simple: getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, being connected to loved ones, and taking care of your brain (like via meditation and therapy) are the building blocks for a stable mental and physical state that lets you respond to stress without it taking over your life.
Note that neither approach includes advice like "take a vacation."
Getting a few days' respite from your problems won't make them go away, and even if two weeks off was enough to soothe your stress and re-energize you, you'll just feel depleted and burned out all over again when the vacation high has faded.
To really address burnout in your life, you need to find a healthy work environment with clear expectations, good communication with your manager and team, and fair treatment, and cultivate a personal approach to work and life that prioritizes your mental and physical wellbeing. It might seem like to fix work burnout, you have to put in even more work. That's true. You do.
But let me tell you: it is so thoroughly worth it.