Overcoming Microaggressions, Crushing Your Goals and Being Successful

Dianne Greene, Division Vice President and General Manager at ADP, talks about how she overcame micro aggressions at another company early on in her career by focusing on what mattered to her and the business most.

Dianne Greene is currently the Division Vice President and General Manager of ADP’s new facility in Norfolk, Va., where she leads the joint delivery of business unit and function operational objectives, service innovation strategies, process standardization and continuous improvement for the entire “OneADP” site as it rapidly grows to over 2,200 associates.

Dianne has 26 years of service leadership experience including the creation, expansion and deployment of domestic and international service organizations.

Over her 12-year career at ADP, Dianne has held several leadership roles of increasing responsibility, including Vice President of Strategic Workforce Planning, Vice President of Client Migration Services, Vice President of Enablement, Client Relations Executive and Senior Director of GlobalView Client Service.

Shane Nelson: Why are diversity and inclusion important to you, professionally and personally?

Dianne Green: Diversity and inclusion are both very important to me because, from a professional standpoint, diverse backgrounds and experiences really lead to diverse thought and decision-making practices. If all of us have the same experiences in life, in general, and we follow the same path in terms of our decision making practices, then you’re going to end up with a lot of the same like minds and a lot of the same decisions. In today’s environment, where we have such a fast paced moving market, you need people to be able to have differences of opinions to reach the best solutions, the one most suitable for what you’re trying to achieve. From a professional standpoint, you need to have people with diverse backgrounds and experiences in order to be innovative and bring innovation and future development and creativity into the marketplace and work environment.

From a personal standpoint, I have a lot of friends who look like me. My family, generally, they all look like me. But how wonderful is it to have people who have different backgrounds, different ethnicities and different experiences that we can all learn from and share? And that helps us to develop on a personal level. So, for me, diversity and inclusion span not just the workplace, but also outside of the workplace where we’re having day-to-day interactions with each other.

Shane Nelson: When I first heard you speak at an EY event at Carnegie Hall, you told your story about dealing with microaggressions earlier in your career and having to overcome them. Can you tell us that story and give advice on how to successfully deal with people that want to derail you?

Dianne Green: Absolutely. I think this is something that probably comes up in just about everyone’s career, at some point. And, you know, some of the actions, some of the microaggressions, are more egregious than others. When I think about microaggressions, I always like to define it for people because not everyone knows the term. Microaggressions are those things people will do to nitpick you, sometimes small, or sometimes big, to get you off your path or, as you said, to derail you, distract you, make things difficult for you and to make your environment uncomfortable. It doesn’t come from a good place. It’s not a positive thing; it’s generally wrought with a lot of negativity, and it can sometimes have some malicious intent.

So I’ll share my story about what I consider the most egregious form of microaggressions that I’ve experienced in my entire career. The caveat is this was my approach to this particular one. My approach is not the silver bullet answer nor will it work for every situation, but I’m happy to share what worked for me.

I joined a team of nine white male leaders several years ago in my career. These leaders were all long tenured with deep-rooted relationships. Their wives knew each other, their kids knew each other; they had worked so long together that work life and home life merged to some extent. They had cookouts at each other’s homes in the summertime — and so, you get the picture.

When I accepted the role, I knew that I had equal, or higher, credentials than most of them on that team. What I didn’t know was that they had never worked with someone who looked like me or who had a strong and reputable career coming in. When I tell you their behavior was disturbing…they would mimic my accent when I spoke. I was born in Guyana, raised in Jamaica, and I’m very proud of my heritage. These men would mimic my accent, they would turn their backs in the swivel chair when I spoke, discredit my data in senior presentations and really tried to make it uncomfortable for me.

But, because I knew, and this is one of the things about me that I’m very firm on, I knew that I was enough, I knew that I belonged at that table, just as much as they did. I knew that I also made a very conscious decision to join the company. I also knew, because of those things, that it would never be my responsibility to help them sort through that behavior or their feelings toward me. These men did everything that they could to try to bring me down, to make it uncomfortable, and to make it unsettling for me to lead alongside them.

My response was to turn my focus away from the emotions of the situation and the professional immaturity and poor behavior and, instead, focus on the business goals at hand. I focused on crushing those goals, and I crushed them. I moved on to the next set of goals, crushed those and kept moving. Eventually, they realized that while they’d been distracted and caught up in their “feelings,” I was out there blazing through and making a name for myself and getting a lot of attention. They eventually got their act together and changed. However, I got the strength to blaze through by focusing my attention where it mattered most to me and to the organization.

Now, you know, some people may say, “Well, she just ignored the situation and didn’t address it directly,” and I’d argue that I addressed it very appropriately by making an impact where it mattered most and taking the high road. In other instances, you have to face micro aggression head on and say, “You know what, I see you and I see what you’re doing, let’s have a chat.” And sometimes, calling it out directly also lets them know how their actions are being received.

Shane Nelson: That was awesome. I love how you crushed those goals, crushed some more goals and kept it moving. Brilliant!

Next question. What advice would you give to high potential women, specifically women of color, in advancing their careers?

Dianne Green: I have four things that I think are tried and tested. I have personally tried and tested them myself and so I feel very confident that these are four good ones to at least get started with.

1. Be strategic about your brand. Build it early. I tell our new hires here in Norfolk — you start building your brand on day one, on your first day of hire. So build it early and do good work and be consistent in the delivery of that good work, and never be afraid to recheck, recalibrate and adjust as you advance. Because, in order to remain relevant in our fast changing work environment, to remain relevant with all of these generations, from baby boomers to millennials in the workplace right now, you have to recheck and you have to recalibrate. You have to be very strategic about your brand.

2. Find several mentors. You don’t need to have only one. Sometimes one person can’t be all encompassing and do everything for you in terms of a mentor/mentee relationship. I have two mentors at work: I have a spiritual mentor, and I have a family life mentor. Find people who can support you in a network or provide a supportive network for you. You should also be a mentor to at least one person. It is important, as high potential women of color who are advancing in our careers, that you must always look back. Give a helping hand to someone else. Help another woman or help another person build their career and allow them to learn from you. When you do that willingly, expecting nothing in return, the universe will always reward you in good form.

3. Build solid and lasting relationships inside and outside of your company. Career advancement comes in many different forms and having good relationships is a really great start. Be mindful of the relationships that you’re building.

4. Stay polished. Consider nonverbal cues that you project and consider the image that you want to leave with people, as you go through your day, as you go through your career. Make sure that your image is in alignment with that of your employer. What do I mean by that? I mean don’t show up for work looking like you’re going to or coming from the club. Unless, you know, you actually work at the club. Keep it polished and remember those nonverbal cues as you continue to progress.

Shane Nelson: You recently received a promotion where you were tapped to head up ADP’s new facility in Norfolk, Va. You had to relocate from New Jersey to Virginia. What advice would you give folks who are asked to relocate for work?

Dianne Green: This is a really good question, very near and dear to my heart. I’ve been living in Norfolk now for a whole month and the experience has been exciting. It has also been stressful. It has been a whole bunch of emotions all in one. The first thing I would say is do the examination of the relocation opportunity. Look at it for fit, your own personal fit, your career fit, where you want to go strategically in your career. Look at it in terms of runway — is this an opportunity that has some runway that may possibly set you up for something else? Is it an advancement or not? Is it a lateral move? I think you have to take a good examination of what relocating into the particular opportunity means to you on a personal level.

The next thing that I would say is look at what it means to your family, your closest loved ones, your friends, your support system, your network. If you have to uproot young children (I didn’t, but I had other considerations), what does that mean to those people close to you? I’m leaving family in New Jersey, I’m leaving a solid network and support system of friends and church members and previous employers and coworkers in New Jersey. What does that mean? What kind of disruption does that provide and what are the risks in taking that move?

You also have to examine the relocation package, meaning if you are getting some sort of support from your organization in this move, know and understand all the intricacies of that package. Know your dollars, know your taxes, know everything that you need to understand from a financial standpoint in terms of what this will mean to your finances.

So those are the three things:

1. The opportunity itself in terms of your fit, runway, advancement, promotability, or not.

2. The opportunity in terms of impact, disruption, and risk to your network, your family, friends and your support system.

3. The opportunity in terms of knowing your money. Understand what’s involved. Understand where you’re moving to, are there some inherent benefits maybe in moving from a high tax state to a lower tax state? What are the changes? Differences?

You don’t want to move and be completely surprised. Then, you marry all those things into your decision making to come up with the final outcome. For me, it’s been an amazing opportunity. It’s been the right opportunity, the timing was right, and so it all came together very, very well and so I am extremely happy to be in Norfolk. We’re practically starting a new life. We’re in a place where we really don’t know many people and so it’s like a fresh start at life. I’m very happy with it.

Wells Fargo's Le Nette Rutledge Talks Transferrable Veteran Skills and Why it's Important to 'Show Up'

Rutledge, a Senior Learning & Development Consultant at Wells Fargo, talks about her journey transitioning from the U.S. Navy and why it's important to allow your authentic self to show up whether in the military or Corporate America.

Le Nette is a Learning & Development Sr. Consultant within Talent Development & Organization Effectiveness (TDOE) at Wells Fargo. She facilitates courses and programs providing leadership coaching that reinforces the vision and values of the Company for team members across all levels of the organization. Le Nette's 'why' in life is "…to courageously and compassionately impart excellence in every life, place and situation" presented to her.

Le Nette joined Wells Fargo in 2009. Prior to that, she served as a leader of learning teams for Fortune 100/500 companies to include QVC, Inc.; Lowe's Companies, Inc. and Family Dollar Stores, Inc. She retired from the United States Navy after ten (10) years of service. During that time, the fields in which she focused included Leadership Development, Facilitation/Instructional Design, Career Counseling (specifically recruiting) and Anti-submarine Warfare.

Le Nette holds a B.A. in political science from Norfolk State University in Norfolk VA and has begun work on a M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She holds Lean Six-Sigma green belt, Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and various coaching certifications.

DI: Tell us a little bit about what it was like transitioning from the military to Corporate America.

Overall, it was fair. I had served in the US Navy for close to ten years. Prior to that time, I had held (what I refer to as ) my first 'real' job as a Bank Teller. The thought of re-entering corporate America and now having a son for whom I needed to provide was a bit intimidating. Thankfully I had a really good Transition Assistance Program experience that equipped me with information and resources to begin seeking employment. I was unemployed for approximately one year before finding continuous employment.

DI: Were there any skills you developed while in the military that have been useful in your current role?

While my primary area of expertise (rating) in the Navy was not directly applicable to most occupations in the corporate sector, the opportunities to direct teams and hone my leadership skills proved to be a great asset. Additionally, collateral assignments provided exposure to and experience in various HR disciplines. For example, since I was a Naval Instructor I learned about facilitation techniques, principles of instructional design and evaluation program effectiveness. As a result, I was able to easily transition into Learning & Development as a civilian occupation. The time I spent as a Naval Recruiter exposed me to recruiting practices, policies and experiences that were helpful when coordinating/supporting mass recruiting efforts (i.e. job fairs, seasonal hiring, conferences, etc…) in the corporate arena.

DI: Were there any ERG's, programs, or even some personal methods used to help with the initial transition of getting acclimated to a new workplace?

Great question! This is where for me there was a most noticeable void. Prior to Wells Fargo, employers with whom I worked offered nothing to assist Veterans with the initial transition. If I found an external resource that could help in my transition, my employers were typically supportive. But again, they offered/developed nothing. It would not be until several years later when joining Wells Fargo that I would (for the first time since I exited the military in 1998) have an employer who offered internal resources/programs to assist members of the military community within the organization.

DI: Also, did you always have an idea of what career or industry you wanted to pursue post-military life?

This question makes me smile. Actually, I credit the Navy with helping me realize that creating consistent and compelling learning experiences was my sweet spot; the point at which what I can do, what others need me to do and what I love to do converge. Since exiting the military, no matter the position or employer, some component of Learning & Development has been a critical component of my job responsibilities. So, a huge 'shout out' and "thank you" to the Navy for helping me discover my passion.

DI: Lastly, there are stereotypes that women can't handle the mental strain of combat or aren't strong enough. In what ways have you personally opposed these gender stereotypes in the military and continue to do so in your new role?

People will think what they think until they are willing to be open to new and different perspectives. For me, it's not so much about challenging stereotypes but rather ushering in a paradigm shift. Reality is, yes. For some women the mental strain of being in combat is more than they can bear. AND, the same is true for some men. Whether I failed or succeeded at points in my military career, it wasn't because I am a woman. It was because I am human and imperfect. This is not to say that others have not had experiences tied to gender stereotypes. It is to say that adversity due to gender was not my reality.

That being said, it is no secret that (generally) women disproportionately face certain dynamics in corporate settings than our male counterparts do (e.g., glass ceiling, equal pay, etc…). How do I usher in a paradigm shift/challenge stereotypes? I simply show up. As my best, authentic, unrelenting self – I show up. I do my best. I challenge the status quo if there is viable challenge to be made. And, I focus on helping others realize and walk their full potential. I'm a woman. When people see me, they know that. So, just in my showing up in this authentic yet results-oriented way, I offer the opportunity for others to reconsider gender stereotypes and shift their paradigm. As my mom would say at times, "Sometimes you have to show 'em rather than tell 'em."

I heard one Wells Fargo leader share this, "The military is a microcosm of society." This is so true. The same stereotypes that abound in society exist in the military…because those who serve in the military bring with them the life experiences, assumptions and beliefs of the societies of which they were previously a part.

Kaiser Permanente's Anthony B. Coleman: Veterans Should Discover Their Passion and Allow it to Lead to a Profession

Coleman, talks with DiversityInc about his journey transitioning from life in the U.S. Navy to working as an Assistant Hospital Administrator for Kaiser Permanente.

Anthony B. Coleman, DHA, is the Assistant Hospital Administrator (Operations Support) for Kaiser Permanente, Fontana and Ontario Medical Centers.

He was born at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy serving aboard the USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Ardent (MCM 12). After completing a full sea tour he was transferred to shore duty, and earned a Bachelor's degree in Workforce, Education and Development, as well as a Master of Health Administration.

He later earned a commission as a Naval Officer serving in various roles overseas and afloat, including Chief Financial Officer at U.S. Naval Hospital Beaufort SC, Human Resources Director at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan and Medical Operations Officer onboard the USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

Anthony retired in 2016 with 20 years of honorable service and holds a Doctor of Health Administration Degree and currently serves as the Assistant Administrator (Operations Support) for Kaiser Permanente Fontana and Ontario Medical Centers.

DI: What was the initial transition like going from the armed services to a civilian career?

My initial thoughts on transition brought unnecessary anxiety. However, when I learned that my preceptor was a retired Air Force Colonel, it helped put me at ease about the transition. On my first day at Kaiser Permanente, the staff and physicians welcomed me and ensured that I had the support I needed to make a successful transition.

DI: What are some skills or habits you developed while serving in the military that have helped you in your current role?

Two things stick out in my mind as important.

The first is transitioning mindset from duty to desire. I joined the navy at 17, and during the first 3-5 years of my military career I didn't realize I was part of something bigger than myself so I competed tasks out of obligation (duty). After completing my first full sea tour, I realized how my efforts contributed to the overall mission of the U.S. Navy and the duties I carried out started to come from a desire to do so. This realization helped shape my leadership style and how I groomed young sailors early on in their enlistments. I wanted them to realize their very important part in the overall U.S. Navy mission and motivate them to bring their "A" game every day.

This has helped in my current role overseeing nine non-clinical departments (Housekeeping, Food and Nutrition, Engineering, Construction, Parking, Safety, Property Management, Telecommunications, Security and Supply Chain Management) where the majority of the employees I oversee are entry-level and can feel disconnected to health care because they are not physicians or nurses. However, I stress to them as often as possible that whether their job is to nourish the patient, clean and disinfect a patient room, make sure life-saving equipment is in working order, or any other of the hundreds of non-clinical functions they perform day in and day out, they too are vital to a patient's health and healing.

The second is attention to detail. Most times, my staff are the first and/or last interaction our members have with Kaiser Permanente. It is crucial for them to pay attention to every detail about the patient they encounter because each and every detail about the patient, large or small can help us do a better job in serving them. Sometimes, it may be as simple as a smile or word of encouragement that could make all the difference in the patient experience.

DI: What career advice can you offer to veterans or current military folks who are looking to pivot, and what types of jobs should they be looking for?

Stay current in world health affairs, as well as the political climate in the US. Now more than ever, politics are shaping our approach to health care and vice versa. Veterans and current military members should make sure they have an idea of where civilian health care is, as well as where it's going in the future, so they can demonstrate their value to potential health care employers.

Devote time to discovering their passion and allow it to lead them to a profession. So often, when military members plan to transition to civilian life, they tend to focus on their ability to continue providing for their families beyond military service. This can cause us to accept positions for the sake of securing post military employment, or accept positions that are not aligned with our core beliefs, or passion.

DI: Did you always have an idea of the type of career you wanted to pursue after the military?

Yes. As a matter of fact, I began planning my exit from the military in 2005 when I discovered my passion for eliminating health disparities however, because I was a single father of a 5 year old girl, my mom convinced me to complete a full career first.

In 2004, the Navy sent me to graduate school to learn how to be a health administrator. During the summer of 2005, I interned at Wallace Thomson Hospital in rural Union County, South Carolina. While there I met a kitchen worker who impressed me with her skill in preparing meals for all of the sick patients at the hospital, specific to their individual needs. Her name was Pee Wee and even though she never finished high school, and worked a second job to make ends meet she somehow found a way to show compassion for each patient while contributing to the healing environment.

After the rotation was complete, I went back to finish graduate school and learned that Pee Wee died of a stroke. She was 52. Her death really affected me and I began to look at how a person in America could die so young of a preventable health issue. That's when I learned about health disparities and discovered my passion for eliminating them. I understand that I may not be able to complete this task in my lifetime however, I am completely comfortable with making it my life's work at Kaiser Permanente.


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