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Lynne Curry: Target on my back and boring presenter

Lynne Curry

Q: I’m the only male employee in a large oil patch company’s accounting department. Although I have a ten year history of positive performance reviews and a generally good relationship with prior supervisors, I’ve always had a testy relationship with a coworker. When our former supervisor resigned four months ago, she was stepped up to acting supervisor and officially given the title a month later.

Since she took over our department, I’ve had a target on my back. She wrote me up for quarreling with her when I simply disagreed. When I protested the write up, I was written up for yelling.

I was seven minutes late last week and got written up for it because it’s allegedly the third time I was late in June. I don’t remember the other two times but she has dates. I checked with several of my female coworkers who repeatedly come in late and none of them have been called on the carpet.

I’m not a perfect employee but I’m not a bad one either. The real problem is my supervisor can’t handle men or anyone who acts like a man. I’d go to HR but I don’t have proof she’s biased and my coworkers are scared she’ll retaliate against them if they go with me to back me up.  

What can I do?       

A: Take your past performance reviews when you go to HR. They can investigate and hold confidential what they learn from your coworkers.

If you’re singled out and unfairly treated because you’re a man, you don’t have to prove bias. You simply have to show you’ve been harshly disciplined for the same things female coworkers have done without receiving discipline. According to the federal Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion and national origin, those claiming discrimination “need only ‘demonstrate’ that an employer used a forbidden consideration with respect to ‘any employment practice’.” 

Q: I run risk management for a large bank and have been told I’m so technical I bore everyone when I give statistical presentations to our Board of Directors and management team. My subjects are complex and technical and if I try to do what I’ve been told to do, make things simpler, I can easily give inaccurate information. I’ve also been dinged for my PowerPoints. Any ideas?

A: You can present complex ideas simply by presenting them clearly. Cut to the chase -- what do those statistics mean? Instead of presenting hundreds of statistics, select the three most relevant and intimidating and explain what can happen if the bank’s leadership doesn’t pay attention to the risk issues you raise. Can you jolt your audience awake with the unexpected?

Make your presentation relevant. What do your statistics mean to your bank’s shareholders, employees and customers in real terms? Will jobs be lost or gained? Might casual practices expose thousands of customers to identity theft and the bank to lawsuits? Use what’s real and bottom line to shape what you present. Research documents that presenters who provide too much information create “cognitive backlog,” preventing their ideas from being retained.

Finally, PowerPoints may not be the problem -- as much as the fact that you read aloud each bullet point. If you want better PowerPoints, Google a concept, and when the list comes up, click on “images” under the Google logo. If you see an image aligned with the concept you want to convey, click on it and view the full size image. If the image is in the public domain, or if you contact the owner of the image for permission to use it, you can add it to your slide as a JPEG or GIF and then speak to the topic -- without reading words off the slide.