Disability at Work with Rebecca Cokley | Crooked Media
SEE POD SAVE AMERICA, LOVETT OR LEAVE IT & STRICT SCRUTINY LIVE SEE POD SAVE AMERICA, LOVETT OR LEAVE IT & STRICT SCRUTINY LIVE
July 12, 2023
Work Appropriate
Disability at Work with Rebecca Cokley

In This Episode

Rebecca Cokley, program officer for the Ford Foundation’s first-ever U.S. Disability Rights program, joins host Anne Helen Petersen to answer listeners’ questions about navigating the workplace while disabled. From advocating for accommodations, to giving yourself a pep talk during a relapse, to saying “no” to work travel while immunocompromised– Rebecca shares the wisdom that comes from lifelong personal experience.

  • Need advice about a sticky situation at work? We’re here for you! Head to www.workappropriate.com and tell us about it.
  • Follow @CrookedMedia on Instagram and Twitter for more original content, host takeovers and other community events.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Hi, everyone. I’m Anne Helen Petersen, and this is Work Appropriate. [music plays] So I’m going to start today with a pretty straightforward stat. More than one in four Americans have some sort of disability. 27%. That number includes people with mobility disorders or a cognitive disability that makes it hard to concentrate or a vision disability or people with long COVID. There are people who have been disabled their entire lives, but also people who’ve been non-disabled for most of their lives and have had to grapple with sudden shifts in the way they’re able to navigate the world. Some of these disabilities make it impossible for people to work full or part time. But millions of disabled people are tasked with navigating workplaces that have spent very little time thinking through basic concepts like actual accessibility. For this episode, we wanted to address some workplace basics for people who are newly disabled or disabled and new to the workplace. Like, how do I figure out how to request accommodations? What do I have to disclose in order to receive them? What is none of my employer’s business? But we also wanted to do some basic educational work for all listeners on why accessibility matters so damn much. And how all sorts of organizations can do it better. And whew, do we have my dream co-host. I can’t wait for you to meet her. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: My name is Rebecca Cokley. My pronouns are she hers. I have worked in the field of disability policy for almost 30 years at this point. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So I want to do a little bit of table setting. When we’re talking about disability. It’s such an expansive term and I think in a really great way. But what are we talking about so our audience can know what the word encompasses. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: So I always typically use the ADA definition, the definition from the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was established back in 1990. And the ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. This includes people who have a record of such impairment, even if they technically don’t have a disability. So like a record would mean like if you’re a cancer survivor, you’re no longer actively living with cancer. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Your cancer’s in remission, but you had cancer for a period of your life. You still count as a person with a disability under the ADA. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. So let’s say you were born with a significant birth mark that took up a substantial part of your face or you had a random scar. You are still counted as a person with a disability because of the form of the discrimination that you face is one that’s grounded in ableism. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Oh interesting. Yeah.

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, it also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on a person’s association with a person with a disability. So, for example, this really came into play around HIV and AIDS and parents of children with HIV who would lose their job or would be denied home loans because people didn’t want somebody with HIV living in their community. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Wow. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so the parent was actually the protections for the disability were extended to family members, to caregivers, etc., who are in relationship with people with disabilities, even though they may not be the person with a disability. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So I think a lot of able bodied people think that the ADA has just—

 

Rebecca Cokley: Well, and let’s not use able bodied, let’s actually use non-disabled. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Okay. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Because able bodied implies that it’s only something physical that you can see. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And that discounts mental illness, that discounts long COVID, it discounts neuro diversity. And so we really want to make a point of, you know, there are disabled folks and then there are non-disabled folks. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: That’s that makes total sense. And I thank you for correcting me, like in the episode, too, because I think that that helps people who are listening. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Totally. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Who sometimes are using outdated terminology that they think is the right terminology, so that that’s really useful. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So non-disabled people, I think, often think that the ADA has been around forever. But 1990. Right, like I was ten [laughs] you know, it’s in a lot of our lifetimes that this has come to pass. So kind of like how the Civil Rights Act didn’t solve racism. The ADA has not solved systemic ableism, not even in the slightest. So for people who have not experienced it firsthand, what forms of discrimination do disabled people still face, especially in the workplace? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Anything that you can imagine, you know, as a as a person who lives with both a visible and invisible disability, I have achondroplastic dwarfism, which is the most common kind of dwarfism. But I also have an anxiety disorder. You know, anything you could imagine, whether it be physical access or discrimination on the basis of physical access, being, you know, denied what you need to be able to do your job effectively, being denied physical access to a space if it means, you know, a ramp or automatic doors or wider doorways or a printer that you can reach. Or if you are a person that, you know, let’s say lives with migraines, which I do, also the ability to transform the lighting in your workspace. So it does it may not trigger your migraines quite as badly to being denied access to leave, facing discriminatory beliefs or policies around mental health, mental illness. I had friends who were in jobs where they had a colleague that had cancer who was taking time off appropriately and legally to to do chemo and radiation. And when they needed to request time off for their therapy sessions, their employer told them that that wasn’t covered under the ADA when it was, you know, even the whole conversations right now around telework. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And, you know, the return to the office, I don’t call it return to work because we never really stopped working. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: [laughs] Never. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: But the return to the office policies, you know, people with disabilities had been fighting for telework for over 30 years, and we’re told that it was not a reasonable accommodation. And yet non-disabled Columbus’d it. You discovered it. And were like, wow. There’s this thing. It’s called telework. It means that, you know, we trust you to do your job from wherever, and it’s wonderful. And we’re seeing productivity at the same level, if not in some cases, higher. You know, we’re seeing people more satisfied with their jobs, but we just want everybody back in the office because of the real estate market [laughter] that is that’s ableism. That’s systemic ableism. There are so many things in this world that were developed for people with disabilities that were discovered by non-disabled people and have become part of everyday life. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Whether it was, oh, my gosh, it’s a curb cut. Look, I can wheel my luggage now. This is amazing to you know, I’m going to sit and do laundry and have the TV on, but I’m going to watch the captioning. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Yeah, that’s ours. You’re welcome. I feel like I could walk around the world singing the rock song from Moana. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: What can I say, except you’re welcome. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right. [laughs]

 

Rebecca Cokley: But I think it’s really important to remember that, A, people fought for these, B, people were denied the right to these four years and, C, it really says something that in this day and age society is like, oh, this is wonderful. We should totally use it now and forget the original reason why it exists. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Can you talk a little bit about universal design and that idea that, like things that are designed for everyone to use are better for everyone to use? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. Universal design was a theory developed by a gentleman named Ron Mace in North Carolina in the sort of burgeoning days of the disability rights movement and starting sort of the seventies. Moving forward was the idea that when you design for disability, you make things more accessible for everyone. And so, you know, people who are working on learning English benefit from captions just as much as disabled people do. Parents who use strollers benefit from the curb cuts just as much as wheelchair users may. When you have a workplace that has not just regular soda, but diet soda might benefit people who are not diabetic. So it really is the idea that when you design centering the issues facing people with a multitude of disabilities and I want to be clear, we’re talking about both physical design. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And also like programmatic and cultural design. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: So it could be like school curriculum, which is a whole concept of universal design for learning. We know that all students learn better. I years ago I had done a case study and a site visit to a community college in Washington State. It’s a technical school called Shoreline Technical College. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, yeah, it’s near me. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And Shoreline implemented a universal design, and at that point in time they had implemented UDL into roughly 80% of their course programs. And it was really interesting because they were sort of given flak from some of the other community colleges who were like, yeah, but you get less state funding because you actually don’t know how many students with disabilities you have because not all students have to disclose in order to have their needs met. And their response was, but yeah, we have higher matriculation rates and higher graduation rates and higher job placement rates because our students know how they learn best. They know what they need to succeed and thrive, and they’ve been taught according to that. And not only that, but you know, they had co-located their disability services office in the same office as their career center. So anybody coming in for career services were also finding out information about accommodations. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And it was brilliant. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I have yet to see any other college do that. But I mean, I went on that site visit almost 20 years ago and I still remember just how powerful it was to watch a college that had actually implemented universal design for learning in their courses. And it was yeah, it still stands out to me today as one of the most fascinating programs I’ve seen in the country. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: What has been your own journey in advocating for yourself at work? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: So I grew up unlike most people with disabilities, my parents had the same disabilities I had. And so I grew up not thinking that having step stools was weird, not thinking that having a multitude of devices that I could use to reach things was strange. I grew up in a household where we had rubberized industrial grade like restaurant, kitchen tongs to pull laundry out of the bottom of the washing machine. So we didn’t end up getting stuck, which is always embarrassing as a little person. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so from a very early age, I saw the use of access tools and accommodations and my parents actually had me. So since my disability is principally physical, I didn’t have an IEP or an individualized education plan in school, which modifies how you access the curriculum. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I had what’s called a 504 plan and that modifies how you access the physical space. And so the curriculum wasn’t being shifted or changed in any sort of formatical way as opposed to what I needed was step stools in the bathroom. I needed lower paper towel dispensers. I needed an understanding of if we had you know, I grew up in California in the eighties. So if we had an earthquake drill, how was I to evacuate? When I moved to middle school it meant thinking about a second set of books or multiple lockers, having lower lockers and things like that. And so when it came to advocating in employment, I was largely very comfortable. You know, my first jobs were I was an office worker at the community college that my mom worked at. I then went on to work for my local congressman, Congressman Lantos, who was the only member of Congress that was a Holocaust survivor. Then I worked retail. I was a manager for Victoria’s Secret for a long time. And so to be a person with a very visible physical disability, working for the most visually conscious company probably in the world. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: [laughs] Right. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Was really fascinating. But my boss, actually, the person that hired me, had grown up next door to a family of little people who, ironically, my parents had known for most of their lives. And so I remember interviewing with her and she was like, I know this is a really bad question. And she’s like, but do you know this you know, the blah, blah, blah family from from Tacoma? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: [laughs] Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And I was like, actually, yeah, I do. I was like, I’ve known them my whole life. And she’s like, they took care of me a lot when I was a kid and my parents weren’t that stable. And she was like, I think the world of them. And I remember it was really interesting working, working there, because quite literally the only accommodation I needed was step stools. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And our I remember our district manager freaking out about me being hired because she thought it meant that we had to lower everything in the store. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Oh my gosh. [laughs] 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Which is often still what you run into. I mean, I’ve talked to employees where they’re like, if I have an employee with a disability, I have to move everything down. I was like, no, that’s not reasonable. The term is reasonable accommodation. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, that’s not reasonable. You know, for me it meant having a step stool in every room of the, you know, of the sales floor having a step stool in the restroom, hanging stuff down lower on the bulletin board, whether it be schedules or contests we were running, I was like, it really isn’t that hard. But I think that there is this assumption that accommodations have to be just massive and large scale and have to actually, I think there’s an assumption that accommodations for disabled people are often impediments for non-disabled people. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Which is I think just generally a problem when we think about accommodations for anyone, right? Like whether it’s for people taking parental leave, people who are dealing with elder care like accommodations does not make things harder for other people. It makes things better for everyone. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: The only time I was ever I ever faced actual, like blatant, tangible discrimination was when I moved to D.C. and I needed to pick up a side hustle because the nonprofit space was not paying well [laughter] and I decided to go to bartending school. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And the bartending school had a guarantee of a placement after you complete it. If you successfully completed the course and I did the trial course, and then the owner called me into the back office and was like, yeah, I need you to stop coming. I’m going to refund your money because nobody would ever hire you. And I mean, I came from California where I like as a little person. A lot of my people take really degrading and really inhumane jobs. And I was like, wait a minute, I’m a little person bartender, do you understand what I could make in California? But he was like, yeah, I don’t know if it’s against the ADA or anything, but I can’t place you. So you need to quit so I can maintain my perfect record. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: To be clear, Is that against the ADA? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: It is completely against the ADA. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: [laughs] Yes. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Very much so against the ADA. [laughter] You know. And looking back, I probably should have filed a complaint. I tend to not be a litigious person, which is its own challenge sometimes. But I was just frankly so shocked that like somebody was that clueless and would say something like that. But on the whole, I mean, I’ve been very fortunate, I think, having a strong education on my rights. I think also I mean, I’m a white woman with a very visible disability. I’ve worked in workplaces and watched people of color with disabilities be treated differently. I’ve been in workplaces and watched people with mental illness or chronic illnesses being treated differently. It’s weird to say that there’s there are certain types of privilege that you benefit from in the disability space, but at the end of the day, there really are. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, yeah, it’s totally intersectional. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So this is a great way to transition into our first question. This is from Emily and our colleague Reyna is going to read it for us. 

 

Emily: I am a college student with a new disability that developed while in college, and I’m about to graduate with an engineering degree and start navigating the workforce. I would be very interested in hearing some expertise about navigating disability accommodations in the workplace. I feel like my degree and expertise can bring a lot of value to a job, but the process of needing to ask accommodations is terrifying, especially starting a new type of job where I’m unsure what I need. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So, Rebecca, where would you tell Emily to start here? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: The first place that I would tell Emily to start is think about what you’ve been using already in school. Because chances are, if you’re studying for a specific field, especially the STEM fields, a lot of times the software that they use, if you’re if you’re using specific types of software, the physical equipment may be identical in the field as it was in the school. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm, mm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so being able to sort of start there and have a sense. The second thing that I would strongly recommend and I recommend everyone do this is there’s a wonderful website called the Job Accommodation Network, or JAN. It’s based out of West Virginia University, and it’s funded by the federal government to be a one stop shop for all things accommodations. And it’s available for both employers and prospective employees. For students like any member of the public can use the JAN website. They also have a phone number and you can call and tell them about your diagnosis and they will go through all of their research and technical assistance to make suggestions for what types of accommodations are available. You know, I also like to remind people that you don’t have to disclose unless it’s you know, it’s going to impact your ability to do your job. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, most people look at me and assume that, you know, I go through some formal disclosure process. Typically, I don’t for my dwarfism, I do for my migraines. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Typically because those are more those impact my ability to do my job more than me being four foot two in most cases. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so, you know, remembering that you can disclose at any point in time, you can disclose in the interview if you want. I know a lot of people recommend not doing that. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You can disclose upon being hired. You can disclose your first day. You can disclose two, four, eight years later if you want. That is your right as a person with a disability and employers cannot retaliate against you for that disclosure. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So would you recommend having that in writing? Like disclosing it in writing? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: If you’re going to make a formal disclosure, I would disclose it in writing and have you know, oftentimes employers also don’t know. What accommodations are out there or even what are accommodations. I remember starting a job and saying I was going to need to put in an accommodation request and that I needed a small laptop because laptops can be really big and really cumbersome, especially when you’re early in your job and they don’t want to buy you a nice one. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes, yes. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Let’s be real. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And I was like, no, I need a small laptop. And they were like, why? And I took a photo of my hands and I sent it to them and was like, tiny hands. [laughter] I blind copied my boss on it and she was like, I thought I was going to fall out of my chair when I saw you said that photo to H.R. and it’s like, why are they asking her why she needs a tiny laptop? Like, who cares? But making sure you document your accommodation requests? I mean, one of the hardest things to do too when you’re moving from college to your first job, oftentimes it involves moving. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Making sure you find good specialists in your area, making sure you have doctors that you trust, so that if you do need to get additional documentation, you’re not stuck then trying to scrounge around to put together with the last thing that you have or or track down a doctor you haven’t seen in five or six years because you were in college. It is always just worthwhile having up to date documentation just in case you need it for an accommodation request or anything else. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: I love that you make the point that oftentimes employers don’t know what accommodations are and it doesn’t have to be malicious, right? It could just be there. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: No. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: They might like. A lot of non-profits don’t have H.R. departments, right? So they don’t—

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: —don’t know a lot of things. So what’s a way I feel sometimes uncomfortable putting like the impetus on the individual for having to educate, like an entire company about what accommodations are, but how how would you go about that? That doesn’t necessarily like require the individual to do all of the labor. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I really don’t believe in doing what I call dwarf orientations, like it is not my job to make your workplace safe from violating civil rights laws. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I’m not a lawyer. I don’t work in H.R. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Very pointedly so. [laughter] And so. You know, I tend you know, when I’ve asked for accommodations, I’ve been very clear and been, like, as a result of my dwarfism or as a result of of living with migraines, I’ll just use a case of my dwarfism. You know, I require a Rubbermaid step stool at my desk, in the restroom, on my floor in any major public space, whether it be like a conference room or whatever. So my feet don’t hang. And like, here’s a link to where you can buy it, because that’s the other thing. I don’t like to leave it up to employers to figure out where to source my equipment. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Because they’ll do something like, oh, well, I just looked on Amazon and I saw the same stool for like $5. And then you find out it’s like a 12 inch version of the stool versus like a 24 inch version of the stool—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right or like a, like a doll house version of the stool that looks bigger. [laughs]

 

Rebecca Cokley: Or like, or like a beta version. You know, if you’re using software or like a beta version of the software. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, And so I tend to find that it’s really important for me to be specific with them. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And remember, like they can ask you what you use it for, but they can’t ask you like specifics about your disability. And so you shouldn’t feel like you have to bring in like a two inch thick medical file. And any employer that does that is frankly not going to be somebody you want to work for. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, that’s an important point. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So our next question is from Catherine, and she is interested in advocating for structural change at work. And this is a question I get so often about productivity and billable hours and that sort of thing. So I cannot wait to hear your answer. 

 

Catherine: I work in a competitive, somewhat ageist industry management consulting. Consultants are billable. We negotiate our contracts with our clients to be based on 40 hour work weeks, which means that if we need to take any PTO which is supposed to be a benefit, we need to make up that time. The company’s revenue is forecasted based on these contracts and under burning  them is a serious financial issue. Our company aims to be a leader in company culture and an industry that’s known to be grueling for employees. Yet this approach to contracts and PTO seems to contradict that aim and punish parents and those with disabilities especially. How can I bring this up when being billable client service oriented workers is the nature of our business? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: That’s a great question. And I think one of the really interesting things in that is the conversation around how this punishes both parents and people with disabilities and also likely parents with disabilities. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: We often forget that they’re parents with disabilities. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I would say that this is a unique opportunity for if the company that you work for has employee resource groups or ERGs to work collaboratively across your disability ERG and your parenting ERG, or if there’s a caregiving ERG because also there’s safety in numbers. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And I think that the broadening of the conversation around care, I think the care conversation has been louder and more listened to in the last five years than ever before. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I think in large part because of what we saw during the pandemic or during the previous phase of the pandemic, the pandemic’s still happening. And so there’s a real opportunity to sit down and like build an alliance and come together with some suggestions. Honestly, being able to think about how you make the case for this, I think there is just this really archaic notion of what high quality work should look like. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And yet we know that wasn’t the case the previous three years. And so thinking about how do we redefine what this looks like going forward, I think thinking about workplace flexibility, I would say look at what some of your competitors are doing. Given the competitive nature of the management consulting field, see who’s doing who’s providing more flexibility versus less. If you know people in that space, ask them what’s working. I think one of the most important things that that I’ve seen people do is to actually reach out to to people that are working for competing offices or competing firms and be like, so what are you doing? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Oh, you guys are you all are going back like two days a week. Like I can tell you that, like, you know, for example, an organization that my husband works for are only requiring like a handful of days in the office per year. Now, my current position is not as flexible, but just having a handle on what is happening in the field and who’s innovating and what’s being lifted up I think is also really useful because I tend to find the C-suite wants to stay ahead of the curve. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so being able to say to them, oh, well, you know, let’s call it like Los Angeles Consulting Services versus all I can think of is like the M word. But BaKinsey [laughter] is doing X, and so maybe, you know, if Los Angeles Consulting Services is doing Y, but BaKinsey is doing X and their staff are more satisfied, they’re going to have higher retention rates. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And be more productive. And so maybe it’s something that Los Angeles Consulting Services can learn from BaKinsey.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, you know, it’s hard because I feel like sometimes these companies, you know, the question asker notes in the very beginning like this is a pretty ageist organization in that it recruits young people and like burns them out by working [both speaking] them this hard. And so part of it, part of it is really in the fabric of the organization that we want to burn you out. And if you can survive, then that’s like a marker of excellence. And oh, it just so happens that like all the people that survive are like a certain type of white dude. Oh, interesting. Nothing we can do about that, right? Without realizing—

 

Rebecca Cokley: Oh you know, we’re not anti diversity. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: [laughs] No. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: It’s just, you know, who rises to the top. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Exactly right. There are places out there now and I’ve seen this specifically in law where they’re saying, what if we don’t do billable hours? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Yeah. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: How would that change the type of work that we do? How would that change the character of the law of the entire profession? And that is such a huge paradigm shift. But unless you make it thinkable, you can’t make it actually happen. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Yeah. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: That’s a hard piece of advice that like, oh, let’s start thinking about how to change the entire structure of your industry. But it’s also possible. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: It is possible. And you know, the other thing that I always remind people, too, is that there are more disabled people in your workplace than you know about. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I always joke that once I’m in a job, six months, I start having, you know, people, coworkers, managers, people not even in my division will seek me out and say, like, we’ll have like the 2 a.m. slumber party conversation [laughter] that you have with your girlfriends, like laying on the floor at night in sleeping bags. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Where it’s like, so I just got diagnosed with ADHD or hey, I decided to get back on my ADHD meds or hey, I have Crohn’s and they just moved my desk and I’m super far away from the bathroom now and it’s not helpful. Do you have any idea or or is always, hey, I have a kid who’s on the spectrum and they have their IEP meeting. Can you take a look at their IEP and tell me what you think is crap? And so I always remind people, you know, whenever I go into doing like major presentations, I always take a moment to actually verbally welcome the people with disabilities in the space, especially those who it’s not safe professionally or personally for them to self-disclose because they still matter as part of the community. And it’s an act of radicalization for them to be in the space often. And the number of people I’ve had come up to me afterwards and be like, yeah, I can’t I can’t be out in my job. I always tell people, I’m like, keep your ears to the ground. If this is something you’re pushing back on, people will start to find you. People with similar experiences at frankly, at all different levels of the company. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And that’s always to me, one of the most fascinating things because it’s like, oh, I thought you were one of our people. I’m, you know, box checked. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: I love that point. And then I love too putting that together with what you said earlier about building solidarity with other people who don’t want work to be this way, right? Who want it to be—

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: —a place where you can like be your full life self and also be great at your job. Like, those two things do not have to be at loggerheads. And finding that solidarity, I think, is the first baby step forward in trying to start these conversations at this workplace. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. Yeah. I think, you know, working with other folks that are caregivers, whether they be parents or people who are taking care of their parents, I think there’s a lot of solidarity there as well. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Absolutely. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And just being creative about what kind of holy or unholy alliance can you [laughter] form and trying to transform the workplace. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So our next question vocalizes something that we’ve heard from a lot of listeners. This is from Laura. 

 

Laura: My professional services employer and direct manager are pretty supportive of balancing work with the daily annoyances and impediments of having a human body. But I’m dealing with chronic health issues I’m not comfortable disclosing. We were work from home since before, so the executive team is very vocal and enthusiastic about cultivating a remote, first and diverse workforce. What I’m not sure how to navigate is the team and companies increasing focus on work, travel and in-person socializing. It’s not safe for me to do either in a pandemic, a lot of people are pretending is over, but a big part of the reason why is that I know team members are unvaccinated, don’t mask and or generally take risks. I wouldn’t even if I didn’t have the chronic health issues. I don’t want to come across judgy or tell anyone how messed up my body and immune system are. But I’m also worried that declining repeatedly with or without explanation, will damage working relationships and any advancement prospects. I’m hoping for any advice you have on what to do since it’s clear pandemic accommodations are mostly gone now permanently. Thanks. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So first, I want to just say that like requiring work, travel and in-person socializing is ableist. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: It’s ableist, it’s and it’s also I mean, the in-person socializing. Let’s be clear, we’re probably talking about happy hours. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. Yes.

 

Rebecca Cokley: That also systemically discriminates against people who are in recovery. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Which actually also count as part of the disability community under the ADA. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And there may be a multitude of reasons that somebody may choose to not participate in, like after work, socializing. You could have meds that are impacted by alcohol, you could have childcare issues where you’re like, I really need to get home because you know, we have soccer today or whatever it is. I really do think that part of it is sort of having an I am Spartacus moment and like walking into meetings with a mask on. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, my office masking is not mandatory, but one of the things that we have made perfectly clear, and it’s even in our employee handbook, is if you’re asked to mask. You put on masks. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And that’s just common sense. It would just be like if you’re, you know, in a meeting with somebody who’s deaf and they ask you to speak, facing them or to not talk to the interpreter, but to talk to them, I mean, to not do that, it’s also just rude. You know, if someone actually says that they need you to mask and you choose not to not to do so, I think it’s extremely rude. And that can actually, in some cases even like this, create a hostile work environment. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: What do you think of the situation that I have encountered many times where I’ll walk in somewhere and I’ll be wearing a mask and someone will say, oh, do you want me to mask? And I think sometimes it feels like especially if the person has more power over you, it feels like an awkward thing, right? Like. Yes— 

 

Rebecca Cokley: See I love knocking people down to my level. [laughter] I’m always like, yeah, that would be great if you masked. You know, I also realize, like, like again, like going to my privilege as a white woman with a visible disability, like the way that my immune system is compromised might vary. I have a solidarity responsibility for folks. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm. Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so saying, yeah, you know, I would actually prefer you to mask, you know, members of my team are more significantly immunocompromised or live with somebody who is. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: It is an act of rebellion. And I’m using rebellion in a very positive way to remind people that the pandemic isn’t over. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I also think it’s important, like we have 20 million, at least 20 million newly disabled people here in the U.S. as a result of COVID, whether it be looking at things like long COVID, whether it be the mental health impact, whether it be the autoimmune impact, all of these different things. And we have a responsibility to keep people safe. And so to me, I think about masking the same way I think about if I’m going to ride in the cab with a bunch of my coworkers, I’m going to wear a seatbelt because why wouldn’t I wear a seatbelt? Or I’m not going to get drunk if I’m going to drive my coworker somewhere. Why? Because that’s bad form. And I think it’s about normalizing that. And I do think this is also a real place for management to step in. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I mean, if you want to create a safe working environment for everyone, that should include as management if you’re hosting a public event having masking available. I also think on the on the question of the socializing bit, thinking about what are other ways to socialize. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Is it, you know, hopping on and doing a Zoom coffee with folks at another office? Are there other ways to build company culture versus the after hours, you know, session at a bar or reception or, you know, the endless amounts of galas that seem to have cropped up in this wave of this current wave of COVID, what are the other options? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: This seems like a really great place where most companies fail to have someone with a disability in any sort of management position, because if you it’s like, you know, sometimes you can tell if a company has no parents or like primary caregivers at any sort of higher level because of when and how they schedule things. Sometimes people would say, okay, we won’t have a happy hour, we’ll do a fun run as an office, you know, like that sort of thing. [laughter]

 

Rebecca Cokley: No, I like to go out there and have to put on the Star Trek uniform and start interviewing people that are running and be like, what? What are you running from? What is chasing you? [laughter] You know, what is the imminent threat on your ankles that is forcing all of you average height people to run because why? [laughter] Yeah— 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Which, what color is your Star Trek uniform? Just let’s be clear. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Oh, I’m totally not a red shirt, and I don’t actually have one. That’s actually been something I’ve wanted to do, is like, I want to take a bunch of little people to a marathon [laughter] and just start interviewing the people that are running and being like, what are you running from? Have like a tricorder and be like, what are you running from? What is coming? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: That would be such a good TikTok. I just can’t.

 

Rebecca Cokley: It’s, it’s on my list of things I want to do. Yes. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. But so my point is that sometimes people replace one ableist solution with another ableist solution. [laughs]

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So you know, I like to sometimes give like a one or two sentence kind of script to listeners. So let’s say this question asker is confronted with a can you travel for work? It would be really great if you’re there. Like, we would just love to have some some feet on the ground, you know, whatever whatever business language they’re using. How can she respond? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, I would be very clear and say, you know, at this point in time, it is not safe for me to travel. And here are some options. I always suggest coming to the table with options as well. Like I’m willing to Zoom in over three days and I have conversations with key folks and maybe it’s also how you travel too. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so maybe it’s maybe somebody might feel safer on, you know, for a long time. I know that Amtrak was still requiring masking when the airlines weren’t. So maybe it’s can I train in instead? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: What can the company do for me to make it possible for me to do this? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I actually saw a note from somebody on some Reddit thread somewhere where they were talking about how their company now wants to save money by having people stay in rooms together, like staff stay in rooms together. And I’m just like, oh my God, that’s the worst thing ever I could imagine. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: For so many reasons. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: For so many reasons. And they’re like, you know, I’m immunocompromised and blah, blah, blah. And it’s like ADA right there. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, I think thinking about how do you ensure that there are multiple, like a multitude of ways that folks can engage? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I’ve honestly even found doing site visits and being on the ground that being on Zoom or whatever software platform and doing it remotely actually enables me to find out more stuff that people wouldn’t say if I was there in person. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Interesting. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Because often you’re meeting with smaller groups of people. They’re more one on one conversations. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Versus like them doing the whole dog and pony show in front of you. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Uh huh. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so you might find out that like they’re, you know, maybe there’s a situation that you don’t know about that somebody wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about in front of their boss. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: One of the things that I’ve actually suggested to people with disabilities who are consultants that are traveling around right now is to really develop oftentimes they’ll get a speaker’s contract from somebody else or a consultant contract from someone else to sign. And I’m like, what are the things that you need to have laid out in your contract? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Like, is it you know, you need to fly first class to have a seat that accommodates you better? Is it you need to have a hotel room close to the elevator. You need to have a hotel room that comes with a refrigerator to refrigerate breast milk or medication. I’m very much reminded of and remember the whole conversation around when somebody leaked Roxane Gay’s list of writers for her to do public speaking. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And how the disability community was so outraged because it was like, oh my gosh, that’s that’s so invasive. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: It’s something that I talk to folks about all the time. I’m like, if you’re doing consulting or if you’re doing travel, like what are the things that you need, that you need to be able to travel successfully, make your own riders. Like I tell people all the time, like make your own riders, you know? Is it always having someone come in and meet you? That’s a rider. That’s totally fine. If it’s knowing where the accessible restroom is on whatever floor you’re speaking on and having somebody walk you there, that’s totally fine. Like famous people do it. Everybody should be able to do it because it allows you to do your job better. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, and most of time, not all of the time, but most of the time these companies have a lot of money. They can and they have someone whose job it is to arrange your travel. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: They can call the hotel and make sure there’s a fridge in your room. Like that’s not that hard. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Yeah. I mean, I recently spoke out at an Ivy League university for a graduation ceremony, and a colleague of mine was accepting who I’ve known for years in the disability field, was accepting an award from the same university. And when I got to the venue and I looked up and I was like, oh, there’s a lectern. And it was but it was clear it was like Lucite. And they had a step stool there for me. But my colleague uses a wheelchair and I was like, how is he going to give remarks when the lectern is higher than his head? And so when I got up to give remarks, I you know, he had given his remark. He had, you know, wheeled his wheelchair over to the side. And I this is also I hate lecterns and podiums because I never feel less professional behind them [laughter] because I’m like sitting there having to scramble and figure out how to hold my paper and the microphone and whatever at the same—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, and we look less professional as disabled people, like when we have to stand next to those things versus actually using them. And so I was watching him struggle with this and I was like, oh my God, this is really effing annoying. And so when I got up to speak, I was like, you know what? If he can’t use the lectern, I’m not using a lectern. And so I like just sat on the stage and gave my remarks like cross-legged on the stage. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And a couple people were like, well, we can’t see you. And I was like, well, we couldn’t see him either. This is a problem. And I think that folks just get hung up in the idea that there’s like one way to do something, especially like the older the company. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Or the older the field, they become almost fossilized. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And it’s like, no, that, that it doesn’t have to be that way and it shouldn’t be that way. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Next up, we have a question from a boss who wants to support her employee but is having a hard time doing so. We got a lot of questions in this vein, and this comes from Anna, and our producer Melody is going to read it. 

 

Anna: I have a direct report who I love, but she is highly anxious and constantly calling out sick. She always has a detailed explanation of her ailments, which I never ask for. She misses so much work and I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t call into question her being sick. I also don’t feel comfortable asking her if some of this is anxiety related. I also can’t keep having one member of my team out more than anyone else on the team, but also an exponential amount. It’s not fair to me or her colleagues. I care about this person a lot. I don’t think they’re lying about being sick, but I also don’t think this is sustainable. Having them call out for weeks at a time, every few months and days at a time, even more frequently. What do I do? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: The first thing I would do is while you can’t ask somebody about their disability, even though it’s clear that this employee that is giving extra details, they might be giving you. You know, I have a cousin that always says, you got to love those people they give you a quarter when the bank is already full. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Uh huh. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Like they just keep going. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: As an employer, you can ask though, are there things that we can provide as a reasonable accommodation to help you perform the essential functions of your job? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You can ask about accommodations and chances are maybe she hasn’t thought of anything. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You know, is it alternative work scheduling? Is it? I mean, I have a I have a dear friend who’s nocturnal, and she has started working nocturnally because she has an easier time getting homecare attendants during the day than at night. And so she’s like, so I just work at night. And then during the day I sleep. Is it, you know, changing her work hours around what are possibilities is it, you know, is she having is she a caregiver for for somebody else and is like caregiving, not showing up? So if that’s the case. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Is there like employee resources? Like, does the company have like a Care.com account or things like that that can like, what are the what are the employee benefits that could be tapped here, if that’s a possibility? I always recommend having the conversation first and then saying, let’s talk to H.R. and see what we can do to figure out how to optimize what works best for you. I mean, if she’s a good employee and you value her work, chances are she’s she’s even more terrified than you are. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: She is waiting to be terminated. And I think that’s something oftentimes people don’t acknowledge. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And so as an employer, I really have always stressed, even, you know, when I was a manager, like, what can we do to make this work for you? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. I’m reminded of this question that we got for a previous episode where it was the boss who is actually calling in a lot with the detailed ways that she was sick and that sort of thing. And our co-host on that episode, Gloria Chan Packer, she recommended thinking about what do you want from this conversation? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Yeah. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Like, do you want do you want to have an action plan? Do you want to just like, make sure that this person knows that, you know, like just being like, I want to be here as a resource for you? Or the one that she came up with, which I thought was useful is like, can we come up with a flowchart so that when you are out, we can figure out where the work should go? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. There are so many great tools, whether it be like Monday.com or Trello or things like that that companies can use. So the workflow doesn’t drop just because a person isn’t there. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I mean, if you value the employee starting off by letting them know that you value them and what they contribute. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And that you really want to make it work versus this is the first step into the inevitable push out, which I know so many people, particularly with chronic illnesses have dealt with, or mental health disabilities. Chances are a lot of her anxiety is also tied up in this whole situation. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: If you really value an employee and you communicate to H.R. people and culture or whatever, whatever pseudo name we have for that group now, in your particular place of work that I really value this employee, I want to figure out how to make it work. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: As a manager, there’s. There’s few things you can do that’s more valuable than that because it actually gives them the understanding that they need to figure out, like they need to be part of the team in figuring out solutions. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Our last question is about dealing with the emotions that can come from managing a disability and your work responsibilities. This is from Sarah. 

 

Sarah: I have a chronic illness called cyclical vomiting syndrome, and it basically strikes at random times and makes me over sometimes 24 hours at a time. It sent me to the E.R. multiple times and I finally have it somewhat under control, but not 100%. I recently took on a big leadership role at my company. I feel really embarrassed and frustrated every time I have an episode. In my head I have this narrative that goes like every time I’m out because of an episode, I look weak. I look like I don’t have my shit together. My team doesn’t trust my ability to do this role because I am unreliable, etc. I know it’s a lot of negative self-talk, but I’m wondering how do you approach talking to your team and your manager about chronic illness to make it feel less emotionally burdensome and fraught. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: All right. The first thing I would say is chances are that there are members of your team that have disabilities that have not disclosed to you. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And that there is power in your disclosure. Now it’s up to you how much you say and what you want to say. And that really is your personal choice. But I have often found as a as a manager, especially in high stakes professions, saying, look, I’m going to you know, I have a migraine. I’m done like I can’t do the rest of the day. And being honest about it and being like, I’m not going to, like, pull my bootstraps on. I’m not going to hop on phone calls in sunglasses and dark lighting, like that’s just stupid [laughs] and it doesn’t make me a better employee. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: No. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Thinking about what are you know. And you brought this up with one of the previous letters, like thinking about, like, as you said, I think about the conversation that you want to have with the person. Like, think about, like, what are the tools that you can put in place, you know, whether it be, like I said, like a Trello or Monday.com, whether it be a Google doc for your agenda, for your like team check ins that folks can add to and that you can respond to. You know, not everything has to be a meeting. I know we say that a lot, but sometimes nothing’s worse than a meeting that could be an email. And so if there are places that folks can post up questions for you, that’s a spot. There’s also an opportunity to think about other things that you can delegate. Are there decisions that you can delegate among your team? Is this an opportunity to level someone up on your team with additional decision making responsibility that is like, okay, if I’m not here and this is something that rises to level B, you can check in with Bob or Marcia, and they have my my sign off to move it forward. And so thinking about what are the opportunities for that, you know, and that’s actually the opposite of you looking weak. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: You look like a go getter, you look like a delegator. You look like somebody who gives their teams development opportunities. The other thing I will tell you is so I did some consulting several years ago in 2020 with about 12 different presidential campaigns and specifically working with actual tangible candidates that were running. And one of the biggest things we had to work with them on was actually being comfortable saying the word disability. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Wow. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And because they would say special needs or differently abled or the weak and the vulnerable like it was, it was obnoxious. And so we basically made these candidates like Wonder Woman stance it out, like stand in front of a mirror with their hands on their hips and actively practicing disability in alignment with like other communities. So it was like, you know, communities of color, the LGBT community, disabled people, veterans, recent college graduates and the like, putting it in different places. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And it goes back to there’s this phenomenal poem by a disabled poet. It’s called You Get Proud by Practicing by Laura Hershey. And it really is true. Like it becomes more comfortable the more you do it, the more you talk about it. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Then it you know, in the words of Tyrion Lannister, then it can’t be used against you. Like, you know, you use it and you wield it. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: The reality is, is it’s going to make you a more sensitive boss. You’re going to be a more supportive boss to the reality that your staff have to deal with and none of us have our shit together. [laughs] Like we’re coming out of a global pandemic, a mass disabling event. We haven’t done any mourning. We’ve jumped back in to what was, quote unquote, perceived of as normal. You know, one of the biggest things I always tell people with disabilities is like, give yourself some grace. Non-disabled people do it all the time. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Allow yourself to breathe. I would also recommend finding yourself a good peer mentor or job coach with a disability because also, like there are more of us in management than we know, but less of us that self-identify. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And having somebody like having a network of I have a network of disabled women, professional friends that I can talk to about the stuff that I can’t talk to my team about. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Or that I don’t want to talk to my spouse about that I can go to with. I think I’m being underestimated because I’m a little person. Or let me just tell you what this board member said to me at this retreat last week. And oh, my gosh, I’m going to throttle him [laughter] you know. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And like, having having that level of peer support is really important. And so thinking about like how you build your wise counsel can be a real tool for you and a real asset in this space. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: I would just tell this person that they wouldn’t have put you in leadership if you didn’t deserve it. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Well, let’s also be true. Sometimes as a woman, they put you in leadership to clean up crap situation— 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: That’s true. That’s true. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: And then like, they blame you when it gets crappier—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, yeah.

 

Rebecca Cokley: —even though you’ve been dealt a hell of a hand. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: You’re the housekeeper. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: But most times. Most times. You would not be in that role. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: If you weren’t qualified. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: And the other thing, too, is you were gesturing to this earlier. But, you know, we sometimes think of leadership as, like, putting forth this attitude of, like, I don’t know, fierce, like, stamina or something. Right. Like invulnerability. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Yeah. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: And actually being a great leader is showing some of that vulnerability and delegating. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Absolutely. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: And and showing that you don’t always have to be in control. And I think modeling that different style of leadership could be a great way to think about this. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Oh, absolutely. Sometimes you gotta, like, I don’t know, say fake it till you make it. Sometimes you got to, like, put on your best, like BS John Wayne bluster and be like, this is how we get it done. And it sucks that that’s the bar and I think you know and but at the same time I do think it’s as you pointed out, like vulnerability is its own strength. It lets your team see behind the curtain. It helps them understand you and not see you as like a cyborg, you know, automaton, part of the man and the machine. And thinking about then also, what are the you know, what are the mechanisms that you and your team need to continue getting it done in a way that meets you all where you are? 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: This has been such a great episode. I am so grateful that you took the time to come on today. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Oh thank you so much for having me. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Where can people find you on the internet if they want to hear more from you? 

 

Rebecca Cokley: I’m on LinkedIn, and until they finally shut it down, turn the lights off. I’m still on Twitter @RebeccaCokley. 

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Thank you so much. 

 

Rebecca Cokley: Thank you. [music plays]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Thanks for listening to Work Appropriate. If you need advice about a sticky situation at work, we are here for you. And if you’re an intern or a fellow or whatever they call it these days, or if you’re about to be an intern or you want to be one, we especially want to hear from you. For a special episode. Submit your questions at WorkAppropriate.com or send a voice memo with your question to Work Appropriate at Crooked.com. Follow us @CrookedMedia on Instagram and Twitter for more original content hosts takeovers and other community events. You can also follow me on Instagram @AnneHelenPetersen and you can sign up for my newsletter Culture Study AnneHelen.substack.com. And if you like the show, leave us a review on your podcast app of choice it really helps. Work Appropriate is a Crooked Media production. I’m Anne Helen Petersen, your host. Our executive producer is Kendra James. Melody Rowell is our producer and editor. Alison Falzetta is our development producer. Music is composed by Chanell Crichlow. Additional production support from Ari Schwartz and a special thanks to Katie Long and Sarah Geismer. [music plays] 

 

 

[AD BREAK]