Thursday, January 21, 2010

Women in the Workplace

I recently started working in a non-Jewish environment, and I've become worried about the effect it may have on me and the various shailos that come up on a daily basis. Does anyone know of any shiurim that I can download or articles/books I can read (besides for 9 to 5) that discuss it. Thanks so much.


BrooklynWolf said...

At the risk of asking a silly question -- why not ask a rav any questions you may have concerning day-to-day affairs?

The Wolf

MusingMaidel said...

It's not a silly question. Honestly, though, how many single girls do you know who have a personal rav they can go to for every day questions. In addition to this, I am exploring that angle, and actually plan to call someone tonight. Also, in order to ask a shaila properly, you have to know what constitutes a shaila. If I don't have a background in the basic halacha, I won't be able able to ask pertinent shailos. Hence, the question.

Also, I just had the idea that maybe I can download a few shiurim and listen to them on my way to and from work to sort of fortify myself before I go into it.

Staying Afloat said...

Listening to shiurim on the way there and back is a good idea in general, because it sets your mindset. I think I remember Mishpacha doing an article recently, but I can't remember which issue or exactly when. They discussed formality vs. informality, often expressed in what you call people (Mr. Smith, vs. Bob), socializing, setting clear limits and not accepting gifts from men, etc. You might also want to check if yichud might come up (late hours, etc.) and get practical guidelines on using the fridge.

From a personal perspective, carry things around a lot. If you've got a coffee mug in one hand and a notebook or file in the other, nobody will expect you to shake their hand.

MusingMaidel said...

Interestingly enough, not a single person has tried to shake my hand. It might be because of the chilled environment, or maybe they already know that jewish women don't shake hands with men. About the formal/informal names, I heard about that. I was thinking about trying it, but somehow, Miss Maidel sounds so fake. Somehow Mrs. seems like much more of a professional title. Aside from that, I wasn't introduced to anyone by their last names - I still don't know them, and I've been working there a week already.

I don't think yichud in terms of late nights etc is such a problem because I'm only working 9-2 at this point.

The fridge could be a problem. There are 3 frum men working there, but I don't really see/speak to them so often. There is a microwave labeled only for kosher, but I don't think I'd rely on that.

Staying Afloat said...

The last name thing never worked for me either, and I WAS a Mrs. Doing it is a geder, so really, I find it to be a matter of boundaries. It can be hard to stay out of a lot of casual conversations, and I certainly didn't stay out of all of them, but if they bring up the weekend, often it's time to go.

Also, the koffee klatches often don't take into account the halachos of gezel zman, and in general, there's just a casualness about boundaries, between people and their stuff. That's why I recommend the shiurim in the car- it reminds you of who you are, which often is all you need.

Sounds like you've got a bunch of stuff figured out already.

harry-er than them all said...

I heard a shiur by R' Yosef Veiner a few years back about it.

Personally, when i started in a Non Jewish college, i found myself totally unprepared for the different situations I would encounter.
I imagine it will be the same in the workplace. Sometimes I wish that seminaries and yeshivos would teach a class on it, instead of filling peoples minds with ideas of a perfect world where you can live in a sheltered environment. But of course that would mean that they recognize that people will not follow their idealized version of the world (sorry, that idea has been pent up for a while)

MusingMaidel said...

We did have a workshop on it in seminary, but a- it wasn't shayach yet, so it was kind of hard to actually take it in and b- it was on shabbos, so we couldn't actually take notes. Maybe I'll make that suggestion to my seminary ...

Anonymous said...

Although it sounds like this is a tough transition for you, you have the opportunity to influence others! Not in a blatant way, but if you go about your job with grace, modesty, and just plain good manners, it makes a great impression of the Jewish people.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

A lot of times I find that just being an a non-Jewish environment is enough to remind you of who you are. Forces you to philosophise. It itself is a good form of mussar in way. But learning more mussar certainly isn't a bad idea either...

Bookworm said...

I went to college straight out of Bais Yaakov. For 2 weeks my stomach was in a pretzel. And then you adapt. At least you have frum co-workers.

Like the fella before said, I became so much more thankful for being a religious Jew when you are in such surroundings. It makes you appreciate the little things of your life. In terms of any negative affect, I think this will be a positive one, to have the opportunity to behave properly and show the world how religious people really are.

And as for shaking hands . . . halachically, it is okay. The chillul Hashem and embarrassment caused to the other individual is not worth it.

itsagift said...

We had a class on this topic in high school-about the dangers of the workplace. I think it helped a lot.

One idea the teacher had given was to call yourself by a different name than you are usually called. Like if your name is Suri, your name in the office should be Sarah or something like that. It makes you remember that you are not among your regular friends and will help you with the casual-ness issue. It's more of a reminder for you not to get super comfortable with the people you work with.

MusingMaidel said...

Bookworm - I don't know that I'd go so far as to say shaking hands is totally mutar. According to the book I was readin 9-5, r' chaim kanievsky says it's assur, and the chazon ish says it's yeihareig v'al ya'avor. So it seems to me that it might be a bit of a machlokes, but with very strong reasons to be machmir (unless there's a compelling reason not to be)

itsagift - that's actually a very good idea. I'm sort of doing it by default because I have a double name, and double names are not done in the workforce. Also, my first name is a ch name, so no one there can pronounce it anyway :)

Auror said...

I also went from BY to a non Jewish college... shaking hands I still hold to be unacceptable but in Brooklyn the people are generally 'worldly' enough to understand when I decline a handshake. Sometimes they even know not to offer and just nod their heads (something I always appreciate).

One thing about non Jewish environments that I dislike is the prevalence of swear words- no matter what, they seep into your vocabulary. I guess in a work setting people are more professional with their speech, but in college- forget about it lol (even the professors). So I'd advise to be on guard about that.

It's great that you're not being passive about it... if you're a Harry Potter fan, "Constant vigilance" should be of help to you :P

Auror said...

(Sorry, I forgot to hit the follow-up comments option...)

harry-er than them all said...

MM- i have always found, and this is a sad truth, that le'maaseh people in business do in fact shake hands. I do not want to go so far to say that people don't listen to the Rabbonim, however my heart tells me that people don't listen because many Rabbonim are/were never in the situation where there is a lot of money involved. (Ex. The infamous Randy Cohen AKA the NY Times Ethicist, who responded to a woman who was offended by a frum man not shaking her hand, that she may, and should break off her business dealings with him because of the slight she felt)

There are those that are matir it R' Breuer, for instance who bases it off the one of the meforshim on shulchan Oruch, I have to find the source for you(only shaking hands when the woman offers it though)

The sefer 9-5 I have found to be extremely chamur, not relying on any heterim, even when there are.
As has been reiterated before, speak to your Rabbi and parents when deciding for yourself. To be somech on a sefer which may have an agenda of chumrah, may not necessarily work for you.

Oh, and I'm all for the change of name, I use my secular name in college.

Staying Afloat said...

I used my secular name too. And I agree about the language- it can get to you. You may need to make a conscious effort to stop it.

Re. hand shaking- it really is prevalent, and you really need to ask an actual in-person rav. I haven't read the book you mention, but books in general tend to be more machmir because heterim are often personal and tailored to the circumstance. I was told to shake hands if I was in a situation where I couldn't get out of it without offending. It's useful if you can educate your environment, but that's not always possible. I have a friend who had to shake a police commissioner's hand in front of an entire organization dinner of people. She did what was paskinned for her once- put her hand out and then did nothing and let him do the shaking. Afterwards, she went over to her rav afterward, and on his own, he told her she did exactly right. So there's wiggle room based on circumstance.

MusingMaidel said...

Sorry this response is so jumbled - I just answered things as I thought them.

re the names - I don't have a secular name, so I guess I'm stuck just using one of them and hearing the h instead of the ch.

auror - the swear words really are horrible. The field I'm working in can get very frustrating, so the obscenities come from all over all the time. Any advice on how to have that "constant vigilance"? (and, yes, I am a harry potter fan :) )

I'm still trying to track down a rav to ask shailos to. It's a work in progress. Hopefully I'll be able to get through to him before Monday.

Harry - you're right that the sefer is very machmir, not only about the handshaking issues. I'm still happy I read it because now I at least know what to aim for.

Bookworm said...

I have a legal name, and on my first day of college my professor called out my name and I kept on doodling. I forgot that I answer by it.

The cursing . . . it's everywhere. I work in my father's office and his partner, an irreligious Jew, is the worst.

You walk down the street, sometimes even in shul, it's there. But that's why as Jews we have the ability to learn how to keep ourselves secure when when surrounded by bad influences.

Lon said...

I don't have any trouble with the vocabulary, though the folks around me in college can't get one word out without a vulgar modifier of some sort. It's simply because I disdain their language as a vocabulary deficiency, and wouldn't be caught dead using those words when there's a perfectly good English vocabulary to express what I mean.

I don't think you can be influenced to do something that completely disgusts you - and that goes for all secular "influences" and behavior.

In terms of working - I work in a very conservative field so language and friendliness and so on doesn't usually apply. Everyone is too buttoned up. Literally and figuratively. I've never met a "bad influence" in the workplace. I'm not even sure how one would manifest.

Handshakes - the way I figure it, you need a good line to refuse a handshake, and if haven't got one, then don't. I know people who have just refused to shake hands with men, and they wonder why they offend them. (Not to mention if they're black or Latino, doubly offending them.) I always look them in the eye and smile while assuring them that I'm pleased to meet them, but can't shake for religious reasons. Generally a good policy when dealing with long-term coworkers; not good for noisy settings or important deals (not that I'd know about those).

Duddes02 said...


Why don't you just introduce yourself as whatever your name is. Let them figure out how to pronounce it.

You don't have that much of a unique name ane the "ch" is not that hard. Try to remember that yours is not the only culture that can say challah. Open your mind a little a bit. Working in a "non Jewish enviornment" doens't mean that your coworkers are going to be having sex on top of their cubicle and microwaving pork in your exclusive microwave.

Related Posts with Thumbnails