Christmas does not belong in the workplace because it undermines diversity at work. And businesses that promote diversity have more profits in the long run than companies that do not have a diverse workforce.

A big problem with Christmas is that those of us who have no reason to celebrate it have to spend a month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s dealing with Christmas at work. Christmas is the only religious holiday that everyone has to stop working for. It’s the only religious event that offices have parties to celebrate. These practices alienate non-Christians.

Businesses that curtail practices that alienate minorities will see growth to their bottom line as a direct result of this action. And besides, promoting acceptance of diverse backgrounds at work enriches our lives, independent of the bottom line.

But encouraging diversity doesn’t mean diverse ways to celebrate Christmas. Diversity is giving people space to ignore Christmas. Forcing people to take the day off requires everyone to run their work life around this holiday in a way they might not have chosen for themselves. Yet still, Christmas continues to permeate workplaces across the United States.

Do you want to make a difference? Start with yourself. When it comes to discussing Christmas in the workplace, here are five offensive things people say to someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Don’t say them.

1. “Christmas is not a religious holiday.”
The only people who think Christmas is not religious are the Christians. Everyone else thinks, “This is not my holiday.” In fact, only a Christian would feel enough authority over the holiday to declare that it is not Christian.

To think that Christmas is for everyone is tantamount to Americans who think that everyone says bathing suit for the thing you wear to go swimming. In fact, the British say “swimming costume” but you’d never know that if you only hang around Americans. The smaller your frame of reference the more convinced you are that the way you do things is the way everyone does things.

2. “Stop complaining! You get an extra day off from work.”
I don’t want a day off on Christmas. It’s a great day to work. No one calls. No one interrupts me. And in many workplaces there’s great camaraderie in the office on Christmas because only a few people are there, and they all have something in common: They don’t celebrate Christmas.

I want a day off for Yom Kippur, which I usually have to take a personal day for. Why do I have to take a personal day for Yom Kippur but no one has to take a personal day for Christmas? This is not equal treatment for religious groups.

3. “Christmas is about good cheer. Focus on that and lose your bad attitude.”
I know I have a bad attitude. But consider that the fact that good cheer is mandated in December is also a Christian trope. For example, Thanksgiving is the holiday that makes a lot of sense to surround with good cheer. It’s about gratitude. Makes sense that we’d focus on Thanksgiving.

And the idea that we add Hanukkah to the mix is ridiculous. Hanukkah is about a war victory. The good cheer mandates are not coming from the Jews except in a sort of peer pressure way to cope with the Christian insistence that we all be happy because the Christians are happy.

4. “You can also take a day off for Hanukkah.”
First of all, Hanukkah is eight days. Second of all, the holiday isn’t a big deal to us, except that it’s a way for Jewish kids to not feel outgunned in the gift category. Jacob Sullum wrote in Reason magazine last year, “It is inappropriate…to make such a fuss over Chanukah, a minor Jewish holiday whose importance has been inflated in the popular imagination by its accidental proximity to Christmas.”

So look, we don’t want a day off for Hanukkah. Or any other Jewish holiday. We want floating holidays that everyone uses, for whatever they want. It doesn’t have to be religious, or it can be. But we don’t need our work telling us when to take time off. It’s insulting and totally impractical.

5. “We get Christmas off at work because this is a Christian country.”
People actually say this to me. Every year. I’m not kidding. People tell me that I should move to Israel if I don’t want to celebrate Christmas. Really.

I tell you this so that you understand what it’s like to be a minority. The majority of the country is not New York and Los Angeles, and the majority of the country thinks Christmas is actually sanctioned by the government. For example, my son’s public school in Madison, Wisconsin has the kids make a December calendar that includes the birthdays of four saints. Surely this is illegal mixing of church and state, but I don’t hear any complaining from parents.

People want tolerance and diversity but they are not sure how to encourage it. There is a history of tolerance starting first in business, where the change makes economic sense: Think policies against discrimination toward women, and health insurance that includes gay partners. Tolerance and awareness in the workplace reliably trickle down to other areas of society.

So do what you can at work, where you can argue that tolerance and diversity improve the bottom line, and you will affect change in society, where tolerance and diversity give deeper meaning to our lives.

One of the biggest opportunities today is working in overseas markets.

These jobs are rising fast as the trend toward globalization continues, and the Harvard Business Review estimates such positions will skyrocket as baby boomers retire; few of the younger generation are willing to take on the long hours these jobs typically entail.

This means lots of opportunity for people who want to work hard and in exchange benefit from a very steep learning curve that can pave the way for lots of career flexibility in the future.

For some these jobs will be too time-consuming and culturally challenging. David Everhart, regional practice leader for Asia at the recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International, warns that in order to succeed in overseas markets you should probably be a patient person with a high tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.

But Jamie Sugar-Butter and Morgan Sugar-Butter make the prospect seem like a big party.

The sisters – ages 23 and 25 — work at importing company Acme Merchandising and Apparel. They both do business overseas for the majority of their work. And while they live in Boston, they travel in Asia one third of the year. Here are their tips for working in Asia:

1. Expect weird names.
Funny coming from the Sugar-Butters, right? But in fact, their name, which is actually each of their parents’ last names combined and hyphenated, draws little attention in Asia. First of all, few people they deal with know what the name means. But on top of that most people the Sugar-Butters deal with have selected English words to use as names when dealing with Americans, to make it easier for them. So the Sugar-Butters run into people with names such as Cinnamon, and Apple.

The names are surprising, surely, but it’s a constant reminder how hard people are working to make sure the Americans are comfortable with them.

2. Put respect above everything else.
In China the Sugar-Butters are careful to tell everyone they don’t eat meat. Only seafood and vegetables. “The meals are really long and there are so many courses and it’s so disrespectful to say no,” Morgan says.

So the time they were served platters of what seemed like the fish’s reproductive area …they ate them. Well, Jamie did. Morgan realized Jamie didn’t know what she was eating, so Morgan slid her share onto Jamie’s plate.

3. Get a good translator.
People will not respect you if you don’t have a good translator. Usually the Sugar-Butters use Skype’s messenger system because the people they communicate have software that translates messages in real time. “But you can’t use slang in Skype,” says Morgan. “One word can throw the whole conversation off.”

But when they travel, they handpick their translators carefully.

“We have one who speaks Mandarin and one who speaks Cantonese. You have to have someone you would trust to handle negotiations,” Jamie says.

She said they also always use male translators. “When we walk in the room to do business, everyone expects to see a man come in with us. If we’re alone, they wait for the man to come in the room.”

4. Distinguish between differences in culture and differences in values.
The Sugar-Butters spend a lot of time trying to figure out who will be a good business partner. They have a lot of understanding of cultural differences. For example, they will travel for days to visit a factory in inland China just to show respect to the factory owner.

However they have a good nose for bad values, as well. For example, at a trade show a vendor would not talk to their translator because they thought he was of too low a class. Once the vendor realized that the Sugar-Butters and the translator were with a major company, the vendor was accommodating. But by then it was too late. The Sugar-Butters would not do business with him.

5. Stay healthy.
The hours for working in overseas markets are out of sync with most workers in the US. Morgan, for example, works 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Skype. One of the best ways to cope with erratic hours is to have a set exercise regimen. They spend a lot of time doing pilates at Boston Body when they’re home, and it’s one of the things they miss most when they travel.

Their exercise regimens are also a source of perhaps the greatest culture shock the Sugar-Butters face.

“In Asia they’re not into exercise,” says Morgan. “It’s impossible to find a gym, and if you run outside, people are like, `are you okay? What are you running from?'”

Ryan and Ryan P found this great test by JT O’Donnell to find out personality type. Of course, we have each taken tons of personality tests, but what I really liked about JT’s test is that it was only twenty questions, and it revealed each of the three of us perfectly.

The test immediately explained why Ryan P is writing posts about how crazy it is to work with me, and I’m writing posts like the one about a rash on his upper thigh. Because really the test lays bare each of our very different ways of operating: Ryan P is an empathizer, I am an energizer and Ryan is a commander. Basically, Ryan P and I are sick of Ryan being a dictator, and now I know why. And Ryan is sick of Ryan P doing nothing, and now I see why – because a commander would never even notice the work of an empathizer.

Also, I have meetings with each of them every day trying to help everyone to get along, and now I know why: I am someone who is always optimistic and I want everyone else to be happy too. Great for blogging, difficult for corralling two ornery twentysomethings who keep calling their parents to get a second opinion on what I say.

When I was in grad school, let me just say right now that I never read a complete book for any class, but that didn’t stop me from having some favorites. And one of them was Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosexual Desire. I read this book for a course about.. um. I can’t actually remember. But each week in this course we watched a Hitchcock movie and then talked about deconstructionism and homosexuality.

So, anyway, this book I loved was about how in the history of English literature, men related to each other through women. Even if the men were not gay, they were often mediated by a woman. I remember thinking to myself that this is such a lame way to function and that only lame women would put up with this position in life. But look, here I am. And actually, it does not feel lame so much as useful.

I can see that I have had this position at work a lot. Men who are getting along at work can talk about football and go to strip clubs together. But men who are not getting along at work do well to put a woman in between them. Women seem to be natural mediators.

Right now is the time when people will start gearing up to write a comment to me about how gender is complicated, and the lines are not so clearly drawn anymore, and I am peddling stereotypes. This might all be true, but I get the temerity to talk about gender lines from danah boyd, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, and my hero when it comes to philosophizing about identity. She found that in the blogosphere, in general, men link to men and women link to women. This is because gender stereotypes are generally right, and men and women are very different.

Okay. So back to my idea that I am the mediator. I don’t mind, because I’m good at it. And I don’t mind that Ryan P doesn’t churn out work really quickly, because he does a lot of things that Ryan and I are not great at, like having the patience to meet with people day after day for long and languishing lunches.

Each of us has strengths. But let’s talk a minute about weaknesses. We each have weaknesses, too. So why don’t we stop trying to work with them? Why not admit the stuff we are not great at and move on? I think a lot of people take a test like JT’s and then ignore the fact that the test reveals what we should NOT be doing as much as what we should be doing.

For example, I should not be making labored decisions where I gather tons of information. I’m not like that. I make fast, gut-level decisions. This is why I was terrible as an account manager in an ad agency: I had to justify every decision to my client and I kept thinking, “Whatever. It’s just my instinct. Please just shut up and trust me.”

You need to recognize what you are not great at, and stop doing it. It will help the people around you to get more work done, and it will help you to perform more like a star.

And for now, I have stopped asking Ryan to have empathy for anyone. And I have stopped asking Ryan P to analyze business models. The act of letting someone work in the area they are strong is such a gift, and of course I want to give that – I’m an energizer.

This is a guest post from Nina Smith whose blog is Queercents.

I was out at work long before I had the courage to come out to my parents. As a twentysomething marketing coordinator, I would often shoot the breeze in my boss’ office, and during one such gab-fest she asked if I was gay.

I remember standing up, walking to her office door and shutting it before answering the question.

“Well, since you asked… Yep, I’m gay.”

I can’t recall what prompted the question and I’m sure her inquiry broke more than one human resources rule, but we were friends and she was genuinely curious — in a Jewish-mother sort of way– about why I didn’t date or have a boyfriend.

I’ve been out at work ever since.

There’s a lot to be said about showing our true colors. Corporate America rewards authenticity. Selisse Berry, Executive Director of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates said, “We know that when employees bring their whole lives to work, they are happier, more productive, and have decreased rate of turnover.”

This makes sense because it’s hard to come across as a “normal” when people don’t know a thing about your personal life. Or worse yet, you get pegged as the person defined by work and nothing else.

David Stocum, a Life Coach who specializes in working with members of the gay community writes, “Among the benefits of coming out is a potentially more pleasant environment with less stress and more mental energy to devote to your work. You also are less likely to have resentment and workplace conflict. All these factors combine to yield overall improved job performance, which you could expect would lead to more steady career growth, better advancement opportunities and a more successful career, not to mention the improvements in mental and physical health.”

I work in technology and I take a new job every couple of years. I’ve been out at every company. The process gets easier with practice. Now I typically out myself when someone asks if I have children. For whatever reason, after thirty, people stopped asking if I was married. Recently my response has been, “No, but my partner and I are trying to get pregnant.” The reaction is everything from silence to the gentle and sincere follow-up questions.

Proposed federal legislation aims to end discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but we know that laws with the best intentions are limited in by realities of the workplace. Discrimination from employers and repercussions from homophobic co-workers are complex and slippery to squash with laws; social acceptance among colleagues will remain a personal journey for those of us in the LGBT community.

Still, for many people, no salary is big enough to compensate for being closeted at work. There are plenty of gay-friendly companies. And the idea that you have to stay closeted because of the town you live in is also suspect. Where you live should meet your highest priorities; surely being true to yourself is one of those, and there are many options for moving to an inexpensive city that is gay-friendly.

Keep in mind, though, that coming out at work is not an all-or-nothing decision. columnist Russell Kaltschmidt says: “Some people choose to come out initially only to selected colleagues or just to their manager. Others seek to be out to everybody. You could just start responding more honestly to questions from colleagues about your personal life, or you could take a more proactive approach by informing all of your immediate coworkers.”

Coming out is not a one-time event, but a conscious choice we make every day. Richard Rothstein at QueerSighted writes about this recurring moment of truth: “No matter how confident you may be in your queerness, you nonetheless look for signs of trouble or discomfort. There’s a momentary pause as your co-workers digest the news; or you can see on their faces that they already knew, or you can see them struggling to pretend that they did already know and that it doesn’t matter. Occasionally someone “?comforts’ you with the “?news’ that you’re still the “?same person.’ Yuck.”

And what happens when they see the real you? Kirk Snyder, author of The G Quotient writes, “The more people who get to know us as good neighbors, talented co-workers and company leaders, the less homophobia there will be in the world. Bigotry of any kind is rooted in fear of the unknown, so by coming out and being ourselves, we are changing the world.”

Last week I was on a radio show that I’ve been on a bunch of times. It is a major radio station in a major city. The host likes me because I say inflammatory things like, “If your boss is terrible, stop complaining and start looking for another job.” Then listeners call in and tell me I’m an idiot, and in general, they sound like the audio version of Yahoo comments (scroll down).

So we were going through that routine. The topic was presidential candidates and I said I love Michelle Obama because she is not constrained by societal expectations. Then I talked about how she dated Barack when she was supervising him. I also talked about how she recently quit her huge job as an attorney in order to take care of her family during the campaign, even when the baby boomer media is still complaining about women who do this; Michelle didn’t care.

The host of the show said she thought you should not date people you supervise: It’s not fair, they don’t have the ability to say no, etc.

By then, the phone lines were lighting up. “Lighting up” is radio lingo for the process whereby the producer of the show answers the phones, finds out what the person wants to say on air, and then cues up three or four interesting callers. This way, when the host gets a call, she knows it’s going to be decent because the producer has already screened it. The producer’s job is to get a wide range of callers, talking about a range of topics in a way that will engage other listeners.

The first call was from a guy who said, (I am summarizing) “I agree that you shouldn’t date someone you supervise, but I think it’s a different circumstance with Michelle Obama because there are so few good black men to date.”

Silence. Not for long, but any silence on the radio seems long. What went through my mind was that I am not black and cannot comment on what it’s like to be black and dating and I should keep quiet.

The host said, “Well, Barack is a very good catch. Good for her!”

But I am always on the alert for bad talk for women masquerading as feminism, so I said, “Well, Michelle is a great catch, too.”

In hindsight, I should have said something like, “That comment is racist. There are men of every race who are good catches and men of every race who are not good dating material.”

When Don Imus was fired, I remember a flurry of past guests on his show who admitted to saying nothing on-air when he said something racist. I remember telling myself that I would never do that.

But I have to tell you that it’s hard to believe it’s happening when it’s happening. On a national radio show, there are a lot of checks in place to make sure racism doesn’t happen on air: The producer screens calls, and the host can say something if it’s bad (I said clitoridecdtomy on-air one week and she immediately apologized to listeners and told everyone I’d never say that word again.) And, if all that fails, presumably advertisers will ditch the show, and it will fail, because no one wants to be associated with racism.

So what happened is that in the split second that racism was happening on the radio, I didn’t trust myself that it was happening, and I didn’t say anything. And I see now that the way racist ideas go main stream is that the producer gives them air time, and the outspoken host and guest talk about women’s issues instead of the real issue that is race.

This will not happen again with me. I will speak up when something is racist.

Being ready for racism reminds me of teaching kids to say no to drugs. If you tell kids “Just say no,” it doesn’t work, because they don’t trust their own decision- making skills. What the drug educators have found is that if you talk about trusting your instinct about what is a positive decision and what isn’t, then in a bad situation, you’ll trust yourself to say the right thing.

Carmen Van Kerckhove conducts diversity training for businesses, and she wrote a great post about the best response to a racist joke. You’ll be surprised by the advice. I was. It’s a great post because it teaches us how to understand, at a core, why the joke is wrong. Instead of “just saying no” to a racist joke Van Kerckhove deconstructs the situation to give us our best response.

I have a solid understanding of women’s issues, so I was ready with a response for the idea that Michelle Obama was lucky to find a date. I was not ready with a response to there are no good black men, because I didn’t trust my knowledge of racism.

But this is what I know: The core to stopping racism is to understand it, and then trust the understanding. That’s how we can be ready to call out racism as something wrong when we need to.

Just after I redesigned my blog last March, Cory Miller sent an email to me giving me some suggestions on how to tweak the layout to get more traffic.

My first instinct was to delete the mail because I had just spent $3000 on a blog design and I didn't want to hear it was already out of date. But I have learned my lesson about ignoring reader advice, so I gave some of his suggestions a try.

It's because of Cory that there is suggested reading at the end of every post. The suggested posts are supposed to be related to the post at hand, but in fact, I find they are seldom related. That doesn't seem to matter, though. As soon as I implemented this feature, my traffic went up.

Cory also told me that I could put search toward the bottom of the page. I was shocked to hear that most people don't search blogs. But when I looked at the record of recent searches on Brazen Careerist, it was true: Almost every search was one I had done myself, looking for a specific post to link to.

It was around this time that my book publicity was heating up, and I was launching a home site to promote the book, and I needed to hire someone to help me. When Cory saw that I implemented his changes, he offered to do work for me for free.

That would have been great. But I know myself. I make lots of little changes and I work really late at night, and I overreact to problems like the day I accidentally turned my whole blog bold and I couldn't figure out where the missing HTML tag was. I need to pay someone to make it worth putting up with me.

So I hired Cory at his regular rate. And it was worth every penny. But hold it. You know what I did first? I read his blog a little more carefully because he is an evangelical Christian.

As a liberal Jew, I have never really come into contact with someone like him. And, now that I think about it, I have managed to live among a heavily gay population in New York City and Los Angeles, and in a bastion of atheist academics in Boston, and the most conservative place I have ever lived is in the spot in Chicago where tourists go to bars “? not outright liberal, but I certainly didn't meet any evangelists there.

After reading his blog, I decided that hiring Cory would broaden my world. And it has. For one thing, Cory is smart about search engine optimization and how it relates to design, so I am getting smarter. And he is an ace with WordPress to the point that he's made me love it. But he has also taught me about living ones values at work.

Of course I asked him about all the religion stuff. He was shocked to hear I was Jewish, and I was shocked that he didn't know. But maybe Jewish radar is like gay radar and straight men don't have any. Anyway, the final thing I have learned from Cory is about living life according to one's values. He does it in a more extreme way than I could. I cherish my moments of hypocrisy. But I really admire him for believing in something. I think that's important. I want to live life according to my values, too. I am just less certain than he is about what they are.

But I digress. This is Coachology, right? Cory is offering to create a new blog design (and implement it) for someone for free. It's gotta be in WordPress, (technically called a WordPress Theme) and he's going to give you six hours of his time. If you are high maintenance, indecisive and difficult, you are going to find that six hours is a tight limit. (But maybe you can change. Here are instructions on how to be a good client during the design process.)

Cory's expertise is creating blog designs that boost traffic, so the people who will benefit the most from this offer are not brand-new bloggers, but people who have established some sort of an audience already.

If you'd like this chance to spruce up your blog, send an email to me at with three sentences about why you'd be a good candidate for the award. The deadline for submitting an email is Sunday, and Cory will pick a winner next week.

At some point in our lives we each have felt surrounded by people who see the world incorrectly. Sometimes it’s the accountant who works for a management team that doesn’t understand numbers. Or it’s the artist who works for a marketing team that doesn’t understand font. Sometimes we feel so certain that we are right and they are wrong that we think we need to leave.

The key to getting along with other people is to keep your eye on what really matters and let the rest go. This is the attitude that conveys poise and self-confidence in work life. And this is the way you will learn to stop caring who is right and who is wrong.

I learned this lesson early because my three brothers and my mother are colorblind. My mom and brothers see color, but they don’t see it how the rest of the world sees it. If you say, “What color is this?” and point to something, sometimes they’ll get it right and sometimes they won’t. I could say, “It’s blue, not green.” But they don’t care. Sometimes they just shrug. Or say, “Well, maybe to you, but not to us.”

There’s not much I can do when they are the majority. So I became philosophical about who is right. I realized that in most cases it doesn’t matter that I’m right and they’re wrong. So we called the family car purple, even though I knew it wasn’t.

But sometimes capitulating is not an option – for example if someone is breaking the law, or if someone is making you truly unable to do your job. But usually, in the case of ignorance, there is a way to compromise.

Once I was driving with my brother and discovered that none of my colorblind family members can see the green light. They depend on seeing if the red or yellow light is on.

I had a fit.

He said that it didn’t matter. He pointed out that my mom hasn’t seen a green light in forty years of driving.

Of course, I am right, that driving like this is a hazard. But ultimately, my family will continue to drive. And ultimately, it is an issue for the department of transportation (who I hope reads this because 10% of the population is colorblind). I would gain very little by insisting that I am right. So I concentrated on saving my life and reported the color of lights for the rest of the trip.

Many of you find yourselves surrounded by people who are, in effect, colorblind; They don’t know what they’re looking at and don’t care. Instead of insisting that these people admit they are wrong, let them think what they want while you keep your eye on the parts of your job that matter long-term.

Meanwhile, to quell your urge to be rude or mean, remember that few people are stupid in every category. So keep good relations with the chronically ignorant because they could prove useful at a later point.

I find that the most annoying part of being surrounded by the colorblind is that I’m right and there’s no one to acknowledge that I’m right. And that goes back to the fact that the best people to work are poised and self-confident. In most cases one’s own insecurity rather than brilliance makes one feels alienated by stupidity.

In search of poise and perspective in my career, I have tried to focus on myself and the smart people around me, and that has made me feel smarter and happier in my work.

One of the most dangerous ideas in the workplace today is that racism is gone. Because it’s not.

Jesse Rothstein, professor of economics at Princeton University, shows the prevalance of racist thinking, even today. “Some people think racial discrimination is something that ended in 1972 or something. Some people think that segregation persists because minorities cannot afford the neighborhoods.”

But in fact, Rothstein found that there is a threshold for the percentage of people living in a city who are minorites. And once a city crosses that threshold, white people start leaving. In terms of white flight, Rothstein says, “There’s a real difference between a school with 5% minorities and a school with 6%.”

These are the people you work with. The white people who would leave a school district if it wasn’t white enough. No one wears a percentage sign on their shirt to let you know where they fall on the continuum of racist thinking, but we all fall somewhere.

I have written before about how subtle discrimination is. It’s not okay to be racist in an overt way. There is wide cultural agreement on this. Which means that the racism goes to places that are hard to pinpoint. For example, I reported that when we read resumes, we judge people who might be African American more harshly.

The advertising industry is so suspect in its hiring practices that the New York City Commission on Human Rights recently issued subpoenas in an investigation of systemic discrimination against African Americans. And an interview in CareerJournal unveils a long list of excuses the advertising industry uses to explain the lack of African Americans in high level positions.

In a new twist to an old story, Miriam Jordan reports in CareerJournal that employers are coming up with new reasons to discriminate against African Americans: “There is a perception that Latinos closer to the immigrant experience might work harder than black persons,” says Joe Hicks, who is African-American and vice president of Community Advocates, a nonpartisan group that aims to advance interracial dialogue.

So what can a white person do to improve the situation? Start with herself, of course. The more you understand your racial prejudices, the less they will show up at work. In the mean time, I polled a few people, and here are a some annoying things that white people say that African Americans wish they wouldn’t.

1. Don’t praise someone as articulate, as if you’re surprised. There has been a lot of dicusssion about Joe Biden calling Barak Obama articulate. My friend says he has experienced this problem many times in his life, but would never come out an say anything because he’d be labeled “too sensitive.” He quotes Michael Dyson, professor at the University of Pennsylvania: “Historically, articulate was meant to signal the exceptional Negro. The implication is that most black people do not have the capacity to engage in articulate speech, when white people are automatically assumed to be articulate.”

2. Don’t discuss politics. It is a mine field of offensive and inappropriate comments. The number of political issues that have underlying race issues makes politics too risky to contend with at work.

3. Don’t make racial jokes or comments against any race. Often whites think it’s okay to joke with a black coworker about Asian, Latinos, etc. This makes most people of color uncomfortable and also think “If whites joke with me about Asians/Latinos, etc. what are they doing when they’re with Asians/Latinos?”

4. Don’t say “you people” when referring to people of another ethnicity. It creates a division between you and the other person where a division is not necessary.

And finally, here’s a story someone sent me to illustrate how careless white people are at the office: “I recently changed positions within the same organization and willingly took a job in an office in a predominately black neighborhood. Whenever we have joint office meetings or we are in the main office only my white counterparts ask, “How are things going over there (code for “I wouldn’t be caught dead over there, do you feel safe, has your car been stolen?”) This question comes from people who never spoke to me before, and it was an every-meeting type question. In one meeting I responded with, “I don’t have a problem working around or with black people.” No one has asked since.

The work world offers a continuum of means to stability. Huge risk takers might choose to pay off the Russian mob and try to corner to oil market in Siberia. If you’re looking for stability, you might try climbing a corporate ladder in a large, publicly traded company.

Climbing, of course, could lead to instability. The less valuable you are to the company, the more likely you are to be laid off, given mind-numbing work, or given positions that offer little flexibility. And those situations often lead to big instability.

But there are a few things you can do to make ladder-climbing easier. So here are three ideas, and one general tip: Pay attention to employment litigation – where the courts are systematically documenting what helps and hinders ladder-climbers as a way to protect minorities from discrimination.

1. Start somewhere good.
There are companies that are known for being respectful of employees and there are companies known for being embroiled in litigation from bitter employees.

Stay away from the latter. Daniel Gilbert shows that if the last girl liked the guy you’re dating than you’ll probably like him, too. It is not a big leap to apply this research to the workplace. If other people love working at the company, then you will too.

So talk to former employees and find out if they liked the company. (Current employees often have too much invested in their job to tell you the company stinks.) LinkedIn is actually a great way to find former employees of a given company. And most people will be happy to tell you if they loved their former match.

2. Get a sponsor.
In order to move up in a large company you need someone to guide you. A sponsor is someone who is a mentor, but it’s a specific type of mentor. This person is well-connected in the company, who will not only make you known to the right people, but will help you steer yourself within the company.

You find a sponsor the same way you would find a mentor. By networking, by approaching the person directly, or by asking your human resources department if there’s a company program you can join.

It is well documented that a sponsor works to get an employee up the ladder. And because of this, when a large company gets in trouble for not promoting enough minorities into senior management, one way they can remedy the problem (reg. req.) in a way that satisfies the courts is to establish a sponsor program for minorities.

This should be enough evidence for you to set up your own little program, for yourself.

3. Get into a line management position.
Corporations are set up to favor ladder climbing from line management rather than from support roles.

What does this mean? Line managers are directly responsible for generating money for the company (think product management or sales). Support staff, on the other hand, is responsible for making things run smoothly so the line managers can generate money (think human resources, public relations, or customer service).

Support managers generally do not have the profit-and-loss experience necessary for a top management position. Of all the CEOs who worked their way up the ladder, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with someone who made their mark on the company in a support role. And discrimination lawsuits have identified placing minorities in human resources and public relations departments as inherently career-limiting moves.

One of the most important pieces of climbing a ladder is creating a situation where you have enough clout to create a furtively flexible work life. (For example, a last-minute decision to go to a basketball game does not raise any eyebrows.) This is what will make ladder climbing palatable over an extended period of time.

Take a job that allows you to adding directly to the company’s bottom line, because if you can take responsibility for profits then you will get more leeway to create the kind of work life you want. And, that, after all, is the key to making a climb up the ladder a positive experience.

The first time I had my own company, we ignored Martin Luther King Day. And it felt really bad, like I was not living my own values. Now I am careful each year to do something to mark the holiday. So today I’m posting a piece I wrote a few years ago, before I had a blog…

My husband and I didn’t argue about my son’s first name. We argued about the last name. At first, I didn’t have a strong opinion, so we gave my son my husband’s name, Rodriguez, even though I can’t roll the Rs, which drives my husband crazy.

But then I got cold feet. I worried that our son would face discrimination for his name. My husband said, “Don’t worry, I get it all the time. He’ll get used to it.”

I was surprised to hear that my husband experiences discrimination. Part of seeing someone as a minority is seeing him as other. So, because he’s my husband, I don’t think of him as a minority.

But here’s an example he gave me: He worked with a think tank that researched solutions to homelessness. Sometimes when he met with leaders of homeless shelters, the leaders mistook my husband for one of the homeless. This never happened to his counterpart, Jay Alexander .

But my husband kept telling me it doesn’t matter. He said that to me once a week for nine months until I believed him.

What did I know? I have never had a name that identifies me as a minority, so I don’t know what it’s like. My great-grandfather changed the family name so that it would not sound Jewish and his sons could get through the Ivy League quota system. (The change worked, they got in.) In the family tradition of changing one’s name for one’s politics, I changed my last name when I was in my early twenties because I didn’t want to be part of a patriarchal naming structure. (In this case, I’m not sure if the change did anything.)

My husband always says, “It’s no big deal.” But now I am sure that it is a big deal.

A study conducted at the University of Chicago and MIT shows that people who have names that are typically from minorities are much less likely to get a job. In this study, hundreds of fake resumes with very similar qualifications were sent in response to entry-level job advertisements. A resume from a name like Amy Alexander was fifty percent more likely to get an interview than a resume from a name like Latoya Washington.

This shouldn’t surprise me – of course people like to hire people who are like them. And minorities are not running the show in corporate America. In fact, I am guilty, also. Even though I know that diversity enhances workplace success, I also know that managing someone like myself is a lot easier than managing someone who’s not like me; it’s so much easier to lead people who are already thinking in the same way that I am.

So I can talk until I’m blue in the face about race and discrimination, but I have to admit that I have preconceptions about someone with the last name of Rodriguez and someone whose last name is Alexander. I don’t want to have preconceptions, but we can’t always control those things. So I thought of changing my son’s last name, but then I thought, that’s a cop out.

I want to believe that we can control how we approach resumes so that we mitigate our preconceptions by reading resumes without reading names. Each of us is more likely to interview more fairly if we do not read names. It’s a simple process that will teach each of us something about our prejudices and ourselves.

So give name-blind resumes a try. See what happens. And who knows? Maybe one day, that resume you might have skipped will be my son’s.