Peggy Klaus flits around the crowded room of 40 women like a fairy. She wields a silver-plated backscratcher and strokes the unsuspecting — on a wrist, a neck — cooing, “Doesn’t that feel good?”

This is how Peggy warms up the party to get everyone to start bragging. My friend Liz is horrified. Liz can’t believe I dragged her to a party where everyone is supposed to brag. She can’t believe the chief bragger is also a scratcher.

Peggy is a communications coach who is going to teach this group how to talk about career achievements in a way that captivates other people. One of Peggy’s favorite phrases is, “Brag is not a four-letter word.” Another favorite phrase is “Buy my book,” which she is hawking at brag parties all over the country. Brag! is a good book, which is why I wanted to see her in action.

According to Peggy, hard work and humility might be rewarded in heaven, but not in the work place. Promotions come to those who tout their own achievements. In order to get noticed in this world, you need a spunky four or five sentence answer to the question: What do you do? In fact, you need to be selling yourself at all times, because if you don’t then no one is.

Peggy drops her scratcher by her side and approaches Liz, who has been hovering in a corner ever since I broke the final piece of news to her: That there will be role playing.

Peggy asks Liz the question that reveals all to a brag coach: “What do you do?”

Liz looks down and says, “I’m a psychologist.” That’s it. No sales job. No passion. Barely a full sentence. I cringe.

Peggy says, “You will hate tonight’s party, but you will learn a lot.” Then she gathers everyone into a room and starts her coaching.

Peggy coaches men and women, but tonight’s party is women only. Peggy tells us that women are not as good as men when it comes to selling themselves. For one thing, men job-hop more than women, (hard to take a day off for a sick kid if it’s your third month on the job). So men interview frequently and get practice talking about their greatness, while women are better at talking about their kids and pets and other objects of nurture.

Peggy says the most successful components of a brag are excitement and a good story. If you have those, everyone will want to listen to you.

She says that most fears of bragging stem from parenting factors. She confesses that her father told her, “Don’t toot your own horn. If you do a good job people will notice you.”

So Klaus didn’t vote for herself for class president. (Don’t worry, she won anyway.) This monologue opens floodgates: Liz’s parents were handicapped so she never wanted anyone to notice her.

Another woman says her Mexican immigrant family told her to blend in. Someone says, “I’m from Canada, and for us it’s not a parenting issue, it’s a national issue.” Then Klaus says, “What about Catholics, do I have any Catholics in the room?” Hands shoot in the air. Everyone wants to talk about how Catholic school squelches the instinct to speak up about one’s achievements.

According to Peggy, good communication is much more than just good jokes or good body language.

This is good news for Liz, who is definitely not funny and has the body language of someone who is going to vomit. Liz did not realize she would have to be excited.

Peggy has everyone find a partner who we don’t know. We have 30 seconds to tell each other about ourselves. Then Peggy announces that we did a bad job.

“There is no excitement in the room,” she says. “If you are not excited about what you’re saying then no one else will be either.”

She teaches us how to be excited about the hors d’oeuvres we just ate (and believe me, they were not exciting.) Then she pairs us up again to talk about ourselves and she reminds us that if we can be excited about pigs in a blanket then we can be excited about our careers.

Once we get our excitement level up, she tells us that a successful bragger tells a story. When you want to impress someone, a story is more memorable than a list of achievements. When you want to establish a connection with someone, a story provides social glue.

We each work on the 30-second story of our career, and then we tell it to a new partner, with our new, excited voices. After an hour of Peggy’s coaching, everyone realizes that a good bragger is actually a pleasure to listen to.

Even Liz has made improvement: She has glimmers of excitement when she talks about her career, and she has a much more interesting answer to the question, “What do you do?”

But the art of bragging is not easy, and old habits die hard. I tell Liz I am going to write about her brag because it’s so impressive and she says, “Oh god. Don’t write about my career. I don’t want anyone to know.”

You need to make sure your resume shows you in your best light; give shape to the truth so that it works for you. But be careful, because a well-written resume to one person is a pack of lies to another. Make sure yours falls somewhere in between, which is no small feat. We all know there is such a thing as stretching the truth too much. But there is also such a thing as being too honest.

My 21-year-old brother, Erik, worked summers at Blockbuster Video where, predictably, none of the mostly-teenaged employees followed company rules. In a fit of productivity my brother rearranged the end caps to be in line with the standards sent from company headquarters. At the same time, store sales increased 10%. So (as the family resume writer) I wrote on his resume, “Assumed responsibility for in-store marketing and increased sales 10%.”

At a family dinner, we passed around Erik's resume (yes, we do this in our family). My 34-year-old brother, Mike, said, “Are you kidding me? This is such crap. No one will believe this.”

Erik kept that line in his resume, and he explained it well when challenged in interviews, most recently where he landed a job at an investment bank.

And anyway, what is Erik going to put on his resume? “Spent workdays watching movies and complaining about Blockbuster's no-porn policies?” It would be honest, but Erik would sound like a lunatic.

Someone who is too honest sounds like a lunatic because they seem to have no understanding of how the world works. Here's an example: When my family was in US Customs after a trip to Greece, the Customs guy said, “Any fruit, vegetables or live animals?” And my dad said, “Yes.” And everyone else in the family thought, “What? We have no food.” And then my dad pulled seashells we found. “There could be live animals,” he said. The customs guy immediately went on high alert the way customs guys are trained to do when they are dealing with a crazy person. Customs searched every inch of every one of our suitcases.

Some lies, though, are not in the gray area that seashells are. Some lies are just plain lies. And if you have a big lie on your resume, you need to clean it up. For example, maybe you say on your resume that you worked at IBM for two years, but really you only worked there for one and spent a year job hunting and making web pages for you mom's bridge group. In this case, you need to tell the truth about IBM: one year.

But you don't have to leave a yearlong gap. Be creative. Call yourself a project manager for the year you had no job. You can learn about yourself as you rework your resume — maybe you didn't think of yourself as a project manager, but actually, you were.

We can also learn about ourselves from the lies we tell. I know at least one of you writes on your resume that you played varsity football when really you just went to pep rallies. Not only do you need to delete that line in your resume, you need to see a shrink about your obsession with football.

My dad was visiting my apartment one day, rifling through my papers, as parents will do. And he said, “What's this on your resume about a master's thesis on electronic media? You can't say this. You never finished grad school.”

I said, “It's not a lie. I did write the master's thesis. I just never took the last class I needed to graduate.”

My dad was not swayed. And I'm sure he shudders to think he raised a kid who would sneak shells past customs. But at least I know my own limits.

When it comes to massaging the truth, no two people have the same limits. But you need to be very clear on your own limits so you can stay within them. In the mean time, make sure that your own resume is not so honest that you look like a loser and not so dishonest that you're going to be fired.


When someone asks “What do you do?” a one-word answer will put your career on ice. You need to have a story. When you want to establish a connection with someone, a story provides social glue. When you want to impress someone, a story is more memorable and than a list of achievements.

Early in my career, I interviewed for a job as a user interface designer. The hiring manager asked me how I got involved in UI design.

I could have said, “I thought it looked interesting so I gave it a try and I was good at it.” But anyone can answer the very standard how-did-you-find-your-career question with that answer.

So instead, I told this story: An old boyfriend was a programmer, and he worked from home, while I was in school. He plastered designs all over our bedroom wall and our living room floor so that he could think them through. Finally, I told him if he was going to mess up the apartment then he had to be the one to clean it, and I handed him the toilet scrubber. We argued about who had extra time for cleaning and who didn't and finally he said, “Fine. I'll clean, but you do the UI design.” And to his surprise, I did.

I got the job. And every time I have been able to tell stories in interviews, I have gotten the job.

When it comes to your career, have a one-minute story ready. It's the story of you — how you got to where you are and what your achievements are. When someone asks a question like, “How did you get into advertising?” tell your story.

When you interview, tell stories. You know you're going to encounter the question, “What are your strengths?” Don't give a list. It's not persuasive. Tell a story about how you did something amazing by using your strengths. This way you tell the hiring manager something memorable and you get in a bit about your achievements.

Once you get the job, keep telling stories as a way to promote yourself within the company. The first month of your job, no one knows you, so they ask questions like, “Where were you before this?” or “What sort of experience do you have?” These are times to tell your story.

If you are funny, make your story funny. If you are not funny, be vulnerable in your story. For example, when people ask me how I became a writer, sometimes I start my story with how I was working just blocks away from the World Trade Center when it fell and my software company never recovered. This is not essential to my story, but the World Trade Center brings people into my story right away.

Your success at your job will depend on you finding someone to help you navigate the corporate ladder: You need to find a mentor; you need to get on plum projects. You need to show people you are smart and interesting so that they want to help you. Don't assume that your work speaks for itself. It doesn't. Most people will have no idea what you have done, or what you do now. You need to tell them. And the best way to tell them without sounding boring or self-obsessed is to tell stories.

Still feeling queasy about talking yourself up to people? Check out the book Brag! by Peggy Klaus, the master of self-promotion. Worried that you don't know how to tell a story? Give business books a break and take a look at Flash Fiction edited by James Thomas. This is an anthology of two-page stories that have similar pacing as those you'll tell at the office.

Spinning a good story is difficult. But building a career without a story is even more difficult. So you'd better start spinning.

Your success at work is dependent on your accomplishments, not your ideas. So can everyone please stop being so petty about whose ideas are whose?

A very small number of you are strategists and inventors. For you, your ideas make or break your career. So don't bother reading the rest of this column. For the rest of you, face the music: You are not paid to come up with ideas. You are paid to execute them.

So let's say you're a marketing manager and you have a great idea to spam the whole world to get them to buy soap. Spamming is not an innovation, and selling soap has been done before, too. The person who is a genius will be the person who can make a spam campaign work. That would require direct mail expertise, figuring out which product is most likely to sell, setting up fulfillment capabilities.

Let's say the spam campaign is a success. Who's the genius? The person with the idea to spam or the person who actually increased soap sales? Let me tell you something, in this economy, few companies can afford an “ideas guy”. Companies are hiring people who generate revenue: executors.

Look, I'm not saying the world doesn't need ideas. Ideas are great. And in the perfect world, everyone gets credit for the ideas they have. But the world isn't perfect, and people steal ideas at work. And while we fight off large imperfections like fake (Enron) companies, race discrimination and massive layoffs, getting credit for an idea is pretty small peanuts.

Yet still, I hear people complain about a stolen idea as if it was their first-born child. And sometimes I think maybe it was. Maybe the people who worry about a stolen idea the most are the people who have the fewest ideas. Ask yourself if your problem is not really thievery but scarcity. If you don't have a lot of ideas to begin with then you shouldn't bother trying to be known for your ideas. It's not who you are.

Most people who complain about stolen ideas peg their boss as the culprit. If you're in this category ask yourself this question: Is your job in jeopardy because your boss thinks you have no good ideas? In that case you probably need to start documenting your ideas on paper. But I have news for you: your boss probably doesn't like you if she recognizes you so little as to steal your brilliance and accuse you of lacking ideas. In that case, you can grovel for credit, but you should probably try to find a job working for someone else.

And here's a tip for when you're looking for that next job: Don't bother listing your great ideas on your resume. No one cares. Employers want to see resumes with quantified accomplishments. Replace “thought of opening a new sales channel” to “opened a sales channel and increased revenue x%”.

Maybe your boss steals just a few ideas, but is generally a good boss. In that case, ignore her ethical transgression. You have a limited number of times you can tell your boss she is bothering you. Use those times for instances when you will make more money. If your bonus is tied to having an original idea, then by all means, point out the idea that your boss stole so that you can collect your money. But if the only thing that a stolen idea harms is your ego, then get over it.

Besides, the best way to get a promotion is to make your boss love you. And you can make your boss love you by making her feel smart. If your boss feels smart it doesn't mean that she thinks you are not smart. Don't be so insecure. It should be enough that you know that you have good ideas.

There came a point in my career when my company went bankrupt, the economy was in the dumps, and my network of friends and acquaintances was getting me nowhere. Like all job hunters, I had good days and bad days. On good days, I brewed coffee for that caffeinated, I-can-overcome-anything feeling. On bad days, I never got out of bed.

Finally, after a string of bad days, I called the phone number in a small ad I had come across in a bunch of business publications. The number was for WSA Resumes.

I told my contact at WSA that I needed a job. I told him I attribute my career success in part to the fact that I have always been able to write a very effective resume, but I have hit a wall.

WSA sold me the executive pack, which was $1000 for someone to rewrite my resume in three days. (They have less expensive packages, but I was in a moment of panic.) I talked to someone for a couple of hours, and she rewrote the resume in a way that smacks of a piece of direct mail: headlines, bullets, italics, and bold lines. The resume did not look like one I had ever seen. My friends said it looked cheesy. They said, “Don't send it.”

But I started to trust the writers at WSA because they noticed patterns and accomplishments in my career that I had not noticed. They phrased achievements in ways that I would not have thought of. They were able to frame my work life in a way that could open new fields to me. But most of all, I wanted to take a risk. I realized that I was getting nowhere and I needed to try something new and this was the only new thing I could think of.

To my surprise, my executive package came with a cover letter. It began, “If you can use my skills on your management team then I'd like to talk to you.” I cringed. I told WSA the letter is not my style.

There are actually a few more things I told WSA. You know how when you're spending a lot of money you get uppity? That's how I was. I argued about file formatting, I argued about hyphens and semi-colons. I'm sure I argued about more, I just can't remember.

Finally, I ran out of things to argue about, and, armed with my new resume, I started my job search again. I found no openings.

So I called WSA, and I was hoping they would not remember me — the person who argued about everything — but they remembered. “Yes, we can help,” my contact said.

They send out resumes cold. Which is, of course, in keeping with their direct mail perspective. So I signed up. It costs $1.50 a resume. My contact recommended sending out 8000 resumes. I wanted 500. He said direct mail is an odds game. I picked 500 companies. Then I changed my mind. Then I picked a new 500. Then I asked for some more lists. I was nervous. The cost worried me, but I took to heart the saying, you have to spend money to make money.

Finally WSA printed all 500 cover letters, stuffed envelopes, and slapped on address labels. Everything was ready to go. Then I sent an email to WSA with the subject head: EMERGENCY. I told them that I have a lot of direct mail experience and they should send the letter out on Tuesday, not Friday.

WSA dumped me. They tore up my letters and my check. They said I should find someone else to help me. So I took WSA's cover letter and the resume they wrote for me, and I spent a week finding email addresses for CEOs and I sent my resume myself – cold – to 500 CEOs. And guess what? I got fifteen responses and two job offers.

So I recommend that you hire a company like WSA. You will get a standout resume, and you will see yourself differently, so you will summarize your career differently, and you have a new chance at landing a job. And this is the other thing: unless your network is coming up roses for you, job hunting is, really, an exercise in direct mail. Once I admitted that I was not above a direct mail campaign for myself, things started happening.

I think WSA hates me, but luckily, I am not proud, so check out their web site:

(Update: WSA no longer exists. But the woman who oversaw my resume overhaul is Elaine Basham, and she’s still in the resume business today. Send her an email:

Each month my husband selects a concert for us to go to. I used to pick, but I would select music I knew, like Beethoven or Mozart, and my husband, the over-educated music student, would scoff at my pedestrian tastes. Now I am at his mercy, and I endure the type of music that requires a specially tuned piano, or a specially trained ear.

So I was thrilled to hear we were going to a Bach concert. Finally, a composer I had heard of. What I didn't realize was that it was a lecture. I grumbled, “Who goes to a Bach lecture without getting course credit?”

I brought a magazine to the lecture, but after five minutes, I put the magazine away. The guy who gave the lecture, Robert Kapilow, was amazing. I learned as much about public speaking that night as I did about Bach. Here are some things Kapilow did that we should all do when we speak:

Know your audience
He said, “I will use Bach as a basis for introducing the fugal procedure.” (This meant nothing to me.) He said, “How many people have listened to the Art of the Fugue.” (Everyone raised their hand.) He said, “How many people have studied it?” (My husband a couple of others raised their hands.) Kapilow pitched himself toward the majority. (Thank god.)

Pick a good support team
The Brentano quartet played. For those of you who have never heard of them, they are very good. Not your standard quartet. Surely playing a lecture is a more maddening gig than playing a wedding, and tickets were cheap so the musicians couldn't be getting paid a lot. Kapilow must have worked hard to get these musicians to play, but it was worth his effort — everything he described was more interesting with the Brentano Quartet as exhibit A

Perfect your body movement
Even though the topic was dry, Kapilaw moved around the stage like it was a Las Vegas show. When he described the “radiant glorious major version” he reached his arms out. When he said, “Then we go back in minor and it's dark” his arms tucked up close to his side. He made arcane music look exciting through his gestures, and his excitement was catching.

Be conscious of audience limitations
By the fourth fugue, he said, “Listen for the bing-bing or the down-up. If you're a really good listener you can listen for all four things, and we'll discuss after this lecture if that is humanly possible.”

Then, at one point he decided we needed a confidence boost. He said, “Stretofugue is very similar to Row, row, row your boat.”

By the end of the lecture I loved Bach. I even loved the stretofugue. And really, what is the job of a public speaker but to get you to love his topic? Many people give themselves permission to be sub-par speakers because of an unwilling audience, or an untenable topic. But Kapilow proves to me that anyone can captivate an audience if they have the right skills.

For those of you who have an opportunity to speak to a group, remember to aim as high as Kapilow. For those of you who want an opportunity to see Kapilow in action, look for his “What Makes it Great” series.

Next up: Bach managing the brand of Bach. Did you know that the subject of Bach's last fugue are the notes B, A, C, H?

Here's a way to kill your career: Have a messy office.

Here are things that people with messy offices say: My work gets done; I know where everything is; People are too concerned about appearances.

All these things could be true. But here is what is also true: If your desk is a mess you look like you're totally out of control.

The FBI has known for decades that you can judge someone by their workspace, which is why the FBI has special investigators who visit the offices of criminals. The FBI doesn't publish their data on this type of investigation, but the University of Texas does. And a study conducted there found that people with messy offices are less efficient, less organized and less imaginative then people with clean desks.

Some of you who are stubborn (and delusional) are saying, “So what? That's not me.” But even if you are definitely sure that you are as efficient in your messy office as your neighbor is in her clean office, your co-workers don't see it that way. The study also found that people perceived messy workers to be inefficient, unimaginative workers.

A messy desk undermines your career in subtle ways. If you are the owner of the company, you give the impression that you cannot handle your position and the company is in trouble. If you are in middle management, when someone is giving away a plumb assignment, she does not think of you because you give the impression that it will go into a pile and never come out. Even if you get every project done well, the perception will be that you don't.

Still not convinced? Would you ever go to work in striped pants and a striped shirt? Why not? You could still do your job. But people would not perceive that you could still do your job, because appearances are powerful, and someone who dresses in a goofy, unconventional way does not inspire confidence. Appearances matter, and the desk in your office is as important as the clothes on your back.

Managers, take note: This study goes both ways. So if you are thinking of promoting someone, you are probably making the wrong decision if the person's desk is a mess. Either they are in over their head, or they do not care, but either way, they will not instill confidence in the people below them. In most cases, messy desker should be passed up for someone who is neat.

Take a tip from GE, a company known for developing outstanding managers throughout its ranks. GE requires everyone to have a sparkling clean desk each night when they go home. This makes sense — GE attempts to make everyone a potential manager by preventing people from undermining themselves.

Some of you might call this rule draconian. I can hear you now, “A messy desk is an expression of who I am.” This is probably true. I believe that a messy desk is a reflection of what is in someone's head. But you need a clear head in order to be creative and efficient in ways that make your work a reflection of your best self.

So take some time this month to clean up your office and create an organized system for maintaining cleanliness. If GE refuses to keep messy desks in its ranks, then you should, too. Start with your own, and then take a look at the people who report to you.

Usually, politics is off-limits when chatting at work. But Election Day is different. Tuesday it's okay to say, “Did you vote?” And it's a good question to ask. It's not a lightening rod like, “Do you support late-term abortion?” but you can learn a lot about your co-workers by whether or not they vote, even if you don't know how they vote.

One of my earliest memories is of my mom taking me into the voting booth with her. (I have never actually seen parents do this in other places — maybe it's a special treat for us rural Illinois kids.) She made voting seem like a very important treat, and I remember being shocked as a teenager to discover that there were nonvoters in my neighborhood.

Now I understand that there are three steps to the process of voting: Convince yourself that your vote matters, figure out who to vote for, and make time to vote. The first two steps, you'll have to do on your own, but I can help with the third. For those of you thinking that you can't take time out of your workday to vote, I've got news for you: You will look better at work if you vote, so you may as well take the time off.

The best people to work with are the people who vote, even if they vote for politicians you hate. People who vote think what they do matters, and they feel the power to effect change: two key attributes of someone who will take charge in business. Also, people who vote are thoughtful. They have 1. taken the time to decide that voting is an important aspect of democracy and they want to participate and 2. done their homework to figure out which levers to pull. Voters are people who take responsibility for themselves and the greater good.

It is not a coincidence that voters make better co-workers, because companies depend on many of the ideas that democracies depend on. For example, both believe strongly in the concept that each person matters, but both will continue even if each individual does not participate whole-heartedly. Both thrive on the idea that individuals can effect change and that people are responsible for their own fate.

I have voted in four states, and in each state, I received an “I voted” sticker when I left the polling place. I love wearing the sticker to work because on Election Day, voters form a club. These people know that even if they did not vote the same way, on some level, they have shared values because they made the decision to vote. There have been people at the office whom I despised, but when I saw them wearing that sticker, I thought, “Okay. Maybe he's not that bad.”

So for those of you who are having trouble making time in your busy work schedule to vote, remember that voting actually makes you more respected in the workplace. People make time for what's important to them. If you have decided that voting is important, but you do not make time to vote, you look like you are out of control at work — unable to manage your time. You make the world a better place by telling people that voting is so important that you have to leave work early to get to the polls before they close. And if you're a manager, you can't force your employees to vote, but you can close the office a few hours early. And I recommend that. Because good voters make good employees.

If you want a big-time, hotshot career, you have to know how to talk to the press. You might think, “Who cares? No one ever calls me.” But one day, in your climb to the top, the press will call. Maybe your name will be in a press release. Maybe your company's PR director will field a question only you can answer. And if you are useless on the phone the first time, you will not get a second try.

That's because a reporter just wants to get her story written and she is calling on you to help. If you do not give good quotes, if you do not give intelligent, on-topic input, the reporter will decide you are a waste of time and she will avoid you. If you are very helpful, she will call you again for related topics. If you're really good, other reporters will see your name in print, and they will call, too.

Now that I'm the press, I realize all the stupid things I did when I was the public, trying to get my company in the news. Here are things I wish I had known:

Talk in sound bites. The LA Times is not going to run a four-paragraph quotation from you. The newspaper will run one or two sentences if you're lucky. So say something short and snappy – intelligent and informative with a hint of cleverness is most likely to get you quoted. Funny is good. Then a reporter with a dry, boring topic, can sound witty just by quoting you.

Be fast. If you get a message from a reporter, call back immediately. She probably needs to get the story written that day. But even if she's not on a tight deadline, she has called many people who might get to her before you and make you redundant. Also, if she knows you call back quickly, she's likely to call again, when she's in a pinch.

Spell your name and reiterate your title. You will be misquoted, and you will have little recourse because frankly, that's how the press works. But you can control whether your name looks right in print. And make sure your company name is spelled correctly, too, so that your boss doesn't think you care more about your career than your company.

Be newsworthy. You want the press to be your PR machine, but the press wants you to have a story. So if you want to plug something while you're on the phone, make it sound like news. Every time I talk to my dad's friend Sarah, she has another idea about how I could write about her in my column. She has told me about her company, her ads, and her products. But when it comes to Sarah, the only thing that's newsworthy is how annoying she is.

In contrast to Sarah, I worked for a guy who built his career on talking to the press. I didn't know this about him until we were at the airport, ready to get on the plane, and someone from the Wall Street Journal called him with questions about our government sales. He talked to her while everyone else boarded. He talked to her while we heard the last calls for standby passengers. After the plane took off, he told me, in his impeccable sound-bite form, “It's cheaper to buy a new plane ticket than to buy space for yourself in the Wall Street Journal.”

Each time in my career that I have ignored sexual harassment aimed at me, I have moved up the corporate ladder. For example, the boss who once pulled all senior management out of the company’s sexual harassment seminar because he thought it was a waste of time — and patted me on the butt as he left the room — has turned out to be my most reliable cheerleader (and a very impressive reference).

In my first eight days of my job at a financial software company, I was sexually harassed six times by my new boss. This list does not include his sexual harassment of me during the interview process, which I chose to ignore, since it was my first interview at a respectable company in six months.

Maybe you’re wondering what, exactly, I regard as sexual harassment. The easiest conversation to relay is this one:

Me: “Thank you for setting up that meeting; it will be very helpful.”

Boss: “Big testicles.” (He then pretends to squeeze his genitals.)

I had no idea what he meant by this comment, but it is short and easy to relay to make my case.

Here are some other choice moments:

When he took me out for lunch on my second day on the job, he told me he once fell in love with a woman as tall as I am but was intimidated by her height, so they just had casual sex. I said nothing in response.

But I knew, from a legal perspective (and also a moral one) that I needed to tell him his comments were unwanted. So that afternoon when he said, “I want to hug you, but it would be illegal,” I said, “You’re right.”

Each night, I relayed some of the best lines from work to my husband. He was stunned. He couldn't believe these events actually happened in today's workplaces. I told him this was standard. He told me I should sue so that we could go to Tahiti. I told him I’d probably settle out of court after three years for about $200,000, and I’d be a pariah in the workplace.

I told my husband that his very hot, 27-year-old boss gets hit on as much as I do. He said he saw her at work all the time and this never happened. I told him that OF COURSE men don’t harass women in front of other men. After all, it’s illegal. Men are not stupid. But I suggested to my husband he was perpetuating the myth that harassment isn’t widespread.

In fact, 44% of women between ages 35 and 49 report experiencing sexual harassment at the workplace — even though almost every company has an explicit, no-tolerance policy. A national survey shows that 21% of all women report being sexually harassed at work, while a Rutger's University study indicates that for knowledge-based workers, the percentage can go as high as 88%. Yet when women leverage the no-tolerance policy their names are plastered over the business pages, and they are blacklisted in their industry.

So the best way to change corporate America is to gain power and then wield it. To get power, you have to stay in the workforce, not the court system, and work your way up. Unfortunately, this means learning how to navigate a boys’ club. But when you know the system, you then are clear about the root of its problems, and you know how to initiate change.

In this spirit, I hatched a plan to rid myself of my harassing boss. Originally, I took a job in business development, even though I hated selling to clients, because it was the only place with an opening. I told myself that the members of the management team were so smart that I would learn to love sales from them. After weeks of harassment, though, I thought management was so smart that if I explained why I wanted to be moved to another department, they would see my request as extremely reasonable. I figured they would be grateful for my low-key approach to this sensitive problem, rather than resentful that I had been hired to work in biz dev and then asked to be switched to a department with no openings.

I was right. I was moved into marketing, which I prefer. I received a more prestigious assignment and gained a smarter boss. Had I reported that I had been sexually harassed during the interview process I would not have gotten the job. Had I reported the harassment to my boss's boss without presenting a plan for solving the problem, I would not have received a better assignment. In fact, if you have a strategy, enduring sexual harassment can be a way to gain power to achieve your long-range goals.

Epilogue: Eventually, my boss was fired. Officially for low performance, though I have always fantasized that it was for rampant harassment.