An Executive Director's point of view
April 16, 2014: Culture clash
Dealing with many different cultures, whether internationally or within the United States, does not absolve the organization of the responsibility to respect what each considers important.
So, identify those days that can and should be respected. Learn when it is best not to schedule events, when to refrain from serving food, when members and prospects should not be phoned, and any other procedures that can be adapted to minimize conflict and display cultural sensitivity.
Be practical when making these decisions. Some groups may be more concerned about conflict, so it may be necessary to bend more for them. Others may understand why conflict may be unavoidable and won't be offended by the association's actions.
But don't ever appear uninformed or insensitive. And if you make a mistake, apologize for it.
NOTE: When determining whether or not a conflict is likely to exist, consult an official organization that represents the culture in question. Don't merely ask a member of that religion or nationality. That person may not be representative of the group that concerns you.
December 03, 2013: She's no lady
June 06, 2013: Don't call them "ladies"
1. Don't snap pictures of association leaders with men standing and women sitting.
2. Don't describe women, when introducing them, by their physical attributes. Use the same descriptive words as you would for men.
3. Don't kiss women on stage when greeting them or presenting them with awards.
4. Don't institute a "ladies first" policy at buffet tables.
And don't refer to people as "ladies." When necessary to identify people by gender, the appropriate terms are "men" and "women."
May 24, 2013: Women more ethical
January 07, 2013: Gender travel differences
On airplanes, it was noted that men often spread out from their seats, commandeering armrests, and letting their legs cross the invisible line between seats. Women, on the other hand, often shrunk into their seats.
Well, the reason is obvious. Men are bigger and take up more space. And women, who are usually smaller, are loathe to fight with them about it.
A female television announcer, who interviewed the author of the study, remarked that she looks for hotels with good hair dryers in the rooms. Well, that's not a function of female vanity nor the societal custom of women appearing more well-groomed than men.
It's because women usually have a lot of hair that needs to be dried. Men frequently have very little.
Some differences are just practical.
December 08, 2012: Get the holiday right
Well, reindeer have nothing to do with Chanukah. And Chanukah, a minor Jewish holiday, has nothing to do with Christmas.
Somebody at the company may have thought that was clever. But it wasn't. It was just dumb.
UPDATE: The product has been removed from the company's web store.
September 23, 2012: Holiday season?
September 14, 2012: Sensitivity and public relations
I just received notice of a meeting held in a major American city on Yom Kippur, the most important of all Jewish holidays. Scheduling an event on that day is the equivalent of scheduling it on Christmas Day.
The host organization said it was aware of the conflict. If it was, it obviously didn't think the conflict mattered to its constituency nor that it would affect turnout.
Always know your audience and be aware of special days that its members regard as important. Even if you don't think a conflict will affect your turnout, it may affect your public relations.
A little sensitivity can go a long way.
August 07, 2012: Which of these things doesn't belong?
Answer: All of them. They have nothing to do with the work of most associations. So, none of them belong in most association offices.