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How to Get Along With Anyone, With Amy Gallo

Getting along with everyone in the workplace is certainly a challenging endeavor. No matter how hard you try, you will always encounter people who are quite difficult to work with. Sharing practical approaches to address this issue with J.R. Lowry is workplace expert and best-selling author Amy Gallo. Together, they discuss how to improve your working dynamics with the so-called ‘difficult people’ in your job, allowing you to do perform better without simply resorting to quitting. Amy also talks about the importance of prioritizing yourself while at work and the biggest hurdles every woman has to get through in the corporate world – even today.

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How to Get Along With Anyone, With Amy Gallo

Best-Selling Author Of Getting Along And The HBR Guide To Dealing With Conflict

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My guess is Amy Gallo. Amy is a workplace expert who writes and speaks about gender, interpersonal dynamics, difficult conversations, feedback, and effective communication. She works with individuals, teams, and organizations around the world to help them collaborate, improve how they communicate, and transform the organizational culture to support descent and debate. She is the best-selling author of Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) and the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict, a how-to book about handling conflict professionally and productively.

She has also written hundreds of articles for Harvard Business Review where she is a contributing editor. For the past years, she has co-hosted HBR’s popular Women At Work podcast which examines the struggles and successes of women in the workplace. Amy has taught at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of both Brown and Yale University. Amy, welcome, and thanks so much for doing the show with me.

Thanks for having me, J.R.

Career Overview

Let’s start with the mix of things you’re doing. Give our audience an overview of what you’re up to.

It’s shifting. I used to always say I had three things that I focused on. One is a lot of work that I do with Harvard Business Review originally as an editor, but now more as an author and producing content like videos and co-hosting our Women At Work podcast. That’s one big chunk. I still do a lot of that. The second is speaking workshops based on my two books the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict and Getting Along. The third was a leadership coaching practice, but I’ve stopped coaching as much partly because the speaking and the books have taken a bigger chunk of my time.

Coaching gives you that one-on-one interaction with people where you have very much an on-the-ground view as to what people are thinking about and worrying about in the work world, but it doesn’t scale very well.

I enjoy it. I always really appreciated my coaching clients for exactly the reason you said. I got an insider’s view of what leaders are struggling with, but I’m seeing more of that. I do a lot of talks with leadership teams, so I still get that inside view, which is helpful. I just unfortunately don’t have the time for coaching like I did before.

Even so the speaking, the writing, the workshops, the podcast, the other things that you’re doing, it’s a lot. How do you balance your time?

I don’t. Whenever I call to make a doctor’s appointment they’re like, “What’s generally good for you? Morning or afternoon? What day of the week?” I always say every week is a new hot mess so I don’t know. The truth is I was in the fortunate position of taking a big chunk of time off the summer. I took three months off. One of the biggest takeaways from that time was that life was still really busy. Even after I removed work.

For me, it’s not about balancing as much as trying to plan for the year. What am I most excited about? What am I prioritizing? Making good choices about what’s going to be the most important thing, what’s the second most important thing? Of course, it’s the game of whack-a-mole and trying to sort it out. I’m also very fortunate that I have a great team that works with me, that helps me. This is relatively new in the last couple of years. That helps me keep all the balls in the air.

Did you do anything special during your time off in the summer?

I did. First, I took June through August off the first month we did a big family trip to Mozambique. I have a middle school friend who lives there with her family. Two other friends of ours and my family were 15 of us total, 8 adults and 7 teenagers. We were in Mozambique for two weeks. It was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime trip. It was great. I spent the rest of the time, my goal was to produce nothing. I didn’t want to produce a podcast, write an article, or do any interviews. I just wanted to take things in. I read 15 books and that was 15 novels. That was just a pleasure.

If you’re used to reading a lot of nonfiction when you step back and give yourself time to read a novel, it is such a guilty pleasure.

I remember saying to my husband at one point, he was like, “You’re not reading any business books.” I was like, “These are business books. This is about developing empathy. I’m looking at conflicts between characters.” I’m an author of business books. I think of them as the things that are going to help people the most. I’m a big believer that fiction and studying human dynamics and human relationships is just as helpful, if not more important for leaders.

Studying human dynamics and human relationships is helpful if not more important for leaders. Click To Tweet

I usually go back and forth. Lately, I’ve been reading more business books especially as I’ve been doing these interviews and people have written books and I generally get through the books before the interviews. Some of them, I still have a little bit of a, “I have to read 20 more pages of this one or 50 more pages of that one.” At some point, I’ll get a break and we’ll get to get caught up on them. I don’t read as many novels as I used to and I wish I made more time for it.

I have a little trick, I don’t know if you would enjoy this, but I have a teenage daughter who’s very into graphic novels and young adult fiction. Since they’re so short and quick, sometimes I’ll just pick up something that she loved and read it because still I get that fiction boost, but it’s not a 400-page novel. I’m reading one now and sometimes that gets me in the mindset to read longer fiction too.

Plans For The Year

It’s good. You mentioned a minute ago that you think about the year and what you want to get done. What are your priorities for this year as we’re coming into the year?

I’m focused on speaking. I’ve got a lot of great speaking gigs coming up. I’m traveling to LA, Aruba, I’m doing a talk at an innovation summit in Aruba, which I’m excited about. I’ve got Bogota and Mexico City. I’m thinking about how to expand the industries, the audiences, and the locations where I speak. That’s a big focus for me as well as thinking about my next book. I’m not ready to talk about it, but it’s on the horizon and very much connected to getting along with my latest book. That’s also a big priority for me as well.

Writing ‘Getting Along’

Let’s talk about Getting Along, which came out in 2022. What was the impetus for the book and what’s its overall message?

I wrote the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict, and I started doing talks and workshops based on that. It’s meant to be a straightforward, practical approach to conflict. I was getting great feedback in these workshops and talks. What would inevitably happen is someone would come up to me afterward, whether it’s in the elevator or maybe during the Q and A session, or sometimes it was virtual like they’d find me in the chat. They would say, “This is great, this is super helpful, but I have this one coworker.” They would describe someone who like a lot of the general advice just really didn’t work with. That was when I’d started thinking how do I help these people? There were patterns of the type of behavior they would describe. A lot of passive-aggressive behavior and insecurity.

In my role as an editor at HBR, I was also exposed to a ton of research that academics are doing about these patterns of behavior and how to deal with them. I thought, “Can I take that research that exists and translate that into practical advice for people who are dealing with people who fit into one of these archetypes?” That’s essentially how I structured the book. The book is about eight different archetypes of “difficult people.” We can talk about those difficult if you want, but the things like the insecure manager, the biased colleague, the political operator, the passive-aggressive peer, the know-it-all. Each chapter delves into what explains that behavior. What would be a rational explanation for why someone would exhibit that behavior? What tactics you can use, including sample language to try to transform the relationship?

They’re not going to become your BFF but transform the relationship so that it’s less stressful for you. Sometimes that’s about setting boundaries. Sometimes that’s about nudging them into more productive behavior. Sometimes people ask, “What problem does this book solve?” I always think of sleepless nights. It solves what I hope it solves is that moment where you wake up at 3:00 in the morning and you’re like, “Why am I thinking about John from finance?” I want to help people feel less stressed even though our interactions at work aren’t always perfect.

As you say, people come up to you and say, I have this coworker. You cite right at the beginning of the book, we’ve all had these coworkers. 94% of people say they’ve worked with a toxic person in the last five years and 87% say team culture was affected. A third of people have moved jobs because of a coworker. It’s an epidemic in a way.

When I say the title and subtitle of my book to anyone, I can be in the dentist’s chair talking to the hygienist. I can be talking to the train conductor when I’m on the Amtrak to New York. It doesn’t matter if the name of the book comes up Getting Along: How to Deal with Difficult People, the response is always, I need that book. They’re not all buying it, fair enough. What it shows is that it is a universal problem and it makes sense. Humans are messy. We’re not perfect. I think very rarely are we taught about how to deal with conflicts. These coworkers who were pushing our buttons, sometimes had problematic behavior. We don’t have the skills to address it, to set boundaries around it, or to try to, as I said, nudge them into more productive behavior. We don’t have a choice often like you don’t get to choose your coworkers sometimes you do.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Amy Gallo | Getting Along

Not everybody can just say, “I quit.”

Nor do they want to. I was talking to someone who was describing this situation, which honestly if I could have been completely blunt, I would’ve just said, “Please quit right now. Get out. This sounds terrible.” We got there eventually like, “Can you?” She kept saying, “I don’t want to quit. I love my job. It’s just this one person.” We started to strategize, “If you love your job, how do you rightsize this relationship so it’s not impacting everything else? How do you deal with the most troublesome behavior that this person is exhibiting?”

A lot of people struggle with how to deal with these situations. Many people avoid conflict you know that you write about conflict. Also, it starts to trigger the irrational part of your brain. You start to have that fight-or-flight response. A lot of this is about getting your rational brain to take over and put these different situations in perspective. You wouldn’t want them in the first place, but some of it’s coping. It’s just teaching yourself how to cope and maybe shift the narrative if you will.

I love the way you said that J.R., because a lot of the advice I share in my articles in the books as well, is about appealing to your better self. As you said, we get stressed when we’re in these moments, these relationships, or these interactions. We do things later we’re like, “Why did we do that? Or God, that’s not what t to say,” but that made things worse. It’s about how we develop the tools to appeal to our best selves. Being our best self at the moment, even when that person is being a complete jerk, does help us feel good about how we behave, but also helps nudge that behavior, nudge that relationship into more productive territory.

‘Difficult People’ Archetypes

We won’t go through all eight of them. I’ve worked with all eight of them. How many of them have you worked with?

All of them. Sometimes people will ask me, “What’s your favorite?” I’m like, “Are you kidding? They’re all my least favorite.” The tormentor is a hard one, but I have worked with a tormentor, I’ve also been all of them. That’s an important part to realize, especially the know-it-all. I’m the know-it-all, all the time. I’ve been passive-aggressive. I’ve taken my insecurity about things out on other people. I’ve been a biased colleague. That’s one of the things it’s important to realize is that no one is above this behavior. These people just aren’t flawed humans, they are flawed humans because we’re all flawed humans, but they’re not evil typically. They’re just people who for whatever reason can’t find that better self in themselves and then exhibit these behaviors.

I won’t call them favorites, even though that word was in my notes. I’ll ask you instead to pick one that you want to talk about. Just in terms of practically speaking, what’s the manifestation and how should somebody deal with that person?

I’ll choose the know-it-all, not because it’s my favorite book but because it’s the one I relate to. I wrote that chapter in the book through cringing the entire time because I relate so much to being the know-it-all. I’ve gotten feedback in the past about having a condescending tone or declaring things with 100% certainty when I only know it to be 15% certain. I relate to it. It’s one that people encounter a lot in part. What explains the behavior is that we love overconfidence. We reward overconfidence, especially inside organizations because oftentimes people are doing things that are hard to measure like lead or manage. Instead of relying on measurement because there isn’t a measurement we can rely on, we rely on their word. How good are they? We are all overconfident.

One of my favorite statistics and know this is in the book is when you ask people if they’re a better-than-average driver, 75% to 78% of people will say yes. Which is a statistical impossibility. Seventy-eight percent of people cannot be above average. Our tendency to be overconfident, we tend to reward it. A lot of people have gotten far in their careers by declaring things they know for certain when they’re not exactly certain. Those are the behaviors they tend to interrupt a lot, they tend to talk over people, and they have just supreme confidence about things that they shouldn’t necessarily be confident about. When we think about gender, it often comes into mansplaining. Telling someone something that they already know but explaining it in a condescending tone. That’s the description of the person.

We tend to reward overconfidence. People have gotten far in their careers by declaring things they do not know for certain. Click To Tweet

How do you cope with that chapter of the book, what does that chapter of the book talk about in terms of how you would work with those people more constructively?

Before I get to the tactics, one of the things, each chapter includes some questions to ask yourself. I’ll share one of those questions for the know-it-all because it’s important, which is one of the things you have to do is interrogate your own bias when it comes to dealing with anyone who you find difficult. Sometimes someone is confident or competent, but we don’t allow them to be perhaps because of their gender, their racial identity, their position, or age in the organization. We will often say they are know-it-all, even when they’re just behaving the same way everyone else is. We just don’t want them to own that expertise or that confidence. That’s a question you want to ask yourself once you’ve interrogated that. Chances are that person’s still behavior is problematic.

A couple of quick tips I’ll share. One is to ask for facts and data.  As I said, one of the things that they do is to declare things as definitive. That product will fail. Our clients will hate this new initiative. They just seem so certain. One of the things you can do is ask them, do you have facts or evidence to back that up? Or could we run a quick experiment to be sure that perspective is true? Not that you don’t want to get into an I’m right you’re the wrong struggle, but just inquiring. They may say, “I don’t need the facts. I know it to be true.” What you’ve done is you’ve put them on notice that you’re not going to just let them get away with declaring something. You’re going to inquire about whether they’ve got some evidence to back that up.

One of the other things, the big ones, one of the things they broker in is interruptions. People will start talking and they presume they already know the answer so they just start talking. You can often preempt those if you are dealing with someone who tends to interrupt a lot and know-it-all you might say, “Interruptions break my train of thought. Can you hold any questions or comments you have to the end, I’ll make sure to get to you.” Just preempt that. If they still interrupt, you can also enlist. It can be awkward and also difficult to say, “Please don’t interrupt me.” If that’s available to you, you feel comfortable doing it by all means. You can also enlist allies.

If you and I were in a meeting with a know-it-all I might say, “J.R., this colleague of ours often interrupts when I’m in the middle of my comment, would you mind saying, let’s let Amy finish?” Sometimes I might not even have to do that with you because you already notice what’s going on. You would step in and be like, “I still want to hear the end of Amy’s thought. Could we do that before you start talking?”

Trying to address the behavior with any of these archetypes you also have the option, if you’re comfortable if you think it will be effective to have a meta-conversation with someone where you give them feedback and you say, “You’ve interrupted me three times in that last meeting. Or I get the sense that we don’t know as much as you or we’re not as expert in this area as you. Is that true?” Just to have a feedback conversation in which you can share the experience of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that behavior and encourage them to change that so that it doesn’t have that negative impact. Not always effective sometimes you’re going to get a really strong reaction to that, but it’s always available to you to be a little bit more direct as well.

There’s a chapter like that that covers the different archetypes. You also talk about what not to do.

That’s one of my favorite chapters because there are things we tend to do. I’ll just name a couple. One is to retaliate. I see this all the time and I have a family member who I will not name because if they hear this they’ll be very upset, afraid that I’m calling them out for this. They’ll tell me about this terrible person they work with and they’re like, “I’m just going to give it back.” I’m like, “Do you think that’s going to work? You just start to escalate the situation if you do that.” You need to be proud of your behavior at the end of the day. That’s the thing that’s going to allow you to sleep at night. If you’re just beating back the same part in the language but crap that they’re giving you, are you going to feel good about that?

You really want to watch out for retaliating, especially if the person is in a position of power. The more you feed into that escalation, the more likely they might do something that could hurt your career or your position in the organization. I was talking about this with a colleague, we’re talking about having a positive outlook when things are stressful. We were talking about how there’s a thin line between trying to have a positive outlook and then suppressing your emotions. That’s another thing that people try to do pretend it doesn’t bother. “That’s just J.R. That’s just Amy.” You want to feel the emotions it brings up like you don’t want to suppress them. We know all of the harmful things that happen when we suppress emotions. It’s bad for us physiologically and psychologically.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Amy Gallo | Getting Along

Amy Gallo: Watch out for retaliating with a co-worker in a position of power. That will feed into escalation and could hurt your career in the long run.


You want to be like, “This person makes me mad. I find this situation frustrating. I’m disappointed I have a coworker like this.” You can decide what to do and take action. You want to have agency, but you don’t want to pretend that you’re not at all triggered or upset by the behavior because it’s just not going to be helpful to you.

Protecting Yourself

You said it’s at the beginning, what problem is the book solving and you said sleepless nights. All of this takes a big toll on you physically, emotionally, and mentally. I know you have a chapter in the book that talks about how to protect yourself. Maybe we could go a little bit into that as well.

You are right it does take a toll. You want to be careful that you’re not putting so much effort into this one relationship that it’s hurting other aspects of your career, your work, or your life. That’s one of the biggest things that people can do to protect themselves is to remember this is just one person. It might be 2 or 3 people, but you probably have coworkers you enjoy working with. Spend more time with them, spend more time thinking. I even do this exercise if I wake up in the middle of the night worried about a relationship with someone or thinking about someone, I’m like, “No, let me think about someone I love spending time with.” My daughter, a different coworker, and a friend from college. Just right sizing that person’s impact on your life. I think it can be really important.

One of the biggest things people can do to protect themselves from a difficult-to-work co-worker is to remind themselves that this is just one problematic person in the whole team. Click To Tweet

That’s one tactic in this bigger category of setting boundaries. There’s this concept called job crafting. Amy Wrzesniewski at Yale writes about this a lot, is that you want to adjust your job so you’re focused on the things that are enjoyable to you. There are some things you just have to do. If you can sculpt your job in a way that you don’t have to interact with that person as much. Maybe you focus on other projects, maybe you decide that you don’t need that weekly meeting about the project that they’re involved with. You can turn it into an email update. Maybe there’s someone else on your team who can take over who doesn’t find that person as frustrating as you do. Just trying to put space between you and that interaction.

I’m a huge fan of mantras. Trying to remind yourself, “This isn’t about me just because I can’t improve this relationship or I can’t make it better doesn’t mean that I’m weak. This is probably about them.” One of my favorite things to remind myself, and it’s not the nicest thing, but it helps, which is every day I wake up as me and I’m really glad I wake up as me and that person has to wake up as their miserable self and I’m so glad I don’t have to do that. It’s trying to create distance between you and the other person.

I used to say a lot, especially coming out of the first book around conflict. I encourage people to have empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about their struggles. I do think that’s a really useful tactic, but I don’t think you should do it at the expense of empathy for yourself. You have to have self-compassion. These things aren’t just hard for you, they’re hard for everyone. Talk to yourself in a nice way about it. Remind yourself that you didn’t choose this and if you did you would’ve chosen something different. You just have to be nice to yourself along the way.

Archetypes 20 Years Ago

I know you wrote the book in 2022. Hard to imagine completely. If you went back and thought about if you’d written it 20 years ago, do you think the 8 archetypes would be similar or different?

That is such a good question. Even in the time when I was writing the book, a couple of things shifted. They would’ve been different. There have been know-it-alls since the beginning of time and until the end of time. I probably wouldn’t have written about the biased colleague because workplaces were not nearly as diverse and we didn’t have the general awareness we do. I’m sure there were political operators, especially when I think about flatter organizations with less hierarchy. There’s probably a lot of jockeying for position that happens. The insecure manager may not have been as prescient because we were thinking about more hierarchical organizations. I do think the behaviors are timeless, but how we think about them is different.


Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Amy Gallo | Getting Along

Amy Gallo: Workplace behaviors are timeless. How we think about them are different.


The shift I was alluding to earlier when I first started conceiving of the book, I did a couple of LinkedIn surveys of people just to ask what are the patterns of behavior, and which of the archetypes resonate. It was interesting, a lot of the comments I got back were that no one can be called difficult. There are only difficult behaviors, not difficult people. That’s really good feedback and it’s something I agree with. As I was starting to promote the book, what was interesting was that a lot of people took issue with that. It was like, “Some people are toxic, and their behavior needs to be remedied or they need to be told exactly what they are.” There was just a lot less patience with people in that shift in the last couple of years. At least that’s what I observed in just the reaction to the book.

Organizational Approaches

Do you think organizations are getting better at dealing with their difficult people or difficult behaviors?

I so wish the answer was yes. I’m curious what you think because I know you work with a lot of organizations too. I want the answer to be yes, but I’m not sure that’s true. In some ways, the pendulum swinging back and forth of fire people quickly. If their behaviors are called manager, they’re not fitting or they’re not succeeding it’s too dangerous too many lawsuits. It depends on the organization. Universally we’re pretty bad at giving people honest feedback that’s actionable that they can do something about. What’s your experience? Do you feel like organizations are getting better?

I think they are, to be honest with you. If I think about my own work experience, some of the things that used to happen, the just the boys club and the people who would say the most ridiculous racist things that would get you fired in a heartbeat now. They were more “tolerated” back. Organizations are getting better. I still see this in my own experience. There are times when the asset test is always like, “How’s HR going to respond to the situation and the leadership team?” There are times when they respond and they respond appropriately. There are other times when they’re like, “He’s our best salesperson. Or he’s so good at his job or she’s so good at her job.” They let performance trump bad behavior. I still think that occurs a lot.

There’s a justification of, “Bob’s just being Bob, just ignore him.” They don’t want to deal with the situation. Apart from the lawsuit, just the difficulty of having to go through whatever process. I do think there are a lot of behaviors that used to be put up with at work that I don’t think are put up with anymore. It’s an ongoing thing. People are and always will be messy until the computers take over for us.

Your point is a good one about overt-biased behavior. The overt is typically not tolerated as you said and often addressed. The problem is now a lot of it is this implicit bias or microaggressions and I don’t think most companies are good at handling how those behaviors impact people or even acknowledging that those behaviors impact people.

They’re called microaggressions for a reason. They’re very often very subtle. One of the most powerful things, one of the companies I’ve worked for, had a video on workplace bias and it did the same script in two different ways. One way was very obvious. There was microaggression all over the place, the same words coming from the same people said in a different way or with different body language. It was amazing. It was very clever how they did it. To be able to show that it’s not always even what you say, it’s how you say it. Your body language when you’re saying it, will convey something very different, which shouldn’t surprise us since 90%-odd of what we communicate is not through our words, it’s through body language and tone and other things. At the same time, it was really interesting to see how you could take the same situation and make it look completely different even with the same words.

That’s important to keep in mind because it’s the same words, but it’s often even about a different tone of voice or different body language, but it’s often even the identity. That’s one of the things I wanted to pay attention to in the book and often is missing from these discussions around difficult behaviors or difficult interactions, which is that the way we interpret someone’s behavior is going to be through a lens of bias. You and I saying the same thing because we’re different genders might be interpreted in totally different ways and someone might find you difficult for saying that and me easy to work with or vice versa. That’s why I wanted to pay attention to issues of bias and identity in the book because oftentimes that’s a layer we don’t think about when it comes to challenging interactions.

Gender Bias

Probably a good segue into, I know you focus a lot on the challenges that women face in the workplace. You host HBR’s Women at Work podcast, the risk of answering may be an obvious question, what are the biggest issues that women are facing in the workplace right now?

I will first say that podcasting is one of my favorite projects to work on. I love the team that works on that project. I love the experts that we have on the show. It’s just such a fun thing to work on and to be able to talk about and hear from so many women about what they are struggling with is just a privilege. To answer your question, it’s so many things and it’s so different. One of the big ones is about intersectionalities. The research on gender and gender bias in particular in the workplace is almost universally on White women. We’re trying to now understand a little bit more about the layering effect when a woman has a disability is a person of color. How those biases compound and interact with one another.

That’s a big one that a lot of women are struggling with trying to understand how are they being perceived or interpreted, how are they being promoted or not promoted based on some of those biases. One of the things we hear over and over is also stepping into leadership and being taken seriously, thinking about how you communicate your executive presence, and your ability to persuade and influence people. That’s a big one we hear about too. How do you get taken seriously as a leader when you’re a woman and when almost all the research shows that most of us equate the idea of a leader with a White man?

When you’re stepping into a role where maybe you’re not expected to be, how do you do that in a way that can be as effective as possible? The other thing is a lot of what I hear about is working also in male-dominated fields and how as a woman do you find your place? How do you address bias when it comes up? Again how do you get taken seriously? I could go on and on. Feedback is another one. How do you interpret the feedback that you get? How do you listen to what’s useful and dismiss what might be a little bit biased or unfounded? How do you take action on what you want to take action on? There are bigger issues too, like pay gaps. We have no dearth of topics to address in that podcast for sure.

Not An Overnight Battle

Apart from the topic-specific advice, it’s an imperfect world. You can make yourself crazy wanting the world to be perfect. How do you counsel people to balance the fighting for change but also have some acceptance of the fact that it’s not going to happen overnight?

The last episode we did for this past season, which ended in December 2023, was season nine, it’s titled Sexism is Everywhere. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while because we do educate people about a lot of the gender bias about sexism and what you’re going to encounter in the workplace. As you said, you can drive yourself mad thinking about, “Was that because I’m a woman or is that because I’m a woman of color?” We brought two experts who helped us think through what to do with that information. If you suspect you didn’t get that promotion because of some gender bias or the feedback you gave as being influenced by someone’s traditional values or viewpoints, what do you do with that?

There’s no science to it. One of the things we kept coming back to is it’s good to question whether that’s happening, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the loudest voice in your head because you’re not going to change centuries of patriarchy in your one interaction with your boss. Trying to remember, “What’s my goal here? What is it I need to get done? What’s the most effective way to do that? Is it to call out this bias, which might be the answer or is it to try to address the specific thing going on between us? Is it to enlist help? Or is it to address the specific thing and then take no, or even start working?” Especially one of the things we’re trying to be cognizant of is that a lot of our listeners are in leadership positions, so they have the power or the authority to affect those systems.

How do you do both? How do you address the specific situation, tend to your goals, get what you need, set boundaries when you need to, and how do you agitate to make sure that the systems are continually evolving? One of the ways I do that is through the podcast trying to raise these issues, trying to get us talking about what are we seeing out there, what we experience, what the research shows about what women’s experiences are like in the workplace and how can we that lead to productive change?

It’s hard because sometimes I hear some gender bias, especially when I think about conflict and communication. One of the things we know from research is that women tend to be punished for being agentic. That’s the academic term. Me being assertive, advocating for ourselves. Does that mean we shouldn’t? You can get paralyzed like, “If that’s the research, do I advocate for myself or do I not?” It’s helpful to know that that’s the research, but then what’s the most effective thing to do in this situation, is the question I try to ask myself.

What about the men who want to be helpful on this topic?

Listen to the podcast. I was talking to a couple, a man and a woman and she said, “You host this podcast.” He said, “You should listen to that,” to his wife. I turned to him, and I said, “No, you should listen to it.” I do think trying to educate yourself just on what the experience of being a woman in your specific workplace is like, can be helpful. Being aware of the research around gender bias and ultimately trying to advocate.

There’s a lot of noise about trying to treat people equally as our goal, but you also have to remember when it comes to gender, in most workplaces, women have to work a little bit harder to reach the same levels. How can you try to level that playing field in whatever your purview is? You may not be a CEO, but on your team, are there ways that you can run your meetings so they’re more equitable? Are there new criteria you can put in place for promotions that make sure that everyone is getting equal chances at opportunities and bias isn’t coming into play or hiring? Choose whatever something is within your job description. How can you focus on that thing and try to make it as equitable as possible?

Hot Topics

You do a lot of writing for the HBR. You were a contributing editor at one point as you mentioned, what’s your sense of what’s going on in the world of work more broadly? What are the hot topics at the moment besides artificial intelligence?

You took my answer right away. It’s AI. My work at HBR is focused on this section of our content called You and Your Team. It’s the practical interpersonal, how do you manage yourself? How do you manage your team? That’s one thing I’m focused on. In that world, and one of the things we’re hearing about a ton of course is the continued hybrid work, remote work, the struggle. Do people go back to the office or do not, what does the data say about whether you need to be or not? That’s an ongoing conversation.

Conversations around DEI are also still really big, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, there was a lot of discussion around how the business case for DEI, and why we need to do this. We’re now getting to the place where we’re like, “What works? How do we make sure we’re doing effective things, that are not virtue signaling, and not just a corporate initiative that gets forgotten in six months?” That’s another topic that comes up a lot.

I learn a lot from what gets submitted to HBR. I serve on one of our pitch teams around the You and Your Team content. I get to see a lot of what authors and experts are thinking about and hearing about as well as practitioners. A lot of people contributed to HBR leaders and organizations. I’m always curious about what’s on people’s minds. A lot of people are thinking about hiring right now and retention as well, equitable hiring. I could list many more topics. Those are the ones that come top of mind. What are you hearing as the most pressing business topics in your work?

Some of the ones you mentioned are AI for sure. Diversity is always a topic. Remote work, hybrid work, the trade-off between, I’ll say the personal benefit for people who feel they’re more individually productive at home versus the idea of collective productivity. How do you train a new person, how to do their job when there’s not a place for them to learn. That’s a bit of that trade-off. The economy is always a factor in dealing with I work in financial services, so volatility in the markets, the geopolitical conflict, how that’s impacting the markets and affecting things like unemployment and inflation, and all of those kinds of things are certainly very top of mind.

In general, people are more students of what’s going on in the work world than they used to be. You don’t have to go to business school necessarily to get that grounding in things. I hear there’s a lot more awareness around some of the things that you and others write about. Business books are a relatively new genre in the scheme of things. As the thinking and academic and other circles have evolved, the business world is taking more and more of this in and but just in some ways accelerates learning for organizations.

Skipping College Education

One of the other things that I see going on in the UK is there’s a real thought of creating programs that essentially eliminate the need to go to university, to college. The idea is that you would come in as an apprentice straight out of high school and after 3 or 4 years you would’ve worked whereas your peers, your contemporaries would’ve gone to college but you’re equal after that. You get yours through an on-the-job model. That’s a concept. I don’t hear people talking about it as much here in the US but if any place needs it, it’s probably the US because college educations are so horribly expensive and way more expensive than they are in the UK.

I’m intrigued by seeing those programs take root and hoping they’ll come to the side of the Atlantic because there’s a lot of benefit. When I think about my kids, one of them wants to be a researcher. She’s working on her PhD, she needed to go to school. My son was doing pretty well doing coding work even before he went to school and he might’ve been able to get by with not ever needing to go. He would’ve missed the social experience of it. For a lot of families, the economic trade-off of, “I know you want to go have four years of fun, but you trade that against what that fun costs.” It’ll be interesting to see whether that comes across the pond. It’s a big focus at the moment in London.

That’s interesting. The US is obsessed with the college experience in a way that doesn’t make rational sense anymore given the cost. I’ll be curious to see if that does translate over here. That would be great.

Pitching Stories

You’re on a pitch committee. How does HBR select the things that it likes to publish?

Unfortunately, given the amount of submissions, we reject a lot, so it’s hard. We checked a lot of good stuff just because we didn’t have the bandwidth to publish it all. We’re looking for, is this a new idea? Will this feel fresh to our audience? Is there evidence that backs up this idea of how practical and useful it is? We talk a lot about improving the practice of management. We ask ourselves, does this do that? Is it educating a leader in a new way? Is it giving them a new skill and new perspective? When leaders aren’t our primary audience, we talk to individual contributors. We have a whole vertical focused on people who are new to their careers as well. We have criteria we look at. It’s also those questions around, is this fresh, is this new? Will this help?

What else do you read? What other publications are out there?

Like most people, I don’t sit down with a magazine or a website and read through it. It’s more about what articles come across on my social media feeds or what someone sends to me in a text. I often find myself reading a lot in the Atlantic, certainly the Economist New York Times. I find a lot of the work-focused reels on Instagram. Even the parodies, you learn a lot about what’s on people’s minds and where thinking is going just from memes. I don’t want to imply that I’m just sitting down and reading magazines or just articles and I’m trying to take it all in as much as possible.

You get that immersion. You learn through doing enough immersion that you feel like you’ve got a finger on the pulse of what people are thinking about. It’s important, especially since I’m in my late 50s, the generational thing is also a very big topic. We’ve got still baby boomers and I’m a Gen X and you’ve got the millennials and Gen Z. Those are four very different generations that are all working together. Getting all of them in sync with each other is often a big focus of work conversation.

I get asked about generational conflict a lot about conflict between the generations at work. There is a line of research, Peter Capelli at war, and there are a couple of other researchers as well who say the differences between the generations are not that big, it’s really about age. Boomers when they were twenty were just as entitled or self-focused. As millennials when they were twenty or as Gen Zs are right now. It’s just about the stage of life and your values at that stage of life. I also think when you grew up, the world events, what was going on? What were political happenings that of course influenced you.

The generations have different life experiences that influence their values, influence their view on hierarchies and how we should interact at work, and what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not. I do think there are differences, but I also try to remind myself, that millennial who I’m frustrated with are just doing that because they’re five, not because they’re millennial. I did that when I was 35 too. Just trying to remember as much as we have our differences, there are also similarities.

Amy’s Career Advice

Last question, I guess related to age, if you could go back and give your younger self some career advice, what advice would it be?

Worry a lot less it will all happen. It’ll happen because you took action and you made things happen. Sometimes I picture myself going through my career gripping tightly. Is this the right choice? Is this going to be the right thing? What’s next? I wish I had relaxed a little bit more into it and trusted my gut of like, “This feels good, let’s continue doing that. This doesn’t feel good. Let’s switch.” It’s one of the things I do try for a teenage daughter because she’s starting to think about college. People are like, “Where do you want to stay?” Maybe she has interests, but those things are going to change and evolve. I wish I could go back and tell my 25-year-old self, trust me, the good stuff is coming. Just keep working hard, keep following what is interesting, and follow people.

I think that’s the other thing. We have this individual focus of a career of like, “What do I want to do? What do I want to accomplish?” So much of what I’ve been able to achieve has been in collaboration with other people. Surround yourself with interesting, awesome people, and trust me, good career stuff will come from that.

Surround yourself with interesting and awesome people. Good career stuff will come from that. Click To Tweet

Let the wander happen.

The wandering feels terrible because everyone wants to know exactly what you’re doing next and what your five fair plans are. Quiet that noise and just like you said, just wander.

Thank you for doing this with me.

Thank you. This has been a fun conversation.

We didn’t get to workplace conflict. Maybe at some point we can come back and talk about the HBR Guide to Conflict, which you wrote, you wrote the book on conflict, so to speak. I appreciate we covered a lot of ground. I wanted to spend time on getting along since it’s been so well received.

Thank you. This is perfect.

Have a good day.

Thank you, you too, J.R.

I’d like to thank Amy for joining me to discuss her work, and her book, Getting Along. Her thoughts on the challenges that women face in the workplace, and a little bit about the work that she’s done with Harvard Business Review. If you’re ready to make the most of your career, visit and become a member. Basic membership is free. You can also sign up on the website for the PathWise newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thank you. Have a great day.


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About Amy Gallo

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Amy Gallo | Getting AlongAmy Gallo is a workplace expert who writes and speaks about gender, interpersonal dynamics, difficult conversations, feedback, and effective communication. She works with individuals, teams, and organizations around the world to help them collaborate, improve how they communicate, and transform their organizational culture to support dissent and debate.

She is the best-selling author of Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) and the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict, a how-to book about handling conflict professionally and productively. She has also written hundreds of articles for Harvard Business Review, where she is a contributing editor. And for the past four years, she has co-hosted HBR’s popular Women at Work podcast, which examines the struggles and successes of women in the workplace. Amy has taught at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of both Brown and Yale University.

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