[April 19, 2014] As a simple experiment over the past few years I asked a number of women, over age 50 and who work in Manhattan the following question. “When you worked in Manhattan in your 20s and 30s, tell me about how people treated you?” Oh boy, did I get an earful. But their responses were not what I had expected and, in part, are the reason for this post on mental resilience and leadership.1
Not being a NYC native, I had many preconceived notions about work in Manhattan. So by asking them their views on it, I was able to better understand where the best place would be to work (I never did work there). One trend in their answers showed how these women were treated as they traveled to and from work … and being in the workplace.
“Were there catcalls, leers, name calling (hey girlie)?” The answer was yes they had all experienced it, yet not regularly. But they all told me they considered these to be a form of a compliment (surprisingly to me). These women were proud of the fact that they were professionals and being able to withstand such minor stressors [my term], they were absolutely “among the best in the business.” They were the best because they could show that they were able to shrug it off and even return the favor once in a while.
Most important, none considered themselves a victim, in fact far from it. Further, they would have never considered reporting this behavior to their boss because it was part of the game. It is true that several said they had to “slap a man or two;” one woman saying she told the man to “snap out of it” (meaning get over trying to attract her romantically)2.
Here is the takeaway from this unscientific conversation; minor stressors make you mentally stronger. It can also help improve your image with your employer – as a professional who can take the heat – and you can return the favor occasionally to show strength. These women were what we would never call fragile but robust in strength. They consider today’s women (and outside of Manhattan) to be “sissies.” I took this to mean self-indulgent, powerless, and whiny.
What I was not surprised to find was that those workers generally were clerical office workers and had a very inclusive group of friends who “hung out” together. They considered themselves fortunate to be working “in the city” and were proud of that fact. They earned more money but also greater prestige by working there, compared to their friends who worked in their local neighborhoods.
They were professional, funny, hard working, and … mentally resilient.
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 The experiment is certainly not scientific in the classic sense of the definition. The selection of whom I spoke to was based more on the fact that these women (and originally men) somehow crossed my path; usually through knowing someone either professionally or by simple acquaintance. What I was trying to get at was a simple understanding of the life of a city worker (not being a native of NYC) but it evolved into much more as I soon discovered a revealing pattern. This is why I wrote a short blog post on the Mohawk Indians of Brooklyn. It was how they saw themselves and what they thought of others that was most surprising to me.
 In the 1987 movie Moonstruck, Cher (living in Brooklyn NY) tells the man in love with her to “snap out of it” in probably one of the most famous lines from a movie in the 1980s. Classic New York!