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Ask This Simple Question at Work: How Are You?

Stacey Friedman
Executive Vice President and General Counsel for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Listening to the answer may mean more than you think.

When my alarm goes off on Monday mornings, part of what makes me look forward to my day is that at the end of my ride to the office, I get to work with the incredible people at JPMorgan Chase. For me, that privilege comes with a responsibility to make sure that each person feels like they can be true to themselves in our workplace, whether it’s walking the hallways, in the cafeteria or anywhere else.

As a gay woman and a senior leader, I’ve seen firsthand how that reality can fall short despite a company’s best intentions. But I remain impressed that at JPMorgan Chase, we are not solely concerned with appearances or ideals but what the actual experience is for our employees. And the best way for us to learn about that experience is to encourage all of us to ask each other the question, how are you? and listen intently to the answers.

We try to create many opportunities to listen at the firm, whether through employee opinion surveys, comment boxes or focus groups. Other companies may have similar initiatives, but what we all have in common are the everyday interactions with our colleagues and teams.

We need to challenge ourselves to not only listen but act on what we hear and learn. This is critical because inclusivity is not about the number of activities a company commits to, but what life is really like in the office. It’s about open conversation around the water cooler and co-workers who are empowered to speak-up and support one another, differences aside.

I am proud of how we are working to create an inclusive environment where no one has to compromise who they are. That we have nine firmwide business resource groups dedicated to creating communities that focus on ethnicity, culture and gender to spark conversations and unite colleagues with different experiences and viewpoints.

Each of us plays an important role in building these connections. I encourage you to ask someone new how are you? and then see where the conversation takes you; by learning about and understanding each other we can drive great change. As we strive for inclusivity, openness and honesty are table stakes for the success of our company and all others. You deserve to bring your full self to work and know that you will be welcomed at the table.

About the Author:
Stacey Friedman is Executive Vice President and General Counsel for JPMorgan Chase & Co. She also serves as a member of the firm's Operating Committee.

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