This week, we sat down with someone who knows a thing or two about making tough career decisions. As a career journalist, Gretchen Carlson has also become an advocate for equality and dignity in the workplace after she sued the former Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, in 2016. Her bombshell lawsuit ignited national conversations about sexual harassment and has inspired her advocacy work. Most recently, she’s been fighting the use of mandatory NDAs through her new organization, Lift Our Voices.
Carlson was candid with us about her perspective on NDA’s, building the courage to make life-altering decisions, and how she handles critics.
On The Use of NDAs
Carly: You've said your biggest regret about your settlement was signing a nondisclosure agreement. When you were negotiating your settlement, how aware were you of the restraints that would be put in place?
Gretchen: I was aware of that, but at that point in time, nobody was even thinking about the fact that you wouldn't have to sign an NDA. Right? I mean it was part of this process that we have used to resolve these cases…
One third of the American workforce signs NDAs. 60 million Americans are forced into signing arbitration clauses in their employment contracts. And the scary thing is most people don't even know it. So when you start a new job, you sign off on these things not thinking you're going to get into a dispute at work. I know I didn't. And then you find yourself in a dispute, and you're like, "Well, crap. I gotta go to arbitration, not in open court. And I signed this NDA, so I can never tell anyone what happened to me."
On How She Makes Decisions
Carly: For our listeners who might be making difficult decisions on their own or in a workplace environment that is not one of dignity, walk us through what your decision making was to come forward, and how you used your support network, your close-knit support network around you, to get to that decision.
Gretchen: This is not a decision that you make in one day. Building courage is a process. It's a life experience, actually. And I harkened back to being a gutsy little girl, actually, on many occasions.
We rear women to just keep working harder, 'cause, you know, finally they'll appreciate how smart you are, right? And they'll stop treating you that way. And that's how I was socialized. So I just kept working harder and harder and harder, as opposed to really saying, "Okay, enough is enough," right?
It was a period of time, a long period of time, that I was planning and assessing. I think what sped up the process was when I was fired. And that was surprising. And so then we just had to act quicker.
On Handling Criticism
Carly: When you think about how you would take criticism at one part in your life, and how you take it now, after going through everything you've been through, how are you different?
Gretchen: I think that I was used to criticism my whole life. Because, as a student, as a musician, you're constantly being criticized. "Do it this way, don't do it that way." I was a good student. I was a good listener. And so I've been used to constructive criticism my entire life.
It’s really important... to not get bogged down in criticism that is not relevant or truthful. We all need to have constructive criticism in our lives to make us better people. But it didn't behoove me at the time to go line by line and say, "That's a lie, that's a lie, that's a lie." It just didn't. Again, I had my eye on the prize.
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