By: Anja Uitdehaag
Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, co-authors of “Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional when Things get Personal” state: “women are complicated. While most of us want to be kind and nurturing, we struggle with our darker side – feelings of jealousy, envy and competition. While men tend to compete in an overt manner – jockeying for position and fight to be crowned “winners” – women often compete more covertly and behind the scenes. This covert competition is at the heart of mean behavior among women at work”.
Healthy competition and confidence are encouraged in boys but often seen as undesirable traits in girls.
Lois P. Frankel defines it as follows in her book “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office”: “From early childhood, girls are taught that their well-being and ultimate success are contingent upon acting in certain stereotypical ways, such as being polite, soft-spoken, compliant and relationship-oriented. Throughout their lifetimes, this is reinforced through media, family and social messages. It is not that women consciously act in self-sabotaging ways; they simply act in ways consistent with their learning experiences.”
Women should learn to feel comfortable with their own (and other women’s) drive and power, without feeling threatened or worrying that their own success will hurt others.
Authentic, self-confident and self-aware women are less vulnerable to feeling threatened by or threatening to their female colleagues in climbing the career ladder.
And indeed, your success does not mean another person’s failure!
- Understand why you feel rivalry with your female colleagues;
- Don’t try to outshine one another. Women leaders are known for being collaborative and team oriented. Let’s put that to the test;
- When you find yourself complaining about a woman not being nice enough, ask yourself if you would say the same of a man who exhibited similar behaviors;
- Make an active decision now to be less critical of other women and to never get involved in discussions about things like physical appearance or manner of dress when analyzing their work and/or competencies;
- Form affinity groups: women coming together to talk about their experiences in the work place and strategize solutions;
- Provide coaching and mentoring to a less experienced woman leader or professional;
- Create a positive work climate; reward and encourage great performance; publicly praise your (female) team members and peers when they deliver good results;
- Be an advocate for young female talent in your organization, expose them to senior management and encourage them to take potentially risky but high-profile projects.
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