I love witnessing my own perspective and approach to life shift as I get older and spend more time experiencing life; learning new things and embracing new ideas. When I set out to write this post, it was several weeks ago and was born out of something I had experienced working an event for my company. I was emotionally charged and ready to vent my frustrations via this forum, applying a one-size fits all mentality to my thought, so I drafted what I thought would be the end result of this piece.
Then, life happened. I got extremely busy with work, the emotions of the social justice and women’s movement compelled me to, instead, write about how what was unfolding in the media incited passion and strength to stand up for what I believe in while finding courage to begin opening up about my own assault. So this topic was tabled. And in the weeks since I first began composing this thought and diving deeper, something occurred. I found myself surrounded by women who are encouraging, women who are supportive and women who are competitive, but not in a destructive way. We’re all a work in progress and I realized that change – starts with me.
We talk a really good game.
But when push comes to shove, are we truly supportive of one another like we say we are? Are we carrying out the words we write and are we #supportingeachother when it really counts, in our actions? I have been in both kinds of environments; ones that have been severely catty and a beat down from the other women I’ve worked alongside as well as ones that have been the reason I adore what I do and are fuel for my continued passion for helping people and never wanting to stop doing what I love.
My experiences have guided the conclusion at which I have arrived. And while I’ve worked my entire career in male-dominated industries, I have interviewed and spoken with many of my Mom and female friends who have all echoed the same sentiment, regardless of their role in a corporate environment.
We are our own worst enemy.
I love seeing women in high-powered positions. It gives me all the crazy good feels to see women aspiring to and achieving C-level spots within organizations. I have cheered for female colleagues of mine when they have been promoted to higher positions within my organization and I have coached and developed high performers who have gone on to win President’s Club, Regional recognition awards and various company contests. And it freaking makes me the happiest to see women achieving great things.
But ladies – we are our own worst enemy.
Recently I worked an event with my company and experienced something that actually happens quite often in the corporate environment; another female that was working the event as well was not nice towards me. In fact, she was so outright condescending and patronizing towards me that some of the men working the event took notice and made comments to me expressing their apologies, that they felt sorry for me. As I am thanking them for noticing this behavior and for feeling sorry for me – it hits me! None of the men working the event that day were criticizing the other men working alongside them, none of them tried to belittle and pick on their male co-workers…ladies, why the hell do we do this to each other!?!
The corporate world can be brutal. It is demanding and high-pressure and it takes a certain type of person to be able to manage the personalities of your external customers and the internal hierarchy of the corporate structure, all while producing results and being effective in your role. But it is extremely exciting and rewarding. Yet in my almost 15 years in this setting, it never ceases to amaze me how hard women are on other women. It is heartbreaking to watch them being rude, jealous, demeaning and hurtful towards other women. I have been the recipient of this behavior and I have, sadly and embarrassingly, at times in my career, been an instigator and/or played a role in being this way towards female colleagues of mine.
While there may be many more – below are three key characteristics that have consistently been a part of the personalities of the women who have treated me poorly at work and ones I have identified in myself whenever I have succumbed to the intense pressures of my working climate.
In the corporate setting where S.M.A.R.T goals and objectives, metrics and company achievement are the focus – the perception can be created where it is each woman for themselves. Emotions run high and our insecurities can consume us as we work to become the best and stay at the top of the leader board. For most, these are just aspects of the job that come with the role but for others (especially women) our insecurities surface. Judgement, gossip and negativity start to creep in; and as a manager – nipping this cancer in the bud before it metastasizes your team is crucial to keeping a balanced harmony while pushing for results.
Bottom line – insecure people hurt others to make themselves feel better. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand this common sense fact. Whenever I have experienced the mistreatment of another female, it has pointed directly back at their insecurity. Whether it is their lack of self-confidence, feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and not wanting to fail – taking their insecurity out on their fellow female is not cool. Yet it happens all the time. Sometimes we even bring others along with us to validate our insecurities. My fellow females – we are all in this together – so let’s do this together, let’s be for each other not against each other.
I’m not saying I’ve never had an insecure moment in my life – I have them all the time! I’m insecure about writing this piece, worried no one will read it or like it. I’m insecure about my abilities as a working Mother, a wife, a leader, a friend, my weight (oh Lord, don’t even get me started!) – you name it and I have probably had a moment or million where I have felt insecure. But as I’ve gotten older and more mature in my role as a leader in a large corporation, I’ve learned that putting my insecurities onto someone else, at their expense, only tells them I’m incapable of being supportive, encouraging, thoughtful… a leader…it says more about me than it will ever say about them. And that is not a feeling I want to live with.
As leaders, especially as women, we have to build each other up. The women on my team are driven, passionate, smart, hard-working and they want to be the best. It’s tough at times leading strong, capable, empowered women, but it is also very rewarding. They challenge me on a daily basis and I enjoy sharing their successes with my colleagues and boss. And I look forward to the day when one or all of them are promoted to an even higher position within our company or achieve their professional goals.
Growing up my mother used to say, “don’t let the green-eyed monster get you.” That ‘green-eyed monster’ was jealousy. I didn’t grow up with money – so when I saw friends of mine who had all the latest and greatest clothing, toys, shoes, school binders – whatever it was – it only made me want to work that much harder to get to a point where I could afford myself and my family those things one day. That mentality is the catalyst for why I am a go-getter, self-motivator and hard worker. It’s hard for me to slow down and if I’m not simultaneously working on 37 different items at once – then I feel unproductive. I say all of this to say that – this doesn’t mean I wasn’t at times jealous – I’m human after all – and female…not letting the dudes off the hook but this is typically a more female related issue – and in the workplace, even more so. Just like I am insecure, I have also, on way more than a billion occasions, been guilty of being jealous of another woman.
However, I was raised by a strong, confident woman and I am 100% certain that is why I am the strong and confident woman I am today. Because that shit is infectious and when we see our Moms, friends, leaders, mentors, and other women we admire being supportive of each other and lifting each other up…guess what happens? We model that behavior and we start to see that it’s not as lonely out there when you have a posse of other kick ass women to lean on. That what you’re great at – someone else isn’t and vice versa but that we can learn so much from each other as women if we open up more and let others in to experience our strengths.
Sadly in the corporate environment we do not do this as often as we should. We focus so much on weaknesses and items we need to improve on – no wonder we get jealous of each other. If we’re supposed to be all things ‘exceptional’ based on mid-year and year-end performance reviews, how can we not feel some level of insecurity and/or jealousy when we see others seemingly doing things better than us or achieving greater results?
There is only room enough for one woman to have a seat at the table.
This mentality was brought up during a discussion with one of my husband’s female co-workers. She is a strong, confident, successful working Mother and I admire her for her passion, perseverance and for just being freaking awesome. She’s hysterically funny as well and I’m confident more laughter ensues than actual dialogue whenever we talk. I shared with her the idea behind this post about a month ago and she gave me some good reading material to use as support for the argument that; women work so hard to get a seat at the table – when another woman comes along to claim her spot, there isn’t enough “room.” Meaning, we act towards each other how we often describe the men who don’t want us to have a seat at the table to begin with.
Why do we do this? Why aren’t we championing each other and welcoming each other; pulling up a chair at the table and introducing our fellow females to everyone else gathered? Why aren’t we pushing for more women’s voices to be heard – promoting their ideas and ensuring that they get the recognition they deserve?
In my years of experience – and when I have felt the intensity of another woman’s insecurity or jealousy and when I have been insecure or jealous of another woman’s success – the underlying tone is always: fear and feeling threatened. Fear that this woman could come in and be better than me, be more personable, network better and work harder than me and produce better results than me. Being threatened by your own fears is a very isolating feeling. And that can be an overwhelming.
How can we be the change we want to see in the world?
During the process of exploring these three key aspects an intense desire to empower other women, emerged. I found myself wanting us to be so much more for each other. And then I remembered an article my husband’s co-worker had told me about that described the atmosphere, pertaining to women, in the Obama Administration when he first took office as President. The women, whom were few in numbers at the time, supported each other’s ideas by ensuring they were heard in the first place and that none of the men took credit for what they said. What an empowering statement that makes for all of us as females fighting for our seat at the table.
This past week I spent time with the women of my leadership team for our region. We shared our concerns, how we each uniquely manage and some of the issues we find ourselves dealing with. We’re all working to close our year strong. What I kept hearing as the consistent theme to our discussion is that all of us were dealing with the same items on our year-end to-do list. So we sat together and brainstormed how we could help each other. How one manager’s strengths helped members on my team because her approach to a certain situation provided a perspective I hadn’t thought of before. How I could offer advice in dealing with a personnel issue since I too had dealt with this at the beginning of my career as a leader. And together, we mapped out a plan for how she could go about being proactive in addressing the matter with the employee. In the midst of being a part of this incredible moment I took a second to remember what it felt like to collaborate amongst female colleagues who all bring something different and unique to the table – a table I’d sit at any day of the week. And it felt so very good.
How about instead of talking a good game, we actually play one?
And dominate it. How about we recognize the insecurities, tinges of jealousy and fears in ourselves and use it for good, to befriend, support and encourage a fellow female working alongside us whom we are insecure about, slightly jealous of and who we sorta fear for how badass she is? Channeling all of this into support for one another and productive conversation around the struggles we’re all going through can lessen the burden of the mentality that it is “each woman for themselves” and expand the notion that together, we can be the change we want to see in the world – as women in the corporate environment who champion and lift each other up. Change starts with all of us.
Ladies, we’ve got to stop being our own worst enemy and become our own best friend.
-Confessions of a Corporate Mom
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