Ah women… we are on a cultural trajectory- these days, the media is inundated with articles related to the female empowerment movement, the quest for evolution in the workplace, and gender equality. We form our networks and demand respect from the “institution” to enforce policies that seek to lessen the gender gap.
However one narrative that we hear less of is one that circumvents our growth and collaborative development and that is the notion of women who undermine and tear each other down instead of supporting one another.
It’s a fact that in speaking to any career woman, from fashion to finance, they have all had at least one experience where they have been backstabbed or sabotaged by another female at work. Even at this stage in my career I am still amazed when a woman, who could have provided mentorship to me, chooses not to help, or better yet, tries to throw me under the proverbial bus.
We’re told to lean in and yet some of us unknowingly (or knowingly) hold each other back. Why?
Often times women do not know how to present or propel themselves forward and therefore, overcompensate by trying to gain power over other women. Whether to showcase their toughness, gain respect, or advance their career, the truth is, it comes from a place of fear. Nomiki Konst, Founder & Executive Director of The Accountability Project, who I interviewed a while back said it best when she referenced that the more elevated, confident women have already figured out what others have not….and that is, there is plenty of room at the top. Unfortunately some are still not privy to this fact.
Here are some tips for Dealing with Haters at Work:
- Never lose your cool.
People can’t take away your power unless you let them. And in the game of business, you keep your cards close to your chest. Getting hot-headed or being too vocal and confrontational can come across as having lack of control or being petty. If someone has it out for you, you need to use your head and not your mouth. As the saying goes, “You can’t control other people. You can only control your reactions to them.”
- Don’t gossip or badmouth.
There is no room for drama in the work place, so don’t play into it. Usually when you give people enough rope they will hang themselves. Keep your cool and do not engage in negative talk. Focus on your job and higher principals and when the dust settles, people will see the truth and you will not have added fuel to the fire.
- Address the issue from a bigger picture.
Your boss probably has too much time on their hands to realize what’s going on. Therefore it’s important that when you address the issue, you talk about it from a non-emotional perspective. Keep it focused on your work objectives instead of attacking the individual. Discuss the work environment and how collaborative productivity is being stymied by a conflict at work. That language paints a bigger picture on the overall organization rather than just you—and makes it a higher priority for your boss.
- Document everything.
Believe it or not, this is probably the most important thing you can do. I once had a situation where a co-worker who in not pulling her weight began telling lies about not receiving things on a timely basis from me- even though our texts and emails said otherwise. I had the evidence to prove she was being dishonest and instead of having to be caught up in a game of “he said, she said” all I had to do was let the evidence speak for itself… the rest took care of itself.
- Work harder.
Let the knowledge that someone is out to sabotage your position serve as fuel for your productivity and creativity. Work harder, smarter and make your efforts be known to your organization.
- Play smart.
Always act professional and positive when speaking to your work frenemy and make sure you never engage on a personal level, which will give her less to use as collateral damage. Do not waste your time trying to “keep enemies close.” You’re an executive, not a gangsta, and you don’t have time to play games if you want to reach your personal goals.
Bestselling author of The Woman Code, Sophia A. Nelson said “You will only soar as a woman, when you understand that supporting other women is how you successfully climb to the top.” When dealing with work conflicts, the most important thing is to rise above it. Trust me, you will commended for having grace under fire.
Why do you think women too often tear each other down in the workplace? What has worked for you?