Workplace Drama: A Worse Look for Women
3/4/2013 12:00:00 PM
So March is Women’s History month. I love to see women making strides in all arenas: the home, community, politics, career – it's a great thing! I love to pick the brains of women I admire to see how I can better myself. But it takes being honest about your issues and willing to embrace other people. When it comes to women, we can be complicated in our relaitonships with other women – no matter what profession we are in.
A few weeks ago, Gabrielle Union was one of the many women who attended Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood luncheon. When she hit the stage to accept the fierce and fearless award, she was honest talking about Hollywood, insecurities and the need for fellow black actresses to stick together. Amen! Here’s a portion of what she said:
“I used to revel in gossip and rumors, and I lived for the negativity inflicted upon my sister actresses or anyone who I felt whose shine diminished my own. It’s easy to pretend ‘to be fierce and fearless because living your truth takes real courage. Real fearless and fierce women admit mistakes and they work to correct them. We stand up and we use our voices for things other than self-promotion. We don’t stand by and let racism and sexism and homophobia run rapid on our watch. Real fearless and fierce women complement other women and we recognize and embrace that their shine in no way diminishes our light and that it actually makes our light shine brighter."
Wow. I am glad she was able to be real about the reasons she celebrated another woman’s negative issues. Often when there is conflict, we have to know the root of it. Sometimes it’s not the other person, but it's that we don’t feel so good about our own lives. Therefore, when we see another sista who has what we perceive is good, we go in! Yes, women have so much conflict! But in the professional realm, it can create major chaos. Yes, it’s true men may have conflicts in the work arena, as well. However, when it happens for women, the consequence is much worse for us, according to a new study in the journal Academy of Management Perspectives. While women are making strides in a lot of areas, we must be aware that stereotypical conflict can cause us more pain than promotion. When we explode, or use the word “strong" to describe ourselves when really we just have a nasty attitude, that could mess up our professional reputation. To avoid that, Casey Gueren, Women's Health Associate Online Editor, has these suggestions to defuse work conflicts:
Don’t work and vent
Sure, it’s tempting to lean over your coworker’s cube and say, “Can you believe she did that?” Feel free to bring the incident up with the offending party or your manager—but leave your coworker out of it (particularly if you just feel like ranting). “If you’re venting at work, you’re reinforcing this stereotype that you’re never going to get over it,” Sheppard says. Instead, text your boyfriend about it or wait until you get home to rehash it with a friend. Chances are, you’ll be over it by then anyway.
Keep conflicts task-oriented
Your coworker dropped the ball—again—and all you really want to do is go off on her for being so careless. Warning: A personal dig won’t get you anywhere. “The research on conflicts show that when it’s just about the task, it can be quite productive,” Sheppard says. “But as soon as it gets personal, that’s when the negative implications come out.” Focus on being as specific as possible about what went wrong and how to prevent similar problems from cropping up in the future. That way, you’ll actually fix the issue—rather than drawing it out. Casey Gueren, Women's Health Associate Online Editor
Dial back your voice
Women’s naturally higher tone of voice can also lead to negative assumptions about how they’re handling an office conflict, says workplace communication expert Joyce Weiss, author of Communicate With Impact! Females generally raise their tone and pitch when they’re passionate about something, which can come off as overly emotional to outsiders. Weiss recommends stopping and taking a breath before you speak—it’ll automatically help lower the tone of whatever comes out of your mouth next.
One crucial thing to keep in mind with work conflicts: Someone’s obnoxious behavior might have nothing to do with you. Before you take a remark or action personally, remind yourself that the person may just be having an awful day. “You don’t need to react to everything,” Weiss says. “If this isn’t typical behavior, leave them alone and give them space.” If it happens again, then you can bring it up. No clue where to start? Try the parrot technique, which Weiss explains as rephrasing what the other person said in the form of a question (for instance, “This presentation is all wrong?”). You’re throwing it back to them, which should get you more constructive feedback (or maybe even a confession that they’re upset about something that has nothing to do with you).
Avoid the gossip
One of the most interesting findings from this study was that women were just as likely as men to think that all-female conflicts would have the most negative consequences. Help squash the stereotype by shutting down gossip whenever it reaches you. “It’s very tempting to say you agree, but that’s not going to help,” Weiss says. Instead, encourage them to deal with the problem directly. Have a short and simple response ready, like: “Yeah, I hear you. You should definitely go talk to them about it.” You’re acknowledging what your coworker says without adding to the drama.
Look, you don’t have to be besties with your co-workers but try to be at peace. Your professional future is at risk. Don’t be the one looked over because you can’t look over a woman you may be at odds with. In the words of Rodney King, why can’t we all just get along - especially women in the workplace.