Thursday, March 11, 2010
A friend of mine who manages an all-female staff recently shared soap-opera-worthy stories from her office: betrayals, lies, unfairness, whining, underhandedness, and such. “Well, when you’re dealing with women,” she said, “you’re bound to have drama.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or throw my drink in her face. Laughing would have been rude, and I hate to waste a good glass of wine, so I let it go.
As a woman who has always been a little worker bee, I found her proclamation absurd and highly offensive. It’s a myth that women can’t get along in the workplace simply because they are women. It’s a cop-out to merely chalk it up to ‘girls’ games’ rather than get to the root of the issue. (The issue in this case seems to be lack of teamwork, lack of respect for one’s colleagues, and lack of respect for oneself – how dare any woman run the risk of being categorized in such a way)
I have worked with women who’ll resort to certain tools to get their own way at work, but trust me: I’ve worked with just as many men who’ve done the same.
I’ve never liked gender stereotyping. I find it appalling when wives speak ill of their husbands and then wrap up their tirade with, “Well, that’s a man for you!” I found my friend’s observation (or lack thereof) regarding her female staff ignorant.
My first job was as a disc jockey at a radio station. I was twenty-years-old and the only female member of the staff. When he hired me, the program director of the station actually said, “Well, we need a girl. We may as well have a pretty one.” I vowed right then to work just as hard as the boys. As it turned out, I worked a lot harder than most of the boys. I was a team-player, hell-bent on doing what was best for the station. I was kind, never complained unless I had a solution to offer, and never allowed the stresses of the job or my personal life get in the way of doing my best each day. I was a kid, but I already knew what it meant to be a professional.
In my latter years of teaching middle school, a female colleague approached me with concerns about a male teacher whom she felt was not tending to his students properly. He never took lunch count in the morning, never monitored the kids at recess, and always – always was late in submitting paperwork and grades. “Well, it’s because he’s a man, I suppose,” she said. “No,” I responded, “it’s because he’s lazy and has no business teaching here.” That’s probably not the most professional thing I could have said, but it was true. We had several men on staff who actually took care of business beautifully. To describe this guy’s behavior as a ‘guy thing’ was a complete disservice to the other guys.
But I’ll let the boys worry about their own. Ladies, it’s you I want to address. How can we keep from being categorized as drama queens while at work? Here’s my Top Ten:
1. Don’t cry in front of anyone
2. Don’t pout, yell, scream, or curse
3. Don’t use your looks to get what you want
4. Treat each of your colleagues with the utmost respect
5. Take issues you have with someone to that someone confidentially
6. Show up on time and dress the part
7. Be honest and forgiving
8. Leave your problems at home at home.
9. Work hard and take pride in all that you do
10. Remember, unless you own the company, you are an employee - a team member, who must play the game fair or run the risk of being eliminated. Everyone is replaceable at work.
As women, I think we have to work a little harder – and a little smarter – in order to kill the idea that we as a group don’t play nice at the office.
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