Women; the ones who bring life into this world; who give of their bodies to feed, comfort, and love; who are soft, kind and nurturing, can be described in two words:
Realizing this is hard for me because I’m one of them, but sometimes realizing a truth is the first step in discovering how to enact positive change.
I could say, “thats not me! I’m not like that!” In fact I have said that many times. But being surrounded by women all day at work while attempting to not be like them has proven to be a difficult task.
Women are notorious for forming cliques, and finding ways (and reasons) to exclude others from their super awesome gaggle of squawking geese. Mary is too cheerful. She’s out! Sherry is too smart. She’s not welcome either! Anita is too confident. Don’t let her talk! Margaret is too pretty. Oh, HELL NO! To be part of the “in” group, you have to satisfy a constantly fluctuating list of things you can or cannot be. You can’t be too much of one thing, but you absolutely must be enough of another thing. Or you’re out!
If you’re in the out-group, God help you! The in-group women will dismiss you, and do so in a fashion that is passively obvious. You won’t be asked to after hours parties. When you walk in the room, you notice the in-group girls will stop talking, whisper something to each other, then burst out in laughter. You will be piled on with negativity until which time its decided, by them, that you have earned your stripes and can join them in the mean girls club.
Will you go?
In an office that is predominantly manned by women, this in-group out-group thing is taken to a level that is almost surreal; women constantly jockeying for top bitch status, while taking care to not alienate the women in the out-group too much because after all, they may need their support some day. Who is invited in as opposed to those who are excluded is in constant flux as well. One week Mary may be out, but next week be invited in because of that thing she said about Sue. Sue was never really all that in the first place. The following week Vickie is in hot water for not getting something done on time. Since she’s been the top bitch for a long time, she decides the office should focus instead on Anita for not getting something done on time the week prior, to take the heat off herself. It works. On and on, its like a wave; women constantly shifting focus to and from themselves, and back and forth to and from other women, to take or remove relevance or power from one woman to another. You never know who’s going to get it next.
I’m somewhat lucky because I have my own office space with my own door, which I can close if I wish. Still though, I get the harpies knocking at my door trying their hardest to draw me into office drama. How do I deal with all of this negativity without losing my mind? How can you avoid it as well? Here are some suggestions that have seemed to work for me:
- Never talk about another woman unless she is in the same room to defend herself. If another woman comes to you attempting to tell you that juicy bit of intel about a co-worker, stop the conversation, tell the harpy that, “oh that’s terrible! I think we should get Penny in here to let her explain herself!” More than likely the harpy will back off and never bring that crap to you again. You are now in the out-group.
- Read #1 again and implement.
- Read #2 again and implement.
It really is that simple ladies. If each and every one of us follows that one simple rule, eventually the office harpies will decrease in number until there is only one left. (And there always is at least one.) The one harpy left will eventually get tired and leave the company. (With any luck.)
Yes, for a while you will be in the out-group. I’m in the out-group and have been from almost the beginning. I go to work with a smile on my face, and I leave still beaming (on most days). The office harpies know that I cannot be used in their little petty games. I’ve risen up the ladder by doing my job, and doing it well, along with not bothering my boss with childish drama.
Life is good.
Its good though, because I’ve freed myself from the chains of harpydom. I refuse to take part in it on any level. At first it was hard for me because I really did want to be accepted and admired by other women. I learned during my first year on my current job that these aren’t women who are worthy of my time and presence in their shallow little lives. I don’t need to see how I can factor into their power struggles because I’m quietly powerful unto myself. I’ve been told it shows by the people who really matter to me: my family, true friends, and speaking in the context of this post — my boss.
I suppose the ease with which I deny the harpies their power comes from growing older (I’m in my 40′s), and learning from the other women who’ve gone before me who’ve been successful and well liked in general; they don’t play the clique game. I would like to see more women who can be like this.
Perhaps we can start with YOU?
Maybe we should start with me.