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Why is She Being Such a Bitch?

July 6, 2007 7:20 AM

When I was writing my last book dozens of young women I interviewed all talked about a ubiquitous experience: working for a woman who was intent on making the workplace a difficult and unpleasant place for her underlings. When I was thinking about what to call the chapter about working with women there seemed to be only one obvious choice: “Why is she being such a bitch?”

It’s no surprise, then, that statistics reveal that women would rather work for a man than a woman. But my take is this. Whether it’s a woman behaving like a “man” or a man behaving like a “woman” or a woman behaving like a “woman” or a man behaving like a “man” just being nice should be the business strategy de jour, regardless of the gender bending you are doing – and that’s hardly conjecture.

A 2005 study in the Harvard Business Review, and reported in a December 2005 USA Today article, found that personal feelings toward an employee play a more important role in forming work relationships than is commonly acknowledged. In fact, it is thought to be even more important than how competent an employee is perceived to be. The message isn’t cryptic: treating the people who work for you well pay its dividends. It’s what inspired Geraldine Laybourne, the CEO and Chairman of Oxygen Media, Inc., to coin “nice is the new mean.”

Comments (5)

I recently accepted two positions, I was elected to a public office and asked to direct and manage a small retail business. I definitely wear two hats, and each reflect a different aspect of my personality. The retail scene is creative and friendly, and perfectly suits my "feminine" self.... obviously, in order to sell stuff, customer service and accessibility is key. In the public position, I am most definitely a "bitch". Sexism and backstabbing is rampant. I have learned that to be taken seriously , I have to say the same thing three times, and mean it, unwaveringly, every time. you can believe that when I say it the third time, and mean it, i am no longer smiling......I am ambitious and goal oriented, and there is always someone trying to trip me up with their agendas, issues, and power plays. I have a few great female allies, but by and large, there is a sexist woman for every sexist man out there, and they will gladly jump on board to undermine you when they realize you are tough, progressive, effective, say what you mean and mean what you say. Three things I wish for are a bigger dose of patience, a thicker skin, and a more gracious smile and attitude, and I expect these will come when I am no longer "tested" at every turn. The first eight months in office is like the first two weeks teaching high school. Once you are accepted and respected, you can let your guard down a little and be friendly AND mean business, but first they need to know you mean business and you won't be pushed around.......

Some pointers: 1) Better talk about "feminine values" such as "team player," "empathy," collaboration," "holistic," etc. than "masculine values" such as "me, me, me, I, I, I, I," "no empathy, no pity but bottom line," "collaborate as long as it is useful to me," "partial view (mine." 2) Most women have mostly feminine values while most men have masculine values. 3) There are women who mostly possess masculine values ("falic women") and there are some men who have mostly feminie values ("great empathetic people toward anybody."

I am not sure it is a woman vs. man thing, I have worked for men and women, and they are equally as ignorant and backstabbing as well as nurturing and nice. I believe it is a basic personality issue. Some people are just ignorant and their lives are miserable. They have not other options but to make others are miserable as they are and some are the exact opposite. Doesn't this entire conversation continue to perpetuate the stereotypes of women being "bitches"?

I've worked for women bosses who were absolutely wonderful. I found that confident, secure women don't need to bully anyone to make themselves feel or appear better in their role as a manager - they appreciate what the team has to bring to the table. My most recent experience working with a woman was less than - well, I can't even come up with a good adjective. It got to be where I was becoming full of self-doubt and wondering what the heck I had done wrong - even though the majority of my co-workers and I enjoyed great working relationships. Once I was transferred from that department, I was better able to see that it truly wasn't me. My new boss (yes, a man) has been encouraging and really has my back - so to speak. It's a good feeling to know that the competence and confidence I have in my position and my contribution to the whole isn't just something I think, but is validated by everyone I work with now. Blessing her on her journey.....

My first experience working with a woman who was an engineering lead at the time was a nightmare. She would pick and choose the things that I did wrong to blast about to the other team members. She would also often compare her career path to mine. I was always thinking, “You are already ahead of me in your career why does it matter?”

I can definitely relate to wanting to work for a male instead of female because it seems you don’t have to be on guard as much. I can understand wanting to be taken seriously and not trying to perceived as the overly emotional female. I just can’t relate to tearing someone down to build yourself up.

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