How NOT to be a B**** at Work

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I work with a lot of women in high-powered positions. A common theme that comes out in our coaching sessions is that they’re afraid of coming off as a bitch in the workplace.

It’s an unfortunate reality. Women that are intelligent, driven and have high expectations are often seen as bossy or bitchy in the workplace. It’s amazing that similar individuals that happen to have a Y-chromosome are seen as a powerhouse. I’ve found this to be particularly acute in the high-tech industry where female leaders are rare and the front-line male employees tend to be somewhat socially uncomfortable in their relationships with women. These are broad generalizations but they’ve proven themselves out over the course of time.

Working with these female leaders, I’ve come to respect their dedication and empathize with their frustration. What keeps them from being treated like their male counterparts?

Through the successful outcomes my female execs have reached, I think I may have discovered the key. The secret to not being the bitch at work is to stop THINKING of yourself as a bitch.

This is going to sound over-simplified, but it seems to actually work. Once my clients change their frame of reference from “I’m afraid of being a bitch” (you project what you think) to “I’m a confident, capable and driven individual, just like any of my male counterparts,” magical things start to happen. I don’t know if there’s some actual re-wiring that takes place in their brain but their outward demeanor changes. Instead of being seen as searching for approval or demanding respect for their authority, they simply take charge and get the job done. Their subordinates seem to notice the difference and respond accordingly. I’ve seen really desperate situations get turned around almost overnight with a change in perspective by the female leader.

If you’re a woman responsible for leading unresponsive males, how have you handled the situation? How have you taken the lead without being seen as a “bitch?”

Photo credit: le temple du chemisier / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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