It wasn’t so long ago that I was obsessed with replaying in my mind what went wrong at my last job. After just three months there, I felt forced to quit because the environment was, to say the very least, becoming quite hostile. For a while, all the events that led up to this once unfathomable action pretty much haunted me. How did this happen? How did I get here? Or just … why? I’ve literally never quit ANYTHING in my life. Not one thing, least of all a job, and trust me, I’ve had some pretty hideous and tortuous jobs in my lifetime. I’m just not the quitting kind (not that anyone in their right mind would describe themselves as such.) I’ve endured pathetic relationships with past boyfriends that were (and are) complete losers just because I’m the kind of person that seriously sticks it out until the end. I’m pretty much that way with everything and this is the reason why my sudden unemployment because I quit my job just slapped me in the face over and over again until recently.
In any case, after prolonged consideration (or, obsessive thinking as my husband would say) I realized that the main reason I didn’t succeed at that company came down to one fact: not a single woman at that company had my back in any way, shape or form. Furthermore, the one woman who was tasked with guiding me and downloading all pertinent information to assure my assimilation and subsequent success, seemed to have “forgotten” to do so, leaving me to connect the dots on my own, grasping for answers in an environment I wasn’t familiar with and on several occasions, throwing me to the wolves as she sat on the sidelines and watched me pretty much falter miserably. Most of the time and generally speaking, she wasn’t a bitch and she wasn’t mean, but that’s how they come, you know. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. The fact of the matter is that she had the roadmap to my initial success in that position but she never handed it to me or even REMOTELY shared it with me and I now believe she did this on purpose. Why would someone act this way? Why – considering the long process of recruiting me, where she herself also participated in the interview process – would she simply decide not to share valuable information with me and just watch me cave, day after day?
Maybe the reasons are obvious:
1) I’m a decade younger than her
2) I have two university degrees, she didn’t have even one
3) I speak two languages fluently, she doesn’t
4) I’ve traveled the world, she’s traveled the country
5) She wanted the position I was hired for
6) In general I’m just a happier person
The first four points above are facts and the last two are subjective – some half ass reasons that make me out to be no better than her, really. But even if these reasons and many more were ALL TRUE, all I can think is: WTF?
Why don’t we, as women, help each other out?
I’m not free of fault either.
A few months ago I met one of G’s female colleagues at one of his company events. She and G basically have equal positions but at different companies and my first impression of her was that I just didn’t like her. Now that I think about it – WHY didn’t I like her? She seemed ballsy. She didn’t really talk to me, she just talked to G the entire time. She didn’t seem friendly. She seemed crass. And so on and so on and so on. A few months later G and I were invited to a work-related wedding (if that makes sense) and his colleague was also there. As fate would have it, she and her sig other sat with us at the same table. In fact that table included a few board of directors from both companies and the conversation was just as monotonous as you are probably imagining it… but you know what I realized in the hour I sat with her at that table, watching and hearing them all talk about the day-to-day business: holy sh*t it must be so hard for her to have this leadership position in a male dominated company, where she’s a relative newbie and all these men have been there for 10+ years (including G.) I suddenly not only had mad respect for her but I also felt kind of bad for her. Here I was, judging her and immediately not liking her, when it really came down to it, I’ve always encountered her surrounded by aggressive male peers and I’m thinking – that’s sure to mess with your friendly bedside manner when it comes to meeting new people, I’m sure.
It’s happened to me on both sides and I know it’s happened to other women I know. An expat friend, with toddler in tow, trying to enjoy a dinner date with another girlfriend and having to endure menacing glances from an older lady next to her just because her toddler was surely acting like a toddler usually behaves (I know because I have one of my own.) The older lady’s stance was simply “People shouldn’t bring their kids to dinner.” Forget any kind of human compassion for the stress she seemed to have caused my friend with her evil stares and tsks tsks. Maybe in that lady’s mind, women with children just shouldn’t go out if they don’t have anyone to leave their kid with. “You’re a mom therefore your life should just revolve around your kid and don’t even think about having a good time, least of all with that little one in tow. Oh, you want to try to have it both ways, baby and a nice dinner, well I’m going to stare you down all night and let you know I’m totally against you, your baby and your decision to eat out, how ’bout that? Make you think twice about doing that again.” Thanks lady… thanks for having our backs. Being a mom isn’t hard and unrelenting as it is. Now we can count on glares from women who seem to have forgotten that we’re people too. Fuuuuuuuuuun!
All of my best girlfriends have dealt with “evil women” out to get them at work. Some of my friends can take it with a grain a salt, a la “sorry you’re so insecure that you have to hate on me but I’m going to keep being the mad baller that I know I am! Have fun hating me for no good reason!” While others, like myself, have a hard time not getting worked up by these “evil” women. An article I once read talked about three reasons women were hard on women at work: competitive threat, collective threat and favoritism threat. You can take the time to read the short article but basically it’s about feeling threatened that in some way, someone is going to be better than you. If it’s a guy, fine – that’s expected, but if it’s a woman –> Oh hellllllll nooooooooooo. And thus, the evil woman at work is born.
The fact of the matter is that there will always be someone better than you out there, be it a man or a woman. The sooner we come to terms with that fact, the better off we’ll be.
So should we go around supporting women and their sometimes dumb and inexplicable antics just because we’re women and we need to stick together? Um, no. Respect, as we’ve all learned in our lives, needs to be earned. But geez, give a woman a chance to prove herself! Let’s be open to helping out, free of judgement and with an open mind. People are different and that difference sometimes compliments us. Let’s be open to learning new things and how about being patient when people don’t necessarily know the same things we know. Let’s share knowledge, how ’bout that? Geez Louise, let’s be human. It’s about putting yourself in another person’s shoes.
Let me tell you, if that woman at that company where I quit had been remotely willing to share knowledge, remotely willing to hear and implement my knowledge and just a tad bit less threatened by whatever it was that threatened her with my presence, I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am right now. If she would have just realized I was on her team… But in the end, I learned a valuable lesson – I learned that I never, ever, want to be like that. Ain’t nobody got time for that nonsense.