A fellow LinkedIn member forwarded this article from The New York Times along with a request for reactions. It's not like I need an invitation for one of my rants but this latest tirade was provoked.
The columnist, Peggy Klaus, is obviously a thoughtful professional and a talented writer. In this opinion piece, "A Sisterhood of In-Fighting," she he did a pretty good job of avoiding the stereotypical and that is usually included in stories about competitive women. My problem is with her sensational choice of topics. Is this really newsworthy?
Are women sometimes less than supportive of each other in the workplace? Yup. Do they sometimes undermine their colleagues in an effort to look good in comparison? You betcha. But, men are guilty of those things, as well. Is The New York Times publishing a story about the motivation behind male professionals' cut-throat behavior? No, because it's not considered news or even an issue worthy of commentary.
Men are praised for being ambitious and competitive, even when it's at the expense of friendship. They are expected to be that way. But not women. When women fail to support their "sisters" in the workplace, they are referred to as "back-biting," "conniving," or with some other less-than-flattering character descriptions. While the author did not use any of these phrases, she did refer to female coworkers as "sisters." Unless a writer is talking about policeman, firefighters, or soldiers, they don't usually talk about male colleagues as "brothers." Male professionals are not expected to treat each other as siblings simply because they are the same gender. So why are women?
I am not excusing or defending the actions of anyone who tries to sabotage their colleague's success. I think it's wrong if men or women do it and, frankly, it's just not nice. I try to be supportive of my colleagues and treat them with the patience and respect that kind mentors demonstrated when I was starting out. Sometimes I try to treat them how I wish I had been treated. Sometimes, I fail with both male and female colleagues. On a bad day, I've been known to gossip about this or that co-worker who dropped the ball on something. I don't blame that failure on my gender, though. I blame it on my humanity.
My father didn't give me a lot of really useful professional advice, but he did give me this one gem that I try to remember when I'm faced with ruthless behavior: People can be jerks.