Negotiating Career Envy, Business Jealousy and Networking Snarkyness 2
Reposted from our blog at ForbesWoman.
I confess to a certain Pollyanna perspective about women in business: that we’re all in it together and your good fortune has everything to do with my good fortune.
Most of the time it’s true in my world—women committed to cultivating collaboration, and seeking to put real value and reciprocity into networking and business relationships with each other. But sometimes (and oh, how I hate to say this) women can be so snarky. Like this:
In response to the She Negotiates weekly negotiation tips newsletter this week that had a two-line snippet at the bottom about an offer, we got this:
I thought this was a newsletter, not advertisements for your products.
I could go into a whole stream of relationship marketing rules and standards I might have violated, but the chord this struck has to do not only with our resistance to being “sold” but our distaste for boldness in asking. It’s as if the unwritten law is “you can come at me sideways, very unobtrusively, but don’t ask directly.” Meanwhile, we turn on the TV and set ourselves to bathe in numbing in-your-face 20th century sell tactics.
And here’s another:
While at a professional women’s group lunch presentation recently, our table engaged in a round of elevator speeches. Here is where I also confess to career and business envy. I’m inclined to think and sometimes remark after everyone speaks, Ooh, what a great idea, or Wow, that’s an incredible niche. And truth told, Geez, I wish I had thought of that.
Most women who are good at networking are attracted to those we envy, not in the green kinda way, but in an I have to know more about youkinda way. Well, hold on to your nametags, girls. Here’s one from the Snarky Girls Handbook.
I was second to last to speak and I said, “I’m a negotiation trainer and coach, and I help women speak up, show up, find their leadership bones and change everything.”
“Wow,” said one woman, “how do you do that?” I then talked for a minute or two about coaching and accountability, peppered with leadership statistics, implicit and explicit bias issues, and the cultural forces we all need to wake up to. A couple of other women asked questions which I quickly answered and passed to the final woman in the group. After she spoke we turned our attention to the speaker.
Leadership and Sisterhood
As an organizational consultant, the presenter, a man, spoke about the need for values-centered leadership, cooperation, clear communication, nothing we hadn’t heard before. But lest you think I’m digressing, his PowerPoint presentation was replete with slides showing male CEOs in the foreground, with his valued team in the background. (I should note that none of us spoke up about what we noticed. We’re all so damned inured to same old, same old.)
After the presentation, we all broke into our naturally selected groups and began talking and passing out business cards as we made our way to the door.
“Hey, Lisa,” I turned around to see a woman from my table. Impeccably dressed in a fitted suit that matched her penetrating brown eyes, she starts, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.” Trouble can only be a breath away. “I just want to say that as a long-time member of this group, you really ought to follow the networking rules and not steal time from others. And passing out your event postcard was really overstepping.”
Hmm. “Okay,” I started, adding, “I’m confused, did I step on your toes?”
“No, not really, but I’m just saying…”
“Who are you speaking for then?”
“I’m speaking up for everyone, in fairness,” she says.
I’m trying not to let my eyeballs bulge like we’re locked in a Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote stand off. “Maybe we’ve hit on a real problem,” I offer.
“Yeah, I’ll say so,” she snarks.
“Okay, so really, how can I help you,” I asked.
“Yes! Hey, I’m not your enemy. You’re in wealth management, I could likely use your services. You’re in a women’s business association at a networking event! What is it you don’t trust about me?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for this to get so heated.” She purses her lips.
“Perhaps we should get good at singing our own praises on behalf of what we’ve so passionately committed our livelihoods to, and realize we’re not in competition with one another. I mean, don’t we all bring something of value for one another?”
“Yeah, well. That’s how it should work,” she snarks again.
“Well, then I’m your gal. I can teach you how to do that,” I said, and handed her my business card.
We parted and walked toward the door. I thought, no wonder the PowerPoint slides haven’t changed. It’s clear that if we are ever to reach parity and fill the leadership gap with beautifully qualified—no, overqualified women—we have to deal with our own implicit biases first. And our resistance to speaking up and claiming our bragging rights. And our fear of each other.
We also have to start waking up to the fact that we’ve ingested the Kool-Aid of bias and oppression and we’re taking it out on our sisters, and if we don’t start building what Gloria Feldt calls “Sister Courage,” and looking for ways to open the door and bring each other up, those PowerPoint slides will stay the same for another 2,000 years.