Provocative Question: Have you ever had a conflict or what felt as a competition/rivalry with a fellow female employee? If so, how did you handle it? What advice would you give others on this subject?
It’s awkward, dramatic, and hard, and I’m not talking about seeing the new Bachelorette, Hannah B., try to form a sentence on live television. It’s about competition with a female employee. As much as we would all like to believe that this isn’t common, it has probably affected every single woman in the My Career Matters group. So, what is the impetus of this rivalry? And how do we overcome it to support one another better?
To begin, competition for women is apparent in many workplaces as The Women’s Code detailed that only 2% of CEOs and only 13% of C-level executives are women (https://thewomenscode.com/female-rivalry-in-the-workplace/). With this lack of top positions, it becomes easy and natural to think that if a female colleague is promoted before you, it’s hard to imagine that the same opportunity may come around again. In other words, The Women’s Code further states, “This creates the mindset and mentality that women have: if she succeeds, there’s less chance I will also succeed. This proven scarcity and lack of successful women at the top goes a long way in explaining why some women feel the need to take out or tear down ‘competitors’” (https://thewomenscode.com/female-rivalry-in-the-workplace/). With so few positions, it’s hard to remain positive and supportive to all when you want to be striving upward in your career as well.
How can we make this better? Or make it disappear? Well, we first need more C-suite positions open for women, as Marissa Gagnon, Team Leader at Twisthink, stated in her interview for our “Women in Leadership” series, “Instead of competing, we need to take a step back and recognize that there is room for all of us at the top. If there is enough room for multiple men to lead, why can’t women be the same?” (https://paragon-lead.com/women-in-leadership-marissa-gagnon/).
Furthermore, we can ignore this drama by keeping your emotions in check. The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan stated, “We believe the most important way to refrain from covert competition is simply to not go there; that is, if you sense that a woman feels threatened by or competitive with you, do not react to her negative behavior. We realize this is much easier said than done” (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/the-queen-bee-in-the-corner-office/534213/). Although it is easier said than done to let it go, some of our My Career Matters members have a similar mentality.
Karin Clement, Manager of Human Resources at Bosch, stated, “I found the best way to diffuse the situation was to not react. Naturally, I want to jump in and address the issue head on to resolve it. Learning to take a step back to truly understand the root of the issue allows me to focus on what I can control or influence and then decide how to best proceed.” Instead of reacting to the competition, it’s better to let it slide off – like water off a duck’s back. However, Dyan Van Fossen, Director of My Career Matters, reacts similarly, but she strives to make a connection with the women before allowing the rivalry to continue, stating, “I believe insecurity or lack of confidence can show up as competitiveness – so my solution was to try and reach out to make a connection to ensure we can both succeed, but if that was not possible – I would continue to do my best work confidently and move forward. The more I refused to acknowledge the ‘drama’ the less it affected my work.”
Competition and rivalry among female coworkers will not probably fade away any time soon with the lack of positions, but it seems that by moving beyond the drama and focusing on your career, everyone can succeed better. There’s enough drama in the world already – just look at The Bachelor, Colton jumped a fence over Cassie?! That’s enough drama to last a month.