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Intimidating women


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This is a bit of a rant, sorry, but I am also interested in views if anyone has any…

 

Would a man in a professional firm - one who always had had a high performance reviews, who always delivers well, never had a complaint against him, never caused any problems - would such a man be told that he’s “too passionate”, “too intense” and that the fact that he “cares too much” and is “too smart” is intimidating?

 

I have heard versions of this from each employer I have had. In every case I have expressed surprise and asked for examples so that I can address whatever the issue is. In each case I have been told “I don’t know, I can’t think of anything, but if I feel this way it must be true”. I have then been told to “care less”, and to make less of an effort.

 

I copped another version of this from a co-worker today, someone who I have had a good relationship with around the office, but have not worked directly with before. Because of office politics where his part of the business is taking over my part (unofficially, there’s a backstage coup), he was put in charge of a project that is my area of expertise, and which my part of the business had put me in charge of. I accepted his responsibility/role (to be accommodating) but had also made clear to him that given this was my area (note I am the sole person in the company that addresses this) that I would expect to be pretty much equal to him. He’s trying to take over though and today he dictated to me what my output would be on the project would look like – note I am the only one doing the work here and he has no experience with this issue. When I explained to him that while I would do what I could to keep true to his wish, and that it was my wish also, there were other factors determining the outcome, he got quite unpleasant.

 

He said “lots of people here and outside the firm doesn’t want to give you feedback on your work because you won’t take it into account”, and more along these lines. I asked him what he meant because I had never heard that, and had never received feedback from anyone he might have been referring to, of any sort. He just reiterated it was because they thought I wouldn’t consider their views. He wouldn't address who said anything, in relation to what, or when. It was clear he had no real examples. Now, he has a colleague who is the only one who ever responds to my requests for input and I always go to heaps of effort to encourage her and to put her words in, so I know that’s not true, but perception is all, isn’t it? I did not debate it, but said it was a shame if people said that given no one has ever approached me besides that one colleague and she was always pretty happy.

 

It’s frustrating, because I don’t know how to take this kind of thing, whether I write it off, worry about it, change myself, I don’t know. I worry because I have heard this theme before, that I am intimidating, but then no one can ever talk to me about why. It’s really unfair, because if I ask or debate what they are saying, I am essentially proving them right. They get to sit in their judgement corner without being accountable for themselves or what they are saying.

 

I do my best to be open and consultative, I call people, visit them in their offices, ask for their views, offer to take them through my thinking on things to save them reading my material - I make it as palatable as possible. All I ever get told is “sorry I haven’t read it yet” and “I’ll get back to you”. Most of them never do, except to say “good paper/presentation”. I get no meaningful assistance or quality assurance: I am on my own. But then, later, people criticise me for not being approachable, but with no examples, no names, nothing. What am I supposed to do?

 

I am already too apologetic and too open. I do not come accross as a ball-breaker, but I know I am passionate about something people here pretend to care about, but don't actually care about, or understand enough to care about. That's kind of nerdy to the old lags in this industry, who only care about stuff just enough to justify their existence to the bosses. I realise I probably threaten them. But this is my job, it's what I was hired to do - to fill the gap in the company (and the industry) and provide some "thought leadership" as my boss calls it.

 

I am starting to feel that the problem of others being intimidated by me is not my problem – it’s theirs. But I still cop the hassle that comes with it. A small part of me wonders if it’s not because I am a younger woman with a PhD on the topic and some views, and that’s too much for them to feel comfortable with.

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basically the last part of what you said is true. they dont want you to care cause youre doing better than them and then they make up all sorts of BS excuses to justify their not putting out any effort to get along or work with you well. i think you should just continue to do your job well and not worry about what they think. they can argue that you're being intimidating - but they can't argue about the results youre giving to the company.

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Ok I can tell just from reading your post that you have a very high opinion of yourself. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But you are also talking down on the people in the office, what you say about them might be true, however think about that for a second. Maybe what you think about them is coming accross in the way you deal with them.

 

I don't mean to say you are in the wrong here but it does look like there are some superiority / inferiority complexes going on here, for lack of a better word. I hope you know what I mean.

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When it comes to my area of expertise I guess I do have a high opinion of myself, and I agree with you CaptainPlanet. (It is also hard to come on here, with cold words only, and give a somewhat accurate reflection of my capability and why there is an issue without sounding like an arrogant wanker.) I think that my confidence in my own opinions on the issues has probably been offputting to those with less experience or no real views in the area. I don't mean because I am aggressive, but my "passion" and "intensity" has helped some people feel insecure. Others with a passion in the area (from other sectors) tend to not have an issue with me.

 

When it comes to topics in the office that are not related to what I know, I am the first to admit that it's not my area and that others know more - I admit that more than I should. But I guess I have spent years in this particular area, proven myself, and there is no competition from anyone. No one has had my particular experience, no one seems interested, no one wants to be involved. The topic is around reasonably complex government policy accross a few sectors, and is seen as too economics driven by the touchy-feelies in the industry, and too touchy-feely by the engineers and hard core economists.

 

These are just the facts. Now what that has seemed to mean is that I can't win. I am left to do all the work, the analysis, the politicking, the writing up, developing strategy and tactics etc. But the minute it looks like fun to someone else they step in and come out with ridiculous statements, and do not give me the credit of at least knowing what I am talking about. I write submissions about complex subjects to people who understand the issues and whose job it is to care, and people like my co-worker come in, they don't have experience with the issues or what the decision-makers want to know, they haven't read my work, and yet they say "it's too long, why can't you say everything in 5 pages". Subjects around markets, industry, reform, consumer protections and regulatory regimes where submissions from other organisations can run into 100s of pages.

 

Anyway, I am raving. My submission is too long! I guess I am still upset because I told my boss today that I had had a difficult discussion with the colleague, and that we seem to have serious territory issues. It turns out the colleague got to him first, and that my boss does not believe me. I agreed that the discussion yesterday was probably an aberration, I did not go over what was said, I said I did not have a complaint to be resolved with the colleague, but that the nature of his approach to me had been inappropriate and had highlighted that he seems to believe he is my boss in this. My actual boss pretty much completely pooh-poohed what I was saying re my colleague's approach and told me it was just my "perception" and that I was emotional. The boys' club has closed ranks so I will keep my mouth shut, as a good little girl would do.

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Hi, caro33...I am sure this situation is causing you at least some level of anxiety. I know it would me.

 

I don't know if the assessments you've been given of being "intense," and "passionate" are true...(to be honest, I haven't really seen indications of that on eNotalone, you seem very grounded and insightful)...but I can tell you one thing. Based on my experience in the workplace, when a male had those attributes, it was mostly tolerated, but if a female was like that, she was branded, as you recently were, "emotional."

 

Well, I guess we can all get emotional, so why is that only women are called that? Doesn't seem fair.

 

However, I do get a sense that some of the things you've been asked to do - i.e., making your submissions a lot more brief - aren't so much a personal criticism of you, as it is a professional request. I know it's really hard to take copy out of a report, because everything seems important, but the fact is, hardly anyone outside of academia reads anything longer than 10 pages or so.

 

How long have you been at this job? Do you feel the "chemistry" just isn't there? Sometimes, that can very well be the case.

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Thanks for your comments Scout, and your kind words .

 

I guess the reason I take the length of paper thing personally is that it tends to come from people who (a) have not read the questions being asked (b) have not read my paper and/or © have themselves wanted extra stuff added that was less relevant than what was there already. Cooks like to come in and stir my hard worked on broth just to be seen to be getting their hand in. The length of paper issue is always an easy target for those not wanting to actually engage.

 

The length of paper was only actually the opening line with that co-worker, he got kind of controlling and personal reasonably quickly.

 

I've been thinking about this, and realise it's my ego, it's my ego out of control. I have a real thing about being appreciated and being treated with respect, and if I feel that I, or my work, is not being given due respect I get a bit unhappy, as I was over the last day or so. Thing is, I wouldn't do this to anyone else (criticise work I knew nothing about), and once people understand the nature of the issues they don't tend to have a problem with the length of my papers, the models I introduce etc.

 

Anyway, I am not sure how to progress. I think this is a mix of me being excessively outraged at not being taken seriously (which I think has some grounding in sexism and some grounding in other people's usual laziness), and a legitimate issue about my job devolving due to internal politics. The former I can manage to some degree - I need to control my own feelings about being undermined or neglected, and I need to "care less". I can't do anything about the aspect that comes down to sexism except manage myself with some degree of distance, and there's certainly nothing I can do about the fact that I am in what is apparently reknowned to be the loser part of the business. I would have quit and moved on if I had not wanted to fall, and then became, pregnant.

 

Oh well. I am leaving soon enough, on to more important things. But that's another issue - how to resolve the feeling of dread I have about the pregnancy?

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It seems to me that the women I worked for were bigger jerks and more assertive than the men. They think they have to be because they're women and no one will take them seriously otherwise.

 

They did get more things done though, and I did not have a lack of respect for them because they were women. I have to problems with a woman trying to make her way through, they are just as capable (if not more so) than men.

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Its always a problem to work with people who don,t share your values and work ethic. Usually it's those who come to work just for the money and have no passion for what they do who get uneasy when someone else is doing a good job. Even your boss feels threatened. Maybe the best thing is to start your own company and instil the passion that you have into your own workers?

I admire you for having such a passion for your job. Keep it up and don't tone down just because some people are not happy about it. I believe that if it's worth doing at all then it's worth doing the best.

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Hey I can identify with you...

You may disagree with me here, but I used to be just like you. The thing is, usually in any sort of relationship with people, you must have done something for people to react (good or bad), and your current situation is the sum of little things you've done over ur time at work.

Certainly I don't think it's all your fault. But I do think there are aspects of what you do that you can change, that may help the situation. I just want to say that the thing that separates successful people, and people who are talented and hardworking, but are not necessarily successful, is being able to not induce jealousy in others when you achieve. Have you ever heard of the "tall-poppy syndrome?"

Don't lower your standards, but learn how to not be the target for others.

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Hi Caro,

 

I think it's very common for people, especially men, to get resentful and even aggressive towards younger women who are clearly very able and in a position of authority within an organization (or getting there). Often, there are quite unprovoked displays of aggression and pettiness from such people, which make you feel both surprised and hurt. It also makes you question how you are coming accross to people: i.e. you may think you are being completely personable and professional, but they'll call you a 'stuck up biotch' or such...I'm afraid it's just a sign that people can't handle the competition, and an obscure form of flattery in a way. Many many women have to deal with casual misogyny in a wide variety of professions: it's a fact of life. It takes a while to twig that the playing field is not quite as level as we'd like, even though there are laws and lip-service to say it is. The smart thing to do is to recognize this when you see it and learn how to handle such people--be polite to them and so on, but go your own sweet way. If you are confident about the quality of your work then don't allow yourself to be deterred by unfairness or resentment.

 

Good luck

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