One of the biggest challenges for women in the workplace is harassment - which can take many forms.
At my last live training on how to use behavioral science to de-escalate conflicts, I got several questions from women that all amounted to the same thing. How can I, as a woman, assert myself without being a bitch. How can they stand up to their male colleagues, demand respect and be heard without pissing off the guys? I get this question in some form in every single training I do. Sometimes it’s phrased as how do I stop being a doormat and stand my ground without being a jerk.
This shouldn't be a problem. Women should be able to assert themselves in the workplace without triggering a sexist response in others. But ... assertive women are viewed negatively by not just men, but by other women.
The solution to this problem has to do with being professional and realizing that some men and some women can’t handle professional assertive women. At all. That's the bad news.
The good news is that most can.
I’ve only ever been in 2 work environments where a man didn’t try to minimize my contribution simply because I’m female. It’s very very very common. My focus when dealing with these situations is not to try and fix the offending male, but making sure the other males – who aren’t jerks – understand my value.
I do this by being professional and firm. If something isn’t right or can’t be done in the timeframe or the request was inappropriate – I say no. Sorry – that can’t be done. Then I pivot to problem solving mode. Perhaps we can do this another way? This technique is so simple I’m always surprised that more people don’t use it.
Despite having been subject to attacks and rumors, I have always enjoyed the confidence and support of my supervisors. I don’t allow others to sideline me and I make sure the people who matter, know I matter. All by being professional and firm about my boundaries.
To learn more about how to win arguments without arguing - take my course on Socratic Jujitsu