Can you identify with a current or former colleague that you wish would go on a permanent leave of absence?
You aren’t hoping for their demise, but you do want to keep your encounters with them to a minimum.
It certainly feels like they wake up in the morning plotting ways to destroy your workplace peace as you pray for 8+ hours of sanity.
Just the sound of their name overcomes you with emotion… and not the heartfelt kind.
This particular coworker never uses their sick days, rarely goes on vacation, and has perfect attendance. Be honest, if it were possible you’d freely give your paid time off to them just to avoid having to see their face. Your disdain for them isn’t because you don’t play well with others.
Instead, it’s because they make your work life hell.
They micromanage you. Take inventory of your mistakes. Watching the clock as you go to lunch. Did I mention they’re likely screenshotting your tweets and Facebook posts ready to take their findings to a supervisor?
But there is a bright side.
Your arch nemesis is grooming you for the future.
Do you seize the opportunities masked as obstacles?
And in my experience, it is usually a guy responsible for undermining your role at work. Sexism in the workplace extends from management all the way down to entry level positions. Women have to stick together and be aware of the unfair practices meant to diminish our voices at work.
The boys club is always strong in numbers, but women always prevail when we take the high road. Thanks to bold boss girls in history like Anita Hill, it is your right to work in safe spaces without your male counterparts creating a hostile environment. You’ll always run into guys like James Damore. He’s the ex-Google employee who wrote a 10-page memo as to why he thinks women are unfit for tech and why he disagrees with company diversity policies. And he’s just one of many.
When misogyny is exposed in the workplace, women must stick together.
Take advantage of the opposition because your sexist colleagues are elevating you for success. Here are five ways their pettiness is working in your favor.
1. Email Etiquette
The colleague CC’ing (even blind copying) everyone on their email communication to you is the opportune moment for you to brush up on your email etiquette. Avoid slang, include the proper thank yous and always fact check your responses.
Before you hit “send’, feel confident in knowing you didn’t jump the gun on any information. Even when they’re being passive-aggressive in these messages, use this time to show your patience and level-headed decision making.
Five minutes late here and there usually turns into a half hour late all the time. Repeated tardiness can infringe on productivity. While you think no one is watching and you’re a smooth criminal getting away with time robbing, there is someone always watching. To you, it means you can make up the time elsewhere but to your petty coworker they’re thinking “if I have to be on-time, why can’t they?”. Same goes for leaving early. Your colleague is thinking, “If I have to stay the entire time, why doesn’t she?”. It boils down to superiority. Your workplace enemy doesn’t want you to have what appears to be an unfair advantage. Getting in the habit of being on time will actually create better habits in all areas of your life.
3. Emotional Intelligence
Your annoying coworker will do whatever is within their power to make you look bad. You better believe they have an Excel spreadsheet with each one of your errors listed. (I once looked over in a meeting and noticed a colleague’s notes with exact times that I made an error). As pathetic as this sounds, someone is documenting your shortcomings. This is why your success is contingent upon you being sharp and on your toes.
In my experience with petty male colleagues, here’s what I’ve come to realize. These employees are insecure, for whatever reason, and use you as a pawn to deflect the attention from their shortcomings. Recognize their male fragility, but don’t internalize it. Identify their patterns of sabotage and capitalize.
Your greatest revenge is operating in excellence mode.
Whenever you’re called to the carpet for the said error, have a full rebuttal showing all the reasons why you’re the model employee. Provide examples as to how you’ve been doing top notch work. With that being said, you had better been doing top notch work. Whenever your coworker calls out your mistake, don’t get upset. Get better. Admit your faults, and pledge to improve. Even if it means you staying late or enrolling in outside training, fix your error and show your boss that you can strengthen all areas. Your drive to excel will cause more people to be drawn to you, which will garner trust leading to greater opportunities for growth within the company.
4. Impeccable Listening Skills
They interrupt during your presentations or have to one-up your every thought.
Here is where you fight the fray by letting them speak.
Don’t mouth battle. The loudest one in the room is usually the weakest one in the room. You know this.
While they’re doing cartwheels trying to earn a gold star from the boss, this is your time to be more observant. When you’re competitive in meetings or seminars, you’ll likely miss out on valuable information. While you don’t want to be the wallflower at work, you also don’t want to be known as the nuisance.
Even if you learn nothing, at least you look engaged.
5. Effective Leadership
Your rude coworker is making you a better leader.
Remember those times you needed help and no one lifted a hand? How about the times they took credit for your genius ideas? Or even the moments when you were treated as though you weren’t a valuable part of the team. Here is where your resilience will shine.
A great leader doesn’t need constant praise. A great leader is aware of their greatness but removes self from the equation to strengthen the team. If you’re constantly mistreated and overlooked, you’ll one day be the shot caller and know exactly how you will respect and honor excellent employees. Women CEOs are hard to find these days. The job market is competitive and once you’re on the inside, climbing the ladder can prove to be difficult especially when faced with gender pay gaps and other internal politics. You still have a chance to go beyond the glass ceiling. Don’t allow toxic voices to stall your growth.
A bad coworker can make it difficult to get your work done and provoke you to leave a job you actually like.
Don’t let them bring you down. You’ll be better for it in the end. The best way to silence sexism in the workplace is to find allies in other women. We are stronger when we unite.
“When they go low. We go high.” -Michelle Obama