Tag Archive for interruptions

Standing Your Ground to be Heard in Your Career

If you don’t watch out, your voice can be rolled over, just like a steam roller smashing everything in its path.  You’ve seen steam rollers on the highway, machines with giant rollers that flatten everything in their path.  You don’t want to be smashed.  I am presenting a workshop on this issue at a conference at the end of April.  Talking with a client, I happened to mention the workshop topic and she commented that this is a significant problem in her workplace.  She suggested I write a newsletter about this — here you go!  What does it mean to go “Toe to Toe”? 

  • Your ideas, perspectives, and recommendations are heard and acted upon at work
  • You are physically visible and recognized in the workplace
  • You are treated with respect and equality in the workplace

To stand your ground, get your ideas across, and have credibility without being perceived negatively, is no easy trick for a woman.  Yet without credibility and powerful communication, it is an uphill battle to succeed in your career. History is not on women’s side.  Bias, stereotypes, and sexism toward women has lasted through antiquity.  Thankfully, we have laws today that give women some protection against the most blatant abuses.  However, laws do not protect us from being constantly interrupted, talked over, ignored, dismissed, and talked down to.  If leadership would demand a culture of equality and respect in their organization, women would certainly see their opportunities and careers shift.  If you are in a leadership role, pay close attention to the culture in your workplace.  It can be frightening and intimidating to go “Toe to Toe” but no one cares more about your daily experience and long-term success than you!  Take the reigns!  You can start shifting your behavior immediately! Here are three problems you likely encounter and steps you can take to shift your experience:

  1. Being interrupted.  Dr. Kristin J Anderson, professor at the University of Houston and Dr. Campbell Leaper, professor at the University of California, have analyzed 43 studies on men/women and interruptions.  Their findings show men interrupt women 96% of the time and women often acquiesce.  When a woman avoids addressing and managing it, she loses credibility and an opportunity to get her points across.  It is tricky, because when you start to change your behavior, you can be perceived as the “B” word.  If you don’t address it, you will continue to collide.  There are many steps you can take, try these three:
    • Just keep talking and ignore the interruption
    • Use the interrupters’ name and use an open palm, stop motion
    • Say, “I’m not done” “I haven’t finished” or “Just a minute.”
  1. Manage comments.  Some comments women hear from men in the workplace are blatantly sexist, some are condescending, some are demeaning.  Likely, you have heard versions of all of these.  Dr. Sian Beilock, President of Dartmouth University, coined the term “Benevolent Sexism.” Check out this insightful Forbes article about this issue: How To Address Subtle, ‘Friendly’ Sexism At Work.  It is usually not intended to be offensive but because it singles out women as different, it puts women in a marginalized position.  It stems from ignorance versus maliciousness. You may be called “Bossy;” “Feisty;” Emotional;” “Dramatic;” “Over-Sensitive,” etc.  Regardless of subtle or blatant, here are options:
    • Identify higher expectancy. Comments like, “I know you didn’t mean to put me down, but that word feels demeaning.” 
    • Call out sexism.  Blatant sexism, not the “friendly” type needs to be named and called out.  It might sound like, “It’s interesting that you called Nancy “shrill.”  I don’t hear men with strong opinions called that.  Have you ever thought about that?  That is sexist.”
    • Use humor.  Not every woman is comfortable with this or can pull it off.  Once in a meeting a man said, “You are such a cute little thing.”  My response? I turned to him and said, “You are a cute little thing yourself.”  He turned bright red, realized his mistake, and apologized.  He never said anything like that to me again. 
  1. Manage affect.  Your face is a phenomenal tool for going “toe to toe.”  I have been quoted as saying, “Often our indignation forgets to tell our face.” When you are feeling ignored, insulted, marginalized and you do not LOOK distressed, that’s a problem.  Throughout history women have heard, “You are so pretty when you smile.”  Understand that smiling in a negative situation sends a very mixed message.  It is essential that your reaction and your affect match.  Consider these three actions when you are boiling inside:
    • Go stone-faced.  A neural face equals power. Smiling telegraphs vulnerability and you are trying to reduce your vulnerability.  It is clear you are not willing to take the comments and behavior you are encountering.
    • Employ the “Pat Summitt Glare.”  As some of you know, I am a University of Tennessee graduate.  Fortunate to have witnessed the legendary women’s basketball coach at U.T. for decades.  Pat’s players would tell you that there was never a more loving, caring, or personally concerned coach for her players than Pat Summitt. They would also tell you, if Pat were displeased with your performance on the court, her icy stare could render your legs into jelly.   Try out this affect and see what it does for you. 
    • Avoid eye contact.  No, I am not confused.  This sounds like just the opposite recommendation.  Avoiding eye contact is used when the offending person is your boss or other individual higher than you in your organization.  You must be more diplomatic with these individuals.

Are you experiencing the problems discussed in this article?  Do you want to make changes but are nervous about trying these ideas?  Remember, you don’t have to go it alone.  Let’s schedule a time for a 45-minute complimentary telephone consultation.  Email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call (513)561-4288 to set a time for us to talk.