“Frenemies”: How Do Women Relate to Other Women At Work?

Home Forums Careers “Frenemies”: How Do Women Relate to Other Women At Work?

This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  David B. Grinberg 5 years, 10 months ago.

  • Author
  • #175157

    Image source: PostTypography.com

    Is sisterhood really global? According to The Twisted Sisterhood by Kelly Valen, who surveyed 3,000+ women for her book, 88% of women said they feel “an undercurrent of negativity” among women.

    In an interview with O, the Oprah Magazine, Valen talked about her book. She said women ofte recall female-female bullying going back to kindergarten. How to break the cycle? Valen recommends turning the negative dynamic into its opposite – basically, positive mentoring relationships and programs.

    Over the years, I’ve heard people say disparaging things about “women bosses,” and have seen what seems like a “frenemy” dynamic in action – where women seem to be on good terms, but then put each other down.

    What are your thoughts on “frenemies” at work?

  • #175173

    David B. Grinberg

    Generally speaking — for women and men — Washington is well known for backstabbing. DC is an utlra-competitive culture where one person may not mind stepping on your head to get ahead. Some co-workers or colleagues may appear nice and friendly on the surface, but below they could be seething at you for any number of work-related reasons (such as jealousy, perceived unequal treatment, etc). Thus my advice is this:

    While it’s smart and makes good business sense to treat co-workers and colleagues the way you want to be treated, it is just as imperative to never let your guard down — and watch your back! Sad but true.

    This is based on my years of Washington experience in work environments ranging from federal agencies, to the White House, to Capitol Hill, to newsrooms (as a journo), to consulting firms.

    It really is a dog-eat-dog world in DC.


  • #175171

    Interesting how bosses are perceived differently based on gender (source – “Gender Perceptions At Work”) and the consequences of stereotyping (all the below is quoted):

    “– A male boss is aggressive; a female boss is pushy.

    — A male boss is attentive to details; a female boss is picky.

    — He knows how to follow through; she doesn’t know when to quit.

    — He’s ambitious; she’s driven.

    — He loses his temper occasionally; she can’t control her emotions.

    — He isn’t afraid to say what he thinks; she’s mouthy.

    — He’s a man of action; she’s impulsive.

    — He controls his emotions; she’s cold.

    — He thinks before he acts; she can’t make up her mind.

    — He thinks before he speaks; she second-guesses herself.

    — He tells it like it is; she’s tactless.

    The list might read like an e-mail forward that people laugh at, but considering the average American woman earns approximately 21 percent less than the average man, is there any truth to these perceptions?

    “I can tell you that the exact same behavior is judged differently, depending on whether it’s a male or a female doing the behavior. This is true at all levels in the organization,” says Gallagher, author of “Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Other Women.”>>

  • #175169

    Julie Chase

    My many years in the workforce have told me, the more men a woman works with the better. A male boss is far better than a female boss. In our small DoD village, more than 4 woman in an office, things get ugly real fast. You won’t find me going for a contracting specialist job any time soon. (too many women) I have finally settled in as a GS in the WG world and things couldn’t be better. There are less than 4 women in this organization and we are spread around enough that we don’t have hissy fits over nonsense and drama. The men in the WG world ground us, we are one of them. What we could never do in a million years with “hands on” skills, they look to us to keep the paperwork, e work humming smoothly. Something they detest doing. We work hand in glove. Less women make it possible. While there are many women in DoD structural maintenance, (planes, ships, subs), they are distributed around the hangers, dry docks, maint of facilities, fleet maintenance (basically, semi industrial) in a way that we are not in an area all in one time, day to day, hour by hour, like most GS office settings. Few women are into supervising WG 10 journeyman on refit/repair. However, they are into supervising a whole hanger/dry dock, et al. This of course causes problems, not for the men, but for the women working under them. The men could care less. They know their job and go to it, they have bargaining rights (& the few WG women) to back them up should Cruella DeVille try to tell them how to do their job. The GS women under these micro managers are powerless. Keep your head down and pray for a quick retirement or move up the ladder (which is what they really want) and pray for a man to take their place. I’m not sure why women eat their own, You would think of women as a positive spirit to other women in the workforce, guiding and encouraging. I guess it just goes to their head.

  • #175167

    Julie Chase

    love the pic! lol lol

  • #175165

    Hi Julie – Thank you for being so honest. I know you did not mean to say that we should discriminate against women in the workplace but rather were trying to describe what you’ve seen and experienced.

    From what I hear, the Baby Boomer generation of women met a lot of resistance when they took on positions of greater authority. Not just overt (like sexual harassment) but insidious (like taunting, exclusion, ridiculous work life imbalance) etc. This hasn’t totally changed but the stories I hear from just the ’80s are atrocious.

    I don’t think women have a lot of role models about how to take charge at work and this is part of the problem versus men are by default expected to lead. Leadership has to do with education. Looking just two generations ago women were trained to be support personnel – secretaries and nurses – and if you tried to be more or do more you were weird. Times are changing and the younger generation seems less hung up about this to me.

    As far as “drama,” here again I would say what is the baseline? If you are talking about women vs. men, well women are more overtly emotional as a group, in my experience. It seems unfair to expect people to come to work and not be themselves…to have an idea about work where “normal” means acting like a man.

    I would be curious how you would solve the problems you talked about.

  • #175163

    Julie Chase

    Danielle, I love your blogs especially the ones about work relationships. It forces the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes the ugly truth to come forth. You are correct. I do not believe in discrimination against women in leadership roles. I agree that women do not have a lot of role models for leadership, Yes boomer women (such as myself) were not welcomed with open arms in leadership roles. I, myself had tried it and failed miserably. I am a “go along to get along”, therefore, I admitted clearly, I was not a leader. I did not want to make the tough decisions anymore (this was in the private sector, which is 10x worse than civil service). I work in a right to hire state, where if your boss doesn’t like the color of your shoes, you could be gone the next day, manager or not. If a high paying client didn’t like your pedigree, you were gone as well. I learned quickly to shut my yankee mouth or I would be out of work. (even in minimum wage jobs). The women who ascended to leadership roles believed their time had come. Instead of embracing it, most fell into the “queen and her court” leadership style. If you didn’t kowtow to the queen you were ousted. (Mean Girls reference). Baby boomer women are still in this mindset. I hope your generation of women change it for the better. Drama, ah yes. I’m not referring to the problems at home, husband, children, teenagers, in laws…the “drama” is at work between the women “in the court”. There is always the one up to see who can amuse the red queen by scapegoating the weakest female. Well, it’s better off with her head, than mine. So “camps” are born. Men fight, women “seethe”. Our generation was forced into the work place when inflation surpassed the earning power of our husbands, and when a group of us decided we didn’t need one to begin with and thought we could be Wonder Woman and lasso the world out of sheer spite. Well, that didn’t work either. We found we can’t do it all. The 80’s were eye opening. Fortunately my husband and I stuck it out. How to fix this, easier in the public sector, not so much in the private sector. I don’t see my daughters generation fixing planes, ships and subs as they might break a nail or miss the final series in the Kardashians episode. I find this generation hopelessly sucked in to the cat fights they see on so called reality tv and carry that into the workplace. I don’t see my sons generation fixing planes, subs, ships or even toilets, as the computer age and air conditioned office are more appealing, not to mention, most of my sons college grad buddies, said they won’t take less than 50K as entry level in any career field. So they choose to live at home and work at Home Depot to pay off their student loans. I suppose the best chance was with GenX. They seemed the most independent of the 3. They had no choice, mom was a work, dad was at work, or not in their lives and they seemed to be more focused on emotional survival. What they were missing was stability and routine. Moving around was expected, especially for women as most didn’t value hearth and home as the previous 2 generations and weren’t spoiled rotten like the generation now. I work with GenX women. They aren’t into the drama of my generation or the current. I find them them the easiest to have a solid work ethic. I hope I will be retired before I am to work with a woman of this generation, even though I don’t see them working in an industrial type setting. I was so thrilled to have a woman manager who worked her way up the hard way. But when she got there, she treated the women in the support staff like indentured servants. Please keep these conversations with women in the workplace and in leadership roles going……it’s the only way we can share our stories and learn from our mistakes. Fortunately women are protected in the public sector workplace. In the private sector it’s anyone’s game.

  • #175161

    To this point – of what was overall a great and very rich comment –

    <<the “drama” is at work between the women “in the court”. There is always the one up to see who can amuse the red queen by scapegoating the weakest female. Well, it’s better off with her head, than mine.”>>

    Julie – I have seen this dynamic in action among both females and males. Women are more subtle about it – you’ll be cut out of the circle without even feeling the cut of the knife. Men are more confrontational and they tend to confront one another rather than women.

    It stinks, frankly, to deal with this stuff when you dislike politics, are direct, and are more of a results-based person. But also it’s important to have the skills to deal with it diplomatically.

    What makes the difference – I have learned this over time – is self confidence. Based on competence but also accepting YOURSELF for who you are, what you bring to the table. When you like and value yourself, you just don’t play these games. And that is true whether you’re the boss or the person being bossed.

    Having seen great bosses in action versus the ones that reduce themselves to politics, I feel bad for the ones who do the latter. They really are just insecure.

  • #175159

    Whitney Jones

    It is so sad, but women are horrible to each other in the workplace. I have found that my best mentors, work place advisors are men. The people who give me the most hell at my job are women.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.