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I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for awhile but have struggled with the concept. What exactly does sisterhood in the workplace look like? Is it a standing Friday lunch appointment? Or is it more like having each other’s backs when you just need a listening ear to vent to? I believe it can be these things and more. Honestly, it may look different for various groups of women. Though the common thread should lead to things that are positive and advance women professionally.
Originally I was planning to do more of a commentary on the topic. I ended up outlining 6 tips instead to encourage women to make their own meaning of sisterhood in the workplace something positive and meaningful.
1) Co-workers first, friends second.
Women shouldn’t make their goal to be “friends” in the workplace. Keep it professional and if a friendship happens, let it be organic. I believe this is one of the key reasons for fall out and jealousy amongst women in the workplace. Things get too personal and the competition gets high. You’re in the workplace to do a job. Anything that gets too far away from that can get distracting and take you away from your purpose in that setting.
So allow the path to friendship take its natural course, don’t feel forced to do so just because you share the same workspace.
2) Know that there’s room for everyone to succeed.
Women young and old seem to express this desire to compete. Tell me if you’ve ever experienced the following scenarios or have heard of them happening to someone you know. Co-workers on the same level would rather battle it out instead of working together to create a cohesive team that everyone can benefit from. Women in leadership positions don’t want to help women in entry to mid-level positions because they’re afraid their job will be taken.
Well newsflash…there’s a seat at the table for all of us! The sooner women realize this, the better we can all become as we work to achieve our goals.
3) Keep your personal life at home.
Some women may disagree with me on this as they’d label it as being anti-social or isolated. Realize I say this from experience. I have personally experienced the downfalls of not practicing this tip as well as seen it cause issues for others. It’s similar to the point I made in tip #1. The more personal work relationships become, the more messy things get and performance is impacted. Just keep it simple and be an employee, not someone in need of personal advice or sharing. Save those items for your close friends, mom, sister, prayer partner…a trusted confidant. Not your co-workers. Again, if a genuine friendship develops, then great! Otherwise, remaining professional in your relationships can be a sure way to avoid the office drama.
Keep your personal life private until you build a mutual rapport that you can trust. Otherwise it can lead to comparison, gossip and jealousy (amongst other negative things) which never has good results.
4) Compliment other women.
Have you ever been complimented by another woman in the workplace? It feels good right? Not in a validation type of way but in a sisterhood, solidarity type of bonding experience. Going to work isn’t always the easiest thing to get up and do every morning but when another woman compliments you it can make you feel like “yes, I’m here and I can do this!”. So if it’s a nice feeling for you, imagine how it will feel for another woman to receive a compliment from you.
Maybe she has on a cute outfit. Or she did a great job on the department presentation. Never pass up an opportunity to compliment another woman. I think this is something I should practice more of myself. I often compliment other women on their outfits because it’s the first thing I see. Let’s say it’s easy for a cute dress to catch my sleepy work eyes in the morning. 😊 But I need to practice complimenting others women for their work as well. It’s so easy to forget in between multiple emails and meetings but not at all impossible.
5) Seek to both gain and be a mentor.
Mentorship is an awesome thing. We all learn so much in our careers and even our lifetime on a much broader scale. So why not share that information? If I know a younger woman can benefit from a lesson that took me awhile to learn then I’m not going to sit back and watch her learn the hard way. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who just don’t want to hear what you have to say so sometimes it’s easier to just sit back until you’re asked for your feedback. Though often times, especially in a work setting, women are looking for wisdom from a trusted, mature source. Mentorship says “you don’t have to do this alone”. And I think we all can value a little guidance through the hurdles that come with career and life.
6) Just say no to gossip.
Oh gossip. The thing that keeps people most interested yet the very thing that divides. I get it, work is not always exciting. People long for something interesting and new to keep them going through the day. Though I don’t think gossip is the way to go. Think of the last time gossip ever led to something good. Either it ends up hurting the person being gossiped about or it causes messy relationships between those spreading the gossip when they begin making each other the topic of discussion. That’s when it all gets real. A little too real. Avoid gossip as it only breeds a negative environment, especially amongst women.
If you’re in the company of gossip you’re probably not in circles of productive, forward thinking. So seek out the circle that is. Also, be mindful of who is watching you. What if your boss is more aware of your gossiping ways than you think? It could make the difference between promotion and remaining stagnant. Job advancement aside, you just don’t want that to be a reflection on the type of person you are. So just say no to gossip all together.
What are your thoughts on sisterhood in the workplace? Do you have any tips you think could help women build better professional relationships?