We Need To Talk: Gossip, Slander, and the Biased Water Cooler
Unless you are a woman you have NO idea what it’s like to be a woman building an empire and navigating the workplace! Don’t worry, we got you. Our talented list of panelists from the recent Protecting Your Mental Health in the Workplace Summit joined me to break it down. The first topic we unravelled with the help of author and therapist Kendra Hathaway, was Gossip, Slander, and Toxic Relationships in the workplace. When the word, “toxic” is defined the words most commonly associated with it are: harmful, poisonous, destructive, and venomous just to name a few. Although not only women experience these obstacles in the workplace we certainly seem to be well-versed in it. How many times have you been at work and overheard one employee complaining about the next? You have those that are loud about it and don’t care who knows what they are saying, and then you have others that are more hush hush about it and you may see them whispering as if you don’t exist.
One thing that is true about both types is that the gossip spreaders are usually looking for attention or are trying to hide some type of pain. (There is another theory or possibility that we will consider in just a moment.) So now that we know what the problem is, let’s discuss how we can cope with such working conditions and figure out a solution. It is important that you pay attention to how you feel in situations, noticing if any negative thoughts and feelings come up for you, that’s a sign this is probably a toxic situation. This is a part of you protecting your mental health. If you stumble upon a co-worker being messy or you’re involved in a conversation that suddenly becomes demeaning or unproductive, walk away. Dismiss yourself, choose not to be involved. If you need to, take a moment to regroup and rid yourself of their negative energy. It’s ok to separate yourself from what is no longer serving you. If you feel strongly enough about the issue, confront the gossiper at a later time when you can engage in a calm conversation sharing your thoughts on gossiping about another coworker and be honest about how uncomfortable it made you feel. We have to take a stand for mistreatment in whatever form it shows up, including toxic communication, abuse, harassment, gender bias and racism in the spaces we exist in.
Next, we unpacked Gender Bias in the Workplace. In the previous paragraph we discussed potential options as to why some employees behave the way they do and we mentioned that there could be another valid theory. Our next panelist reminded us to think about the beliefs that have been built into us. From birth people project their views and opinions of how girls are different than boys. A baby girl is rumored to cry less than a baby boy. Says who? As girls grow older we are taught not to speak or dress a certain way, what sport is lady-like, what toys we should play with and the list goes on. By the time we enter the workforce, we have so many rules inside our heads that we begin to doubt our abilities in our work space. Internally we are replaying all of the things we were told we should be as women, and unbeknown to us, our subconscious is keeping us tethered to the expectations of gender bias and we begin to acquiesce before our thinking brain kicks in with a conscious response. When you are presented with an idea or a situation and feel that hesitation, or fear, check in with your thoughts- “is this something you were told that you will not be able to accomplish? Do you believe the voices in your head?” Now take note of your response to others, particularly other women. Ms. Araika-Zawadhafsa Mkulo, Psychologist, shifted our awareness of our relationship to other women- “are we subconsciously sabotaging our fellow women co-workers based on biased views that were projected on us? Are we even conscious that we are doing so?” I want to encourage you to pause through your day and tune in to your relationship to yourself and others at work.
Ask yourself what are you accepting in our own roles or in those around us that need to end? As Araika shared, be open to unlearn. What micro step can you take in this moment to shift that experience in the workplace?
We have the unique opportunity in this day and time to change the narrative.
We live in a time where it is ok to speak up for yourself as a woman and ask for what you need. We no longer have to stand behind a man and wait to be spoken to in order to have a voice. Take risks, do things that scare you in order to advance in your career. Don’t allow yourself to feel as though you cannot be a wife, mother, and successful career woman. Those ideas are false and do not serve you. Ignore the Imposter Syndrome that makes you believe that you do not belong in places that you have earned your right to be in.
What have you been taught to be? Agreeable, beautiful, quiet, the parent, the responsible one? Is it showing up in your career and just isn’t working towards your success anymore? Let’s dive in together and get the work done together. That is the benefit to partnering with a women’s mindset coach to collaborate on healing and unlearning. We can have difficult conversations, model new expectations, challenge core beliefs, make core shifts, and become the best version of you. Sometimes you need that little nudge in the right direction to unleash your confidence, get clear on what you want to do with your life and implement strategies that work, as women and the organizations that support them. Are you ready to shift the narrative?
Amanda Fludd, Psychotherapist, Corporate Trainer and Women in Business Mindset Coach is here for your Mental Health needs. Sometimes you just need that professional nudge in the right direction to implement strategies that work.