I often hear from a client that she has been criticized or even penalized by a male boss or colleague for doing or saying something that she views as perfectly within the range of carrying out her job responsibilities.
Sometimes it happens in a performance review, sometimes in public, sometimes in private.
In this case I’ll use as an example, she is the program manager, and was talking to a team member about stepping up his game to keep the project on time and on budget. Suddenly he turned to her and said, “You’re a ball buster!” She was stunned.
“I couldn’t do anything,” she lamented. “What can I do with that?”
A lot in fact. This is a terrific opportunity to seize the advantage. Here’s the Power Move every woman needs in her tool kit.
You ready? First, laugh. No kidding. Laugh. Disarm the situation immediately by making it seem humorous. (We know it really isn’t, but make the other party think you believe that.)
Then, ask a question. Put the onus back on the attacker (Yes, you feel attacked because this was an attack).
Here’s the question to ask: “Exactly what is it I do that makes me a ball buster – can you give me something specific?” Make him describe the behavior. Force him to verbalize it. Likely that will help him see that you haven’t really done much if anything. And, he is holding you to a standard different from that used for men’s behavior.
So use that to your advantage too. Follow up with another question: “Hmmm. I’m just wondering. Would you say that if I were a man?”
I want to remind you – You have to help them help you. You have to call them on it when you get bombed with one of those words that only applies to women: bitchy, curt, aggressive, etc. You know the words.
Quick review: 1. Diffuse the situation with a laugh 2. Ask for a specific example of what you’ve done to warrant the attack 3. Follow up by asking if this same charge would be leveled on you if you were a man.
Works every time.