“I like your skirt. I have one just like it. Of course, mine is two sizes smaller.”
“The reason the project failed is that no one else worked as hard as I did.”
“We lost the game because there isn’t enough talent on this team. Sure, I’m a great player. But I can’t always carry the whole game by myself.”
“I saw your boyfriend talking to another woman this weekend. I guess he’s just not that into you.”
If you have worked with or been on an all female team you have seen this kind of behavior. If you have somehow managed to avoid it, look no farther than reality TV. You will find countless examples of women using gossip, backstabbing, snubbing, cliques and other drama in response to conflict. So what is the deal? Why do women behave that way?
Thousands of years ago when humans lived in caves catty behavior actually served a purpose. Consider this:
Cavemen had basically one job; go out and kill something for the family to eat. When Caveman Bob and Caveman Joe have a disagreement they simply have a physical fight. He who wins gets his way. He who loses shuts up and deals (unless he wants to get his backside kicked again).
Cavewomen on the other hand had lots of jobs; cook, clean, gather, mend, clothe, tend to the ill, have/raise children – you see my point. In order to do all of that cavewomen had to work together. “You watch my kids and I’ll pick enough berries for both of us.” When Cavewoman Jane and Cavewoman Sally have a disagreement a physical fight doesn’t make sense. Injuring a woman in the group just means one more person to take care of and two less hands to get things done. However, if Cavewoman Sally can convince the group that Jane is a bad person the group will support Sally more and Jane less. The problem – Jane is trying to convince the group the exact opposite is true. See how clicks start to form?
Nice girl syndrome
“Nice girls don’t argue.” “Nice girls don’t cause conflict.” “Nice girls are friendly.” That is what we teach young women. That gets translated into “Nice girls never say something mean to someone’s face, better to say it behind their back.” Why do we as a culture accept emotional bullying as acceptable? All that does is create a firestorm of gossip among people who were not and should not be involved in the problem.
Not being provided other options
As a whole we are failing young women. We are not providing them with the skills to deal with conflict in a productive way. We don’t teach the communication skills they need to be able to have tough conversations, work through an issue and move on. We don’t hold them accountable to owning their own feelings about a situation and speaking directly to the person with whom they have an issue. Sadly, we even encourage cattiness and drama by glorifying it on reality TV.
What to do
I was recently told about a scientific study where male crabs where put into a jar and they worked together to pull each other out. Female crabs in the same jar pulled each other down and never got out. We are smarter than crabs. Women must to learn to work together, not tear each other down to get ahead.
We need to give young women a new set of communication skills; to transform the way they handle conflict. I am on a mission to give young women, their coaches and parents better options. It is my goal to give presentations and run boot camps that provide an alternative to cattiness. It doesn’t serve women well in college and it isn’t doing them any favors in the corporate world.
Tell us your story of cattiness and drama. Sports teams, cheer teams, social groups, work groups, whatever group you have – share your story.
Next week: The pitfalls of the volcano method for handling conflict
Last week we talked about the roll of emotional intelligence in success.
Tags :backstabbing, bully, bullying, catty, catty women, Champion Performance Development, Doc Robyn, drama office drama, emotional bullying, girl bully, girl drama, mean girl, mean girls, office politics, Robyn Odegaard