Silent whispers and murmurs of discontent resonated through the corridor as I stepped out of the meeting room. They weren’t directed at me (not this time), yet they made me shiver.
Who would want to hear a remark like that? Not any woman I know! Yet it’s this harsh feedback (solicited or not) that can sometimes be the best thing to happen to us. That is, if we overcome the initial shock and start looking at ourselves more objectively and honestly. It took me a long time to come to terms with feedback I received myself…
“Alena, you look so stern and strict! People must be really scared of you!” That was a comment from a gentleman I met at a social networking event. “What??? Me? What do you mean?” It took me a long time to get the point. I went through all the possible emotional stages from denial, through anger, depression to sadness and a lot of private talks with trusted friends and colleagues. Today I am grateful. It’s by far the best feedback I ever received in my life. It opened my eyes, it gave me a new level of self-awareness and understanding, even appreciation and brought me closer to finding the better version of myself, or so I hope.
How did we get here, ladies?
Ever heard any “bitch-related” rumor about you? If so, it’s time for some reflection. Each case is very different, of course! After all, you have your unique personality comprised of a number of inborn traits and learnt behaviors, your particular communication style and personal history. That’s what makes you the person you are today and that’s what radiates through your body, through your personal presence. In my particular case, it’s the behaviors and attitudes I learnt later in my professional career that, combined with my personality traits, turned me into a scary little monster in the eyes of others. And, I had no idea!
Without going into embarrassing details about myself, let’s just say that during my career, I had to develop a new set of skills, abilities and attitudes to be able to take on a leadership role and to navigate and succeed in a highly competitive environment. For better or worse, I learnt to be physically and mentally tough. I learnt to go after what I wanted, never letting my sight waver from the goal, I learnt to take action and be perseverant until things got done. I became competitive and started to enjoy the little wins along the way, which made me strive for more. I learnt to speak in public, making myself and my behaviors even more “visible” and “louder”. And when I started to display the same attitudes and behaviors back home – in my personal life – Uff! I guess you get the picture.
In short, I stepped into my masculine energy* and used it so much, for so long that it started to get the best of me. My masculine energy became predominant in my life and my feminine energy* was completely crushed. *
If you are in a position of leadership, you probably know what I am talking about. In my experience working with women in power, the consequences of working predominantly from our masculine energy can be disastrous. Our presence starts radiating too many ‘STRENGTHS’ signals** and we become disliked by others. People start perceiving us as overly bossy, ambitious, cold, in other words, “bitchy”. This is the price of violating the “gender stereotype”. We get punished by displaying traits and behaviors that are typically associated with men, not women. Our popularity goes down the drain and so does our impact.
You might say, who cares? I don’t strive to be liked! I strive to be effective! I hear you, yet think about this: if you could choose your own boss, who would you choose? Someone you perceive as highly competent yet cold, even aggressive? Or someone you perceive as highly competent and whom you also like because they appear as someone who genuinely cares, has empathy and a team spirit?
There’s more at stake though! By relying solely on your masculine energy*, you may get out of balance and suffer the consequences in your personal life.
Do you suffer from the “Bitch” syndrome?
If in doubt, the next page will show you a few points you can consider. This is by no means an exhaustive list of options, but it will get you thinking. If you resonate with at least 80% of the points, welcome to the club!
So now what?!
It may be that you’re perfectly happy with the way things are going for you in spite of the occasional “What a bitch!” remark and that’s fine. After all, your communication and working approach got you to where you are today and if it’s a good place, why change? However, if you feel you still don’t have the impact with others that you would like to have, there ́s something on the next page to help you. Please take 5 to 10 minutes to answer these questions and note down your ideas. I bet you’ll stumble upon something interesting and who knows, it may positively impact your success, influence and your overall happiness at the workplace.
THE BITCH SYNDROME
TALK LIKE THIS?
- You find it difficult to listen, the little voice in your head screams: “can you just get to the point for Christ’s sake???”
- Your communication is very focused, to the point, your phrases are short, simple, directive, some may say you enjoy barking out orders
- You find it difficult to relate to people’s personal problems, the little voice in your head whis- pers: “Keep it to yourself, will you? We’re here to work!”
LOOK & SOUND LIKE THIS?
- Your body is generally quite tense, controlled, with karate-like gestures
- You often catch yourself pointing fingers at others, or tapping your fingers impatiently on table or rolling your eyes
- You often rest your hands on your hips when sitting or standing
- You’re starting to notice deep creases and wrinkles on your forehead and the latest anti-aging serum is not helping! (tried the “frown-less-technique” yet?)
- Your voice is deep, strong and intense
- Your business wardrobe mostly consists of trousers and trouser suits
ACT & THINK LIKE THIS?
- You love staying on top of things
- You enjoy winning arguments
- You make decisions based on rational factors, emotions shouldn’t stand in the way
- You have an urge to prove yourself to others
- You believe that people can’t be trusted, they must be given instructions on what to do and how to do it
- You’re quick to dismiss people’s opinions and to judge their character
- Your career is your top priority, anything else can wait, including your partner
- Expressing emotions openly is utterly unacceptable
- The word “sorry” is not part of your vocabulary
- Nothing is too good, nothing is good enough
TEAM, A REFLECTION OF THE LEADER
- You take their work for granted, after all, that’s what they’re paid for!
- Your team is highly competitive, each member is striving to win
- Sharing and collaboration between members is lacking
- In general, there’s not much communication between you or your team members and between the members
- You’re the last one to know of any problems or conflicts, team members do not tend to share their frustrations with you
- You’re still waiting for an invite to the popular after-hours social events
- Go through the “Bitch syndrome” list and think about what drives and motivates you? How does it reflect in your communication style and behavior & attitudes towards others?
- What could you do to improve the quality of your relationships? How could you express more interest in the people around you? How could you show more appreciation for their work?
- If someone sees you for the first time, what do you think they would say about you? Are you aware of the signals** your presence radiates and how they impact your interaction with others?
- How do you spend your time outside the office? Do your leisure activities boost the masculine or the feminine side of you?
- How could you bring more of your feminine energy into your business interactions?
Please share your findings with me. I really enjoy reading your stories and may be able to provide you with further feedback!
Remember, harsh feedback is still feedback.
Embrace it! Run with it! Use it to propel you to new heights in your life!
*Masculine energy is forward moving, it’s all about action, logic and results whilst feminine energy is inviting, it’s about nurturing, tenderness, empathy.
** I wrote about the signals of STRENGTH & WARMTH in the Your Body=Your Story article from the August 2017 issue of this magazine.
ABOUT ALENA HUBEROVA
Alena assists business leaders all over Europe in developing a powerful personal presence on and off-stage, and delivering presentations that get people’s buy-in and inspire action. She also acts as a mentor for startups helping them design and deliver winning business pitches.
She has a professional background in sales, marketing and communication in a variety of sectors including IT, travel and tourism, wellness and beauty. She lived and worked in 5 different countries in Europe and Asia.
In collaboration with Presenation.com, she coached the X.GLU Czech Team to win the world title at the Microsoft Imagine Cup in 2017. Alena’s other achievements include being a speaker at the TEDx UNYP 2017 conference and winning the second place in the 2018 Czech National Championship of Public Speaking.