Most successful women have to deal with ‘office idiots’ – perhaps more than one if you’re unlucky.
When they steal your ideas, undermine you or call you ‘emotional’, that makes even a great job unbearable.
There are 3 things you can do to stop them in their tracks.
Not surprisingly, those who claimed credit for others’ ideas was a hot topic even for my first book Beyond the Boys’ Club.
One of the successful women I interviewed was Professor Dame Athene Donald, an Experimental Physicist. Professor Donald agreed that controlling emotions (even when ideas may be being stolen!) is an important issue for women. This is particularly true for those like her, women in STEM.
The truth is that on one idea comes from any single person; the best are generated via discussion. This overcomes the potential for ‘groupthink‘. Even so, if you work with a few people who seem to share their ill-thought through opinions or steal ideas in a meeting, there are things you can do.
1. Envision calmly handling it in your next meeting
There have been times when I felt I was being ignored simply because I am a woman, and it has been difficult to see my ideas accepted only after a man suggests them. But I have had to learn to control my emotions. It can be a vicious circle because if you think you are likely to get upset, you probably will.
Professor Donald’s experience with these types of office idiots, my words, not hers, is one shared by many of my executive coaching clients. Things improved for Donald when she finally challenged a difficult male colleague.
The final straw came when he publicly complained to the virtually all-male committee that ‘women were getting the best roles on committees’. He felt his own career, as well as plenty of similarly well-deserving men, was suffering ‘from the ills of reverse discrimination’.
2. Approach office idiots privately
‘It was very upsetting, and I received coaching so I could confront him. The coaching was helpful in that I was able to depersonalise it, and I approached him privately. We talked about communication skills and how people did not always know how they came across to others. I gave him the example of what he had said and how it had made me feel as the only woman in the room. He seemed genuinely shocked and surprised. Things improved between us.’
The truth is office idiots don’t always ‘read the room’ like we all should. No doubt Professor Donald was pleased she kept control during the meeting itself, but also that she took steps to address it later when she was both prepared and calmer.
3. Practice with:
- 1. ‘I don’t know if it was your intention, but I was taken aback when you said X’
- 2. ‘I know we are all ambitious, but when you say Y it makes me feel Z, and that’s not how I like to think of you’.
- 3. ‘I’m glad my idea resonated with you. When it comes up next time, I’ll speak up again like I did when I first raised it. Hopefully, the idea can be actioned if we both show our support’
Let me know what you’ve said to recover from these maddening situations.