Workplace Dynamics Among Women – Competition versus Collaboration

Dynamics Among Women

I noticed an interesting phenomenon as I transitioned from the corporate world into the realm of entrepreneurism – when it comes to workplace dynamics among women, there’s a striking difference between corporate women and entrepreneurial women.

I’ve worked in all different types of companies from large, global corporations to small, private companies and while they all have their challenges, the dynamics among women in corporate America are much more negative and destructive. It’s one of the reasons I chose not to continue my career in a corporate job.  Granted I may have simply worked in organizations that bred negativity, but from what I’ve heard from other women, “mean girl” behaviors exist in most corporate environments.

Most of you know and have either experienced or participated in at least one of what I call the “mean work girl behaviors” – negative gossip, passive-aggression, back-stabbing, sabotage (i.e. throwing a female co-worker under the bus), one-upping, and playing “us” against “them.” It’s painful to admit that I’ve been the mean girl at times during my corporate career, but I’ve been the target of mean girls as well. As I climbed the corporate ladder and matured, I was able to see how damaging these behaviors are to women personally and professionally – they divide us, diminish us and inhibit us.  It’s a game no one really wins, so why do we continue to play?

I wish I could say I have the answer to mean work girl behaviors; I don’t. What I can say is that there’s hope, and it comes from the wonderfully talented and powerful community of women entrepreneurs. I was somewhat jaded by my corporate experience when I entered the entrepreneurial world, but I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by how welcoming and supportive these women have been.

The culture in the entrepreneurial community is completely different than what I experienced as a corporate executive – it’s warm, inviting, encouraging. The women I’ve met have gone out of their way to offer advice, share lessons learned, impart information, but most importantly, to connect me with other talented, successful and incredible women!  It’s been one of the best work experiences I’ve had in my varied career.

I’ve wondered and questioned why the workplace dynamics among corporate and entrepreneurial women are so different?   After posing this question with many corporate and entrepreneur women, the discussions almost always lead to the same conclusions – most corporate cultures breed competition whereas the culture surrounding women entrepreneurs fosters collaboration.

We’re taught that competition is good, but for corporate women, in particular, competition is intensified as a result of scarcity – the scarcity of resources, opportunity, recognition and pay.  Scarcity creates a heightened focus on winning and losing; if you lose, you don’t get the promotion or the raise or whatever.  When a woman loses to another woman, Dr. Patricia Heim notes in her workshops that it creates an imbalance of power which leads to negative tension and negative behaviors.  Like most things in life, competition needs balance.  According to Curious Mind, “if unchecked, [competition] can drive a close minded, un-sharing mindset where the focus shifts to defensiveness and protecting what we have.”  Does this mean that the negative workplace dynamics among women in corporate America is really a form of self-preservation?  There were many times in my corporate career I felt like I was fighting for my life.

Thankfully, in my career as an entrepreneur, I’ve been able to stop fighting and start collaborating, connecting and giving back.  The women entrepreneurs I’ve encountered not only welcome collaboration, but view it as an advantage.  It actually goes a step farther, the workplace dynamics among women entrepreneurs is one of abundance – by helping others be successful, they experience more success.

It was Stephen R. Covey in his national bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, who introduced the abundance mindset, “a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others. He contrasts it with the scarcity mindset (i.e., destructive and unnecessary competition).”    What’s your experience? Are you the victim of scarcity, suffering mean work girl behavior? Or, are you creating abundance for yourself and others?  Are you competing or collaborating? Tell your story – #CompetitionVsCollaboration.  Twitter, Facebook, or Youtube.

Passionate advocate for the advancement and empowerment of women. Prior HR exec and co-founder of Ask Ajna - helping women find their voice in the workplace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>