An emerging leader asks: "Given that I
have always worked in a male-dominated industry (very often I am the only woman
in the room, or one of very few), how can I break into the closed networks?
People are just not treating me like ‘one of the guys.’”
Viewing workplace coalitions as a
"closed network” or "boys’ club” will not empower you. You’ll never
be one of the boys, so why try? The way to advance is by understanding what
drives and sustains the informal social networks around you.
Learn more about the informal workplace
networks in your workplace. Do this well for a few months and you will find
navigating the networks and office politics much easier. Act like a cultural
anthropologist, closely observing the communication and relationships playing
out around you in your new organization.
Aim to identify individuals who have formed
strong one-to-one working relationships and groups that have formed tight
coalitions, where everyone works well together and looks out for one another.
Observe closely and you may discover that not all guys get along with all other
guys. Often what may have appeared to be a male network includes some women —
and excludes some men.
Try to figure out how these relationships
and coalitions formed and what the glue really is that keeps these
relationships and groups tight. For example, do they have a common academic
background or interest? Did they work together in a previous organization or
for the same leader, or are they of a certain personality type?
Identify the key people of influence in
your new workplace. If you make a point of cultivating good working
relationships with them first, others in the group who respect those
influencers may come to accept and respect you, too.
Whether you decide you’ll attempt to break
into the club or not, gathering this information will cue you in to how you can
work most productively with those individuals and groups. You may ultimately
need to decide what’s more important: to be liked or to be respected. Having
cordial, respectful, productive working relationships may be just as effective
as being treated as "one of the guys.” Jo Miller, CEO
of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc., facilitates the NEW
webinars designed to help Network of Executive Women members build core skills
and prepare for top management roles in their organizations.
Views expressed in signed blogs and user
comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions
of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.