Other scholars have describedthese expectationsas relational images that develop early in life and are carried from one relationship to another, sometimes changing with new experiences. We don’t show up in the workplace as a blank slate. We carry with us all of the things we have learned, including our friendship rules and expectations. Men have friendship rules too, but because of differences in our gender socialization, theirs are not the same as ours. Women I talk with often marvel at the way men can disagree or compete at work and then go out for a beer together as though nothing happened, while women do not get over similar experiences with other women for a long time—if ever. What friendship rules could be making it harder for women to compete with a woman friend for a new job or promotion? My research validated the work of other scholars who describe a core of very common friendship rules. Not everyone has the same rules, and there will be variations for cultural differences. Below are the most commonly reported friendship rules:
- Maintain unswerving loyalty.
- Demonstrate trustworthiness.
- Keep confidences.
- Be a good listener.
- Share gossip and air problems.
- Provide self-disclosure.
- Practice equality and acceptance, and refrain from disapproval.
- Avoid discussion of the friendship rules.
- Confirm that the friendship is important to you and you don’t want it to be damaged because you are both applying for the same job.
- Propose a friendship rule that you wish each other the best in pursuing the job.
- Suggest a friendship rule that whoever gets the job will have the full support of the other to be successful.
- Acknowledge to each other that applying for the position is not personal, it’s professional.
New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982056982/): The friendship rule of practicing equality can create confusion for women in the workplace in at least three different situations:
- When we are reluctant to compete with each other for jobs
- When we are reluctant to support each other because a colleague got promoted or has more education
- When we are reluctant to do the self-promotion necessary to get ahead in most organizations
Sallie Krawcheck in Time magazine highlights three reasons why organizations need more women in leadership:
- Prevent Groupthink. Women can add much-needed diversity of perception. Sallie Krawcheck tells her story of being fired from her position of running Smith Barney at Citigroup during the financial crisis. She was fired for diverging from the groupthink of the financial industry by daring to suggest that clients should be partly reimbursed for losses caused by Smith Barney’s selling them high-risk products. Before she was fired, Sallie reports that she would not have said that her approach to decision making was related to her gender. After she was fired, however, Krawcheck’s research helped her understand that women tend to be more risk-averse and client-relationship focused—a value they can bring to the workplace and that she tried to bring to Smith Barney and the industry.
- Increase Stock Prices. Recent research shows that stock prices of businesses that have women in corporate leadership roles tend to be higher than those of their counterparts. These businesses perform considerably better and pay larger dividends to economic investors, even during economic downturns.
- Increase Pay Equity. Krawcheck, in an article in Forbes, also points out that companies with more diverse leadership teams have lower gender pay disparities throughout the workforce.
New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982056982/): One day, during a routine coaching session, a female client who is a sales rep complained bitterly about an experience she had just had with a woman customer. She was deeply hurt and upset and felt personally betrayed. She explained that her customer, someone she had worked with for a long time, had decided to change vendors and was no longer employing her company—or her. And the worst part of it was that my client found out about the change from someone else—not from her customer. When she told me the story and said, “Who does she think she is? I thought she was my friend,” she also said, “I would have expected this from a man but not from a woman!” I thought, “Really? She’s a customer. Doesn’t this happen in business all the time?” I wondered where this expectation of personal loyalty from women, but not from men, came from. Then I realized that this sense of disappointment and personal betrayal in the workplace context was familiar—that I had heard versions of this disappointment from my women clients many times before. I got curious about where these expectations were coming from and how the workplace context might contribute to the experience of disappointment—and the seeds of my research were sown. What my research has found is that women carry their egalitarian friendship rules, or relational expectations (also known as “relational images”), into the workplace, where they clash with the hierarchical norms that dominate most workplace cultures. This clash sets us up to be disappointed by each other in ways that can feel personal and can daman age our relationships. This finding gives us an angle on understanding the source and causes of women’s disappointment with each other. It provides a lens that opens up a new way of seeing women’s relational dynamics at work and sheds light on a new pathway to understanding and change.]]>
Welcome to the launch of my new blog, “New Rules for Women.” I hope this blog will stimulate conversations about the issues and challenges that women face in the workplace. It can also be a place where we celebrate our strengths and exchange ideas for how to build upon them. I hope that both women and men will engage in these conversations as a way to understand each other better and learn to support each other more. We need to work together to bring about the many changes needed in our work environments to make them more inclusive of all of us and make our organizations more productive. I look forward to hearing from you.]]>
New Rules for Women, shows that women often have different relationship expectations of their female colleagues than of their male colleagues. I call these expectations women’s friendship rules. We begin to develop friendship rules at a very young age. My granddaughter, by the time she was 4, was talking about the rules for being a friend. In middle school, girls ages 9 to 13 are thinking, “Who is my friend, who is not my friend, and what do I have to do to get invited to the party?” By the time we are adults, our friendship rules have become embedded as a set of filters, but, for the most part, we are not conscious of them. We don’t just show up in the workplace as a blank slate. We carry with us all the things we have learned, including this set of filters I call friendship rules. Men have friendship rules, too, but because of differences in gender socialization, theirs are not the same as ours. It is through the filters of our friendship expectations that we interpret the behaviors of other women at work and decide whether or not we trust or like them, along with a range of other expectations that can create misunderstandings. My research validates that a core of very common women’s friendship rules exists. Not everyone has the same ones: there will be variations for each of us. The most commonly reported women’s friend rules include
- Exhibiting unswerving loyalty
- Showing trustworthiness
- Keeping confidences
- Listening well
- Sharing gossip and airing problems
- Displaying self-disclosure
- Practicing equality and acceptance, while seldom disapproving
- Not discussing the friendship rules