Personality Conflict In Male-Dominated Field


Hello, I have a situation at work. I have been at this company for 1.5 years. I used to love it. This past week, they have some seating arrangements. I now sit in a room with 2 guys (with whom I get along with o.k.) and their 2 bosses in adjoining offices. It’s an open room, with one partition wall blocking them and me. None of these people are in my “department”. I am basically the only person in my department, other than my boss who sits at the other side of the building.

My problem is with the bosses. I feel like they have an issue with me because I am a female working in a male dominated field. I can feel it by the way they talk down to me. I find them pompous, egomaniacs, arrogant and narcissistic. It’s not just my opinion; others in the office say the same things. I try to block personal talk with my headphones. But there are times when I do have to deal with these people on work related issues and I feel aggravated and negative.

It’s is a small family business that’s non-structured. It really has no policies or rulebook or anything like that. I don’t think there is another room in which they can put me because we have to share plotters and printers and such. Do you have any suggestions? I’d appreciate it so much. Thanks in advance.


From Where I Sit


Dear From Where I Sit:

Many years ago, when visiting my sister, who was an intern for a church-sponsored peace organization, we waited for a bus to take us from Alexandria to the capitol in Washington DC. We were pleasantly surprised when a giant of a fellow offered us a ride. He was so large he had lowered the seat so that he might fit behind the steering wheel. Once inside his car, I saw he was dressed in a police uniform. He was a guard at the Capitol. He escorted us into the building and pointed to his reception desk. He told us they called him Big Ed and said that one day he wanted to write a book titled, From Where I Sat. This giant loved his job, and it struck me that that’s the way I wanted to feel about my job. Unfortunately, if you were to now write a book titled “From Where I Sat”, you would not have a happy story to tell. In the first sentence of your story, you stated, “I used to love it.” Why did you love it? Did you ever take time to jot down what it was you loved about those days you loved your job? My first and perhaps the most important suggestion for you is: Meet with your superior and tell him/her how you feel from where you sit. Tell him, probably he is male since you say you are in a male-dominated field, why you used to love your job and why now you are unhappy. Come with suggestions about what you think would help you once again love your job, but first ask for his suggestions. For example, might you change your seating to work nearer to him? Might you be assigned near another woman, if there is another woman in your family-owned business? Might you have a suggestion about recruiting another woman? Might you suggest that if you were the top boss, where would you assign someone to sit with your skills? Meeting with your boss should be natural and frequent. You should bring him/her ideas about improving the quality of products and services of your work organization; ideas that save time, supplies, money, ideas that make each other’s jobs easier and more effective, ideas that enhance internal and external customers’ satisfaction. Boss-bossed communication also can entail candid conversation about the kind of work environment in which you could feel respected and valued, and most importantly are able to be productive.

You seem to blame your unhappiness on being seated in an area close to two individuals whose bosses talk down to you. Both bosses, you occasionally must deal with strike you as “pompous, egomaniacs, arrogant and narcissistic.” Also you say this seating assigned area, dominated the talk of these men, is distant from your own boss. You attribute being talked down to of being female working in a male-dominated small family-run business.

Is there anything you might do to re-write the story from where you now sit? Possibly. Here are several thoughts to consider: 1. Apparently, you have chosen to work in a male-dominated field. Being the only woman can cause you to feel isolated and insecure. Are you insecure about your skills and worth? If so, you might come across that way. Consequently, the big boys put you down, and you see them as egocentric and arrogant. On the other hand, if you are secure and feel you are earning your pay, you may need to decide how to avoid or confront them. 2. You try to avoid dealing with these men by earphones, but that is only partially helpful. You cannot avoid them completely because you must use certain equipment. So you can bite your tongue and only speak with them as needed, and then you can boil within about how much you detest these fellows. That form of avoidance does not work for you either, so you wrote us. The obvious alternative is to confront. How? By stopping them short at the moment you feel they are talking down to you or requesting a meeting in which you tell them what about their communication disturbs you and what kind of communication you want from them. If they have a pattern of talking down, helping them break that pattern likely will take courage and persistence.

3. You will have a higher probability of coping and enabling them to change if you can be specific about don’ts and dos of how you want to interact. So take time to list them. In our Q&A Archives, I have situation-specific dos and don’ts rules, such as, Nosy Co-worker!

Before you meet, prepare a do and don’t list of what you think is acceptable communication from and with your bothersome co-worker, such as; · Do say hello when you come in and goodbye when you leave. · Do save questions and small talk for breaks. · Do understand that I am trying to do good work; interruptions distract me. · Do know that I value your goodwill and want a friendly working relationship. · Do know that I appreciate your efforts to be helpful. · Do ask if I have time to talk with you and if I say, “not now” don’t be hurt or pout. · Don’t listen-in on my phone conversations and then comment on them. · Don’t interrupt me while I am on the phone, speaking with someone else. · Don’t stand right next to my chair with your hand on my shoulder, stand directly behind my chair, put your hand on the back and lean over my shoulder. Here are two of many more Q&As that illustrate confrontating workplace interpersonal communication problems: Can’t Concentrate Because Of Speakerphone Noise An Annoying Co-worker–Confront Or Live With It!

I don’t know if Big Ed ever wrote his book, but we met him later that day when my sister took a group to tour the capitol. We have a photo of him head and shoulders above others in a group. There is one book by that title: Dr. Don Sisk, From Where I Sat; none I have found by Big Ed. Ed had a big ego. He felt important in his chair. He felt he was part of something big and important. Love for your job will not return until and if you can resolve that feeling being unimportant–of isolation and being talked down to. You need to feel good about yourself and your co-workers. Despising them eats at your emotional and mental well being. Soooo can you voice the way you want to communicate with those you have labeled egomaniacs? Can you pretend that they are just humans who have names and needs as you do; needs to be respected and to work co-operatively with those in their workplace? Can you confront your boss and/or those about a work environment that is what you might think of as WEGO? Can you help shape rather than just be shaped by your environment? Think about what my signature sentence might mean in your situation: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden