Firstly, thank you all who responded with your thoughts and experiences – there are many interesting insights and I will spend some time reading the lectures you recommended and thinking it through.
@Riggerjack, @Campitor @Jacob. Very interesting points, thanks! Some context:
Those issues don’t happen to me as often as they used to, and I even forgot about them until recently when I re-entered the workforce and I had a couple of instances. I decided to make a post about my experience in general, since I wasn’t sure where they came from, but since I developed as a person over time, some of the situations mentioned may not be relevant anymore.
I also think there is a difference between not being heard by your peers in casual conversations vs. cut-throat attitude in a company. The behaviours seem similar but may have totally different origins - lack of emotional intelligence vs. rat race. At the same time, they are connected, so it may be good that both are discussed in this topic as it made for a very interesting discussion.
I’m 32 and I’ve been working (with breaks here and there and sometimes part-time, i.e. while studying) since I was 16. I am familiar with working environment, though admittedly not so much with working in a large organisation. I’m aware that at work appearances matter more than actual ideas or hard work, or that there may be people who will either try to present my ideas as their own or will try to stomp over my opinion so that theirs is heard for career advancement Still, it’s good to hear your opinions on how to deal with issues like that when they arise, although, it seems that there is a relatively good culture in my workplace. No one turns you down if you need help and you generally get recognised for the work you do.
I agree that some meetings at my work are badly handled, but that’s mainly because many of them are informal and there is no one chairing it. Those more formal ones do have a chair and they are much more organised, with a space to ask questions or add suggestions. It may be useful to have a chair even for smaller meetings to avoid this issue.
The moments when I feel ignored happen mostly in informal conversations among my peers. There is no room for stealing ideas or making a good impression on managers. There may perhaps be a bit of ‘setting the tone’ or ‘showing charisma’, but I’m not really sure that’s even the case here. The reason I mentioned work is because a bit more than 2 months ago I started a new job and I met new colleagues with whom I interact.
These things happened to me since childhood, and although they didn’t happen very often, my inner sense of justice (or injustice) got triggered each time. I even had to develop a special gesture to signal that I wanted to say something to my father, since he had a habit of long monologues. By the time he finished, what I wanted to say was no longer relevant Admittedly, I’m much better at not letting it get to me, but I still wandered at the phenomenon itself. I also saw that happen to other women. When I asked my friends about it, only women said that it did happen to them or that they knew what I was talking about. My male friends were surprised and said they didn’t see or experience or realise that. My husband was also surprised when I told him about it and he suggested that I practice assertiveness, but after our conversation, he actually noticed that happening to other women. Looking at mine and my friends’ experiences, I asked on this forum if the issue had anything to do with gender. I didn’t assume that men didn’t experience it, and as the responses show, the consensus seems to be that all genders experience it, although women tend to get it more often. I was raised traditionally, so not to interrupt when others are speaking, especially if they are higher in the hierarchy. And since there is the unwritten rule that girls have to be agreeable and passive I got scolded when I argued or when I was being too loud. Felt unfair, but years of conditioning do influence your behaviour.
As for the body language – I feel like I already covered the basics, but I will put more effort here. People really like talking with me, because I listen to them well, ask the correct questions etc. I also make mental notes about important private issues/events of people and make sure to ask them later about them. They seem surprised/grateful that I remember. Since English is not my native language, ‘chit chat’ doesn’t come to me easily, because it doesn’t exist at all in my native language. I made an effort so that now I believe I can find common ground and carry out conversation with anyone about everything. I’m quite confident I know how to signal the willingness to add to the conversation. I believe that the issue here may be huge ego or lack of emotional intelligence of some of my colleagues. I also did a lot of improvements and although I make point of being polite and patient (because these are good qualities that alight with my nature) I also consider myself assertive. I’d like to underline that none of those things come naturally to me and I put a lot of effort in my conversation starting, body language and assertiveness skills. I’m at a point where I benefit from them, but since they are not my natural qualities, I believe there may be times when I fail to apply them correctly.
ffj wrote:Something I always did was always go out of my way to become VERY good at what I was doing so others had to come to me for answers. I was never going to advance by brown-nosing, being the life of the party, the funny one, etc. I always advanced on merit, it sure as hell wasn't my personality, and I think it's a winning strategy for introverts to be honest. We are as a whole much more aware than the average bear and if you'll become indispensable they won't ignore you any longer.
I naturally seem to always drift in that direction and it’s clear it already started in this job. I’m always well liked, but never the life of the party, etc. But people (including managers) already come to me for advice or help with things, because I’ve proven I’m competent.
7Wannabe5 wrote:Unfortunately, I think it is likely that you are finding yourself at a disadvantage in these circumstances because you are female, and because you are introverted, and also because you give a rat's ass about outcome.
Yeah, sometimes I’m just tired and disengage, especially if the situation is not that important. Regardless of what people think most of the stuff we do at work is unimportant or not that big of a deal. Most of what people say is boring or uninteresting. Whenever it’s raining I make sure to socialise and spend some casual time with colleagues. Whenever the weather is OK, I try to leave the office for at least 15 minutes to stretch my legs and recharge. For me, socialising is draining.
Everything you wrote makes so much sense to me. Especially the women’s roles. I guess I always go for the lady, the other 2 don’t work for me. But that also means some exclusion. It used to bother me in the past, but now I’m used to it. Thanks for putting it in words.
It’s also very true that
It's not anyone else's responsibility to make room for you in a conversation.
But it also makes them rude if they don’t. Assertiveness and body language should be a good remedy for that.
@C40 Thanks for the recommendation.
I’m at an entry-level position in a civil service institution. A lot of engineers there while I’m an arts graduate.
You can only contribute what you know, but for most things, there is some middle ground, where you can participate enough not to get excluded. Imagine a situation where my 2 colleagues and I are walking to the bus/train after work. It’s about 15 minutes’ walk (I walk faster, but oh well) and they talk about politics in a home country of one of them. Normally, I could join in for example by saying something about politics in any other country, or something about the legislation, or steer the conversation from politicians to celebrities, since they have much in common etc. or even just by nodding along. However, you can only do that if you have some context and all I they were saying was along the lines: “ So this guy, you heard what he did recently?” Yeah, that’s actually not surprising” “I guess not, especially after what happened before” I didn’t care enough for this conversation to ask for specifics, but I was excluded from even nodding along because of the way they were talking. I felt awkward just walking next to them and I made a couple of seemingly successful attempts at changing the topic “Look, don’t we get a free coffee it this place with our corporate perks? Have you guys tried it yet?” We talked for a minute about the coffee and then they went back to their local politics and I went back to feeling awkward/bored. We are relatively close and we stick together at work, try to coordinate breaks and go to the same training sessions. They also made a point of waiting for me, so that we could walk together that day. There were more of similar situations, but they do seem to like me and seek my company. I guess those two are just socially unaware?
I will pay more attention to how I’m framing my ideas. I am usually quite good with written communications but it’s possible that I don’t always use the best possible words in oral communication (a common issue for introverts).
Scott 2 wrote:It's a game, you have to figure out the rules through trial and error, then play them.
I've worked with a number of extremely smart, but conflict adverse women. They get steam rolled in meetings, despite having the great ideas. I trade on that, by listening to them, asserting their ideas, and sharing credit. We both benefit, but some of them could leave me in the dust, if they'd just get comfortable with conflict as a daily part of doing business.
My husband keeps telling me it’s a game. I need to be reminded of it quite often, otherwise, I start to care too much.
It’s possible that sharing credit is less painful to those women than dealing with conflict. They may find this deal very convenient.
This mostly happens in person. Sometimes in a teleconference, but that’s mainly to poor management of the meeting. I was excluded from few group emails, but I believe all cases to be a genuine error (incomplete list provided by HR etc.)
In any case, a lot of food for thought. I will report if I do things differently and/or notice improvements.