Tall Poppy

Feline Syndrome: 3 ways you can avoid being ‘that woman’

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I don’t know why it happens so often, but I have seen countless times women literally kill another woman’s career and professional opportunities. It is shameful and shocking because, collectively, we have power and influence. I have heard many female leaders state, “I had to make it up the ladder on my own,” and for some reason they can then find a way to rationalize stepping all over their female colleagues in order to get to the top. They tell themselves that their behavior is okay.

It is not okay.

I call this “Feline Syndrome.” Sometimes referred to as “Queen Bee Syndrome,” Feline Syndrome afflicts women who willingly sabotage the careers of other women. It strikes women who ignore their female colleagues and focus solely on their own careers, regardless of whether that puts other women in jeopardy. It appears in women who outright refuse or passively decline to support their fellow females at work.

 

So how do avoid becoming that woman?

 

1. Help others who have the drive and motivation to succeed

Coach these eager-to-move-ahead women on how to navigate the political waters in your organization. Counsel them on their appearance and professional demeanor in the workplace. Share opportunities, knowledge, insight, and connections with them, doing so helps you expand your own sphere of influence and look at problems and challenges in new ways.

2. Turn to other professional women for advice and guidance

The most successful employees recognize that no one makes it to the top alone. Consider the strengths and abilities of the female colleagues around you and think about how their knowledge could be valuable to the work you are doing. Find a way to ask for advice from these women, and look for ways to keep them in your sphere of influence. Work toward building positive, productive relationships with the women in your organization and your industry.

3. Help your male colleagues

As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I believe this to be true—but it doesn’t go far enough. While women absolutely should be helping other women, they should also be helping their male colleagues – just as their male colleagues should be helping others, too, regardless of gender. Because lending a helping hand isn’t a gender issue—or at least it shouldn’t be. And making it a nonissue starts with you.

About Jena Abernathy

Jena Abernathy is a nationally recognized leader in human capital management, performance excellence, and organizational development. She is the author of The Inequality Equalizer. A sought-after speaker, she is a passionate advocate for women in executive and governing board roles. She has written for and been featured in a wide variety of media, including CNN, the Financial Times, CBS Money Watch, FOX Business, and the Miami Herald.

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