Monday, February 8, 2010

Girls don't cry

I try to keep the public/private divide intact on BloodyBrill, despite what you think after having read my previous post about poop, which is why you don't know much about my work or where I work or what I do. I allude to my job and my career, but I don't believe in sticking my foot in my mouth virtually. Plus, come one - everyone can find everyone these days on the ol' interweb.

But I will share my frustrations in this forum more often than not, and I think that's acceptable. My latest is that I just had my performance review (or appraisal, or whatever). I haven't had one since this time last year, and so much has changed at work and in the economy and my life in general that frankly I sort of didn't want to know. It didn't turn out too bad - definitely could have been worse - but the number one piece of feedback I received was about crying. I am considered, across my office, to be overly emotional and prone to crying way too often.

Now. I'm not saying I haven't had to duck into the loo every so often, or gone behind closed doors to let out my frustration, both here and in New York. I know it's considered a sign of weakness for women to cry in the workplace and that generally it's bad for one's career if they're seen to constantly break down at the drop of a hat (which apparently is the general consensus about me), and yes, I get it. But dammit I am so angry about the really ridiculous double standard that exists in British culture. Women shouldn't cry, shouldn't have any emotional response at all to anything in the workplace, but also are treated like second-class citizens even when they do show a characteristic stiff upper lip. I've never seen a culture so crude, with all female PAs and EAs, where the all-male old-boys club is still going strong, and where women more often than not carry the bag in the colleague relationship - and not the handbag. It's absolutely disgusting and one of the biggest disappointments I've had since moving to the UK.

In New York, if you're a confident, strong, articulate, smart woman, you can go anywhere, do anything (with ok maybe a bit of luck). But here, no way. Even in a creative industry women are still weak and still volatile, so men have to run the show. The head of my company is a woman, and I'll bet she still encounters the same crap I do. I feel for her, and for every other woman in business in this country. I know that my sometimes frequent work breakdowns (becoming less frequent, but still) don't help crush the stereotype. It's probably been the hardest thing for me to overcome since moving here, because it's a vicious circle: treat a confident girl like crap, even she will cry - and then you'll treat her more like crap, because she's acting like a girl. It's not fair, but I suppose life isn't fair.

I had an interesting conversation last week with an old New York colleague, and relayed this Catch-22 to him; he sympathized, but reminded me that I did want international experience and this was the dirty underbelly of it. I didn't like hearing it, but I know he's right. I guess it's up to me to prove to the world that us Jersey girls can take their poop and throw it right back. With an English accent.


  1. Sorry to hear you're having a tough time professionally. I've never reacted well to a weepy fellow woman socially or professionally (on either side of the pond), so I can kind of understand the outcome of your review.

    So what are you getting weepy about?

    If you're being treated like crap, why don't you look for somewhere else to work? I know the economy sucks right now, but hostile work environments aren't healthy or legal.

    I hope your situation improves, I really do.

  2. Hi Laura. Yeah I know what you mean... I've always tended to be more emotional than others but never this bad. I need to fix it because what no one seems to get is that I don't LIKE being like this and it feels involuntary. Saying to myself that Im frustrated seems to work but I want to SOLVE it. Thanks for your support though. Cheers.

  3. There's a technique that has helped a friend of mine with a different, stressful situation. Maybe you can apply it to yours.

    When you feel the surge of emotion hitting you, try to hold it back as much as possible, then count slowly from 10 to 1. So much emotion is on the fly, and if you take a specific period of time to decompress before you react, you may find it helpful.

    I've found tearful women to be an annoyance because as someone who freaks out in other ways (and oh boy, I do!), I find tearful women are manipulative. If your co-worker sniffles and cries, your boss sometimes lumps work and responsibility on the non-weepy party simply because boss doesn't want to deal with an uncomfortable emotional outbreak.

    And it doesn't matter if your intention isn't to manipulate. The end result is the same.

    Rest assured I'm not calling you a manipulative woman, but I really hope possibly offering insight to why people have complained about the outbreaks will help you. I don't like hearing about anyone having such problems personally and professionally.

    Speedy economy recovery wishes and best of luck to you.

  4. Thanks for that. It's something im really trying to work on as I totally understand your point re: the effect on others in a team or dept. Yet a lot of the issue stems from precisely the opposite - wanting to achieve, wanting to impress, and ultimately to be successful. I find that the issue is exacerbated here in the UK because they ignore the cause or situation (and then the manipulation aspect) whereas in the US I found that others who had this issue were helped to resolve the cause.

    Either way, I need to fix this. Stat.