Almost 20 years ago I had my first "Mean Girl"adult encounter, and it left me wondering if I had somehow landed on one of those hidden camera shows and being punked by Ashton Kutcher. But to my dismay, this was real life! It was my first day working for one of the largest beauty companies in the world, and I was ready. A month before my first day I had planned out how to make an impact in the first 90 days. To start, I read their annual reports, conducted store checks and spoke to consumers about their beauty needs and I even tried several of the company's products myself to gain first-hand insight something I had learned to do from my days as a Brand Manager on Diet Coke. I arrived at 8:00 am in my power DVF dress, Christian Louboutin classic pumps and carrying a Chanel tote. Not only was I prepared to slay intellectually, but also, I was bringing a strong fashion game. After completing my official paperwork, my HR rep escorted me to my floor to meet my new manager and other team members. There she was, standing by my cube with a pleasant smile that felt very familiar; she informed me that we could grab lunch and get to know one another. I was so excited, here was an attractive, smart black woman that I was eager to learn from. My excitement was short lived, during lunch, before the bread arrived at the table, she informed me that she was not going to be my friend and she was not impressed with my MBA or my Coca-Cola training. She mentioned her disappointment in not having any input into me getting the role so she would fire me if I didn't perform. I was thankful when the waiter arrived to take our order because it gave her chance to pause from her rant and me the opportunity to compose myself from this verbal thrashing. Many things went through my head from giving her one of my grandmother's famous sweet yet deadly cuss outs or remain calm with the hope that the episode would be over soon. I chose the ladder. The next 30 minutes was similar to the first 10 minutes but worse. At some point, I just started praying. I knew that I needed to revise my game plan because she was my boss and I wanted to keep my job. Now I just needed to figure out a way to win her over. Put on your big girl panties!
The next six months felt like I was training for a marathon that I would never get to run. But what I know now is that God was ONLY preparing me for the roles to come in the future and that one day I would have the opportunity to impart my knowledge to help provide useful tools to empower women to navigate successfully with other women in Corporate America. Here are three tips that helped me survive.
Don't take it personally. Most women that mistreat other people are dealing with tons of insecurities. After months of trying to figure out why my new manager disliked me and took pleasure in making my work life miserable, I started to realize that she was dealing with the personal pain of her own. I still didn't excuse her behavior, but I developed compassion for her and made a drastic shift change. I was no longer trying to prove to her how smart I was but instead, appreciate how smart she was. I also made it my business to make her look good at all cost. This was not easy BUT NESSERARY.
Develop core alliances. I started to identify areas that I could leverage my expertise to gain visibilities outside of my core team. Now, this could backfire because you need to make sure you can do your current job and any new project at the highest level. This allowed me to gain several supporters throughout the organization. It is tough for your manager to speak negatively about you when she hears praises from her peer group.
Don't gossip. When someone does you wrong, your instinct is to tell anyone who will listen- BUT DON'T! I realized several years after I had left the company. During my first six months to a year, I spent far too much time talking about my manager to my co-workers swapping horror stories. In fact, I received satisfaction in knowing that I wasn't alone. But this only damaged our business progress. What I realize now you are only as strong as your weakest performer, and you can't beat your competitors if you are too busy fighting one another.