How many times do you hear comments or questions about the competency of women when instead we should be celebrating their success in the workplace?

Often women are cruel to each other when they see another woman accomplish a very difficult task such as getting a promotion.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
~  George Bernard Shaw

This is because the promoted woman has inadvertently broken the “power dead even rule”.  According to the book “In the Company of Women”, there is a phenomenon with women that demands balance in relationships, power and self-esteem.  If a woman is promoted over other women in her circle, she violates this rule and is punished with indirect forms of aggression such as gossip, sniping, snubbing and withholding friendship.

Breaking the power dead even rule can also create the “queen bee” effect.  This is where the woman who was promoted has to put on self-protective armor to be as tough as the men that are around her. As a result, she changes her behavior toward everyone including the women who considered her their friend. They perceive that she is trying to prove that she is not “one of the girls”.

Be aware that this rule exists. Can you identify times that you or someone around you has broken “the power dead even rule”? Simply being aware of this rule is the first step in learning to manage this situation more effectively.

Create strategies to balance the power. Scan the women in your circle and understand their power and self-esteem needs.  If you see that you have a higher level of power and self-esteem than your peers, step up and do the work to reset the power level in the relationship:

  1. Do not flaunt your power in the eyes of the other woman.  Allow her to see for herself the fact that you received the promotion honestly, with time she will reset her perception of power in the situation.
  2. Increase her self-esteem.  Show her that you believe in her work and help her to see how her contributions are highly valued in the organization.
  3. Increase her power. Give her a special assignment that provides her with the ability to demonstrate her skills in a highly visible way in the organization.

Understanding the power dead even rule is critical in communicating and developing powerful alliances with other women.  Managing the situation in advance can often avert situations that lead to damaged interaction.

At Kinetic Insights, our PathFinders are skilled in helping leaders unleash the greatness in themselves and in their organizations. Call or email us for a quick discussion that just might put you and your team on the path to significant change.

Gail A. Froelicher is Founder, CEO and PathFinder of Kinetic Insights, LLC. For over 11 years, Gail and her team of PathFinders have journeyed with their customers to forge successful paths in rapidly changing business environments.

Gail A. Froelicher, CEO and Founder of Kinetic Insights, is an experienced executive with a proven and consistent record of established and emerging technology businesses. Throughout her 30 year career she has been successful in key leadership positions by motivating and developing teams that stress quality, integrity and respect for associates and business partners. View full bio