Don’t Let the Dicks Get You Down
Self-Doubt and Self-Respect
I can’t tell you how many situations I have been in where my contributions were overshadowed or ignored by the dick clique. My contributions and input to certain situations were seen as insignificant or flat dumb. If I made a recommendation to my manager or perhaps fellow managers, it would be overshadowed by their “better idea” or they would question if my input was even relevant. This caused me to second-guess myself, beat myself up, and think I wasn’t up to par. How were they so much smarter than me? However, I knew in my gut I was on the right track with my input because I had enough life and career experience to know the wiser, but was simply not recognized. If it was not their idea, it was not a good one. The irony is that many of my ideas that were once rejected by the dick clique were ultimately used. Did I get credit? Nope.
Over my years in medical device sales and management, I have launched new technologies successfully. I’ve sold them and managed others to do so. I have my own method of planning and execution that proved fruitful and effective. Some years ago we were launching a brand-new technology that was truly innovative and exciting. In our product training, I immediately knew the formula that we would need to launch this new product and I shared my thoughts with the launch team. I was quickly told that my idea would never fly and that we needed to take the direction from the dicks in charge. My ideas got eye rolls, and “pfffft . . . that will never happen” comments. After trying it their way, which felt completely wrong, the new product launch was a disaster. I’ll spare you some ugly details like how we were told to just shove product on shelves, but I will tell you it drove a lot of people to quit and they questioned the dicks in charge. After this debacle, I thought, Fuck it. I’m gonna do it my way. And guess what? I implemented my strategy, enabled my team to lead, and they did. As a result my team led the company in sales in the following years. I was given very little if any credit for this. If I was acknowledged by the dicks, it was quickly followed by telling me one of the things I had not achieved, and that I’m a terrible manager. My ranking in their world was made clear.
This culture began to break me down. I questioned myself constantly, even though I knew I was engaging in the right activities and coaching the right way. It was a total mind fuck. I felt almost incapacitated knowing that my ideas and contributions were worth nothing to them. Which meant I meant nothing to them. I didn’t need this validation for my ego, I just wanted to know that I could trust the people around me and that I had some level of security. When I would ask my male peers about this culture, they shrugged it off and accepted it. They were not treated in the same manner I was. I can tell you this from personal experience. If I did see glimmers of this treatment among the members of the dick clique, it was not as severe and was quickly brushed off by a slap on the back or by having a beer. I knew my rank. I was at the bottom of the food chain. I was told I was weak, and I was perceived as weak. It was like I had lost control of my identity, and it was in the dick clique’s hands.
As trite as it sounds, one of my biggest takeaways is to be true to yourself. I knew the best way to approach the launch of the new product, yet I yielded to the dick clique, full on knowing that their strategy would not work. I should have stood up for myself and my beliefs more. I also would not have let their group tank thinking impact my creativity and hinder my success, which I let happen because I kept doubting myself. Ultimately, I started to remove myself from the dick clique members even further. I stopped engaging in their activities, dialogue, and kinship. I now realize the reason I did this is because I did not respect all of the members of the dick clique, and I had a hard time faking it, so I was really withdrawn. This did not do me any favors as I lost a connection with some of my colleagues whom I did like. It was as if I was fading out and my insecurities became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Rules on Self-Doubt:
- Stand up for yourself creatively and professionally. If you are faced with adversity in these areas, yet your gut knows better, be brave and stand up.
- Know your personal limi If you are at the point of withdrawal, change your attitude, stay engaged, and phone your female friend for support.
- Don’t let them define you. You define you.
Early on in my career I was spending a day in the field with my sales manager visiting with potential customers and trying to close new business. After a sales call, he and I were in my car on our way to the next call engaging in the ritualistic “How do you think that went?” conversation. During his critique he looked at me and said, “You know, you really need to think like a forty-year-old man.” At first, I took this with a grain of salt. I knew I wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and needed coaching. My second thought as a woman at twenty-four years of age was, How do I think like a forty-year-old man? Forty is freaking geriatric. Should I be thinking of minivans, comb-overs, and that my wife won’t have sex with me anymore? I gotta tell you, I felt disrespected. As if being a woman would not get me respect? Why did I need to think like a man to be successful? You can act like a woman and be just as successful. I’ll never think like a forty-year-old man, nor would I expect any woman to do so.
Lesson on Self-Respect:
In 2017, I would hope that a male manager would not ask you to think like a man. In 2017, I would hope this conversation would not even take place and that he would give better and more usable advice. Unfortunately, there are those who have not graduated out of the 90s and still think this way. I don’t know if there is a solid lesson from my previous example, but it’s certainly humorous and drives the point of the dick clique—“Think my way, and you will be fine.”
Rules on Self-Respect:
- If you hear this, “Think like a forty-year-old man,” laugh really hard and roll your ey
- If you hear this, ask for better constructive criticism that has nothing to do with gender and will actually help your skill
- Stay above it all and respect yourself and your action
This excerpt is republished with permission from the author. The book is available on Amazon.