“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life forever.” - Amy Poehler
When Teamwork Isn't Good For Your Career
Is it possible that when women collaborate or excel at teamwork it's viewed as being weak? And are the same skills viewed differently when displayed in the workplace by men? Hint: it's a rhetorical question. Here's the problem: within collaborative environments (aka teams where teamwork is essential to success) it's difficult to attribute contribution and then measure that contribution as a success factor. We see it in sports all the time: one players scores the most and becomes the 'best' player on the team when the reality is that without the rest of the group to support that player's efforts, they would not succeed.
The catch for women? By acting as a strong team member and applying the benefits of collaboration towards the successful completion of a project, they often get overlooked and their contributions become undervalued. Why? Research shows that women tend to devalue their contributions, as well as that of other female team members, making it difficult for managers, and other influencers, to recognize and reward them. Researchers "found that when men and women were assigned to work on a project together, prioritizing and making decisions on a series of managerial tasks, women gave more credit to their male teammates and took less credit for themselves." Professor of Psychology Madeline E. Heilman advises women engage in these practices:
1. Point out your discrete and irrefutable contributions to a project. For example, in a group presentation, you divide up the tasks and take full responsibility for putting together a two-minute video.
2. Make sure your contributions are clear to your male collaborators.
3. You must self-promote. It can be factual, data-based, and presented in a way that is not confrontational. See #1.
4. Clarify your role, preferably in private. Most people are unaware of their gender biases. Try and speak to that colleague in private and remind them of your contributions and your value.
5. Become the spokesperson of the project. Be the face and voice that delivers status updates, progress, and success.
Using these steps can help women battle the discrimination they encounter in the workplace. Another powerful tactic: get a male team member to sing your praises in public and private. Draw on a good relationship and ask for the help. Trust us, everyone asks a buddy to "put in a good word". Now, it's your turn to call in a favor.
Other resources for you to explore:
Listen to Harvard Business Review's podcast Managing Someone Who’s Too Collaborative (24 minutes)
Watch this powerful short video from Stanford's The Clayman Institute for Gender Research Creating a Level Playing Field (25 minutes)
Read the book It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor: Free Yourself From the Hidden Behaviors Sabotaging Your Career Success (240 pages, about 4.5 hours of active reading)