Copyright gpointstudio,

Perhaps you’ve led a charmed life in which all or most of the people you’ve encountered have been positive influences. For example, maybe you met someone early on who created a desire to learn, helped you fashion a set of positive values, taught you a set of relevant skills, or instilled in you a belief that failure is just one step on life’s journey. 

Unfortunately, many of us come across people who, for a variety of reasons and often without any malicious intent, try to make us feel “less than” with comments such as:

“I must warn you that women don’t do well in this type of work environment.”

Sometimes you can walk away from a person like this, but often it’s not possible when the person is your boss. However, what you can do is take responsibility for the situation and develop an approach that includes getting your job done in a way that benefits the organization. 

As the human resources (HR) business partner for the chief technology officer (CTO), Nancy (one of our study participants) quickly realized that he had issues working with senior level women in the organization. For example, he would rarely meet with Nancy, did not include her in important team meetings, and complained to other senior level managers that she was incompetent. 

Nancy learned that it was possible to work with his organization by forging alliances and partnerships with his team in order to provide the HR services that were needed. One key discovery was that she did not need his sponsorship to create many effective working relationships with his team. Another more powerful discovery was that she was never going to change his assessment of her, no matter how great a job she did with his organization. It was his problem! The experience was liberating for Nancy, because she learned that she did not need or want to work in an organization that did not value her contributions. As she told us—“and that was worth all the stress.”

She has now moved on to another organization where she has “always felt supported.” In a clear example of “paying it forward,” Nancy actively ensures that “no one that I work with ever feels devalued for any reason.” 

For more stories of how people deal with the forces of negativity, pick up a copy of our new book, Positive Influence: The Leader Who Helps People Become Their Best Self (HRD Press, 2020).