You may be surprised at some of the things you see at work. Take my friend Eva for example: She went to work one day wearing two different shoes. These weren’t just the blue/black mismatch either. Her pair had two different heel heights. Can you imagine hobbling out of your house shoes with different heels? Eva must have been really, really tired when she got dressed that morning.
She certainly surprised the people she worked with. Her boss “suggested” that she go home at lunch, pick one of her shoes, and come back with a matched pair. (Eva did.)
Shoe surprises in the workplace are one thing. But what recently happened to Meghan McCain shocked me.
Perhaps you read about Meghan McCain. She’s the twenty-something daughter of John McCain. She blogs. She wrote about Ann Coulter’s views being extreme and unhelpful. Her exact words were, “I straight up don’t understand this woman or her popularity. I find her offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing all at the same time.” That’s not shocking. Coulter bills herself as a bigot. (She said, “I am a mean-spirited, bigoted conservative second, and don’t you ever forget it.”) Ok. So these two most likely will disagree. What came next shocked me. The right wing came out with guns blazing against McCain, with Laura Ingraham leading the attack. Maybe you caught what she said. She called McCain “too plus-sized to be a cast member on the television show The Real World.”
Come on. That’s simply mean. Sure, the blogosphere is filled with this sort of hate, but it made me think about business and how people can respectfully disagree with each other at work.
Successful business professionals are good at one thing: Disagreeing or expressing disapproval without being mean. There’s no place for mean and nasty at work. Sure, my friend with the different shoes could have been called a fashion disaster or put under some other personal attack. But she wasn’t. McCain’s comments didn’t criticize how Coulter looked or dressed. She simply expressed disapproval of her ideas. That is how you disagree with people. You never attack them personally.
What’s interesting is that I’ve never seen men do the “mean” thing. Once I did see two guys threaten to take their “discussion” outside — but even that one incident never moved beyond the room. It only took sensible heads to say, “Stop it, you two.”
Why, then, is it that women feel that it’s OK to attack each other in that mean, personal manner? It’s never OK. Mean, personal attacks are too high-schoolish to be believed. It makes me wonder how it could be that women want to be taken seriously in business, when they criticize other women in the most un-serious, stupid way.
You only have to look to the behavior of Simon Cowell on American Idol to see what mean looks like. He says, “Harshness to me is giving somebody false hopes and not following through.That’s harsh. Telling some guy or some girl who’ve got zero talent that they have zero talent actually is a kindness.” He’s wrong. Telling someone they have zero talent is mean. Telling people their singing style doesn’t meet certain requirements is a more professional way to allow people to disagree and move on without destroying them personally. Mean may work for television ratings. It doesn’t work for professional success.