As a woman in the workplace, I cringe every time someone uses the term “woman in the workplace”. Having traveled with my father since I was a toddler, and having been exposed to thousands of meetings, I was truly gender blind. I had heard about this mythical glass ceiling but had never actually considered its reality. Alex Thien said, “The only real drawback to being a woman in the business world is that you have to deal with men.” Now before I’m accused of being a man basher, I would clarify and say that the only real drawback to being a woman in business is that you have to deal with jackasses. But I would argue that a man would say the same thing. Plus, I’ve had plenty of women react in a “jackass” manner to me. So my personal experience has shown me that both genders are capable of behaving in such a unsavory fashion.
After seeing several of these creatures kick up their heels and stomp around breathing fire from their snouts throughout the decades, I discovered a pattern to when the jackass would stomp onto the scene. Without fail, it was whenever I need to make an ethical decision. It seemed this would set off their baying and kicking. In one instance, it was disciplining individuals for looking at porn on work computers; in another, it was moving to terminate an employee because they were threatening team members in their workplace; in yet another, it was removing an employee for performance issues. I’ve also had jackasses kick dirt in my face and flay their hooves at me for paying and promoting people fairly, insisting we follow our human resources handbook in dealing with personnel discipline issues and removing non performers in order to maximize productivity and profitability.
Maybe I’m naïve, but I do think if a man tried to do the same things he would also incur the wrath of the jackass. So I didn’t butt my head up against a glass ceiling, I came face to face with the foul smelling spewing of a rabid jackass up the chain. But it wasn’t all bad. These jackasses showed me that I was operating in a barnyard that did not care about ethics. And that’s no barnyard I wanted to build my stall in. James MacGregor Burns said, “Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere techniques.” And I wanted to be a leader, not a manager or politician.
So consider this: when ceilings or jackasses happen to good people, be glad it did so you can see the reality of what you are dealing with and move onto a place that’s better suited for your standards. As Ethel Watts Munford so aptly stated; “You may lead an ass to knowledge, but you can’t make him think.”