The Problem with Women in the Workplace

Has this happened to you?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I attended a meeting for a networking organization I belonged to when after introducing myself and stating what I did for a living (project manager by day, freelance writer by night), the organizer continued to add onto my intro. “She has written for big publications, don’t let her fool you,” she said, grinning at me.

Although I hadn’t broken into nationwide publications at that point, I had indeed made a name for myself. I authored a weekly feature in a very well-known local newspaper, and collaborated with many local PR companies. In addition, I wrote for other local publications and had experienced memorable perks, such as eating decadent multicourse dinners, attending concerts and interviewing celebrities — all for free. In a nutshell, I had a pretty extensive rap sheet as a writer and good reputation to boot, even doing ghost writing for local clients.

At a following meeting, I was approached by a fellow member. “Hey Natalya, how did you start writing for all those publications?” She asked with a smile. I told her my story: I was a recent college grad, I was looking for a job, I was looking for a job, and applied to one of the places I interned at. With no full time jobs available, I became a freelance writer while working my various odd jobs and applying for a career in my field. Found the career, kept the freelance position, and soon I was writing towards other places.

From one writer to another, I told her I would send her email addresses of editors to apply to. She seemed extremely gracious by this, telling me her love of reading and writing starting from a young age, almost gushing. She requested me on Facebook, and was thrilled when it came time for her first byline in one of the local newspapers I gave her an email address for. She even was published in another local publication I wrote for. I went so far as to checked up on her progress via text and gave additional advice when she included in her response “You’ll need to help me brainstorm ideas :)”.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Of course, I didn’t mind doing this. In fact, I am still willing to do this. Good things come to those who help, right?

A few weeks later, a small group from our organization met up for a quick talk in SEO writing. However, it became a quick girls night with no SEO talk at all (I was the one who was supposed to lead this — oops. But at least I emailed guidelines later!). The fellow writer seemed miffed that the work was so high and the pay was so low for one of the local publications, which I merely shrugged at since I was writing for a few years for them — I was making money, having cool experiences, and building my portfolio. She explained that she was published in a nationwide publication, spurring me to think: If she can get published in there, why can’t I?

About a week after the meetup, we spoke about our online writing portfolios. I explained I had to revamp mine, and she replied that she did hers and it was easy. “I’ll show you how,” she explained.

Well, it never came to that — I took it upon myself to redesign my own via a public template. I did, however, ask her how she obtained her domain. I noticed that the template I wanted to use was the same she had on her portfolio (it was a public template, made free to use by the public), and after much debate, I decided to use it. After all, she didn’t create the template and it was the only design that truly spoke to me and my portfolio. I used a different color and, of course, my own content.

After sharing a link of my portfolio to social media, I received a text from her. “lol our websites look strangely familiar…”

I panicked internally. Yes, I used the same public template, but that was after hours of debate and trial with other templates. Also, I had my own content on there, my own tabs in the navigation, different pictures and colors — it felt like a reflection of my personality, even though I knew she used the same one.

I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I responded with “Like template wise? Yea I saw that lol” and switched the subject.

This, ladies and gentlemen, could have been a mistake.

Whenever I saw her a few more times after, she seemed off to me, borderline moody or hostile. “I got published in [aforementioned nationwide publication],” I said to her excitedly with a smile.

She looked at me. “It’s easy to get published in there,” she responded.

I was a bit taken aback. I mean, she was gushing a few weeks ago about how excited she was to get published in there, and now it’s “easy”? Pretty rude, but I let it slide.

Of course, there were times I could have been rude back. Such as the time she was complaining she was sick and had three articles due the same day. “Welcome to the world of freelancing,” I thought. But I didn’t say it.

Little things piled up. I noticed she unliked my writing Facebook page, and wasn’t as enthusiastic to see me. She even liked a post I wrote in a Facebook group inquiring about potential jobs when I was laid off. It sounds nitpicky, and maybe I was overanalyzing things. Pre-all this shit, she gave me a smile when I showed up late to an activity. “Aww, you finally made it,” she said with a tilt of her head. “The fuck?” I thought. “Yeah, bitch, I just biked 30 miles on my bike — sorry I’m late,” I said in defense. “That’s crazy,” she and other girl said in unison. In other words, maybe I was overanalyzing things.

But then again, maybe not. “Also, so funny you’re a ________ now! I wish you had told me, I would’ve gotten points for it!” she replied when I informed her I joined an organization that she was also in. Again, passive aggressive behavior. I responded with “Lol no way! Yea I got the email a week or two ago. Too funny.” (Note: readers will sign up for a newsletter and then get an email asking them to join in their referral program as a representative).

Time passed. After getting a new job and completing my first half iron race, I was ready to get more involved with the networking organization again. Prior, I noticed that she unfriended me from Facebook. I let it go, and joined the meeting.

Yet, I felt her friend was being rude to me at this point. After an ice breaker of what age was our favorite, I responded with, “Every age gets better as I get older.” Her friend asked immediately, “Why?” and looked at me intently (she didn’t probe anyone else but me). I felt attacked for some reason, and I didn’t know why. I felt even more wary when her friend told her to look at her phone, implying she text her something that couldn’t be said aloud.

An event following, I finally pulled her aside to clear the air, telling her I noticed we were no long friends on Facebook and inquiring why. “Did I do something?” I asked.

“No-well, yeah,” she said after hesitating. She started off by saying her friend expressed that she “wanted” her life, and that she was flattered. She also said that she didn’t mind that flattery if this interest was expressed, and I should state this instead of “refuting it” when approached. As well, she felt we were competing against each other, referring to our writing (we also wrote profiles about members in the organization).

Now, in my mind, I don’t feel like she was competition. With all due respect to her, I was freelance writing way longer than she was. Hell, I even gave her multiple editor email addresses to contact (Note: she did once give me an email address to contact for a writing gig)! Plus, how can I compete with her when I write about my own experiences that happened to ME, not her?

Later in the conversation regarding our portfolio templates, I said, “There were so many templates to choose from, I just chose that one.” She retorted, “Yeah, there are so many, why did you choose that one?” And when she brought up posting a link on social media to the additional organization I joined, I told her I joined via my cousin and she angrily responded (almost turning red), “That’s not true! You told me they emailed you to join, I can pull up the email right now!” At that point, I stared at her with a funny smile on my face — it seemed so silly to get mad over this, and to delete someone on social media over it. Plus, she claimed she deleted me for “space” and she initially opened up to me because she writing was always her “thing”. Nonetheless, I apologized for the miscommunication and pointed out that we did work in different industries, after all.

Things soon calmed down in the conversation and when I asked if we were “cool”, she confirmed and asked if I was going to an event later in the month.

I drove home, feeling some sort of closure but not fully. It ended on a funny note, with me apologizing for something that I didn’t feel was my fault, and to mostly be on good terms with her.

My gut told me to check Facebook and search her name — she blocked me that very night. I also double checked the email she was referring to — I was talking about becoming a representative for that organization, not how I joined. Another example of miscommunication.

I was dumbfounded — here was someone who I helped get a byline in a few local papers, but who seemed to turn the situation around and get angry with me. Yet, this could have been avoided if I was more upfront in the first place. For instance, I should have told her that yes, I used the same public template because I did like it, and couldn’t find others that I seemed to like as much. In regards to the other organization, I should have said that yes, I did indeed join and left it as that. But, and this may sound petty, I do find it funny that someone who claims to be so straightforward and so upfront confronted me in such a passive aggressive manner. She deleted me off LinkedIn and, when I stumbled upon other social media platforms she had through mutual friends, I discovered she blocked me even though I never once followed her on there.

I did learn a lesson from this — own your actions. This may be the reason why women have a reputation of being catty in the workplace: they are afraid to be upfront. If I stated the reasons behind my initial actions, this whole situation could have been avoided.

To this day, I don’t know if she turned her friends against me or if that is simply how they always acted, and I never noticed. I don’t wish her bad fortune at all, but I will say this: if this situation greatly upset her to the point of writing someone off who helped her, she is in for a rude awakening.

A few people I explained this to said that she may be intimidated by me. And if that is the case, I wish her luck — there will be writers you know, as well as many you don’t, writing for the same publications as you. They may even express the same opinions and ideas as you. Others may have the same dream as you: let them have that same dream, and make yours unique. Don’t be upset if people write for the same topics or outlets as you, join the same organization as you or have the same interests as you.

After all, you aren’t the only writer in the world.