The Trouble With Women at Work, part 2 of 2

Just as it’s hard to blame the Democrats for anything that happened during the Bush Administration (if you look up the word “irrelevant” in the dictionary, don’t be surprised if you see the world “democrat” listed as a synonym—when all control was in the hands of the GOP).

It’s also hard to blame women for the mess that work has become.

Let’s face it; work is still a patriarchy. Okay, I know there are a few men out there who work in a women-managed department or company, but they’re the exception and certainly not the rule.

Work is a tree house and the boys are in charge. That said, although women might not be the major part of the problem most of us call work, they do have their issues. I’m not going to go all Oprah on you, but I do want to point out a major challenge facing many women at work.

I call it “divorced women’s syndrome” and I’ve had this conversation with at least thirty women. Going through a divorce a woman learns one thing; she can’t rely on anyone else. It’s her life, and her family, and the only person who will be there for her at the end of the day is herself.

Then she goes to work and an interesting thing happens—she relies only on herself. If this woman is approached for advice, mentoring or support by a colleague she will do whatever she can for them. But when it comes to her asking colleagues for advice, mentoring or support—NO WAY. As Bette Midler once said about Madonna, it’s all about lifting yourself up by your own bra straps (seriously, how many women have boot straps today?). Work, for many women, becomes a solitary activity.

Unfortunately, this runs against how the work really works. The workplace is built on favors and on give and take. You do favors for people and they return the favor back to you. The philosophy of not relying or depending on anyone else isolates her from lots of great resources, ideas and efficiencies.

I’m not saying that self-reliance is always bad thing. It gets many women through their divorce intact. I am saying that as important as this trait is to survive a divorce, it’s very dangerous to bring this to work as the defining aspect of your personality.

So if I had a magic wand I’d encourage women to be sure that they are making both deposits and withdrawals with the people they work with. To both give and get in the favor economy that sustains every business.

If I still haven’t sold you on the importance of giving AND receiving, here is a hypothetical. Imagine you have a friend who is going through a rough stretch. And you could be a big help to her during her struggles. How would you feel if you learned much later she never let you know that she needed a helping hand? You’d feel terrible, like you let her down. So how are your friends and work colleagues supposed to feel when you don’t reach out to them?

Here is a saying to adopt—L.Y.F.H.Y. Let your friends help you. The workplace is so much easier to handle when you tackle it with the support of your colleagues. You go girl!


“No one should have to dance backward all their lives.” Jill Ruckelshaus

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.