Women Archetypes in the Workplace

by Angela Sebaly

According to a study by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, women are making progress in the workplace but slowly. According to their research, women will equal men in about … hmm… 100 years. That’s not even in my daughter’s life time. That doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside but I’m not sure I’m surprised by it either. We can’t control how men will choose to see us in the workplace but we can choose to see ourselves differently and empower ourselves to act in accordance with our goals. One way to do this is by becoming more aware of our archetype patterns.

In the early 1900’s Carl Jung began his work on archetypes that led to an incredibly prevalent way of viewing our propensities as leaders; introverted or extroverted, intuitive or sensing, thinking or feeling or judging or perceiving. These archetypes give us a way to see ourselves in relation to others. It helps explain the patterns we exhibit and our orientation to the world. In essence, archetypes are psychological patterns derived from historical roles in life. They can be universal or situational.

As women, we have our own unique set of archetypes to evaluate and consider how they impact our leadership style. I’ve compiled a list of women in the workplace archetypes to review. As you read through these, consider your emotional response to either being or observing this archetype in the workforce.

Damsel in Distress

When a damsel is in distress who does she turn to but a knight in shining armor to save her? Women who demonstrate a pattern of not making an effort to solve their own problems first before turning to a big brave man to do it for them, give men their power and dilute their own.

Rescuer

A rescuer has a habit of stepping in to save others from their own bad behaviors and as a result enable those bad behaviors. Women who demonstrate this pattern in the workplace struggle to hold others accountable and typically get lower performance as a result.

Peacemaker

Where men tend to be more aggressive, women have a tendency to be peacemakers and sometimes at the cost of saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done. When this happens it provides a false sense of security to those working for and with the Peacemaker and creates resentment and frustration from team members who want accountability not peace.

Gossiper

You don’t have to look hard to find this pattern at work. Just peak into any break room or stand close to the water cooler and you’ll hear two or more women gossiping about others and likely other women. I had one client where the women had a destructive habit of texting each other during conference calls to share their disapproval of each other rather than talking directly to each other. Gossipers lose credibility by stirring up trouble and focusing their energy on the wrong things.

Mother Hen

A mother hen pattern is a woman who is overly nurturing and protective of her team, colleagues and employees. It’s one thing to protectively watch over your flock when you are a hen, it’s another when you are a leader. Leaders have a role in looking out for their people but not to the point that they disable their people from doing the difficult work themselves and empowering them to fail and learn from their mistakes.

Seductress

A seductress in the workplace is a women who uses their beauty and sexuality to win over a male’s approval and support. In the short-term using this behavior pattern to get results may work but in the long-term it is incredibility destructive to the collective agenda to advance women in the workplace. Results won on merit are the results women want to be known for achieving.

So, what does all this mean for women in the workplace? Becoming aware of our patterns assist us in ensuring we are choosing rightly for ourselves and our end goals.

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