I am on the board of a small organization where all board members have equal power. However, our current President is on a power trip and is trying to use the organization for his own personal purposes. Another woman and I are countering his efforts but we go about it very differently and get different results.
The other woman is upset because he doesn’t respond to her. At first she assumed she intimidated him and made him back down. But, now she realizes he dismisses her entirely – like she isn’t even worthy of a response or acknowledgement. She is very upset by his dismissal.
She doesn’t realize that the reason he dismisses her is because she doesn’t assert herself as his equal.
For example, he cancelled our next board meeting with no explanation. My response was to question why the meeting was cancelled because the board has a right to know. By making him owe us an explanation, I can continue to push for that explanation and for the rescheduled date. I didn’t let him off the hook.
Her response was “Thanks for the update. Do you have a future date in mind?”
She answered as if he were her boss. She subjugated herself and left it to him to decide when and if the meeting would be rescheduled. The board is now functioning in the absence of information and she gave him the power to determine whether or not he would share information. Her response leaves the board in limbo – completely subject to his whim. She gave him exactly what he wants – control with no accountability to the rest of the board.
If you are going to challenge someone then you must continuously assert yourself. As soon as back off, you will be dismissed and you will have a hard time recovering.
And just because you assert yourself, it doesn’t mean you are trying to subjugate or control the other person. (Even though they may tell you that you are in an attempt to get you to back down.) Asserting yourself is about establishing and maintaining yourself as an equal, as someone who has a right to information and to exercise your role.
When you are dealing with a man like our board President, who I label an Alpha-Wannabe, it is easy to be intimidated by your fear of a big, nasty conflict. But Alpha-Wannabes are typically very conflict adverse and back down – that is why they are Wannabes. When they do lash out, it is as a means of last resort. They have mounted up a ton of behavior and actions they cannot justify or defend – they are a sinking ship and they know they are going down.
When we continuously assert ourselves, we establish our own power and counter the over-reach of men like our board President. We create a powerful dynamic – a dynamic where we let them sink themselves.
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