Aug 04, 2015


Latina Cubicle Confidential™–When Your Worst Critic Is—Another Latina!

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It is probably one of the most painful experiences we can have in our careers—working side by side with someone who goes out of their way to undermine us.  They can be passive aggressive—never returning calls, ignoring our emails or they can out right attack our credibility, our work or performance on a project.  When that person is another woman, it can be especially painful.  When it’s another Latina it can be devastating.  Cultural infighting is not something unique to Latinas but since there are so few of us in professional roles or leadership positions, it is particularly painful and confusing when it happens.

Shouldn’t we stick together?  Shouldn’t we support each other’s success?  Absolutely.  Can Latinas lose their way and resort to being petty? Absolutely.

Women as a whole have very different ways of demonstrating conflict.  Unlike men, we tend not to get physical or shout at each other.  Women can resort to more subtle forms of aggression—excluding a person from social events, spreading gossip, minimizing the person’s role or contributions to a team, and yes, criticizing without being constructive.   The result of all this is certainly a loss in productivity and overall disengagement in a work group which can be bad for the company and bad for the women involved, too.

If the two women in conflict are Latinas, there is another dangerous outcome:  a perception that Latinas can’t get along among themselves.  No one may say it out loud but a battle between two Latinas in the open raises the suspicion that we are so desperate for opportunity, recognition, power or all three that we are willing to crawl over our own to get to the top.  How can they do that to each other?

Most of the Latinas I’ve coached can share a story or two about this kind of experience and it remains one of the hardest issues to address.  Confronting the person is key.   Equally important is finding some common ground on which to reframe the relationship in order to create an effective working relationship. You don’t have to be best of friends but you do need to end the battle. If there is a perceived threat or competition for a promotion, it should be no surprise that supervisors typically don’t want to add another headache to their day.  They may opt to promote another person—even less qualified–just to avoid the drama that will happen once one Latina is promoted over the other.   If there is a perceived power play—trying for more control or visibility or both—both Latinas may be so distracted by each other’s posturing that someone else can step in and take the project to greater success. In short, everyone loses in these scenarios.

If you are in conflict with another Latina at the office, in your sorority, or at your children’s parent association—stop. As James Edward Olmos says to the audience in Zoot Zuits “don’t take the pinche play so serious.”  Look at the big picture of your life’s journey and what you want to achieve.   How much energy does this conflict detract from your ability to move forward with your goals?  How does being in conflict reduce the value of your success?  The sign of true pride in being Latina comes not from stepping on others’ backs to reach your dreams—it comes from lifting each other up and elevating one another to achieve more than we can do alone. Tell me about how you resolve your battles at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or join me live at the next LatinaVIDA™.


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Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. Visit the Latina Cubicle Confidential™ Facebook (link below) or join Dr. Hernandez live at the next LatinaVIDA™-Visibility, Identity, Direction, Action.

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  1. I think you have good intentions with this article however, I think that your insistence on saying that Latinas should stick together and not judge either other is dumb. I’m a proud latina but believe me, I’ve worked with stupid people and yes, sometimes with stupid women who happened to be Latinas and that I did not respect. Not because of their origin or gender but because they were dumb. It’s not always about race!

    • I appreciate your frustration and your observations. Yes, in this big universe of human beings there are stupid people of all shapes, colors and sizes. The one request I make here is that if you have differences with another Latina and you cannot see eye to eye on resolving those–move on to a different level of relating to that person that allows each of you remain dignified. I think if you can’t say something kind then don’t say anything at all. If you think they are dumb, keep it to yourself. I want to shed light on how much damage any kind of conflict and political infighting does to our integrity as women to simply suggest we can differ and not demean each other. –Maria Hernandez

  2. It must be really difficult to go to work every day when there’s a conflict at the office, so, like you, I’m all for resolving it or dealing with it the best way we can… regardless of who they are. I don’t fully understand what our race/cultural background has to do with disliking or disagreeing with someone else though. In my opinion, your thoughts on handling confrontation apply to any conflict situation and match. ¡Saludos!

  3. Nice article but a little narrow minded…..cream always raises to the top, no matter how many narrow minds surround you. If you choose to waddle in company politics/cliques, think about how much time, energy and WORK you waste.

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