Last week I had a conversation with a female public servant who is working in a police agency in Australia.
She had contacted me to discuss tips on preparing for a new role she was about to move into. Clearly a high performer and motivated to achieve and was being smart about taking the time to get clear on where she needed to develop to prepare herself not just for this role but for her longer-term career plans.
She made a comment along the lines of ‘yes I need to be more confident because female civilians find it hard to gain respect and be heard in policing’.
I stopped her straight away.
This is a common belief that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in my view.
Female public servants working with male police officers can and do experience a range of discriminatory behaviours ranging from unconscious bias through to sexual harassment.
What I am about to offer as my opinion will be seen by some people victim-blaming. That is not my intent. (Inappropriate behaviour should never to tolerated and please seek support and report any situations to your manager or HR personnel).
All communication has at least two people involved. Each person brings their own biases to the and preconceived perspectives to the conversation. What you say is not only a function of what you know, but also a function of the expectations you bring into the interaction.
Your expectations will influence your words, your voice, your tone, your body language, your confidence and your ability to communicate with influence and authority.
Therefore if you enter the conversation with the belief that you opinion is less valued that will influence what you say and how you say it.
You will speak with more hesitancy and less decisiveness. You may defer to terms such as ‘I think this might be the case’ or ‘I’m not sure but you might like to consider’. Thus you will not sound like the authority that you are and will be less likely to be listened to.
Did I ever experience being dismissed or overlooked during my time as a manager in a police agency due to senior police officers thinking I was somehow ‘less important or valued’.
I can honestly count the number of times that I was aware of this on one hand. There were likely more times that I was blissfully unaware of. But because I did not second guess my skills and contribution, I did not expect that other officers at the table were second guessing my value and contribution.
I spoke up and I contributed under the assumption I was respected and my opinion mattered.
The few officers that could not get past that I was a female public servant and ‘what would I know about real policing’ didn’t bother me because they were usually the ones that I didn’t rate highly either.
You won’t always get the respect you think you deserve.
If you assume that you are not respected than you may well prove yourself right.
If you walk into the room like you are unsure if you should be there, someone may well assume that you shouldn’t be there. Don’t let them make that assumption.
Believe in yourself, back yourself, know your area of expertise and earn respect by speaking up and adding value.
MAXIMISING LAW ENFORCEMENT PERFORMANCE AND OUTCOMES THROUGH FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS, PROGRAM EVALUATION, DEVELOPING YOUR LEADERSHIP TEAM.