As business partners and authors who have worked together for over twenty years, psychotherapist Katherine Crowley and executive coach Kathi Elster know a thing or two about nurturing healthy workplace relationships. Following up the success of their 2007 book Working With You is Killing Me, the author duo takes a more gender-specific approach to dealing with the tribulations of today’s workplace.
Amazon.com spoke with Crowley and Elster about their latest book Mean Girls at Work.
You have written several books now as an author team; it seems like it would be challenging. What’s your strategy?
Kathi: I think the beauty is that Katherine is a psychotherapist, and I’m an executive coach. So we really don’t confuse the two messages. I think we’re very clear on our contributions. So when we were tackling Mean Girls, Katherine would say “this is psychologically what’s going on with this woman,” and I would say “Ok, so in the workplace—I think she’s gotta call a meeting, or I think she better write an email.”
Katherine: In terms of [how we actually get the words on the page], we basically have conversations with each other. I’m usually at the keyboard typing out what we’re saying, and then we shape it, we print it out, I give it to Kathi, she gives it back to me, we shape it some more, and on it goes. We’ve really found a way to work together.
Kathi: We had a client whose known us for years. She read the book and said “Oh, Kathi said that! Oh, Katherine said that!” Once you get to know us, and know the voice, you know who said what.
You mention at the beginning of Mean Girls at Work that you’ve interviewed hundreds of different women in different industries. Do certain industries have “meaner” women than others?
Katherine: That’s a great question. I think the dynamics of women working with women have been stronger in certain industries for many years. For example in hospitals, where nurses are famous—and infamous—for treating each other rather harshly. That’s always been a female-dominated profession. And the fashion industry, as we all know, has an amazing reputation on the one hand for women creating incredibly beautiful things, but on the other hand competing with each other in very covert and indirectly aggressive ways.
Kathi: The fields that were predominantly women had the worst problems. But now that women have infiltrated every industry, it’s pretty standard now. I don’t think it’s industry-specific at all anymore. But nursing is a tough one. They have a saying in nursing: “We eat our young.” We’ve had the privilege of working with nurses for years. Their profession is so admirable, but they have this problem.
Your book discusses different “types” of mean girls. What is the most pervasive type?