Women, we want to be treated as equals, don’t we?  We’ve made great strides in the last decades in getting our spots in the C-suites.  Yet, as we reach the C-suite, are we forgetting that we need to treat men as equals too?  We must treat men as we would wish them to treat us.

A case study

I encountered this difference recently through an artisan I know personally.  He was put in touch with one of the most well-known architects in our state.  She designs beautiful homes for tech giants and has designed one of the largest projects in our state capitol’s recent history. The aesthetics of the artisan and the architect matched so greatly that he was thrilled for the creative opportunity.  By the time he was near the end of the process, he declared to her: “I have never in my 40 years in this business been treated so poorly.”

After discussing this with other men who have worked with her, I realized this was her standard operating procedure with men in her industry.  What she probably didn’t realize was that she lost my admiration, and I gained some cynicism as it was clear that as we must treat men as equals, this didn’t happen in this case.  Her poor treatment of this man doesn’t just reflect poorly on her, it reflects poorly on me because I too am a woman.

When women treat men poorly

There’s research that says that the jerks do finish first.  A study showed that not only does confidence lead us to positions of influence, but rudeness may also contribute as well.  Why?  Even though it’s negative, most people associate it with power.

There are, however, other ways to distinguish ourselves from our male counterparts than by being bitchy to them.  As the architect in the anecdote proves, her innovation alone is enough to bring her business, which may be why she feels compelled to ignore standard business etiquette.  If she were to combine her amazing portfolio with amazing interpersonal skills, she could be more than just a great architect; she could be a brilliant mentor to those of us wanting our place at the top.

Many female CEOs credit mentoring as a key to being successful as leaders.  Yet who would want a woman who treats anyone, male or female, so poorly as a mentor?  This brilliant architect initially had my respect for her obvious genius and her leadership among many great men I knew.  As soon as I learned how she treated them, she lost a potential mentee.

It stands to reason that any firm, no matter than industry, would want women at the top as our differing life and work experiences lead to a diversity of opinions, strategies, etc.  Yet when women in power get a reputation for alienating others, it reflects poorly on the rest of us.  As difficult for us to admit, this reflection is magnified when these women do not treat men as equals.

It’s about the relationships

As difficult for strong-minded women to admit, men still hold the majority in the business world.  The gender pay gap hasn’t closed much in the last decade, and at the rate, it’s going, it won’t close for about a century.  Building relationships with men in our fields is necessary if we want that gap to close.

I may seem treacherous to my gender by saying: “Hey, ladies, we need to think about this,” but I’m also a pragmatist.   Being successful in business isn’t just about the results you produce.  It’s about the relationships we build, both internally and externally.

Networking is a great way of building business relationships.  It’s also key to being successful in business, according to Denise Morrison, one of the most powerful women in business today.  It’s hard to grow your network when you’re alienating half of the potential with your treatment of them.

Nice doesn’t mean weak

Do we have to pander to our male colleagues to build our networks and business relationships?  Certainly not.  We don’t have to be bitches about it either.  Being nice doesn’t mean we’re being weak.

Being nice is the exact opposite of weakness.  It shows how strong our interpersonal skills are and how self-aware we are.  You don’t have to suck up to anyone, least of all the men in your industry, but the saying, “Kill them with kindness,” really does mean something.

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Hattie is a writer and researcher living in Boise, Idaho. She has a varied background, including education and sports journalism. She is a former electronic content manager and analyst for a government agency. She recently completed her MBA and enjoys local ciders.