Women are often categorized into “Alpha” or “Beta” personalities, with the former often leading the pack at work and beyond. Can’t relate? There’s good news: You don’t have to be an “alpha” to be the best employee you can be in the office. In fact, London’s Rebecca Holman, who serves as editorial director of Grazia online, knows this better than almost anyone else.
Her latest book, Quiet Girls Can Run the World, is chock-full of thoughtful anecdotes about Holman’s professional experiences, plus insight from others.
Ladders caught up with her to discuss “Quiet Girls,” her take on the Alpha-Beta debate and women in the workplace, among other things:
On how no one is fully “Alpha” or “Beta”
“All of our behaviors and character traits exist on a spectrum – just like most people aren’t a total loudmouth or a total mouse all the time, we behave differently depending on the people we’re with, the situation we’re in, how tired, happy, sad or distracted we are. Whether we’re Alpha or Beta stems from all of these things.
“For example, I’m much more Alpha when I’m with a group of quite Beta people. When I’m with very Alpha people, I tend to become much more Beta myself. I’m also more Beta the more tired, stressed or distracted I am. I can turn on some Alpha-ness when necessary but it doesn’t come naturally to me.”
On how research says “Alpha” traits are good for a man but negative for a woman
“We have such weirdly cartoonish views of women’s behavior in the workplace – you’re either a pushover or a bitch. Women have only been in the workplace for half a century in any sort of meaningful way, and as such, we seem to have far less latitude in terms of what’s acceptable behaviour. And we’re used to seeing men – Alpha men – in leadership positions, so we don’t question it in the same way as we do with women,” she said.
On how we can boost our confidence when others make their lives look perfect compared to ours
“That’s a hard one, because everyone is always – if not faking – then certainly curating their personal brands on social media to a greater or lesser extent. Everyone is trying to tell a story and create a narrative on, say, Instagram, even if that doesn’t chime perfectly with what’s going on IRL. As I said, it’s hard because it’s easy to get sucked into the narrative of someone else’s life, but I find it helps when I remind myself that some (if not all) of what other people are posting is essentially just a story.”
On the importance of “not always being on” in the fight against burnout
“Faking Alpha-ness, being performative, agonizing over whether you’re the right sort of person for your job are all exhausting and take a lot out of you – and that’s before you’ve even got down to doing your work! But I think you have to identify what ‘not being on’ means to you – is it your phone on flight mode over the weekends? Or making sure you get four totally solitary hours to hang out each week? Or going for a massive run? Giving your brain a rest is so important.”
Her take on the different arguments about authenticity at work
“I think true authenticity at work is so important and in a world where we’re essentially expected to fit in, probably impossible. But you’ve got to know what your own limits are – someone I interviewed for the book said that your integrity is like an elastic band – only you know how far you can stretch it before it snaps. I love that quote and I think the same thing stands for authenticity too.”
On how we should “remember that our jobs should work for us, not the other way round”
“As much as we’re clocking in to earn a wage, our job should bring us more than it takes – in experiences, satisfaction, monetary reward. If your job is sucking the life out of you and making you miserable, it’s the wrong job. No one loves their job all day every day, but on balance, the scales should always fall a certain way – you should always gain more than you lose.”