Tips for Getting What You Want Before You Break Up at Work – ‘Breaking Up is Hard to Do’

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Leslie GrossmanLeslie Grossman, Faculty Director, Women’s Leadership Programs, GW Center for Excellence in Public Leadership & Founder, Her Circle Leadership

‘Breaking up is Hard to Do’ – the top 40-hits song by Neil Sedaka was huge in the Sixties and Seventies. In 2022, breaking up is back! It’s returned again in what McKinsey & Company is calling “The Great Break up” only this time women are not finding it ‘hard to do”. This time women are breaking up with their companies, not their boyfriends. Most women would prefer not to break up, but according to research, companies are making it more difficult for women to advance than before the pandemic. Women are reporting that they are suffering from belittling microaggressions, such as having their judgment questioned, and assumptions that because they are parenting, they are not working at full capacity. Here are some things for women to think about before deciding to break up with their company….

According to the McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2022 Report, women have taken on the hard job of doing more than ever, including supporting employee well-being and fostering inclusion, but they are not being acknowledged for this additional work. Women also want to work for companies that value flexibility, employee well-being, diversity, equity and inclusion. Women would prefer to continue working in their leadership positions if their organizations would provide the right conditions.

What can companies do to stop the exodus of valuable female employees and leaders?

Companies need to understand this research, do the work of changing their cultures and make sure that this culture shift applies on all levels of the organization.

What can women do before they resort to breaking up?

Here’s a few tips for women to try before slamming the door on their current positions. While there’s no 100% guarantee things will change, many women have reported success with these strategies.

  1. Communicate. Let your manager or leader know what you want and need to be productive and happy. Too often women don’t speak up and say what they want and need. Many leaders are reasonable, but if you don’t explain your situation and your work style, they won’t know them. Speak up.

  2. If you work remote or hybrid, schedule in-person meetings with your leader on days they are in the office (ask them) at least 1-2 times each month. Have a deeper conversation about your work including the results you are getting and how you are engaging and supporting your direct reports and peers. Men tend to update each other in an informal way, dropping by a leaders’ office or over a beer after work, in addition to scheduled in office meetings. This gives men a leadership advantage. Women need a different approach as described above.

  3. Attend in-person events selectively. Choose events where you can meet influencers, leaders and possible sponsors. Put your best foot forward speaking with confidence, asking questions about their work and letting them know what you are up to from a positive point of view. Follow-up with a note and a zoom one-to-one chat when you make a valuable connection.


The Center of Excellence in Public Leadership at George Washington University (GW CEPL) offers programs for women at every level of their leadership journey to help address the early socialized habits, as well as the workplace and life challenges that often hold women back from pursuing increased responsibility, while supporting their growth and development.

Live online programs are known for their interactive discussions and networking among the participants, as well as its critical, career-changing content. Click here to learn more:

Women Leaders on the Rise Program (#WRISE) gives high-potential women leaders at the start of their careers the tools to enable management success, while addressing limiting beliefs that may be holding them back.Executive Women’s Leadership Program (#EWLP) is designed for experienced executives who have potential for greater leadership responsibilities. Topics covered include executive presence, negotiations, resilience, growth mindset and more!

Global Women’s Leadership Program (#GWLP) provides game-changing leadership strategies that will transform your mindset and expand your sphere of influence as a woman leader. Program is designed for global executives.