Are you sabotaging your career? While women now hold 51% of all management and professional positions, we also continue to hurt ourselves by making avoidable mistakes. I’m not talking about mistakes in the physical work we produce. Rather problems that stem from our gender and often our different communication styles.
In their new book, “Work with Me,” authors Barbara Annis and John Gray (author of “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus) explain just how differently we communicate: “79% of men feel they have to be careful and indirect when giving women critical feedback. Yet 82% of women say they want to get direct feedback from men.”
Below are the profiles of a few women you may know. My guess is that you will recognize at least one (if not more!) of these characteristics in one of your successful friends…or even yourself!
- The Crier. While I understand first-hand that women are by nature more emotional, the office is simply not the place to be in touch with your feminine side. No male boss wants to see tears (or tantrums!) in the office. If you truly want to be viewed as an equal, then match the actions of your successful male counterparts. Suck it up and save the emotional roller coaster for the drive home.
- The Perfectionist. Over the last few decades, women have made great strides in the work place. But most would agree that a gap (or cavern!) still exists between the opportunities afforded to males vs. females. To receive the same chances, you usually need to be quicker, smarter, and more perfect than the guys. While there isn’t anything wrong with the concept, it often leads women to become micromanagers with a constant need to tweak and perfect every item. For those in management positions, this is a crucial mistake that can lead to employee morale (not to mention turnover!) issues.
- The Secretary. While we aren’t in Oz anymore Dorothy (and it’s not 1950), societal cultures are slow to change. Just because you may wear a skirt and heels, does NOT mean that you should be the appointed note taker in every meeting with male counterparts. And while it can be difficult to resist the male driven expectations, just realize the subliminal message when you acquiesce easily to such requests.
- The Waiter. Between lower confidence levels and less aggressive tendencies, many women are hesitant to ask for what they want. And instead take the more subservient role of waiting until someone else (like the boss) notices their efforts and offers a pay increase or new promotional opportunity. Ladies, hear the wake -up call on this one. Your successful male counterparts wouldn’t dream of waiting for things to be handed to them.
- The Mother Hen. Role models and societal expectations encourage women to assume the nurturing role in most families. But assuming the mother hen role at work is a career deterrent. Think of it this way: every time you provide boyfriend advice to young Susie or talk to Bill about his family drama you have lost focus on your career. Chances are you will find more success (not to mention appreciation from upper management!) by completely avoiding these conversations. Of course, serving as a professional mentor to a lesser experienced staffer gets a pass here!
- The Juggler. It’s tough to perform at optimum levels when you’re feeling overwhelmed and constantly behind. Yet many women expect themselves to fill both an important role at the office AND the glue that holds everything together at home. While some can successfully juggle it all, it’s simply too much for many. And we all know what happens when something is stretched too thin….it breaks!
- The Talker. Admittedly most women talk more than their male counterparts. And sometimes our communication abilities can be an asset, but they can also be a deterrent. If you find yourself oversharing personal information or talking a problem to death, chances are good that it’s driving the guys nuts…which hello isn’t a great career move! While it’s admittedly tough to completely change our communication style, there is a great deal to be said for observing reactions and cutting off the chatter.
- The Comparer. I can’t explain the psychiatry behind it, but many women (myself included on occasion!) are masters at the “compare” game. If you’ve ever uttered something like, “I wish I was as smart as her,” or “Geez, she has great hair” join the club. But time spent comparing ourselves to others is completely wasted…not mention a confidence killer! For more on this topic, check out “5 Ways to Stop Comparing yourself to Others.”
- The Fashionista. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a pair of “killer” high heels as much as the next girl but some women spend far too much time worrying about what to wear to work instead of providing value at work. And still others choose to wear inappropriate clothing. Remember, your goal at the office is to wow them with your intelligence and abilities…not your flair for fashion or sexuality! Bottom line: Remember, while you are picking out what to wear, it’s likely the guys are thinking about the day ahead and which battles they plan to win.
- The Planner. In order to get everything handled in our busy lives, women have become great time managers. But for some, the incessant need to plan reaches past today and affects long-term career decisions. I recently chatted with a young millennial who was considering passing on a great career opportunity because she felt it “might” interfere with her future family. If you find yourself struggling here, you might enjoy Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.”
I’d love to hear from you…..How do you sabotage your career?