Lois Frankel, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
Lois Frankel, bestselling author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers, has updated her groundbreaking book to reflect all that has changed in the workplace over the last decade to help women identify 133 common behaviors that could be hindering their careers.
Women For Hire asked her five questions.
What common behavior hinders career advancement? How can women break free?
The most common behavior that hinders career advancement for women is over-relying on messages received in childhood about how little girls are supposed to behave. Even if your parents didn’t give these messages, the media, our educational system, and unenlightened adults can convey expectations about what they believe is appropriate behavior for girls vs. boys. Women may never quite “break free,” but they can significantly loosen the ties that bind by recognizing which of their behaviors has to be balanced with new, adult woman behavior. For example, if you received the message that girls are supposed to be “helpful” to others (a message not reinforced for little boys), I wouldn’t suggest not being helpful. Instead, I would urge you to consciously decide when and what you are willing to help with and set boundaries so that you’re not taken advantage of. It’s about balance. Nice is necessary for success but it’s not sufficient.
How are men and women different when it comes to sabotaging careers?
Although I don’t want to paint all women and all men with the same brush, you can often relate the differences to sex role stereotypes. Whereas women care too much about what others think and are fearful to make decisions without conducting a poll, men care too little and can fail to be inclusive in their decision-making. Many women doubt their abilities and hesitate to apply for positions of authority, while men often overrate their abilities and get in over their heads. Women place a high value on relationships that can impede them from holding others accountable, and men place a high value on task accomplishment which can lead to others feeling disempowered or not an important part of the process.
What three key steps can women entering the workforce take to ensure they don’t screw up?
1. Learn to negotiate. Our careers are a series of negotiations, from negotiating for our first salary to negotiating for perks, promotions or privileges as well as for help from our peers. When a woman learns the essentials of effective negotiation (which is really no more than effective communication) she then has an invaluable tool to use for a lifetime.
2. Communicate in headlines. It drives men crazy when women use too many words and can’t get to the point. As a result, they may not be taken seriously or their messages become diluted in the words. Women need to remember that short sounds confident. Before you make a presentation, — and every time you open your mouth it’s a presentation — you have to prepare what you’re going to say in advance. Joining a group like Toastmasters can be game-changing for women.
3. Consciously build your brand. We are all brands in the workplace. We have to differentiate our brand from all the others, hone it, market it and get regular feedback about it. Write down what you want people to say about you when you leave a room. Then attach specific behaviors to each of these words so that you act in ways that enable people to see you as you want them to see you. If you want people to say, “She really knows her stuff” then you’d better show up to every meeting armed with data, keep up with trends in your field and share them with colleagues, and speak up in meetings.
How might addressing behavior in finding work lead to changes in other areas of women’s lives?
We aren’t one person at work and another person at home. We typically behave in ways that are consistent from setting to setting, although they might be over- or under-exaggerated in one setting than in another. If you’re a quiet and retiring type at work, you might be more talkative at home, but not to the point that someone would describe you as the life of the party. The goal in life is to act with congruence. To add behaviors to our repertoires that bolster our ability to meet both our professional and personal goals. If your family takes advantage of you, chances are you let people at work do the same. If you won’t ask for the raise you’ve earned, most likely you aren’t asking for the things you deserve at home either. By identifying just two to three behaviors that preclude you from living a rich life in all ways, you can learn new skills to overcome these obstacles in all aspects of your life. This is what Carol Frohlinger and I wrote about in Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It: 99 Ways to Get the Respect You Deserve, the Success You’ve Earned and the Life You Want.
Why did you decide to update your book? What workplace changes over the last decade prompted you to take a second look?
It’s more like what workplace changes didn’t take place that prompted me to take a second look. As I said in the introduction to the book, I actually wish I didn’t have to write it because it would mean we’ve made more progress. Speaking with young women in college and recent entrants to the workforce, it became clear that they were still struggling with the same things their mothers did. As one discouraged African American woman said to me, “I knew it was going to be challenging, but I didn’t think it would be this hard. I thought my mother fought to change how women and people of color are treated at work.” In some ways it’s even harder for women entering the workforce today because the bias and discrimination has gone underground. It’s no longer politically correct to do or say certain things to women’s faces so it’s said behind their backs or behind closed doors. Then you feel like you’re boxing at shadows. I wanted a new generation of women to have the tools they need to counter the stereotypes and prejudices they encounter and to gain confidence in knowing there’s not something wrong with them but rather the system is still broken.
Dr. Lois P. Frankel, bestselling author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, is President of Corporate Coaching International, an executive coach, and an internationally-recognized expert in the field of leadership development for women.