I have been working for a long time. I had a number of part-time jobs in high school and college and have been working full-time non-stop since I got my first “real” job. In that time, I have learned A LOT about women in the workplace and working in general. When I started in the news business, the managers and executive producers were predominately male. These days, there are more female executives, both in my business and beyond. However, women and men treat the workplace very differently and I often see young women sabotaging themselves… without even realizing it.
4 ways women sabotage themselves at work:
Apologizing: Women love to say sorry. I am aware that is a blanket statement, but it’s true. We apologize when we are wrong, we apologize for being right and sometimes we apologize when we don’t know what else to say. I used to be guilty of this as well. Many, MANY years ago a (male) manager of mine said, “You say sorry too much.” I asked him to elaborate and he said, “If you ever want to be a EP you need to stop saying sorry so much. I say sorry to my wife, not to my coworkers.” At the time, I thought he was a total jerk. However, the more I paid attention, the more I realized he was right. Men at my job NEVER said sorry. If someone told them they did something wrong, they would say things like, “I understand your reasoning, but here is why I did that…” or “You have a point, next time I will do things differently.” Fully taking credit for their mistake, without ever uttering an apology. Ever since then, I try to use the “S” word sparingly while at work. You can take criticism or admit mistakes without having to say sorry.
You Don’t Know Your Worth: It’s a well documented fact that women make less than men. Which is why you should never shy away from salary negotiations. Don’t accept the first offer. Even if the deal remains the same, what boss would blame you for asking for more money, perks, etc? If you get a stellar yearly review, are offered additional responsibilities, or just think you have been doing a kick-ass job, then do not be afraid to ask for a raise. This Wall Street Journal article cites a number of studies that found women simply don’t ask for more money as often as their male counterparts do. So go get that money, honey. You deserve it.
You Can’t Take a Compliment: When your boss tells you that you did a great job, say thank you. Don’t say, “Yeah, but sales would have been so much better if I would have done ABC.” I see women do this all the time. Many say they feel uncomfortable accepting praise or want to prove to their boss ways they could do an even better job next time. Whatever your reason, stop it. If you get kudos for a job well done, accept it. Say “Thank you” and move on.
You Don’t Speak Up: I see many women who sit quietly in meetings, only to reveal fantastic ideas either privately to me… or in a small group email to select employees. (aka: the ones she feels comfortable sharing ideas with) For some reason, many women hesitate to speak up in a group setting. At one of my previous employers, I had the opportunity to ask one of my co-workers why she shared her good ideas only privately. She admitted to me that she was worried her ideas may be deemed as “stupid” and other times she felt like she was too young to speak up in a room full of mostly older men. Both of her concerns are pretty common for women in the workplace, but you need to get over it.
How many times have you heard guys at your office openly interrupt a meeting with a stupid idea? I can think of a few times myself. But who cares? At least they tried. That idea could have sucked, but it could have been amazing. The thing is, if you don’t speak up, you can become invisible.
Notice a meeting going on that you didn’t get an invite to… but you feel you should have? Schedule a moment with your boss and ask him why you weren’t involved. Tell him the reasons why you should have been in the meeting and the ideas you can bring to the table. If you want to get ahead and grow your career, you can’t be a wallflower.
There you go. The 4 ways I see women sabotage themselves at work the most often. Now go ask for a raise… and don’t apologize for how amazingly awesome you are!