6 Mistakes Women Make at Work
Are you guilty of any of these?
By Karin Eldor
Monster Contributing Writer
“I am woman, hear me roar...”
Oh yes ladies, we have come a long way indeed. So why does it feel like many of us are still making the same mistakes in the workplace?
Let us examine them further to ensure they are avoided. Awareness is the first step of any problem, after all…
Mistake #1: Not being able to say “no”
I’m not sure why this is so, but women have always suffered from an innate need to want to be liked and accepted. Maybe it’s something ingrained in women at an early age – whatever the case, the “why” doesn’t matter. What is important is recognizing this as a fault.
Knowing how to say “no” is never easy, no matter your position: whether you’re saying no to your manager, a coworker or someone on your team who you manage. Keep in mind that when it comes to your professional life, there’s a difference between being respected and liked. It’s not a popularity contest , so know how to stand your ground and say no when necessary.
As I write this, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”, is sitting pretty at No. 1 on Amazon’s Best Sellers list (on the week it made its debut!). In it, Sandberg talks about a “leadership ambition gap” between working men and women, which is keeping women from succeeding. She says that women are not asserting themselves at work and don’t know how to negotiate. She continues by saying that women are always in conflict with themselves because they want to be liked, something that might be harder to achieve when in power and displaying assertiveness. Sandberg rallies her fellow females to stand their ground. So girls, let’s make her proud!
Mistake #2: Crying in the workplace
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve witnessed a female coworker breaking down in tears at the office (this writer has even been guilty of this act – as much as I’m ashamed to admit it!). This is a cardinal rule: never let ‘em see you sweat (or in this case, cry), whether it’s your coworkers, your team and even – actually, especially - your boss. Men don’t start whimpering when a proposal of theirs gets rejected or their managers reprimand them!
When you cry, the perception is that you’re letting your emotions get the best of you and cloud your judgment, which can be interpreted as a sign of weakness. The worst part is, once you cry and display this type of “irrational” behavior, your witnesses will forever remember it. It’s a tough thing to hear, but crying on the job can actually leave a “stain” and tarnish your reputation as a leader. So, always stay levelheaded when among your peers and managers.
If you do feel a rush of tears coming on, take a deep breath, politely excuse yourself (if possible, i.e. not in the middle of a big meeting) and step outside until you feel that you’re composed. If need be, vent to a friend or significant other once you leave the office at the end of the day. You’d be amazed by the amount of clarity you can get after stepping away from a situation and you’ll be grateful you did!
Mistake #3: Waiting to be called upon
It’s no secret that women are taught to be polite at an early age, along with saying “please,” “thank you” and waiting for others to stop talking before piping in. Could this have something to do with why women wait to be called upon when in a meeting? It’s polite to wait your turn to speak, but at times women have the automatic reaction to wait to be asked a question or give their feedback. In the name of feminism and women worldwide, speak up if you have something to say!
Mistake #4: Using wishy-washy language
Many women I’ve worked with tend to play the diplomatic card in the workplace – again this goes back to an innate desire to be liked by everyone, further underscoring Sheryl Sandberg’s point. Some women use wishy-washy or “neutral” language -- both verbal and written -- rather than resolute, firm language. Is it because women don’t want to ruffle feathers and offend anyone, or because they might second-guess their decision when standing their ground about a matter? Either way, it’s time for women to say what they mean and mean what they say by using direct communication and assertive language.
Mistake #5: Not firing someone right away
It happens to the best managers: they hire the wrong person for a job. And when that manager is a woman, she might not be as ruthless when it comes to firing the new hire. Whether she delays the firing to give that person another chance or in the hopes that this person will end up being right for the job, she might be apt to delay the inevitable – a mistake that can end up costing time and resources. It goes without saying that firing someone is never the ideal scenario and is likely the toughest thing any manager, male or female, will have to undergo on the job. But at a certain point business decisions need to be made and how you go about them is what will ultimately define you as a leader and help you grow in your role.
Mistake #6: Engaging in office gossip
Everyone loves juicy office gossip, whether it’s the latest workplace romance or the fight two coworkers had. It’s a guilty pleasure that helps coworkers bond, as long as it doesn’t spiral out of control. The mistake women make is going overboard with the gossip or spreading rumors. Women have been guilty of engaging in office banter for decades (just watch an episode of Mad Men to see this stereotype in action!) Remember, light gossip is fun but steer clear of office drama.
Get up, stand up
I am the first to stand up for women’s rights and power in the workplace. We have made great strides as professionals in every industry, which is why it shocks me when women continue to repeat the same mistakes outlined above.
Ladies, let’s make a pact to heed Sheryl Sandberg’s advice and challenge ourselves more. It’s time for us to be more aggressive, learn to negotiate and most importantly, assert ourselves more. Be strong, stay firm, and show ‘em what you’re made of.