b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: What Women Do Wrong at Work

3/02/2007

 

What Women Do Wrong at Work

Wrapping up the series on "How women sabotage themselves in the workplace", the following are more issues that Debra Burrell CSW, claims women are guilty of doing:

Women resent being told what to do. Women are generally less comfortable with a hierarchal, “report only to your immediate supervisor” framework. While men may be comfortable with clear lines of authority, most women prefer to view work as a collaborative effort. We want to reach a concensus, respect all participants equally, regardless of position. We want to understand why we have to do something and mightly resent “Because I said so” as an explanation. Our need for inclusion is greater than our ability to be subordinate.

Caring about personal lives is seen as off point. Women are basically curious and care about other’s personal lives. We like to know who is married; single, just had a baby, where people went on vacation, if they bought a new home, etc. It’s one way that we connect to others and build relationships – by caring about the details in people’s personal lives. Yet a woman who spends too much time chit chatting – passing around birthday cards, ooohing and ahhhing of vacation/child/pet photos may be taken less seriously than her position and responsibilities demand. Our interest in others as full human beings is perceived as a waste of time.

Women give away too much credit. A woman’s tendency is to want to be liked. Therefore, we can be excessively validating and complimentary in order to get on people’s “good sides”. We say about others what we would like said about us. “I don’t know what I would do without my assistant Janet.” “This report would just not be as good if I didn’t have Bob’s expertise on the computer.” This creates a climate in which colleagues and assistants really do think we wouldn’t make it if it weren’t for them. It also contributes to the perception that we must need more help than our less effusive colleagues.

Women aren't likely to ask or fight for what they want. A man will go into his boss’ office, and ask for a raise. A woman will sit at her desk, thinking, “If I do a really good job, someone is going to notice. I shouldn’t have to ASK for recognition, or a raise, or a promotion.” We are the same way when it comes to personal gifts… if we have to ask for flowers, then what’s the point? We want it to come freely. What we don’t understand is that all employers will try to get us to accept the lowest possible compensation for the longest possible time. We don’t want to think that if we really wanted it, we would be willing to fight for it. We need to be willing to send the message “We want to play in the game”.

Women perceive criticism and correction as a personal attack. It hurts to hear we spoke too much at a meeting, or no one liked our presentation or that others find us difficult (who me?). The challenge is to take what’s said and understand our impact on others and make changes where possible.

Women tend to believe that “No” always means no. Women are polite. So if we hear someone say, No, we think it means no - a straightforward don’t-ask-again. A man however, has grown up hearing no from girls and discovering that sometimes No really means not yet or maybe. Another example would be when a guy tries out for a sports team – and will try and try and try whenever possible to get on. A girl will try to get on a team, and if she is rejected will automatically think I’m not good enough and then not try again. Women need to know it’s okay to try again and not be afraid to keep going for something. When a woman gives up after the first No, it looks as if she isn’t trying that hard.

Debra Burrell CSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice as well as the Regional Training Director of the Mars Venus Institute. She can be reached by calling 212-754-6232. You can also visit her website at http://www.debraburrell.com/.

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