Why Nice Girls Still Don't Get the Corner Office

Just what exactly is a "nice girl," and why can't she get a corner office? You'd think that those who play well with others would be rewarded, especially in these times when everyone is struggling just to survive in the working world.

But, according to Dr. Lois Frankel, author of the top-selling business bible for women which has just come out in paperback, it's more important now than ever to ditch the good-girl strategies you learned in nursery school and walk that thin pink line, between being a bitch and a Brownie.

Frankel wrote 'Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office--101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers,' back when the economy was booming and the stock market was through the roof. Only top executives got corner offices -- with a double view -- and there were precious few women in those executive suites. Today, the song remains the same. Only 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies are headed by females. What's wrong with this picture? For the first time since WWII, women outnumber men in the U.S. workplace. Why aren't they dominating the boardrooms, or at least becoming better represented there?

lois frankelRight now, the biggest problem that women have in the workplace is that they're too busy "playing it safe," according to Frankel, explaining that the job situation is so precarious these days that many women are just happy to hang on to their jobs and not make any waves. "But the workplace is like a playing field," she explains. "Women are comfortable playing in the middle of the field, but it's on the edges and in the end zones where games are won."

Femininity is not enough

Frankel encourages her readers, listeners and clients to "quit being a girl!" Not that there's anything wrong with femininity; it's just that the same rules we were taught for success in kindergarten don't work for grownups. To get a gold star in citizenship, we were told to sit still and be quiet, only speak when spoken to, always defer to others, never disagree, and above all, always be sweet. Those things are ingrained into girls -- but it doesn't take a PhD to see why they wouldn't work in the business world.

"Nice is necessary but it's not sufficient," says Frankel, adding that certain "feminine" traits are essential to women. "Women are expected to be strong relationship-builders and to listen to and care about what other people say," more so than men, according to Frankel. But that's not enough. There are other leadership qualities that are very important. To sum it up, she says, "Women need to be able to tell someone go to hell and make them believe they'll enjoy the trip."

And that doesn't mean women should try to act like men. "We live in a society where people don't like men who act like women and women who act like men," says Frankel, meaning we should be comfortable with our own genders.

Mistakes woman make

Frankel's book contains common mistakes that women make in the workplace, and coaching tips to get over them. Among them are:

1. Waiting to be given what you want

Ever heard the saying, The squeaky wheel gets the grease? If you don't ask, you won't risk hearing no, but you also won't get what you want.

2. Avoiding office politics

Like it or not, politics is how things get done -- in the workplace, in government, and in professional organizations.

3. Sharing too much personal information

Sharing personal information isn't in and of itself a mistake -- it's sharing too much of it that can come back to bite you.

4. Decorating your office like your living room

The decor of your office should be consistent with the kind of firm in which you work.

5. Over-apologizing

Apologizing for unintentional, low-profile, non-egregious errors erodes our self-confidence -- and, in turn, the confidence others have in us.

There are 96 more mistakes women often make in the workplace, plus tips on how to overcome them, in Frankel's book Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office, which is now out in paperback. And a followup -- which Frankel is writing with Carol Frohhlinger, author of 'Her Place at the Table' -- called 'Nice Girls Don't Win at Life' will be out next summer.

To summarize Frankel's theory: Nice is nice, but it's just not enough.

Next: Moms at Work: Resources for Mom Entrepreneurs >>

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Diana B.

No, the squeaky wheel gets replaced with a quiet wheel.

December 10 2010 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just a (probably markedly unpopular) thought - but - has anyone thought that maybe work force's, population's, etc., are the way they are, because of actual ability / performance / aptitude in the field / etc.? Maybe people are in "top positions" because they are the best? Maybe ability dictates outcome? I dunno call me crazy...

July 06 2010 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steven R. Russell

If that nice girl is a Christian, she has nothing to fear. Nor should anybody read or believe that woman's "Business Bible", which is a bunch of baloney and hogwash. The Holy Bible tells us believers, that we are more than conquerors, through [Christ Jesus] who loves, (and died) for us. Furthermore, the Bible is crystal clear and transparently plain, as it tells all mankind;

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.
"He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.
"The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
"Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
"For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish" (Psalm 1 NKJV).

July 06 2010 at 5:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Look betweenyour legs for the answer. Have you figured it out yet?

July 06 2010 at 4:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Its your club.........you should know

July 06 2010 at 4:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is hogwash. The Doctor is a hogwasher. Up is up and down is down. And being male or female or any of the inbetweens will not change that. If you are good at people management and office management, you get ahead. Bosses know what the employees do and why they do it. And if they don't, they are a fraud and a fake. Talk past the facts diverts and is a waste of time unless someone is going postal. You need me says nothing about ones qualifications. And never hire a flying donut.

July 06 2010 at 3:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The work place culture may be a factor. Or maybe the nature of the job determines the culture. Let me illustrate. My wife was an elementary school teacher. At staff meetings her masculine acting female principle would bully and try to intimidate everyone. My wife would come home furious. She wondered why no one spoke up. When she did object she was on the principal's hit list. I was a Deputy Probation Officer and explained that if a supervisor acted in the same manner at a meeting she may have ended up getting slapped. There was a Probation Director who was a bully and tried to intimidate everyone.He was a large, menancing individual. One day as he drove out of the parking lot a bullet pierced his windshield. Unfortunately he was not hit. Another abrasive and sadistic supervisor discovered his car had been set on fire. A friend who had worked at a Probation facility and later became a teacher remarked that "teachers are like sheep." I surmise this is due to the majority of teachers at elementary schools being female and are more interested in "getting along" than causing waves. Or is it the nature of the job? Most women Probation Officers would not take any inappropriate guff from anyone be they supervisors or criminals.

July 06 2010 at 2:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

women outnumber men in the workforce for the simple reason that millions of young black males are making their living from crime.

July 06 2010 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Arnold's comment
CLC Drummer

Wow, maybe you are a KKK member?

November 30 2013 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stacey I'm guessing you're still steaming over a promotion that you thought you deserved but didn't get?

July 06 2010 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oooohhhh...... THAT kind of "nice girl"......... never mind.

July 05 2010 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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