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?
Right 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.
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.
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Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want. Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets. Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.