Women in the workplace are continually overextending themselves, bending over backwards unnecessarily just because it's the "nice" thing to do. Yet, it's difficult to achieve one's own personal goals in business while constantly making everyone else happy. Women are often pushed aside and disrespected in the workplace, yet women seldom push back because, as author and president of Corporate Coaching International, Lois Frankel, would argue, they were raised to be "nice girls.
Conversely, overly aggressive women tend to be disliked and stigmatized. So how can women break free from this lose-lose scenario and become successful "winning" businesswomen? Frankel's latest book, Nice Girls Just Don't Get Itco-authored by Carol Frohlinger, offers tips and strategies to help women get everything they want, not just in business, but also in life. These empowering strategies teach women how to be assertive without being contentious, and how to earn the respect and dignity every working woman deserves. In an interview with the author, a "recovering nice girl" herself, Frankel, Ph.
What did you learn since writing the first book, Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Officethat inspired you to write this book?
Why nice girls finish last
What we learned is that the situation for women in general isn't getting any better. In fact, we surveyed women around the world and found out that across generations, women continue to get treated badly, to be not given promotions that they're due, to be harassed, and any of other things. So we thought in the intervening years since I wrote Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Officethings would've gotten better, but in finish they didn't.
I think there's a of other factors that play into that. If you look at the s of female CEOs in Fortune companies, the s have actually gone down in the past two years. So we're not moving in the right direction. A lot of times, women who talk to me when I do keynotes ask me questions more around how they can take control of their lives outside of work so they can focus more on work.
So the tips in this book really focus primarily on your relationships—with your mother-in-law, with your husband, with your children, with your friends. How can you take charge of these so that you're not spending an unnecessary amount of energy now managing people's expectations of you? We suggest you do want to manage expectations, but in many cases, women don't know how to do that, so they succumb to last requests, demands, expectations—implicit or explicit. When Carol [Frohlinger] and I wrote the book, our desire was really to help women see the ways in which they give away a lot of their power, and how they can take it back.
When we talk about taking back the power that you have, power is nice different for a man than for a woman. For a man, power is often power over someone, over something. Power for a woman is having control of her own life.
We're big advocates of "nice is necessary" for success in any endeavor, whether it's success with managing your relationship with your mother-in-law, or success with managing your clients, your boss, or your co-workers. It's necessary. You have to be nice, but you can't be the nice little girl you were taught to be in childhood and expect to achieve your girl goals.
See a problem?
It doesn't work. That's what we refer to as "nice girl syndrome. There's the old saying, "if you don't understand the past, you're doomed to repeat it. But what she found out was it was the same situation. Women who are repeating the same mistakes are not really taking a critical look at what hasn't worked in the past, and ask, "What am I willing to let go of? Or how did they allow others to define who they should be. If you want to transition to a winning woman, that's the first thing you have to do. And then once you understand that, you need to give yourself permission then to engage in new behaviors, even though other people are going to push back on you.
When you are a nice girl, everyone loves you because you take care of everyone else. So when you start to change your behavior, other people don't get as much of what they want. They're invested in having you stay exactly how you are.
Another strategy we have is "how do you prepare for push-back?
Another tactic is that you need to build relationships that work for you. Women are very good at building relationships; they're not good at leveraging them. They feel as if I shouldn't ask anybody for anything.
There's a female author that told me "I can't get my book published, I'm having such a hard time. So I asked, "Have you gone to your father's publishers and let them know who you are? But why not capitalize on any relationship that could be of help to you, but not take advantage of it? In what other ways can women break out of the "nice girl" pattern?
Craft meaningful messages. Women use far too many words when fewer would do. As I'm always telling women, short sounds confident. Women tend to use more words than men because they either feel as if they have to compensate for something or prove themselves. Also, when they're talking, particularly to men, and they don't get a lot of the gesturing and the "uh huhs," they keep talking thinking they're going to get it when they need to learn to say it, and then become comfortable with the quiet. Women use more words than men because they think it's only fair to share everything they know.
People don't need to know all that. Don't just succumb to everything that's asked of you; manage people's expectations.
I'm a big believer in good customer service and client service, and I tell everyone yes to almost everything. And there's always a second part of it, which is "Yes, I'd be happy to do this. Now, with the amount of time you've given me, here's realistically what I can give you. Or with this amount of money, here's realistically what I can provide. Now, if you want to give me more time or more money, I can get closer to what you want. When we talk about sharing connections, you want to be a relationship broker.
Women are good at building them, so why not share them more?
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You want to be the go-to person. I want e-mails and requests coming to me because every once in awhile, I'm going to answer the question. And live your values. Many times for women, when I ask them "what are your values? They've been living other people's values for so long—whether it's their employers, their parents, their husbands, their spouse, their partner—that they don't even know what their values are anymore.
To be a winning woman, it's not just to get things; it's to live a rich life in all ways.
Living a rich life means "I live my values. She needs to be a winning woman; now, that doesn't mean she's not nice.
Your reputation is established at a new job probably within the first week or two. People like you or they don't like you.
They see that you add value, or that you don't. It really is important that you start a new job by building relationships. In my career, that's the one thing that's served me well, are the relationships I've built along the way. Building those relationships when you start your career or job are really essential.
That's not mutually exclusive of being a winning woman, because as you build the relationships, you're finding out what people need from you, and you're letting them know how you can fill those needs. Do you believe that women in business should be managing their expectations any differently than men?
What happens with women in business is a little like Mother Teresa: Miracle workers get canonized; they don't get recognized. When I'm in a mixed group doing a keynote, and I'll look at woman and say, "If your boss gives you the impossible to do, to make a miracle, what do you do?
He'll say one of three things: "I negotiate; I delegate it to a woman; or I laugh.
When it comes to managing expectations, guys are actually much better at it. When you give a guy an impossible job to do, he may get it done, but he usually doesn't do it alone, or he goes back and he negotiates for what he needs to do the job right. Women don't do that. Are women in the workplace more disrespected by women or by men? I think it's equal opportunity disrespect.
I know you hear this complaint a lot from a lot of women—that it's much tougher working with women, that they're more critical of you. That has not been my experience throughout my career, first of all. I've had men be equally critical and difficult as women.