“Who the hell does that broad think she is?” I couldn’t help but overhear the hostile conversation taking place outside of my cubicle. I was filling in at another office and, as I waited for my next client, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “I mean, she doesn’t even have a master’s degree and she’s starting at a higher rate of pay than I did!” Miss complainy-pants then went on to give a list of the many reasons she should be making more money and why it was absurd that this new counsellor would be starting off at a higher salary. Since it was not my conversation, I bit my tongue, but I remember thinking, “why the hell didn’t you negotiate? You dropped the ball, darlin’, and that’s not this new lady’s fault. You’re mad at yourself!”
Refusing to negotiate is just one of the ways women sabotage their careers. Here are 9 more…
If you’ve been a royal butt-munch and have truly hurt someone — apologize! Outside of that, this is one habit you desperately need to break. In our quest to reduce conflict and ensure that everyone is still pleased with us, women often use “sorry” as their default response.
Unfortunately, for every unnecessary apology there’s a price to pay: the erosion of your self-confidence and the confidence that others have in your ability to lead. The cure? Awareness. From this day forward, take notice of just how many times you apologize in a single day. When you do, try to correct your response. For example, “I’m sorry to bother you?” could be changed to “Is now a good time?”
3) WORKING HARD
Working hard is rarely a problem for ambitious women. The real problem lies in assuming that working harder than everyone else is the path to success. Well, sound the buzzer, it’s not. In fact, it’s the path to burnout and resentment. Character, contribution, sound judgment and the ability to work effectively with others, are all pieces of the career strategy game. Refusing to play is going to leave you stuck and waiting for a long time, perhaps forever.
While you toil away in hopes that one day someone will magically reward you with the keys to the corner office, it ain’t gonna happen. You need to stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like a career manager. Step away from your to-do list on occasion and invest in relationship-building instead. Schedule time to consider complex problems, develop solutions, and think about where you really want to go.
4) DOWNPLAYING ACCOMPLISHMENTS
As mentioned above, you already know how to work hard. Part of your strategy, however, must be a willingness to gather and share your accomplishments. Customer just sent you an email to thank you for being a service-delivery Rockstar? Forward that gem to the boss. Client just told you that you’re ridiculously creative and helpful? Ask for a testimonial and share that love on your website. If you want people to select you for bigger and better things, you need to show them that you’re up for the task. The way to do that is to prove you’re already working at a higher level.
5) REFUSING TO MAKE A DECISION
For as long as I live, I will never forget this conversation from early in my career:
Joy: Um, Anna, what do you think about it in here?
Me: What do you mean?
Joy: Do you find it quite warm?
Me: I guess it’s a bit warm, but I’m okay. Are you feeling warm?
Joy: Yes, well, um, kinda, well…what do you think I should do?
Me: If you’re warm, why don’t you open the window for a while?
Joy: Well, yes, maybe, well, I dunno, what do you think, um…
She continued to flounder and fuss. It was painful to watch.
Me: How about this? You go and open the window and if someone complains about it, I’ll say that I opened it. How does that sound?
She clapped her hands with joy and exclaimed, “wonderful!”
I was stunned. She was so afraid to take responsibility for her decision — even something as low-risk as opening a window — that she was wasting both our precious time and energy agonizing over it. At the time, Joy was a senior staff member with extensive education and experience. I was the brand-spanking-new office administrator. I kid you not.
Whether we like it or not, refusing to decide is still a choice. If you want to lead, you need to be willing to make decisions and, good or bad, own the outcome. Full responsibility is the name of the game, baby. This goes for your career and your life.
6) USING WISHY-WASHY LANGUAGE
Are you making a statement or asking a question? Are you informing or seeking permission? Women often cover directives and requests in fluffy language to avoid being seen as “not nice” or demanding. At the end of the day, you need to consider what your true intention is and use clear language to convey it. Although initially uncomfortable, you’ll find that clarity eliminates confusion and will often reduce the amount of frustration in your daily interactions.
7) FAILING TO PREPARE FOR OPPORTUNITY
“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” — Alyce Cornyn-Selby
You’ve been invited to apply for your dream job, but the deadline is tomorrow, and you haven’t looked at your resume in over a decade. You get called in for an interview, but don’t prepare because you’ve spread yourself too thin and just hope your track-record will make up for it. Your boss asks you to lead the next meeting, but you show up without having reviewed the agenda. Each time we let opportunity slip by due to a lack of preparation, we convince ourselves that we don’t really care or we’re just shooting too high. This unconscious sabotage is a great way to stay safe, protect one’s ego and…stay stuck. If you want change, you’re going to have to get a bit uncomfortable and put some skin in the game.
8) WORKING WITHOUT A NET
The internet is filled with thousands of stories of women who’ve built high-profile careers or million dollar businesses all while working part-time hours, birthing multiple babies (who apparently feed and entertain themselves), training for marathons, getting a Ph.D. and baking Instagram-worthy treats for the neighbours. Ah, such fantasy!
In truth, there’s not a single successful person that has achieved greatness without support. Rarely do we hear about the friends, family members, mentors, therapists, trainers, nannies, housekeepers, accountants, assistants, etc., involved in creating these successful unicorns. Why? Because it’s not sexy. The superwoman myth sells, and we keep buying it. We spend hours following these mythical beings on social media and then tell ourselves that of we could just purchase the secrets of their success, we could finally get over being lazy, unmotivated losers. Reality check: you are not a loser! You’re a real-life human trying to take on an unrealistic number of things without any help. Delegate, recruit and hire the help you need and stop feeling guilty about it!
9) HOLDING ON TO A FIXED MINDSET
“Failure is just an event. It is not a characteristic. People can’t be failures.” — Judge Victoria Pratt
As a recovering perfectionist, I can sympathize with this one. Perfectionists are often trapped in a fixed mindset, which essentially means that every action becomes a pass or fail test. When the stakes are that high, and we risk becoming “failures” we can often become paralyzed by fear and inaction. On the other hand, if we can dare to worked towards developing a growth mindset, we can learn to move away from the constraints of perfectionism and see our actions as opportunities for growth and learning. We can allow ourselves the freedom to explore new roads and make new choices based on what we find. This is where innovation and creative problem-solving live.
10) IGNORING THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION
Honestly, if we insist on ignoring this one, we can just forget the rest. Success at the cost of physical and mental wellness is not success at all. Hard work and sacrifice often feel more intuitive to woman than selfcare, and that’s a huge oversite. How can you expect to feel on your game when you’re exhausted all the time? How long can you inspire others and give 150% when you’ve been neglecting the very body that needs to support you all day, every day?
I know, I know — you don’t have time. Respectfully, I don’t believe you. If you have time to update your Facebook status, you have time to go offline and take care of the root cause of your nagging daily headache! If for no other reason, taking care of your wellness is essential as it builds confidence and affirms that yes, you are worth the effort. To be successful, short-term patches are no longer acceptable. You need to be willing to invest in the long game. When you start taking yourself and your needs seriously, others will too. It’s all connected.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
We acknowledge our discomfort. We gather the stories and support of other women. We take part in communities of strength so we can remind ourselves that we’re not alone on this journey and that our stresses and struggles, while very real, are not the only things we have. We have smarts. We have talent. We have people that we care about and need to set an example for. We have a desire to leave the world better than we found it. Let’s do this!