Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers

Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers

3.5 41
by Lois P. Frankel

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In this runaway bestseller, internationally recognized executive coach Lois P. Frankel reveals a distinctive set of behaviors-101 in all-that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults. She shows you how to eliminate them and offers invaluable coaching tips you'll easily be able to incorporate into your social and business skills. The results


In this runaway bestseller, internationally recognized executive coach Lois P. Frankel reveals a distinctive set of behaviors-101 in all-that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults. She shows you how to eliminate them and offers invaluable coaching tips you'll easily be able to incorporate into your social and business skills. The results will pay off in career opportunities you never thought possible-and in an image that identifies you as someone with the power and know-how to occupy the corner office.

Discover these and other business pitfalls:

Mistake #3: Working too hard. The truth is, no one is ever promoted purely because of hard work.

Mistake #26: Decorating your office like your living room. Unless you're an interior decorator, it doesn't pay.

Mistake #27: Feeding others. You're not "Mom" or Betty Crocker.

Mistake #59: Asking permission. Children, not adults, ask for approval. Be direct, be confident.

Mistake #73: Smiling inappropriately. Make your demeanor fit the situation.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For more than 20 years, Frankel has coached executives and managers on workplace behavior, and here she seeks to empower women looking to move up in the world. While she does not advocate adopting male behavior to do so, she does constantly tell readers to "quit bein' a girl"-that is, needing to be liked (and not needing to be liked), working too hard, and avoiding office politics, among other actions. Frankel makes her points by describing a mistake from real life on one page and then giving "coaching tips" on the following. Behavioral studies and research are mentioned, but there are no footnotes or bibliography, leaving one to question from whence Frankel's wisdom comes; references to other books and web sites abound. Although spirited and down-to-earth, this self-help book fails to distinguish itself from its many competitors (e.g., Gail Evans's Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman). Librarians, too, should note that it contains a self-assessment checklist and scorecard. For comprehensive collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03.]-Margaret Cardwell, Christian Brothers Univ. Lib., Memphis Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
One Hundred and One Mistakes that Sabotage Women's Careers
Executive coach Lois Frankel has spent many years empowering thousands of women to reach their fullest potential. To help women overcome the deeply imbedded character traits they learned as girls and take control of their careers, Frankel describes more than 100 common mistakes that women make during their careers and prescribes numerous ways they can overcome them. By presenting many invaluable tips that can improve women's social and business skills, Frankel creates a guide for women that can help them eliminate self-defeating behaviors from their actions and grow their careers past previous roadblocks.

Frankel's game plan begins with a self-analysis tool that allows women to assess themselves to determine the areas within them that require improvement. Once readers have found the trouble spots in their behaviors, she then directs them to the parts of her book that can help them overcome behavioral obstacles and attain the levels of self-confidence and leadership they desire. To help women find the areas in themselves that require attention, Frankel offers several examples of the executives she has coached in the past (with names changed), and presents the coaching tips that helped them rise on the corporate ladder, get a raise, and get more respect from their management and peers.

'Quit Bein' a Girl'
Frankel's message throughout Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office is that women do not have to act in ways they were taught. She writes that a female executive should, "Quit bein' a girl," and explains that a woman has choices, and is capable of growing into a role as a leader. By providing concrete suggestions for behavioral changes that have been proven to be effective in helping women progress in their careers, Frankel demonstrates how they can act more like women instead of girls. She also explains that her remedies to a stalled career are much like a diet, and must be committed to fully and applied consistently before they can have their intended effects.

After all the mistakes women make in their careers have been identified, and Frankel's coaching tips have been explained, she describes how women can create a personal development plan with a final chapter dedicated to pulling her guidance together. Warning against complexity, Frankel writes that choosing just one behavior per week on which to focus can help women become more aware of their actions, and understand how they sabotage themselves. Once women have replaced their self-defeating behaviors with more effective ones, they will begin to act more like the women they are capable of becoming and less like the girls they were taught to be.

The Socialization Process
Frankel focuses on the socialization process that has discouraged many women from acting in ways beyond the traditionally determined parameters of society. She points out that when women "live a life circumscribed by the expectations of others, we live a limited life. What does it mean to live our lives as girls rather than women? It means we choose behaviors consistent with those that are expected of us rather than those that move us toward fulfillment and self-actualization."

Frankel also explains that women often miss opportunities to get the career-improving assignments or promotions because they are reluctant to showcase their capabilities, hesitant to speak at meetings, and working so hard that they forget to build the relationships they need for long-term success.

Here are a few of the specific mistakes Frankel addresses and her tips for overcoming them:

  • Mistake #47: Using Only Your Nickname or First Name. You'll be much more likely to be taken seriously if you don't use your childhood nickname for professional purposes. (You've never heard people refer to Billie Gates, Jackie Welch or Sammy Walton.)
  • Mistake #50: Being Modest. Completely, totally and permanently erase the phrase Oh - it was nothing from your vocabulary. Prominently display awards or plaques.
  • Mistake #59: Asking Permission. Inform others of your intentions; don't ask for permission. By informing others you show respect for their need to know, but without your action being contingent upon their approval.

Why We Like This Book
Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office is packed with numerous smart tips and suggestions for helping women get ahead in their careers. By focusing on the socialization process that can often hold women back from attaining the leadership positions they desire, Frankel delivers strong messages that address how women behave, think, sound, look and respond, as well as how they brand and market themselves. By presenting specific actions they can take to succeed, Frankel offers bankable advice. Copyright © 2004 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

From the Publisher
"Any woman intent on getting ahead in the corporate world should read this book. It's a fascinating crash course in image, influence, and communication, from an accomplished and insightful coach. Terrific stuff!" —Anne Fisher, senior writer, Fortune, and "Ask Annie" career columnist,"

Every page of this book is filled with something you or one of your friends do every day...A simple, quick guide to presenting ourselves as the strong and bold women we are." —Gail Evans, author of She Wins, You Win and Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.24(w) x 6.14(h) x 1.05(d)

Read an Excerpt

Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office

By Lois P. Frankel

Warner Books

Copyright © 2004 Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-53132-4

Chapter One

Getting Started

Here's your first coaching tip: Don't begin reading this book until you've learned how to use it to your advantage. You'll only end up thinking everything applies to you in equal proportions when in fact you're probably doing better than you think. You know how we women can be-more critical of ourselves than necessary and reluctant to take credit where it's due. When I coach women, I often tell them that changing behavior is much easier if they can understand where it comes from and what purpose it serves. All behavior serves a purpose-take a few minutes now to understand what purpose yours serves.

>From the outset I want you to know and, even more important, believe that the mistakes impeding you from reaching your career goals or potential don't happen because you're stupid or incompetent (although others might want to make you think so). You are simply acting in ways consistent with your socialization. Beyond girlhood, no one ever tells us that acting differently is an option-and so we don't. Whether it's because we are discouraged from doing so or because we are unaware of the alternatives, we often fail to develop a repertoire of woman-appropriate behaviors.

As an executive coach to both men and women in organizations of all sizes around the world, I've had the opportunity to gain insight into why some people move forward fluidly in their careers while others stagnate, never fully reaching their potential.

Although there are plenty of mistakes made by both men and women that hold them back, there are a unique set of mistakes made predominantly by women. Whether I'm working in Jakarta, Oslo, Prague, Frankfurt, Wellington, or Detroit, I'm amazed to watch women across cultures make the same mistakes at work. They may be more exaggerated in Hong Kong than in Houston, but they're variations on the same theme. And I know they're mistakes because once women address them and begin to act differently, their career paths take wonderful turns they never thought possible.

So why do women stay in the place of girlhood long after it's productive for them? One reason is because we've been taught that acting like a girl-even when we're grown up-isn't such a bad thing. Girls get taken care of in ways boys don't. Girls aren't expected to fend for or take care of themselves-others do that for them. Sugar and spice and everything nice-that's what little girls are made of. Who doesn't want to be everything nice?

The virtues of girls are extolled in songs. "I Enjoy Being a Girl." "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." "My Girl." "The Girl from Ipanema." Who wouldn't want to be a girl? People like girls. Men want to protect you. Cuddly or sweet, tall or tan, girls don't ask for much. They're nice to be around and they're nice to have around-sort of like pets.

Being a girl is certainly easier than being a woman. Girls don't have to take responsibility for their destiny. Their choices are limited by a narrowly defined scope of expectations. And here's another reason why we continue to exhibit the behaviors learned in childhood even when at some level we know they're holding us back: We can't see beyond the boundaries that have traditionally circumscribed the parameters of our influence. It's dangerous to go out of bounds. When you do, you get accused of trying to act like a man or being "bitchy." All in all, it's easier to behave in socially acceptable ways.

There's only one problem. When we live a life circumscribed by the expectations of others, we live a limited life. What does it really mean to live our lives as girls rather than women? It means we choose behaviors consistent with those that are expected of us rather than those that move us toward fulfillment and self-actualization. Rather than live consciously, we live reactively. Although we mature physically, we never really mature emotionally. And while this may allow us momentary relief from real-world dilemmas, it never allows us to be fully in control of our destiny.

As I said in the introduction, observing, coaching, and facilitating workshops for professional women have enabled me to learn firsthand how acting like a girl gets in the way of achieving your career potential. Missed opportunities for career-furthering assignments or promotions arise from being reluctant to showcase your capabilities, feeling hesitant to speak in meetings, and working so hard that you forget to build the relationships necessary for long-term success. These behaviors are only magnified in workshops at which men and women are the participants. My work in corporations allows me to facilitate both workshops for only women and leadership development programs for mixed groups within the same company. Even women whom I've seen act assertively in a group of other women become more passive, compliant, and reticent to speak in a mixed group.

The Case of Susan

Let me give you an example of a woman with whom I worked who wondered why she wasn't reaching her full potential. Susan was a procurement manager for a Fortune 100 oil company. She'd been with this firm for more than twelve years when she expressed frustration over not moving as far or as fast as male colleagues who'd commenced employment at the same time she did. Although Susan thought there might be gender bias at play, she never considered how she contributed to her own career plateauing. Before Susan and I met one-on-one in a coaching session, I had the opportunity to observe her in meetings with her peers.

At the first meeting I noticed this attractive woman with long blond hair, diminutive figure, and deep blue eyes. Being from Texas, she spoke with a delicate Southern accent and had an alluring way of cocking her head and smiling as she listened to others. She was a pleasure to have in the room, but she reminded me of a cheerleader-attractive, vivacious, warm, and supportive.

As others spoke, she nodded her head and smiled. When she did speak, she used equivocating phrases like "Perhaps we should consider ..."; "Maybe it's because ..."; and "What if we ..." Because of these behaviors no one would ever accuse Susan of being offensive, but neither would they consider her executive material.

After several more meetings at which I observed her behavior vis-à-vis her peers, Susan and I met privately to explore her career aspirations. Based on her looks, demeanor, and what I had heard her say in meetings, I assumed she was perhaps thirty to thirty-five years old. I was floored when she told me she was forty-seven, with nearly twenty years' experience in the area of procurement. I had no clue she had that kind of history and experience-and if I didn't, no one else did either. Without realizing it, Susan was acting in ways consistent with her socialization. She had received so much positive reinforcement for these behaviors that she'd come to believe they were the only ways she could act and still be successful.

Susan bought into the stereotype of bein' a girl.

Truth be told, the behaviors she exhibited in meetings did contribute to her early career success. The problem was that they would not contribute to reaching future goals and aspirations. Her management, peers, and direct reports acknowledged she was a delight to work with, but they didn't seriously consider her for more senior positions or high-visibility projects. Susan acted like a girl and, accordingly, was treated like one. Although she knew she had to do some things differently if she were to have any chance of reaching her potential, she didn't have a clue what they would be.

I eventually came to learn Susan was the youngest of four children and the only girl in the family. She was the apple of Daddy's eye and protected by her brothers. She learned early on that being a girl was a good thing. She used it to her advantage. And as Susan grew up, she continued to rely on the stereotypically feminine behaviors that resulted in getting her needs met. She was the student teachers loved having in class, the classmate with whom everyone wanted to be friends, and the cheerleader everyone admired. Susan had no reference for alternative ways of acting that would bring her closer to her dream of being promoted to a vice president position.

We're All Girls at Heart

Although Susan is an extreme example of how being a girl can pay huge dividends, most of us have some Susan in us. We behave in ways consistent with the roles we were socialized to play, thereby never completely moving from girlhood to womanhood. As nurturers, supporters, or helpmates, we are more invested in seeing others get their needs met than we are in ensuring that ours are acknowledged. And there's another catch. When we do try to break out of those roles and act in more mature, self-actualizing ways, we are often met with subtle-and not-so-subtle-resistance designed to keep us in a girl role. Comments like "You're so cute when you're angry," "What's the matter? Are you on the rag?" or "Why can't you be satisfied with where you are?" are designed to keep us in the role of a girl.

When others question our femininity or the validity of our feelings, our typical response is to back off rather than make waves. We question the veracity of our experience. If it's fight or flight, we often flee. And every time we do, we take a step back into girlhood and question our self-worth. In this way we collude with others to remain girls rather than become women. And here is where we must begin to accept responsibility for not getting our needs met or never reaching our full potential. Eleanor Roosevelt was right when she said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Stop consenting. Stop colluding. Quit bein' a girl!

Managing Your Anxiety

I can see by the looks on women's faces, and from their comments, that anxiety and confusion are part of the learning process. My 1989 audiotape, Women and Power: Understand Your Fear/Releasing Your Potential, and my book, Women, Anger & Depression: Strategies for Self-Empowerment (Health Communications, 1991) contain now dated examples, but the content related to the process remains on target. More than a decade later, when the suggestion is made to embrace their power, women reject the notion of being perceived as too masculine, aggressive, or uncooperative out of fear. It is so counter to our socialization that we dismiss it out of hand. The notion that we must be for others rather than for ourselves is implanted so strongly that we are reluctant to explore the alternative.

The irony is that women act powerfully all the time, but in ways different from men. Relying on our "girlish charm" can be just as influential, but less direct and less confrontational. In other words, we wield power less directly than men. We've learned to be less direct so we will not be perceived as taking too much power away from men. This is at the core of our difficulties with gaining increased influence skills and organizational visibility.

Each time a woman directly asserts herself, however, she is essentially saying to the men in her life (whether they are husbands, sons, bosses, or other male authority figures), "I want something from you. I want what is rightfully mine. I expect my needs to be met, too." With each assertion we frequently feel guilty. We equate taking control back with taking something away from someone else.

More than simply getting what we need, deserve, or want, we are forcing others to give back what we have been giving away for so long. The reactions we get are difficult to cope with. Others don't really want the situation to change-they already have everything they need, so why should they change?

Resistance to change is normal. It is to be expected. Like the alcoholic in recovery who finds others colluding to bring him or her back to a place of intoxication, the girl who moves toward womanhood will find herself faced with people who want to continue to infantilize her. This is what you must keep in mind if you want to achieve your goals.

What's a Girl to Do?

Here are some specific coaching tips-a prelude of what is to follow. Take them one at a time. Don't try to do them all at once- you'll only set yourself up for frustration. Choose one or two on which to work, then come back for more. Give yourself permission to move from girlhood to womanhood. It may seem like a simple idea, but it's one that is often resisted for all the reasons mentioned above. Have a good, long talk with yourself. Tell yourself that you are not only allowed, but entitled to act in ways that move you toward goal attainment. Try the mantra I am entitled to have my needs met, too.

Visualize yourself as you want to be. If you can see it, you can have it. Picture yourself in the role to which you aspire. If it's in the corner office, see yourself at the desk with the accoutrements that go along with it. Consider the behaviors in which you will engage to warrant this position and the ways in which you will act. Bring them into your reality.

Talk back to the fearful voice inside your head. This may sound crazy at first, but you must counter the old messages and replace them with new ones. If your fearful girl's voice says, "But no one will like me if I change," let your woman's voice respond with, "That's an old message. Let's create a new, more empowered one."

Surround yourself with a Plexiglas shield. The Plexiglas shield is designed to allow you to see what is going on around you, but not be punctured by the negativity of others. I suggested this to a client, who later told me she thought it sounded a little crazy but decided to try it-only to find that it worked! In difficult situations she would picture herself encapsulated in a Plexiglas bubble that protected her from the disparaging remarks of others and allowed her to remain in a grounded, adult position.

Create the word on the street. A routine exercise we do in leadership classes is to ask participants to write a twenty-five-word vision statement of how they want to be described, then list the behaviors needed to get them there. You can do the same. Write down what you want others to be saying about you, then follow it up with specific actions to make it happen. In short, accept the responsibility of adulthood.

Recognize resistance and put a name to it. When you find others resisting your efforts to be more direct and empowered, con-ider first that their responses are designed to keep you in a less powerful place. Rather than acquiesce, question it. Say something like, "It seems you don't agree with what I'm saying. Let me give you the rationale for my position and then perhaps you can tell me what it is you take issue with."

Ask for feedback.


Excerpted from Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel Copyright © 2004 by Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D., is the President of Corporate Coaching International. She is a sought-after speaker. Her websites are;; and

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Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Coconut_Library More than 1 year ago
Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office 101 by Lois P. Frankel is a book that all women should receive upon graduation from college. It is amazing what we, the female gender, do to undermine ourselves without realizing it. Many of us, who come from homes that were supportive and definitely didn't pigeonhold us into the subservient female role, would never imagine how much we have picked up from the social cues and trends around us. Though, until recently, I would have not realized that I suffered from "nice girl syndrome", nor would I have connected it to ill health in my professional (or personal) life for that matter, I have now received a shocking education. Like jumping into a lake much colder than the tepid waters you were expecting, Nice Girls startles you with realization, while you emerge more refreshed because of it. If Nice Girls was a friend, it would be the one who says, "yes, you really do look fat in that outfit, but here's another that will accentuate what a wonderful body you actually have." See, it is not mean; it is truthful with gems of coaching advice. Frankel does not leave you hanging; she will tell you outright how you are shooting yourself in the foot, but then she will remove the gun from your hand and replace it with bandages and antiseptic. I have borrowed this one from the public library, but will be adding it my personal library. This is too valuable of a resource to not own and be able to refer back to until these life changing tips become healthy habits. As we change and grow our areas that we reference to in this book will also change, and I would like to have the ability to take and retake the questionnaire, that guides you through the book, as often as I like. Frankly, I'm not sure I know more than three or four women who don't need to read this book. (originally posted on
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a young 24 year old female working in a man's field, i originally thought this book was absurd and didnt apply in the least bit. Struggling to gain respect from the 10 men at least 10 years older than me that i supervised, i continued to troop through this book. I took the quiz as instructed, and followed the book as designed. I dont work in an office, so i was already discouraged. I worked on two suggestions a week, realizing that they did somehow pertain to me. Minor changes, how i stand, discipline of employees, showing sympathy, down to how i tie my hair, or packing away my cutesy earrings have lead me to great respect and success in an amazingly short time frame. It has also taught me how to interact more with pushy or angry customers and to keep control of the situation. Did i turn into macho butch chick? Absolutely not! Even practicing simple suggestions and watching peoples reactions is amazing. Ive suggested this book numerous times, bought it paper and ebook, and a year later still cruise through it. Its not a miracle worker, but great motivation and simple steps for a lady looking for success. You will have to apply the rules to your own life and atmosphere, remember the author is writing generally. I highly suggest this book! Make sure you read it as designed!
brittnyd628 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book b/c it really taught me something about myself and what makes me tick. It also really helped me figure out ways to work on my weaknesses.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought the book thinking it would have some 'new' information. It didn't. Mostly common sense things - like don't share personal info at work. In all honesty, I have not finished the book. However, I will because I don't like to waste money. I suggest getting it from your library first and then if you really like it buy the book. Otherwise, don't waste your money.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book hit the nail on the head! I bought this book as a 'just in case' guide to be sure I wasn't acting any way I shouldn't. I felt I had respect from my male peers, but not enough. I started reading this book, thinking, 'I certainly do not do any of these things! I'm not a typical woman.' But sure enough, she hit on some points that I found myself guilty of. I believe there is not one woman out there who could not benefit from at least one of her rules. It has changed my work career and state of mind drastically! It's a career-saver.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read. I was able to apply so many things to my own life.
MeiGuan More than 1 year ago
I bought the audio bundle of this product, which includes "Nice Girls don´t get the corner office", which I found substantial, and "Nice Girls don´t get Rich", which was totally a waste of time, as the author is not a financial advisor and the content was full of common sense and fillers. I do reccomend Nice Girls don´t get the corner office for everyone, even high schoolers. It is a must read for the ones entering the workfore or the ones are not satisfied with their career success.
Honest_Christian More than 1 year ago
I saw all the positive reviews for this book and thought "why not give it a shot?". I did not buy it for myself but for my wife who is a corporate attorney. She loved it. Along the same lines, I also suggest another book titled "The Career Journey" by author Ram Iyer. For some reason, that book is not listed here but I ordered from Amazon. It is really one cool book with a lot of practical suggestions and tips on how to excel at your current work environment and rise up the corporate ladder. Unlike this book that is more tailored for female, "The Career Journey" is more unisex and much more practical.
RunningReaderRR More than 1 year ago
Excellent ideas,easy read. Every girl in her early twenties should read this before getting her first job in the big world. It is so true and would save a lot grief by breaking these bad habits early! Really liked it wish I had read it 20 yrs ago.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great tips on real life business situations and the attitudes that women can bring to the table unknowningly. A confidence builder.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has been so helpful in my personal and business life that I purchased multiple copies to give out to my female family and friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was an excellent read, one every woman, no matter her success level, can gain insight and value from. This would be a book, however, that one may need to reference or skim through again- for every advice or tip can't be memorized. I am a young woman in her early 20s just starting her career, and I am glad I bought this book now and not later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Greatest advice ever,period.
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