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

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Overview

BEFORE YOU WERE TOLD TO "LEAN IN," DR. LOIS FRANKEL TOLD YOU HOW TO GET THAT CORNER OFFICE

The New York Times bestseller, which for 10 years has been a must-have for women in business, is now completely revised and updated. In this new edition, internationally recognized executive coach Lois P. Frankel reveals a distinctive set of behaviors-over 130 in all-that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults. She teaches you how to eliminate these unconscious ...

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

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Overview

BEFORE YOU WERE TOLD TO "LEAN IN," DR. LOIS FRANKEL TOLD YOU HOW TO GET THAT CORNER OFFICE

The New York Times bestseller, which for 10 years has been a must-have for women in business, is now completely revised and updated. In this new edition, internationally recognized executive coach Lois P. Frankel reveals a distinctive set of behaviors-over 130 in all-that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults. She teaches you how to eliminate these unconscious mistakes that could be holding you back and offers invaluable coaching tips that can easily be incorporated into your social and business skills. The results for hundreds of thousands of women have been career opportunities they never thought possible-at every stage of their career, from entry-level to the corner office! Stop making "nice girl" errors that can become career pitfalls, such as:

  • Mistake #13: Avoiding office politics. If you don't play the game, you can't possibly win.
  • Mistake #21: Multi-tasking. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do it.
  • Mistake #54: Failure to negotiate. Don't equate negotiation with confrontation.
  • Mistake #70: Inappropriate use of social media. Once it's out there, it's hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
  • Mistake #82: Asking permission. Children, not adults, ask for approval. Be direct, be confident.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Want to know why some women's careers take off like rockets, while others' sputter (or even crash)? Hint: It's not about "leaning in" versus dropping out. This brilliant book is packed with more than 100 mistakes women make at work and the practical ways to stop doing the things that really hold them back. I wish I'd written it." -Anne Fisher, "Ask Annie" careers and workplace columnist, CNNmoney.com/Fortune.com

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455546046
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/18/2014
  • Series: A NICE GIRLS Book Series
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 40,785
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D., is the President of Corporate Coaching International. She is a sought-after speaker. Her websites are www.drloisfrankel.com; www.gr8speakers.com; and www.corporatecoachingintl.com
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Read an Excerpt

Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office

Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers


By Lois P. Frankel

Hachette Audio

Copyright © 2014 Lois P. Frankel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4555-4604-6


CHAPTER 1

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. I'm always surprised when a woman tells me, "I make every mistake you list in the book!" 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 or in response to cultural expectations. Beyond girlhood, no one ever tells us that acting differently is an option—and so we don't. Whether it's because we are explicitly discouraged from doing so, because social messages inform our behavior, or because we are unaware of the alternatives, we often fail to develop a repertoire of woman-appropriate behaviors.

Why do smart, capable women act in ways detrimental to their career mobility (not to mention mental health)? During my career, working with literally thousands of professional men and women and comparing their behaviors, I found the answer to that question through inquiry and study: From early childhood, girls are taught that their well-being and ultimate success are contingent upon acting in certain stereotypical ways, such as being polite, soft-spoken, compliant, and relationship-oriented. Throughout their lifetimes, this is reinforced through media, family, and social messages. It's not that women consciously act in self-sabotaging ways; they simply act in ways consistent with their learning experiences.

Even women who proclaim to have gotten "the right" messages in childhood from parents who encouraged them to achieve their full potential by becoming anything they want to be find that when they enter the real world, all bets are off. This is particularly true for many African American women who grew up with strong mothers (something I address in Mistake 3). Whether by example or encouragement, if a woman exhibits confidence and courage on a par with a man, she is often accused of being that dreaded "b-word."

Attempts to act counter to social stereotypes are frequently met with ridicule, disapproval, and scorn. Whether it was Mom's message—"Boys don't like girls who are too loud"—or, in response to an angry outburst, a spouse's message—"What's the matter? Is it that time of the month?"—women are continually bombarded with negative reinforcement for acting in any manner contrary to what they were taught in girlhood. As a result, they learn that acting like a "nice girl" is less painful than assuming behaviors more appropriate for adult women (and totally acceptable for boys and adult men). In short, women wind up acting like little girls, even after they're grown up.

Now, is this to say gender bias no longer exists in the workplace? Not at all. The statistics at the beginning of this introduction speak for themselves. Additionally, women are more likely to be overlooked for developmental assignments and promotions to senior levels of an organization. Research shows that on performance evaluation ratings, women consistently score less favorably than men. These are the realities. But after all these years I continue to go to the place of "So what?" We can rationalize, defend, and bemoan these facts, or we can acknowledge that these are the realities within which we must work. Rationalizing, defending, and bemoaning won't get us where we want to be. They become excuses for staying where we are.

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, Trinidad, or Houston, I'm amazed to watch women across cultures make the same mistakes at work. They may be more exaggerated in Hong Kong than in Los Angeles, but they're variations on the same theme. And I know these are 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 nice 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? 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.

This might also be a good time to dispel the myth that overcoming the nice girl syndrome means you have to be mean and nasty. It's the question I am asked most often in interviews. Some women have even told me they didn't buy the book because they assumed from the title that it must contain suggestions for how to be more like a man. Nothing could be further from the truth. If I've said it once, I've said it literally five hundred times in the last ten years: Nice is necessary for success; it's simply not sufficient. If you overrely on being nice to the exclusion of developing complementary behaviors, you'll never achieve your adult goals. This book will help you to expand your tool kit so that you have a wider variety of responses on which to draw.

When we live lives circumscribed by the expectations of others, we live limited lives. 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 destinies.

Missed opportunities for career-furthering assignments or promotions arise from acting like the nice little girl you were taught to be in childhood: 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. I've observed these behaviors magnified in workshops at which men and women are the participants. My work in corporations has allowed 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. When men are around, we dumb down or try to become invisible so as not to incur their wrath.


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, a 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 being a nice 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 managers, 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 those things 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 presidential 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 in ensuring that our needs 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. 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. Stop being that nice little girl you were taught to be in childhood!


Self-Assessment

Now it's time to assess where you need the most work. The inventory on the next few pages is designed to help you identify the specific behaviors that may impede your career movement. You'll find there are areas you've already worked to address and that no longer present obstacles to you. If you're like most women, you'll also find a few areas that still require your attention. Take time now to complete the inventory. When you're finished, there are some guidelines for how to apply your score to what you read. You may not even need to read the entire book. Imagine that! Your first lesson in working smarter, not harder.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel. Copyright © 2014 Lois P. Frankel. Excerpted by permission of Hachette Audio.
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.

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  • Posted April 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    If you¿re a woman looking to completely change your outlook on c

    If you’re a woman looking to completely change your outlook on career choices, then this is the book for you! I know, I know. There are a million books out there about how women should lean in and take the corporate world by storm, but none of those books tell you exactly how to do that. Not so with Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Dr. Lois Frankel. In this gem (updated for the modern work world), you don’t learn about why you should succeed, but rather how you should do it.




    In all honesty, I didn’t expect to learn much when I started listening to this on audiobook. I already cleaned up my social media profiles and know to dress for success. I also know that crying in the office is counterproductive and that both men and women will belittle you. This book, however, is immensely helpful. Not only does Dr. Frankel tell us women what to do and not to do, but she offers tips for actually doing it.




    What I loved most is that she tackles the mostly-ignored topic of women dragging other women down. I’ve long believed (based on experience) that one of the biggest obstacles to women in the workplace is other women. I’ve asked women who are just starting out in their careers, as well as those who are already established, and they all agree that there is an element of womanly competition that can be devastating. This part is usually glossed over or buried beneath chapters about empowerment in the mainstream books because it’s the dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about. Yet, it happens all of the time. So, if you read this book for nothing else, read it for that mini-section. (Allison @ The Book Wheel)

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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