The New York Times bestseller, is now completely revised and updated. In this edition, internationally recognized executive coach Lois P. Frankel reveals a distinctive set of behaviorsover 130 in allthat 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. 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.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office
Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers
By Lois P. Frankel
Hachette AudioCopyright © 2014 Lois P. Frankel
All rights reserved.
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!
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.
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.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Getting Started 1
Chapter 2 How You Play the Game 18
1 Pretending It Isn't a Game 20
2 Playing the Game Safely and Within Bounds 23
3 Assuming the Rules, Boundaries, and Strategies Are the Same for Everyone 26
4 Dancing Around Pregnancy 31
5 Sitting Out the Social Network Game 35
6 Overlooking the Importance of Mentors and Sponsors/Advocates 37
7 Working Hard 40
8 Doing the Work of Others 42
9 Working Without a Break 44
10 Being Naive 46
11 Pinching Company Pennies 48
12 waiting to Be Given What You Want 51
13 Avoiding Office Politics 54
14 Being the Conscience 56
15 Protecting Jerks 59
16 Holding Your Tongue 61
17 Unwillingness to Capitalize on Relationships 63
18 Not Understanding the Needs of Your Constituents 65
Chapter 3 How You Act 68
19 Difficulty Transitioning from Nice Girl to Winning Woman 70
20 Failure to Prepare for Social Interactions 73
21 Multitasking 75
22 Ragging on Other Women 77
23 Being Too Thin-Skinned 79
24 Polling Before Making a Decision 81
25 Needing to Be Liked 83
26 Not Needing to Be Liked 86
27 Not Asking Questions for Fear of Sounding Stupid 88
28 Acting Like a Man 90
29 Trying to Be One of the Guys 93
30 Telling the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth (So Help You God) 95
31 TMI (Too Much Information) 98
32 Being Overly Concerned with Offending Others 101
33 Denying the Importance of Money 104
34 Flirting 106
35 Acquiescing to Bullies 108
36 Decorating Your Office Like Your Living Room 110
37 Feeding Others 112
38 Minimizing Your Emotional Intelligence 114
39 Being a Doormat 117
40 Offering a Limp Handshake 119
41 Being Financially Insecure 121
42 Helping 124
Chapter 4 How You Think 126
43 Thinking Like an Employee 127
44 Believing in the Myth of Work-Life Balance 130
45 Making Miracles 133
46 Taking Full Responsibility 135
47 Obediently Following Instructions 137
48 Viewing Men in Authority as Father Figures 139
49 Limiting Your Possibilities 141
50 Ignoring the Quid Pro Quo 144
51 Skipping Meetings 147
52 Putting Work Ahead of Your Personal Life 149
53 Letting People Waste Your Time 151
54 Reluctance to Negotiate 153
55 Prematurely Abandoning Your Career Goals 157
56 Ignoring the Importance of Network Relationships 160
57 Refusing Perks 164
58 Making Up Negative Stories 166
59 Striving for Perfection 168
60 Nixing the Idea of an Entrepreneurial Venture 170
Chapter 5 How You Brand and Market Yourself 173
61 Failing to Define Your Brand 175
62 An Elevator Speech That Doesn't Go to the Top 177
63 Minimizing Your Work or Position 180
64 Undervaluing Your Consultative Skills 182
65 Using Only Your Nickname or First Name 184
66 Waiting to Be Noticed 186
67 Refusing High-Profile Assignments 188
68 Not Sitting at the Table 190
69 Being Modest 192
70 Inappropriate Use of Social Media 194
71 Ineffective Use of Social Media 197
72 Staying in Your Safety Zone 200
73 Giving Away Your Ideas 202
74 Working in Stereotypical Roles or Departments 204
75 Not Soliciting Enough Feedback (or Ignoring it) 206
76 Being Invisible 208
77 Overlooking Opportunities to Re-Brand Yourself 210
78 Ignoring Your Legacy 213
Chapter 6 How You Sound 216
79 Couching Statements as Questions 218
80 Using Preambles 221
81 Explaining 223
82 Asking Permission 226
83 Apologizing 228
84 Using Minimizing Words 230
85 Using Qualifiers 232
86 Not Answering the Question You're Asked 234
87 Talking Too Fast 237
88 The Inability to Speak the Language of Your Business 239
89 Using Nonwords 241
90 Using Touchy-Feely Language 243
91 The Sandwich 245
92 Speaking Softly 248
93 Speaking at a Higher-Than-Natural Pitch 250
94 Trailing Voice Mails 252
95 Failing to Pause or Reflect Before Responding 254
96 Overrelying on One Communication Style 255
97 Ambivalence 258
98 Confusing Problem Solving with Complaining 260
Chapter 7 How You Look 262
99 Obvious Body Ink and Piercings 264
100 Smiling Inappropriately 266
101 Taking Up Too Little Space 267
102 Using Gestures Inconsistent with Your Message 269
103 Being Over- or Underanimated 271
104 Tilting Your Head 273
105 Wearing Inappropriate Makeup 275
106 The Wrong Hairstyle 277
107 Inappropriate Attire 279
108 Sitting on Your Foot 283
109 Grooming in Public 284
110 Sitting in Meetings with Your Hands Under the Table 285
111 Wearing Your Reading Glasses Around Your Neck 287
112 Accessorizing Too Much 289
113 Poor Eye Contact 291
Chapter 8 How You Respond 293
114 Airing Your Feelings in Online Public Forums 295
115 Putting a Stamp on with a Steamroller 297
116 Holding a Grudge 299
117 Internalizing Messages 301
118 Believing Others Know More Than You 303
119 Taking Notes, Getting Coffee, and Making Copies 305
120 Tolerating Inappropriate Behavior 307
121 Exhibiting Too Much Patience 310
122 Accepting Dead-End Assignments 312
123 Putting the Needs of Others Before Your Own 314
124 Denying Your Power 316
125 Allowing Yourself to Be the Scapegoat 319
126 Accepting the Fait Accompli 321
127 Permitting Others' Mistakes to Inconvenience You 323
128 Being the Last to Speak 325
129 Playing the Gender Card 327
130 Tolerating Sexual Harassment 330
131 Engaging in E-Mail Wars 332
132 Going for the Bait 334
133 Crying 336
Appendix: Personal Development Planning and Resources 339
Book Club Guide 353
About the Author 355