10 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers

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Posted by Sarah Baicker on June 16, 2011
10 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers

It's easy to blame sexism and socialization for the dearth of women in management positions. But not all responsibility falls on the shoulders of society. Dr. Lois Frankel, a career coach and author of the bestselling book Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office, has identified more than 100 things women do unconsciously on the job that sabotage their career success. Here are 10 common-and critical-mistakes:

1.  Women poll before they make decisions.
Young women, especially, confuse polling with consensus. "Polling is saying, 'I can't make a decision unless I get everyone's opinion,'" Frankel says. "As opposed to consensus, which is, 'I have an opinion, but I want to make sure we get everybody's opinion on the table.'" When you state your opinion first, your colleagues know you're both informed and open to suggestions.

2.  Women have an inordinate need to be liked.

It's important for both men and women to be well liked at work-but you can't build a career solely around being liked. The trick is to find a balance between being a wishy-washy "nice girl" and a woman who's too headstrong. "You need to learn to find your voice and be clear without demolishing the other person," says Frankel. The trick here is to find a balance between being the nice girl and the woman who's overly domineering. The best way to do so is to be inclusive: Be clear when you share your opinions and ideas, but also make others understand that you care about their opinions.

3.  Women don't view the workplace as a playing field.
Though they differ from company to company, every organization has rules and boundaries. To succeed, you need to figure out what they are, and who's best at following them. "Who are the superstars in your organization? What are they doing? Follow their lead-and play to win," Frankel suggests.

4.  Women don't pay enough attention to how they dress.
Especially at the early stages of their careers, women don't consider the importance of their physical appearances at the workplace. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have, Frankel advises. Think about it this way: You're working for the people who are winning the game in your workplace. How are the women who have climbed the ranks dressed? Dress like they do-or better.

5. Women wait to be called on in meetings.
Women mistakenly consider it polite to wait to be called on in meetings, particularly when there are many senior-level people present. But you could be doing yourself a great disservice by not speaking up and speaking early. You should be among the first two or three people to speak in every meeting-not necessarily to voice your opinion, but perhaps to ask a question or support what someone else says.

6. Women couch their opinions in questions.
Instead of stating their opinions, women often phrase their ideas as questions. "We've been socialized to believe that, when you ask a question, you come across a lot softer than if you make a statement," Frankel says. "And when it comes down to it, a woman doesn't want to be called a bitch." But by framing your ideas as questions, you come off uncertain and lacking in confidence.

7. Women allow themselves to be scapegoats.
When something goes wrong and a woman is blamed, she's not likely to stand up for herself. If you allow yourself to be a scapegoat, you automatically give up the respect of your colleagues. But remember: Setting the record straight isn't about putting another person down; it's about preventing yourself from being seen in a negative light.

8. Women use minimizing language.

Kind of. Sort of. Maybe. These kinds of words diminish your credibility in the eyes of others. Keep them out of any ideas or opinions you share at the workplace. When sharing your ideas, be firm and direct.

9. Women ask permission.

We live in a society where we expect children to ask permission. Men don't ask-but women tend to. "In doing so, we're relegating ourselves to the role of a child," Frankel says. Rather than ask permission, you should inform others of your plans, and ask for suggestions.

10. Women pinch company pennies.

Maybe it's simply because they're paid less than men, but women tend to be overly frugal at work. In turn, a woman may be viewed as someone who can't handle a large budget. "Remember this: Men ask forgiveness, not permission, when it comes to spending company money," Frankel says.

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