5 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing When it Comes to Business (share with your wife if you’re a man)
Habits we can change for a more equal working atmosphere.
Women are still behind in business compared to men because they are holding themselves back.
In the western world, we have the power to negotiate for a raise, speak our minds, and communicate assertively. We have the opportunity to be equivalent players.
Yet, most of us still struggle.
When it comes to business, women tend to be softer, more accommodating, and less negotiating than men. Many of us don’t feel entitled to what we’re doing. Internal obstacles drag us down.
While the inequality of sexes is a complex, systemic issue, there are some learned behaviors women can change right now to contribute to gender equality.
I spotted some fixed manners in my professional behavior, and to my surprise, every one of them is backed up with research: compared to men, women are way more likely to self-sabotage.
As all of these are learned behaviors, we can work on them.
I say sorry too often. Once I even said sorry when someone pointed out I shouldn’t apologize. I literally apologized for apologizing!
Studies confirm women tend to apologize way more often than men. They even do it for circumstances for which they aren’t responsible.
At work, this behavior can be contra-productive. Saying sorry for things that don’t require an apology can make us and others question our self-worth and expertise. Also, remember that you don’t have to apologize for something that’s not your fault.
To solve this, we’ll have to be conscious about apologizing. If the situation doesn’t strictly require it, we shouldn’t say sorry. Hell, women can show sparkling empathy with other words.
For example, instead of telling:
“I’m sorry to bother you.” Go for: “I know you’re busy, but I need your help on this one.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier.” You could say: “I didn’t get back to you earlier because I had many things on my schedule, and I wanted to grant my full attention to your case.”
“I’m sorry for not submitting this earlier.” Say: “Thank you for your patience.”
“I’m sorry, but I disagree.” Communicate: “That’s an interesting point of view, but I have to disagree”.
“I’m sorry that happened to you.” Go for: “The last days must have been hard for you. You can count on my support.”
Let’s stop apologizing for things that don’t require it and for circumstances we aren’t responsible for.
Thinking you aren’t good enough
I don’t know about you, but many of my female friends and I have already felt we’re not entitled to our position.
When I was working with on a writing course, I couldn’t believe she chose me. I felt I was not good enough. I was sure people with more experience would handle the work better than me. When I finished the tasks she gave me, I often felt like a fraud. Despite getting constant positive feedback on my work, I kept doubting myself.
I knew it was the infamous imposter syndrome.
“Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persists in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” — Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes
I talked about it with my boyfriend. Apparently, he’s never experienced anything similar. Yeah, a typical white European dude (Sorry, Adrian).
To overcome my irrational negative feelings, I had to sit down and talk to myself into reason. I consciously started to ask myself whether I gave my best to carry out a certain task. When the answer was no, I worked for a little longer. When I realized there’s nothing I could’ve done better, I made peace with myself.
If you feel you’re not good enough, remind yourself that:
You did everything you could to make the best possible outcome within the timeframe you had
If you work on something new, it’s inevitable to question your abilities. That’s fine. With time, experience comes, and you’ll feel more confident.
You’re good enough. Work on believing it.
As Sheryl Sandberg pointed out: “Being confident and believing in your own self-worth is necessary to achieving your potential.”
During meetings, women tend to speak way less than men.
I can relate. At university, I constantly felt my questions were dumb, and my ideas weren’t worthy. I believed dudes in the classroom must be more clever and competent than me.
My mindset shifted during my tax law exam. We had to take a spoken exam in groups of four. When I realized I was in the same group with the dude who always knew better than everybody else, I felt terrified. I remembered him from previous classes: he was arrogant, and I never dared to speak up when he was also in the room.
Yet, the exam was something that mattered to me too much. Tax law was the most difficult subject during my entire Bachelor’s, and I prepared well. I couldn’t let my mindset destroy those long hours of preparation.
Even though I felt petrified, I pushed myself not to care. I consciously concentrated on the tasks and excluded the guy from my mind. I aced the exam and learned to speak up when arrogant dudes are around.
I believe that’s how we can manage our fears to speak up among men.
Concentrate on the task, and solve it without caring about what others might think. Your focused concentration will push away the distracting thoughts.
Not asking for (enough) money
Women are still a little shy when it comes to money.
Again, I can unfortunately relate.
I went as far as offering unpaid work multiple times for clients if they didn’t like the outcome of my work. The thing is, I didn’t even realize that’s something wrong until a friend of mine highlighted it.
Hint: Never-ever offer to work for free! Your time is precious, and I’m sure you’re giving your best every time you’re carrying out an assignment. If your supervisor or client doesn’t like it, you can do the work again, but they’ll have to pay for the working hours. (This doesn’t count, though, when you made a serious mistake or you were the one who misunderstood the assignment.)
Yet, the topic doesn’t terminate here. Men are four times more likely to ask for a raise in salary than women. That’s where a significant percentage of the gender pay gap comes from.
As an online English teacher, I researched what others in my field earn. For a private English class in Austria, people tend to pay anything between 20–60€ per session. I’ve been making 13€ for more than a year.
Yet, it was challenging to feel entitled to ask for more money. It was uncomfortable to raise my fees, even though I was aware that’s what I was supposed to do.
Lately, I’ve started to ask for €30/h from my clients.
Take the courage, start it gradually.
Learn how to ask for a raise.
Being too polite
Women tend to be more polite than men at the workplace.
Studies show being too polite can be problematic in many instances.
“Western workplaces favor masculine communication characteristics. Politeness can negatively impact a speaker’s credibility and perception of message quality, thus undermining perceptions of assertiveness. — Tessa M. Pfafman
Being too polite might prevent you from living up to your potential. People around you might question your credibility and expertise. It can also communicate a lack of independence and powerlessness.
Eliminate these and similar phrases both from your written and spoken communication:
“I just wanted to let you know….” The word ‘just’ is basically another word for ‘sorry.’ Monitor your communication and cut that word out.
“I’m not sure,” and “I’m not an expert, but” Don’t under-qualify yourself. Stand by your arguments to let people know: you have something to say, they should listen.
“Does this make sense?” If you’re solving a complex task, and you’re not entirely sure whether the other person understood the logic of your arguments, ask instead: How does this sound to you? or Do you need any additional information?
“No worries if not” Trust me, dudes won’t feel bad if they reject you. Stop saying, ‘no worries if not.’
Delete these words from your jargon relentlessly!
Confident communication doesn’t equal being rude. Cutting certain phrases from your business vocabulary will help you present yourself more professionally. No more ‘just,’ ‘sorry,’ ‘no worries’…
We don’t run the world — yet
It doesn’t matter how strong we want the “Who runs the world? Girls” phrase to be true; until we don’t let go of some fixed behaviors, we’ll lack behind.
To be an equal part of the business world, we have to:
get rid of the imposter syndrome
ask for that damn money
stop being too polite
The issue of gender equality is complex, and I’m only pointing out a tiny fraction of it. There’s a lot more work to be done than a little cognitive behavior change. Men will have to do their part, but so do we. As with every complex issue, this one also depends on multiple variables.
Yet, why wait for a systemic change when we can already initiate it?
“Women need to shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that- and I’ll learn by doing it.” ― Sheryl Sandberg
CONTRIBUTED BY Eszter Brhlik
READ ALSO: 11 reasons why good men never cheat