Four Tips For Being Confident At Work — But Not Catty

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Women in the workplace are sometimes thought of as a scary group of people. It’s safe to say there’s a stereotype about women — their cattiness knows no bounds and instead of coworkers, they’re competitors. And when we’re competing, we play both offense and defense. You’re most aggressive when you’re defensive, so… it makes sense. But it only hurts us.

In too many ways, it’s still a man’s world out there. Right now, the average CEO is a 57-year-old white man from the United States who went to Harvard. Doesn’t that sound a little too picture-perfect? Only 25 of the 500 CEOs on the Fortune 500 list are female. 4% of the top CEOs all around the world are women. Clearly, women face enough adversity — so why do we fight one another when we can succeed more often?

Put it this way. There are all sorts of phrases suggesting women need community; you know, it takes a village to raise a child. Look in the wild. Lady lions are a tight knit community of lionesses who protect their young, hunt for the pride. They provide a lot of value. But the boy lion? He’s over there, eating the antelope Mrs. Lion brought home from her evening hunt. And what did he do all day to get to eat first? Not a whole lot. But there’s really only one male because the others are driven out when they become competition. The point is: women are meant for community. And when we act the stereotype of catty and passive aggressive or cut-throat, we’re preventing ourselves from being able to form that community.

So what’s a girl to do?

If you stand up for your ideas, you’re “pushy.” At the same time, you’re told to watch your language — not to say things like “I’m sorry.” It’s important to choose your words carefully as not to seem weak in comparison to the men you’re working alongside of. At least, it was. The tides of business are changing with women becoming more and more common in every industry. Technology was once a field dominated by men, but according to this analysis of some of the most influential young professionals around the world, women are closing the gap.

Ladies: you earn $0.80 to every man’s dollar. It’s time to take matters into your own hands. Here’s how to boost community in your workplace, and your confidence,  by leveling the playing field in the office.

Consider ditching the dress code.

 If your employer is requiring women to wear heels but men don’t have the same distinction, employees’ gender affects what they’re allowed to wear. And that, ladies, is gender bias. Flats don’t compromise professional capability or deliverable quality. If your workplace has a gender bias within the dress code, consider making a petition to get rid of it. Level the playing field and utilize your fellow female coworkers to help.

Watch your language.

You shouldn’t have to worry about how you sound as a woman. You shouldn’t have to worry that you’re emotional or that you sound weak because you’re asking questions.

Before you apologize, ask yourself: would a man apologize for this? If the answer is no, keep your sorry to yourself. Find a way to equalize your language to command respect from your coworkers — male or female — and support female coworkers when they share their opinions on work-related matters.

Value unique skill sets.

The beauty of individuality is that it enables us to all be so different that we can put our heads together and leverage our collective experience. Just because you aren’t as technically literate as the woman who shares your cube with you doesn’t mean that you don’t have an equally valuable skill to offer. Unique skill sets are what help create diverse, effective teams.

Jealousy, ladies, is unbecoming. Two heads are better than one. It’s important to remember, too, that just because someone has something or is doing something you want to be doing, they aren’t a threat to you — they’re a resource. Recognizing this enables women in the workplace to mentor one another.

Become each other’s role models.

Mentors are great, but have you ever seen a woman that you want to give a round of applause to? Stand up and give it. It’s pretty rare women will be outspoken in their approval of one another, but why can’t you be the one to start it?

Keep compliments away from just appearance (though please tell your coworker her new haircut is great if it is) and instead focus your praise on achievements like a fantastic presentation or creative problem-solving. Or, take the time to help your junior employee get up to speed when she doesn’t know something instead of rolling your eyes.

At the end of the day, being catty means being isolated — don’t get yourself into this trap. On the other hand, being a confident, strong, and successful woman in the workplace only becomes easier when you foster a culture of female support at your company. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself (and your female coworkers).

This guest post was authored by Maddi Salmon

Maddi works in marketing full-time but enjoys writing about careers, personal finance, and food in her free time. She started her career as an accountant in Los Angeles but soon realized she couldn’t spend all day staring at a spreadsheet. Now she only spends part of her day doing that. She’s based out of Raleigh, but was born in Southern California and raised in Vermont.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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