April Book Club: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office

I read Dr. Lois Frankel’s book, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, in 2010 thanks to a comment left on a blog post I wrote about common female prejudices at work.  With all of this Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In” talk lately, I thought “Nice Girls” was a relevant choice for this month’s Ms. Career Girl Book Club.

Where do I begin.

Is it really about equality or is it about properly leveraging our differences?

If it’s about embracing our differences, we must understand them first.  

As little girls, many of you were taught to “be nice, act polite, say sorry, and speak when spoken to.”  Therefore, it was learned from early childhood that success was contingent upon being nice.  Unfortunately these lessons don’t usually translate into success at the office.

Dr. Frankel’s book starts with a self-assessment win which you mark how true certain statements are for you.  Then you score your responses by category (Play, Act, Think, Market, Look, Sound, Respond) and find out your areas of strength and weakness.

The next step is getting concrete suggestions for behavioral change that are proven to be effective in moving women forward in their careers.  Dr. Frankel demonstrates this by going through “101 unconscious mistakes women make that sabotage their careers” in each of her 7 categories.

Here are a few of my favorite “mistakes.”

Rather than typing out all 101 mistakes, I chose to feature the mistakes that I felt were most relevant, or ones that I personally have dealt with.  While you’re reading these highlights, write down which ones are most relatable to you and share them in the comments section below. I’m very curious to see which ones are the most challenging among us.

How You Play the Game

Yes, business is a game and you can win it.  Dr. Frankel says “women are born to win this game” as she spends half of her time working with men, teaching them to be more like women.

Mistake #1: Pretending It Isn’t a Game

Mistake #13: Failing to Capitalize on Relationships

How You Act

Dr. Frankel suggests that the subtle, stereotypical ways in which women behave can contribute to an overall impression of being less competent than we really are.  For me, this chapter was a slam dunk of common mistakes that we need to be reminded of.

Mistake #15: Polling Before Making a Decision (GUILTY!)

Mistake $16: Needing to Be Liked

Mistake #17: Not Needing to be Liked (You don’t have to be a bitch to be a good leader, although clearly some women have this all wrong…)

Mistake #19: Acting Like a Man

Mistake #20: Telling the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth (So Help you God) – This one is funny and so true.

Mistake #21: Sharing Too Much Personal Information

Mistake #22: Being Overly Concerned with Offending Others

Mistake #23: Denying the Importance of Money

Mistake #29: Being Financially Insecure

How You Think

Dr. Frankel says, “Changing how you think about how you work is essential to changing self-defeating behavior.”  It makes perfect sense.  She refers to “superstitious behaviors” which are beliefs (likely rooted in childhood) about what will and will not get us recognized. Apparently there are some beliefs that need to be retired in order for us to get ahead at work.

Mistake #31: Making Miracles (Constantly priding yourself on doing more with less, meeting or beating impossible deadlines and “getting juice out of a turnip.”  Eventually you will wish you didn’t set such a high and unrealistic standard for yourself)

Mistake #32: Taking Full Responsibility (It’s not all your fault and you don’t have to do that huge impossible project alone)

Mistake #35: Limiting Your Possibilities (Why do you keep talking yourself out of that promotion or new job?  You can do it girl!)

Mistake #36: Ignoring the Quid Pro Quo (This one is HUGE! If you’re always doing favors for someone, make sure you’re getting favors back in return!)

Mistake #39: Letting People Waste Your Time (GUILTY!)

Mistake #40: Prematurely Abandoning Your Career Goals (Ok this one deserves its own post… especially for the future Mamas out there)

Mistake #42: Refusing Perks

Mistake #43: Making Up Negative Stories (For example, “well maybe he didn’t like my presentation…maybe I didn’t wear the right dress…maybe I insulted the boss..)

Mistake #44: Striving for Perfection (I’m pretty sure most of the guys I know don’t have this problem.  They will report that what you see is what you get and they inherently believe their work is already close to perfection.  Women have the total OPPOSITE problem!)

How you Brand and Market Yourself

Recognizing these mistakes will help you define your brand, acknowledge the value of your brand and develop a plan for marketing your brand.

Mistake #45: Failing to Define Your Brand

Mistake #46: Minimizing Your Work or Position

Mistake #48: Waiting to Be Noticed

Mistake #50: Being Modest

Mistake #51: Staying in Your Safety Zone

Mistake #52: Giving Away Your Ideas

Mistake #54: Ignoring Feedback (don’t brush it off or hope it goes away. You need to know and understand this in order to effectively market yourself.  “When three people say you’re drunk – lie down.”)

How You Sound

This chapter is interesting and perhaps even a bit odd…  Dr. Frankel suggests paying closes attention to the mistakes that feel most awkward for you.

Mistake #56: Couching Statements as Questions (GUILTY!)

Mistake #57: Using Preambles (In other words, stop softening your message out of fear of being perceived as too direct or aggressive.  This mistake could probably use its own post as well.  Get to the point!!!)

Mistake #58: Explaining (GUILTY!)  This is what people do AFTER they make their point…

Mistake #59: Asking Permission (Men ask for forgiveness, women often ask for permission.)

Mistake #60: Apologizing (Often a mistake made by career newbies- myself included!)

Mistake #62: Using Qualifiers (stop weakening your messages with phrases like, “we sort of did…” “perhaps we should…” “Maybe it would be better if…”)

Mistake #63: Not Answering the Question (Stop laying out the pros and cons or saying what we “could do” and answer the damn question!)

Mistake #72: Failing to Pause or Reflect Before Responding (“pregnant pauses” are good because they cause others to anticipate and pay attention to what you’re about to say.)

How You Look

This is definitely my least favorite chapter and one that I think is too subjective to give much attention to without a full explanation.  For example, a few of Dr. Frankel’s “mistakes” include wearing inappropriate makeup, tilting your head, grooming in public, dressing inappropriately and wearing the wrong hairstyle. Not a fan of telling people how to look – a subject I’d rather not ever comment on!

How You Respond

This chapter is about how to respond to the ways others treat you.

Mistake #87: Internalizing Messages

Mistake #88: Believing Others Know More than You

Mistake #90: Tolerating Inappropriate Behavior

Mistake #91: Exhibiting Too Much Patience

Mistake #93: Putting the Needs of Others Before Your Own

Mistake #96: Accepting the Fait Accompli (a French term meaning “an irreversible or predetermined decision.” Don’t take the bait: many things can be negotiated.  Men won’t typically settle for the “that’s just how it is” answer, so why should you?)

Mistake #97: Permitting Others’ Mistakes to inconvenience You

Ok Ladies, let’s talk.  Which of these chapters do you need the most help with?  Are there any mistakes that you saw and thought, “SHIT that’s totally me!”

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media team at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Nicole also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helped develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.