What you learned in kindergarten you need to unlearn
for the workforce if you wish to succeed.
Who doesn’t love the poem “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? We all do and there are many truths in that prose. However, not all the behaviors you learned in kindergarten should you continue in the workplace. Particularly for women, who as girls were taught to behave according to the traditional gender-specific stereotypes in our culture. It is these gender-specific stereotypes and their associated behaviors that can cause you problems you may not even be aware of. These behaviors may even hurt your credibility, the likelihood of being promoted, being seen as a leader, and more.
Let’s tackle these and unlearn them now, once and for all…
You learned sharing was good and the more you shared, the better person you were and the more the teacher liked you. You were praised highly for sharing.
However, here are examples of the kind of sharing in the workplace you don’t want to do:
- Oversharing about your personal life;
- Sharing the credit just to be nice when the reality is, it was all you;
- Sharing a leadership role because you are too afraid to do it alone;
- Sharing the blame when it had nothing to do with you; or
- Sharing the workload so much that you are taking on more than your fair share and/or being taking advantage of.
Sharing can be a good thing in the workplace, don’t get me wrong. However, if your sharing is “taking away” rather than “adding to”; you need to stop this behavior.
Chances are you were told you to stop being so bossy as a little girl during grade school by either a classmate or a teacher. And chances are, you may still get this feedback in the workplace especially if you are exhibiting leadership qualities or are in a supervisory role.
This is simply a result of stereotypes getting in the way of women in leadership positions. Traditional gender roles say women should be supportive, nice, and pleasing to others. It’s not a surprise when a woman exhibits leadership qualities such as being decisive, forward, determined, or action-oriented that she gets the feedback of “who does she think she is?”
Remember what you were hired to do and what qualities others would want in the position you are in. You don’t want to be the bossy little girl on the playground, but if you are being a leader and doing the job that needs to be done… don’t worry about the feedback of being too bossy.
Be The Know-It-All
Women often sell themselves short, are afraid to speak up, or are apprehensive about showing off their true talents for fear of the “good ole boys club” taking it the wrong way. Some women feel if they do show this side of themselves, it will backfire and cause more problems.
This is a delicate balance, especially if you work in teams or are a leader/supervisor. Sometimes you need to allow the team to feel heard, brainstorm, contribute, and marinate on solutions. With a team or with your employees, there may be a time and place for being the “dictator”, but more often than not they will respond better to you allowing them to be a team.
Yet it is always appropriate for you to be an expert at the job you currently hold, a specialist in your field, and/or the best that you can be. Don’t hold back for fear of offending someone, fear of not being liked, or fear of standing out.
Be confident in your knowledge, skills, and abilities and use them to your benefit where and whenever you can.
Women are also notorious for apologizing too much. We say, “I’m sorry”, for just about any reason. “I’m sorry to interrupt you.” “I’m sorry, but I have to reschedule our appointment.” “I’m sorry, but I need more time to complete this assignment.”
Why do you apologize for things you shouldn’t be apologizing for? Why are you apologizing for things that are not your fault? Why do you apologize for others?
The point here is to not saying “sorry” at all. If you make a mistake, forget something, call someone by the wrong name, show up late, neglect to return a phone call; apologizing is okay and quite possibly the right thing to do.
When you do have something to be sorry about, fix it and do your best to prevent it from happening again. Apologize once, then move on.
But if you are apologizing as just a normal course of doing your job, then stop doing so right now. Do not apologize for doing you job and doing it to the best of your abilities. Stop being sorry all the time.
Be Less “Miss Manners”
The stereotypical behavior for women that we are taught at an early age in our culture is to be pleasant, nice, accommodating, gracious, and good. Girls are taught to behave like this even before kindergarten whereas boys are allowed to be more rough, aggressive, demanding, and mischievous.
Again, it’s a delicate balance as you are likely fighting these stereotypical behaviors in your job. If you go too far to one side, it can be hard on your workplace persona. You need to find the right balance that works for your personality, your workplace culture, and your role/position.
What I’m giving you permission to do however, is to be less of a “Miss Manners” and more middle of the road. You don’t have to get coffee for everyone. You don’t have to smile more. You don’t have to wait patiently when you have a good reason to interrupt. You are allowed to have some cutthroat behavior when the stakes are high and there is a lot on the line. You are allowed to “tell it like it is” in a professional manner rather than “sugarcoat it”. You are allowed to stand up for yourself.
I could go on and on and on, but you get the point. Stop being sooooo darned nice. Instead be the person you need to be to do the job you want to do.
There are always two sides to every coin and that isn’t any different with the advice I’ve just shared. There is a time to be nice and a time not to. There is a time to apologize and a time when it’s appropriate not to. As with all my advice, use it where it makes sense for you. Use it when you find you hit a wall and need to do something different. Use it to your advantage, to gain the respect you want, to become the leader you know you can be.