After more than 20 years as a human resources leader, I saw and experienced firsthand how women can limit themselves and their careers as a result of easily correctable mistakes. Now, as the co-creator of Ask Ajna, I help women own their power to ask for what they want at work. It’s hard enough to be successful and get ahead as women, we certainly don’t need to be sabotaging ourselves along the way. Unfortunately, many women don’t recognize they’re making mistakes. Here are seven common mistake mistakes women make at work, and how you can overcome them.
1. Not Asking For What You Want
When I was in corporate human resources, I was always surprised at how few women negotiated their pay or asked for more than what was offered. Men ask for what they want, they negotiate 3 – 4 times more often than women. Women hope for what they want. The result? Studies have shown that by not negotiating pay over the course of a career, a woman can earn up to $1 million less than a man.
Many women are intimidated to ask or negotiate, but you don’t need to use fancy negotiating tactics or tricks. Practicing what you will say and using data to make your case will help you prepare, but all you really need to do is ASK. You’ll be surprised at how often the answer is “yes.”
2. Thinking Your Work Speaks for Itself
Men are generally comfortable promoting themselves and talking about their accomplishments; women are not. Many women expect that if they do their jobs well, people will simply notice. This difference can impede women in the workplace when it comes to recognition, promotion and other opportunities. If you’re not getting acknowledged at work, you may have lost your most important career asset – your voice! Your achievements are yours to realize AND to highlight. Take credit, toot your own horn and share your successes.
3. Confusing Effort with Results
In today’s world, most companies (and bosses) expect more – they want results that make money, save money, or produce a better customer experience. In fact, they want all three, and more! Instead of killing yourself working longer hours, look for ways to align your work to identifiable and quantifiable, results. Connect the work you do to the company’s business objectives then, speak to your results by reinforcing for your boss and other key stakeholders how your contributions benefit the business.
4. Accepting Less
As women, we concede more rapidly than men, and oftentimes, we feel unsure about what we actually deserve. Instead of settling and accepting less, raise your expectations and start negotiating for what you want. It may be uncomfortable in the beginning, but the more things you negotiate, the easier it will be.
5. Always Saying “Yes”
When was the last time you said “no” at work? A lot of women struggle with taking on too much. Some women like to fix things and many are pleasers. Others think saying “no” will result in unfair judgment, criticism, or that it will damage the relationship. It’s important to establish boundaries at work and stick to them. If someone makes a request that crosses one of your boundaries assert yourself instead of blindly saying “yes.” Calmly remind the person of existing deadlines, list the other projects you’re responsible for and ask them to prioritize.
6. Confusing Office Gossip with Fact
We all know being labeled an office gossip is a career killer, but relying on water cooler chatter can also be detrimental to your career because gossip is often embellished, taken out of context or simply not true. Before acting on something you’ve heard, check your facts and make decisions based on reliable data.
7. Not Using Powerful Language
Men are generally more direct communicators than women – they get to the bottom line quickly, connect actions to outcomes and reinforce the importance of ‘winning’ in the way they speak. Women use lots of words, and softer and more inclusive language which can be a disadvantage, especially if your boss is male. The most effective way to be a more powerful communicator at work is to learn the language of your business. Almost every organization has its own “company speak” – key words and catch phrases which leaders, your boss and others in your organization use regularly. Listen for these language cues and find ways to interject them when you speak. If you want to be heard, speak the language of the person to whom you’re talking.
The ultimate challenge for women at work is being authentic without having to talk or be like a man, but I don’t believe you have to compromise yourself. If you own your power, use your voice and confidently avoid the common mistakes women make at work, you can achieve great career success.