Within the professional domain, traits which are typically viewed as masculine are still highly valued: assertiveness, ability to negotiate, confidence, and yes, even a level of aggressiveness is still sometimes looked upon with respect. With the influx of women taking more roles in management, that perception is shifting towards more inclusion to a variety of communication styles, but women can still do more to change the tides in their favor.
Men are ‘passionate about their job’ while women are ‘over-emotional’. The difference in perception between men and women in the workplace has become so ingrained in our culture we don’t even realize it. Carrying this knowledge may cause many to try to counteract those perceptions by being overly polite. Unfortunately, this tactic can backfire, causing the perception to default once more to one of weakness. Assertiveness, using direct to-the-point language without being overly apologetic, is one technique which can counter these perceptions, even on a micro level.
According to a number of studies, women in the workplace and elsewhere are still held to this bizarre standard of likeability. From a young age, women and girls are taught to play nice and to be polite. As such it can be difficult to walk into a boardroom knowing that one’s actions will result in some if not all, of the people within not liking us. That’s okay. Let me repeat. That is okay.
Sheryl Sandberg recounts an anecdote in which a tough negotiation is opened with the statement, at the end of this negotiation, some of you won’t like me. Calling out when likeability is at stake makes everyone aware of the elephant in the room.
While everyone should strive to maintain a level of professionalism in the work place, politeness does not always fall into this category. In an effort to please, employees may be tempted to say yes to any project or task presented to them. Developing a reputation as a pushover or a door mat is just as detrimental, if not more so, than being seen as assertive.
These types of situations result in being taken advantage of professionally, being asked to increase one’s workload without fair compensation. Asking for a raise or renegotiating payment is not only okay but often respected as it denotes one is aware of one’s own worth.
A number of sources have begun to recognize the shift from “I’m sorry,” to “Thank you”. The difference, while subtle, is an important one. While one may be genuinely remorseful for interrupting, for example, tasks within the work place are often time sensitive. As such it may be necessary to briefly interject for clarification. Saying ‘sorry’ devalues the questioner inferring a level of inferiority. ‘Thank you’ comes from a position of strength. The speaker naturally assumes everyone is on board with the request, promoting the importance of the task as well as the one carrying it out.