Today I return to the continuing challenge many women have yet to embrace – re framing the need to be liked over advancement.
I see this over and over again in business. Our need to be eternal people pleasers, a nice girl, popular and kind is put front and centre and as a result holds us back from the exciting new projects, the big bucks, the serious influence and power and the corner office.
The frustrating thing about this is we know we are doing it! Our fear of being seen as too demanding, a bitch, aggressive or a ball breaker keeps us in a nice girl straight jacket and limits our potential big time. Not rocking the boat is not and never will be an effective career strategy! I just wish we recognised that sometimes doing the right thing for ourselves is not necessarily a global win.
In the latest edition of Grazia, supposedly the magazine for the modern woman, Angela Buttolph a member of the Grazia’s writing team pens an article on this subject titled ‘Why Being Liked Gets You Nowhere’. She makes some great points about how we need to learn to say no, stand up and speak our truth and dump the people pleaser identity. All points I do not disagree with but then the headline for this article on the front of the magazine reads ‘I DON’T CARE IF MY COLLEAGUES HATE ME.’ Now I am sad, since when was the opposite of people pleasing HATE? Why is it not possible to do the right thing without being mean or selfish or rude?
Is it any wonder women are a little worried about being real and speaking out if the outcome of this is to be perceived as making a shift from people pleaser to people hater in one easy move? Moreover women who stand up for their rights, ask the tough questions, make the unpopular choices/decisions, refuse to be side lined and show any kind of gumption are not exactly celebrated in our culture are they? Our society tends not to like strong women.
Consider the recent furore over Kay Burley’s Sky News interview with Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments over the tragic and seemingly avoidable accident at Alton Towers. She, quite rightly, in my opinion asked him some tough questions about the safety of his operation and what he is now doing to ensure an accident like this never happens again and she has been vilified across twitter and the media for her approach. Over 1500 complaints were sent to Ofcom about her style and she has been called a bitch, aggressive and a sociopath across twitter. Forgive me but we need to think long and hard about this clear double standard. If this interview was carried out by Paxman, Snow, Clarkson or a myriad of other male news anchors/presenters we would be complaining they were soft on Varney. Thankfully Kay has received as many congratulations on her approach and been cleared by Ofcom and she has remained steadfast in her professionalism and owned her views and position. Bravo!
I know we could all cite more examples of women in power being vilified for having an opinion or daring to express it, but until we all grasp the mantle, own our opinions and focus a little more time on pleasing ourselves, this antiquated view of how women should behave will remain and we will fail to sell the merits of a corporate career to the bright girls coming up behind us. We need to be bold and brave and stand up. Now is not the time to shine our people pleaser badge, it doesn’t work anyway, you get little respect from the people around you when you continue to sabotage your true self to be liked, in fact, over time this just makes you weak, invisible and unlikeable! So let’s decide to be real, to be authentic, to stand up and be counted and harness our unique feminine power. Personally, I would much rather be respected and admired for my gumption than liked for my passive, nice girl act – yuk!