Monday, February 7, 2011

Never Say "It's Not Fair"

I often advise my women coaching clients to avoid statements such as "it's not fair" when making their case to a male superior or colleague. This is not a value judgment about the merits of the grievance in question. I am simply reflecting my assessment of the realities of the workplace. Talking about "fairness" and similar concepts often plays into the stereotypes of women as more emotional than rational, more subjective than objective. It just isn't helpful in advancing your career.

Now there is independent support for this advice. Shaunti Feldhan wrote an article in last Sunday's New York Times about her research into the way men think in the workplace. She described how men view personal feelings at work. Basically, they don't think personal feelings have any place. They tend to view people who seem to take criticism personally or have personality conflicts as being less business like or less experienced. Feldhan also found that men hold these negative percpetions more often about women than about men.

These perceptions may be totally inaccurate. The bottom line is that they can still get in your way as you build your career. Understanding how your words and actions may be interpreted by your male colleagues is one more skill to be mastered. Remember, you are responsible for your career.

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