Category Archives: Trust in business

10 ways women supposedly sabotage their careers!

Citibank’s career advice for women! ( updated September 15th 2010)

My good friend Silvana Delatte sent me this link from Business Insider about a laminated sheet supposedly issued by the HR department of Citibank on how women sabotage their careers. If this is not a spoof (which I suspect it might be) then it makes interesting, if not incredible (as in unbelievable) reading.

Nowhere does it mention doing a bad job, so perhaps good performance isn’t necessary to advance a career in Citibank! This list would be infinitely less risible if the almost all male board had not been part of a group of testosterone driven mis- managers which brought global economies grinding to a halt. The subsequent government bail out was at great cost to the tax payer and impacted the lives of millions. Perhaps some of that money could be used to invest in constructive gender based management training, clearly sorely needed. I can make any number of excellent recommendations, so please contact me Citibank!

So let’s look at this list and analyse it!

  •  Women tend to speak softly – you are not heard. Anyone speaking softly isn’t heard, especially in the company of people who talk too much and don’t listen! Good managers listen! Being heard is also not about the volume of the voice but the pitch. Women could be advised to reduce the pitch of their voices by half a semi-tone.
  •  Women groom in public – it emphasizes your femininity, de-emphasizes your capability: Grooming in public is a no no – for anyone. That’s why companies have bathrooms!
  • Women sit demurely – the power position when seated at a table is forearms resting on a table and resting forward. Good posture in business meetings accompanied by positive body language and facial expressions with head tilted to one side, indicating engagement is a given. Nowhere, even in AskMen, have I seen any suggestions that leaning forward and appearing aggressive is a bonus.
  • Speak last in meetings – early speakers are seen as more assertive and knowledgeable than late speakers. Thinking before speaking and measured contribution is never to be under estimated. This is probably because the people who are making this judgement are poor listeners and have the attention span of pre-schoolers.
  • Women ask permission – children are taught to ask permission. Men don’t ask permission, they inform. I actually agree with this one. However polite deference is not to be confused with approval seeking and definitely preferable to arrogant bamboozling.
  •  Apologize – women apologize for the smallest error which erodes your self-confidence. Men tend to move into problem solving mode. I agree with this one too. But having said that for many the word “sorry” is missing from their vocabulary. Problem solving is not the same as admitting a mistake and dealing with it. Problem solving can be aka covering up. and /or reactive management.
  •  Women tend to smile inappropriately when delivering a message, therefore you are not getting taken seriously Well I did some quick research on this little gem and would be interested to see the metrics on that. Women do smile more than men, mainly to soften situations that is true. Smiling would only be inappropriate when delivering extremely bad news. I seriously doubt if a woman would do that unless she really disliked the person. Then she might well do.
  •  Play fair – women tend to be more naive. A women might assume the rules have to be obeyed whereas a man will figure out a way to stretch the rules and not be punished. So is the message here ladies, playing dirty is fine? May I suggest that stretching the rules was what got Citibank into its little pickle. There is surely no substitute for professional integrity. Besides the activities of the mascara mafia have been well documented. Women can and do play dirty, but target mainly other women.
  •  Being invisible – women tend to operate behind the scenes and end up handing credit over to the competitor. This is a fair point – women have to stop waiting for recognition and step up. But then whoever is stealing their thunder should have a little more professional integrity (see above). Good managers recognise and reward.
  • Offer a limp handshake – one good pump and a concise greeting combined with solid eye contact will do the trick. Agree with this too except this isn’t an arm wrestling contest. I would suggest that firm contact would be infinitely preferable to “one good pump” which implies a potential dislocated shoulder.

So ladies, what advice would you give the gentlemen of Citibank?

Apart from ” Do try not to bankrupt anyone today, darling.”

Written with a smile! Please see also follow up post “Trapped! Women and the Smiling Myth

September 15th 2010 -Update! An interesting post came across my screen today, which now makes some sense of the aforementioned problem-causing laminated sheet issued by Citibank. It isn’t a spoof , although it seemed that way. I was right to apply some cynicism.

Writing for The Thin Pink Line Blog, Lois Frankel says that this sheet has taken points from her book ” Nice girls don’t get the corner office ” completely out of context  and she tries to set the record straight in her post .

I did read the book some time ago and will have to revisit it. Condensed to bumper-sticker style homilies these points seem dated and Lois was right, taken at face value they don’t make a lot of sense, so they need to be evaluated in context, which I will certainly do. On her own admission the title including the term “nice” was forced upon her by her publisher. Some of the most successful people ( corner office holders) I know have been simply all around “nice” ( male and female).

That sheet certainly aroused a good discussion!

Women and communication: a salutary personal tale

Wanted for White Collar Fraud

Dorothy and the suspect search consultant
On average, women use twice the number of words per day than men. Women maintain eye contact while speaking for twelve seconds vs. a man maintaining eye contact for three seconds. Women supply detail to build rapport , men speak directly in short sentences going straight for the bottom line, supplying detail as a necessary illustration to their focal points. Women need to deliver their story (as I am doing now , otherwise this post would be one sentence and how much fun would that be?) in order to get to their bottom line. We build relationships. Generally we don’t need solutions ( although perhaps exceptionally I like that) and we also need to be heard! A lot!

Communicating like a female: the story!
I was recently contracted to support an executive search consultant on a global  project. He had worked for one of my major clients and had now set up his own business. In my female brain he was already someone I knew,  so  I didn’t make even rudimentary background enquiries before starting on the assignment.  I know…I know ..big mistake.

The sting
Even the most basic research, which is something I carry out on a daily basis for other people and would certainly advise any coaching client  to pursue, would have revealed a sub-text of  erratic professional performance. This should have raised a number of  brightly coloured red flags, complete with their  poles.  After some extremely inconsistent and suspect behaviour during the course of our collaboration, leaving me feeling profoundly uncomfortable, I realised that now he ran his own company, we actually had divergent business models and professional standards.  

How did this even come about because as you know I’m not a shrinking violet ?  After much reflection I finally wondered that it was possibly because he had always communicated with me in a female way! I was going to say like a woman, but was strongly reprimanded by Marion Chapsal. This is not a derogatory comment, but just a different style that we women seem to connect with.

The detail
My ex – associate ,   I suspect not unintentionally either, successfully focused on building a rapport with me over a long period, until I perceived him as a trusted contact and foolishly believed that we were in an ongoing business relationship –  when actually this wasn’t the case at all!  The relationship was with his previous company, so nothing concrete had been done to put him personally into that category.  With 20/20 hindsight (what a gift!) I could see that in many of our networking chats over the years,  initiated on the pretext of staying in touch,  I had essentially provided a free consulting service.  When in typical John Gray  style my generosity wave came crashing down with the force of a tsunami ( I even coached him on Twitter!) I finally supplied a fee schedule.

No communication
Where are we now?  He is MIA owing me a reasonably large some of money! Emails are bouncing, business addresses no longer exist, telephone numbers have been discontinued. He has even blocked me on Twitter (go figure… is there NO shame in this world? ) Lawyers and debt collectors have been consulted and a police report filed. But no doubt …  I have been conned! It would appear that it’s illegal to smoke in a public place, put makeup on in the car while in a traffic jam (true… I was fined for such an act! ) – but it’s not illegal not to pay your bills.

The moral of the story is that all business relationships have to be scrutinised and thorough due diligence carried out, regrettably even with people you think you might know. My instincts are now sadly blurred. Today I’m going through a phase of viewing everyone with suspicion and caution. An acquaintance emailed me to ask me how I was doing and my first instinct was to wonder why they wanted to know. I even asked someone I normally work with on a basis of trust, to confirm a proposition in writing. Last week his word would have been sufficient. I know I will get over this reticence and revert to openness and trust, but perhaps not on the same level. It’s been an unpleasant lesson, but one I intend to learn from.

Is this all as much fun? No sadly it isn’t .

What do you think?