When You’re the Boss: Being Liked vs. Being Respected

likeable-business-bitchI’m curious, ladies: have you struggled to find a good balance between being a boss (or coworker) who is well liked and one who is respected? Did you have to unlearn the idea that you have to be a “bitch in business” to get ahead?

Let me back up a bit. I was interested to read about Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit a few months ago — particularly some of the best advice the women leaders ever received. This one quote struck me, from Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, chair of DreamWorks Animation, and a director at Starbucks and Estee Lauder:

Smile a lot. People want to work with people they like, people who are happy. … You’ll be dealing with a lot of hard issues, and they’re going to come across better if you have a smile on your face.*

I happen to agree with this advice — one of the things I’ve learned in business is that people definitely prefer to do business with people they like. (I’ve even advised readers to look friendly in their corporate headshots.) It seems obvious, but this flies smack in the face of the mythos of the Bitch — younger women in particular seem to revere it, like it’s a goal. Case in point, pictured above: the amusing, but frustrating video Bitch in Business, produced by the student club, Columbia Business School Follies.

Interestingly, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office has two chapters on this — one titled “Mistake 16: Needing to Be Liked,” and the second, “Mistake 17: Not Needing to be Liked.”  From Chapter 17:

Like many women, [the woman in the example] had to learn to allow her human, more stereotypically feminine side to emerge while at the same time capitalizing on the best of her more stereotypically masculine style of management.

So readers, I’m curious — how do you balance being likable and being respected? Did you have to unlearn a stereotype that successful women are bitches? What was the best advice you’ve gotten along these lines — or what advice would you give younger women? 

* I can’t find a link to the quote online, but it’s from Fortune Magazine, January 2015. Here’s an awesome video of Hobson speaking at the same conference about how she stopped apologizing for being a black woman.

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Left Behind By a Male Colleague While Wearing Heels

left behind at train stationIf you’re running for the train in high heels and find yourself getting left behind by a male colleague (or a woman, for that matter) as you struggle to keep the pace, is that coworker simply being rude? What should you do next time?

Reader L wonders:

I am from Germany and I love your Blog. Some topics are differently handled here but still most of the tips and advice can be applied here as well. I have experienced some male behaviour which I just find to be rude but I wanted to know if other women have experienced it as well and how they dealt with it. I was travelling with my former boss and and we went to meetings with potential partners etc. I usually wore heels. After the meeting we really had to hurry to catch a train. Meaning he walked extremely fast and did not look after me where I was. I really had trouble keeping up with him. The other time I was prepared and wore flats but then we actually had to run to get to the train. A couple of weeks ago I was travelling with a sort of male CEO and the train was a bit late, but we still had more than enough time to get to our appointment. I was also pacing, almost running, just seeing that he did not bump into others.

I’ve seen situations like this unfold — and I definitely have Opinions. I’m curious to hear what the readers say. To recap, we’ve talked about comfortable heels, the best commuting shoeshow to walk quietly in heels, how to look professional in flats, and traveling with coworkers — but I haven’t stated my pretty stark opinion on heel height for work in a while…. so here goes:

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Faxes from Older Colleagues: Should You Reply by Email?

replying to faxes with emailDoes a faxed letter from a colleague require another fax in reply, or is it acceptable to respond with an email message? What if the differences in communication are due to an age difference between you?

Reader M wonders:

I’ve got a question about professional correspondence. I work in a boutique transactional law firm that rarely handles any matters in court, and if so, it is uncontested and just needs to proved up. I find that when older attorneys need to communicate with me on something, they tend to prepare actual letters and then send it via fax. Is it unprofessional for me to respond with an e-mail? Our office is mostly paperless and even the courts have gone to an e-filing system, so printing a hard copy of a letter just seems unnecessary. If I keep the language in my e-mail formal, is that enough?

Interesting question, M!  We’ve talked a lot about correspondence, including when to use last names, the best way to send thank you notes after interviews (and when to send follow-up emails), hyphenated names and email addresses, and conveying tone in emails. I’m really curious to hear what the readers say about this dilemma.  For my $.02:

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Should You Friend Your Boss On Facebook?

friend-your-bossShould you friend your boss on Facebook or other social media sites? What about colleagues? What do you do when your superior sends you a request?  We haven’t talked about Facebook and bosses for a long time, so I thought we’d revisit. While there are still a ton of amusing stories of people getting fired when their boss saw stupid stuff on Facebook (Buzzfeed, HappyPlace), a recentish (2014) study says that adding your boss to your social networks can have advantages (Time).

For my $.02, I agree with most of the experts: privacy controls are HUGE here. I keep a variety of different friend lists anyway — one very small one for my BFFs, a general one for my friends, one for parent-friends (so I don’t annoy my single/childless friends with a bunch of baby questions), and one for Brooklyn friends (so I don’t annoy friends elsewhere if I see a good deal somewhere local).  To be honest, I’d probably keep my boss off all of them but the general one for my friends.  Personally I hate that FB makes them so confusing — so I dug up some recent articles for further reading. [Read more…]

How to Interview in a Snowstorm

snowstorm-interviewWhat should you do if you have an interview — in a snowstorm?  Reader A wonders:

Can you do a post on what to wear to an interview during a snow storm?

I have a few interviews set for this week, but with the approaching east coast storm, I don’t want to walk into an office with my winter coat, scarf, hat, laptop, etc. plus a huge bag just for snow shoes (not to mention awkwardly changing into heels nearby or in the lobby).

Do you recommend just bringing an extra bag to change shoes or do you have another trick or solution?

We’ve talked about general interview tips, as well as how to look professional in cold weather as well as a New York winter, but not this particular situation.  Note that “professionalism” includes your own judgment about how to dress appropriately for the weather, so I wouldn’t worry about wearing “normal” interview attire TOO much — if you have to leave a bag with snowboots at the hiring office (or bring it with you to the interview), it isn’t the end of the world.  That said, I did come up with a few tips for you:

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How to Style Long Hair for Job Interviews

long-hair-interviewWhat’s the best way to style your long hair for a job interview if you’re a woman in your early 20s? Could wearing it down make you look too young? Reader D wonders:

How should a 20-year-old style her long, straight hair for the interview process for a management consulting job? Is wearing it down and straight too young/collegiate? Is styling it with a curling iron too beauty-pageant/date-y? Just how conservative is the corporate culture of the big three consulting firms? Must hair be pulled back? Interview wardrobe all taken care of, and nails are neat and well-groomed, but what about long hair?

We’ve frequently discussed workplace hair, from whether long hair makes you look young, to whether ponytails at the office are acceptable, to what easy, maintainable hair looks like, to work-appropriate up-dos. We’ve also talked about what your hair says about you at work.

For this post I was going to find a bunch of YouTube tutorials and pictures of women with interview-appropriate updos, half-updos, and long hair. But… here’s the thing: so many of those look totally pageant-y, and on a young woman it’s going to look even more like you’re playing dress up. So here’s my answer:  for an interview, your hair should be neat, recently trimmed, and not something you play with. Ultimately, the hairstyle should be forgettable. I mean that in two ways: first, it should be forgettable for you —  once you do your hair and leave your house, you should be able to forget your hair and focus 100% on the interview(s). No touching, no smoothing, no combing — no thoughts of “ow, these bobbypins are sucking my will to live and when.can.I.get.them.out.please.God.is.it.now.” (Ahem. Personally I hate bobbypins.) Secondly, though, your hair should really be forgettable for your interviewer as well, because you want them to notice your resume and your qualifications and your smarts — not your hair. [Read more…]