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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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…]

Over-the-Knee Boots at the Office?

otk boots for workWhile doing our round-up of knee-high boots, I was struck by how things have changed in such a short time — when I first started this blog, knee-high boots were still pretty scandalous, and over-the-knee boots (or OTK boots) were completely, totally risqué.  Cut to today, and they’re EVERYWHERE — flat versions, high-heeled versions, on most best seller lists, with rave reviews from everyone from 20-somethings to 60-somethings.  I know Jean at ExtraPetite has talked about wearing her 5050s for the commute, but I thought it might be interesting to have a poll: are over the knee boots so omnipresent that you can wear them to work? (Pictured: Screenshot of the Stuart Weitzman 5050 from Zappos, where they’re $635; they’re also at Nordstrom for the same. Here are a few under-$200 alternatives.)

As always, you have to know the specifics of YOUR office.  But because a poll can be fun, I thought we’d have this in two flavors: one poll for folks working in conservative offices, and one folks for the women in business casual offices.  Just for ease of discussion, let’s define a “conservative office” as one where, on any given day, 30% or more of your coworkers are in suits.

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Should You Buy a Holiday Gift for Your Boss?

gifts for boss 2Should you get presents for your boss? If so, what gifts should you get? Reader A wonders:

I’ve been with my company for less than a year, and it’s also my first corporate job. I work in a very small team, consisting of my two bosses and myself. As holiday season is almost upon us, I was wondering if you had any guidelines for what (if anything) is appropriate to give as a small gift for two supervisors who have been very generous with their time and expertise while I’ve been learning the ropes. Any suggestions welcome!

Hmmn. Hmmmn. We’ve talked about gifts for associates who refer you new business, hostess gifts for a dinner party at your boss’s house, and gifts for your secretary, but this is a new one, and I’m curious to hear what readers say. For my $.02: I would be verrrry careful about giving gifts to a boss because I think it’s unnecessary, and it’s easy to offend. A too-personal gift (like towels or something) may create the impression that you don’t know the difference between family and the office. On the other hand, a too-impersonal gift (a random gift that reads “this is my go-to gift when I don’t know what to get,” like a bottle of wine or a box of fruit) simultaneously smacks of “why even bother” along with “wait, does she think we were supposed to get her something?” A gift that’s too small (like a $25 gift card) is both cheap and insulting (as in, you think your boss needs a $25 gift card) — but a gift that’s too generous raises the problematic interpretation of, “she isn’t working for the money.”

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How to Organize Your Office

How to Organize Your Office | CorporetteLet’s talk about a subject near and dear to our hearts, ladies: how do you organize your office and your work (or otherwise get things done)? We’ve talked about cute office supplies, the best notebooks, planners, and office padfolios — as well as how to keep notes to CYA — but we haven’t talked about this directly.  Reader A wonders:

I would love to see more articles on the best ways to organize your work in the office, i.e., a folder with separate notes for each project or client v. one notebook for all meetings/projects, how to organize your day or to-do list, how to turn meeting notes into a to-do list, etc. I’d also love some suggestions on day planners, notebooks, and other office supplies.

Fun topic!  Personally, when I was a lawyer, I played around with having a single notebook per case, as well as having one notebook or notepad that I grabbed whenever I was heading out to take notes.  If memory serves I finally settled on a folder system — I would keep one “general” folder with all of my initial notes from prior pleadings and general strategy notes, and then I’d start a new folder for each major assignment I was tasked with (memo, research, portion of a brief, whatever).  I would keep the recent and active folders near my desk in a folder tower (where each case had its own little slot — something similar to what I had is pictured above), and then move them to a filing drawer or redweld once the case was Really Truly Over, or once the assignment got stale enough and I needed more room closest to my desk. (Oh, and I love my label maker.) [Read more…]