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If I Work Hard And Do Well, I Will Be Recognized And Promoted - Not

Dec 17, 2007
An executive was quoted in Working Woman Magazine "Women are the best bargains around... They think if they work harder, they'll be recognized." Do we really want to be known as "the best bargains around?" While we faithfully execute the job at hand, people around us are promoted to higher-paying positions. I believe there are several factors which contribute to this misconception. Women are more likely to value modesty, and we are cautious not to over-state our abilities. We prefer to have our work speak for itself, rather than pointing out our accomplishments to anyone. Meanwhile, our savvy colleagues have learned to speak up for themselves, perhaps even take credit for others' efforts, and ask for (sometimes demand) more responsibility and pay. Everyone is so busy doing their own job, they don't recognize our achievements the way we think they will. We are left with the jobs we have. Perhaps we decide that someone else was more "qualified." Perhaps we decide that things were done unfairly this time, but that things will change. We hold tight to our fantasy and to our current position with its corresponding pay.

Because we may define competency differently than men (see; Women in Those High Paying Positions Have Something I Don't Have, by Patricia Smith) we may tend to over-emphasize our mistakes, and under-emphasize our achievements. We are convinced that anyone who has performed less than 100% perfectly, accurately, completely, 100% of the time is not yet ready for another assignment. We stay in the same position longer. We convince ourselves that we will speak up and speak out as soon as we have earned that right. We watch others around us move into high-paying positions and wonder why such incomplete, shoddy work is rewarded.

We are more likely to want to perfect things where we are, before we will consider a promotion. "I'm not ready to move on, I haven't done everything I want to with this department." What's the difference how we leave things? As soon as we're gone, things will change, no matter what we have accomplished. We need to point out our accomplishments and our ability to learn and expand. We need to move on, leaving unfinished work behind.

Women are more likely to leave our jobs and careers in the hands of others. We let someone else decide what we can do and can't do, or when we are ready to move on. They're waiting for us to speak up. They decide we are happy where we are. We are seen as "patient and cooperative." While these may be nice attributes to have, they usually do nothing to increase our incomes. We need to take charge of our own careers and lives. Things won't turn out exactly as we plan, but it is a great improvement over leaving it up to others.

The way we work causes us to appear unqualified for other kinds of positions. Women are more likely to be task-oriented, rather than results-oriented. We pride ourselves on our ability to get a lot done and check off long lists of duties. We are more often comfortable taking orders, preferring to understand exactly how we are expected to perform a job. We want to be measured on how hard we work, what long hours we put in, and how accurate our work is.

The jobs in American business which pay more are much more likely to be results-oriented. They require the individual to focus on the end result; profit, profit margin, expense reduction. Tasks often have to be abbreviated, delegated, or abandoned, if they don't directly contribute to the end result. In fact, the higher paid the position, the more likely that the goal will be defined, but the job will not. "Increase new business by $400,000, reduce the reject rate to .03%, increase productivity by 20%," are goals which might define a position. The process for achieving these goals is as least partly undefined and must be authored by the person doing the job. To do the jobs which pay more, women must learn to live with these job descriptions. We must learn to work toward accomplishing goals. Many, many women have learned to live with these undefined positions, so can we.

Awareness is the first step. Small adjustments can make a big difference. This is a process, we don't have to be perfect at the game of business, no one is. We just have to be better.
About the Author
Patricia Smith is a businesswoman, speaker, and the Author of Each of Us: How Every Woman Can Earn More Money in Corporate America. http://www.eachofus.com
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