Why Being Sweet And Successful Is Nearly Impossible

March 7, 2019  |  
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being a woman in the workplace

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I’m going to say something that may ruffle some feathers but, ultimately if it does, it may be because most people know it to be true and just wish it weren’t. Here it is. Most women I know who are extremely successful are not exactly nice. At least not in the conventional sense of the word. They probably do, in their own ways, do things that are generous and caring. But one’s first impression of them wouldn’t be, “What a sweetheart.” Nobody’s calling these women “Hun” or “Doll.” Nobody would dare because they can just sense that they’d get daggers in response. I’m personally coming to terms with the fact that, while I like to be considered sweet in my personal life, in my professional one, I may need to put on a colder face. Every woman who has gotten anything done seems to have done that, and I’m starting to understand why. I’m not talking about being a bully. I’m just talking about advocating for myself, first and foremost. Here is why being sweet and successful is very difficult.

being a woman in the workplace

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You don’t like conflict

If you’re sweet, then you likely don’t like conflict, and you make choices based on the desire to avoid conflict more than a desire for something else—like winning. That means, for example, you’ll accept whomever your boss puts on your team for a project, even though you know that team won’t produce the best work.

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And people take advantage of that

When people know you don’t like conflict, they take advantage of it. They don’t give you the promotion you asked for. They put the least-desirable candidates on your team. They know they can expect you to not kick up a fuss about it. You know who gets the things they want? The people who kick up a fuss. Sometimes, people give them what they want just to avoid that fight.

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You think of what’s fair; not what you want

When it comes time to cut up the pie, so to speak, you always think about being fair to everyone else. You don’t ask how you get the biggest piece of the pie or the best piece of the pie. You’re always putting yourself in everyone else’s shoes. That’s nice—that’s sweet—but it’s never going to result in you getting the biggest piece.

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Your feedback has no urgency

When a coworker or employee messes up, you give very gentle feedback. You don’t want to come off as mean or unsympathetic. You’re very soft and understanding. There’s nothing scary about your feedback.

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So more mistakes happen

Sounding urgent and a little angry is surprisingly effective. And never sounding that way gives people the impression they’re allowed to mess up, over and over again, and there won’t be consequences. That’s how you wind up with a team of subpar employees or with coworkers who aren’t pulling their weight.

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You let people waste your time

You want to give everyone hope, so you listen to everyone’s pitches and ideas, even when you know they won’t be any good. You listen to the pitches of people who have no experience, just got in the game, and have already proven they aren’t doing good work yet. In that way, you waste your own precious time.

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People try to bulldoze you in negotiations

In negotiations, people will walk all over you. They will also talk all over you. They know you won’t tell them to stop interrupting you. They know you won’t shoot down their points. Meanwhile, that’s exactly what they do to you and how they get what they want.

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You let them, because you’re empathetic

You let people bulldoze you in negotiations because you’re empathetic. You think, “Well, they just want to be heard” or “They just want a piece of the pie like everyone else.” Meanwhile, they aren’t paying you that same courtesy at all.

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You hate making others uncomfortable

When you’re sweet, your main goal is to make everyone around you comfortable. You hate the idea of being a source of discomfort for others. If you aren’t comfortable making others uncomfortable, then you’ll never be bossy, pushy, or assertive.

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You get pressured into making intros

A lot of your success will depend on with whom you associate. There are people who ask you to make introductions for them or be a reference for them—people whom you know, in your gut, aren’t great at what they do. But, you want to be nice, so you make those intros and you are that reference. And then, that hurts your reputation.

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You make pity hires

You hire individuals because you feel bad for them, and not because they’re the best people for the job. It’s sweet but it does nobody any favors. If that individual has skills she needs to improve on or flaws she needs to fix to be better, she should be faced with the reality that that needs to happen. You do her and yourself a favor by giving her advice, rather than a job.

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You do too much charity on the way up

On your way to the top, you do a lot of charity. I mean this in tons of ways, like spending your free time mentoring someone rather than advancing your own career. While that is nice, your charitable spirit would be more effective if you were at the top. You get to the top by spending most of you free time on your career. Once you’re at the top, hey, you can fund an entire mentor program!

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You fear seeming egotistical

Nobody wants to come off as egotistical, but those who gain great success just accept that they must come off that way if they’re going to make strides. Nobody else will believe you’re great if you don’t say that you’re great.

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So you don’t assert yourself as a leader

You may truly be better than everyone else out there and more qualified for a position of power. But, if you can’t accept that and assert that, then you won’t be in that position of power. Remember that even leaders of our country who seem sweet—like Obama!—had to also believe they were the best to get there.

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