Work Advice for Women That I Have Blatantly Ignored

Vanessa Torre

Perhaps we need fewer people telling us what to do. by Christina Morillo via Pexels

Almost two decades years ago, a woman I worked for gave me a book that she was sure would change how I saw myself as a fledgling businesswoman. I was 28 years old and already in my first management position for a reputable company.

The book was Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. I gave it a good reading over, highlighting what I thought was important and necessary. I took to heart what I thought I should and then that book sat on my professional bookshelf until I moved offices a couple of years ago.

As I boxed everything up, I looked through it, pausing on what I once noted as important. Some of it still held water. No, I am not going to take notes for you, male counterpart. Take your own. Some advice did not age well.

Over the span of the next 17 years after reading that book, and countless articles or seminar materials, I realized women’s advice is often far more controlling than it is helpful. Much of it is designed to completely remove any sense of self. I’m not a fan of that.

I’ve had a very successful career managing very high profile clients, serving on international boards, and becoming highly respected in my industry. I certainly didn’t do all of this listening to crap advice.

Never let them see you sweat/cry/have emotions

I am a human being. I sweat. I cry. I have emotions. This does not change depending on whether or not I am the privacy of my own home.

Women are led to believe that any sign of emotion is going to reinforce someone’s idea that we are the weaker sex. Emotions do not equate to weakness.

I understand this pressure to be emotionless is twice as strong for men as stoicism is to be praised while the vulnerability is to be shunned.

Expecting women to follow suit with this idea means to push women to be more masculine. Of course, not too masculine. That’s bad.

Denying the ability to show emotions out of fear that we may be seen as, I don’t know, human, is nothing more than control and fear.

Expressing our emotions, allowing others to see us in a vulnerable state, allows for us to be appreciated as a human outside of being a work machine. This has been a weeding out process for me. If I am in a situation, personally or professionally, where I feel I have to function as an emotionless robot, that is not a place I wish to stay. I will move on.

Never bring food or coffee.

If we’re in a meeting and we’re getting ourselves something, we should never, ever ask if anyone needs anything while we are up. This goes two-fold in asking men. It relegates us to a backseat servant position. I think that’s bullshit.

There is subservience and then there is common courtesy. These are two very different things.

I once had a meeting with a committee that was comprised of almost entirely of men. I was getting up for coffee and asked both men on either side of me if they wanted a coffee. These were men I genuinely adored and with whom I had a fantastic working relationship.

I work exceptionally hard to instill faith in other people that I am smart and capable enough to handle any part of my job well. I do this by consistently working hard and demonstrating my skills. Neither of those men would or did think less of me for doing them a kindness because I already had their admiration and respect. My work spoke for itself.

Don’t ask for too much

My current company is a pretty equal mix of men and women. A few years ago I noticed something interesting. Men seemed to ignore the idea that you should stay in your job for at least two years before asking for a promotion. Women seemed to fall in line with it.

When some jobs shifted, male coworkers were moved into positions, abandoning their current ones after about 18 months. Women who took transfers or promotions had been in their current positions for years.

Women are training not to ask for what they want. Forget the idea of expecting what they deserve. Ask for more. Expect more. Demand more. We need to be rid of the fear that we’ll be seen as aggressive or pushy. Do it anyway.

Never talk about your personal life

Giving this advice is assuming that women have no idea where appropriate lines get drawn. Now, I have been in the company of female co-workers who blew the concept of boundaries right out fo the water. One lady was dating a lot and would come in on Monday morning and give a recap of her dates in painful detail. Not good.

The connection that is most often made about our personal lives is that if we are single we should not make that known lest we have to endure advances from male co-workers who see us as a potential date.

This is the workplace version of telling high school girls that they can’t wear spaghetti strap shirts because boys can’t seem to control themselves.

No. It doesn’t work that way. As I woman I have learned exactly how to fend off an advance, how to establish boundaries, and what to do should those boundaries be ignored.

It’s dangerous to say no.

I worked for a large corporation as an executive. I had a boss who had little to no skills in dealing with women, let alone strong ones. There was a major project that was assigned to my male counterpart and he was not moving the project along.

After months of struggle, my boss asked me if I wanted to take it over. He praised by background and knowledge and said he thought I could really go somewhere with it.

I was excited. I felt recognized. I worked furiously to get that project on its feet after it spent months struggling underwater.

When I showed my boss all of the ideas I had and progress I had made he said to me, “See? This is why I like to hire middle-aged women. They really know how to get things done!”

That was not a compliment. I realized he didn’t ask me to take over the project because he really thought I could kill it. He asked me because he knew I wouldn’t say no. He needed it done. I was the path of least resistance.

Women need to set their own rules and live by them. This goes for our personal lives and it should certainly go for our professional lives. We are incredibly smart, creative, empathetic, and hard-working creatures. Getting to celebrate and embrace these qualities while succeeding makes the work worth it. It leads to fulfillment and joy in what we do. Far be it from anyone to rob us of that.

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Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, she won’t stop taking pictures of her drinks. IG: vanessaltorre Twitter: @vanessaltorre

Phoenix, AZ

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