Before I talk about the ways in which women sabotage themselves at work. I want to make it clear that there are multiple reasons why women are held back in their career. Their own mindset is only one of them.
It’s also true that of all the clients I have worked with across the world, I’ve yet to find one who doesn’t self-sabotage in some way.
Your personal challenges may be subtle or more substantial but they will be having an impact on your career success.
From my work with clients and the research that I’ve done. I have identified the 3 most common ways in which women sabotage their career potential.
Do you resonate with any of them?
Striving for perfection – When we strive for perfection we are setting ourselves up to fail and because failure is one of our biggest fears, it can lead to procrastination. Whether it’s delivering a report to a perfect level or not speaking up because you aren’t 100% sure you’re right. Perfection is a mirage so let it go.
My tip is: to strive instead for excellence, which means outstanding or very good and is far more realistic than perfection
Fear of being a bragger – if you expect to be recognised for your hard work and delivery alone I’m afraid it’s going to be very unlikely. These days you also need to demonstrate confidence, impact and visibility as well. That means sharing your successes both internally with your seniors and peers and also externally in the industry.
My tip is: find an authentic and comfortable way to talk about your successes. This could be sharing your learning from a success collaboratively with colleagues and your boss. Or sharing team wins and your role in it on social media.
Not taking a risk – Research has shown that women are more risk-averse than men. We need to be nearly 100% sure before we decide to take a risk. Whether it’s the decision to apply for a promotion or volunteer for a project, don’t let your self-doubts mean you miss out on opportunities.
My tip is: when your mind is spinning with self-doubts and indecision, that isn’t the time to make a decision. Instead, wait until your mind is clear and calm and listen to your own intuition/wisdom/wellbeing and you’ll know what to do.
I have helped hundreds of women overcome the sabotage habits that hold them back and I’d love to share some strategies with you.
You can book a free Career Breakthrough call with me where we’ll identify 3 steps you can make that will have a huge impact on your career. You can go straight to my online calendar at www.speakwithjo.com and book your call now.
It may be controversial to say this, but I really believe, that right now you have all the self-belief you’ll ever need.
Self-belief is described as having confidence in your own abilities and judgement. So you’re probably thinking, how can she say I have all the self-belief I ever need when I still doubt myself at work, as a parent or in relationships?
The reason I believe this is because we’re all born with the same levels of self-belief; you never see a baby needing therapy do you?
Then as we go through life and experience negative situations we get caught up in unhelpful thinking that hides our natural self-belief.
Rather than trying to boost your self-belief with affirmations or positive thinking, I suggest we just need to get back in touch with that hidden confidence and self-worth.
What can I do when I doubt myself?
Having self-doubts and questioning yourself is completely normal and all of us feel it sometimes. Perhaps you recognise yourself in some of these statements?:
Can I really do this?
What will people say if I do or don’t do this?
Other people are better/cleverer/ thinner than me
I don’t want to start it if I’m going to fail
People like me don’t get success
If you hear your inner critical voice saying similar negative things or questioning your abilities then remember:
The words you’re hearing and the feelings they give you are just thoughts. They’re very unlikely to be true and you don’t have to engage with them or act on them.
You aren’t broken you don’t need to be fixed
The voice you hear isn’t your true voice, they’re just thoughts you can’t control, so don’t give them power
Your inner critical voice doesn’t define you and shouldn’t be used to label you such as; I’m shy, I’m stupid or I’m not good enough
As we get less caught up in our unhelpful thinking, we get more in touch with our self-belief and start to be braver, more resilient and to accept ourselves as we truly are. Then you’ll realise you’ve got all the self-belief you’ll ever need.
That’s a mindset I’d love to have, what about you?
If you’d like to find out how you can get back in touch with your self-belief and confidence then you can book a free call with me. We’ll discuss your current situation, what you’d like to achieve and I’ll give you some suggestions on how to move forward.
I work with both career women and entrepreneurs and almost all of them tell me they have a fear of failure.
The source of the fear does vary such as “I might appear stupid” or “I’m not good enough”. But for both groups of women, the feeling can be paralysing and cause procrastination.
That can then lead to us playing small, not moving out of our comfort zones and not taking up new opportunities.
If you’d like to conquer your fear of failure then I have 4 proven secrets to share with you.
Stop running films in your head.
This type of thinking is known as ‘what if’ thinking. When we play films in our mind about the possible catastrophes that could happen. The mind doesn’t distinguish between reality and our thinking.
The mind doesn’t distinguish between reality and our thinking. Instead, decide if there is anything you can do to prevent the worst possibilities. If not then let go of the film because it’s out of your control. Distract yourself or focus on what are the positives that could happen.
Surprisingly the students asked to be positive about the week had less energy and achieved less during the week than the control group.
This demonstrates that just thinking positively isn’t enough to achieve the outcomes we want. Research has shown that the best outcomes are created when we balance positive thinking with visualising the future obstacles and struggles we will encounter.
Have a go at visualising a situation in which you are afraid of failure. Imagine yourself now hitting an obstacle, allow yourself to feel the fear, and then see yourself carrying on anyway. Finally think about how you could overcome these obstacles, then see yourself succeeding despite these obstacles.
Separate Yourself From The Failure
When you’ve failed in the past, did you make it about you or the situation? It’s important to take responsibility for our actions, but that doesn’t mean we are the failure. It’s much healthier if you can separate you and your beliefs about yourself from what actually happened.
For example, making a mistake in a project doesn’t mean you’re stupid or not good enough. It just means you made a mistake and can learn from the mistake next time.
Feel The Fear (And Do It AnyWay!)
Even if you use the 2 secrets above you may still have the feeling of fear and because we don’t like to feel uncomfortable it can stop us moving forward.
Rather than doing something to get rid of the feeling, try sitting quietly with the sensations and deep breathing. Or imagine you’re sitting outside yourself observing what you’re doing. Then you’ll find the feeling dissipates by itself and the bodies natural calm returns.
Having realised that the fear is transitory you’ll feel more confident to take action next time.
Sunday evening dread is that feeling that pulls you down after a relaxing or exhilarating weekend.
You’ve had about 49 hours since leaving work at 5 pm on Friday. As the countdown to Monday morning begins do you get a sinking sensation in your stomach at the pending new work week?
Perhaps you’ve got to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone at work or complete an overdue project. Maybe it’s just the repetitive predictability of the week ahead that’s affecting you.
Whatever it is, you’re not on your own. In a survey by Monster.com 75% of those taking part 78% said they’d experienced these ‘Sunday Night Blues’ and 47% said they had them really badly and regularly.
Is there anything I can do about Sunday evening dread?
Yes, there definitely is. Remember that it’s not the actual job or situation that’s making you feel anxious, because you’re not actually there. It’s the thoughts you’re having about it that are creating the feelings.
So those thoughts aren’t coming from the outside in but from the inside out. Knowing that it’s just thoughts you’re having in your mind that are creating your discomfort and that those thoughts will pass can dilute their power. When new thinking comes up, those feelings disappear.
If you prefer a more practical approach, try these:
Plan something enjoyable for the week. This can counter balance the negative feelings you’re having and give you something else to focus on
Set boundaries around working or answering emails during the weekend. This allows you to recharge properly to face the week ahead
Do something relaxing and inspiring. Some time in the outdoors can be relaxing and reading or listening to music inspiring.
Plan ahead. Make some time every Friday afternoon to plan for the next week so you are ready to go on Monday morning
I hope that helps to dissolve some of those stressful feelings and as always if you’d like to talk about your career options or confidence challenges you can book a call on my online calendar at www.speakwithjo.com
What do I mean by ‘nice’ girl conditioning? Well, it’s the conditioning we get as children from our parental upbringing, schooling and societies stereotypes.
Do you remember when you were small being told to be a good girl, to be polite, put others first and not disagree or upset people?
Good manners are important and understandable but add to that the focus on girls at school to be well behaved, achieve good results and fit in. Plus societies stereotyping of women’s soft and nurturing behaviours. It’s not surprising we find it uncomfortable to speak up for our opinions and needs.
I’m generalising, you may have had a very different experience but I certainly resonate with this focus on pleasing others.
In a lot of situations, these behaviours are our strengths – friendships, nurturing a family, building relationships at work. However, in a lot of workplace cultures, they can be a ball and chain that holds you back.
When you’re assertively asking for support or you’re disagreeing with a seniors opinion, having ‘nice’ girl conditioning can make you uncomfortable and even prevent you from speaking up.
If you want to tell a friend they’ve upset you or you’d like to do something different together, again ‘nice’ girl conditioning can hold you back.
How Do I Change My ‘Nice’ Girl Conditioning?
Understanding where you’ve picked up these behavioural beliefs from is a start. Then clarifying exactly what the beliefs are. Is it that you should put others first or that you shouldn’t talk about your achievements. Or that you should respect your elders and betters?
Once you know your personal rules you can either challenge them, ignore them or put in place boundaries for when you’re happy to break them.
If you heard your colleagues whispering would you assume it’s about you? When your boss is in a bad mood do you worry it’s something you’ve done wrong? Then I’m sure you’re aware that you’re taking things personally .
One of the reasons we do this is because understandably, we are often at the centre of our world.
We see experiences, situations and others from our own perspective. We look at the world through the googles of our own thinking at that moment.
So it’s not surprising that we get hurt by others behaviours or angry when things don’t go our way. When people behave towards us with a lack of respect as we perceive it, then we feel undervalued and unworthy. Ask yourself the question though, is it really about me?
If you imagine standing next to a colleague whilst you get your coffee and making small talk, but you’re getting very little response or eye contact. Would you feel hurt and rejected at their rudeness or would you just think they’re having a bad day?
What if a client calls you and is aggressive and demanding, would you feel offended and disrespected or would you be curious about what was going on in their world?
Sometimes it is something we’ve done that upsets someone else. Perhaps we’ve made a mistake and they are angry and annoyed. Then it must be personal, or is it really? Is the magnitude of their reaction all down to what we did? Actually, it says more about their personal thinking, experiences and current situation.
How do you stop immediately taking things personally?
Remember that everyone is doing the best they can with the thinking and resources they have. If someone is rude or disrespectful it usually means they’re in emotional pain.
Lose your expectations. This doesn’t mean lowering your standards but you will be disappointed if you expect people to behave in the way you think they should
To other people, you’re a small pieceofa much bigger jigsaw. You might never get to see the picture on the jigsaw but you can be sure it’s not centred around you.
Value yourself. Rather than focusing on what other people think of you spend your energy on taking care of you with self-compassion and speaking up for your thoughts and wants
If you’d like to have a chat about taking things personally or other confidence challenges, then you can book a free call with me on my online calendar at www.speakwithjo.com
Sophie had been taught by her parents, teachers and society to be a ‘nice girl’. To be polite, treat others well and avoid upsetting anyone. As a result, she received lots of positive feedback from those she was kind to.
But Sophie’s self-worth became linked to those compliments and as she reached her mid-30s she realised that her good nature was being taken advantage of.
Colleagues would dump work on her, her family expected her to listen to all their problems and she was stuck in a relationship where she felt unappreciated.
It was at this point that Sophie started to work with me and we discussed her need to set personal boundaries. To value herself in a way that didn’t rely on other people’s feelings and behaviours towards her.
You can set personal boundaries around any area of your life. They could be about your thoughts and feelings, your physical space, your friends and social life and your spiritual beliefs.
If you haven’t had a significant adult who role modelled personal boundaries, setting them can feel uncomfortable.
So, I’ve listed 3 ways you can start to discover yours:
Think about the different types of boundaries I’ve listed above. Try to recall situations where you’ve felt discomfort, anger, resentment or frustration with someone. This is usually because one of your limits have been crossed.
Identify the boundary that you would need to put in place to avoid these feelings again. For example; you’re not happy to ‘bad mouth’ other friends or you’re not prepared to have your parents every Xmas when your siblings don’t help. Which relationships in your life would this boundary apply to? Friends, colleagues, family, partner or strangers?
When you feel someone is about to cross your boundary, speak up assertively. There’s no point in having boundaries if you don’t respect them. Be polite but firm and rather than blaming the other person use ‘I’ statements like; I feel, I need, I don’t, I believe.
“I don’t feel it’s fair to talk about X when we don’t know her side”
“I would like us to take it in turns to have our parents at Xmas”
When you’re changing your mindset or behaviour it does take time and practice to embed. I suggest you identify one boundary at a time and challenge yourself to speak up if it gets crossed. Don’t feel guilty though, because respecting yourself is not the same as being selfish.
You’ll find that people may be surprised at your new behaviour but will respect you for having boundaries and what a boost it gives to your self-worth!
According to research, workplace bullying is four times more likely than sexual harassment at work and is an issue for both men and women.
The problem with bullying in the workplace is it’s not always easy to identify. When a colleague of mine made comments that I perceived as undermining and hurtful. I couldn’t decide if I was being oversensitive or if they really were out of order.
Another colleague’s reaction when I told her about the comments was, don’t worry we all know he’s difficult, so I tried to brush his behaviour off.
I, like lots of women, was conditioned to be nice,
not to upset others or make a scene. That is why women tend to dismiss or ignore belittling behaviour
The #metoo movement has made great changes for sexual harassment so perhaps this is the perfect time to stand up against workplace bullying as well?
Going back to my story, I was fortunate not to see this colleague every day as he was based elsewhere in the country. We did, however, have regular contact as we worked on the same project.
His intimidating behaviour and derogatory comments really knocked my confidence and I began to dread his calls and visits. My performance at work was affected and I felt anxious and demotivated.
Eventually, I had the courage to take my problem to my boss. His response really surprised me; as he said I needed to stand up to the person myself. Not what I’d been expecting or hoping he’d say!
It took me a day to build up my courage then, with my stomach churning and hands shaking I called him.
“John*, I’m really enjoying working on this project. At times though, I feel that you don’t respect my contributions and value. I find the comments you make such as;………. hurtful and unprofessional”
John was clearly shocked and the call quickly ended. In the moments afterwards I was hit by a sense of guilt, but that was soon replaced by a feeling of strength and power at having spoken up and having my voice heard.
What happened next?
I’d love to say John changed overnight and we became best friends, but in reality, our working relationship did improve and the hurtful comments dramatically reduced.
If you’re struggling with a workplace colleague I’d urge you to do something about it. If it’s upsetting you and your effectiveness at work then do tell someone, HR, your manager or a colleague.
The key thing I took away from my experience of workplace bullying is that there’s nothing more powerful than standing up for yourself and having your voice heard.
If you’d like to have a chat with me about this or other confidence issues, you can book a free Confidence Breakthrough Call at www.speakwithjo.com
Only 7% of any message we want to communicate comes from our words, so we need to make sure that we sound more confident at work.
Regardless of your role, having great communication skills only improves your ability to lead. It helps you better motivate your team, create a culture of open and honest feedback, and keep people organised and on the right track.
As someone who coaches women to make a confident impact in the workplace; communication and language are key to me. I spend a significant amount of time supporting clients to learn the most effective ways to convey messages.
I’ve noticed some of the bad habits people adopt in the workplace, and the impact that changing these habits has on both the outcomes of conversations and leaders’ credibility and confidence.
Here are three you can fix today to be a stronger leader at work:
1. Use “Don’t” Instead of “Can’t” When Turning People Down
For many people, saying “no” can be one of the most difficult skills to master—and yet the most important. How you say it is almost as crucial as saying it at all.
Most people often use can’t or don’t when turning opportunities down, but one of the two is far more successful than the other.
When people say they can’t do something, it shows limitations to their abilities. By using don’t, it expresses power in the choice.
For example, if you’re asked to take on a new responsibility that really doesn’t suit your talents or have any benefit to your career, instead of saying, “I appreciate the opportunity, but I can’t take on the extra work now,” say, “I appreciate the opportunity, but I don’t have the available time at the moment due to my other priorities.
By phrasing your response to sound more confident, you reinforce the value of both yourself and your work.
2. Stop Writing “Sorry for not replying earlier” in Emails
In 2016, journalist Marissa Miller tweeted, “Adulthood is emailing ‘sorry for the delayed response!’ back and forth until one of you dies.”
Since then, tens of thousands have liked, retweeted, and shared her post across other social media platforms. To say it resonated would be an understatement.
Why are we so eager to apologise for being a reasonable communicator? It ultimately makes people sound weak and undermines their authority.
Let’s ban the phrase. Instead of writing, “Sorry for not replying earlier” say, “Thank you for your patience.” Or include more detail such as: “Thank you for your patience while I gathered the information required to provide you with clear next steps.”
This one small change will enhance your perception as a competent, confident leader.
3. Tell People You’re “Focused” Instead of “Busy”
How often do you hear colleagues talk about their busy days?
While that’s unlikely to change, we can improve the way we describe our activities.
When people say they’re busy, it sounds like their lives are out of control and they don’t know how to manage their time.
Instead of saying you’re busy, clearly, state your priorities. That means “I’m so busy” or “Work is crazy right now” becomes “I’m travelling for an event” or “I’m focused on developing two new client proposals.”
People often don’t realize how the seemingly trivial things we say can significantly impact the way others perceive us. Making these small changes to sound more confident, will increase your capacity to effectively lead others as well as work alongside them.
If you’d like to discuss other ways to communicate in a confident and impactful way, do book a free call with me at www.speakwithjo.com
Having a difficult conversation is an issue that came up with a couple of my clients this week and got me thinking about how I deal with them.
Do I get angry and release my frustrations by shouting or do I say nothing and bottle my feelings up, suppressing them with resentment?
In all honesty, I probably do a bit of both and in some situations, I’m able to follow my own advice and be assertive.
I recognised that the way I react depends on who I want to have the conversation with and my thinking in that moment.
For example, I will tackle an issue with my husband or kids head on. But with people I don’t know as well I might avoid any confrontation and instead swallow down my feelings. That gives me the message that I don’t value myself enough to speak up. Then the hurt I’m feeling often comes out non-verbally in my body language.
Does this sound like you?
Whether it’s your boss and colleagues at work or a family member who’s upset you. It’s important to voice how you feel and be heard.
How do I approach having a difficult conversation?
Before you start the conversation ensure the initial wave of emotion has passed so you can have a calm and confident interaction.
Then check whether the environment is suitable for your conversation. A busy open-plan office with others earwigging may not be ideal.
Once you’re ready to speak use my 4 steps to avoid conflict and get the outcome you’d like:
Be curious and compassionate – start by asking questions to understand their perspective and any facts that might explain their comments or behaviour. Most people are only trying to do their best in any situation. So before you offload, check their view of things.
Acknowledge – listening to the other person is essential to show respect but isn’t enough to help them feel heard. You also need to acknowledge you’ve understood what they’ve said even if you don’t agree with them. For example;
I understand that you were giving me important feedback…
3. Self-Respect – this is the part where you get to talk about your feelings and to show respect for yourself by speaking up. Stick to ‘I’ statements rather than blaming the other person as they’re less confrontational. For example:
I understand that you were giving me important feedback, however I felt embarrassed that it was in front of others and upset as I didn’t have a chance to explain.
4. Options – you might not always need to include this when you’re having a difficult conversation, but if you do keep it positive and concise. For example;
I understand that you were giving me importnant feedback, however I felt embarrassed that it was in front of others and upset as I didn’t have a chance to explain. I’d appreciate it if in future we could discuss this seperately.
Do you have any difficult conversations coming up or have you avoided any recently?
If you’d like some advice, do tell me about your situation by replying to this email or booking a call with me at www.speakwithjo.com. I’d love to hear from you.