Have you found yourself thinking:
– If I want to be taken seriously, I have to fit in. I have to be more forceful and more assertive. I can’t really afford to be myself.
– I don’t really like being so hard, so tough and distant, and directing people the way I do.
– Sometimes I think my family would never recognize me if they saw me at work.
When you’ve been in the workforce for, say, a decade, during which time you have felt ignored, dismissed and tested, your behavior does start to change. Many women say, “You become more assertive and forceful.”
But there’s a price to pay for this behavior. You may get respect, but neither women nor men will be comfortable working with you. You may also be labeled as the “Dragon Lady” or worse. Most women who tell me about this phenomenon didn’t know what was happening until it was too late. “All I was trying to do was get respect,” they say. But because every aspect of their femininity seems like a drain on their credibility, many women slowly take on a new professional persona. It’s a shock when they find out what happened. “I worked so hard on just being a straight, no-nonsense worker, and now I get called a barracuda,” one very senior woman told me.
The Spiral Downward
The consequences of this choice are bad. Maybe it seems to work, but in reality, when we act like men it just leaves men more confused. They feel blamed, and act more carefully than ever. And of course, when men pull back and act carefully, that ends up making us feel as though we have to be Dragon Ladies in order to get respect!
We have to see the cost associated with this kind of behavior— to ourselves and everyone else. Trying to influence, rather than dominate people, is a much better way to earn respect.
The good news is that we can do something different.
If you want to learn how to thrive in a masculine environment without changing who you are, then download my free Magnetic Influence Litmus Test where I share 4 simple questions you can ask yourself to predict your ability to influence, and how to gain that influence.