We’re not all Sheryl Sandbergs


If you’ve been reading about women in the workplace recently, you’ve undoubtedly heard a swarm of people advising women to be bolder, louder and to raise their hands more often. Sheryl Sandberg has become a household name known for her call to action, encouraging women to “Lean In” to their careers rather than sit back.

The reaction to Sandberg’s mantra has been overwhelming. Countless women have responded with positive experiences of how they were inspired to ask for what they wanted in the workplace (e.g. better work-life balance, a promotion, etc) – and surprisingly got it. It makes one think that if we were just a little more assertive and actually asked for what we wanted, we could get it too!

But what happens when you gather the courage to speak up at work, to confront a difficult situation– but fail miserably? What happens when you put on your power suit and try to take charge, but no one listens or even worse, it costs you your job? What do we do then?

This question was raised at a conference organized by Impact Leadership 21 in New York City and to my surprise, many women said they had faced similar situations in which they refused to keep quiet, but didn’t get the reaction or result they had hoped for.

If you’ve ever felt in this situation, here are some recommendations we discussed that may be helpful to keep in mind.


1. Stay calm & be realistic
Take a deep breath, step back and assess what’s happened. Changing an office procedure or promoting an employee may not be possible for reasons you don’t yet know about. Try to understand where your boss may be coming from and the office politics behind it. See if your suggestion can realistically fit within the existing structure.

2. Set boundaries
If you’re dealing with an unmanageable workload, set boundaries for yourself and for your colleagues to avoid getting into an uncomfortable situation. Make sure you have a solid understanding of the tasks required from you and the amount of time you’ll need to complete each assignment. This will help you explain to others what’s on your plate and what you can feasibly accomplish, which can help avoid stress and help control the workload.

3. Wait before hitting send
If you feel a strong reaction to a certain situation, wait before responding right away. The tone of emails can easily be misconstrued, especially if you’re working in a multicultural or multilingual team. The extra risk of sending “flame mail” is that it stays on record and can easily be shared with others. If you’re angry while writing, ask someone else to read it and see how they would interpret the message.

4. Criticism can be wrong
Remember that just because someone criticizes you doesn’t mean they’re right. If someone rejects or laughs at your idea, listen to what they have to say and take the time to digest their points. But if you still disagree, follow your gut and don’t back down! Maybe you just need to speak with someone else or present your point in a different manner.

5. Keep your options open
If all your efforts prove futile and you’re unhappy in your job, keep your options open and look for something else. You may be much happier in a new environment.

Article by Jennifer Mackie, Leadarise Cofounder

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Laura Jones says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, thank you!

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