Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office
Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage their Careers
by Lois P. Frankel
Hachette Book Group
NY, 2014, revised and updated, ISBN 9781555546046, $18 US sc
Lois Frankel, a specialist in the field of leadership development for women, has revised and republished Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, because of a clear need.She added the word “Still” to the title, because, since the 1976 edition was published, progress for women has been “relatively flat”. As a result of the economic crisis of 2008, the work place has become “increasingly competitive”. There is still a wage gap, and although some women have broken the glass ceiling, there is a “glass treehouse” where senior executives and directors reside, into which women rarely rise.
“The corner office”, says Frankel, is just a metaphor for achieving the career success you want. To do so, a woman must overcome the “nice girl syndrome” – socialization in being polite, soft-spoken, compliant and relationship-oriented.
“Nice is necessary for success, but simply not sufficient,” she writes. Although the nice girl may want to become more assertive, “other people want to maintain the status quo because it works for them. Winning women look at resistance as a necessary part of building relationships.”
While a book of “do’s” rather than “don’ts” might have been more positive, Frankel draws readers in with her warm tone, entertaining writing style and assurances that no one makes all of the 133 errors she identifies. The book contains some good general advice for women in or out of the work force; for instance, her admonition to be discriminating about helping others, and not letting people waste our time. She points out that women should not be modest or use minimizing words when congratulated for an achievement.
“When someone compliments you,” writes Frankel, “don’t say, ‘Oh, it was nothing’, say a simple thank you.” And, never apologize unnecessarily. She advises women to surround themselves with “Plexiglas shields”; in other words, thick skins which jealous sniping cannot penetrate.
Some of her “don’ts” should be common sense, like “Don’t air your feelings in online public forums”, but probably need to be spelled out. Frankel also advices us not do to do anything that makes us look “minor league.” To illustrate the rule, “Don’t pinch pennies for the company”, she tells of a woman flying from LA to JFK airport who got in too late to take a train to her suburban home. She racked her brains to find a way home in the most economical way, even considering asking her husband to pick her up at 2 a.m.
“A man,” writes Frankel, “wouldn’t hesitate to call a car company to take a cab at that hour, regardless of the expense.”
Reading through the book, it occurred to me that the 133 mistakes Frankel identified could be reduced in number with some grouping and merging. Mistake No. 74, on avoiding stereotypical roles, is very much like Mistake No. 119: “Taking Notes, Getting Coffee and Making Copies”, and akin to both of these is Number 37: “Feeding Others”.
“We don’t ascribe a sense of impact or import to people who feed others,” she writes. Eschewing the housewife role in the workplace has always seemed wise to me, I have heard of one exception to the maxim. Someone passed over for promotion in a hospital x-ray department attributed her competitor’s success to bringing home-baked goodies for her co-workers. Perhaps in the “caring professions” the rules of the playing field emphasize nurturing. It should be noted that, although “the corner office” is just a metaphor, Frankel’s focus is on business, not on the helping professions which employ so many women.
In general, Frankel’s wide ranging advice on everything from pregnancy to idea-theft is well-worthwhile. In an effort to disseminate her thoughts, I will donate my copy of Nice Girls Still don’t Get the Corner Office to my public library.
Ruth Latta’s most recent novel is The Songcatcher and Me (ISBN 978-1-927481-36-3, firstname.lastname@example.org)