Why are people shy about advocating on their own behalf?

In a nutshell, many women have a fear of being disliked. We don’t want to come off as braggarts or as egotistical. I know this as fact, not because of what’s published, but because it’s a question and activity I have conducted with thousands of women across the globe in the past 6 years. It doesn’t matter if you are a woman in Bengaluru, India or a woman in London or in Tampa, Florida- it’s a global sentiment expressed in every single one of my leadership programs, period. This anxiety can result in career-impacting, long-term disadvantages in the workplace for us.

Universally, we expect men to talk about themselves. For women, we must get more comfortable doing the same thing and owning our abilities in a more public way, so others concretely know our strengths, value-add, and what excites us about our work and in life.

Research has shown that women give up, on average, $5,000 per year compared to men because they are afraid to negotiate. That can be in hard dollars or things that have a monetary equivalent, such as asking for additional development training like having a conference paid for by our employer so we can bring back new industry knowledge and trends or leadership practices, which when applied could be pivotal in creating growth opportunity, including promotions. I know this to be true for myself as well as program participants who have shared this with me. Let’s look at
another great example from pop culture.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence has shone a spotlight on this very issue “being disliked”. In an op-ed for Lenny in 2015, she explained that she had not negotiated for a higher salary for the movie “American Hustle” due to her own fear of appearing difficult to studio executives, and she takes the onus of that mistake.

She later learned that her male co-stars had earned substantially more money than she had for that very movie. Even more shocking; prior to “American Hustle” she had been nominated for an Oscar and then two years later won for “Silver Linings Playbook” the year prior to the release of “American Hustle”. It’s not like she hadn’t earned that higher box-office take by showing off her award-winning ability leading up to “American Hustle”.

Oscar winner Lawrence vowed never to make that mistake again. She told 60 Minutes in 2018: “I feel I know my worth, and I feel like I work to keep it that way.” Lawrence summarized the lesson perfectly. Too many women allow the fear of being disliked to inhibit their careers and stunt growth.
As I address in my Lead with Confidence workshop, self-promotion is about celebrating your successes. It’s about acknowledging your own capabilities and serving as an inspiration to others. By not holding back, you’ll be seen as a more confident leader.

Where are we strong in “bragging”? When it comes to bragging on others. In fact, here are the beautiful chain-of-events you can impact by sharing your successes with your focus being on “others” if this is the mindset shift that helps:

  1. Highlighting your own successes communicates the full picture of results you’re driving.
  2. This sharing also benefits upper management, who then becomes aware of your skills and achievements.
  3. Upper management, as business leaders, is then better able to make informed business decisions.
  4. In turn, you’ll better set yourself up for job roles that are more aligned with your interests and passions.
  5. Because of the latter, it will not only benefit your career trajectory but also your employer who retains a happier you.
  6. A happier, more satisfied you drive your engagement and your team’s.
  7. Strong engagement drives profit.

Just by sharing your successes you impact retention and bottom-line results. Now, that’s something to brag about.

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