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assertive woman

Is being assertive at work harmful for your career?

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Here’s another drawback of being a powerful female professional in the workplace.

A new study by New York Times bestselling authors, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield found that women are more likely to be perceived as incompetent when they are assertive in the workplace.

Analysing more than 11,000 participants, the study concluded that women’s perceived competency drops by 35% when they are assertive in the workplace.

At the same time, her perceived worth drops by US$15,088 – significantly less than men.

“This is the hardest kind of sexism to address because it’s not overt, it’s covert. Few of us are aware that we hold this double standard,” said Grenny in a video about the study.

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So, what can a woman do to overcome this unfair judgement that even the judges are unaware they’re making?

They also found that by simply adding a statement to explain intent before the the content, a woman can dramatically improve the way people perceive her, reducing her negative perception by 27%.

The catch is, “it doesn’t just work for women, it works for dudes too,” said Grenny.

Their experiment showed that, regardless of gender, adding a statement to explain intent, before diving into content dramatically reduces negative judgments.

Summing up the study, Maxfield said, “The unfortunate truth is, that women are judged more harshly than men when they’re forceful.”

Grenny added that, regardless of gender, everyone is judged more harshly when they speak forcefully.

A piece of advice both Grenny and Maxfield have is: “Next time you have something tough to say, don’t hold your tongue and don’t sugarcoat your feelings. Instead, explain your intent so your audience will understand why you’re being so forceful.”

women in workplace infographic

Image: Shutterstock



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