By Kristi Dosh
woman upset at desk You come into work 15 minutes early every day. You do everything that's asked of you (with a smile, no less), and you're a team player. So why haven't you gotten that promotion? It might be because you're female. No, the male higher-ups aren't necessarily sexist. It turns out that women are more prone than male colleagues to engage in career-sabotaging workplace behaviors. Check out these 10 little habits that may be keeping you down on the corporate ladder.
1. You take care of others first.
Your colleague leans over your cubicle wall and says, "I can't format this table. Can you look?" It might take only a few minutes, but consider how much you help coworkers each week-you're probably losing valuable time for your own tasks. Men are more likely than women to prioritize their work over others', which can make them appear more productive. While there's value in being helpful, your individual accomplishments matter more at work. Cindy Burns, the director of the National Association of Professional Women, suggests you instead tell needy colleagues, "I'd love to help you, but I can't do it during these times." Then, schedule time to assist your coworker during a break.
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2. You never say no to new projects, even when you're overloaded.
The image of the woman who can do it all-be CEO, a doting wife and a hands-on mother-has created a generation of working women who won't turn down assignments. "Women think saying no means no permanently," says Andrea Kramer, an attorney and founder of Women's Leadership and Mentoring Alliance. "For men, no means no for only a second," she adds. If your plate's already full, decline the assignment-but let your boss know when you'll be available to take on another project. Giving every task your all will pay greater dividends than a portfolio of numerous, but average, projects.
3. You couch opinions as questions.
Deep down, most women just want to be liked. So to avoid confrontation, you may turn statements into questions. The problem with that: "When you ask a question, it softens the message," says Lois Frankel, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office. Plus, you may sound unconfident, like you haven't done your homework, and make it easier for others to claim your idea as their own. The antidote? State your opinion and then follow up with a question like, "What do you think?" suggests Dr. Frankel.
4. You apologize too often.
Have a friend point out every time you say you're sorry. The number will astound you. "Women apologize for things that are out of their control, like missing a meeting because of a delayed flight," says Kramer. In this situation, men are more likely to blame the airline, whereas women wonder if they should've flown out earlier. Not only does apologizing make you look at fault when you're not but it also damages your self-esteem. Own up to mistakes that you easily could've prevented, but don't apologize for things that couldn't have been predicted.
5. You need constant affirmation.
While seeking feedback from your superiors is important, don't expect praise for every assignment. Asking too often increases your boss's workload, which makes you seem like less of an asset and more of a liability. Rest assured, silence from your manager doesn't mean you messed up or that he or she doesn't recognize the late nights you've logged to finish a project. If it's the first time you've tackled that type of assignment, feel free to find out how you did, but do so in a productive way. "Ask specific questions about your work," says Kramer. "Don't just ask if he or she liked it."
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6. Your self-evaluation is poorly crafted.
Women's self-evaluations are so different from men's that Kramer could distinguish them without looking at names when she was on her law firm's compensation committee-and she was never wrong. The biggest difference: Women's are full of "we" statements and men's are full of "I" ones. Not sure when to tout your own success versus your team's? If you're discussing work you did as part of a group, specifically state your role in the final product. When it comes to raises and promotions, you're evaluated as an individual, not a team.
7. You share too much personal information.
There's nothing wrong with letting a coworker know you're getting divorced when she asks about your husband, but don't tell her every excruciating detail. If it gets back to your boss, he or she may fear you're too emotionally fragile or busy with your personal life to take on new assignments. Dr. Frankel also says, "People don't want to feel responsible for you." Colleagues who aren't your friends outside of work may steer clear of you or use the information against you down the road. So sure, decorate your desk with a framed picture of your family, but avoid sharing in-depth personal stories with your colleagues.
8. You gossip.
If a coworker has done something wrong that should be reported to management, then report it to management, not your lunch table. Burns warns that you risk implicating yourself in the ordeal by talking about it with others. "By the time the story gets passed to a third, fourth or fifth person, it's not what you originally said," she explains. Besides, engaging in office gossip can make you seem untrustworthy to both colleagues and superiors. And that could rule you out for assignments which require discretion.
9. You speak at a higher-than-normal pitch.
Women often raise the pitch of their voice in intimidating situations, like meeting a new client or presenting during a group meeting. Dr. Frankel says it makes you sound younger and affects your body language too. "When I make my voice go up, my eyes squint, my head tilts and I get a coy smile on my face," she explains. Sadly, those changes can make others you view you as "too nice"-and make them wonder if you can handle a tough situation.
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10. You sit too casually.
Lots of women, from successful attorneys to actresses on late-night talk shows, sit with one foot tucked underneath their bodies. While no one is likely to walk past your desk and think, "She looks like a kid," your seated position may make you seem less professional. And your superiors may worry you're too laid-back to participate in serious settings, like a meeting with a stodgy prospective client. So put your feet on the floor and sit up straight at work-or at least when others can see you.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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