What if your laughter made others think of you as frivolous? What if your serious face made others think you were intimidating? Well there is a study that says Cheerfulness May Hold Back Female Leaders. Be careful – if your balance is off you could be considered bossy, bitchy, ditzy, and biased out!
About a hundred years ago when I started in the workforce a well meaning woman in a management position explained to me that I was too cheerful and happy. She said “It doesn’t seem like you take anything seriously and since men are running things you will never earn a leadership role with a smile on your face”.
Initially my 20 something year old brain went into rebel mode; “This is BULL$HIT! I’m smart! I have come up with great solutions and delivered amazing results. I can’t do that shit with a smile? WTF?!”
She was right. I was being biased out because I was too “cheerful”. I missed out on major meetings, two promotions, and my happy demeanor was brought up during a performance review… even though my work was stellar.
I decided to play ball. “If you want to play with the big boys you gotta wear their uniform”, I thought.
My uniform consisted of a serious face, straight hair (yes! it was STRAIGHT and BLONDE!), black structured suits, and extra high heels to make my 5’9″ frame appear more formidable. I mastered the firm handshake, the three chuckle laugh, and the long pause with a deep stare aimed at my counterparts during negotiations.
I fell in line… and it paid off!
People considered me to be extremely competent and I was quickly promoted me to the next level. About 1 year into my new position, a well meaning male executive explained that I was very intimidating.
INTIMIDATING?!?! His words took me by surprise. On this inside the real me was crushed. On the outside my stone faced response was “Understood. I’ll look into that.”
But honestly – my attempt to walk the line made me feel like a FRAUD! I could feel the imposter syndrome invading my life.
If I was happy, then I was ditzy sideline cheerleader. If I was a serious business woman, then I was bitchy, bossy, and intimidating.
My solution was to stop playing their game and to start my own. Today, I run my own company where my “complex” personality wouldn’t be confusing to my extremely smart team. And now most people call me authentic.
What is your solution?