Seven critical mistakes women make at work – and how to avoid them

Posted: 11th May 2015

In this article Liz Kentish identifies the type of mistakes that working women often make, and tells us how we may avoid them.

Mistake 1 – Never interrupting

You don’t need anyone’s permission to ask a question.  If you have a point to make, make it clearly and succinctly.  It’s useful to start with ‘I’m going to interrupt you for a moment…’ and then pause before you continue.  If they still don’t allow you to speak, you should use their name, and keep using it until they do.  It may sound rude, but it isn’t – and it works.

One of my clients struggled to be heard in meetings.  After practicing her new approach (she interrupted one of her colleagues mid-flow and asked them to explain exactly how a particular process was working) two other colleagues came up to her and said (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘I’ve always wondered about that process, but never felt I could ask’.

The result?  In meetings people now invite her to comment.

Mistake 2 – Being nice all the time

Of course we all want to be liked, but you know that isn’t always possible.  It’s the same with trying to reach a consensus – you can never please all the people all the time.   Instead, be fair and act with integrity, and when you say ‘no’, mean it.

Mistake 3 – Dressing for the job you do

In fact, you should ideally be dressing for the job you want to do.  One of my coaching clients took this on board and within 6 months had been promoted two levels.  What do managers, directors and leaders in your organization wear?  Dress for the role, but never try to be who you are not; for example if you aren’t comfortable with bright colours at work, then don’t wear them.  Instead, opt for bright accessories – handbag, jewellery, scarf or hairclips all work well.

Mistake 4 – Gossiping

If you must be seen to be ‘part of the crowd’ then simply nod a few times but don’t get involved – don’t agree, don’t comment, and excuse yourself as quickly as you can.

The people who will impact your future career need to know they can rely on you 100% – ever wondered why the office gossip has never been promoted?

Mistake 5 – Not being recognized by your boss’s boss

Do more to network; ask them questions, then listen.  Everyone’s favourite subject is themselves, so if you show an interest in them, they will remember you.  It needn’t always be about work – if it’s half term ask about their children, if it’s almost the weekend ask what their plans are.  If they ask you in return, keep it short.

Mistake 6 – Decorating your desk

It’s great to have small touches of home around you, but beware of personal clutter.  Photos, cuddly toys, plants, silly calendars can all undermine your professionalism.  You’d be surprised what people think about you from your surroundings (often subconsciously).   By all means have a couple of photos but please, not too much!

Mistake 7 – Turning a blind eye

You must act if you witness bullying or any other type of inappropriate behaviour.  If you don’t, then people will believe it’s OK to behave like that.  Be the person who stands up for what is right.  Never rely on someone else to set standards.