How To Recognize the Biggest Mistakes Women Make at Work

Part 1 of a Series: “A Career Woman’s Guide to Shattering the Glass Ceiling”

Many women let the “chick difference” stand between them and career success. Sometimes success is so close, yet so elusive, when well-meaning women sabotage themselves. Do yourself a favor; find out where you may be making a flub-up at the office.

The biggest mistakes women make when trying to climb the corporate ladder:

  1. Trapping yourself in a non-business role. Think about it. Do you scold people for leaving a big mess in the break room, then clean up behind them (mother role)? Do you plan potlucks at the office, then expect the guys to contribute equally by bringing in a dish (wife role)? Are you always asking for help or advice from men, unable to make a decision on your own (daughter role)? Is there a particular guy you like to tease and to goof off with (flirt role)? Do you dress suggestively, wearing low-cut blouses with cleavage, tight pants, or short skirts (sex siren role)? If you’ve trapped yourself into any of these traditional female roles, it’s no wonder the guys can’t take you seriously!
  2. Bringing inappropriate girl behavior to the office. Do you socialize at work, gossiping about other people? Do you spend work time discussing your last vacation, your kids’ accomplishments, or your husband’s faults? Do you have to “catch up” with all the other gals about office politics? Have you ever been caught painting your nails, doing your hair, or applying make-up in your office? Were you involved in a catty feud with another lady at the office? Are you critical of others, complaining and whining? Do others think you’re too bossy or nit-picky? If any of these describe you, wake up, Sister! How do you expect to earn the respect of your progressive colleagues when the office is merely your extended social and domestic circle?
  3. Trying to be “one of the boys.” Do you join the guys for drinks after work, hoping to be seen as one of them? Do you laugh at their crude jokes to try to fit in? Do you follow the guys around, trying to imitate everything they do, hoping someone will recognize your accomplishments? If so, you’re sure to annoy them, irritate your boss, and evoke the jealousy of the other women in the office. You certainly won’t be accepted as one of “them,” but you may get known as a “kiss-up”! Here’s a tip: Don’t try to “fit in” by copying men. You’ll never be one of them. In fact, you don’t want to. And the good news is that (whew!) you don’t have to! You can be successful on your own terms.
  4. Thinking too small. Men in leadership positions are “big picture” oriented, and can become frustrated when you constantly dwell on the details. But if you get a reputation for being the “dream killer,” you’ll never be part of the “inside” team of decision makers.
  5. Failing to understanding and respect men’s viewpoint. Men think differently than women. Period. Don’t try to persuade them to think like you do. Appreciate and respect their perspective — you don’t have to understand “why.” Be cautious about telling “men” jokes and belittling the guys at the office. They think differently, they communicate differently, they view “teamwork” differently, they express themselves differently, they relate differently, and they arrive at different solutions. They’re not better or worse. Just different. And that’s okay.

So now you know. No longer will you run around saying, “that’s not fair,” as if you are owed a special favor from your company. You won’t try to keep track of “favors” and who owes you, or how equal everyone is. From now on, you’re going to ask direct questions instead of beating around the bush and hoping someone will get the hint. You’re going to talk to the guys in a voice they can relate to. And capture success! Find out how to gain respect for your work in Part 2 of the series: “A Career Woman’s Guide to Shattering the Glass Ceiling.”

Riley Klein is the author of Shattering the Glass Ceiling: The Career Woman’s Guide:  Play Ball with the Big Boys and Win (Without Compromising your Girlhood) available soon at

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Am glad you wrote this article. I think it is unfortunate that this is the image often projected of women in offices.

By Mary Norton

Dear Riley,
This is perhaps the first article I am ever reading on THIS subject and it is extremely bold, point-blank and exceedingly well written with a breezy style.


By Anonymous