The Secret to Being Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings
Forbes, Amy Blankson
October 29, 2018
Why do women struggle to advance in their careers? Clearly, it’s because women don’t use enough emojis, answers comedian Sarah Cooper.
In her new book How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings, Cooper explores the double standards women face in the workplace. Hoping to seem less threatening in jobs for which they are overqualified, women go to great lengths to preempt negative responses from male counterparts. The result? In 2017, the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies actually decreased to 6% and the number of female senior managers topped out at just 20%. While some might argue that there is a pipeline issue, more compelling research reveals a perception problem.
Cooper believes that women have to get tactical about addressing this issue. In her new book, she satirically writes “advice” like:
1. Get a male coworker to ask for your promotion for you. It’s very threatening when women show ambition. When a man jockeys for a position it’s seen as normal male competitive behavior, but when a woman does it, she is seen as opportunistic and selfish. To get around this, get a male coworker to vouch for you and support you. Act like you don’t want to be promoted at all, which will make you seem even less threatening.
2. Put lots of smiley faces, emojis and exclamation points in your emails. It’s very important for women to avoid seeming abrasive in emails, especially if they are asking for something or giving bad news or turning down a request. The best way to do this is to use exclamation points!!!! And smiley faces 🙂 🙂 And fun emojis. Your lack of direct, efficient written communication will go a long way to making you seem approachable.
3. If a man is explaining something to you that you already know, just nod along as if you don’t already know it. Yes, it might be tempting to say “I already know that.” But men love explaining things, don’t take this away from him. And don’t cut him off because that will be seen as very aggressive. Instead, have him explain it to you over and over again. It will make him feel useful and will give you some time to think about out how to avoid him in the future.
4. And, of course, apologize to everyone for everything, constantly. Cooper turns to humor to make a point where other methods of advice have failed. She explains that she got an email from a woman who said she was following these “rules” without even realizing it. By recognizing the ridiculousness and yet truth of how these situations unfold, the woman decided to stop apologizing so much and to quit using so many exclamation points. Cooper adds, “I think that’s the power of humor – it disarms you and opens you up to see a new perspective. Using humor and satire is way better than lecturing someone or telling them what to do, because when people laugh and open themselves up to a new perspective, they are learning for themselves, on their own.”
Cooper recalls that when she became the manager of her team, her peers suddenly became her reports. One of her peers felt that he deserved the job more because he had been at the company longer. Cooper explains, “I knew he wasn’t happy with me becoming his boss, so I compensated by being as gracious and accommodating as I possibly could. But it didn’t matter – within a few months he ended up leaving the team anyway. Were his feelings hurt by my success? I can’t say for sure, but it did seem like it.” Looking back, Cooper realized that this experience was a good learning lesson. She recognized how her need for approval actually hurt her ability to be a good leader. She adds, “Sometimes people aren’t going to be happy no matter what you do so you might as well just do what you think is right.”
Cooper hopes her book will inspire women to mentor each other and create environments at work and elsewhere for women to thrive and find their stride.