Why Your Girly Thoughts Tell You to Be So Darn NICE at Work

By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD

Author of The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power (publication date 10.28.14) – a fun book about a serious topic

The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013)

Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting—The Codependency Connection (2012)


One of the many girly thoughts you’ll read about in The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan is about the need so many women feel to be nice at work. And this thinking severely handicaps us because we fear, justifiably, that we will be judged for demonstrating our knowledge or offering contrary opinions.

Girly Thought #11: I Need to Be Seen as Nice at Work

So to preview Day 8, which will help you “out” your negative self-talk (aka girly thoughts) at work and change your thinking and actions so you can develop the confidence you deserve, let’s look at a recent Sunday New York Times essay that examined yet another study about women and work. That’s a subject I cover extensively on Day 8 in my new book, which will be released later this month.

Work Is Not a Level Playing Field

In an essay for the Sunday New York Times, author Tara Mohr wrote about a new study conducted for a Fortune 500 Company that looked at the differences in workplace performance reviews given to men and women. The study looked at 248 performance reviews from 28 different companies and found managers (both male and female) gave more negative feedback to women than to men!

The negative feedback wasn’t about performance but about personality. In fact, 76 percent of the negative feedback included judgments that the women being evaluated were abrasive, judgmental, or strident, while only 2 percent of the men reviewed received similar negative comments about their personalities.

We Deal with These Judgments by Not Creating Conflict 

So what do we do to navigate this system? Yes, we act nice. We try to be acceptable because we know we will be judged for the way we do things and not just for what we do, and that judgment will be harsh. Yet we continue to consult our inner guide—our girly thoughts—about how to act at work—except, as you know, the advice from our girly thoughts is not getting us anywhere we want to be.

I believe this is one of the reasons the new TV show Madam Secretary is gaining such widespread support: it depicts a competent woman, who doesn’t feel she needs to be liked, making tough decisions and pushing back. Refreshing, isn’t it?

Getting Real

You know it’s impossible to always be seen as “nice” at work. And being competent means risking being called the B word or one of its euphemisms. But what’s the alternative? Letting those girly thoughts get the best of you and reining in your power?

What to do?

  • Find a mentor, someone who can help you navigate the politics of your employment.
  • Seek support from other women and men who understand both your work and how hard it might be to do your job while trying to win a personality contest.
  • Don’t take criticism personally. This is a major struggle for women on so many levels of an organization. Let other’s criticism of you be about them, not about you.
  • Remember: you were hired to do the job you are doing, so do it.

As women, we are at a new point in our history where we are moving away from traditional roles and traditional ways of doing these roles, and stepping into demonstrating our competency and, as a result, our power. This will have the effect of being seen differently at work. So challenge yourself to step outside of the comfort zone that those girly thoughts provide, and experiment with being competent at work as a first priority. This could be called being nice to YOU!

Learn how to detox from your negative self-talk in The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan available for preorder now at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, HCI Books, and wherever books are sold.