10 Mistakes Women Make at Work

Some of biggest mistakes you’re making at work may be subconsciously driven.


Whether you think you’re kicking butt at work, or you are barely able to drag your butt out of bed each day, you’re likely making a mistake or two in the office that could cost you in the long run. Trying to get ahead in your career is tough enough without accidental self-sabotage!

10 Mistakes Women Make at WorkThe office environment is a hotbed for all sorts of pressure, and it doesn’t help that certain workplaces carry double standards that place extra loads on womens’ shoulders. While women in the workplace decades ago may have felt the need to mirror men to succeed, that’s no longer the case.

Suzanne Kleinberg, author of “From Playstation to Workstation,” shares her insights on workplace “dos” and “don’ts” in this exclusive article for Urbanette. Whether you’re just starting out or already in management, you should be cautious not to make these assumptions:

1. Using appearance to reflect your individuality

While every girl has her own personal style, knowing how to modify yours could be the difference between rejection and respect. You want people to notice your ideas and contributions, not your mid-thigh mole or bra color.

10 Mistakes Women Make at WorkOne of the worst blunders that young women make is wearing overly sexy clothing and excessive jewelry or makeup. You should always dress for the job you want, not the one you have! People’s respect for you will grow once they see you know how to respect yourself through your dress.

2. Thinking that passiveness = politeness

Many people make the mistake of submitting a résumé or business proposal and waiting to be called back. When they don’t hear back, they assume that they are rejected. Not true.

You need to follow-up with the recipient. This demonstrates initiative and confidence. Even if you get a rejection, at least you’ll know that you should move on. It may take a few attempts to get a response. Don’t be a nuisance, but do be persistent. On average, it takes 5-12 times to make a “sale” – most people stop at 3. Don’t lose out because you assume the worst!

3. Thinking that workplace rejection signifies that you’re unworthy

Women tend to take unfavorable responses as personal rejection. Rejection for a job or your project proposal is a decision based solely on business viability. Learn from it and move forward.

10 Mistakes Women Make at Work

4. A little flirting never hurts… right?

The best way to alienate your coworkers is to act flirty. Do it and you’ll send a signal to everyone that you need to rely on your sexuality and not your intellect. Women will resent you, and men won’t respect you. You’ll be marginalized and denied career-building promotions.

5. Not volunteering

You can get the best work experiences and develop great networks through volunteering. Many charities are desperate for volunteers. This means that you may be able to get experiences that a paying job would never allow you. For example, you may start working at an animal shelter scooping litter boxes, but you may offer to help with fundraising, event planning, marketing or graphic design. These organizations can’t afford professionals and don’t require people to have experience to preform these tasks. Sure you won’t get paid, but you’ll get an opportunity to fulfill your graphic design aspirations, add more to your credentials, and build your resume.

6. Thinking that making more money will make you happier

Studies show that money in itself doesn’t lead to job satisfaction. For many people enjoying what they do and having a work/life balance is more important. When you enjoy your work, you excel at it and, as a result, your career benefits.

7. Thinking attaining power will make you more ‘masculine’

10 Mistakes Women Make at Work

Over the years, TV has shown successful businesswomen in mannish suits, short hair and aggressive demeanors. Many women are subliminally influenced by these cues, and fear that as they move up the ladder, they’ll appear more masculine and, in their minds, less attractive. While women in the workplace decades ago may have felt the need to mirror men to succeed, that’s no longer the case. Femininity isn’t equated with weakness anymore.

8. Waiting for opportunities to come to you

Many people fear speaking up when they want something. They wait to be approached for a promotion before showing interest, minimizing their chances for success. If you’re ready for a promotion, more responsibility, or a raise, be proactive and approach your manager. Let him or her know that you’ve earned the opportunity. Leave the aggression and arrogance at the door, and present your case with confidence. Even if rejected, you’ll earn respect and consideration for the next opportunity.

10 Mistakes Women Make at Work

9. Thinking that being liked = being respected

Studies have shown that young women have a stronger need than men to be seen as “likable.” Likability isn’t synonymous with respect. People who make congeniality a priority tend to be indecisive and submissive, which definitely won’t help in earning respect. You need to balance confidence, collaboration, decisiveness and openness. Don’t be a pushover just because you fear stepping on toes.

10. Thinking that nice girls never say no

Many women bring their nurturing side to work and end up taking on too many tasks. While being a team player and feeling needed is gratifying, too many duties will result in failure with a lot of them. Learn your limit and when (and how) to say no.

The workplace is a place of great opportunities, but can be filled with barriers too. Believe in yourself, keep your eyes open for new opportunities and remember to enjoy what you do and where you are headed!

Avatar of Suzanne Kleinberg

Suzanne is a Toronto based career coach and author. With a B.A. in Economics from York University, Masters in Project Management and PMP certification, Kleinberg is an avid ‘career changer’, having worked in a variety of fields. Kleinberg’s is the author of the book 'Employee Rights and Employer Wrongs, an everyman’s guide to navigating the complex world of labour and employment law'.

Reader Discussion: 92 Comments

  1. Avatar of Jill Stanley

    Jill Stanley

    I may have made some of the mistakes here, but never the part wherein I flirted with anyone in the workplace just to get where I want. If you’re a woman with dignity and you want to be successful, be smart enough and have all the skills needed in order to get there. Sleeping your way through the higher ups isn’t going to get you anywhere.

  2. Avatar of Eileen Garner

    Eileen Garner

    Isn’t #2 incorrect? I mean, some employers find it really annoying when you’re persistently calling them for updates. Most HR employees would also assume that you’re just impatient to be accepted or rejected. Sometimes, it is a lot more respectful to just wait. Because most companies don’t really have a 24hr schedule to be working or checking your resume as soon as you send it. If you start calling just to follow-up, you’d be annoying! In my previous job, we sometimes have to pitch in ideas for hiring, it wasn’t just the HR’s work because it’s usually the Marketing team that works together with the Sales team. We hate it when applicants would even message us through our official Facebook account just to follow up her application. Hiring takes time especially when there are a lot of applicants and you have to keep that in mind. It’s selfish to assume that the world revolves around you and that your application is the best thing ever.

    • Avatar of Wilma Williams

      Wilma Williams

      Exactly, I also disagree with #2. I don’t think I’d have the guts to phone the company and ask if I’m accepted or not. Just… NO.

  3. Avatar of Delores Andrews

    Delores Andrews

    Life rejects us so many times. It will also happen at work. You just have to think that if you’re rejected, it’s because you’re not the right fit for that job and you will be, someplace else.

  4. Avatar of Sandra Lopez

    Sandra Lopez

    If your passion isn’t about helping others or volunteering, it’s going to be hard for them to appreciate working for free. It does look good in resumes but the person isn’t thinking about resigning yet, it’s of no use.

  5. Avatar of Tara Lowe

    Tara Lowe

    #6 always gets me. Sometimes, you can’t really say that money can no longer buy happiness, because it’s your only means to buy the things that you need. Look at it this way, as of now, I’m working really hard just to be able to buy my daughter all the things that she needs. The things that she needs is what will make her happy, mainly because she’s able to eat 3 or more times a day, has a roof on her head, has access to recreational activities, good education, and all that stuff. If that doesn’t equate to happiness, I don’t know. I’m a single mom and I’m trying to believe that being able to earn an ample amount of money will equate to happiness, if not contentment.

  6. Avatar of Julie Haggerty

    Julie Haggerty

    Uhmm… You don’t necessarily have to present yourself to opportunities, but more like be humble enough but get your ass in front of that opportunity. If that makes sense.

  7. Avatar of Claire Vega

    Claire Vega

    It’s okay to have friends in the workplace, but you always have to put a line between friendship and work-related issues. Women value relationships and would go great lengths to nurture them, but you have to realize that you can’t always say yes.

  8. Avatar of Lorena Joseph

    Lorena Joseph

    If you want to dress sexy for work, be a hooker instead.

    • Avatar of Danielle Fitzgerald

      Danielle Fitzgerald

      Oh, calm down sister.??

  9. Avatar of Caroline Schack

    Lol please, women who wear black bra under a white top, stop it. ?

  10. Avatar of Alison Becker

    I’m not a flirt or anything, but for some reason, I probably have sex appeal. I always end up getting harassed in the office by men who think I’m flirting even though I’m simply talking to them and being polite. When I try to ignore them, they now think I’m snobbish and that I’m too entitled. I don’t know where to stand and as much as I don’t even want to care about the opinions of others in the workplace, even my women colleagues are buzzing about how every man in the office wants me and that they think I’m such a flirt for it. In all honesty, I’m not that type of girl. But everyone has their own stories to tell. I’m so close to passing my resignation. I don’t even have friends in the office anymore because all of them is talking behind my back! I just want to fucking work, people!

    • Avatar of Mary Shum

      Believe it or not, men can gossip twice as much as women can. So you really have to watch your back especially with men. They are prone to spreading rumors, especially if you reject them and show little to no interest. The nexy day, the dude you ignored will be telling everybody that you kissed him. Which is pathetic, but it really happens.

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