3 Ways You May be Sabotaging Yourself at Work (and what to do about it).


As published in The Huffington Post on December 29th, 2015.

The past few years have brought forth some distinct women’s voices that question the working woman’s reality.

Sheryl Sandberg challenged us to “take a seat at the table” in Lean In. Arianna Huffington redefined success beyond money and power in Thrive. Susan Cain taught us to embrace our introversion at work in Quiet.

Yet the book that I keep gifting over and over again is Playing Big, by Tara Mohr.

Tara’s mission is to help women find their voices, because she believes there are a lot of brilliant, talented women out there who play very small. I recently chatted with Tara to discuss some of the hiding tactics that she outlines in her book, and how they relate to women in the corporate world.

Reversing “This Before That”

Definition from her book: ” ‘This before that’ are the false beliefs we hold about the order in which things need to happen.”

Tara insists when it comes to hiding behind our assumptions about the necessary order of things, “It’s not so much if I’m doing it, but where [in my life I am doing it].”

We convince ourselves that we are planning, but really we’re scared. For example, if I was looking to connect with a certain senior manager and wanting to ensure that I was on their radar, it’s likely I would start by telling myself, “Before I reach out, it would be better if I was clear on my career goals…”

Tara also points out that this frequently happens when women are negotiating wages. We say to ourselves, “I need to prove myself before I can ask for more.”

The antidote: According to Tara, we need to question whether our assumption is true. If we think we need to do something beforehand, test it to see if it’s absolutely true. Part of testing is doing what we assume we can’t, just to prove our assumption is correct. If you need some help determining if your assumption is true, check out theFour Questions by Byron Katie.

Moving Past “Overcomplicating and Endless Polishing”

Definition from her book: “…we have to be rigorous about distinguishing when our ‘commitment to quality’ is just a fancy cover for our fears.”

Tara cautions that women tend to be more comfortable with the process of a project, as opposed to making sure our work is visible. We need to ask ourselves, “What are the costs of me spending all that time polishing? What am I not getting to as a result of polishing?”

The corporate world is often an environment in which mistakes are not tolerated. However, there is an opportunity cost to spending 3 hours polishing versus asking ourselves, “How are people in my department going to know about this?”

It is likely, Tara observes, that this is something that is ingrained in women from school age. Unfortunately, “We keep doing this in settings that no longer serve us.”

The antidote: Tara urges us to take some time to brainstorm when working on a big project, particularly regarding the big picture. What am I really trying to accomplish? How will I ensure that my work is seen? What is it costing me to be so focused on process?

Rethinking “I Need the Degree/Training”

Definition from her book: “Talented women with a dream believe they need another degree, training, or certification because they are not ‘enough’ as they are.”

When I asked her why we tend to gravitate towards formal training, Tara stated, “Student mode is very comfortable and very appealing. It serves us well, but also becomes a comfort zone: we absorb information and reflect it back.”

However formal education often, “Doesn’t encourage us to step forward with our own voice.”

Despite the fact that career action plans often include additional training, this can sometimes be an excuse to hide. Tara uses the example of a woman in the corporate world who realizes that she finds the moments she is coaching as the most fulfilling part of her job:

The Playing Big approach to this would be to approach your boss and say: “I’m strong at this…how can I get more of this?”

Instead, women tend to tell themselves: “I guess I chose the wrong career path. I need to go and get more training.”

The antidote: Don’t ignore the capabilities you already possess. Explore what you can do within your own sphere first. Tara challenges, “How can you step into it, within your current circumstances?” Once you’ve explored these options, you can make an informed decision whether or not a more drastic change is necessary (such as more education).

How are you hiding?

As we look forward to the new year, challenge yourself to assess the ways in which you might be hiding in your career. Do you get caught up in process? Do you deflect by signing up for additional training?

What steps are you going to take so that you will Play Big? Comment below or tweet@tarasophia #PlayingBig.

To learn more about the ways that women tend to hide, check out Tara’s book. December 29th is the release date for the paperback version: Playing Big: Practical wisdom for women that want to speak up, create and lead. You can order your copy here and sign up for Tara’s newsletter to be notified about the Playing Big course that is being released this spring.

For resources on how to take better care of yourself so you can sustain your courageous choices, grab your copy of Secondhand Therapy’s free 30 page eBook.