Politics Pitfalls for Women: Excessive Modesty

Letting Strengths Become Risks

We continue to get ongoing requests to speak at women’s leadership forums, so here is another entry about landmines politically for women in particular…

Every strength pushed to the extreme or unbridled can become a weakness or block. Given women’s aptitude and traditional role of being nurturers in families, it makes sense they might give too much credit to others, instead of fairly and deservedly ensuring they receive credit earned and that key managers understand their contributions. Don’t let your more caring nature seduce you into overly praising others to your own demise, being too soft on people (and therefore earning the reputation as not being results-driven enough), being too nice in granting favors that put you at a disadvantage because you dislike saying “no,”  displeasing someone, or being overly apologetic. One way to get deserved credit while sharing credit and appreciation with others is to jot a quick, genuine email of positive recognition and thanks to people on a team you spearhead. Then copy the recipients’ bosses and your own. Without bragging, the fact that you are sharing credit announces the fact that you were the team lead, since you’re the one thanking folks (and of course, the team members spread positive buzz about you as a motivating, praise-oriented leader). We just get into trouble when we carry ourselves like “Mr. Cellophane,” the invisible, behind the scenes guy in the stage and movie musical, Chicago.


Another strength that can get misused or funneled into negative “buzz” can relate to women’s strengths in building close relationships, which on one hand is indeed a component of the Organizational Savvy Skills Pyramid, termed as Essential Networking. Just be sure that your relationship-building prowess is not interpreted as being at the expense of task fulfillment, leaning too much into emotional relationship-building if you’re with more of a Driver-oriented, task-focused individual that might see this as frivolous or “touchy-feely.” Also, some more self-deprecating, under-political women may restrict their relationship-building to one-on-one interactions and avoid large gatherings like the plague, missing  opportunities  for exposure to power brokers (“No thanks, I’ll just stay home and watch re-runs of Sex and the City!). Meanwhile, some “overly-political” people are tying together each other’s shoe laces to trip one another so they can get to the table to sit and schmooze with Mr. Big Wigs!

As with all the high-integrity Organizational Savvy strategies for influence, impact, and career growth, the key is BALANCE. Do you shrink your networking or fail to optimize alliance-building opportunities? And remember, important networking can occur outside large events, such as arriving early to staff meetings and NOT hopping on your phone or planner, but mixing and sharing mutual exciting projects and more importantly, asking others about what’s in their charter these days and how you might assist them.