Being “not nice” is one of my biggest fears at work. I am leading a team of 16 people and working in a field that I really like. My ambition is to become a regional director in that same field. I’ve asked several times for such an opportunity without success.
Few days ago, my boss offered me a promotion to a director, but in another field within our company. This would mean higher salary, but also moving to a completely new field, which I personally don’t like.
When telling me about this opportunity, my boss mentioned that “after accepting such a role, you could get to any role you like within a few years” and “ambitious women don’t say no to this kind of opportunity”. I don’t want to accept this offer, but I also want to avoid being “not nice”. How can I say no to my boss, while keeping our relation good?
There are two components that made you stuck in this process and build your fear of being “not nice”: struggle of sticking to your own ambition and unconscious gender bias.
If we don’t please others and stay true to our own ambitions and goals, they will perceive us being “not nice”.
First of all, we tend to think that if we please others, they will think we are nice and like us. The opposite is also common tendency. We tend to think that if we don’t please others and stay true to our own ambitions and goals, they will perceive us being “not nice”. In reality, people who stay true to their own ambitions and goals, while clearly communicating their successes, are seen as leaders.
For example, you could negotiate the offer that came from your boss. Saying “I’d be happy to contribute to the success of our company and accept your offer. You are aware of my ambition of becoming director in my current department, and I am willing to accept your offer if that includes my return after 2 years as director of my current department.”
Our unconscious bias makes us have different expectations from men and women
Second of all, our unconscious bias makes us have different expectations from men and women. For example, we tend to expect from women to be both “nice” and professional, while we have the tendency to expect men to be only professional. Being “not nice” can take toll on women’s career progress. Showing gratitude is a great way to put course back to your own career goals.
You could try saying: “Thank you for recognising my ambitions and for pulling such generous offer for me. Even though I am grateful to see that my successes and leadership vision are awarded, I do have another question. What do I need to do to make sure that I land same position (become director) in the current department?”
Practical steps that will help you to get unstuck at this point:
- Assert your own value, communicate what you want and why you want it
- Be aware and value your own successes and leadership vision, and communicate about them
- Dare to say “no” when needed, but also accept when other do the same