Glass ceiling – 1; Trophydaughter – 0

Corporate America is a strange and bewildering place. Like working in a galaxy far, far away only you’re the one who’s the alien. Every company has its own cultural nuances and these can be difficult to navigate without a guide. Hence the whole corporate mentoring craze.

Clearly, the only one responsible for my career is me. The Peter Principle states we will all eventually be promoted to the level of our own incompetence. I don’t think I’m there yet but I still have a massive headache from banging my head against the glass ceiling. I’m not good at getting ahead but I am good at what I do. I’ve won awards 3 years in a row. The company, however, does not recognize me as “talent.” It’s not like I have goals to be President or CEO. I’m not the kind of person who lives to work. Instead I work to live and I want to live comfortably. And retire early. So even though I’m not particularly driven, I’d like to at least reach my full potential. I’ve got more to offer–why can’t the company see that?

I’ve suspected for some time now that I’ve been labeled but I can’t quite figure out what exactly is keeping me from progressing. It continues to elude me. So a few weeks ago I asked my coworker, let’s call him Matt, who’s acting as an informal mentor to me. “I think maybe I’m too honest,” I said. “I’ve been told repeatedly that I can be a bit harsh.”

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“Nope,” Matt said. “That’s not it. It’s two things. First, you’re too emotional. You can’t let anyone see how you really feel. And second, it’s your family. You’ve probably shared what’s going on with your sister with your manager, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, there you have it. You can’t get ahead if people perceive you don’t have your personal life under control.”

“But everyone has family stuff. Look at R. His father has Alzheimer’s and he’s shared that with the entire department.”

“Yes, but think about what he says. It’s always ‘the medications are working and slowing progression. The family is dealing with it.’ With you, everything with your sister is unpredictable. She’s doing well. She’s not doing well. You’re overwhelmed. You’re uncertain. There’s always an emergency. Things are definitely NOT under control.”

I did not argue with him. He may be right. But if he is, I guess I’m stuck. I’m not an actress. I can’t be something I’m not. Life is sometimes hard; I can’t pretend it isn’t. If that means I’m not “leader” material, so be it.

Well played, glass ceiling, well played.

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10 Comments on “Glass ceiling – 1; Trophydaughter – 0”

  1. I am so glad I am no longer running on the corporate wheel. The politics and back stabbing. the “good ole’ boy” group. I did my time and bailed. Why don’t you send out some resumes and see what comes back. You may be surprised!

  2. So sorry to hear that you have been characterized as “too emotional.” I hate that crap.

  3. sandrabranum says:

    I was one of those Fed Employees for 28 years and during that time received awards almost every year, and some of them were monetary! I never got promoted because I was a work horse and worked instead of “smoozing” like so many of the others. Sometimes ya just gotta believe in yourself and do your very best regardless.

  4. gardengirrrl says:

    I hear the word “Consultant” knocking on your inbox. It’s the next logical phase for a smart person who’s not willing to compromise their integrity nor throw up the white flag yet.

    • Ha! Throw up the white flag. Know what you meant but had a flash visual of me puking up a handkerchief.

      I do think about taking the consultant path at some point. In 5 years I qualify for retirement benefits so doesn’t seem wise to leave before then.

  5. Cathy Alford says:

    ughhhh.. I’m getting a migraine just remembering this sort of crap….. I do not miss it and one day you won’t either. You control your future….they don’t….

    It is ALL about perceptions whether they are right or wrong. Once they are formed, it takes a new everything (job, manager, RVP, team, perspective, etc) to change it. Perceptions stick and that is one thing that makes me mad. Why can’t a women speak truth and it be received as valuable? Apparently, only men are “strong (interpreted direct without emotion)” enough to speak truth and be respected. Years ago I was told I was negative. I completely felt my distain for risky or ill planned strategies were misunderstood and misrepresented. Once we did SF and I learned Deliberative was in my top 5, you can bet I reminded anyone as often as I could that being cautious and asking questions to avoid disasters up ahead was defined by Gallup as a strength. I also started rephrasing or listening to myself as others might hear me. I do think it helped and I felt over a period of years, I was able to change the way I looked at things and how I expressed myself. I never got perfect down, athough I did see a difference in how certain people responded. 🙂

    You can only have a couple of options as I see it: adjust to communicate as Matt suggests – I think his suggestions apply to everyone and they are valid for us all – really it’s just professional judgement about who you trust and want to open up to- and if that is the issue – prove them wrong. Or, keep doing what you are doing and let things live out as they will. Either way, you get to choose because it is your life – not theirs!

    Love you!!!!

    • Agree totally that once perceptions get set here, it takes an act of congress to change them. In the current environment, if you point out operational issues that need improvement, you are a “complainer”, even if you have suggestions for change. I’m notorious for wanting to “fix” whatever is broken. It’s in my DNA. So now I feel like I have to swallow all suggestions until further notice to try and lose that label.

      I asked Matt to tell me more about the emotional piece. I actually thought he was talking about the way I get teary when someone tells an inspiring or really sad story. Instead, he was referring to my poker face, or lack there of. Apparently, I wear my emotions on my face for all to see. He also said I get too passionate when I talk about work issues. Huh, too passionate. Is that possible? And here I thought the best leaders WERE the passionate ones.

      And I hate to play the gender card . . . but I will anyway. I’d like to hear from just one man who has ever been told he is too emotional at work. Just one. Because I don’t believe it happens. That’s just male speak for you are too girly to be promoted.

      You know, one of the things that just wears me out about this world, is the constant judgement, the inability of others to embrace you for who you are. And not just embrace, but to celebrate you.

      I’m not sure how or even if I’m going to change anything based on this feedback. Still processing.


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