Nobody likes a braggart. Especially if you’re a woman.
Women, at least according to female gender norms, aren’t supposed to call attention to their accomplishments. When they do, they are criticized, stigmatized and, too often, penalized for promoting their own good works, according to a Rutgers University study.
It’s no wonder, then, that women, generally, feel uncomfortable promoting their achievements and try to avoid all forms of self-promotion altogether.
Yet, modesty won’t get you a new job, a salary hike, a promotion, a stretch assignment a flexible schedule, or anything else that will progress your current position. For working moms, especially those facing assumptions that discredit their commitment to their careers, taking the modest approach can prove detrimental, even to your current position.
The question, then, is how to gracefully toe the line of this double bind. It’s an art that takes a fine balance where you can showcase your skill sets without garishly bragging.
It starts with choosing the right successes to highlight, and identifying the right people to share them with – this is your manager, but it could also include others such as sponsors or other senior leaders.
You’ll also want to give one (or all) these six strategies:
Have you been tempted to unfriend an acquaintance whose bombarded your social media feed with photos from their perfect life? Enough, you say to yourself as you scroll faster over their updates, I get you have an amazing life.
Don’t be that person. It’s annoying, but it can also lead your manager and others to tune you out.
Instead, find a cadence that allows you to keep your manager regularly updated without inundating them with your greatness. Successes worthy of your manager’s attention don’t happen on the daily. They may not happen every month, either. To find what works, be sure to select the ones that will means the most to your boss.
A word of caution: don’t diminish your efforts too much that you aren’t sharing anything at all.
Focus on results, not activities
Too often we mistakenly think the quantity of our effort is equal to the quality of the result. I know you want to validate the time and energy you spend on your work. But, you really must ask yourself if your boss really cares. Spoiler alert: it’s likely she doesn’t.
In your next progress update with your boss, don’t list how many phone calls you made or how many hours you spent on creating that PowerPoint deck. Instead, tell them about the results of your efforts. What came out of all those phone calls? How did your slides close the deal?
This shift in focus will not only spotlight the value of your efforts, but also highlight your results-oriented nature.
Connect to a larger cause
A sure-fire way to be seen as boastful and obnoxious is to share successes that only feature your greatness.
As part of a team and a company, you are but one person driving toward a common set of goals. So, when sharing your successes, be sure to frame your accomplishment in relation to the larger, communal objective. Doing so will not only shine a light on you and your skill set, but it will get others to see you as a valuable team player.
Muhammad Ali said it best: It’s not bragging if you can back it up.
Find metrics that support your work and that have meaning to your boss, your project, your client, your company. Then, use the information to paint a clear and effective picture of how your specific efforts led to the results. For example, if company website traffic has increased 500% in the last six months clearly outline the strategies you’ve adopted that supported the increase.
Using cold, hard, undisputed numbers gives gravitas to your work, but you still want to take care to downplay any bravado as you share the results.
Capture third-party feedback
The best kind of promotion comes from someone else. What boss wouldn’t want to hear good words said about you from a satisfied client or an impressed manager in another department?
The next time you are verbally recognized for doing something amazing, thank them for their kind words and ask if they’d mind sharing their feedback directly with your manager. If appreciation for your efforts comes through email, be sure to copy your manager in your thank you reply.
Sharing social proof from third-parties can go a long way in capturing your manager’s attention and reminding him of your abilities to achieve great things.
Have you ever felt compelled to do something for someone who had previously helped you? That’s the Law of Reciprocity at play. Basically, when someone does something nice for you, you have a deep-rooted psychological urge to return the favour.
That’s one reason why it’s so important to celebrate others. Be it a manager, a peer or a colleague coming up behind you, spotlighting the successes of others will lead others to do the same for you.
The other reason to celebrate others: because why not?! It feels good to recognize others. Plus, it saves that person from having to figure out the delicate dance between self-promotion and bragging.
Self-promotion is important to advancing at work, but doing so with bravado can hold you back. It takes a fine balance and lots of practice. I challenge you to give these one of these strategies a try this week. Then, let me know in the comments below how it worked for you.