Here’s a necessary (but unfortunate) memo: A few seemingly innocuous and totally common workplace behaviours can sabotage your stellar employee status and your potential to get ahead.
“Women often act a certain way because they don’t want to be called aggressive or a bitch,” says leadership and communication coach Peggy Klaus, author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.
Sadly, having a less assertive or too enthusiastic M.O. can cause colleagues to view you as unreliable or unprofessional. Breaking these three small habits can help put you on track for long-term success.
Don’t Talk In Timid Speak
Got a question for your boss? Just clearly state what you need. “If you’re not direct, you likely won’t get what you want,” says Klaus.
Women sometimes hedge requests because they’ve been conditioned to be accommodating to others. But being too deferential can come across as meek or like ass-kissing, causing your co-workers to doubt your confidence or qualifications. They’ll wonder if you believe in yourself and, in turn, if they should trust you with big projects.
Keep your asks simple and straightforward: “Can you meet this afternoon? We need to discuss XYZ.” (While you’re at it: Remove I’m sorry from your vocab unless you really mean it.)
Don’t Sound Overly Enthusiastic When Emailing
When you’re sending your besties last night’s recap, add as many exclamation points as you want (“I’m sooo hungover!!!”). But on work messages? You need to show some restraint.
“So many people treat e-mail like a casual text,” says business-etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals. “But you should write as if your bosses were reading every note you send,” she says. Would he or she be down with a zillion !’s? Probably not, because too many can come off as juvenile and might keep the receiver from taking you seriously. To be safe (and profesh), stick with periods. The exception? When you’re sending a peer props (“Congrats on that major sale!”).
Don’t Say “YES!” To Literally Everything
If you consistently find yourself cleaning up coffee cups or planning staff b-day toasts, you may be starring in the thankless role of “office angel.”
Often, women will volunteer for this kind of stuff to be helpful, but doing so can backfire, says Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.
If you always do these tasks and they’re not part of your job description, people may assume they can walk all over you. And they take you away from your actual duties, says Scott. Next time someone tries to push office housework on you, try this: “Unfortunately, I can’t do that right now. I’ve got to finish [insert real work assignment].”
This piece originally appeared in Cosmopolitan.com.