Names are everything in the world of business.
Decisions involving jobs, promotions, demotions, salaries, perks, etc. are made based on names. So what names are people calling you?
Are you called a people-person or a “B” on wheels, a friend or backstabber, a pushover or powerful, innovative or stuck in your ways, frumpy or professional. If you don’t know, you could be in for a rude awakening.
Years ago I learned that I had been named “too nice”. I was appalled as I always saw my “niceness” (strong interpersonal skills is what I called it) as an asset that set me apart from others. Little did I know, this name would hurt my career.
Although I was “well- liked, “talented and smart”, based on a “name”, higher-ups were afraid to put me in situations where they thought I may get eaten alive. Therefore, I was not selected for specific promotional opportunities. No matter how talented you are, it is the names that determine how far you will go.
Why is it important for women of color to know what names we’re called?
I hate to admit it, but I believe names hurt us more than others. Names seem to stick to us like glue. Maybe it’s because we are in the minority and with fewer numbers, our mistakes or mishaps are never forgotten. Our professional reputations are extremely fragile and we have to handle them as such.
So, how do you find out what names you are called? Simple…You ask.
One day, that ‘s exactly what I did. During a routine supervision meeting with my boss at the time, instead of the usually babble, I decided to asked her frankly why I had hit a career road block. I did, and she told me straight; everyone liked me, but I was “too nice” for certain positions that may require you to check a bully. Just like that I had the answer. All the time, I thought it was because I didn’t have the right experience, or credentials. I never thought it had to do with being “too nice”.
How I became Ms. “Too Nice”?
To my surprise, it came from a single incident, when a “B” on wheels (excuse my French name for her) challenged me during a presentation. I was so caught off -guard by her rude approach, that I allowed myself to get off -track . After the meeting, I forgave myself for the stumble and thought that my track record would protect me. That’s where I went wrong.
Big Lesson #1 Reputations are fragile
You can spend years building a strong reputation and it can be shattered by one incident. You and your actions are under constant scrutiny. People are making judgments about you with every encounter and forming new opinions everyday. People talk and spread names throughout organizations. Therefore, you have realize that it is “show time” everyday and you must come ready to win.
Now, everyone makes mistakes. However, never let one go without putting forth effort to recover your reputation. If I had not been so self-absorbed after my mishap, I would have realized that I was being judged on how I handled the situation. I did not come prepared for the unexpected.
Big Lesson #2 Be open to feedback and accept what you hear.
It is not easy to hear negative things about yourself. But if you never hear the bad things, you can’t fix them. So when you ask for feedback, stress that you want honest feedback. And take it like a women. Although appalled, knowing “my name”, empowered me to save my reputation. And that’s what I set out to do. How did I do it? Continue on. My then boss, did me a big favor. She gave me good, honest , feedback that I could use.
It is critical to see yourself as others see you. That means that you have go outside yourself and judge your actions as someone who does not know you. Make an honest opinion.
Every sister needs to know her “names” if your want to build a solid reputation. You may not feel comfortable approaching your boss, so consider peers, mentors and friends as information sources. Sometimes your saboteurs can be a great wealth of information. Most will find joy in telling you what names you have.
How do you earn names that will build a successful reputation? Comeback and let’s chat.
Do you know what names you are called? Please share your comments, stories and questions. Let’s help each other.
Jocelyn Giangrande is the founder & president of SASHE, LLC
© Jocelyn Giangrande and Sisters Keeping it Real, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jocelyn Giangrande and Sisters Keeping it Real with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.