Review: Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers

For years now people have been recommending Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers to me. The title definitely caught my attention so I placed the book on my ever-growing list of books to read, vowing to read it sooner than later. I finally got to it this month, and I must say that it was just the right time for me to read it.

In Nice Girls, Lois Frankel outlines 101 behaviors that she believes hold women back from climbing the career ladder. As a career coach she has witnessed thousands of women make the same mistakes over and over, all of which she blames on our socialization as girls and our inability to let some of those habits go as we grow older.

The book is broken into seven chapters, in which Frankel provides coaching tips for how to improve on each of the 101 behaviors.

  1. How you play the game
  2. How you act
  3. How you think
  4. How you brand and market yourself
  5. How you sound
  6. How you look
  7. How you respond

There is an assessment at the beginning of the book that allows you to determine which of those seven chapters you should focus on most. I was not surprised to see “How you sound” at the top of my chapters to focus on. Here are my favorite pieces of advice she gave in this section:

  • Explaining. Rather, over-explaining. She suggests cutting down explanations significantly and instead of rambling, state only your main point and 2-3 supporting statements. Then accept the silence, using it as a cue for others to respond.
  • Apologizing. Women tend to apologize in everyday situations, typically as a conflict-reducing technique. Frankel advises that you count the number of times you apologize unnecessarily, and make a conscious effort to save them for real mistakes.
  • Using minimizing words. Own your accomplishments. Instead of using phrases like “It was only…” and “I just…” say thank you and state that you are proud of how things turned out.

While the other chapters didn’t represent my biggest growth area, each of them had more than enough advice for me to reflect on. Behaviors like “Being invisible,” “Limiting your possibilities,” “Believing others know more than you,” and “Being the last to speak” provided the most memorable AHA moments for self-reflection.

While I found Nice Girls full of valuable professional advice overall, I struggled at times with the pieces of advice where she focused on suppressing generally feminine characteristics (e.g., taking care of others), disapproved of ethical qualities (e.g., being a whistleblower) or reinforced societal norms that bother me (e.g., older women shouldn't have grey hair in the workplace).

I also get frustrated with the fact that women are always being bombarded with advice on how to navigate our lives, especially in the workplace where the proverbial glass ceiling is only slowly cracking. I want to know where the books and articles are for men on how to better manage women and how to be leaders of organizations that embrace our unique characteristics. Why does the onus fall on me to make it to the top of the ladder in an environment that was not created with me in mind?

I respect the fact that there are always opportunities for improvement and professional growth, but I do not believe that femininity should in any way, shape, or form be mistaken for weakness (as it often is). Ultimately, the burden of success for women in the workplace should not fall on us alone.

Nonetheless, I liked the book. I particularly loved her emphasis on self-actualization and recognizing our self-worth as women, especially in the workplace. Nice Girls is a must-read for women seeking to progress in their careers as well as men seeking to be managers and leaders within their respective organizations.