How to … seize recognition

by 14 Nov 2006

If you’re reading this first sentence, then congratulations! Chances are you’ve broken away from the reticence so many women carry with them that they either cannot or should not be recognised for their achievements, or worse, that if they do seek recognition, they won’t be liked.

The simple truth is that if you don’t “blow your own horn”, no one will blow it for you.

Interviews with women leaders in the US– and backed up by Australian anecdotal evidence – show women are consistently good at refusing to claim a central, purposeful place in their achievements and stories. Women are first cabs off the rank when it comes to shifting the credit elsewhere, undervaluing both their performance and contributions.

Women don’t need to be told where this comes from. Most women intuitively know they are socialised from an early age not to promote their own interests, and to focus instead on the needs of others.

Joining the success club

And men don’t help. Research shows that while women are more likely to downplay their certainty, men are more likely to minimise their doubts. So instead of identifying their successes, too many women dwell on their limitations.

The paradox is that generally we like people who succeed. And we know when people have succeeded because they are recognised. So the bind gets very messy when we – as women –start to ascribe self-talk that says we won’t be liked if we ask for recognition. We plant the seeds of our own undoing.

Lead by example

If you’re thinking it’s difficult changing long-held attitudes, you may find it’s actually easier to start with some key behaviours that could make a world of difference.

Research shows that if you model the behaviour you want from others, karma may act in your favour. Start by providing recognition to others in your immediate work sphere. As well as setting an example, you’ll start becoming what others aspire to.

Keep in mind that men and women both give and look for recognition in different ways. While men operate with tangibles such as bonuses and promotions, for women, key messages may be found in simple praise, eye-to-eye contact and one-on-one time.

That does not mean you should not reach for that bonus. It’s a material world, and if you’ve earned that financial reward, then get out there and talk up your achievements, sister!

Don’t be afraid to play the game. Be assertive, stick by your guns and even use typically ‘male’ language to prove your point. Most of all, by celebrating your own successes, you’ll find that recognition comes when you least expect it.

By Di Pierce, senior training consultant, Workplace Training Advisory Australia