My very nice Twitter friend, Elaine Clark, commented the other day:
“Why is it that women are aggressive and men assertive – well that is what blokes always tell me!”
I do not have that opinion (and I think Elaine had her tongue in her cheek), but it set me thinking about how perceptions of people govern their success in employment or in business.
Aggressive or assertive?
In large businesses I would have thought that employees perceived as aggressive would not be favoured by their bosses or the owners. However, I have to say that if we think about “assertive” meaning rather pushy and extrovert then I do think that getting noticed does help people to be promoted, sometimes above those who have more ability and knowledge. That goes for both women and men.
Certainly I remember in a previous employment spotting early a very pushy female junior whom I thought would go far. She is now a partner in that international firm. Did her pushiness pay off? It might have done, because another very pushy person but not so clever guy also made partner. I like to think the pushy lady made the higher echelons because she worked hard and is clever too.
I do think it is possible that pushy people get promoted in larger organisations because their managers prefer a quiet life. Do you?
Pushy or confident?
Having met many small business owners since I became one myself, I am not convinced that it pays to be pushy and in-your-face. In fact I know it is not. Don’t you try to avoid those people at networking events who buttonhole you and thrust their flyers and cards at you even though you have not expressed an interest?
There is nothing wrong with putting yourself forward of course. I do, even though it is not really a natural thing for me I am an introvert really, but have trained myself, through watching others, to speak and to do presentations. I try not to talk too much face-to-face about my business unless asked. It is quite different to set out our wares on our websites, or have flyers delivered door to door, because that does not force anyone to look at whatever they don’t want to.
Mainly we need to show what we can do, and what successes we have had, and demonstrate our knowledge. Male or female, we should not be aggressive or assertive so that people notice, because they are likely to react against us.
We need to gain the confidence of our business community. We can have a personal brand which people like without being over-the-top and freaking people out. To me, pushy doesn’t cut it. What do you think?