At my previous company (about 3 years ago), I was one of few woman in a male-dominated organization. I struggled to be taken seriously by clients and vendors on a regular basis. So, I did what any corporate chickee would do - I had to man up. I started thinking like a man. I made sure to never show any emotion, and to keep my relationships with my colleagues on a strictly professional level - no flirting, no nothin'. I wanted to make it clear that I was a professional to be taken seriously. And you know what? It worked. It didn't happen over night, but I eventually strong-armed some stickler clients into taking me seriously and in the end they respected me more for it. I learned to be all business and go all out at every opportunity - to show the boys whose boss! Ironically, I ended up leaving that organization when I was burnt out and it was just too much for me to live with anymore. Plus, I had met my future husband and was ready to get serious! (Let me tell you how long it took to get him to make a move, considering my approach to work!)
When I moved to my current company, I made a conscious effort to dial it back a little bit. No one likes the newbie who shows up to their first meeting and tries to run the show. Which is exactly the type of behavior I had to have at my old organization. I didn't want to come off as a know-it-all, so I made sure take some time to listen, learn and soak it all up. Well, I guess before I knew it I had gotten comfortable with my newbie status. Next thing I knew, I had been here for two years and the IT guy was telling me I was the office pushover. What?! Me? A pushover?? Never! No one who knows me would ever describe me as a pushover - not in my personal life or in my professional life. I've never been the girl who backs down, ever.
Once I realized what happened... that I had gotten comfortable being a sponge, I realized I needed to change my behaviors. No more was I going to get work dumped on me that shouldn't be, or be told no when the answer should be yes. It's not easy - but I had to focus on the little things.
-The way I carried myself around the office. They always say 'walk with purpose' and I took that to heart. No longer did I hesitantly walk into my bosses office to ask a question. Instead, I firmly walked in, planted my feet, and stated my case point blank.
-The way I spoke. Yes, I can have the chipmunk voice thing going on. I had to try extra hard to keep my voice a little lower when asking questions. I almost started making statements instead of asking questions!
-I learned to say NO. Seriously... it goes a long way. Plus, it feels damn good to say no for a change!
It hasn't been easy, but I think I've been slowly turning the tides and re-training my coworkers that I am no longer a doormat. It was hard for some of them at first. You could literally see the expression on their faces as I didn't bend to their will 100% of the time. This doesn't mean I'm not a team player anymore, or that I won't help anyone out. It's just a matter of repositioning myself in the workplace, and so far it's working. Lately, I've noticed that I feel like my coworkers as well as directors take me more seriously. Doesn't happen over night, it's been about a year in the making, and I'm still working on it!