Work Expectations

Believe it or not, women tend to expect more from their work environment than men do. Moore's book cites research that compares men's and women's expectations about work. Women tend to want pleasant working conditions, friendly coworkers, and supervisors we admire and respect. We want to be intellectually stimulated and respected by other people. Although men also want these things, they rate other factors as more important. In addition, the research showed that the longer men work, the more realistic their expectations become about work. In contrast, the women in the study remained idealistic. Our expectations are higher than those of men, but so are the chances of being disappointed. I found this study fascinating in light of what women as a group have settled for in the workplace. I suggest that women's expectations are fantasies.

Another common fantasy about work is women's perception that bosses should reward and take care of good employees. Men are much more likely to assume that good employees demonstrate an ability to take care of themselves, rather than depend on their bosses.

I believe these fantasies cause women to fool themselves in the work force. We cling to the notion that if we just do our jobs well, we will be rewarded. These fantasies – along with our tendency to do the job too well, sacrificing expediency for perfection, and our need to know exactly what is expected, rather than take a chance and try something new – prevent many of us from ever getting promoted.

Statistically, a woman is likely to stay in the same position longer than a man. She waits patiently for others to recognize and reward her efforts. She perfects her skills in one area before daring to try something new. She relinquishes the power over her own career to others. The men and career women around her decide when they are ready to move on, regardless of their level of perfection. They tell their boss when they want more responsibility, when they expect a raise, and why. When they are not promoted, they change companies.We assume that we should wait, and all will be well. Our managers assume that we are not interested or not qualified. Harragan claims that management automatically labels anyone who stays in the same job for many years as "unpromotable." How different this is from our perception that patience and perfection will pay off.

We believe the office should be a fair place to operate, free of political undertones. When we find it otherwise, we decide that things are not being run as they should, and we don't like it. We want to take our ball and go home. We can't give up the income, so we just find someone to commiserate with. We never make good money.

This phenomenon has gone on so long that men are much more likely to be seen for their potential, while women are seen for their ability to do the job at hand. Women see themselves for their potential to do the job at hand, ignoring the possibility of their next step, believing that someone else will take care of that. We want to be measured on how hard we work, what long hours we work, and how accurate our work is. In addition, we don't want to have to point these strengths out to others. Our reputation should speak for itself. Meantime, someone else has determined the power structure and demonstrated the true qualifications for the promotion to the appropriate people. We lose the chance, and we don't understand how such an illogical decision could be made. We change companies and repeat our behavior, or we stay where we are and wait for the game to be played fairly. None of this increases our income.

Our problem is that we see any adaptation as wrong, or even evil. We don't want our fantasy bubble to burst. If we hang around long enough, everything will be done the way we want it to. We are paying a very high price for this attitude.

I believe that women must accept the business environment the way it is and adapt ourselves to work within it. If your work environment requires you to sacrifice your ethics or sleep with the boss, then you need to change companies. But if your work requires the adjustments discussed in this book, you can make those changes and hold your head high. Many, many women have adjusted their attitudes and behaviors to further their careers. So can you.


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