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Book Review: The Myth of The Nice Girl: Achieving A Career You Love Without Becoming A Person You Hate by Fran Hauser
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Book Review: The Myth of The Nice Girl: Achieving A Career You Love Without Becoming A Person You Hate by Fran Hauser - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: The Myth of The Nice Girl: Achieving A Career You Love Without Becoming A Person You Hate by Fran Hauser

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: The Myth of The Nice Girl: Achieving A Career You Love Without Becoming A Person You Hate by Fran Hauser

Do not be fooled by the title of this book. Yes, its intended audience is professional women, and yes, the writer is a former woman executive and current startup investor. However, The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person you Hate (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) may be more enlightening and beneficial for men than for women.

Author Fran Hauser jumps right in explaining what it’s like for women to be judged as too nice, to have their kindness mistaken for being pushovers in a world that appears to reward pushiness. There’s a word here that she is very careful to avoid: bullying. Yet if you haven’t witnessed the bullying of professional women by professional men in the context of doing business, you probably haven’t been paying attention, in which case this book is most definitely for you.

“I tried stifling my empathy and kindness,” she writes in the introduction, “but the truth was, behaving that way just wasn’t me. It felt fake and inauthentic. Plus, I saw that it wasn’t as effective for my career as using kindness had been … In fact, as I learned to own my natural kindness, it has become my professional superpower.”

Hauser surveyed 1500 women, 76 percent of whom said that they felt caught at work in a double bind between the need to be nice and the need to be tough. This is despite 95 percent of them agreeing that being nice has been helpful at work.

Whether we are male or female, whether we manage women, compete with them, or report to them, understanding the tension 76 percent of them feel between the desire to be nice and the need to be taken seriously is incredibly important. Are we perpetuating the tension in our workplaces, and if we are, what can we do to support each other?

Hauser’s angle is to coach women through different professional situations, with advice not on choosing one attitude or the other, but managing both: Be ambitious AND likeable. Speak up assertively AND nicely. Negotiate with strategy AND empathy. Invest in yourself AND be a team player. The power of her book is in her gentle illustrations of what too much of one looks like when there’s not enough of the other. Although the title would suggest an emphasis on nice people learning to be more assertive, she spends equal amounts of time on helping assertive women be nice.

A recurring theme is the power of niceness in establishing and maintaining relationships. Some of it is well-trod territory. Niceness means goodwill, and goodwill means better networks, or increased likelihood that someone will stick his or her neck out on your behalf. Hauser insists that this only works when it’s authentic, and this is another repeating theme: authenticity. Be yourself, she insists, but improve yourself with some of these tools.

As we strive to make our workplaces more diverse, more inclusive, and fairer to everyone, a bit of empathy on all our parts becomes necessary, and it can begin with understanding the struggles half of our population goes through just navigating the difficult waters of professional assertiveness and personal empathy. Nobody should have to choose one over the other, but are we doing our collective best to keep our employers, employees, and peers from having to walk that line? Fran Houser’s book gives us a few good vantage points for observing and considering our own behavior.

Recommended for women, but recommended even more for the men they work with.

 

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Book Review: The Myth of The Nice Girl: Achieving A Career You Love Without Becoming A Person You Hate by Fran Hauser - Executive Leadership Articles

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