It’s Friday, so this space is reserved for talking about work. Women at work. Mothers at work. Fathers and baby daddies at work. Single guys who are looking for a sugar mama at work. Mothers who want to be at work, but aren’t. Workers who want their mother coworkers to get their asses into the office. Women who don’t want to work but show up and punch the damn clock every day because rent must be paid and babies must be fed (and for those of you, like me, who are complete assholes, well, private school costs money).
If you have a story about work you want to tell here, shoot me an email (email@example.com) and we’ll work you into the busy circulation calendar. It’s jammed until next Friday.
Let’s talk about being nice at work.
Guess what? Studies show that disagreeable people in the workforce “earn substantially more” than their agreeable counterparts. I was thinking this should be good news. I should be a freaking billionaire. You want disagreeable? I can be disagreeable about everything: the temperature of the office, the hours, the politics, the ambient light, the food in the cafeteria.
While the study showed that the gap between nice MEN and their contrarian counterparts was wider than the gap between nice and contrarian women, it still showed that being a disagreeable woman puts you at a slight advantage.
I am debating about how to use this information. I am translating “disagreeable” into “assertive” to make it more palatable from a humanity standpoint. I’m not about to go around acting like a jerk just so I can earn more money.
But what if my idea of being a jerk is really just being assertive?
The truth is that half the time I don’t feel entitled to be assertive. And not just because I am conditioned to be a people pleaser, but because I am grateful to have a part-time job and I don’t want to lose it. To me, being assertive feels scary because it feels like it would jeopardize my reputation as a team player or someone who is good to work with (i.e., nice). My logic is that if I am assertive, then people will have feelings about me, and they will not like me, and then my job will be in jeopardy. It’s always seemed easier to be nice– to agree to fetch the coffee, even though you’re a salaried professional; or to take notes like a “secretary” for a room full of men who are presumably capable of taking notes as well; or to smile when your immediate supervisor throws you under the bus for a decision he insisted on; or to agree when the junior MALE associate gets to take the deposition even though you were on the case longer.
I’ve done all those things, and I was too busy smiling and swallowing the rage and shame to even consider pushing back. No man did that to me; I did that to me.
Yeah, sometimes it feels easier to be nice and poor than to stand up for myself and watch the money roll in. But now that earning less money is getting harder to swallow, I might just step up. Or at least for God’s sakes, stop smiling about all of it like it’s the greatest thing since Costco samples to undercut myself (or accept undercutting) at work.