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For women in the workplace, it can sometimes be a brutal struggle between fighting those natural instincts while also wanting to remain assertive and refusing to be the company doormat.  A recent The Office episode showed the company receptionist as she fought to go from receptionist who answered phones and made copies to a sales woman and a force to be reckoned with.  One of her co-workers asked her to make copies.  She refused and said, “You can make your own copies”.  Later on, she tells the camera, “If I do that now, I go to copy maker and by the end of the day, I’m right back to being a receptionist”.

There are more than a few women who can relate to that, says A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and president of  “The trick is to find that middle ground that says you’re not going to be walked on”.  And if you think this is no longer a concern for women in the workplace, think again.  It happens more often that we’d like to believe.

So what are the big danger areas for women?  Take a look:

Too many times, women try to be the voice of reason.  We want everyone to get along and we want as little stress at the office as possible.  It’s just not realistic; or if it is, it’s not realistic for women to believe they can always facilitate it, says A. Harrison Barnes.  “Let the cards fall where they may when it comes to situations that are out of your control”.

Another problem women can sometimes have, and maybe it’s force of habit from raising our children, but many women are so intimidated by delegating the workload.  It’s so much easier to say, “Nevermind, I’ll do it myself”.  That’s not, on any level, going to serve you well in your career, says the founder.  “Instead, say, ‘I’m sure the two of you can get it worked out between you”.

At the risk of upsetting a few folks, consider this next tip with an open mind:  You’re not one of the guys.  And it’s not a bad thing.  Feel as though you’re missing out on what’s going on in the locker room or golf course?  You might be.  Forcing clients and co workers to refrain from talking shop unless they’re in a co-ed area is only going to make you look pouty and could jeopardize an important contract.  Make sure those meeting you’re a part of include you making significant contributions.  Speak up.  And don’t fall into the trap of feeling as though you have to laugh at jokes that can only make sense to those with testosterone.  We don’t get all their jokes – and that’s OK.

Finally, don’t point out the differences.  Avoid making the argument that you’re missing out because you’re a woman.  You’ve made it this far by being assertive and with impressive contributions.  Don’t lose sight of that – it’s powerful.

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