Advice on when to say no in a professional context from angel investor Joanne Wilson. By Joanne Wilson (Blogger & Angel Investor, Gotham Gal)
I read a book when I was on vacation in December called Virtual Love. I continue to think about the book.
The book is told through the eyes of a smart, highly educated woman who is in a bad relationship and a meh job. She lands a great job at Google, roughly 3,000 miles from where she is currently residing, which is NYC. She moves forward thinking that this change will be good. She is in her mid-30s wondering about getting married or not. Wondering about her career choices and her desire to succeed yet still have her friends and perhaps a relationship. She is confused and living inside a tremendous echo chamber in her own head.
The other night I had dinner with two girlfriends who are both successful, work ridiculous hours, can't say no to anything and quite frankly are exhausted. There is no question that they rarely get the credit they deserve. We spoke about women vs. men. Women operate so differently. Some men appreciate the can-do woman while others find them good from the onset but overwhelming at one point. I have heard about many women who are "let go" from their jobs in the startup world that are in their early 40s right before they are vested. There are always three sides to a story but it does make one wonder why. Is it a cultural fit or is it power struggle?
There is this chapter in the book that I told my friends about. It was 9:30 at night and all the men had gone home but the women were still there working. Why? The main character in the book was the boss of this particular department at Google and she said something that was interesting. Men never sign up for things that they do not want to do. She told all the women in her department to throw away their to-do lists. Focus on what you need to and leave the stuff that you know you can do but it is not top of the list and as important as others. Just do things that need doing. Do not feel guilty about it but good. Ask yourself before saying yes to doing something, would my male counterparts take on this task? If the answer is no then do not do it. Then you too will leave when you should and in the end that is healthy and possibly more productive. Bottom line; women operate so differently.
My friends totally agreed with me that they should move forward with that idea in mind. They should ask themselves why we continue to do everything for everybody? It reminds me of a story of a friend of mine, a woman, who is running a division of a major consumer food business. She was engaged to be married. She was concerned that she was not paying attention to what was happening in her division but instead paying attention to all the things she had to do for the wedding. Reality was that she was doing exactly what needed to get done and delegating to the people under her to do the rest. She was really concerned that her boss would figure out that she was remiss. She felt she should tell him. I told her that was ridiculous, that I am sure he has zero idea and I find it hard to believe you are not getting more done than most. She was not so sure. We had this conversation at her bridal shower. She was living in Chicago and I was in NYC. We talked every few weeks. This was before the internet, texting and constant engagement.
The following Monday the phone rings and it was her. My first reaction was to ask if everything was OK because we had just seen each other. She laughed because she was calling me to tell me she had just been promoted. Ends up I was right. She was probably doing a better job having those wedding distractions because she was only doing what needed to get done vs. trying to do everything.
An interesting thing to think about. Women should be themselves but sometimes they do need to see the inner workings of an office/environment and ask themselves how should they be operating in this arena. Taking on everything for everyone is great in the short term but it never works in the long run.
Do you agree with Joanne?
About the blogger: Joanne (@thegothamgal) is an advisor and investor in startups, including Curbed (Eater/Racked), Food52, Red Stamp, Catchafire, DailyWorth, Editd, Ricks Picks, Cacao Pietro, Editions 01, Hot Bread Kitchen, Nest.io, Gotham Gym, The Moon Group and MOUSE. Her most successful venture is being married to her best friend and raising three kids.