Today’s Workplace Tip: Challenge the “Likeability” Penalty Applied to Women

66 percent of women receive negative workplace performance feedback on their “personal style,” compared to less than 1 percent of men.

leanin ally


Today’s Tip is the next in a series of tips on how to be a good workplace ally to women in your organization compliments of our partner,


Women face a double standard that men don’t. Men are expected to be assertive and confident, so coworkers welcome their leadership. In contrast, women are expected to be nurturing and collaborative, so when we lead, we go against expectations—and often face pushback from men and women. The problem is that women need to assert ourselves to be effective. This “likeability penalty” often surfaces in the way women are described, both in passing and in performance reviews. When a woman speaks in a direct style or pushes her ideas, she is often called “aggressive” and “ambitious.” When a man does the same, he is seen as “confident” and “strong.”


When you hear a woman called “bossy” or “shrill,” request a specific example of what the woman did and then ask, “Would you have the same reaction if a man did the same thing?” In many cases, the answer will be no. When you’re having a negative response to a woman at work, ask yourself the same question and give her the benefit of the doubt. Odds are she’s just doing her job.

Did You Know?

In a recent study of performance reviews, 66 percent of women received negative feedback on their personal style such as “You can sometimes be abrasive,” compared to less than 1 percent of men.


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Leave a Comment

  1. Hello,

    I’d like to repost this on my blog. Would that be possible? Please let me know. I’m glad to give appropriate credit.

    Thank you and I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Smiles, Lacy

    [cid:D8C610D1-83E7-4ADF-A28F-D4CBA719CE11] Lacy Schoen (“Shane”) Owner/Founder, Real Women Real Success And Amazon Best Selling Co-Author, Keys to Conscious Business Growth


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