Thursday, May 19, 2011

GUEST BLOG: Nice Girls Rule 60-Day Challenge: Day 40

Today's guest blogger is an amazing woman and friend that has some very sound advice for the 9-5 nice girl. A southern belle without the saccharine-sweetness (she'll never talk behind your back and "bless your heart" in public), Laura Bliss Morris is a strong minded, inspirational, and successful corporate queen who has an amazing design sensibility and a solid work ethic. Aside from her career clout, she also fosters dogs in her spare time with Agape Animal Rescue and could have her own show on HGTV with some of her home renovation ideas.

This the girl you want to learn lessons from, have a glass of wine with, or simply read a few paragraphs from- so I encourage you to take Laura's challenge, its a GREAT one!

Nice Girls Challenge Day 40: Climb the Corporate Ladder Without Clawing Your Way to the Top

I must admit when Megan asked me if I’d do a guest post on rules for nice girls in the workplace, I was flattered.

Megan and I first met a few years ago when we worked together as literary publicists. Since then we’veboth moved on to other careers, major life changes and different states but we’ve remained strongfriends. I attribute the bond we formed as friends to the strong foundation we first built as co-workers.

For many women, the workplace can be like high school all over again. Cliques pop up, gossip runs rampant, and everything is laced with an air of competitiveness. But what makes the workplace so much more devious, is that the stakes are higher. You aren’t competing for vice president of the senior class, you’re competing for vice president, senior partner, manager, or any other upper level position that will not only make you the envy of all your “friends” but pay you more money, give you better perks, and so on.

This can be a slippery slope. Trust me I know. A few years ago, as a mid- twenty-something trying tomake it in a new city, I went from an entry level position to manager of the department in the matterof a few months. At the time, all I saw was the title and pay upgrade. I didn’t take a realistic look back to say, “HEY! This is a great thing but are you ready for this? Do you know the industry well enough? Do you have a big long list of contacts?” instead I just went with it.

I’m a quick learner and for what I lacked in experience, I made up for in dedication to learning the things I didn’t know. But as the first-time manager of a department of three, ambitious and competitive women—this added a whole new layer and I knew I had my work cut out for me. Playing nice wasn’t always the easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do for the company (and my sanity). In the end, we all made it through—some of us with stronger bonds than others but at the end of the day I’d say we could all enjoy a nice long chat and a cold cocktail should our paths cross again.

Here are some tried and true rules to help Nice Girls climb their way to the top:

1. Gossip Girls:

There’s a reason that show’s for high schoolers: As the clock drags on and you’re stuck between lunch and punching the clock, it’s easy to get caught up dishing about the what-if’s and the hushed whispering of who did what but gossip is a very nasty thing. Just because you interpret something one way doesn’t mean that’s the correct context. Your incorrect interpretation could be damaging not only to your co-worker but your future as well. As my mother always says, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

2. Look the Part:

This isn’t a critique about your fashion sense—rather more about your fashion IQ. Animals survive and thrive in the wild because they camouflage themselves. If you want your nice girl persona to be taken seriously, now is not the time to go all ‘Sex & The City’ if you work at a conservative law firm. Expression is a big part of who we are so stifling our fashion creativity isn’t what I’m recommending. Simply become aware of your surroundings and learn to camouflage without sacrificing who you are. A crisp, clean black suite with a rockin’ pair of pink heels or other standout accessory is a great way to get the best of both worlds. You don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb but you also don’t want to blend in to the background. Using fashion to get noticed the right way takes some practice but trust me that micro mini is going to do about as much for your career as braces did for your first kiss.

3. Kitty’s Got Claws:

Competition can make us do crazy things. As a former collegiate athlete, the greatest thing I’ve learned about competition is to ALWAYS respect your opponent. You don’t have to like, approve or replicate everything your co-workers do but you should always respect them as co-workers. You’re not a teenager anymore and this isn’t your mom telling you that you can’t go to the prom. This is your peer—someone who doesn’t have to love you because you’re their kid. If you break out those cat claws and draw first blood, you can kiss your nice girl reputation goodbye. The gossip mills will be running at full steam and those cliques will be un-cliquing you post-haste.

4. Passing Notes:

Listen, if you don’t want the teacher to read to the class about your new obsession with Tommy or how you can’t stand the captain of the cheerleading squad, don’t write it in the note that you just passed to your bestie! Same thing goes for work e-mail. Come on ladies, how many times have we written something only to then accidentally forward it on to someone who wasn’t supposed to see it—a client who is driving you particularly crazy, a co-worker who is wearing an outfit that’s well—interesting, or a boss you caught picking his nose. E-mail has made modern day business communication a breeze but when used incorrectly it can also be a dangerous tool. So keep it classy. If you aren’t comfortable saying it out loud to a co-worker, maybe you shouldn’t be saying it at all.

5. The Corner Office:

Regardless of who sits in the corner office, we all want to be there at some point in our lives. If you’re new to a company take some time to get settled in and absorb the corporate environment before you start speaking up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong, outspoken woman myself—just ask Megan, my husband or even my boss—but I’ve learned to bury my feet in the sand before the tide comes rushing in. The best way to get to the corner office one day is to become invested in the company. How does this make you a nice girl? Well it means that you’re learning your role, your place in the company and then you can recognize your niche—the place where your talents fit in—without stepping on your co-workers on the way to the top.

All in all, climbing the corporate ladder without clawing your way to the top and remaining a nice girl in the corporate world isn’t easy. Whether you’re just starting your first big job or are a veteran employee,I hope these simple tips help you continue the good fight. Cheers to the nice girls, who make going to work every day a pleasure!

Laura Bliss Morris is a senior, public relations practitioner for a Nashville-based non-profit. After years of competing at cut-throat for-profit corporations, she recently retracted her claws and returned to her first love—the non-profit sector. An avid DIY’er, she can often be found up to her elbows in a home renovation project with her husband and two dogs. To read more from Laura visit her blog: Bungalow Bliss

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