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3 Areas of Struggle for Women in Middle Management

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

You work hard, the pile of things to do seem endless, sometimes meaningless and that is just the list of "to do" at work. You feel anxious, hope to have your hard work noticed by upper management and you are uncertain about the future, your career, keeping it all in your head while showing up with grace in order to keep a positive image. Does this sound or feel familiar? You are absolutely not alone and not confused. The perception is probably real, but fortunately, you are not doomed to stay that way.

I have seen it time and time again with the wonderful women I had the privilege to guide and advise throughout my career. I can relate to it and still remember the feeling that this moment of reality check brings to your life.

As women, we are really good at keeping the "things to do" done. I can still hear a young corporate manager and mother of two literally yell; My whole life is an "I have to", please help.

Yes, most women are responsible, our brain is wired that way and to top it up, we are so good at multi-tasking. We have an enormous capacity to pile responsibly the things that needs to be done, until we can't anymore, because even though we work hard and well, we feel unnoticed and often not appreciated. We deplete our energy without the rewards. Let's identify the struggles.

1. We want to be politically correct without being political.

Since we are good workers, we feel that we don't have time to be political, and when we try to be, we do so mostly (pardon my non-politically correct next expression) in a male dominating environment, which can make you uncomfortable. We are worried to be perceived as trying to flirt to get to the top, or play the "man game" to fit in, and we absolutely do not want to be perceived as bypassing the hierarchy of our immediate superior, we are good girls. Hence we work, and hope to be noticed. Bad idea!

There are ways to be smart and strategic in our ways to promote ourselves, to demonstrate our abilities, our intentions and to do it in a respectful way. You need to prepare yourself for those moments where you will grab the attention, not avoid it. Promoting yourself and your work is highly recommended, if you do it strategically with a business focus, and finesse. The first step is to stop thinking you will be promoted because of your hard work. If you do the work of two people, why would they take you away from that and have to replace you. This should be a "AHA" moment.

2. Too busy to learn the bigger business picture

Where is all the great work you do for? What part of the machine does it feed? Where does it fit in the priorities of your department, but above all the bigger picture of the business. It's time to get curious!

Leaders are responsible for promoting the right people in the organization and if you are a middle manager, it is likely that they see you as a bee in a bee-nest. But your work is actually part of a bigger nest, with a business strategy and a financial goal, hence ask questions to understand what is happening, what are the priorities of the business, where is your role in the overall picture.

Always remember that understanding the business priorities and targets will define where the budgets will flow. They will be shrunk in some places and will be moved to other places or departments that are aligned with priorities. You want to understand the dynamic of the company, that simple curiosity will be your first step to strategic thinking.

3. The perception that a bigger role will mean more things to do

You are a productive worker, you handled every task with brio, you are invaluable because you do so much and now there is a possible promotion in the horizon. You wonder if you should raise your hand, fight for it and you begin to activate the spinning wheel in your head with the thought that a bigger job will simply be a lot more work with a lot more responsibility. You wonder who could be your replacement, who will take care of your job as well as you, so your mind tells you that you will have to do your current work, train someone and learn your new job all at once. That is too much to handle, even just in thoughts.

In your mind, you don't want to negotiate or impose your demand while being considered for the job because you could be perceived as complicated and they will give the job to your colleague instead. You feel stuck!

Let's take a deep breath. First of all, a higher position should mean a more strategic role, and in such position you would learn to use the 3 category principle of: Should do (strategic and aligned with the business), Need to do (focus to succeed the plan) and will Delegate (nice, you won't do all the small stuff). As for your other responsibilities with the previous job, you need to have the clear conversation on how much time you will spend passing the baton to your replacement (two weeks seems reasonable) and then forget about what you considered your masterpiece, it is time to let go. You are allowed to voice your needs, not just be told to do it all, and you will be respected for it because it is a sign of leadership.

This is where a career guide-advisor with experience will play a crucial role in helping you navigate the weeds to rise above.

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