One of the biggest critiques we hear is that unlike our male colleagues, we don’t self-promote enough. We are told we need to let our managers know what we accomplish because that is what our male colleagues do and unless we do what men do, we can’t compete with them. But this advice like so much of what we are told doesn’t work for us. Why? Because we are not men! Self-promoting in order to gain recognition is a male approach. We need to gain recognition using a female approach!
Have you ever noticed that a lot of men are very uncomfortable with public recognition? Ironic isn’t it – that for all the self-promoting they supposedly do, if you want to recognize a man in front of a large group of his peers he will do all he can to get out of it. Women on the other hand are much more comfortable with recognition in front of a large group. To us it feels more like a celebration.
Women like celebrating accomplishments because it is sharing. We are comfortable saying “I got my report done early so let’s go out to lunch to celebrate!” Or how many of us have brought in bagels or doughnuts or cookies to the office to recognize some small accomplishment?
We like to tie food to our celebrations – food bonds people and that works with our relationship driven personalities.
The Power of Food
Have you ever noticed that nothing gets more attention in the office than food? When you bring in the bagels, people appear and want to know what the bagels are for. Order pizza for your department and suddenly your department grows and everyone wants to know why the department bought pizza.
So as a woman, you don’t need to self-promote like a man, just bring in food and let the food do the talking for you! I love to use the power of food in the office!!
When I was in the Air Force we had a monthly briefing with the Wing Commander which historically was pretty ugly – it was equivalent to lambs being led off to slaughter. The briefing was also a major pain to put together – it took about 32 man-hours. As my department did better on assembling the briefing material and meeting our metrics I decided to start awarding them. If all went well, I bought pizza after the briefing. The scent of pizza filled the office air once a month. I didn’t have to announce to anyone that we met our metrics – the scent of pizza made the announcement for me!
In a predominantly male office food is so powerful. Most of the guys go out for lunch – usually to the same old places, so even the smallest change in the mundane food routine is an attention getter! You can use the power of food in a multiple of situations to gain recognition, just be creative:
- When you, your department or project team accomplishes a goal, have a luncheon or bring in doughnuts, bagels or cupcakes. Put up a sign stating what the accomplishment was that resulted in the treat. Don’t be shy about bringing in food for a goal that you alone accomplished – show that you are proud of yourself and you want to share that good feeling. Encourage other women to do the same.
- When a peer asks for more time to complete his work and it impacts your department, let him know it’s OK for him to finish late, as long as he brings in bagels for your department. Just make sure you take a bagel to your boss and let him know the reason for the bagels.
- When you help out a male peer, do it over a working lunch that he buys. When people stop by (as they will) to find out what you are doing, let them know you agreed to help him out as long as he bought you lunch. It sends the message that you are very busy but still willing to help out a colleague…for a price. Men will relate to your price – you share their elevated value of food.
- When you finish a project on time that involved people from other departments, buy everyone who helped you Starbucks or bring in cupcakes from the special bakery as a thank you.
- With the other women in the office, work out the rewards and thank you’s for helping each other out, especially with the admin staff. It reinforces the message that working with women results in food rewards.
Being the department that always seems to have food around or uses food for rewards is a great for getting cooperation from other departments – the promise of real food, good food, makes all the guys want to work with you.
Don’t feel limited to sweets and carbs. Men like healthy food too! I’ve brought in cherries and strawberries that disappeared fast. We even made smoothies on hot afternoons.
Remember, the most powerful tool in the food arsenal is homemade food! So when you accomplish the big goals have a celebratory pot luck lunch. Invite families. Everyone likes to show off their (or their spouse’s) homemade specialty. And nothing draws attention like the smell of homemade food wafting through the building. Everyone will come to visit so make sure you have a sign or write on the whiteboard congratulations to the team and state what the accomplishment was. And don’t forget to invite upper level managers to the luncheon – it’s a great way to get face time and recognition – they will stop by!!
I have also made deals with my manager that if my team accomplished a goal we could go out to lunch to a nice restaurant. When the entire office disappears for a couple of hours, it gets attention and word spreads very quickly.
Using food as a way to gain recognition sets you apart from your male peers. Men aren’t good at using this tactic. If you worry that bringing in food will make the men see you as domestic, don’t worry about that. They know you put food in their stomachs and they are happy – that is as far as they will go.
As a woman, you don’t need to take the uncomfortable male approach and self-promote to get recognition. Do what is comfortable for you and openly celebrate your accomplishments with your team and coworkers. Men, who at first may be uncomfortable with the idea of a “celebration” quickly warm up when food is involved. Using this tactic you can change how the office thinks about recognition – you can make the office associate food with recognition and essentially disempower the braggers.
A point I want to keep emphasizing is that we have the power to use our strengths to change the workplace and that is what we should be doing! You don’t need to stress over trying to be comfortable self-promoting – just learn to make a decent pot of chili and a couple of casseroles!
Here is a recipe even my domestically challenged accountant daughter can do.
Easy Taco Salad That Men Love – (I got this from a male co-worker):
Head of Lettuce
Can of Kidney Beans
1 ½ pounds of ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning
Mix it all together in a bowl. Then just before you serve take a bag of crushed Doritos and add to the salad. Then mix in Thousand Island salad dressing. Sounds strange but it is really good!!
Empowered women know that the way to a man’s recognition is through his stomach.
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