Being Direct vs Being a Jerk

The Daily Beast posted the classic story on the perception of women in the workplace when they are assertive, direct and less apologetic. The results – women who cut out the niceties such as Please, Thanks and I’m Sorry often get more respect in the workplace – to a point. Push that assertiveness to the point of being disagreeable, and it will come back to bite women. But not men.

I see why being assertive works. Completely. It makes total sense. If it’s my job to delegate something, and your job to do it, I really don’t need to say please and thank you, nor should I be apologetic for tasking you. That’s doing my job, not being mean. And yet, I still nearly always sign my emails with a Thank You, and look for a “Please” from my manager and colleagues when they would like me to do something. I rarely get this from my manager (nor a thank you), and I find it incredibly aggravating.

I guess I am a sucker for being polite. When a greeter in a store opens the door, or wishes me a good morning, I always return the salutation, or look them in the eye and say thank you. It’s not pandering, or being meek, it’s being NICE. My mother the psychotherapist would call it co-dependent. I still call it being nice.

Interestingly,  when males fight or bully others it is more physical and direct. Female bullying is often referred to as “relational” bullying, and we fight on a much more emotional plane. Sociologically, women make “everything” a  relationship (I know, major generalization).

I’ve succeeded throughout my career because I am great at building relationships, and caring about my customers. Within those relationships I am appreciative and of course polite, but I am also direct and clearly define my expectations. That is why I succeed. It’s how I am able to increase sales, close long-standing business in the pipeline and affect customer (donor) loyalty. I make the ask – I don’t apologize for it at all.

One afternoon with my colleagues waiting to go to lunch and literally lined up at my cubicle, I asked my process champion at UPS what it would take to get them a contact. Nothing more, nothing less. She right then said she would purchase the product at XXX price, and I should get her a contract that day. My boss’ eyes just about popped out of his head when he heard me openly ask for the sale (we were not usually that direct), but of course he was terribly pleased with the result. And of course, I thanked her at the end of the call!

Clearly, there is a place for direct communication. Things get done when you say what you need to say. But there’s no excuse for not thanking someone for their contribution or assistance. And  there’s no need to demand things rudely when a simple “please” will go so far in their mind.

And on that note, thank you for reading, and oh, please help me find a job!


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I am an experienced non-profit director with broad expertise  in all areas of development, including special events, grassroots fundraising, individual and major giving. I bring direct experience in budgeting and expense control; strategic and operations planning; donor acquisition and cultivation; as well as brand management, social media, public relations and promotions.


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