We’ve all seen the infamous quicksand scenes in movies: the hero is obliviously strolling through the jungle and realizes s/he is trapped in quicksand rapidly sinking with nowhere to go.
While the threat of quicksand is often exaggerated in films, it’s a great visual that perfectly encapsulates the way that common yet harmful company narratives can trap you in your career. While these narratives can be applied to either gender, women most often tend to be the ones that have the most trouble getting out of quicksand when they get caught up in it in a male-dominated workplace.
Some of the most prevalent quicksand myths include:
- You should be grateful to have a job” – Your paycheck is not a handout. Your paycheck is not a kindness. Your paycheck is an exchange for the work you completed in the previous pay period. Yes – many people are currently looking for work, however, if you made it through furloughs and layoffs, you’ve already passed your company’s value assessment and they have determined that your work is worthy of compensation.
- “We can give you the title, but the raise will be delayed” – Promotions in title only aren’t promotions. In fact – they’re demotions – as you’re doing more work for the same amount of pay. Most often, the promises of a future raise serve as a carrot on a string for employers to keep you engaged without opening their wallets. If a company is only able to promote you in title, then they aren’t ready to promote you.
- “You just had a review” – It’s standard to expect a yearly performance review. In any professional situation, you are your best advocate. Be willing to initiate the review process – it’s a necessary part of being a professional. Reviews are essential for feedback to identify strengths and growth opportunities and communicate the goals that both you and the company have for your future. If your employer is perturbed by an annual request for feedback, then they are the ones failing to be professional.
- “Team players do favors” – Favors are short–term, once in a while tasks when a team is in a bind. Favors are not sustained additional responsibilities, onboarding client accounts or managing internal culture for your company. If they can, companies will slowly expand your job description bit-by-bit without providing compensation, additional resources or clear expectations. Keep track of anything that feels like a permanent addition and address it in your yearly review.
Imposter syndrome is something that many women in the workplace struggle with. It’s important to remember that just because someone says something that doesn’t make it true. The above narratives are just a few quicksand traps that we can fall into if we place pleasing others over our own needs.
As professional females we must be able to cultivate our voices to confidently advocate for ourselves in the workplace while avoiding the quicksand diversions that prevent us from advancing in our career.