7 Ways Women Subconsciously Sabotage Their Careers

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self sabotaging your career
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We want to know the issues that women face in their careers, but the question is: are we ready to hear the hard truth? 

Women are ready now more than ever to take over the corporate world, but the truth is that we as women often sabotage our own careers. Sounds harsh? Yes, it is. We need to learn how to stop sabotaging ourselves at work.

Women tend to depend on external praise and validation to determine their own worth. The lack of solid, supportive relationships leads to this insecurity and self sabotaging behaviour. This also stops them from speaking their mind in meetings and leads them to shy away from confrontation. 

Women also accept lower standards especially when it comes to work ﹘ this stems from age-old labels that women are given, along with their desire to fit into the existing work culture. 

Let’s explore how this holds true for women and the different ways of how to overcome self sabotaging behavior.

Ways Women Subconsciously Sabotage Their Careers

Here are some of the bigger reasons why women tend to accept low pay and ill-treatment at work, and the compromises we undertake to make everyone around us comfortable.

sabotage career

1. Sticking To The ‘Good Girl’ Label

In a bid to please everyone, women usually avoid confronting their bosses and having difficult conversations, lest we be labelled opportunistic or attention-seeking.

For instance, even though I had a different approach to a report that could have given better insights, I chose to follow the template given to me by my manager, fearing that I would be labelled as someone who doesn’t accept the reporting format that was in practice for years. Labels come off hard, and hence, we tend to avoid getting them in the first place.

2. Aspiring For Perfection All The Time 

A lot of times when women get offered new assignments or opportunities, we feel like we lack the skill to handle the new job.

These very moments of self-doubt and wavering of decisions can affect the career opportunities presented to us. 

This is one scenario from my own experience that many women will relate to: When I was asked to head the HR Department and the POSH committee, I felt bare and was about to refuse the offer as I did not feel confident enough to handle the responsibility and because I did not have the required degree! However, I said yes to the new assignment and went on to do a short workshop on this subject, which enabled me to handle everything on my plate. 

3. Seeking Feedback Or Permission

Women, in general, tend to seek feedback or ask for ‘permission’ for the smallest of things, which is a form of resistance and denotes self-doubt. We do not want to be labelled as overpowering and want to get the approval of everyone concerned so that we fit in, which also results in women not holding leadership positions.

4. Accepting The Mediocre For The Sake Of Their Comfort Zone

Jobs often get stringy. No matter how hard we try, we are simply not going to get ahead if we don’t aspire to. Also, women get so comfortable in their existing organisations that they become loyal to a fault. Often, women stay in their existing positions for the label that it provides them, instead of striving for what they are worth. 

5. Not Owning Our Achievements

Even if we get an increment, we wonder if we are worth it. This is a true-life example! When one intern I knew got promoted with a pay hike, she wondered how she got a higher salary that month and what she had done to deserve it. Well, women work and deliver more than is expected, and when they are recognised, they tend to shrug it off saying, “Oh, this was my job; I did not do anything extraordinary”.

6. Not Reporting Workplace Harassment 

The #MeToo movement brought out numerous cases of women facing harassment in the workplace.

These cases ranged from unwelcome verbal, visual, and non-verbal harassment to physical and sexual harassment. But many women choose not to report it, primarily due to the fear of getting fired and further harassed by other colleagues and seniors in their current or future jobs.

7. We Women Also Sabotage Other Women

Often in the workplace, we see that it is the women colleagues or seniors who tend to sabotage other women. This arises from feelings of jealousy and competition amongst each other. Sometimes women work against one another instead of working together as a team. Women tend to fight over the throne instead of fixing each other’s crowns. 

I would like to relate an incident from my personal experience. 

When our appraisals were due and there was a chance of getting promoted to a leadership position, a female candidate started planting seeds of doubt in the mind of her colleague about the company’s future in a bid to take her out of the running for a promotion.

This incident proves that some women sabotage other women’s careers in a bid to better their career graph.

The lead consultant of the department – who was a female – chose to promote a male team member who had the same level of commitment and dedication towards work as his female counterpart. She envisioned future late hours, which she thought a female team member would not be able to put in.

self sabotage women career

How To Stop Sabotaging Yourself At Work

The major career issue women face is not speaking up ﹘ at the right time, and when needed. 

It is only when things become increasingly unbearable and overwhelming that women start to raise their voices or fight against injustice. While we all agree that things do not change overnight, it is high time that we stopped accepting whatever is laid out in front of us and instead demand our rights, demand equality. 

There is still time; not all has been lost. Here are a few ways women can take back their power and own it. 

1. Be Assertive

Women’s roles are fast changing; they need to define what they want and why they want it. The ‘how’ works out every time. We need to get clear on exactly what role we would like and then ask for it; remember: nothing will be given if not asked for. This is a great way to avoid self sabotage at work.

2. Don’t Limit Yourself

Don’t fear wanting everything. Women have, in the past, balanced their careers with their personal and social life, and we too can do it. We don’t need to limit ourselves to only one area of our life. Let us learn from women who have achieved success in all areas.

3. Learn From Other’s Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. We need to learn from the mistakes of the women before us, whose careers we admire, whose paths we aspire to be on. Making mistakes is human; let us all accept this and not be harsh on ourselves.

4. Do Not Have A Gender Bias

We should not limit ourselves to set boundaries. We should believe that we are as capable and efficient as men. There is no need to start from a gender bias.

Let us trust that we are equal in all aspects of life and that we can also achieve the same things that men can.

5. Aggression Is Passe

We need not be aggressive or resort to anger to prove ourselves as managers just because we are women. We can be soft but assertive in any role that requires leadership and managerial skills.

6. Befriend Other Women

We must befriend other women –  preferably in the same position – and discuss our problems with them. This can make us feel less alone and more capable of handling sexism at work.

Women are worthy of wanting and having more. There might be endless obstacles in our path, but it is time we end self sabotaging ourselves by getting out of our own way, learning how to stop sabotaging ourselves at work, embracing the possibilities before us, and creating our own opportunities by refusing to settle for less.

Updated 29 August 2021

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Neha loves talking about Taxation and Investments, and pretty much dabbles with numbers the whole day. Books are her constant companion and she travels to corners of the world through them. This love for books has made her run her own book club where she interacts with fellow bibliophiles and conducts fun, bookish activities. When she's not reading or computing, she indulges in art, travelling, cooking, running, and arguing with her 2 teenage sons to show them that she's still the boss at home.

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