Three Reasons Why Successful Women Are Not Considered Likable… And How to Change That

I was talking to my girlfriend the other day and started ranting halfway through the conversation. I had just read an article about likability in the work place and the woman who was interviewed commented that likability and success are related for men, but work inversely for women. Both genders actually like successful women less. Although I knew this, reading it really irked me.

Over the years, I have come across this issue countless times with female (and even some male) clients who held powerful positions in their companies. Because likability leads to better relationships which then leads to even more success, being perceived as ‘unlikable’ can interfere with your progression up the corporate ladder. It can also leave you lonely on whichever rung on the ladder you are standing. I have found that the reasons why this inverse likability and success relationship exist are usually some variation on the same three themes.

Here are the three most common culprits that keep people from achieving true success… and how to fix them:

1. Be Authentic

Culprit: When females adapt to a man’s world they cut away things that are naturally ‘female,’ like empathy and openness. The woman then comes off as inauthentic and awkward… and not so ‘likable.’

Fix: Before walking into any meeting, imagine the table is lined with your closest friends. This will help you to interact authentically and with ease.

2. Believe in Abundance

Culprit: The corporate culture feeds a mindset of scarcity instead of abundance. A scarcity mindset breeds competition and fear and jealousy.

Fix: Think about what your world would look like if you believed there was enough money and jobs and support for everyone. How would it feel if your colleagues helped you get a promotion? How about it you helped you colleague get a promotion? An abundant mindset promotes camaraderie instead of competition.

3. Pat Yourself on the Back

Culprit: Each of us has something unique and special to share. One person may be really organized and a great planner while their colleague may be a true visionary. Sometimes, though, looking at others’ successes can make us feel less adequate and our own success can make us feel guilty.

Fix: Focus on self-expression and self-celebration. Stop worrying about being liked and embrace your success. Being liked and being successful should not be mutually exclusive. We can have both. As I said in an earlier blog post, “Just as we often don’t work to our fullest potential when a job isn’t the right fit, our relationships don’t develop when we don’t feel a real connection.”  Be authentic and be great – and make no apologies.

Let’s break the cycle. We can celebrate each other’s successes and we can raise each other up. There is enough ‘good stuff’ to go around. Check out the Law of Giving for free on my website and take a new tact. We can change this perception.

3 thoughts on “Three Reasons Why Successful Women Are Not Considered Likable… And How to Change That

  1. Michelle, I think you nailed this with #1, authenticity and women who adapt to male characteristics. Empathy is not to be underrated in the workplace as well as the development of strong relationships. Women can’t be effective leaders without being likeable. The other side of the challenge I’ve found, as a coach to many female business owners, is when they are too concerned with being liked (not likeable) and have a hard time making tough decisions that could result in making employees unhappy. Thanks for a great post!

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