Fake People, Real Love.

By Erika Harrington

Teamwork makes the dreamwork and two is always better than one, right? Well yeah, kinda. And maybe not if you’re the type of person that gives all the credit for a job well done to your partner. The success of the group should mean success for all parties—and should is the key word here.

We’ve seen the research that suggests that women have trouble with self promotion, and tend to shy away from boasting about themselves. The problem reaches a different level when women start to give all the credit to their partner after a successful collaboration.

You know the moment when your boss asks, “How much do you think you contributed to the success of this project?” Please tell me you didn’t answer “oh it was all them.” Because we both know that’s not true.

Researchers Michelle Haynes and Madison Heilman found that women give their credit away more often than you might think. They set up an experiment in which participants worked on a project and were told that they and a partner working from a separate locationa partner they would never have any contact withwould have to complete individual tasks remotely. Their separate contributions would be compiled for the final product. The catch: the partner is completely made up.

Did you pick up on that? A partner, that only exist in the land of make believe, is supposedly helping these participants with their assignments when the reality is that no one is contributing but them.

This is where it gets really wild. When some participants were told that they had done good work, the researchers asked who they thought deserved the credit. And they said their partner. Their partner. Their completely not real, totally made-up partner who totally did not deserve credit for their totally fake help on the project.

drake-rips-jay-z-raptors-netsFake people, man.

I was speechless when I learned this. I couldn’t believe it. How could these women attribute all their greatness to some pretend person?

Okay, now let’s take a step back. Not all of the participants gave away their credit to Casper the Friendly Ghost™ and the Easter Bunny™. The male participants did a good job of talking about their contributions.

And this is a trend we know holds true for many, real professional women. We have trouble taking credit for our own success and we struggle to promote the skills that our employers have benefited from. It’s also worth mentioning that when the participants of this study were told that their remote partner was female, they tended to take more credit for their work. They simply gave into misconceptions about male superiority.

The solution here is so simple; own it like the queens of RuPaul’s drag race. giphy

The reason why you are constantly creating quality work and seeing projects you’re a part of achieve success isn’t because of everyone around you. And it’s definitely not because you’re fortunate enough to have male coworkers. It’s because of you! And it’s high time that you start making sure people know that.

Ladies: Modesty is Not the Best Policy

By Rebekah Peterson

Ladies, have you ever been told you did a great job and your gut reaction is to say:

“It was no big deal.”

giphy

“It was just a little hard work.”

“I got some help along the way.”

Or, “I just got lucky”?

These are just a few examples of the ways women keep themselves from self-promoting, which is when you clearly articulate your strengths and accomplishments to a person to advance your professional career.

But why do women downplay their accomplishments?

In short, violating modesty norms (the expectation that women should be humble and modest and not talk about their own strengths) makes women uncomfortable. And research shows that women need to (and can) power through this discomfort if they want to be successful at work.

In 2013, researchers Smith and Huntoon randomly selected 78 women from a Northwestern university to write an essay for a scholarship application that promotes the merits of either themselves (breaking modesty norms) or another person as a letter of recommendation (not breaking modesty norms).

The researchers thought breaking the modesty norm would cause self-promoting women anxiety and in turn affect their ability to self-promote in their essays.

Turns out they were right.

When they asked the women about the experience of writing, the self-promoting women expressed less interest in the task, were more likely to adopt performance-avoiding goals (“I just wanted to avoid doing poorly on the task”), and felt they performed poorly.

But it wasn’t just the women themselves who judged their work poorly. The researchers took all the essays and had 44 new impartial research participants judge them. The catch was, the researchers reformatted the essays that were written about another person to sound like people were writing about themselves.  This way the judges couldn’t tell the difference between essays that were written to self-promote, and those that were originally written to promote others.  Result: the participants assessed the self-promoting essays as lower quality compared to those that originally promoted another person.

So, women couldn’t promote themselves as effectively due to their anxiety, but could effectively promote for another person.

Here’s where it gets crazy:

There was actually a second group of women who completed the same task, but they were told there was a black box in the room that generated subliminal noise and could cause them discomfort. In reality, the box was a fake and there was no subliminal noise.

But, the women who self-promoted with the supposed “subliminal noise” expressed more interest, adapted more performance-approach goals (“I wanted to do better than other students”), and felt their work was of higher quality.

So, it’s not that woman don’t have the ability to self-promote, they just need something to blame their anxiety about self-promoting on.

Does this mean all women should turn on a subliminal noise when they need to self-promote?

Of course not, but here are some tips:

  • Employers should recognize that women are downplaying themselves and work to encourage women to self-promote.
  • Women should recognize this makes them uncomfortable and practice talking about their own accomplishments so they can power through any anxiety.
  • Most importantly, women should support other women who self-promote and break modesty norms. Make a pact with your friends to call each other out when you’re downplaying and congratulate when you successfully self-promote.

So remember, next time you’re doubting yourself–you didn’t get lucky. You killed it.