In a new book about women in the workplace, author and C-O-O of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, discusses the importance of like-ability in the work-place … for females. She takes into account a study done at the Columbia School of Business about two employees, Heidi and Howard. In the study, half the students learned the real-life story of Heidi, a successful outgoing businesswoman. The other half got the same study accept Heidi’s name was changed to Howard. Both groups of students agreed that Heidi and Howard were capable but they liked Howard a lot more. Heidi was described as selfish and not the kind of person you’d want to hire or work for. The same qualities Heidi had that were perceived as negative were positive when it came to their assessment of Howard.

This isn’t that surprising even though the study was done as recently as 2004. For years we have heard that men with strong, commanding personalities are admired on the job but women get labeled as bitches when they exhibit high levels of assertiveness.

I think any woman in any work environment recognizes some type of gender bias. It’s the nature of the business. I haven’t read Sandberg’s book “Lean-In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.” But excerpts from the book are leading to lots of heated discussions. “Boys,” she says, “are socialized to be assertive and aggressive and take leadership. Girls? We call our little girls bossy.” Some women believe that being judged more on their personalities and less on their competence isn’t fair.

No, it isn’t.

I don’t believe that everyone should make the same choices — that everyone has to want to be a CEO or everyone should want to be a work-at-home mother. But as Sandberg responded in a recent interview, “everyone should be able to choose without being unencumbered by gender choosing for us. Success is that if a man chooses to be a stay-at-home parent, he is cheered on for that decision. And if a woman chooses to work outside the home and is successful, she is cheered on and supported.”

I want to be clear: I do not think Sandberg is saying that men are too self-confident but that women aren’t self-confident enough.”

My advice to is to always spend more time – developing and improving our skill set and finding creative ways to establish and promote our own personal brands. For too long, women especially have tied their identities so closely with their jobs, their spouses and even their roles as moms that they failed to determine their own personal identity, value and worth.

The word I see missing in most of these articles and conversations is the word respect. As a manager, colleague and even a classroom mom I’ll take respect over like-ability any day. Respect is earned in a variety of ways but it starts within. If you’re certain that what you bring to the table is of value, you’ll carry yourself in a way that commands respect. A lot of pettiness and insecurity on the job is bred from feelings of incompetence and self-doubt.

You earn respect by treating the people the way you’d like to be treated, working as hard as you require others to work and allowing others to have some ownership in the product that they are producing.

It’s nice to be liked but I like respect a whole lot more.

And I think most men would agree.

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