Beat the Mean Girls Without Sacrificing Your Authentic Self

Fran Hauser, former President of Digital at Time, Inc., Angel Investor, and author of The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate (out April 17) believes being nice is a “superpower”. She believes in negotiating effectively by leveraging your empathetic “she-nature.”

CoveyClub: What inspired you to write this book?

Fran Hauser: The idea came to me back in 2009. I was doing a lot of mentoring, especially of younger women. And the most common question I got asked was, “How can you be so nice and still be successful?”

I looked around to see if there was a book written on the topic and all I could find was, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel in 2004 so I thought, ok, there is definitely white space here and this book needs to be written.

And then two years ago I wrote a short blog post for titled Nice Women Finish First, When They Ask the Right Questions which was about how kind women CAN get the corner office.

A lot of people reached out to me on social media and through email, and I knew it really struck a chord. When my agent saw the response to the nice girl post she said, “This is the book you should be writing,” which is really ironic because that’s the book I initially wanted to write back in 2009!

CoveyClub: You say that the strongest, most effective leaders use kindness to inspire their co-workers and create powerfully positive workplace environments. How do you handle the inevitable Negative Nellys that might stifle this process?

Fran Hauser: If I see that someone is really negative, I try to figure out why, because sometimes it’s a situational thing that can be addressed. I have a story in the book about this young woman, Jackie, a graphic designer, who would come to meetings and I would see her rolling her eyes. She was always negative. One day I called her out on it and asked her if everything was ok, that I was noticing how her energy was off.

She admitted to me that she felt she was being asked to do a lot of tedious things and being taken advantage of by the team. So, I said, “take me through that,” and literally had her list all the things that were bothering her.

There were some things that I told her she was just going to have to do, like make photo copies for the team, because [she was] the junior person. She was also getting coffee and snacks every day for the team, so I encouraged her to talk to her boss about that and it got fixed. And guess what? Her attitude changed!

But there are other people [for whom being negative] is just their nature. As a leader, I know those people are going to bring the whole team down. So, I try to find a way that they can contribute on an individual level.

CoveyClub: Why do you think the myth persists that you can’t be nice and get ahead in 2018?

Fran Hauser: Look at the book, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. That phrase has been around for a long time. People believe that you can’t be both kind and strong. But I think the most effective leaders are both. They are not mutually exclusive.

Managers and bosses perpetuate the myth. I’ve had many young women tell me, “I had my performance review and my boss told me that I’m too nice and that’s going to hurt me.”

What I say to a woman in that situation is to go back to your boss and ask specifically: “In what way is being nice hurting me or my progress?” Maybe the boss has some constructive feedback. They might say “you are always getting buy-ins from everybody else but you’re incapable of making a decision.”

At the end of the day, business is about influencing people, getting the best out of your team, and knowing how to have a constructive conversation with someone when you have really difficult news to deliver.

The Myth of the Nice Girl wants to embolden women and girls to be confident, strong and decisive by cultivating kindness, compassion, and empathy, and using those qualities as the secret sauce of success in the workplace and in their personal lives.