Q: I am a technical professional woman, working in a rather aggressive field, often greatly outnumbered by men.
In many instances, the men lay claim to my work (if it is good or creative) or I am totally blamed for some problem for which I am only partly, if at all, to blame. What is a polite and effective way to combat this?
Also, all too often someone is mouthing total baloney. You may say just to let it go, but either my own credibility is at stake (as when they ask, "Why didn't you say anything?") or the company will have more problems if it acts according to the misstatements. What is a polite and effective way to correct them? If possible, I would like not to alienate anyone.
A: It is no accident that a woman is asking this question.
Whether men realize it or not, they have always known that the sort of good manners you describe -- refusing to brag, allowing misstatements to pass uncorrected, giving away credit -- are for social use only and will not do in the marketplace.
Women will often persist in bringing those social standards to work. They often downplay the money angle, because they think it vulgar, and consider it of prime importance to be liked by everyone.
Miss Manners never condones bad manners. But the fact is that good business manners are different from these social manners -- which incidentally apply in private life to gentlemen as much as to ladies -- because the situation is different. Unlike proper social life, business is naturally competitive, and its goal is to get things done rather than to spread charm.
Miss Manners expects you to treat others with unfailing courtesy and respect in all aspects of your life and does not want to hear any workplace screams of "You're full of baloney."
But it is perfectly good business manners to say such things as, "Yes, I'm glad this worked out the way I envisioned -- that's why I fought so hard to do it this way," or "It's too bad it failed, but you know I opposed this all along," or "Now just a minute -- let's go over this again clearly, because I don't think you've considered the possible consequences."