How to Humble Brag at Work - Because If You Don't Fight for You, Who Will?

A new psychological study confirms that women are afraid to pat themselves on the back while on the job

Regardless of what you may read on Facebook, a new study claims that women have difficulty tooting their own horn in the workplace and that “intervention techniques” may help them overcome this too-humble obstacle.

Researchers from Montana State University surveyed 80 undergraduates and concluded that women tend to downplay their success, yet they have no qualms when it comes to praising a friend’s or co-workers accolades.

This study, titled “Women's Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women's Self-Promotion,” found that American women feel that society frowns upon shameless self-promotion, which is why women fail to announce their accomplishments. (And FYI: Previous research showed that men do not deal with “modesty norms” and have zero issue bragging about themselves. Insert joke here.)

Part of the experiment consisted of two groups of women who were asked to write an essay about their accomplishments for possible scholarship funds. A small black box was placed in both rooms. One group wasn't told anything about the black box, while the other group was informed that it was a "'subliminal noise generator' that produced ultra-high frequency noise that couldn't be heard, but could cause them discomfort," as reported by ScienceDaily.

The women who knew about the generator were awarded up to $1,000 more than the women who didn't know about the contents of the black box. But here's the sneaky part — this type of generator doesn't exist. "The key here is that when women had an alternative explanation for why they might be feeling uncomfortable — the supposed noise generator — the awkwardness they felt from violating the modesty norm by writing about themselves was diverted, and they did just fine," said Jessi L. Smith, professor of psychology at Montana State University and lead researcher. Hmm…something to think about, ladies. Why are we so nervous to talk about how awesome we are? Seems silly.

The good news — further research indicated that the “modesty norm” can be overcome. So just how — and when — should women start showing off? Laura Berman Fortgang, MCC, Life Coach and author of Take Yourself to the Top: Success from the Inside Out says its best to brag behind closed doors during an interview, a review or during a one-on-one meeting about an important work issue. Keep in mind to make a specific business case and not an emotional one.

“In other words, saying that you worked hard and sacrificed personal time for an accomplishment won't get you as far as stating concrete ways that you saved the company money, made them money, solved an important problem and/or avoided a potential one.”

You can also do a little boasting at a group meeting, but there’s a way to do with finesse. “At a relevant point, interject an accomplishment your team added to the matter at hand, including your part as well,” says Berman Fortgang.

What to avoid — grandstanding or taking over an agenda during a meeting. Also, complaining, whining or sounding self-righteous are all big no-no’s.

“Prove your worth by focusing on results verses process,” she adds. “Despite women (and yes, some men) being predisposed to finding women's bragging abrasive, do it! It beats saying nothing and letting the credit or promotion go to someone else.”

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