Do you scare people?
Evidently, I do, on occasion. A male colleague once confided in me that when we first met, “you kind of scared me a little.” That stopped me short. Me, “scary”? I did a quick mental checklist:
- Frightening facial hair and/or markings? No.
- Tendency to growl or make other creepy noises? Nope.
- Verbal references to scary things like zombies, catastrophes, or impending doom? Nuh-uh.
So what gives?
Luckily for me, by the time my colleague shared this with me, we had established a good working relationship. I was able to follow up: “Scary, really? What do you mean?” It turns out that because I approach my work with a sense of purpose and gusto, I appeared formidable to him. My enthusiasm and ability to move a project forward was, to him, a bit intimidating at first.
I can live with that.
What I can’t live with is the way that our society often equates women who are comfortable in their power with fear. Articles like Why Successful Women Terrify Us show that both men and women have trepidations about the interplay of professional women, power and the workplace.
I don’t have a problem with being powerful as long as it’s used properly. It’s not power that’s scary; abuse of power is. Every day, you have the choice to decide: how will I use my power?
Will you use your powe
r to intimidate or to attract?
Fear-based motives produce interactions that are intimidating, which repels people. When you act with the intention to attract people – to invite them into conversation and action, you use the power of who you are to create positive, mutually beneficial work relationships.
The conversation with my colleague did allow for some reflection. Did I come on too strong in our first meetings? Most likely. Was I appropriately collaborative? Yes, but there’s always room for improvement. But I won’t apologize for being intense, upbeat and driven to action. That’s who I am. My colleague’s feedback was a gift: pay closer attention to the impact you’re having on people, Jen. At the same time, if I’m acting with integrity and positive intentions and that still scares someone, then that’s their problem and not mine. I won’t apologize for staying connected to my power.
How do you stay connected to your power?
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter as @JenniferVMiller.