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Paul Coughlin Christian Blog and Commentary

Passive, Self-Defeating, Success-Limiting Behaviors of Christian Nice Girls

And now, more passive, self-defeating, success-limiting behaviors of Christian Nice Girls:


Sharing too much personal information in an effort to be well-liked.  Women bond by sharing the intimate details of their lives, so they naturally tend to carry this behavior over into work settings.  Because of their strong need for approval, Christian Nice Girls share more than is necessary or wise to connect with others.  This can come back to haunt them when it's time for promotions and raises.  If you have shared with your co-workers intimate details about your marital problems, wayward children, financial difficulties, new job searches, etc., and then are promoted over those same co-workers, you may be unpleasantly surprised at how those secrets are now divulged and discussed by the very people you now have to supervise.  Or your potential raise may be cancelled when your co-worker reveals to your boss that you are considering taking a new job.


In the workplace, it's fine to share some basic personal information, such as your marital status or whether you have children, but note how men often don't share this kind of information right away.  They talk about their qualifications for work, such as college degrees or specialized training, and are friendly toward one another without divulging intimate secrets.  This is shrewd behavior that God's Good Working Women should consider as well, particularly if there is any chance that they might one day be in a supervisory position over their fellow bank tellers/salespeople/administrative assistants

/attorneys, etc.  Remember: 1) you are there to work and produce, not to find your best friend or to endear yourself to the whole workplace; and 2) the 360-degree Jesus didn't share too much personal information and rarely answered a question directly.


Either calling too much attention to or covering up mistakes you make.  This is where fear and perfectionistic worry ambushes a CNG when she makes one error and multiplies it into a much bigger one by either releasing a deluge of information about her mistakes or hiding/denying any wrongdoing like a little girl would.  Her anxiety over not doing things perfectly prevents her from doing the most important thing: Learning from her mistakes and making amends if possible.  Your boss and colleagues know that adults make errors.  They want you to learn from your mistakes—not ruminate upon or hide them—so that you can get back to being productive.


Making knee-jerk decisions in order to relieve anxiety.  When CNGs fear conflict and the tension that accompanies unresolved matters, they are too quick to provide a short-term "answer" to a problem that may cause them long-term difficulties.  And the more cunning people in the workplace know this and will use it against you.  Your hasty, reflex decision is their gain, so they will sometimes spring information on you deliberately.  For example, some co-workers will know about a certain development in the company, but will not tell a CNG about it until it's to their advantage to tell them.  Then they will wait for the right moment to reveal this information and provide an often phony time-lock deadline for a decision from their CNG.  For example, I once had a coworker who asked me to create long lists of contracts for her that she actually needed weeks ago, but kept this fact to herself.  She waited to ask for the list of contacts a day or two before her planned vacation, then said that she didn't have the time to contact he people on the list and asked me to contact them instead.  This way she could make it look like she wanted to do her job but just couldn't.  And this way she could try to portray me as not being a "team player."  To defend yourself against this type of "user" in the workplace, use this handy comeback when you are pressed for an immediate decision: "I'll have to get back to you on that."  This response will give you time to think and pray about your decision, seek more information or wise counsel if necessary, and formulate a professional answer.


Turning down promotions because of fear of cattiness.  Unfortunately, when a woman is promoted, she may experience cattiness from her female co-workers who are now her subordinates and who are uncomfortable with her change in power and status.  It can feel like middle school all over again as she is gossiped about, sabotaged, or shunned.  Some CNGs with a high need to keep everyone happy may find this conflict and rejection so painful that they refuse all promotions or step down as supervisors, severely limiting their professional advancement.  God's Good Working Women accept the promotions they earn, but manage their power and relationships carefully.


Refusing to confront subordinates about problems.  Because of their strong need to be well-liked and their fear of conflict, CNGs who manage other people are regularly taken advantage of by their subordinates.  Routine tardiness, chronic absenteeism, unprofessional behavior with customers, lackadaisical job performance, bad attitudes, unreasonable requests for time off—these often go unchallenged by anxious, pushover CNG managers who avoid necessary confrontations.  Learn from the example of Jesus managing his people.  In John 12, he directly confronted the indignant Judas when he gave Mary of Bethany a hard time about anointing Jesus with an expensive perfume.  In Mark 10, when James and John made an unreasonable request to be honored above the other disciples, Jesus told them flat out that they didn't know what they were asking fro and refused their request.  He didn't let fear of conflict or the fear of being talked about negatively keep him from managing his people effectively.


Now that you've seen which behaviors deserve a pink slip, take a look at these "prospective applicants" for hire.  All of these behaviors will help you become a more productive, truthful woman of integrity in work or volunteer settings.  Pick out the one behavior that seems easiest to implement at your current workplace.  Successfully practicing this new skill will give you more confidence and courage to tackle the others on the list:


Making more independent decisions and then taking responsibility for the consequences—good or bad.  This means that you share the praise or blame, accurately and honestly, with others.  So you accept praise without false humility (pretending that you contributed nothing meaningful is really a lie in disguise) or putting your contributions down ("Thanks, but my part was lame compared to everyone else's contribution.")  This also means that if your decisions failed because someone else didn't do their job, you are free to point out this contributing factor if you are asked to provide an explanation.  Just be sure to speak the truth in love so you don't end up scapegoating someone else.


Taking more calculated risks instead of always playing it safe.  Your life will blossom or shrivel based upon the courage you have to act.  Take smart risks that will require you to confront some fear in your life such as accepting more responsibility or applying for a new position.  Go beyond your job description occasionally to tackle a persistent issue or opportunity.  When your God-given creativity and intuition lead you to recognize problems and solutions that no one else has seen yet, don't play it safe and hide these ideas in a dark closet.  Take a risk—get those ideas out, give them some air, and see what develops.


Trusting your intuition more.  If something doesn't seem right to you, if it raises red flags, then listen to your gut.  Don't listen to the anxious, people-pleasing part that wants you to ignore your intuition and just act nice.  Ask for more information so you can make a wiser, more informed decision.  God gave you a brain, and if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit—both of which can help you discern truth from fiction.  Trust these gifts.


Setting appropriate boundaries on your time, treasure, and talent.  For CNGs, this almost always means that you should value all three more, not less.  God gave you the three Ts because he wants your life to matter, and he expects you to use them wisely.  This means guarding your time at work and away from work so that you can be productive in all areas of life.  For example, if co-workers are monopolizing your work time talking about their personal problems, it's your job to set a boundary with them.  You can say, "I know that this personal problem is really weighing you down, but I have to get back to work now."  If a chronic time-monopolizer calls at work and asks in a sad voice "Have you got a minute to talk?" God's Good Working Women know that the "minute" will likely turn into thirty minutes, and so they respond with "No, I'm sorry, I don't.  I'm right in the middle of something."  That's not rude, that's the truth.  You are right in the middle of working.


Here are some more examples: if your boss repeatedly expects you to take work home at night or on the weekends, then it's your job to set a boundary around your home time and say "My work load is too much for me to accomplish during regular working hours.  Let's look at my job responsibilities and see which of these may need to be postponed or given to someone else to do."  Or if you are talented in a particular area, let's say graphic design, and your co-workers or boss repeatedly request that you use these talents for non-work-related projects (like designing their family Christmas letter), it's your job to set boundaries around your talent by saying "I'm appreciative that you like my design work, but I'm not able to do personal projects for people on company time" or  "Between the demands of work and home, I don't have any extra time to do personal projects for people"


Adapting to the other person's communication style.  There are two styles of communication: direct (tell it like it is) and indirect (hint, make suggestions, or ask questions about problems).  For example, if a conference room is overheated, a direct communicator (usually male) will say "It's too hot in here" while an indirect communicator (usually female) will ask "Is anyone getting too warm in here?"  Both styles have value, so if you want to work successfully with both sexes, you need to learn to adapt to the communication style of whomever you are speaking with.  This flexibility is hard for CNGs.  They worry that directly "telling it like it is" will offend someone.  As a result, CNGs stick with the indirect style, which is then heard as uncertainty and insecurity by most men—the same men who may decide who gets promoted and who gets passed over because she always sounds unsure to them.


God's Good Working Women flex to the other person's communication style.  So, if you are talking with a direct person, present your ideas in a straightforward, logical manner, but if you are speaking with an indirect person, use a more feeling-oriented, participatory style.  For example, if you are managing a retail store, you could say to your direct communicators, "There is a problem with these clothing displays.  Please look at this photograph from headquarters and make the display match the photo."  Most men speak this way and will respond well to this kind of direct management from either a male or female supervisor.


However, because of the influence of the Nice Girl culture and the high value women place on connections, women typically will resent a female supervisor using that kind of direct communication with them.  It feels too abrupt, like "she's just throwing her weight around."  So, your indirect communicators will respond better to "Hmmm…something doesn't feel right with these clothing displays.  We're supposed to make the display match this photo.  What do you think we should change to make them match up?"  This type of participatory, process-oriented communication will make female employees feel included in the decision-making process and will reaffirm that you value your connection to them.  You will also reduce the chances of catty behavior erupting.  We have encouraged directly speaking the truth in love throughout this book, but when you find yourself having to tell other women what to do, your savviest choice is often to adopt their indirect style.  That's not being manipulative or weak.  That's being smart.


Managing your chips effectively.  It's not your potato chip intake we are referring to here.  As Pat Heim, Susan Murphy, and Susan Golant explain in their book In the Company of Women, everyone "is endowed with a certain number of chips of power—positive attributes or actions—that we constantly exchange with others."  God's Good Working Women (and men) use these chips to manage their power and relationships effectively.  Some examples of chips that you can give and/or receive at work include:


~Encouraging words, including authentic praise and the specifics of what was done well. 

~Supportive words, including genuine empathy for difficult situations.

~Small talk, including asking about family members, pets, recent personal events, etc.

~Sincere compliments on clothing, professional skills, or business sense.

~Sharing personal (but not private) details from your own life.

~Asking for the other person's input, opinion, advice.

~Little gifts, like a cup of coffee.

~Thank you notes.

~Raises and promotions.

~Providing opportunities to: be creative, earn bonuses, work with upper management or key clients, make presentations to supervisors or important customers.

~Mentoring or providing career planning and assistance.


Heim, Murphy, and Golant add that in the workplace "everyone with whom you interact keeps a chip bankbook on you.  All day long you are gaining and losing chips with your direct reports, peers, and higher-ups.  They know where you stand with them at any given moment, and you know where they stand with you…one of the most important rules…is that we always make it equal in the end—that is, if someone tries to take away our chips, we will find a way to even the score.


For example, let's say you teach second grade and share a teacher's aide with three other teachers.  Lately you haven't had time to chat with her for a few minutes each day, and you also haven't asked to see the photos from her daughter's recent wedding.  Don't be surprised if your papers are now the last to be graded by the teacher's aide.  Why?  Because she's making the chips equal in the end.


To manage your relationships in a savvy manner at work, find out who values what kind of chips, and then stockpile those particular types of chips with others who can help you be more productive and successful.  Female co-workers tend to prize "chitchat" chips, but you could end up costing yourself chips if you chat too much with male (or female) co-workers who might not value small talk.  Carefully observe your colleagues to discover their individual chip preferences.  Be sure to include the janitor.  Your boss may control the promotions, but when the heat isn't working in your office, you'll be glad that you have a chip surplus with the maintenance crew.


If this sounds like a game, that's because it is.  Remember how we said earlier that work at times will be a game with winners and losers?  CNGs end up losing at the game of work in part because they expend their energy giving chips to the spiritually immature in their work or volunteer setting instead of learning to be savvy chip managers like God's Good Working Women. 


Paul Coughlin is the author of numerous books, including Unleashing Courageous FaithNo More Christian Nice Guy and No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps. He also co-authored a book for married couples with his wife Sandy, titled Married But Not Engaged. Paul is founder of The Protectors, the values-based and faith-based answer to adolescent bullying, which provides curriculum for public schools, private schools, retreats, and individuals who want to diminish child-based bullying. 

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Visit Sandy's website for reluctant entertainers at: