Jennifer Lawrence is right: You can be too nice in business

the-hunger-games-811955_640She earns millions per film especially through the Hunger Games series. But actress, Jennifer Lawrence says she was called a ‘brat’ as part of a backlash when she spoke out about the issue of unequal pay between men and women in the acting industry.

“When I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.

“I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the internet and realised every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’.

“But if I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight.”

Like Jennifer I am an equalist. There should be no difference in salary between genders doing the same job. Paying men more is a throwback to the days when little women were at home and men went out to toil to put food on the table for the family.

But hey guys, times have changed. To keep up with rising costs of living many women work because they need to supplement the income of their partner (if they have one and aren’t single parents).

The problem is – us. Women DO prefer to be liked, part of the team, make no waves.. but as Jennifer points out, those with dicks don’t have this problem.

One of my networkers, an investment banker, put it quite succinctly. When her male colleagues went to enquire about their bonus, they were bullish, explaining why they should get £xxxx. Women came into the room and asked, “What is my bonus please?”. Immediately they became supplicants and were awarded £xx. When these women discovered the difference, some went to an Industrial Tribunal but never worked in the City again because they were regarded as “troublemakers”.

As a journalist I worked in an industry which did pay equally (or so I was led to believe). But even then I didn’t want to ask questions in case the No-Talent-Police came and discovered I shouldn’t be working on a national newspaper in the first place. Lack of confidence you see. How I’ve changed!

I wish I could give this advice to my 22 year old self: in business it’s a real balancing act – yes you want to be thought of as a team player but too nice risks being ineffective and gaining an unhelpful reputation as a pushover. Go too far in the other direction and, to put it bluntly, you may be viewed as a bitch.  (Men are never regarded in the same way –  unfair but alas true.)

Can you mix niceness with toughness as a woman? I hope so though it is a balancing act.

But let’s turn the subject around. Does being nice get in the way of doing well?  Surely being nice makes doing well possible. Even if we stick to the most basic definition of nice–being pleasant—nice connects with employees, customers and co-workers. Is niceness an under-rated quality at the office?

As fellow humans, I hope not. What do YOU think?

About the author

Lady Val is our Life of a Lady Blogger. Lady Val is also the founder of 'Lady Val's Professional Women's Network.' You can Reach Lady Val on: Life of a Lady Blog, Lady Val's Professional Women's Network

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