When you are a WOMAN, can you be too nice at work?

Female Defender

There is an idea in academia called the Niceness Penalty, Here is my example of it:

I was pulled to the side by a highly regarded female instructor early in my instructor training. In her own words, she described how to effectively apply concepts of the niceness penalty in regards to a military classroom setting.

Here is What She Told Me:

She explained that I needed to start the course with a very firm demeanor and later “lighten up” to create an atmosphere that is conducive to optimal learning. Though, she warned that if I didn’t start firmly, there would be students who would disrupt my classroom the entire 6 to 8 weeks of the course. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was good advice.

Though, I tried it; I started my classes being very strict and quickly correcting disrespectful students who would fall out of line.

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The uniqueness of this particular position was that it was my job to teach the students to be great leaders. Though, I believe that being a good leader means you know how/when to be an effective follower. The approach I took in this particular environment wasn’t the approached I used in every situation, but this worked for the given environment. This worked for me and a fellow instructor who was given the same advice.

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Mission: Female Defender fosters the leadership skills of women in the workplace.

As a matter of fact, I  pulled a new instructor aside to give her the same advice we were given.

She didn’t listen; she started her classes being “too nice” and was regarded as a pushover.

The students disrupted her classes and even gave feedback at the end of the course. Many students noted that she didn’t take control of the classroom and it had a negative impact on learning. After teaching a few classes and being brought to tears by unruly groups of military students, she decided to take the advice we had given her. To resolve the issues she had, she then asked for advice on how to deal with situations that arose. It took her a few classes to adapt to a new style, but life in the classroom became a lot easier.

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Female Defender develops Firewomen, Policewomen, and other Women in Male Dominated Workplaces.