Ask Amy – Credit Where Credit Is Due

Dear Amy,

I work with my brother now in our family’s firm.  I’m an accountant by training and I function as a CFO.

Most of our employees are men, and I’m very comfortable with the guys in the field–the men there respect my role and me. But I am tired of being in meetings in our offices where I suggest an idea and either it’s ignored or the men in the room talk about it and then claim it as their own.

How can I have my voice heard?

~ Hannah

Amy KatzDear Hannah,

I think your voice is being heard.  It’s the credit that’s missing. Lately I’ve been reading books by Barbara Annis, who writes about the different ways men and women communicate at work, based, in part on the difference in their brains. She co-authored a book called Work with Me with John Gray, who wrote that very popular book Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus.

There are a lot of great ideas and examples in that book and I encourage you to take a look at it. One section focuses on the different ways that men and women seek credit.  The authors make a point that men tend to take an idea (from anyone) and play with it a bit, refining it, building on it, and in the process, “owning” it. They are more accustomed to co-creating an idea so that it becomes a “team” idea.

Perhaps when a woman is the only one in the room, her sensitivity to the way her ideas are included is heightened. I wonder if she’s protecting her value to the group–not just a particular idea–in a way that men don’t feel they have to.

That being said, you have an important role in the business, one that typically does gain respect because it’s tied to financial results. So perhaps you could benefit from asserting yourself more deliberately. Make sure you have a regular place on the agenda, (or suggest an agenda if the group doesn’t use one!). Move forward in your chair when you speak, and then speak slowly. Men focus on results–and you have them. That’s a source of power and influence.

Finally, I don’t know much about your brother or his role, but as your partner, he can play a role in assuring that you’re heard. If you feel comfortable about it, suggest to him that you’re concerned that the financial side of the business is not getting the attention it deserves. He may be surprised…. or disagree…but either way, you will get his attention.

It’s wonderful that you have achieved a significant role in your family’s business. Now it’s time to make it work for you, as well as for the business!

All the best,

amy-sig

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