I met a woman last year who was probably in her early 20s, maybe 25. She came up to me after one of my programs and said, “I’ve got a reputation in my office as ‘the office mom’.” She continued, “Everybody calls me the office mom, and I get feedback that I’m valued because of this role.” She said, “I’m getting passed up for promotions, I don’t even think I’m getting any respect, because I have this brand, this label.” Being known as ‘the office mom’ was clearly hindering her opportunities.
We talked about what she could be doing and perhaps what she had been doing to build that reputation. In fact, she’d been feeding right into it! She was the person that organized the Friday afternoon parties. She was the one that always set up the meetings with the napkins and the coffee pot and the bottled waters. She was the one that cleaned up afterwards. She was the one that made sure everybody got a birthday card on his or her birthday. She was a very giving, generous, warm person, but because she was feeding into this perception, she was limiting her opportunities.
We decided that she had to pull back on some of these activities. It didn’t mean she went from being a warm, generous, approachable person to being cold and distant, but she had to remove that brand perception because she was not going to be taken seriously and advance in the organization.
Understanding the roles that others see you filling starts with a process of gathering feedback. Begin by gathering feedback from people you trust and respect. Send an email to six, or eight, or ten people and ask them to give you insight about your brand; ask them to share feedback about whether they would refer you to somebody else, what they look to you for, and where they see your value. Regardless of the answers, thank them for their insight. Sometimes the feedback that comes back is not exactly what you’d hoped for, but it’s still valuable insight that helps you understand your current brand!
Elizabeth Suarez says
Excellent advice. I fully agree with your recommendations. Another characteristics that might not help you is being the person that brings the coffee to any meeting or making the reservations for an office luncheon. I know those are nice gestures; but we need to make sure such tasks fall on our shoulders all the time.
Jeannie Freis says
I’m interested in seeing more case studies with specific examples of people being branded as “x”, and the activities that led them to be branded as such.
Lida Citroen says
Will do, Jeannie! Stay tuned and those examples will come soon. Thanks for the input. — Lida
Tom Stephens says
I’m curious what has since happend to this “office mom”? She’s now been promoted? What was recommended? Was this a teaser, News at 11″?
Lida Citroen says
Thank you for your post. Last I heard from her, she was using the personal branding tools we discussed (consistency, intention, focus on reputation and keeping her desired brand in mind) to create a new reputation for herself. I know that she’s positioned herself as more valuable to the company, less “office mom” and as someone who wants to grow her career.