When it comes to workplace success, many women do one thing wrong: they work hard without making it obvious. Women will never get ahead unless they’re seen working hard. But there’s a catch: too much ambition is a bad thing when it comes to getting that promotion. The key is a perfect balance of appearing to work hard but acting surprised when it’s pointed out. There’s nothing more effective at helping working women achieve their goals.
Until now, men had the lock on how to look like the hardest workers in the company. But comedian, writer and workplace expert Sarah Cooper has 11 vital tactics any woman can use to convey that ‘I’m way more dedicated than anyone else’ look, but with a vital dose of “Who, me?” Her guidance may be tongue in cheek, but it’s also deadpan accurate.
#1: Talk about how much email you get
Always complain about your email volume, but never be the first to say a specific number. I once complained because I had 200 unread emails and I was laughed out of the break room. Instead, find out how much email everyone else gets, and then double it. That’s how much email you get.
#2: Put several private events on your work calendar
When a colleague checks out your work calendar and finds it brimming with private events, they’ll immediately be impressed with how busy you are. Are you working on a secret project? Are you interviewing at another company? In their eyes, you’ll now be viewed as a highly sought-after company resource, and they’ll want a piece of the action.
#3: Leave your documents open all the time
If you use Google Docs or any other real-time collaboration application, make sure it always appears as if you are active in the document, even when you’re not. This will give you that coveted “constantly working” appearance, whether or not you are actually constantly working.
#4: Always use a “Sent from my phone” email signature
Use a “sent from my phone” signature, even when you’re not sending from your phone. This makes you look like you’re always busy and on the go, and also gets you out of proofreading.
#5: Share random thoughts at odd hours
Send emails on the weekend and in the middle of the night. You’ll have folks wagging their tongues about how dedicated you are to be thinking about the company at 3 a.m.
#6: Send frequent updates about your whereabouts
It’s important to let everyone know where you are at every moment— as well as the minute-to-minute status of your Internet access. Make sure your team knows there’s a virtual umbilical cord between you and your work. This makes you seem like someone whose team really needs them at all times.
#7: Use math words to sound smart
One way to subtly sound smart in work conversations is to utilize math words. Here’s a few example.s Don’t say: “Our soapless hand-washing app is experiencing massive growth.” Instead, say: “We’ve got exponential growth.” Don’t say: “Vegan lunches have nothing to do with getting more espresso machines.” Instead, say: “That’s an orthogonal issue.” Don’t say: “Either you’re going to give us a million dollars or you’re not.” Instead, say: “Look, it’s a binary outcome.”
#8: Walk around with your laptop open
Walking around with your laptop open is a great way to show everyone at the office that you don’t waste any time. It also makes you look like you’re too busy for a quick chat right now.
#9: When writing an email, use as many acronyms as possible
The use of acronyms shows how you’ve mastered your company’s shorthand. Even better, if someone doesn’t know what an acronym means, it gives you a chance to explain it in a very condescending way. Start every email with a bullet point summary, labeled “TL;DR” (Too long; don’t read).
#10: Always leave with your work bag
Always leave for the day with your laptop, work bag, and any extra papers and supplies you can find. Make sure people see that you’re packing up your stuff to leave and go straight home to keep working, even if you plan on leaving it all in your car.
#11: Use an overly complex out-of-office responder
If you’re unable to respond to email for even just an hour, create an Out-of-Office (OOO) autoresponder that includes several people to get in touch with for each of your projects. For extra points, create an entire document that details everything you’re working on and who to contact during your absence.
There’s really no point to working your ass off if no one knows you’re working your ass off, but be subtle about it. And when someone inevitably mentions all the hard work you’ve been putting in, it’s important to act truly surprised, like you didn’t even notice it. As women, it’s important to work hard and appear passionate but also act like it’s no big deal. This way, when you get a promotion, your boss will feel like he’s rewarding your hard work when actually he’s rewarding your lack of ambition. The less ambition you appear to have, the further you’ll go.
Sarah Cooper is a writer, comedian, speaker, and author of the bestselling book 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. She built her comedy career in between working as a user experience designer for companies like Yahoo! and Google, where she was fed free lunches and lots of material. She is the creator of the satirical blog TheCooperReview.com, which is viewed by millions around the world and has been featured in the Washington Post, Forbes, and Fast Company. See Sarah live on stage in this Bonus Track of standup highlights. Her new book is How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings. Learn more about Sarah Cooper at sarahcpr.com.