Yes, I am That Pathetic: How to be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings

Originally published February 25, 2019

It was a Facebook post featuring a section of Sarah Cooper’s “How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings” that made me laugh, then cringe.

I just had to get the book.

Exactly why would I laugh and then die just a little on the inside? Because as I turned page after page, I came to the conclusion that Cooper has been following me for the last 30 years, transcribing my self-sabotage and devaluing of one’s self in the career-sphere, with precious little time left to make up for it.

Cooper’s ode to women and our power in the workplace is pure parody and laugh-out-loud funny. It works, because it is real. Case in point — the Facebook post that drove me to buy the 200+page (but a very quick read) book — the illustrated chapter on “Non-threatening Leadership Strategies for Women.”

There are 12 of them. All satire.

I actually perform seven on a regular basis.

You know, things like pepper emails with emojis and exclamation points so as not to come off too strong. (Although, I’ll have you know I am two months into my “New Year’s Resolution Workplace Email Emoji Ban” and doing quite well, although exclamation point usage has grown exponentially.) Or, asking a male coworker to meet a deadline instead of just stating it. Or, my favorite, telling colleagues I am “thinking out loud.” As if owning a real idea is just too much for my delicate (addled) brain.

Honest to God, I don’t know what factors led to my own personal devaluing of my work.  I’m not married to a jerkwad, I don’t work for or with jerkwads and I don’t ever remember my mother suggesting I throttle back any career drive at a young age. What I do know is that I was harassed as a teenager by my boss. I have worked, on occasion, with women that were for more interested in putting down than lifting up. And maybe, just maybe, there’s kind of a cultivated insecurity when you take time off from a career to raise kids, and after a number of years feeling like you are trying and failing to meet those high exacting standards of every other mom on the block, you bring your self-deprecating attitude back into the workplace with you.

Whether you see yourself or not in Cooper’s book, her sections on how to gender-neutralize your resume, how to talk like a man but still be seen as a woman, what to wear in the workplace, and maybe my favorite, “Gaslighting for Beginners” will have you chortling out loud. This is a great “in between the hard core literary fiction” book to give yourself a breather and enjoy it at the same time.

And I promise, from now on, I am never going to say “Thinking out loud” ever again.

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