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First of four myths about business success:

(Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from a chapter from Jane Miller’s book, Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths About Business Success), which is being published by FG Press in May 2014. Learn more.)

Myth:  You have nothing to learn from Barbie. 

Truth: Keep an open mind and open eyes in all situations.  You can learn from someone (or an inanimate object) when you least expect it.

It sometimes seems like we have no choice whom we are at work because women in business have been pigeonholed. At one extreme, we are Barbie. At the other end, we are a Bitch. 

This dichotomy is rarely the case. There’s a spectrum, and most of us land somewhere in the middle.

But in the workplace, we run into people who play both roles:  Barbies.  Bitches.  And sometimes it looks like Barbies have all the fun and Bitches always get their way.  What to do? And should we play those roles, too?

Let’s start with Barbie.

Barbie. What better symbol of bland perfection? Perfect hair. Perfect make-up, perky boobs, great fashion.  If she could talk, she would always say exactly the right thing.  Barbie’s house: Neat, clean, well-appointed. Barbie’s car:  Sporty, a convertible.

Who doesn’t love Barbie? She is the celebrity flirt with long blond hair and fabulous eyes.  All the guys are crazy about her because she can wear a sweater like she just won first place in a wet t-shirt contest.  And you swear she doesn’t have a brain, but apparently she doesn’t need one. Lucky her!

Barbies in the business world are always so agreeable, such suck ups.  They make the boss feel like a god.  But you know there’s a little voodoo doll with his name on it at her house.  You want to scream: “She’s not real! She’s playing with you!  It is so obvious!!  Can’t you see it?”

He TOTALLY sees it.  And it’s flattering, being flirted with by some attractive young babe.  From his point of view a little playful banter never hurt anyone.

Sure, he has a perfectly wonderful wife at home who loves him.  They have three kids, two dogs a gerbil, an iguana.  They go on beautiful family vacations. He can’t imagine being with anyone else but her the rest of his life.  Except does his wife flirt with him?  Probably not.  She probably greets him at the door in her Mickey Mouse sweats with baby poop on the sleeve.  He’s intoxicated by Barbie.

Being a perpetual Barbie may get you laid at some point, but it will not get you ahead at work. At least, not in the long run.

But there are a few intriguing Barbie characteristics you might want to emulate:

  1. Great eye contact.  A good Barbie always looks the boss in the eye.
  1. Good listening skills.  Listen to what he has to say, not just what you want to say.  This is a critical point that makes Barbie so effective. And it is the point that most of us miss when we are starting our careers.  Think about women you have met that speak louder and louder to get their point across.  Perhaps if they would just LISTEN to what the other person was saying, they would not need to raise their voices.
  1. Positive attitude.  Got to love that about Barbies!  This is seriously important.  You do not have to be Little Miss Sunshine at work, but check the bad attitude at home.  Your dog will still love you if you are cranky all the time.  Your new boss, not so much.

So don’t be a Barbie full time – just steal a couple of her most admirable traits!

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Jane Miller

Jane Miller is a CEO, career expert, public speaker, author and animal lover. Jane runs JaneKnows.com, a career website that provides support, resources and tools for those climbing the corporate ladder. She is releasing her first book, Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths About Business Success), in May 2014. Currently the president & CEO of Rudi’s Organic and Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakeries in Boulder, Jane has had a 30-year career leading and managing businesses for HJ Heinz Company, Bestfoods Baking Company, and PepsiCo. Jane is passionate about helping others, outing her mistakes, telling stories and sharing her wisdom.

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