Issues,  Legal Practice

Do It Again: Overcoming the “Prove it Again” Bias at Work

After you’ve been practicing for a while you become accustomed to people being wary of your ability and then you become super accustomed to them being blown away by how great you perform. This is a phenomenon known as “prove it again.” A horrible cycle women experience where we’re not given credit for our potential, instead our capabilities are questioned more harshly and when we deliver, those in charge need you to “prove it again” because obviously you’re past success was a fluke…

This is exhausting–seriously nothing annoys me more than seeing the ~shock~ when I do a killer job, like I’ve been killing it for years, how are you still surprised?! True story–I do a ton of presentations and one time a person came to observe and thought it would be a good idea to gently remind me to introduce myself before I started the presentation. #shockedeyeemoji

It is annoying and exhausting to see, right in front of you, how little faith have in you–especially when you know you are capable of delivering. So what has helped me face this bias at work and overcome it?

One. Be aware of it. Maybe you have sensed it before, but never could put a name on it. Or you thought it was just you, surely no one is questioning your talent years into your profession? But understanding that that hesitancy people have about trusting you is largely due to this bias can help you push through their doubt and not let it keep you from advancing in your career. Of course this assumes you haven’t had any major mistakes that make their hesitancy reasonable. But ask yourself, have I always delivered my best? Are my skills ready for this new challenge? Am I giving myself enough time to prepare? If so, don’t let their doubt stop you from achieving and growing in your career.

Two. Know yourself. Like the step above, it’s important that you know your skillset–what are your strengths and where are you looking to grow? And then understand that when you do take on a challenge you will need to deliver 110% because women are judged more harshly and aren’t given a lot of space to make mistakes. This is absolutely unfair. Men are given so many opportunities because they are judged on potential not past achievements. So take on opportunities strategically and know when you need to put in time to prepare in areas that aren’t yet your strength.

Three. Be your advocate. You need to become comfortable highlighting your own achievements. Keep a record of your wins: things that helped client, cases you’ve won, other ways you’ve helped your firm, and become comfortable mentioning them in performance evaluations or in other appropriate settings. Also, when you feel you have enough goodwill capital, consider asking the person that consistently asks you to “prove it again,” if there’s a specific reason for their hesitancy. “You know, I’ve noticed you’re a bit hesitant about this assignment. I’ve done this type of work successfully XYZ times, so is there something different about this case?” Do this carefully and cordially, but without guilt because after so many times we should feel comfortable calling out this behavior.

What are ways you’ve notice “prove it again” bias has impacted your work?

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