Women presenting to her team

Breaking the “Work Harder” Myth: How to Get Noticed Without Burnout

If you feel you are missing out on the recognition you deserve it might be that you are working too hard. In our series on Women in Leadership we look at how women can change their behaviours to influence others and work smarter not harder to progress into leadership roles.

“Work hard and keep your head down; you will be rewarded” – it’s advice deeply ingrained in our culture. This mentality can leave us feeling pressured to constantly sacrifice personal time to prove our worth.

But here’s the problem: for women, working harder doesn’t always equal recognition. Systemic biases and lack of visibility can leave those extra hours unnoticed. This frustrating reality contributes to burnout and the sense that our efforts go unseen.

This is the myth that just won’t die. And it’s bad for everyone. But hopefully, there’s a cure for that myth. Working harder is not always the solution to recognition. Instead, women can take different approaches, like working on their communication skills (both internal and external), setting boundaries, and increasing strategic visibility.

Ready to level up? Let’s get to it!

Woman working harder

Why “Work Harder” Can Hold Women Back

Ready for the hard truth? Sometimes, working harder is actually counterproductive.  

We’ve all been given the message that working devotedly is the path to success, but the reality is more complex. Burnout disproportionately affects women, with serious consequences for our health, happiness, and even our long-term career prospects. Unfortunately, this is a sensation that every one of us who is in employment has experienced at some point in our lives – but it has also given us a place where we can connect and understand the upset.

Even if you avoid full-blown burnout, there’s a point where those extra hours simply don’t deliver the same benefits. This doesn’t mean you’re lazy! It might be that your efforts are incredible, but they’re going unseen by the decision-makers in your company. 

All that fantastic work could be invisible to the very people who influence promotions and exciting opportunities. Let’s ditch the “work harder” myth and find smarter ways to get recognised for the value you bring. So how do you avoid frustration? 

We need to optimise our behavior and tap into our latent leadership abilities by being self-aware, as we can observe and understand from the webinar, Competence without Boundaries, given by our CEO, Dr. Léa Cléret. Chasing external achievements won’t bring the inner peace and well-being you truly crave. Disillusionment happens when one believes the myth that more effort always results in a greater reward.

The Power of Self-Awareness

Have you ever thought about why some choices seem easy and others are like a battle inside you? As another example, why does something a coworker says makes you so angry? Women who want to be leaders should have resources that help them analyse their own actions, why they do them, and how others see them.

Understanding our behaviors and those of others is a tremendous advantage, especially for women seeking leadership positions.  

It’s time to break down how those behaviors are formed and learn the small shifts that make a BIG difference. Because here’s the secret: our behaviors are within our control. With a bit of self-awareness and the right tools, we can change those behaviors, leading to improved outcomes, greater influence, and the satisfaction of knowing we’re driving our own success.

Woman in construction work

Here are some pointers and strategies that will help you get into your power:

Decoding your choices: Logic, prior experiences, and emotions all play a role in how our brains make decisions. The first thing you can do to make your choices more deliberate is to become interested in what makes you make them.

The frustration factor: Do certain situations constantly trigger a strong negative reaction? So you have more control over what you do, and you can stop and think about these patterns when you notice them.

Breaking the mold: Especially in male-dominated spaces, women aiming for leadership face unconscious biases and outdated expectations. Figuring out who they are can help you avoid them or smartly challenge them.

so how can you slowly put this into action? Take some time today to think about a recent situation that occurred at work. What was your automatic behavior? If you could rewind, would you have chosen a different response?

This is just the beginning; getting a better understanding oneself is a journey that never ends!

Strategic visibility: Shine the spotlight on your value

Think of strategic visibility as your marketing campaign for career success, and a particularly crucial one for women. Instead of accepting the outdated expectation to blend into the background, let’s proactively showcase our unique value.  

Here’s a breakdown of how to implement this:

Be your own PR agent

  • Celebrate those wins: When you achieve something significant, don’t let it go unnoticed. Craft a simple update highlighting the results of your work (use numbers if possible!), and share it with your manager or relevant stakeholders.
  • Focus on impact: Instead of just listing tasks, emphasise how your work benefits the team, department, or the broader goals of the company. This elevates your contributions beyond just being busy.
  • Tact is key: Find natural ways to weave your successes into conversations or reports. Avoid bragging, but be comfortable owning your achievements.

Build relationships

  • Lend a hand: Help with projects or share your knowledge even when it is not directly related to your job. This makes you memorable as a valuable asset.
  • Network strategically: Don’t just chat with coworkers you already know well. Schedule coffee or virtual chats with people in different teams. Learn about their work and how you might be able to collaborate.
  • Be genuine: Forced networking feels fake. Focus on building real connections based on curiosity and mutual respect.

Do your homework

  • Decision-makers: Who has sway over career advancement or expansion opportunities at your organisation? You should let those individuals know how much you have helped.
  • Standards of communication: Will there be an email update every week? Does the team remember big wins during meets? Adjust your approach to visibility to fit your company’s standards.
  • Find a mentor (optional): A mentor, especially one in a more senior position, can offer valuable insight into how to navigate your company’s specific dynamics.

Strategic visibility isn’t about being obnoxious or self-centered. As a woman seeking leadership roles, don’t let your hard work go overlooked. The goal is to increase your chances of receiving recognition and career advancement by ensuring that the appropriate people are seeing your diligent work.

Woman in technology management - work smarter not harder

The influence of confident communication

How people see you as a leader is directly linked to how you talk about your job. For some reason, women are often taught to play down their achievements or skills. It is time to stop doing those things! Own your successes with pride. 

When you’ve overcome an obstacle or achieved results, state the impact of your work clearly and confidently. Watch for language that undercuts your authority – avoid minimising words like  “just” or “I think.”

Get used to delivering your arguments with conviction. Asking for constructive criticism shows that you want to improve as a leader, which is an admirable trait. Also, as any good leader will tell you, knowing your worth means not being afraid to bargain for the credit and pay you deserve.

Levelling up: boundaries for leadership success

Building strong leadership skills takes time. For women who want to be leaders, learning to set limits is very important. Women may have overextended themselves in the past because they felt pressure to constantly prove themselves.

Saying “no” can be challenging at first, but it’s a successful plan for managing your time and energy, two resources that are crucial to your leadership success.  

By setting boundaries, you empower yourself to ruthlessly prioritise what truly matters, giving your best to the projects that will drive the most impact.

Establishing healthy boundaries also helps prevent the insidious creep of burnout. Leaders, by nature, tend to be driven and often shoulder a large amount of responsibility.  

If you do not set clear boundaries, this can quickly turn into feeling constantly stressed, angry, or emotionally drained. It is not selfish to look out for your health and happiness; it is necessary for long-term leadership. Having firm work-life boundaries allows you to recharge, nurture your passions, and attend to your health. This directly feeds into your capacity to be an effective, inspiring leader over the long term.

These issues are often covered in depth in leadership courses, which offer a secure area to talk about the unique problems women encounter when attempting to set limits at work. As you take on new challenges and help make way for the next generation of female leaders, these courses will help you set and stick to healthy boundaries.

Education and empowerment

Women can proactively shift the dynamics of leadership by investing in both formal education and continuous self-learning. Leadership development programs can be especially powerful, helping women unlock their potential and driving lasting organisational change.  

Along with degrees and certifications, these programs teach important skills and build a solid base for future success. Equally important, though, is for women to look at the social pressures and unconscious biases they have taken on.  

Recognising how these forces may have shaped their behaviors allows them to consciously choose alternative responses that align with true leadership.  

By understanding the interplay between traditional expectations and their own potential, women can navigate workplace environments more strategically and confidently claim their place at the leadership table.

Invest in yourself and your future

Which belief about work is keeping you from moving forward? Now is the time to question your old beliefs and reach your full potential!

You deserve to be recognised for your contributions! The good news is that how you’re perceived is largely within your control. By taking on the strategies we’ve discussed, you can shift the narrative and take charge of your professional orbit.

Pick one tip from this article to use this week. Did you find that you played down your successes? Focus on words that have an effect. Struggling with boundaries? Schedule one non-negotiable “off work” hour. Small changes lead to big results over time!

Women working smarter not harder


Q1: I always feel like I need to be working harder. How do I break this mindset?

A: The trap is quite common! To get started, you should not only keep track of the hours you work but also your accomplishments. It is much simpler to acknowledge that additional time does not necessarily cause improved outcomes when you can see the value that you create. You should also be honest about the risks of burnout. Protecting your health will, in the long run, make you more effective than you would otherwise be.

Q2: What does “strategic visibility” mean?

A: Demonstrating your work in a manner that is congruent with the decision-making process at your organisation is the focus of this endeavor. This includes sharing victories in a diplomatic manner, cultivating relationships with people who are not part of your immediate team, and gaining an understanding of the key influencers. This is not about boasting, but rather making sure that your efforts are recognised.

Q3: I’m afraid to say “no” at work. How do I start setting boundaries?

A: Start with small boundaries, such as guaranteeing that you will arrive on time for a personal commitment on one day throughout the week.  If you want to say “no,” frame it in terms of prioritisation. For instance, “I would be delighted to assist, but to give my utmost effort to Project X, I need to concentrate on that at this moment.”

Q4: How can I communicate my accomplishments without seeming arrogant?

A: Focus on impact! It would be more effective to say something like, “My report resulted in a 10% efficiency gain for the team,” rather than “I completed the report.” The results should be quantified whenever it is possible, and the facts should speak for themselves. Sharing credit with other people is another indication of strong potential for leadership.

Q5: Where can I learn more about the topics covered in this article?

A: There are many resources available! You might want to think about participating in leadership development programmes that are specifically designed for women, looking for a mentor in your field, listening to podcasts and webinars that discuss work-life balance and strategic visibility, or reading books and articles that focus on women in leadership positions.

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