Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 8.21.46 PMIn my book, Stop Giving It Away, I devote a chapter to Giveaway Girls at work. I explain the culture of self-sacrifice and how women are socialized to give to a level of self-detriment.

What does it mean to be a Giveaway Girl at work? Here are a couple of examples.

Always Saying “Yes”

Giveaway Girls tend to be people pleasers. When you’re a people pleaser, it’s easy for other people to take advantage of you. An unhealthy amount of yeses will get twice as many projects heaped onto your desk before the coffee has time to brew each day.

Meet Sara, a single woman with no children. Sara alone shouldered night and weekend company functions. Her partners (all of whom were married) were asked to go, but they claimed they had “family obligations.” So Sara sacrificed and said yes.

Sara didn’t like attending all the evening and weekend events, but she went along with it for years until she realized it wasn’t fair. By sacrificing and saying yes, Sara made it easier for the others to get out of it.

When Sara finally resisted, her partners agreed to start splitting the functions equally between them. After speaking up, Sara is much happier now.

Using Passive Body Language and Speech

As girls, we are taught to be “ladylike.” I’ve always interpreted “ladylike” as nonpowerful and even passive. So it’s easy to come off as less confident and less competent than we are because of that passivity and behavioral style.

Amy Cuddy, a lecturer at Harvard University, has done some important research about how female body language usurps our power and decreases the respect others have for us. In a TED talk, Cuddy explained how important it is for women to exude confidence when they sit, speak and stand. If you want to get more respect, Cuddy says, you have to take up more space—literally.

Practice this and tell yourself that you can be powerful, while still being gracious and respectful. Spend a week noticing yourself, your speech, your body language in meetings and with others. It could be eye opening.


Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, which is available now at AmazonBarnes & NobleTargetBAM! and Walmart.