March 23, 2023

Myth of the Nice Girl by Fran Hauser

This is a very belated review of my professional development book choice for February.  I actually started this one ages ago and lost interest, but decided I should finish it so I could get it off my shelf.

The book follows the career of Fran Hauser, a big wig from Moviefone (remember that??!) and AOL.  I assume she was a Sheryl Sandberg sort of level, before Sheryl Sandberg created her own orbit. (Edit: actually, maybe they were contemporaries?  I assumed this came out before Lean In but it actually came out 4 years later)

The best point the book made is simply, "what is wrong with nice?" The argument that being nice is antithetical to leadership is a highly outdated notion.  I think this may have been a more counterculture assertion in the earlier 2000's, but I still liked the question.  

When people say, professionally "you're too nice" what do they mean?  That you are a pushover?  That you aren't making good decisions?  Checking the use of nice professionally benefits women because it means the person pointing out the "niceness" needs to reflect on what the actual issue is.  "Nice" can include lots of professional foibles, or it could just mean female.  Getting people to explain why "nice" is an issue can help break down what the issue actually is.

And then, Hauser talked a lot about her own career, and how being nice helped her.  She talked about giving and receiving feedback.  I particularly liked her points on receiving "negative" feedback and how that helped her grow professionally, so when giving feedback to others it's actually "nicer" to be honest and straightforward rather than using generic "niceness".  As someone who generally gets silly glowing reviews in work, I have definitely learned and developed more from anything "negative" given to me than the generic "you're doing great!" which I often get.

Overall the book is not super memorable.  Hauser is clearly very smart and makes strategic career decisions.  I love her emphasis on values in the later half of the book, and using values to guide decision making.  This is my continuing goal/process at the moment too.

She has great chapters on networking that make me wish I was living somewhere where more was happening.  

My professional development book for March is Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu.  I'll need to make sure I have more for April!


  1. Looking forward to your thoughts on Drop the Ball. I read it years ago and think I might re-read it again soon. A lot has changed in my life in the interim, and I'd be curious what I'd take from it in this particular season.

    1. I think it would have been mind blowing if it was the first book of this sort for me to read, now so much has been written since that it's not completely unique now but I think I would definitely recommend it to anyone about to have kids because it definitely covers a lot of what I struggled with after babies!