Growth Mindset Versus Fixed Mindset For Professional Women

Whether you have a growth mindset versus fixed mindset will determine your success in the workplace.  Mindset is a combination of your values, beliefs, and attitudes.

In 2006 a psychologist called Carol Dweck published a ground breaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  In the book, she explained how your outlook plays a significant role in your success and happiness.

Through her research, Dweck determined that we all have a mindset that lies somewhere between two attitudes on the learning continuum.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Before Dweck's research, there was a long-held belief that talents and traits, including intelligence, were innate and remained primarily fixed from birth.

Dweck believes that if you have a growth mindset, then your talents and strengths can be developed continually throughout your lifetime.  Naturally, this relates heavily to your career aspirations.

Learning happens as a result of:

  • Practice
  • Explicit effort
  • Vicarious learning
  • Hard work

A growth-oriented outlook helps you identify your personal strengths and the areas you need to improve to achieve your goals.

Although this approach was quickly adopted in schools, the workplace soon caught on.

If you have a growth mindset, you empower yourself to take control of your own life, realise your dreams, career aspirations and improve yourself in ways meaningful to you.

To find out more about the characteristics of a growth mindset have a read of What Is A Growth Mindset

growth mindset versus fixed mindset is attitude

Are you born with talents, gifts, traits and capabilities that remain unchanged?

Growth Mindset Versus Fixed Mindset Attitudes

Where the growth-oriented attitude encourages belief in growth, the opposite position is a fixed view of learning.

A fixed mindset believes that the talents, gifts, traits and capabilities you are born with remain unchanged throughout life.  Therefore any attempt to grow and change is fruitless.  You believe you will never be able to achieve career success if you weren't born to be a natural leader or a confident manager.

When I came across this philosophy of the growth mindset, I was blown away.

The reality, as proved by Dweck, is that despite what you may have been told whilst growing up or learnt at school, you can improve your career prospects by adopting lifelong learning and a growth mindset.

Which means, you don't have to stay in a job because you think you don't have the right qualifications!

In my experience, having interviewed hundreds of people for jobs and observed people in the workplace.  The most successful career women were those who had a belief in themselves.  This had nothing to do with their background.  Whether that be educational, social, economic or otherwise.

These women were on a journey of continual learning that surpassed what they had learnt at school.

Mindset In The Workplace

One of the critical criteria's for success at work is to embrace values that employers are looking for.  A great article outlining the top 10 Work Values Employers Look For written by Penny Loretto is worth reading. 

Amongst the values identified by Penny is the motivation to learn and grow.  An essential requirement, particularly as technology and work practices are constantly changing.  The women who stay up to date with the latest thinking will see more success than those that don't.  Not only will they have greater knowledge, but they are also more employable.

These women don't accept the limitations of their current knowledge.  They are unafraid to say they don't know something, but most importantly, they take the time to find out the answer.

Unfortunately, women with a fixed mindset tend to want to prove themselves to others or compete because they value only showing their capabilities.  Not improving them.  When you don't believe you can grow your character, intelligence or talents, you tend to focus on ways to demonstrate what you already know.  Consequently, you may get stuck in a rut and not progress beyond your current position.

A True Story Of A Fixed Mindset

In one place I worked, a woman decorated her desk with all her certificates of educational achievement.  Who, when challenged on anything, would say she was qualified to talk on the subject. 

She would literally just point to a certificate as if that was all the confirmation anybody could ask for. 

Unfortunately for her, her knowledge remained at the level she had already learnt.  She soon became outdated and frustrated her colleagues with her superior attitude and unwillingness to see issues from any other point but her own. You won't be surprised to learn that her tenure with the company didn't last long.

signpost showing growth versus fixed mindset

Which direction will you go in?

Growth Mindset Versus Fixed Mindset Approach To Work

To demonstrate the differences between the two mindsets, here's a little quiz.  Go through the questions and select either a or b.  The answers are at the end but try not to cheat.  Answer the questions as honestly as you can – remember, nobody sees your response apart from you.

Consider the following:

1.  A colleague is promoted at work.  Do you

a.  Congratulate her and see her as an inspiration?

b.  Congratulate her through gritted teeth, but feel threatened that she is now better than you?

2.  Your boss criticises some of the work you have done on a project.  Do you

a.  Interpret the comments as constructive feedback?

b.  Ignore the comments and think, what do they know anyway?

3.  A new system is introduced at work, one that you are already familiar with.  Your manager insists that you attend the training.  Do you

a.  Go along in anticipation that you might learn something new

b.  Go along, sit at the back and whisper to those around you what you know about the topic.

4.  You are involved in a team where a colleague lets you down on providing critical data needed to complete a project.  Do you

a.  Assess the situation and find an alternative way of getting the information needed

b.  Blame the colleague for not keeping their promise.  Get upset that you will not complete the project on time and tell your manager that the deadline was missed because you had been let down?

5.  An internal promotion has come up at work that you really want and feel you have all the right qualifications.  You are unsuccessful, and the job is given to someone else in the department.  Do you

a.  Get upset, but accept the decision and ask the interviewer for some feedback on how you can improve for next time

b.  Have a good cry when you get home and decide that you are not the type of person who is promoted.  Perhaps this is a step beyond what you are capable of.

6.  At your annual review, your manager suggests that you seek some training.  Do you

a.  Research some appropriate courses and go back to your manager with a list of the training you would like to attend.

b.  Wait for your manager to come back to you with details of the right course.

a professional woman smiling

Your mindset can determine your success at work

Do you have a growth mindset versus fixed mindset

If your answer to all questions was a, you have a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.  This is why.

  1. The growth mindset finds lessons and inspiration in the successes of other people. In contrast, the fixed mindset feels threatened by others' success.
  2. A growth mindset learns from criticism.  Those with a fixed mindset ignore the feedback because they don't believe they have anything to learn from it.
  3. Those with a growth mindset have a desire to learn and are open to exploring different approaches.  On the other hand, the fixed mindset wants to look clever in front of others.
  4. Projects can go wrong at any time.  The woman with the growth mindset sees the bigger picture, the need to get the task completed, so she takes action to find a new solution. With a fixed mindset, there is a need to blame others, feel sorry for themselves and focus solely on the negative outcome.
  5. Setbacks happen all the time, but the woman with the growth mindset will persist whilst those with a fixed mindset will give up easily.
  6. The growth mindset takes responsibility for their own learning.  The fixed mindset will ignore the opportunity and seek distraction elsewhere.


.The differences between the growth mindset versus fixed mindset are best seen in how you deal with:

  • setbacks
  • your level of effort to reach a goal, and
  • the views you have about challenges.

Your way of thinking about yourself and learning can influence everything from the goals you set to the people you spend time with.  As a result, this impacts your overall happiness and success in life and work.

The good news is that you can learn to adopt a more growth-oriented way of thinking.  When you do, you can embrace the power of learning and achieve career success and stop feeling as if you're stuck in a rut.

What will you choose?

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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