Wielding Power at Work

What Dominatrixes Can Teach You About Wielding Power at Work

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You know you have a great story when the people at the table next to you in the coffee shop can’t stop listening in.

Last summer, I was discussing story ideas over iced coffee with content marketing extraordinaire Lindsay Goldwert. She is the former editorial director of the personal-finance app Stash, a veteran money journalist with bylines in Ad Week, Fast Company and Quartz, and host of the Spent podcast.

At the coffee shop, Goldwert told me about her latest project, a mash-up of BDSM and career advice – “Bow Down: Lessons From Dominatrixes on How to Get Everything You Want.” When the book came out in January, Glamour named it one of the best books of 2020 so far.

Talk about dominatrixes in public, and everyone’s ears perk up. However, you don’t have to be into kink to gain useful tactics and strategies from the psychology behind it. As Goldwert describes it in her book,” [t]he art of domination is a mix of sensuality, performance, empathy and fantasy interpretation.”

Goldwert wanted to apply what she learned from this world about power dynamics to sustain a career she could be proud of. “The women that I met through the book taught me that I need to be more confident about what I know and to own it,” Goldwert says. She shares the three top lessons managing editors can gain about wielding power at work from dominatrixes.

Confidently Wielding Power Dynamics at Work

When Goldwert joined Stash as a senior editor in 2017, most of her work had been in newsrooms, and she was less comfortable in a corporate setting. Goldwert wishes she would have taken advantage of the one-on-one meetings with her managers more to improve her skills by learning the office power dynamics and subverting them in her favor as the best professional dominatrixes do.

Content marketers can better direct their one-on-one meetings with managers by explaining their thought processes and figuring out the company’s marketing priorities. It’s similar to the way dommes set the rules of their environment based on dialogue with clients. “Offer solutions to your own problems and then listening to what others think is really helpful,” Goldwert says.

As a skilled reporter, Goldwert recognizes the tension between journalism and marketing folks when it comes to content. Journalists want to keep it real but need to learn the metrics of marketing. The marketing people know the numbers but don’t always understand the power of content marketing. “Own what you're good at, beef up what you're not, and don't be upset with yourself for coming into the job without having known everything,” she says. “Just know what you don't know and tackle it early.”

Part of owning your strengths and weaknesses and wielding power at work is not taking criticism personally, Goldwert says. Use the feedback to get better. One of the most valuable lessons Goldwert took from her time at Stash was her manager encouraging her to advocate more for her ideas. If her coworkers didn’t immediately respond to an idea she had, Goldwert would drop it. Now she’s more likely to stand by an idea and fight for it.

Embracing New Platforms to Amp Your Message

Professional dominatrixes face daunting business challenges because they work in a quasi-legal industry and must use new technology to overcome them.

“Many dominatrixes are so multichannel. They're on every platform. They're on Periscope. They're on Instagram. Some of them have incredible web design. They want you to get into their ecosystem,” Goldwert says. “All the while, they have to be really savvy because they are working in a shadow industry and can be kicked off social media platforms.”

Goldwert admires the shrewdness of Simone Justice. She’s a domme who turned her practice into a bigger business by focusing on the psychology of dominance and submission. “She can't advertise like everybody else,” Goldwert says. “So it's more important for her to be scrappy and nimble and creative.” Justice uses webinars and social media to expand her sales funnel and reach a broader audience in much the same way managing editors do.

Creating a Code for Yourself and Your Career

Great dominatrixes follow a code. “These tenets include a strict adherence to the rules of content, negotiation, safe words and respect for boundaries and limits,” Goldwert writes in “Bow Down.”

Managing editors should follow their examples and create a code for themselves and their careers, Goldwert says. Establishing healthy boundaries at work is a critical first step.

Having a code will help you communicate to your colleagues and managers what you want and when you want it, Goldwert says. Once you develop a code, it is time to apply it: “Ask yourself how can you approach work in a way where you take the power back?”

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson is a senior content marketing consultant at Rep Cap and managing editor of Managing Editor magazine. His work has appeared in CNBC.com, Forbes, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Money, Monocle and Wired. He was a 2008-09 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University. He was born in St. Louis, but his heart is in New York.

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