When a man is outspoken and direct in the workplace he is often described as passionate or ambitious. Men in the workplace are not first judged in a personal way, first considering whether he is kind or friendly and second deciding if he is capable. Why then, are women so often judged this way?
Like it or not, gender bias remains a strong undertone. Men and women and are expected to act differently in the home, in the community and the place where it impacts the budget the most: in the workplace.
Too often – if a woman operates in a strong and decisive fashion, she is described as ‘emotional’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘irritable’ and is generally not well liked. On the flip side, if she is friendly to everyone, she is well-liked but studies also show that in this case she is typically viewed as less competent.
I am the first to say that working women shouldn’t have to make a choice between being viewed as either: ‘nice and incompetent’ or ‘competent and disliked’. And while it upsets me that women should be judged based on competence, not likeablity, I am not going to ignore the reality. While we are working toward change, we must understand, even if we do not embrace, today’s reality.
Think about this “likeability penalty” in your own workplace. Are the men and women judged and treated exactly the same? Are their skills measured without any consideration of their ‘likeability’?
Sheryl Sandburg’s, “Lean In” was the catalyst for this article.
Yesterday, I was meeting with a senior manager – we’ll call him Saresh – and he was telling me about a problem he had with one of his employees, Chris. Saresh told me that Chris hadn’t been sharing information with the team.
Saresh also told me about a number of other small problems dating back months and years…As we talked I realized that there weren’t a few problems, but a lot of issues; and they weren’t small, some were rather big and impactful.
When I asked Saresh how Chris handled it when he gave him feedback, Saresh said that he hadn’t given much feedback. Saresh felt it was always better to give positive feedback, so he never commented on the things that were going wrong. Not surprisingly, the behavior and problems continued.
We talked about how important it was for Saresh to sit down with Chris and address the issues. He agreed to do just that, but I had forgotten to tell Saresh, “Just a few at a time. Don’t overwhelm.”
So, Saresh sat with Chris and he noted a lot of the problems – some dating back as far as two years prior. This, as you can imagine, led to a complete overload of information.
What went wrong?
Think of how a body needs to be nourished. We need healthy foods day in and day out. Our bodies benefit from moderation and consistency.
Feedback is just the same. Many employees are literally starving for feedback. They want the positive feedback, we can think of it as the dessert, and they also want the feedback that will help them grow, perhaps the veggies. Employees benefit from consistent feedback in small doses, just enough to ‘digest’. This is the type of feedback that they can apply to make changes and streamline and improve practices.
An overload of feedback in one sitting is like Thanksgiving dinner at my mother’s house. My body becomes overloaded and sluggish.
Have you even been overloaded or starved for feedback?