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.