https://www.bonnielowkramen.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Smart-CEO-Office-Life-Support-Bio-Image.jpg 370 399 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2020/08/bonnie-low-logo.png competenow2016-02-26 21:49:262016-02-26 21:49:26Yes, women really are different: How to reach across the gender gap at your office
By Bonnie Low-Kramen for SmartCEO | February, 2016
Gender differences can make or break your office.
Is your support team comprised mostly of females? If the answer is “yes,” your team is like most around the world. After all, there are half a billion assistants on the planet and 95 to 98 percent of them are women. In the U.S., there are 4.1 million assistants, also predominantly female.
The gender issue has everything to do with how we successfully communicate in the workplace – or fail miserably. If you fail to communicate with sensitivity to gender, it will result in a revolving door of staff that can cost your company dearly.
So what do your female employees want and expect from you? At the top of the list are respect, appreciation, fair compensation, a sense of value in the company, and regular feedback.
Here are a few things you can do to meet those expectations.
Ways to improve communication with female staff
- Ask your assistant what she thinks. Do this on a regular basis and make it safe for her to speak her mind. Just because she is not saying anything doesn’t mean she has nothing to say. Here’s the deal. In general, women have a very, very difficult time speaking up. It is not hyperbole to say that many are terrified to speak up. This is mainly because (in general) we have not been socialized to do so and these old instructions die very hard. However, the smartest leaders know that assistants hold a lot of valuable information. After all, people will say things to assistants that they would never say to leaders. It’s just human nature. Therefore, it makes sense to have regular one-on-ones with assistants to encourage them to share their thoughts. Many assistants report that CEOs are too insulated and protected from the realities of the day-to-day. They will say, “Our leaders have no idea about what is really going on.” That needs to change. In fact, it is changing. I see more and more assistants are functioning as strategic business partners to their leaders and being viewed as part of the leadership team. It may serve you well to have her at the table for high-level meetings — not just to take notes, but to speak her opinion. She will need strong encouragement to do so and it may take some time, but it will be worth it.
- Show respect. Say “Good morning,” “please” and “thank you,” and when you have a new task to get done, ask for it rather than demand it. Pronounce names correctly and spell them right too. One of my students quit her job after two years because it irked her that her executive could not pronounce her name properly. It was intolerable. This detail might seem small to some, but I assure you it is not. After all, there is nothing more personal to us than our names. Also be mindful of language in the use of titles. Talk with your assistant about her preference on the words “secretary,” “admin” and “assistant.” Titles are a hot topic in the 2016 workplace among women.
- Don’t yell or bully – no exceptions. Managing by intimidation, raised voices, public humiliation and name-calling are behaviors that are the surest ways to send females (and men too) straight out the door. But before they quit, they shut down mentally and are traumatized into semi-paralysis. Strong words, but totally true. The bottom line is that traumatized staffers cannot and will not produce superior work product. Women will suffer in silence until they figure out their exit strategy. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on the dangerous trend towards “radical candor” and “front stabbing” as the new way to get the best results from staff. I cringed as I read this article, thinking that there is no way that these aggressive tactics are going to work with women. Honest communication is one thing. Honest communication without compassion or humanity is quite another.
- Openly acknowledge your assistant’s value to you and the company. If she is your right arm and the backbone of your company, say so. Females respond positively to this kind of sincere and specific appreciation. Use meetings, online internal communications and social media to elevate your team.
- Have regular one-on-ones to invite two-way feedback. We all want to know how we are doing, and females especially crave this kind of feedback. Women are intuitive and can “see around corners” which is a valuable skill for leaders. One of the very common complaints I hear from assistants is that their executive does not want to meet with them, in an effort to save time. Females need this interaction, and the pay-off is huge when it happens. However, because speaking up is so difficult for females, leaders typically do not know that this need exists. Electronic communication accomplishes only so much. Women read “tone” and “mood,” and this personal connection supports their ability to excel at their work, not to mention strengthening the rapport with their executives.
- Make sure there is back-up. Take notice if your female staff is taking any time off for vacation or family needs. If they are not, be sure to initiate a conversation about what back-up system is in place to effectively deal with the times when your assistant cannot be in the office, such as vacation, an illness or a death in the family. Life happens. The best assistants are the ones whose offices run just fine when they are not there, but that means having a back-up system that is realistic and actionable. Do you have one in your office?
- Advocate for fair compensation. Women make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. One of the major contributing factors to this is that women do not ask. They have great difficulty negotiating for what they deserve out of fear of rejection, not feeling worthy, and not being liked. I meet hundreds of underpaid assistants who are working 50+ hours per week and are barely making ends meet. This even applies to assistants at the C-suite level. Taking a fresh look at compensation for females is a very smart move. If you want to retain a loyal and highly productive female staff, support them by teaching them how to negotiate and by paying them what they deserve.
- Make professional development a given. Females want the power over their own careers and learning plan. The best investment leaders can make is to support professional development on a yearly basis. Create a budget that she can use for conferences and workshops. This not only results in a more highly skilled staffer, but also in increased self-confidence and self-respect. It’s a win/win situation.
Women and men communicate differently. If our goal is to support all our employees, both male and female, to work at their best, we must take the time to understand the differences and to act accordingly.
Link to original article: http://bit.ly/1S2U3dc