Do Bonuses Create Deceitful Employees?

Crossed fingersIn the last four months, we’ve worked with no fewer than 6 senior women who were considering leaving their jobs. Let’s make no mistake, these were jobs where they were getting favourable reviews, where they were well-respected but for some reason or another, their ‘heart wasn’t in it.’ When we unpicked what was missing, there was a dismay  they had risen, but were often surrounded by people they felt routinely stole others credit or who were ‘in it just for themselves’ – particularly when it came to bonus time.  This dissatisfaction was increasingly at odds with how the women wanted to lead and work.

Perhaps not surprisingly, research shows that ‘deceitful’ organisations where this type ‘every man for himself’ behaviour is commonplace, have hugely unproductive cultures.  According to research by D. De Cremer on ‘Self-sacrificial leadership and follower self-esteem: When collective identification matters’ published in the journal of Group dynamics, Theory, Research and Practice in 2006, these organisational cultures are hotbed of problems. De Cremer found employees in deceitful organisations have much less commitment to them. They express greater dissatisfaction, less trust amongst colleagues, poorer performance, higher turnover and an unethical organisational climate.

These types of organisations are much more common in English speaking countries and less so in Northwestern European countries. While these countries have many cultural differences, one key disparity that may be related is the level of childcare provided by businesses and the government. Additionally, family leave is more likely to be shared by both parents, thereby decreasing the chances that new mothers are seen as soft targets in the distributions of bonuses.

If you are looking for a way to foster teamwork and efficiency, get rid of or at least significantly reduce your current bonus offerings. Create smaller spreads in the bonus gap between the biggest winner and the last ‘loser’. It’s vital people don’t have so much to individually gain from fighting for credit and sabotaging colleagues, and can spend time actually working. Only then will your organisation see a reduction in sabotage, politicking and maximisation of effort.

To avoid sabotage amongst colleagues, should we do away with bonuses? And if not, how do we create a smarter bonus system?

How to Recognise and Work with a Narcissist

office politics, working with a narcissistOliver James’ latest book; “Office Politics” exposes a truth we all recognise – that the modern office is full of ‘triadic’ people; those who exhibit narcissist, machiavellianism and psychopathy. Plus, the more senior you look in any organisation the more likely you are to find them! While this may not be a huge surprise, what did surprise us was how much prevalent these characteristics have become over the last 30 years.

Recent research found that in 1979 just 15% of US graduates showed narcissistic traits, but this had raised to 24% by 2006, with the greatest rise amongst women. In 1979, men were much more likely to be narcissists, but by 2006 women had caught up. Talk about the wrong kind of equality!

Narcissistic leaders are fairly easy to spot but can make your life hell if you fall foul of them. They are attracted to sectors or roles that are high-stakes and where being a ‘big character’ and swagger is actually advantageous. In their personal life, they may struggle to hold onto lasting romantic relationships.

These are classic signs:

1. Attention-seeking
2. Exaggerated self-esteem
3. Taking credit where it’s not due
4. Courting high status friends and partners
5. Chasing public acclamation

So how do you manage a narcissist if you work with one? Careful use of flattery is probably the best tactic. Too frequent and they may suspect you of being disingenuous, but flattery has proven very useful as it aligns very much with their own worldview. Make it a goal to find out what identity has the most meaning for them. What do they seem most proud of? Your job is to make them show how that identity works well with what you need from them.

One Partner in a law firm we worked with repeatedly talked about how he prided himself on being ‘tough, but fair’ – it was almost a mantra for him. We were able to get him to see how better managing the two women and one Muslim man on his team, by spending more time with them than he had previously done, fit the ‘fair’ version of his self-identify. Once he got to know them as individuals, the way he had for the other three men on his team, he was more willing to sponsor their efforts for promotion as it was the ‘fair thing to do’.


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Guess how much Political Savvy can add to your Career?

office politicsIt is an unhelpful but sacred wisdom of our age, that we live in a meritocracy, or at the least that we should do: that technical ability, hard work and intelligence enable career success. I hear this all the time from hard-working women and while I wish that was the case, the reality is that huge surveys of all the evidence show conventional measures of intelligence are poor predictors of who will succeed. In fact, according to GR Ferris’ book ‘Political Skill at Work: Impact on work effectiveness’ those ‘feel good ‘ factors may explain just 25% of a person’s career success. Yes of course, being hard working and clever helps, but the stark reality is that office political skill is much more important.

According to the newly published Oliver James book ‘Office Politics’, research has identified four key components of office political skill: astuteness, effectiveness, networking, appearance of sincerity. While I personally love the term ‘appearance of sincerity’, the truth is there is nothing wrong with office politics, we just need to be more self-aware of how you use it. And recognise none of us is above it. In fact, you are only lying to yourself if you think you don’t use it, as 1 in 5 communications we have with others contains a white lie.

That is not to say you have to become disloyal, difficult or demanding. Rather this is about being aware of the game being played all around you – and that you are part of it whether you like it or not. Simply being savvy as to when and how to play is key for successful women, particularly in negotiating structures that were never created for our benefit.  So what does that look like? You could say, the building blocks to any career: assertiveness, self-promotion, feedback-seeking, negotiations, networking and reputation-building.

When I have worked with groups of professional women, self-promotion has been a particular sticking point for many. However, if we redefine it as the ability to show your colleagues your competence rather than waiting for them to figure it out, it’s often easier to swallow. Rather than wait to be noticed, here are three ways to draw attention to your good work:

  1. Thank a client by email for positive feedback they gave you verbally and copy in your boss, so they can see you are valued by clients. Then talk with your boss about the scope to grow the client relationship.
  2. Praise a colleague you think is doing a good job, and highlight how their work made it easier for the whole team to achieve a particular goal. Again, mention it to your boss or copy them in.
  3. Update your LinkedIn status with non-confidential information on a particular project you are working on. This is useful for people who read their updates, but with whom you haven’t been in touch in a while.

Helena Morrissey: Dragging Heels on D&I – What Message Sent to Investors?

working from home, workforce demographics, female breadwinners, diversity of thoughDiversity – of thought, perspective skills and experience, is invaluable when it comes to making the right decisions. Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investments and Founder of the 30% Club, talked in the Telegraph in ‘Time for CEOs to Give a Smart Lead on Diversity’ recently about the challenge she faces in getting investor relations officers to see the value of diversity. She explained she is able to make inroads when she suggests tackling this issue ‘ to indicate to investors how forward- looking it is in other areas – the use of technology, for example, and whether it is adjusting to a world where future generations will look at work as an activity, not a place.’

She makes two great points. First, being slow to adapt to changing workforce demographics suggests to investors a company is not as cutting edge as they might like to portray. It begs the question if they are slow to change in other business critical ways.  Investors would not want to hear that a company is slow to take on more efficient manufacturing methods or shirk health and safety regulations, both of which could open the company to liability, and will slow it’s growth.

Additionally, we at Female Breadwinners love the concept of reframing work as an action rather than a physical location. ‘Work’ being a noun as in ‘Why isn’t she in work?’ is limiting. It fails to reflect the modern intersection between technology and the expectations of the millennial generation.  The truth is that all professionals, male and female,  now work outside the office – on holiday, from home, on trains, at airports. Once we accept that as fact, we can move on towards creating systems that reward people for the work they do achieve, rather than their office-bound hours.

Is the ‘Emotional Work’ of Women in the Office Undervalued?

I recently spoke with a male client about how he envisaged an office with more women. He leads an IT team, and had never in his career worked with more than a handful of women at once, so this was an exercise in imagination on his part! He started by talking about added innovation and creativity, but then mentioned a routinely undervalued factor in the modern workplace. He admitted: “I think it would just be more social and my team would probably be better behaved!” These are all good reasons to ensure your team has a balanced mix, as diverse teams are indeed more fun and innovative. However, this X factor of sociability is not valued monetarily. This “sociability element” is seen as additional benefit – but not something worth paying for.

Improving camaraderie is not valued as an additional skill set precisely because women do more of the “emotional labour” involved in a smooth-functioning team. This point was brilliantly explained by Lauren Bacon in a piece entitled “Tech Companies: Stop Hiring Women to Be the Office Mom” for the online magazine Quartz.

Lauren Bacon, an internet entrepreneur, also hears from male colleagues how they appreciate the ‘civilising effect’ of women. She began to notice this pattern with a male boss who was technically competent but lacked EQ. Instead he hired women around him to improve the office atmosphere. Bacon explains:

“Now, the thing is, looking back on it, I can see that he genuinely wanted his workplace to have those things, and he didn’t know how to do that himself, so he hired someone (female) to do it for him. I think he really did value her emotional labor, in his way. He just didn’t have the awareness to appreciate that a) women don’t want to have all the emotional needs of a workplace delegated to them; b) emotional rapport cannot be the sole responsibility of one person (or gender); c) I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that this woman didn’t have ‘coordinate everyone’s lunches and facilitate office conversations’ in her job description; and d) I feel pretty confident she was not given significant financial compensation for those aspects of her work (even though it sounds like those skills were rare gems indeed amongst her coworkers).”

She describes: “the problem is that while the outputs (better communication, better self-care, a stronger team) are valued in their way, they aren’t valued in visible ways that afford women prestige. The parallels with women’s un(der)paid and often-invisible labor in the domestic sphere are perhaps too obvious to warrant spelling out, but I’ll go ahead anyway: Because we live in a culture that undervalues emotional and domestic labor, a significant portion of “women’s work” (like childcare, food preparation, housekeeping, elder care, and social planning) is uncompensated. And as a result, if you want your company to have someone on staff to ensure everyone is happy, well fed, and comfortable, you will likely hire an “office mom”; that person is overwhelmingly likely to be female; and she is almost certainly underpaid (and afforded less prestige & power) compared to her technical colleagues.”

This wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself-and I’ll be the first to admit that it is damned hard to hire women into technical roles, as I learned first-hand when hiring coders myself- except that there are a couple of complicating factors:

1. Coders are lionized in the tech sector, and are compensated for their technical skills with higher wages and positional power – so women without coding experience are automatically less likely to advance to senior positions or command the highest salaries.

2. There is a culture in tech companies that simultaneously reveres the “user” (at least as a source of revenue and data) and places low expectations on coders to empathize with users (or colleagues, for that matter) – creating a disconnect that can only be bridged by assigning user (and team) empathy responsibilities to another department. An extreme example of this is the frequent labeling of brilliant coders as having Asperger’s Syndrome – and the simultaneous absolution of unskillful communication as par for the course.

So long as we accept these as givens, we will continue to see women in tech struggle in underpaid and under-respected roles while men in tech earn far higher wages and prestige. And we will continue to talk about the challenges of communicating “between departments” without acknowledging that those departments are heavily gendered-and that the paychecks are, too.”

Strategies for Female Managers – Managing the Office Junior Who Wants Your Job

strategies for female managersI was recently coaching a professional woman, Miranda, who had been hired in a Team Leader role for a Telecommunications firm.  As she was new to the organisation, she hadn’t hired any of her direct reports, and it was made clear to her from her manager, that she would have limited power in replacing any of them. This did not initially phase Miranda, as she had always been able to develop good rapport with colleagues. However within a few months, Miranda found herself being challenged by a direct report – Jackie, who Miranda suspected felt sidelined when Miranda had been hired. Miranda had no problem with the quality or reliability of Jackie’s work – rather her challenge was in having Jackie second guess her decisions to the point of rudeness. What could Miranda do? If you have ever been in this situation, you know Miranda has a couple of options:

1. Start off by looking at Jackie’s background and determine where her approach is coming from? Had she ever been led to believe she would be hired into the Team Lead role before Miranda arrived? Turns out Jackie was a recent MBA graduate. In her programme Jackie had to fight to be heard and was rewarded for the bluntness in her approach. Now Jackie was in a more collaborative environment, this approach wasn’t winning her any loyalty from Miranda. However, it did help explain in part where Jackie’s approach came from.

2. When she cut Miranda off mid-sentence in front of the group, Miranda kept her cool and asked Jackie to hold the thought for discussion after the meeting. Knowing that she wasn’t going to help the situation by chastising Jackie in public, Miranda spoke to her afterward saying: “I appreciate your suggestion, but I prefer to continue with my plan in this instance.” We also discussed how she could give credit publicly to Jackie when she does have a good point. It validates Jackie’s opinion and reminds her that they were on the same side.

3. If Miranda felt the rudeness got out of hand, she decided she would say in a still and confident voice: “I may not have all the answers, but my decisions are based on years of experience in I.T. I welcome respectful dissent, but know that I always have a reason for doing things the way I do”.

4. After some discussion, Miranda recognised that Jackie’s forthright style probably also stemmed from wanting to take on more responsibility so she could progress. With this in mind, Miranda delegated her a six month stand-alone project she thought would keep Jackie happy.  Interestingly, in taking this stance, Jackie did have to turn to Miranda over the subsequent months for advice – a move she probably never anticipated! Several months later, Miranda reflected: “I think Jackie’s enjoyed the project and found it a steeper learning curve than she anticipated – but I also think it’s given her a greater sense of respect for what I have to do on a day to day basis!”

As a working woman, if you’ve ever been in this situation – how did you handle it?

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