Organizations cannot thrive if employees, regardless of gender don’t speak up. But, what if peers discriminate a person just for being assertive? In the corporates, women are still looked as caring and patient. Their assertive attitudes in adverse situations are often considered as offensive and outrageous. However, in case of men this same aggression is a sign of boldness or resultant work stress. Thus, women experience a more punishing backlash than men and they are the often the soft victims of emotional inequality at work. Gender inequality is more than a paradox in today’s workplace reality.
Ironically, this 21st century is known as the era of women empowerment and liberty. The question arises, isn't inequality a counter-empowerment syndrome, or can both exist together? The answer is self-evident. Emotional inequality needs to be addressed seriously at both organizational and social levels. Because biased and partial approach doesn't only affect the productivity of female employees, but to a greater extent it is a threat to their liberty and productivity. Moreover, the parameters of judging the good or bad traits should be same for both the genders, good should be equally good, and same criterion must be applied for penalizing the wrong behavior.
A research by VitalSmarts revealed how social backlash and emotion-inequality affect the two genders. The study found women who spoke just as aggressively as their male counterparts were punished with a 16% greater loss in status, and a 13% greater loss in perceived competency. Women’s perceived competency drops by 35%, while men's only 22% and their perceived worth by $15,088 as against men's $6,547 when they behaved assertively at work. Moreover, women’s status drops by 41%, whereas men's by 25%. In addition, their perceived worth (what observers felt would be a fair salary) dropped by more than twice that of the perceived worth of men. This research by VitalSmarts conveys that biased perception against women is not just unfair, but it is often unconscious and unintentional which makes it even harder to address.
How to Break the Glass Ceilings
If not dealt appropriately, emotional inequality and social backlash can adversely affect an individual’s professional and personal life, and it can also levy a huge cost to an organization’s effectiveness. Leaders need to make it safe for employees to speak boldly for what they believe in, they need to acknowledge that women experience this social backlash more than men. They need to address these problems within their own teams, otherwise this could perpetuate the problem, or even make it worse.
Five Recommendations Which Leaders Must Oblige
First, identify time, places, and circumstances when these problems are likely, and cue people in those moments to guard against them. Second, leaders should take concrete actions that show commitment to counteract the implicit bias women face in the workplace.
Third,focus on the content of what people are saying, and avoid discussing any strong emotions they are showing. The problem with this norm is that, even though we don’t discuss the emotions, we guess what they mean, and assume that the person is out of control.
Leaders can create times, places, and circumstances where speaking forcefully is expected even required. For example, have an agenda that asks people to speak forcefully about the issue being discussed. This approach would provide a clear external reason for speakers’ passion and would thus reduce observers’ tendency to assume they’d lost their tempers.
Finally, training can be a powerful way to help others learn the skills they need in order to create conversational safety. This benefits both sides in a conversation and allows individuals and teams to discuss tough issues that affect organizational results across the board from quality to safety to employee engagement and morale.
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