As part of our ongoing Women in NetSuite (WIN) series, a large group of Brontos (both men and women) came together to welcome Kathi Love, president and CEO of Motherwell Resources, to our Durham headquarters.
Love writes a popular blog, “The Crone in the Corner Office,” where she candidly explores issues such as the gender gap in pay, developing leadership skills and how to communicate effectively.
Her presentation that day, however, focused on the importance of feedback in the workplace, how receiving honest feedback has become increasingly difficult for women and how that feedback plays an important role in shaping their careers.
The Importance of Feedback
During her visit, Love discussed the complex nature of the workplace and how bias from companies and managers perpetuates unfair gender disparity between men and women.
This disparity, Love believes, isn’t intentional but the result of unconscious bias that triggers automatically, causing us to make quick judgments that are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experience.
While unconscious bias can affect both men and women, it disproportionately affects women and makes it more difficult for them to receive helpful feedback.
Where men often receive feedback tied to business outcomes that help them develop professionally, women often receive feedback that is rife with vague praise, which places them at a subtle disadvantage for career growth.
During performance evaluations, high-achieving women are also more likely to be called bossy or abrasive. Love also pointed out that a woman’s performance is more likely to be credited to characteristics such as luck or long hours rather than her abilities or skills.
What We Can Do
Tackling inequality in the workplace is no doubt important to all companies, but even the most well-intentioned corporate performance reviews can still be plagued by unconscious bias.
Love offered a number of suggestions that companies can follow to address this, which included defining criteria objectively and being clear with the results or behavior desired from employees, regardless of gender.
Love also recommends involving a broader group of reviewers, weighting the feedback based on the amount of contact the reviewer has with the individual and looking for technology solutions that allow regular feedback with real-time information.
Of course, individuals also have a role to play when it comes to personal and professional growth. Ensuring that you understand the criteria outlined by your company’s performance reviews, being prepared to talk specifics and letting go of defensiveness, Love explained, are all important elements to successfully receiving feedback.
To help get a better understanding of unconscious bias, Love also encouraged everyone to take Harvard’s Project Implicit assessments, which helps individuals become better aware of the unconscious bias that they carry on a wide range of topics.
What’s your EI?
Another crucial, but often overlooked, element of professional growth and success is Emotional Intelligence (EI), which is the ability to recognize your own and other people’s emotions, distinguish between different feelings and use emotional information to help guide thinking and behavior.
During her presentation, Love pointed to a Harvard Business Review article titled, “What Makes a Great Leader” (subscription required), which found that while intellect was a driver of outstanding performance, emotional intelligence was twice as important as IQ and technical skills in predicting success.
Additionally, the higher the rank of a “star performer,” the more EI was the reason for his or her effectiveness.
We’re In This Together
While Love’s presentation focused on the challenges facing women in the workplace, her message was one that resonates with all audiences. Regardless of gender, getting feedback is crucial to understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and we all have a role to play in ensuring that honest and helpful feedback is available to everyone.