Kiran Snyder conducted a study for Fortune.com, reporting these differences between workplace performance reviews given to men and women:
- Amount of negative feedback. Managers (whether male or female) gave female employees more negative feedback than they gave to male employees.
- Type of negative feedback. More striking is the finding that 76% of the negative feedback given to women includes some kind of personality criticism, like: “abrasive,” “judgmental” or “strident.” What’s that same percentage for men? Only 2% of men’s critical reviews included negative personality comments.
These findings illustrate that women – in all fields, including Sales – are going to receive more criticism about their work and about themselves personally than their male counterparts. As the author points out, this means “women must develop a way of experiencing criticism that allows them to persevere in the face of it.” Yet, how many women know how different the game really is? And, second, how many women develop some functional coping mechanism?
As to the second question, the first key is to recognize that everyone feels stung by criticism – but how it’s handled is key. In a New York Times article Tara Mohr suggests: “the fundamental shift for women happens when they internalize the fact that all substantive work brings both praise and criticism … there will be supporters and critics.”
Mohr suggests several ideas women might use to tackle this issue – we think female salespeople will find them interesting:
- A woman should identify another woman whose response to criticism she admires. In challenging situations, she can imagine how the admired woman might respond, and thereby see some new possible responses for herself.
- Women can also benefit from interpreting some feedback as incorporating information about the point of view or perspective of the person giving the feedback. In other words, a negative reaction from five investors doesn’t necessarily tell a woman anything about the inherent quality of her business idea or her aptitude for entrepreneurship; in many cases it just tells her something about what those investors are looking for.
- On the other hand, if those same five investors love her pitch – that doesn’t tell her that she is a terrific entrepreneur. It tells her about what they are looking for in an investment maps her presentation. In other words, feedback is useful because it provides insight about the people we want to reach, influence and engage. With that reframing, women can filter which feedback they need to incorporate to achieve their aims and manage the emotional highs and lows.
- When a woman is being held back by fear of a particular criticism or paralyzed by a harsh criticism received in the past, she can also turn inward and ask herself, “Does that criticism mirror what I believe about myself? Are there others who have expressed an alternative view? Is that criticism more about yesterday than today?
And one other point – what could sales managers do or stop doing something that would address this issue? We suggest that more emphasis to this issue should be incorporated into sales management coaching programs – after all, isn’t it all about feedback?
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