Women now make up 50 percent of America's workforce. More women than men graduate from college and earn advanced degrees. As a woman who started a business and got a Ph.D. while raising three sons, this shift is both fulfilling and mildly surreal.
But today let's consider the effect of these changes rather than the changes themselves.
Both male and female leaders are changing.
It is impossible to deny there's been a significant change in the workplace dynamic as more women have come onto the scene. A behavioral assessment over the last 30 years reveals that men consider themselves more social and flexible, while women are rating themselves as more assertive. It is too simplistic to chalk these trends up to there simply being more women in the workplace.
So I'll phrase it this way: Because there are more women in the workplace and in leadership positions, there is a different kind of dynamic present. There is more empathy, intuition, patience, accommodation and selflessness in the workplace and in leadership positions than ever before.
Women have brought those so-called "feminine" qualities to the business world, and it's made a gradual impact. Men have begun to understand and accept empathy as a key component of effective leadership. They're tapping into the relational potential they possess and getting a positive response.
In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, provides numerous examples of senior men being more empathic, such as the time where Google Founder Omid Kordestani reassured a crying Sheryl "that everyone gets upset at work. It's okay." Or when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, offered a hug in response to her becoming emotional while discussing a work challenge.
Sheryl states, "Emotion drives both men and women and influences every decision we make. Reorganizing the role emotions play while being willing to discuss them makes us better managers, partners, and peers."
It's no wonder that more and more of us are identifying empathy, intuition and open communication as traits we value in our leaders. It actually works!
Here are six ways you can be more empathetic at work:
- Be present.Walk the halls, greet people, and participate in special events.
- Be sensitive. Understand office politics and the workplace dynamic.
- Accommodate the desire for collaboration and team work. At the same time, understand that some employees may prefer to work alone.
- Be interested. Talk about news, sporting events or any other non-work subject with your employees. Ask about their lives.
- Seek other opinions. Show appreciation for your team's thoughts and ideas.
- Send personal notes of recognition. A simple note will do. "Thanks for your valuable work on the project. You are an asset to the team!"
A little bit of empathy may go a long way, and adding it to your leadership toolbox is something your team will appreciate.