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Treading the ‘warmth-competence’ line

Warmth can be interpreted as lack of competence in our corporate world. Recent research shows that ‘women had to still worry about walking the warmth-competence fine line even after ascending above the glass ceiling.’

Thank you to Tiffany Trzebiatowski, Dr. Courtney L. McCluney, and Morela Hernandez for their research on HBR ‘How Women on Boards Navigate the “Warmth-Competence” Line’ and also for clarifying what works for the women on boards interviewed.

In HR we have a double whammy – 80% women and ‘owning’ the human and moral dimension of organisations.

One interviewee says: “I think this is true in general dealing with men…the last thing that is going to appeal to them is an emotional, moral [argument], they just shut down when you go that way. … I think you have to be much more objective and much more rational.”

Women find that they have to be incredibly self-aware:

‘Our findings indicate that unless these women monitored how and when they spoke, they perceived backlash from other directors. This backlash included being labelled as cold or incompetent, which lessened their ability to influence board decision-making processes.’

The behavioural approaches that work for the interviewees – ‘asking, connecting, asserting, qualifying, waiting, and checking.’

Here’s a great example and the case for asking questions rather than saying you don’t agree: ‘Even if they [have] a strong personality, they’re usually okay to tell you more information. [Because] it’s not like you’re disagreeing with them.’

Hmm. Familiar? So, we’re not there yet. We’ve got to keep working at this. I’m guessing whatever your gender identity, if you’re in HR you’ve experienced this.

How is this for you?

Contact us if you’d like to be in a senior group to discuss and develop the behaviours that work.

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