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Home > Blogs > Leslie Kossoff > Women, profit sharing and deteriorating bosses

Women, profit sharing and deteriorating bosses

Profit sharing | Women, profit sharing and deteriorating bosses Leslie Kossoff

There's a highly enjoyable, marvelously disingenuous article in the Telegraph newspaper about how a study showed that "relations between female workers and their bosses deteriorate dramatically when profit sharing schemes are introduced."

I admit, I had to laugh. It was kind of cute.

First, the article was written by a man. Second, the research that was performed was by a man. What that means is that men were interpreting women's reactions to an organizational system that is, very likely, designed by men.

(I don't say that lightly. Most organizational systems are designed by men.)

The reason that our intrepid researcher gave for the surprising outcome (or at least to his surprise) of women's reactions to bosses had to do with the profit-sharing system itself. It was posited that the additional pressures that women face outside the organization would engender additional pressures from within the enterprise toward women's performance since everyone's remuneration would be affected.

I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist of it.

It was noted as an interesting side note (only) that this had more to do with the team putting the pressure on their female coworkers but didn't altogether explain why it was the bosses who were the ones called out, specifically, as those with whom the relationship would deteriorate.

Let me give the researchers a bit of a clue. It's not the profit-sharing system that is the problem. Nor is it the team members.

It's the fact that women have been taught not to trust the organization or its bosses, with good reason.

In fact, the profit sharing bit is simply, for women, a further codification of another way in which they believe that they are going to be cheated by the system. That's why the deterioration is in the relationship with the bosses. It's because it's the bosses who decide, design and maintain those systems.

Just another in the panoply of reasons why trust between women and the system (as played by their bosses) is so hard to find, build or maintain.

Let's go a step further.

There's been a lot of talk recently about how the gap between men and women's pay in the UK has decreased substantially in the recent past.

You didn't hear about it? Not a surprise. The results of that particular study were released just a few days before Christmas. (Nothing like burying a story.)

In that case, the research was performed by a woman - which makes it, to me, the worst form of betrayal. Because her findings show that it's the women's fault that their pay isn't as high as their male counterparts. After all, they make those "lifestyle choices" that lead to them having less opportunity to succeed and excel as their male colleagues.

Oh, those pesky kids! Who cares how long the women have studied or the value they've brought and continue to bring to their organizations? If they want to have kids and make those "lifestyle choices" (I continue to be offended by that expression) then they get what they deserve. Lower pay now and less pension later.

For you, as a leader, this type of research - both studies - is excellent fodder for thinking as you build or improve your enterprise. The social dynamics outlined - the distrust and the blaming behaviors - all seem such a surprise. They're not. But they're also not what the researchers say their quantitative existence really means.

Women are not paid the same as men. Women do have additional pressures put on them in the home and in their organizations by their bosses - who, structurally and strategically, use those "lifestyle choices" to keep their expenses down or to turnover or make redundant employees when it suits them.

Organizations - and their executives - are presented as the innocent parties in these studies. It is, according to the way the results are interpreted, directly and indirectly the women who are being made the scapegoats for blame.

Yet if you step back and look objectively at what the results show, the women's relationships (how very female and emotional) with their bosses deteriorate while their pay decreases. See a trend? Notice how everything seems to be pointing downward.

This is not, contrary to the reports, all because the women take it in that direction.

It's time to take on the system - and it's surprisingly easy and organizationally acceptable to do.

If you have Lean or any other quality improvement initiative in place, one of the key measures that needs to be identified and tracked as you are looking at whatever operational improvements are involved are the financials - including standard and special remuneration. How are your pay and reward systems structured? Even if there is a profit-sharing system in place, what other bonuses (financial or otherwise) are offered - and to whom?

In looking at those costs attached to the organizational improvements you're making anyway (note: do not go directly after the remuneration system itself - that's a career killer), you open the door to the kinds of positive discussions that need to take place in your organization to ensure that the remuneration systems are both fair and feasible.

After all, employee operational costs based on both pay and treatment are among the highest the organization lives with. The more that they make sense - including reducing lawsuits, complaints, sick time and more - the better the organization will work, the higher the morale and productivity and the greater the potential for ongoing success.

You won't get everything you want (and, by the way, I'm speaking here to both men and women) but you will create a more transparent, understandable system that can be scrutinized as the business evolves and grows.

In the meantime, I expect that the academic research crew will keep up the laughs. I'm looking forward to that.

This guest blog was first published on The Thinking Executive.

Tags: pay gap , profit sharing , women
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