Men more recognised for supporting colleagues than women

Men feel more rewarded for the support they give to colleagues than women do, according to a new report.

The study, published in MIT Sloan Management Review, investigated the leading causes of job satisfaction.

Social support, which includes giving colleagues career advice, cheering them up or organising socials, was found to be the top contributor to job satisfaction.

More specifically though, what people liked the most was how their employers rewarded and encouraged acts of support among colleagues.

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Women, on average, more frequently undertook acts of social support than men.

However, men rated the level of recognition and reward they received as a result of their support 11% higher than women did.

Speaking to HR magazine, study co-author Constance Noonan Hadley, founder of the Institute for Life at Work and a lecturer at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, said the gender disparity revealed in the study offers employers the opportunity to be more mindful about the kind of culture they would like to create.

For HR leaders that want to create a supportive culture, she said: “Examine your mission and your values.

“If part of that is to create this kind of cohesive, integrated, inclusive, workplace community, then I would operationalise that more clearly. Don't just use the words.

“Break it down and say, what are the kinds of things people can do in your workplace that would help contribute to that?”

After specifying what support looks like, and how it informs objectives, she added: “Go out there and figure out better ways to capture and measure it and reward it. Give some examples of things you can ask performance reviews, for example, that can be beneficial.”

By setting support-related objectives, teams can ensure behaviours cascade through the organisation and do not lead to further disparities.

Noonan Hadley added: “Another role for HR is to really set that expectation and embed it into every level: what gets people promoted and recognised in this organisation?”

One of the difficulties with rewarding support, she said, is that a lot the behaviours happen privately and on a one-to-one basis.

Therefore, she said: “You have to allow self-reports and ask for peer nominations without getting the details on what they did.”

The Unequal Rewards of Peer Support at Work’ was written by Nancy Baym and Constance Noonan Hadley and published in MIT Sloan Management Review on the 15 May 2023.