Gauteng Business News

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WOMEN IN BUSINESS: Failed Conversations Cause 1 in 5 Women to Leave their Job


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New research reveals the most difficult issue for women in business to discuss and successfully resolve is negotiating limits on their workload—it’s also one of the main issues that cause 1 in 5 women to leave their job.

The online poll of 845 women in business was conducted by Joseph Grenny, leadership expert and best-selling author of the recently released second edition of Crucial Conversations, and Cynthia Good, CEO and founding editor of the top US womenÂ’s business website, Little PINK Book. Insights from the study also found that women struggle most to hold high-stakes discussions with other women rather than with men.

Whilst the research was conducted in America, Helene Vermaak, consulting psychologist of corporate training and organisational performance company, The Human Edge, says a similar trend exists in South Africa. Vermaak explains what it means to have a crucial conversation, “A crucial conversation is open dialogue in the workplace around high-stakes, emotional or risky topics. By learning how to speak and be heard, and therefore encouraging others to do the same, people are able to make high-quality decisions, uncover the best ideas and then act together on the decision or idea.”

The 4 Most Difficult Issues for Women in Business to Discuss in the Workplace are:

1. Negotiating limits when asked to do more than is reasonable or possible.
2. Giving performance feedback to someone without hurting his or her feelings or damaging the relationship
3. Asking for a raise or a change in a performance plan related to a raise
4. Not receiving support from other women

According to the study, only 13 percent of women are “very” or “extremely” confident in their ability to candidly and effectively bring up these issues while the rest fear how they’ll be perceived if they speak up or simply don’t work for an organisation that supports candid dialogue. The inability to speak up and resolve these issues is a substantial drag on productivity. The majority of women waste an average of 1 to 5 days ruminating or complaining to others about the issue before stepping up to the crucial conversation.

What happens when a crucial conversation goes wrong‘ Nearly half admitted a failed high-stakes discussion caused their productivity and/or engagement to drop, and 1 in 5 women said they’ve had a crucial conversation go so poorly they left their job.

Vermaak says women can increase their satisfaction and success at work by mastering the ability to hold high-stakes discussions.

“Most of us fail to make the connection between our ability to speak up and our personal influence,” says Vermaak. “And yet, the research shows that women who are skilled at stepping up to difficult issues at work experience greater satisfaction and increased productivity.”

Six Tips for Women in Business

Joseph Grenny offers six tips from Crucial Conversations for navigating the most difficult issue at work, negotiating workload limits:

Earn the right. Asking for fairness in work limits is easier when you have a reputation as a hard worker. Before raising concerns, evaluate if you are truly doing more than your share.

Clarify intent. Don’t start the conversation with complaints—start by establishing mutual purpose with your boss. Begin with, “I have a concern about my workload, but I want to be clear that I care about helping our team succeed. I don’t want to request changes that will make your life harder or put our goals at risk.”

Focus on facts. Don’t start with broad conclusions or generalisations that put others on the defensive. Build the case for the point you want to make by sharing objective facts. For example, “I’ve observed that those who do their work get rewarded with more work.”

Clarify boundaries. Be clear about any hard and fast limits you have on your workload. If, for example, you have family commitments or personal time values you wonÂ’t compromise, lay those out clearly and stick with them.

Propose solutions. Don’t just come with complaints—come with recommendations for how to make this work for your boss. If you just dump the problem on your boss, he or she may help you solve it, but you’ll strain the relationship.

Invite dialogue. Finally, invite your boss or teammates to share their viewpoint. People are willing to listen to even challenging views as long as they believe you are also open to theirs., which in turn can create a better work environment for women in business.


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