Employees think women are better managers in a crisis

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If you ask employees, women can lead through a crisis better than men. That is the result of a new study published in the Harvard Business Review.

As early as 2019, the two authors Jack Zengler and Joseph Folkman found out in a survey that women were rated by their employees as better managers. Zengler and Folkman are the founders of a management consultancy that regularly conducts surveys. Now the two authors wanted to evaluate whether this has changed during the Corona crisis.

Between March and June 2020, they had 454 men and 366 women assessed by their employees. The result: women in management positions were rated significantly more positively than men – as in the surveys from the previous year. However, the difference between men and women in the pandemic was even greater. The two management consultants conclude that women tend to perform better in a crisis.

Women in politics are coping with the corona pandemic better than men

A UK study from June 2020 had also shown that women-led countries are systematically better at dealing with the corona pandemic. There are measurably fewer cases of infection and death in these countries. This could be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy measures they have taken, the authors write.

For another study, which appeared in the “Journal of Applied Psychology”, researchers examined the Covid-19 death rates in the various US states. Again, it found that states with female governors consistently had lower death rates.

In order to gain insight into the actions behind the figures and the evaluations, Zengler and Folkman asked the employees surveyed to assess their managers on 19 different points – for example, whether they were taking initiative, communicating productively and honestly, and making good decisions quickly. The result: men were rated better in only one point, namely technical competence.

Zenger Folkman / HBR

Employees place more value on interpersonal skills

However, the respondents placed more emphasis on interpersonal skills: “Inspired and motivated”, “communicates effectively”, “cooperation / teamwork” and “building relationships” – women were rated significantly higher in all of these categories. “Our analysis reflects what the researchers in the study found about US governors,” the authors write. “That female leaders expressed greater awareness of the fears others might feel, for their well-being, and for their confidence in their plans.”

Because these characteristics ultimately also lead to employees working more committed. The investigation also showed that. The employees who rated their bosses were also asked how satisfied and involved they felt. Here, too, the female bosses did better: their employees achieved a higher number of engagement points.

Based on data from Zengler and Folkman, employees want managers who are able to realign themselves and learn new skills that promote employee development even in difficult times, who demonstrate honesty and integrity, and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, fear and frustration that employees are feeling.

The analysis shows that these characteristics are more often lived by women, according to the authors. “But since the crisis continues and is worsening in many places, all managers, regardless of gender, should strive to meet these needs.”


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