Zero for warmth

cazz pointed out this Harvard Business Review article.

Susan Fiske and her colleagues have shown that people seem to universally use two dimensions to judge others: competence and warmth. We decided to test for both of those in addition to confidence. As a proxy for the likelihood of being promoted, we also tested for influence, on the theory that people who are seen as influential are more likely to be promoted to leadership roles.

We conducted a study analyzing the judgments that colleagues made regarding the competence and warmth of 236 engineers working in project teams at a multinational software development company. As part of their performance evaluation, the engineers were evaluated online by their supervisor, peers, and collaborators on competence and warmth.

A total of 810 raters provided this confidential evaluation. A year later, we collected a second wave of data on the same 236 engineers about their apparent confidence at work and their influence in the organization. This time, a total of 1,236 raters provided information.

Our study, which has been accepted for presentation at the Academy of Management’s conference in August, shows that men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm. Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.

Sigh. Of course they are, of course they must. It doesn’t surprise, but it does depress. It doesn’t depress any less – quite the contrary – when we remember we all do it.

Personal experience and empirical research suggest that it’s not enough for women to be merely as gregarious, easygoing, sociable, and helpful as men. To get credit for being warm — and to have their other strengths recognized — they might need to be even more so.

I still remember my first performance evaluation as an assistant lecturer: I was told to be more “nurturing.” I had gone to just as many social events as the men had, had been just as gregarious with my students. But women simply are expected to show more warmth. Studies show, for example, that women’s performance reviews contain nearly twice as much language about being warm, empathetic, helpful, and dedicated to others.

Yeah. Remember Bettelheim’s calumny about the “refrigerator mother”?

Comments are closed.