As a woman leader, you won’t likely fit in the “Bro Culture” that exists in many organizations – and new research proves you’re better off for it.
You’ve probably seen the “Bro Culture” in different forms throughout your career – from yesteryear’s “good old boys club” to the fist-bumping, inexperienced men at the helm of some organizations today – and may have bristled at and fought its existence.
“Bros typically form tight, exclusive in-group ties,” says Morela Hernandez, a researcher at Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. “And we might assume these groups exclusively favor males. But do they always?”
No way, says Hernandez, who’s new, co-authored study is in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Bros may want to talk about last night’s game or today’s sales numbers and grab a beer after work with the guys. But they’d rather hear critical and positive feedback from you.
Is it an affront or help?
Men are more open to feedback from opposite-gender colleagues and subordinates, the study found. They want to know what you think – and usually respect it, especially is it’s given with an intent to improve the organization.
Here’s the biggest (and perhaps crazy) reason why: Men sometimes see feedback and suggestions from male colleagues as an affront, not help. Their ego gets bruised by what they hear as criticism from their “bro.” Then they shut out what could be useful information.
On the other hand, they’re more likely to be thankful when a woman in leadership gives them useful feedback and suggestions. And that puts you in a position to get your voice heard and ideas accepted more often.
Give the best possible feedback
You can flourish in a Bro Culture (or any one, for that matter) if you give effective feedback. Here are six tips that will help:
- Make an invitation. Unless you’re in a 180-degree feedback situation – and your colleague or boss expects you to offer insight – ask if it’s OK to give some feedback. You might say, “I’ve noticed that you … I’ve had experience with that. Are you open to some feedback on it?”
- Check your motives before you dive in. If you see and want to explore an opportunity for positive change or growth, go ahead and breach the subject. But if the conversation you’re considering is meant to make a colleague feel wrong – or make you feel superior – put a hold on it.
- Focus on development. From there, open conversations with your intentions to help your colleague improve something such as results or performance. Say something like, “I’d love to see your team smash the goal this quarter, and I have an idea on how you can make it happen.”
- Keep it uber-professional. Just because this research shows that men are more open to feedback from female colleagues doesn’t mean they won’t take critical feedback personally. Imagined slights and jabs can turn any situation toxic, so you want to acknowledge and share feelings. In situations when you offer constructive criticism, say something like, “I can understand why you’d be irritated with …,” Acknowledging how they likely feel about something that isn’t working is like offering a relief valve for stress.
- Talk about solutions. Feedback is best served and received when your goal is to help find and implement solutions, not simply criticize. So make a clear connection between what you’ve noticed isn’t working, an alternative and the potential result of your feedback. For instance, “I’ve noticed that when you do X, Y happens, and I don’t think that’s your intention. I’ve had that happen, too. When I tried Z, results changed for the better almost immediately.”
- Listen so you both can learn. Ideally, feedback between colleagues should spark learning on both sides. Move the conversation in a way that you both will end up understanding the situation and coming up with better ways to operate. Once you’ve shared your thoughts, hear out your colleague on the subject.