Men benefit more at work from supporting their colleagues than women do thanks to differences in how each provide support, according to research published May 15 in MIT Sloan Management Review.
The study identified five categories of workplace support: emotional assistance, esteem reinforcement, social companionship, information or advice, and instrumental help (providing tangible goods or services).
While social support is important to organizational success, men tend to offer social companionship and instrumental support, which leads to more of a sense of rewards at work, compared to women, who tend to offer emotional and esteem support, the report said.
The study posits that women’s support may be less noticeable and overall valued differently compared to that of men.
“While organizations continue to seek ways to better retain women and members of underrepresented groups, reduce the isolation with remote and hybrid work, and bolster job engagement and satisfaction, they should reexamine how they define, encourage, identify, and reward socially supportive behaviors at work,” said Nancy Baym, a senior principal research manager at Microsoft Research, in a statement about the report.
Notably, women are more likely than men to be critical of elements of workplace culture, according to a separate March report from MIT Sloan. Toxic culture behaviors — especially disrespectful, noninclusive, cut-throat, abusive and unethical behavior — tend to be noticed by women more often, which could be tied to the ways women offer support at work.
In response, managers need to provide clarity around which workplace behaviors are considered high-value and improve their visibility by making those behaviors part of employee performance reviews, the researchers suggested.