Psychology Today: Here To Help

How To Increase Your Future Potential

As a general rule, female managers are more pessimistic about their promotability than their male counterparts. And there is a valid basis for this perception. Professor Caroline Cochran of the University of Minnesota studied more than 2,800 high potential mangers. These managers filled out a questionnaire analyzing their own performance. Supervisors were also asked to evaluate the performance of individuals in this group. Women received slightly higher ratings than men with respect to managerial competence in their present positions. Men, however, received significantly higher ratings than women with respect to perceived long range potential. This research confirms other studies on the subject. Gender stereotype plays more of a role in evaluating future potential than it does in evaluating current managerial performance. When evaluating future potential, evaluators are making many assumptions. Current performance evaluation lends itself to more visible measures.

The Role of Self Confidence

Self-confidence plays a role in how your boss perceives your longer term promotability. But it plays a surprising role. High performing female managers'ratings of their own performance were generally in line with their bosses. In other words, women displayed realistic self-appraisal. High performing male managers' self ratings were inflated relative to how they were actually perceived by superiors. The fact that women managers get fewer promotions was documented by Personnel Decisions, Inc. of Minneapolis, our Lincolnshire International affiliate. The firm studied 800 managers at one organization. The majority of "promotions" in this company were really lateral moves when you closely evaluate job content. When examining work and title changes where power or responsibility significantly increased, nearly 15% of male managers received real promotions. Women only received 9% of real promotions.

What's To Be Done

These studies suggest the following action strategies for female managers: Carefully Scrutinize the "Future Promotability" Component of the Performance Appraisal. Male managers are likely to insist on high ratings in this category, even if they don't deserve it.

Insist on the most glowing statements you can get, just like males do. Such insistance establishes a tone that you have high expectations for promotion. If your company is ever acquired, then you have a strong and consistent paper trail of superiors noting your high upward mobility potential.

These recommendations go beyond female executives. Shy executives seldom like to make waves about their promotability, preferring to let their current actions speak for them. That type of approach may be a mistake for both males and females. In succession planning, the squeaky gear gets greased!

Dr. Laurence J. Stybel and Maryanne Peabody are co-founders of Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire, a senior executive level career consulting firm based in Boston and twenty five other cities in three countries. They were voted "Best retained search Firm" by the readers of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Maryanne and Larry can be reached at 781/736-0900.