Skip to main content Site map

Call us on 01908 605 000 to book a demo



Don't Let Workplace Tensions Escalate

Monday April 16, 2018


Posted on: Monday April 16, 2018

Watch your step, it’s really time to fill that gap.

For both the gender happiness gap and the gender pay gap, it is important that once the information about the disparity is out there, it is acted upon. Leaving the reality of the pay gap visible for female workers without action and simply ignoring male workers dissatisfaction will be demoralising to say the least. 

Ensure your job adverts and hiring practices are ‘gender neutral’.

Research has shown that when there is only one woman in the final hiring pool then the odds of hiring a woman are 79 times less than if there were another woman. However, the odds don’t increase proportionately with each additional woman, there is only a proven difference between having more than one woman. The same is true for minority applicants.

As mentioned earlier, the pay gap often starts at the recruitment stage. A good place to start when addressing your gender pay gap is right at the beginning of the hiring process. Here at Personal Group, we use more “gender neutral” job advertisements and more of a storytelling approach which really helps candidates understand what it might be like to work for us from the off. Presenting the feeling behind the job, as opposed to a definitive list of requirements can help broaden the reach of the job ad.

It is also important to look very carefully at the language used in your advertisements. Certain language and phrases can be exclusionary or off-putting, such as sports analogies. Phrases like ‘we work hard, play hard’ can also be off putting and exclusionary. 

Closing the gender pay gap relies on ensuring men and women are on equal footing from the start. On average, women are offered a lower starting salary than men. This has been linked to their hesitancy to negotiate, and the ingrained belief that getting ahead in the workplace relies on being ‘nice, accommodating, agreeable, modest, sweet and easy-going’. Therefore, companies should take care to agree on the salary for a position before interviewing candidates and consider running training on negotiation for their female employees. 


Do you have training on unconscious bias for hiring managers? The Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to acknowledge. The IAT can identify any unconscious bias or ‘implicit attitude’ that you or your hiring managers may not know about. For example, you may all believe that women and men should be equally associated with career advancement, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with career more than family and you associate women more with family than with career. 

One respondent to our survey of over 1,000 UK employees stated that ‘equality and freedom from bias’ would greatly improve their happiness in the workplace. Interestingly, this respondent was male. That’s not to say that female employees had nothing to say on the subject. Many female respondents expressed concerns about the lack respect they received, the lack of recognition given, and the lack value attributed, by managers, to their work.

Encourage workplace learning and development

The role that education can play in closing the gap doesn’t stop at women improving their negotiation techniques and hiring managers learning about subconscious bias, workplace learning and development is important for all employees, and it can be an invaluable tool for closing the gender pay gap. 

It has been argued that women have a tendency to overestimate the importance of formal qualifications and formal training. The argument is that networking is actually a more important tool when it comes to aiding workplace progression, and women are still not fully part of ‘the boys club’, due to unconscious bias. While training on networking is something companies should offer, it is something the workplace as a whole should really be moving on from. If success relies more heavily on who you know rather than what you know and your ability to perform the tasks you were hired to do, then there will always be an uneven distribution of pay. 

Running seminars and workshops on managerial training, refresher courses for employees on elements of their day-to-day job, and more specialist courses for those wishing to move into a different section of the business will help your workplace become a fairer, more meritocratic environment in which everyone has an equal chance for success. 

The process of learning itself promotes wellbeing and self-esteem. Staff who are exposed to new information and different ways of doing things are far more engaged with the content they are consuming, and enthusiastic about their job. As engaged workers are more productive workers, encouraging learning has the added benefit of boosting productivity and reducing staff turnover.

Encourage internal progression for all

It is important to encourage gender diversity when looking for external applications for a role, however, it is just as important to encourage diversity within your internal hiring processes. Women are lacking in female role models in senior positions within the workplace, as mentioned earlier there are fewer female CEO’s of FTSE 100 companies than there are men named David (and David is not even the most popular name amongst FTSE 100 CEOs), so it is unsurprising that their confidence of success when applying for a new role is lacking. 

Many respondents to our UK survey cited ‘career progression’ as something that would increase their levels of happiness in the workplace. One male worker stated that the solution for him would be ‘more assurance that there is chance to change roles or be promoted’, and a female employee suggested that ‘clear routes of advancement’ would make a difference to her happiness and productivity in the workplace. 

It is also important to make your wider team aware of the factual benefits to diversity within teams, roles and departments, and ensure that pay rises are not simply given to those who negotiate for them, chiefly men.

Harvard Business Review refer to a Hewlett Packard internal study that revealed men will apply for a job, and be confident in their success, when they meet only 60% of the required criteria, but women won’t apply unless they meet 100% of the criteria specified. Employers should explore ways to encourage all potential applicants to apply. One method would be to provide easy access to interview support for all employees. It would be simple to create an online database of interview materials, but it is important that it can be accessed anytime, anywhere, as taking time off during the workday to prepare for an interview is not possible for all employees, so they would likely access this at home.

Additionally, not all employees are desk based, and if they must work out on the road, they may not necessarily have access to a laptop or computer to access these materials. However, with the progression of technology, nearly everyone owns a smartphone, or they have been given one by their company as a perk. This means that providing these materials on an app would be the best choice to increase equality and ease of access. 

Listen to your employees

It’s important to understand how your employees think and what it is that they want from their work life. Obviously, talking to your staff isn’t a replacement for addressing the discrepancies in pay, but regular surveys can help you combat the happiness gap in the workplace. You can address both issues with one programme as many of the solutions for the gender happiness gap complement, and even replicate, those for solving the gender pay gap.  

For example; we asked over 1,000 UK employees what would make them feel happier at work, and for men the most common themes in the verbatim comments were flexible working, working from home, and more training. For women, the top themes from the comments were more support, more money, and more respect. 

Increase the uptake and availability of flexible working

A recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has highlighted the number of women employed on a part time basis as a key factor in the gender pay gap.

“If women who work part-time are paid less per hour than those who work full-time, who are in turn paid less than men who work full-time, then female part-time work contributes to the pay gap, even more so as part-time work forms a substantial part of female employment.”

They have also advised that all jobs should be offered on a flexible basis, not simply low paid, non-skilled work. Part time, job-share and other types of flexible working should be offered even for the highest paid roles. This would not only benefit women who are primary caregivers as they will be able to take the time they need to look after their children but might also encourage male workers to request flexible hours - interestingly, many male respondents to our UK survey cited ‘more autonomy’, ‘flexible work hours and ability to work from home’ and ‘better working hours’ as a solution to their unhappiness in the workplace.

From these responses it seems that men desire the ability to choose their own working hours and environment, so why is it still mostly women who work part-time and take flexible hours?

Encourage Shared Parental Leave

Women are four times more likely to give up work to care for others than men. This could be because women are generally the primary caregiver for their children. This means that they are more likely to take prolonged periods of time away from work for childcare duties, for example; maternity leave. 

If parents were encouraged to share their childcare responsibilities equally, this would not only help reduce the pressure on women to leave their jobs and become full time care givers to their family, but it would also allow both parents to take a more hands on approach. Business in Sweden offer both parents three months leave specifically for them, on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. Unsurprisingly, the uptake in shared parental leave is far greater than it is in the UK. Sweden are also taking steps to make it easier for this leave to be applied for, especially for unmarried parents, step-parents and non-guardians such as grandparents if there is only one guardian.

Studies have also found that in case where fathers are able to spend more time with their children, their children become healthier, smarter and more confident. The benefits don’t end there, as the father’s happiness increases greatly too.

This article is part of a series discussing the issues of gender pay and happiness in the workplace. Articles will be published weekly. 

Download the full report

To coincide with our gender pay gap report, we also surveyed over 1200 UK employees about their happiness, enthusiasm, pride, and efficiency at work.

Back to Blog

The Power of Happiness

Our business is built on one simple fact: happy people are more productive at work.

We believe providing a great employee experience is the key to unlocking happiness. When people feel like they make a difference, they do.