IT Employment

Do men need praise more than women?


According to a new workplace poll from Harris Interactive and Adecco (surveying 1,455 workers), men 18-34 are more likely than women to need to extra thanks from the boss in order to be productive.  Apparently, guys older than that don't need outside praise that much.

For example, as blogger Kris Dunn points out, it's kind of hard to imagine thanking your grandfather for a "job well done." (They don't call them the Greatest Generation for nothing.)

I think everyone needs praise whether they think they do or not. Outside validation is good. But I do think maybe men are more externally motivated than women. And I talk only from experience as to what goes on in my house.

Here's a case in point: About a year ago, my husband decided to temporarily redirect his focus from cars and computers and building and inventing to try his hand at cooking. What resulted was a recipe for some really great chili. And that's all that resulted. He didn't move on to casseroles or soufflés or zesty side dishes. In his mind, his work was done. He was the King of Chili.

We now dine on said chili at least once a week. And each time we do, my son and I must carry on like it's the first time we've experienced the rapture that only that meal can evoke. He asks every time, "How's the chili?" knowing full well that it's good and that's what we'll say.

Now, the other 313 days of the year, I cook. Those are 313 days without comment from the family, except for the occasional global comment like "You're a good cook!" But I know I'm a good cook so I don't really need the reaffirmation.

Chili Man, on the other hand, must have the compliments.

Maybe this need for external affirmation is a carryover from the days of the hunter/gatherers who were greeted happily by the family when they came home with an animal carcass slung over their shoulders.

Nobody ever thanked the cavewoman for cooking up that meat or keeping the little cave-babies warm. The most she could hope for was not to hear any "Aw mom, poached pterodactyl again?"

So come clean. Let me have it. I want to hear from both sexes. Do you think, on average, men are more externally motivated than women?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

31 comments
Oz_Media
Oz_Media

It actually stems a lot deeper than verbal recognition, it has been found that men seem to lack verbal function when compared to women but have stronger spacial functioning than women. (Why men ALWAYS know the way and are never lost, and also why women would rather verbalise over it and ask directions, which also comes down to ID or ego as a result). A natural instinct for a man is also to provide, as brought up already, the provider is always rewarded for his ability to support his family and be a healthy and worthy partner for the female (okay ladies, this is really just dark ages, animal instinct stuff, we are not talking about ability and society's repressions). By providing, a man is more worthy, when there is no praise for this, it is quite defeating when compared to the intentions and needs to be a provider. Women are expected to naturally have such instincts, such as birthing and nurtering. Women are expected to be able to cook, clean, care for children etc. (again, we are talking primitive instinct here ladies) When men have a problem with the car or finding directions, the utmost admittance of defeat is to have the wife 'sort it out', meaning ask directions, or take it to a mechanic. Just as if YOU (meaning most women in general) fixed the car one day, you would expect hubby to be thrilled for you. You'd at least tell all your girlfriends and then want to help THEM with similar issues. If hubby makes dinner, he did not only provide the food but prepared it too! That's killing the beast and preparing it, a pretty big deal for a hunter/gatherer. Praise the poor guy! So to correlate both neuropsychological and common instinctive behaviour, the need to be priased comes from instinctive behaviour and the verbalisation comes as men need words (admit it or not)and need to hear the words said. Women expect men to know what they are thinking, men need to be TOLD what is on your mind. Women se men as more spacial, thus they should have a good idea the woman is thinking (though it doesn' treally work that way). Men see women as more verbal and thus expect them to SAY what's on their mind. Anyhow, just a few thought, at least a three day face to face discussion requring a few hundred pages of text to explain veiws but that's it in a nutshell. Nice thread! You do have a point and I think it is quite true, but those differences are becoming fewer and fewer in modern society. One day maybe we'll all be able to reproduce by ourselves. The differences will be quite minuscule as we form a super sex. Then again, Christians wouldn't dig it because then they can't bash gay people for thwarting population.

Fregeus
Fregeus

All right ladies, pay attention. I am about to divulge some truths about the male psyche that will probably get me kicked out of the boys club. As a result, many males in this forum will probably try to debunk and deny everything that I am about to tell you. We males are very simple creatures, much more simple than you might think. Even though our species have evolved over thousands and thousands of years, we still operate with instinct more than anything else. Why is that, you may ask. Well, it's because instinct is about control, and for a man, control of a situation is everything. Especially when we have no frea*ing clue what the heck is going on. Now the main difference between man and woman, in my view, is this. Man, out in the wilderness, needed to subdue his emotions, his feelings in order to survive and thrive as a hunter. That led to increase instinct because instinct got us back to the cave with dinner. And dinner got us to do the nasty with the woman, if it was a big dinner, women. But anyways, that increase in instinct meant that we needed to decrease our connection with our emotions and we eventually lost all sense of emotion, which is why we feel so awkward when you ladies cry in front of us. We just don't know what to do about it. The loss of touch with our emotions made our ego very fragile and vulnerable. Another fact that you ladies might not know is that a man cannot see his ego, he can only feel it. But because we lost touch with our feelings, we never know when it's in good or bad shape. All we know is that we need it to be good. Therefore, we have to ask often if our ego is ok, if we did well, if we succeeded, if we manage to bring dinner to the cave....get it! Since we lost touch with our feelings, we cannot simply look at our family stuffing their faces into the feast you sweated long and hard over, we need to hear it, we need to be told that our ego is good, that we have performed our sacred duty as a man. This also explains why women tend to lack instinct and are well connected to their feelings (I know, I know, I just walked onto thin ice here). I believe that women are enough in touch with their feelings to be able to see their family stuffing their meal into their faces and say, I did a good job, they like what I did. While us male are completely blind to it. But it's also why we can parallel park well and women can't. (What's that cracking sound?!?!?) So basically, it all comes down to our egos, ladies. We feel it, but we have no idea what it is we are feeling, so we need to hear it. We need to hear that we did well, that we succeeded in our cave man duties to be good at everything we dare endeavour in and attempt to conquer. You, on the other hand, are so in tune with your emotions and your environment, you don't need that kind of ego reinforcement. Well, I've performed my duty. At least, I think I did, right? Ladies? Did I do good? ;-P Edited to correct ascii errors.

ben
ben

Wow. This is not only sexist, but it runs completely contrary to what I've experienced. I'd be offended if I wasn't so disgusted. (About par for the course: women can typically get away with this kind of behavior, but men, never.) The -only- time I've seen or heard of a man needing affirmation is when they're cooking. I don't know if it's a "see, I can do your job, too" reaction to cultural expectations put on modern man, or what it is; I know that I appreciate affirmation that the food I cook is good. But then, so does my wife: she also needs affirmation for her cooking. For the most part, however, I don't seek affirmation. In fact, I'd rather not have it. Maybe that's false modesty, but I find it distracting and embarrassing. Just let me do my damn job - whether that's providing food for the kettle, doing the lawn, fixing the whatsit, and what have you. The only affirmation I need is a job well done, and a spouse who shows her appreciation for me - not necessarily the things I do! - the way that I like being taken care of. I take care of her, she takes care of me: I make sure I show a lot of support and appreciation for things she does (both for me, for us, and for the kids), because not only do I know she needs it, but it makes her happy. (She's always asking, so it's better to be proactive.) As far as a work environment, I'm -more- than happy to simply have coworkers and bosses who aren't going to rip into me, and are going to behave as rational people. Sometimes, even that is too much to ask for. I have noticed that women seem to need a bit more attention in a work environment. As the saying goes, men exist, but women need to know that you know they exist, too. Now, what you say may very well be true, within the 18-35 demographic. What with the way that this age group (my age group) has been schooled, with 'modern' techniques typically tailored for women (affirmation as to a concrete metric of performance, like, oh, a job well done), it's believable that males may have subconsciously over-compensated in an attempt to excel. Affirmation a sign of success? Great, then they're going to do whatever it takes to succeed... However, I find that this does not hold up in my personal experience.

PoconoChuck
PoconoChuck

With all due respect, in regard to the workplace, I believe this theory is bunk. Now when it comes to cooking - when a guy is doing something that is either unusual in his arena - perhaps you are on to something. Your husband may still be amazed he's actually doing it right, that he needs the extra validation. Speaking as a guy whose own kitchen exploits involve dishes that are blackened (blackened chicken, blackened beef, blackened cornflakes), I know I would be unsure my family would honestly enjoy anything I produced, so I would repeated askly if they like it. As far as the office goes, the results of my efforts speak for themselves, and do again at my annual review. I do not now (at age 43) or at anytime in my past seek extra praise. Pay me what I am worth and I am happy. I believe I know no one who ordinarily actively seeks extra praise around the office.

catpro-54
catpro-54

I believe that anyone, male or female, that begins a new job, task, hobby, etc., needs more praise than the person that is comfortable doing what he or she does, either for a living, hobby, or whatever. Toni and a few others mentioned their fathers/husbands in the kitchen. If that was not his normal "place of employment", it seems natural that he would feel a need for praise more than "mom", who knows her way around. Of course, the constant reassurance that he is great would definitely get on the nerves! I think it would be the same with a job. If I start something new, or have something new added to my current job (which is more likely), I enjoy and "need" to know that I am doing good in order to incorporate that into my daily routine. In 6 months, I have it down and don't have that same need. I hope this all makes sense. And be nice if and when you respond, this is my first comment.

Bizzo
Bizzo

As a 30-something male, I find this to be both sexist and offensive. If a man is in the kitchen cooking, and he cooks really good food, of course he should be praised for it, after all the kitchen is the womans realm, and he should be applauded for even venturing in there. Places like kitchens are scarey and intimidating for men, that's womens work. The only time you'll find me in the kitchen is when the other half is taking her time fetching me the bottle opener. Conversely, if a women does something like change the oil in the car or something manly like that, then of course she should not be praised. If anything she should be chastised for doing this because she should be cooking or cleaning or washing something. Makes me sick!!! Of course if you know me, you'll know that I'm just being sarcastic, it's Friday, I'm bored and I hope someone clicks reply before getting here :-) Nice article Toni. A lot of men probably do require more external motivation than women. I do think though that it boils down to childhood experiences and the stereotypes that have been associated with boys and girls. Thankfully that's all starting to change now, so it is acceptable for a girl to want to be an engineer, or a boy to be a nurse. Previously girls did what was expected, leave school, get a job, get married, have kids, leave work, stay at home to look after the kids. It was all planned. They didn't deviate, they knew what was expected, and they did it. And because it was expected they didn't need any external motivation. Whereas the boys had to be stronger, faster, smarter, richer than the next boy, having to compete at every turn and always getting motivational shouts from peers and elders. I do think that with the next generation this will change though, because the children that are getting born today are from parents who are equal, they both work, they're both the "bread winners", so the stereotypes will disappear, not because the male/female roles have reversed, but because they've merged. The "attaboy's" will be heard in unision with the "attagirl's". And when that generation grow to be adults, maybe the women will need just as many complements as the men, because that's the way they've been brought up.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Retired from the Air Force, he taught business management for several years. This was stuck on his wall: "In order to be thought half as good as a man, a woman must work twice as hard. Fortunately, this isn't difficult."

WTRTHS
WTRTHS

I think in general (just looking at the facts, I do not mean to appear sexist in any way), men are more motivated by work and career, while women seem to take more pride and satisfaction from for example family, or relationships with colleagues/other people. Although the times are changing (and have changed), I think it's true for a great deal of the general populace. It appears to me (again, in general) men want to perform and outshine, while women just do things. This is especially true for fields that were stereotypically linked to a specific gender, like for example cooking. Times have changed in the meanwhile, although not all that much always it seems. It was difficult to put this in words without offending anyone, and I hope no one will take it as such.

Joe_R
Joe_R

Can I get that Chili recipie? (By the way, wasn't that a great reply?)

alexhoover
alexhoover

Thank you for opening the floor on this topic. I've observed this same "praise/compliment" desire in my family kitchen. My father who would periodically cook was more sensitive to displeasure about the meal or would often ask for feedback. My mom on the other hand would usually only ask when she tried something new and appeared to take criticism about the meal much better. She was happy to be together and see me eating her food. My dad seemed more concerned about his performance at a task than mom would. I've just recently heard a few talks from Dr Emerson Eggerichs (http://www.loveandrespect.com) who is exploring what it means to be male and female, how we are equal but different. A very interesting subject that men (some men) fear to discuss because of the backlash that often happens (even in our Woman's study class in college). Even contributing to this blog was a debate. As a guy, I do like to know I've done a good job(details please not just 'good job'...whatever that means). It is important to me. I think detailed compliments do lack in the work place and our personal lives(look for a reason to praise someone today!). Are men energized more when complemented about the quality of their work? I hope to find out.

Fregeus
Fregeus

And that is the main reason why we don't ask for directions. Asking for directions, for most men, is an admission that we are not worthy of our ancestral spacial instinct. We do not like to admit that and we will wonder in the forest and die before we admit to it. TCB

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Touchy subject because you can easily piss of either side, at least those who can't see it anyway.

rware1
rware1

As a consultant and educator of adults in both the government and private sector, I have the opportunity to work with many individuals in the age-group under question. My experience has been that the need for praise (in the workplace) has much more to do with level-of-education and level-of experience than it has to do with gender. The higher the education-level of my students, the less they seem to need praise (or positive reinforcement) from the educator. Probably this has to do with the fact that as a result of their education-level they have learned to critique their own thinking and their own work - and therefore no longer rely on outside verification of their performance to the same degree as less experienced persons. Working with experienced or highly educated individuals, I do not see the difference in need for praise cited by the study. Those students who have less experience and / or less education do tend to need more external praise -- but once again, I do not see the difference between the genders cited by the study. I am intrigued by the question of whether males appear to need more praise within the home environment (as opposed to within the work environment). Perhaps the perceived "request for praise" is more a matter of interacting within a given social context than it is a genuine need...? Even in these "modern" times, I must admit that I consider the home environment to be more under the control of my wife than of myself; consequently, when I cook a meal or make a home repair I do find myself asking for my wife's approval to make sure that what I have accomplished meets her approval within an area (spatially, socially, etc...) which I consider her to have greater control / expertise... To be honest, I would probably consider myself to be rude if I did not ask her opinion within the home context.. I don't see my asking for her approval within the home context as a matter of "asking" or "seeking" praise. On the other hand, if my wife is performing work in an area that falls more within an area of my expertise, she will often ask my opinion and ask me to critique her work -- Likewise, I don't see her request for my opinion as a matter of "asking" or "looking" for praise -- but as a matter of asking for my (objective) opinion.

maecuff
maecuff

We all need praise from time to time. (was that nice enough?) :)

sharpj
sharpj

Of course. Your reply was spot on! Many men (include me) have somewhat fragile egos, and I think that's as much from a desire to please as it is from not wanting to fail. I think the analogies of the kitchen are too one-sided, in my personal experience, anyhow. My mom suffered 4 years before dying of cancer, while my father spent those years caring for her completely by himself (married 43 years). He never needed an attaboy for doing what he thought was right, and I know he "felt" loved and appreciated. In return (again no "attagirls")my mom sat patiently and recited recipes and helped him learn to cook about 40 meals.... great teamwork, BOTH appreciating the other. That "older generation's" roles were turned completely around and the breadwinner became the caretaker and vice versa :o). My dad just passed in November and I can say, at least in this family, it's all a matter of circumstances and how we (both genders) decide to deal with them.... get off your stereotypical places and BE who you wish to be and the the praise will follow when you are appreciated! As for my .02, you can thank me as much as I need....please.....LOL Jerry

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

I believe things will begin to merge and stereotypes will disappear too. Thanks for posting!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But I was reading it in "View all" mode and the lack of formatting allowed me to miss your "bored on Friday" sentence. I remember that I did tend to ask for compliments on my work when I was younger. Now I don't need them as much because I know I'm good. :D

zlitocook
zlitocook

1 lb medium ground beef 1 large onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, crushed 1 tblsp chili powder 1 tsp leaf oregano 1 tsp cumin 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper 1 large green pepper, finely chopped 1 19oz can tomatoes, including juice 1 19oz can kidney beans, well-drained Place ground beef, onion and garlic in large frying pan. Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring often with a fork, about 10 minutes. As soon as meat is no longer pink, drain off fat. Sprinkle meat with the seasonings. Add remaining ingredients and increase heat to medium high. Break up tomatoes with a fork. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low. Boil gently covered, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes to develop the flavours. Makes 4 servings

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

Even if I were able to snoop around while the artist is at work, I would only be able to share the recipe under fear of death.

ben
ben

When I cook, I -do- want to know how it came out, not because I need praise or a compliment, but because I want to know how the food tastes so I can improve upon it (or discard it) next time if necessary. I don't like to hear that I did a poor job, but I'd rather the truth come out than have me keep making something that nobody likes. For instance, "Honey, the seasoning in this is horrible, isn't it?" is something common for me to say when I cook something that's "off".

maecuff
maecuff

in my house, although with my dad, if you DIDN'T give him the praise he looked for, he would either pout (unpleasant) or get very angry (intolerable). I don't know if it's a male/female thing as much as it's an emotional maturity thing.

ben
ben

Honestly, I can not even conceptualize the whole "seeking praise" thing. If I ask how something is, I'm asking a question of fact, not an appeal for approval almost completely unassociated with the question at hand. It's like the ever-present, "does this blouse make me look fat?" question. They're not honestly asking that question, otherwise most of them would never ask it; they're seeking approval. A man (well, most, at least) would never ask that question. Likewise, men don't "seek approval" with regularity. Not any I know, at least. If you're seeking approval or praise, you're not likely to be sure of yourself, or of what you can do. (Note, asking "is this good?" is different than asking, "how did I do?" as the result will likely be different.) Sure, such men exist, but "being a know-it-all" is what men seem to be known for amongst those who don't like our characteristics. I'll be damned if we're going to get in trouble for that, -and- demonstrating the characteristics of not knowing anything about =ourselves=.

TechnoDoc
TechnoDoc

Sounds very edible but would not excite any Texans...

Jaqui
Jaqui

when I cook I rarely get the you're a good cook comment. I do get people inhaling foods they would never eat before though. :) [ best compliment of all, they love something they wouldn't eat before. :) ] naturally I want to get the attention, so I like compliments ;) though I don't require anything blatant, the above example being a compliment without saying a word works just as well.

Your Mom 2.0
Your Mom 2.0

...because it is something that generally falls outside of a man's stereotypical skillset. I mean, I don't need anyone to tell me "great belch, honey!" or "Sure wish I could write my name in the snow as well as you can!" Of course, when my wife does something that I normally do, she'll often ask me how she did after. In either case, it doesn't seem to be about having a need for acknowledgment (praise) as much as just wanting to know about how to improve on an unfamiliar task.

ganyssa
ganyssa

When my mom did something, it just was, and she knew when she did it well, and that we knew it. If my dad did something, there better be a parade. But again, there was a large difference in emotional maturity levels there. My dad's still a WATB and he's 62. There should be some sort of statute of limitations there.

PoconoChuck
PoconoChuck

I agree with your first point, about not 'seeking praise'. Rarely do I peform any task that doesn't speak for itself (in terms of complexity or performance), so I don't have this need to echo the words of former NYC Mayor Ed Kock "How am I doin'?".

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The last time Texans got excited, a bunch of them holed up in some place called the Alamo and got themselves killed. On second thought... :D Texas chili is a completely different animal; I had some in the late 90s. I though I was used to hot foods (raw jalapenos, Screaming Mimi hot sauce, Szechuan, etc., but this was something else. :0 I have permanent scarring on my tongue from that stuff. :_|

maecuff
maecuff

My dad was considerate enough to have a heart episode 12 years ago, it definitely took the wind out of his sails. He's almost tolerable now. Prior to that? He was a grandfather with the emotional maturity of a 6 year old. It was loads of fun growing up around him.

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