If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, then who's in the workplace? In my experience, men often don't seem to really understand or value the concept of recognition – what it looks like, why they need to do it, how to do it well, when to do it and knowing when they've done it enough. 

When men are in charge of managing others, they typically view their jobs as needing to focus primarily on the business side of things, that is, getting the job done:  business objectives, sales and growth, competition and advantage, utilization and investment, and the like. Relationships are often secondary to the business task at hand.

Men seem to say, Do a good job, be competent, and I'll like you. 

For women, it's often the reverse: If I like you and trust you, I'll do a good job for you. They often seem to need to first feel good about those they are working with, getting to know them on a personal basis before they are then comfortable enough to have a productive working relationship. Is this a trust issue? I'm not sure.

I do know that if something isn't right in the relationship, it is more likely to become the predominant focus for women before other matters get attention. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to sit on their emotions and personal concerns or problems they are having in dealing with another person. Instead, they focus on the business at hand – and may not even look to resolve the relationship issue after the business is done.

As part of my doctoral research in 2001, I examined 34 large, nationally known corporations in a variety of industries to try to understand why some managers recognized their employees when they did good work and other managers did not. I examined 140 variables, such as age, upbringing, cultural background, values and gender. I found that overall women were not more inclined to use recognition more than men. But in work environments that were more service-oriented, such as hospitals, they were more likely to use recognition than men. 
What does this mean? It could mean that women are more confident in using their relationship skills in work environments in which dealing with people is an asset. They perhaps were less willing to do so in work environments that were strictly business, such as more corporate environments. It could be that women in such strictly business work environments might be trying to avoid appearing “soft and fuzzy,” but when the mission and values of the organization openly supports the value of relationships (for example, of being a caregiver in a hospital), women are given leeway to demonstrate traits that perhaps come more easily to them, that is, they are allowed to be who they are.

Further, my research indicated that for employees, the #1 factor they reported wanting most from their managers is support and involvement:  sharing information, asking for opinions, involving people in decisions and supporting them when they make a mistake.  Workers often put these factors above more traditional rewards such as money, pensions and promotions, once again demonstrating that the things that are the most motivating to today's employees typically don't cost a lot of money. And women are often naturally better at providing those things than men. 

If, as my research indicates, women are more inclined to focus on these sorts of relationship factors, it validates the idea that women can succeed in business by just being themselves. They don't need to assume a “hard-nosed,” business demeanor, but can trust their instincts of who they are in dealing with others.

I can't imagine a more important factor that can help women be great managers of people than this simple insight!