Why good managers are crucial for working mums

Our new white paper puts an emphasis on the importance of good, collaborative managers who lead with empathy.

Female manager


What difference does good management make for working mums? A lot, it turns out, but managers often lack any kind of training to be good managers – a new survey from recruitment firm Robert Walters shows that two-thirds of managers in British businesses were given no formal training before they took on leadership responsibilities. Yet the need for training is perhaps more acute nowadays as the way we work is changing. Managers need, for instance, more training in different ways of managing than the traditional top-down style, ways that are based on knowing your team member and on empathetic listening. They also need support to manage by results rather than presenteeism as more and more of us work in a hybrid or remote way.

If we can get the management support right then that permeates the company culture. Which is not to say that managers are intentionally putting barriers in place – although some may be. Perhaps that is what they have learned from their own managers or perhaps they don’t know how to do things differently. After all, as parents, we know that it is what we do that our children take in rather than what we say that matters and that role modelling is vital.

Take work life balance. I talk all day long about it, but do I embody it? Not really and the proof of that is that when I ask my kids if they’d like to be a journalist, to a person they all say no. When I ask them why, given it is such an interesting job [at least to me], they say that it looks like a lot of hard work. They seem to have picked up on the work life balance message – although probably not from me – and I seem to have acted as a bit of a negative role model.

The importance of getting management right and of good roles models is one of the key messages in the new WM People white paper on how we move forward when it comes to inclusive and family friendly working.

The report also addresses the issue of how management should be focused on encouraging collaboration rather than personal ambition. It highlights that many people at the top of industry are ‘captain lone stars’ who are not collaborative, however. That disconnect between teams and their managers sets up a dynamic that is not supportive and that doesn’t bring out the best in many people and doesn’t recognise the challenges many individuals face. It can lead to bullying too.

The report gives job shares in senior roles as an example of partnerships that, by their very nature, embed that idea of collaboration. Our work on job shares has shown this to be the case. In the best job shares, collaboration based on playing to the skills of each member of the job share means employers get much more than the talents of one person and that job share partners have someone who understands the pressures of their job and can support them and provide a sounding board, meaning everyone wins, including their employer.

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