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Gaining the respect of your team

01.12.09 | Posted in Women & Business Women In Business

I’m just back from the latest Business Chicks ‘Lunch and Learn’ event with guest speaker Mia Freedman. The ex-editor of Cosmopolitan mag was asked how she earned the respect of her team and her answer included “I baked for them”.

It got me thinking because this is in direct opposition to what Dr Lois Frankel, author of ‘Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office’, advocates.

Frankel will tell you straight out that you shouldn’t mother your colleagues (translation – even if you’re told your Anzac cookies are the best out, save them for your kitchen).

Nowadays I have no time for baking but I’ll admit I have been partial to making a cake or two back in the day. In fact I conscientiously baked for every new team member that joined my first business. Our logo incorporated a smiley face so that was easy. Find a round tin, whip up a basic vanilla cake and ice it in the corporate colours. Voila – instant staff engagement (and morning tea).

I don’t want to be a fence sitter here

But I can see where both women are coming from. Mia was trying to build rapport and trust through nurturing her staff, and it probably worked. Dr Frankel on the other hand also has a good point – if you treat your team members like your kids they’ll probably start acting like them; and your colleagues may not take you seriously either.

I think the main difference here is who makes up your workplace. Freedman’s team were all female so perhaps the extra nurturing was exactly what they needed. The sorts of workplaces that Frankel has in mind are co-gender, and if you’re after a career trajectory northwards and the plan involves earning the kudos of male peers, then maybe you should reconsider the cupcakes.

So, to bake or not to bake?

What practical things have you done to earn the respect of your team members? What about your manager – what have they done? Keen to hear your thoughts!

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2 Comments

  1. Rachel

    I bake for my co-gender collegues every few months and I find it a great tool to help me maintain internal business relationships. I bake for my department to give them a break, especially because my boss loves sweets. I also offer leftovers to collegues in areas I’ve worked in the past to keep friendly with them.

    Recently I also used baking to raise some money for charity at work, and my baking reputation seemed to help! I also met a few people I hadn’t really talked to before since I work in such a large company.

    I enjoy giving my collegues a little treat, although I am not a manager so the situation is different to Mia’s.