Little PINK Book and VitalSmarts Crucial Conversations Study 2011

Failed crucial conversations cause 1 in 5 women to leave their job

New study reveals negotiating workload limits is the most difficult conversation women face


October 11, 2011—Provo, UT—New research reveals the most difficult issue for women in the workplace to discuss and successfully resolve is negotiating limits on their workload—it’s also one of the main issues that cause 1 in 5 women to leave their job.

The online poll of 845 women in business, conducted by Joseph Grenny, leadership expert and best-selling author of the recently released second edition of Crucial Conversations, and Cynthia Good, CEO and founding editor of the top women’s business website, Little PINK Book, also found that women struggle most to hold high-stakes discussions with other women rather than with men.

The 4 most difficult issues for women to discuss in the workplace are:

          1.   Negotiating limits when asked to do more than is reasonable or possible

2.     Giving performance feedback to someone without hurting his or her feelings or damaging the relationship

3.     Asking for a raise or a change in a performance plan related to a raise

4.     Not receiving support from other women

According to the study, only 13 percent of women are “very” or “extremely” confident in their ability to candidly and effectively bring up these issues while the rest fear how they’ll be perceived if they speak up or simply don’t work for an organization that supports candid dialogue.

The inability to speak up and resolve these issues is a substantial drag on productivity. The majority of women waste an average of 1 to 5 days ruminating or complaining to others about the issue before stepping up to the crucial conversation.  

What happens when a crucial conversation goes awry? Nearly half admitted a failed high-stakes discussion caused their productivity and/or engagement to drop, and 1 in 5 women said they’ve had a crucial conversation go so poorly they left their job.

Grenny says women can increase their satisfaction and success at work by mastering the ability to hold high-stakes discussions.

“Most of us fail to make the connection between our ability to speak up and our personal influence,” Grenny said. “And yet our research clearly shows that women who are skilled at stepping up to difficult issues at work experience greater satisfaction and increased productivity.”

Good echoes Grenny in encouraging women to not cower when the stakes are high, opinions differ and emotions run strong.

“The bottom line is women can, and must, take the initiative to be advocates for themselves,” Good said. “The mantra at PINK is, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’ Of course how you ask is key too.”

Joseph Grenny offers six tips from ·       Earn the right. Asking for fairness in work limits is easier when you have a reputation as a hard worker. Before raising concerns, evaluate if you are truly doing more than your share.

·       Clarify intent. Don’t start the conversation with complaints—start by establishing mutual purpose with your boss. Begin with, “I have a concern about my workload, but I want to be clear that I care about helping our team succeed. I don’t want to request changes that will make your life harder or put our goals at risk.”

·       Focus on facts. Don’t start with broad conclusions or generalizations that put others on the defensive. Build the case for the point you want to make by sharing objective facts. For example, “I’ve observed that those who do their work get rewarded with more work.”

·       Clarify boundaries. Be clear about any hard and fast limits you have on your workload. If, for example, you have family commitments or personal time values you won’t compromise, lay those out clearly and stick with them.

·       Propose solutions. Don’t just come with complaints—come with recommendations for how to make this work for your boss. If you just dump the problem on your boss, he or she may help you solve it, but you’ll strain the relationship.

·       Invite dialogue. Finally, invite your boss or teammates to share their viewpoint. People are willing to listen to even challenging views as long as they believe you are also open to theirs.

About VitalSmarts: An innovator in corporate training and organizational performance, VitalSmarts is home to Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, Influencer, and Change Anything—award-winning training products and New York Times best-selling books that enrich relationships and improve results. VitalSmarts has consulted with more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and trained more than 650,000 people worldwide.

About PINK: Little PINK Book is “the No. 1 digital platform for America’s 70 million working women.” Little PINK Book is the only global online community, free daily e-Note (delivered right to your inbox, with more than one million e-Notes going out each month) and national event series exclusively for professional women.

Note to editor: Joseph Grenny, best-selling author of Crucial Conversations, and Cynthia Good, CEO of PINK, are available for interviews. Copies of the second edition of About the research: The study collected responses via an online survey tool from 845 individuals. Margin of error is approximately 3%.


Laura Potter of VitalSmarts, L.C. +1-801-510-7590, or [email protected].

Danielle Jackson of PINK +1-404-240-2524, or [email protected].

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