By Mary Ann Donaghy

Headline: 62% of senior living employees have felt highly misunderstood or mistreated by their supervisors.

Fully leveraging all the talents and passions of our employees—at every level of the organization—is critical for any company that wants to grow and innovate. The trick is figuring out how to do this in the context of an engaging and positive culture. This is particularly true in the challenging times we currently face.


As we think about how to go beyond surviving to thriving, through the enormous COVID-19 crisis, I want to share some insights we gained through a recently fielded survey that sheds light on some of the opportunities we have to help each and every employee make a positive contribution as we move forward.


In January of 2020, I developed and distributed a survey entitled Workplace Experience Survey 2020 as a member of the advisory board of Empower, an initiative created by Senior Living Foresight. The goal is helping women maximize their effectiveness in the workplace and supporting them in achieving their career goals.

The survey was intended to help us to identify and prioritize our programming and communications. It also would provide insights into the challenges women face in the workplace and how those may be similar or different from those faced by men.

The response was terrific and the findings fascinating.

We had over 750 respondents; the vast majority of whom were Directors and above, with more than 16 years of work experience. 80% were women, so there were about 150 men. More than 80% were working either exclusively or partially in senior housing.

Key Findings

The big takeaway is that far too many employees in our sector are not being heard or fully leveraged:

  • 63% of women and 56% of men said that, during their career, they felt highly misunderstood or mistreated by a supervisor.
  • 53% of women and 44% of men felt they had to adjust their work and communications style, or personality to fit in at their workplace.
  • More men than women felt they were consistently treated fairly and given advancement opportunities—44% vs 37%.
  • More than twice as many women than men felt ignored or overlooked in meetings—40% vs 17%.
  • Women were much more likely to believe that their skills and capabilities were not fully appreciated or leveraged—66% vs 49%.
  • 36% say they believe supervisors who don’t appreciate their value have held them back in their careers.
  • Age bias appears to be a bigger problem than gender bias, among both women and men, with 27% saying age bias has held them back and 20% saying they believe gender bias has.
  • Overall, more women than men felt they had been bullied by a coworker during their career. A larger percentage of women and men said they had been bullied by a female co-worker than a male co-worker44% of women said they felt bullied by a female co-worker and 33% had been bullied by a male co-worker. 24% of men claim they felt bullied by a female-co-worker and 17% felt bullied by a male coworker.  

Worth Talking About

  • Do these findings surprise you?  
  • Are they consistent with what you’ve seen and experienced in your career?  
  • What do these results mean to you? 
  • Most importantly, what do you think can be done to improve how employees at all levels experience their organizations?

More to Come

Extensive details of the survey results will be shared and discussed in a session I’ll be leading Friday, April 24th as part of the Our Time to Shine Virtual Summit. Joining me to share their thoughts on the survey results, the issues that can be driving them, and some potential solutions are two professionals who have focused on these issues for most of their careers: Alison Fragale, Organizational Psychologist and Professor at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, and Denise Boudreau-Scott, President of Drive, a company that focuses on developing thriving cultures in senior living companies.

If you can’t attend live for the session, all those who register for the conference (it’s a mere $47!) will have access to the recorded sessions.

If you’d like to ask me questions directly, please contact me at [email protected].