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As I prepare for my Keynote Address at the Athena Leadership Conference I find myself reading up on the topics of communication, EI, gender communication, etc. http://www.pickeringtonchamber.com/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&Itemid=94

The Athena Committee suggested I read The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace, written by Shaunti Feldham http://www.humanfactorresources.com/ . I found the book enlightening (and quite frankly, somewhat disheartening) and wanted to share some of the key findings with my readers. I was hoping to get your thoughts as well. Mrs. Feldham spent years gathering research on the topic of gender communication at work. Some of the findings are to be expected others are a bit surprising.

One of the recurring themes was how men and women approach work. Generally, she writes, for men, work is work. They can rather easily separate work and their personal worlds. Business is a box, it’s not personal, it’s not relational, and it’s not anything but work. Women on the other hand, find separating the two somewhat difficult. What are your thoughts about this finding?

Men work by a certain set of rules at work and it would behoove the women in the workplace to understand those rules. As a woman, I know I have felt the “good old boys” network. Mrs. Feldham acknowledges the “network” but claims as that as women, we should work hard at understanding and adhering to the “rules of the workplace”. They’ve existed for hundreds of years and it is important we understand what they are so that we can be perceived more positively in the workplace. Breaking the rules generally hinders women’s advancement opportunities. How well do you understand the “rules of the workplace”?

There is discussion around the different “wiring” in men’s v. women’s brains. Men naturally compartmentalize. Women don’t. We are wired to multi-task. I liked the author’s description of “windows”. Women have many windows open at one time but have a hard time closing them out. Men on the other hand, have one window open at a time (work life or personal life) and find it exhausting to deal with multiple windows at the same time. Thus one of the reasons why men are so easily able to separate personal life v. work life. While not always politically correct to say so, men find it difficult to interact with women who are unable to keep the two separate.

Men, after having a confrontation with another man are often seen golfing or lunching shortly thereafter. Again, because they are able to compartmentalize. Work is work. Women on the other hand have a tendency to hold grudges. We can’t easily separate the confrontation from the person and vice versa. Men see this as a form of self sabotage and don’t understand women’s inability to separate one from the other. It is a source of frustration for men in dealing with women in the workplace.

Men are ultra-focused on the task at hand and find interruptions extremely disruptive. Women, they say would do well to understand the impact this disruption has on their male peers and bosses. How can this finding impact how you interact with others? What can you do differently?

Men have a tendency to place people in two camps (more compartmentalizing).

  • Those who remember which world they are in and operate accordingly
  • Those who don’t appear to remember that they are in the work world and sometime operate as they are in the personal world.

You are viewed negatively if you don’t act according to the world you are in. Work is work. Remember?

If, at work, you operate as though you are in the personal world you are perceived as:

  • Lacking self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Defensive and insecure
  • Emotional, less stable and lacking in self-control
  • Not being a team play
  • Immature and lacking in business savvy

How do you feel about these findings? I look back on some of my jobs and can see how I have not separated the two causing my own self-sabotage.

So what are the laws of the working world?

  1. One can never take things personally
  2. You essentially become your position
  3. One doesn’t make business decisions based on personal factors
  4. You get business done despite personal factors
  5. Emotions in the workplace have to be related to the business
  6. Conflicts are task specific and should never carry over and become grudges

Number 1 and #6 are the laws most difficult for me. What about you?

I’ve met my word quota for now. So, more on this in the next blog. I hope I’ve added value to your day and encouraged new thinking about how you interact with others.

Until next time.

Thank you for reading!

Julie