It may be true that men are from Mars and women from Venus. That doesn’t mean the two sexes can’t effectively work together here on Earth.
John Gray’s New York Times bestseller “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” was a lighthearted look at differences between the sexes. It seems silly that it took a book to figure this out. As if it wasn’t obvious enough. But Gray’s work helped men and women develop better communication skills by pointing out that they have varying emotional needs. And there’s no more important place to understand this reality than at the office.
Once the political correctness is pushed aside, it’s plain to see that women and men simply approach work differently. And it has nothing to do with qualifications. After more than 30 years of the women’s movement, the workplace has been filled with highly skilled and accomplished women, whose educations and backgrounds have been on par with their male counterparts. However, the overwhelming majority of senior and CEO jobs in corporate America still remain in the hands of men. While gender bias, mostly in a covert fashion, continues to play a role, some researchers feel that the difference can be attributed to how women and men approach work.
That key difference? Competitiveness. There are, of course, women who can be just as, if not more, competitive than men. But as a whole, workplace studies have found that men put in longer hours, endure more hardships, are apt to relocate, and are willing to sacrifice family obligations more than women. If those are indeed the conclusions, it seems that women have a much smarter and healthier approach to work, even if they don’t occupy as many corner offices.
The workplace hasn’t become an all-out, battle royal of the sexes. In most professions men and women have gotten used to working together. But it stands to reason that the contrasting styles can lead to a breakdown in communication, a vital component in any successful business. But not to fear, men and women are more alike than different. Some may find that hard to believe, but it’s actually possible to improve cross-gender communication and smooth out the rough edges.
If you’re a woman who has frequent interactions with a men at work, you will be overwhelming successful if you recognize one simple rule: men think differently. And with that knowledge comes power.
One of the first places to start is recognizing that men typically talk to get information. While women do the same, there’s the added component of personal interaction in their conversations. An easily recognizable example of this in everyday life is the phone conversation. Guys call other guys to relay information or set up meetings. It’s rare that a man will call another “just to chat.”
Another striking difference is that women tend to ask more questions than men. Women typically want more details and a deeper understanding of an issue. Men sometimes see excessive questioning as a weakness and want to give the impression that they already have the information they need and can carry out the task.
An obvious distinction is that men tend to have a looser tongue than women. Offhand comments that can be offensive sometimes filter out of men’s mouths more than women. Most of the time it’s not an effort to harass a female employee, but a lack of judgment in telling a sexual or offensive joke. If a woman faces this situation, it’s wise to evaluate it on its merits and intention before reacting.
Everyone knows that men hate asking for directions, and that can go way beyond the map. It’s on commercials, television shows and movies constantly. You have a lost couple, a woman imploring the man to ask for directions, and the man outright refusing. What’s that guy’s problem? It’s a sign of weakness and men just hate that. Women can’t understand this phenomenon because they’re more intuitive than men and have no problem asking for help. To deal with this touchy subject at work, women can approach this in an easy-going manner and offer a man help “if he feels he needs it.”
When men and woman want to convey trust either at work or in a relationship, they, not surprisingly, do it differently. A woman who shares her feelings with a male co-worker is displaying trust, while men look more toward consistency and reliability as a marker. Because it’s so important to create bonds at work, a woman can win points with a male co-worker just by simple things like showing up on time, following through on a project or troubleshooting a problem.
While getting along with a man at work may feel like tip-toeing through a minefield sometimes, the bottom line is to maintain a professional relationship. Understanding why the opposite sex acts and reacts the way it does will go a long way in bridging the cultural gap in the workplace.
Teena Rose is a professional resume writer with Resume to Referral. She’s authored several books, including “Designing a Cover Letter to ‘Wow’ Hiring Personnel … includes 100+ cover letter examples” and “Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales.”
See all posts on women in workforce