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Two Different Worlds

Highlights from the Men and Women Working Program

There are as many reasons for being confused in situations as there are situations. Some clues are provided if we examine people's backgrounds, culture, families, temperament and gender. Although many of the differences are subtle, they affect the workplace in tangible ways. This material is based on generalizations from research in the over 35-european-american crowd, various ages and ethnic groups have found it useful.

Generally women grow up in a world where

  • Relationships are collegial rather than hierarchical, collegial orientations tell you who's in, hierarchy tells you who's in charge. This affects much of how they relate to others.
  • Men tend to be quite comfortable with being team players and letting the coach call the play. Women think the coach is someone who teaches you how to play. This means women will think a team isn't very helpful when she's the coach and looking for input, and the men are looking for someone to call the play.
  • Men know how to hide the ball and think it's fair play. This means when an announcement is made about a job opening, men tend to figure out how they can look like they can do the job, rather than figure out if they're qualified. Men do not consider this cheating, women do.
  • Men have a wonderful ability to stay focused, whereas it looks like they can only do one thing at a time to their female supervisor.
  • Men indulge in a "Male insult bonding greeting" which bewilders and seems negative to women. It is really a mark of inclusion if she becomes part of the banter group.
  • Women think the way to prepare for a meeting is to study the handouts, men think it's to "touch base" with others so that opinions are known prior to the meeting. Some meetings are rituals, some are meetings – you have to know the difference.
  • Women attribute success to task ease and luck, men attribute it to their ability, which means that performance reviews have a different focus and result for men and women.
  • Women use linguistic disclaimers, tag questions, and "I'm Sorry" not to admit guilt or sound like they don't know what they're talking about, but so that they can maintain the collegial aspect of relationships. This is particularly important when women are in an authority position "over" another woman, who will resist a hierarchical relationship because it isn't part of the female culture.
  • Women express themselves facially in ways men simply cannot detect...and this is based on brain scan research!
  • Women's non-verbals are usually encouraging in a meeting (implying "keep talking"), whereas men's are much more flat, which reads "stop talking" or "I'm not getting it" to women.

Knowing these differences helps people be more effective by understanding and be understood by others.

© Lunell Haught, PhD, CMC

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