There is a lot of information out there on diversity in the workplace. The latest rage of course has been discussion about the three-generation workplace. However, an area of diversity that I find has been overlooked in recent years is one that definitely affects us all; the gender gap. Anyone who is married can attest to the fact that men and women are entirely different species, or as relationship expert John Gray put it, they are from completely different planets.
The differences between men and women go way beyond the physical to include things like core beliefs and value systems. In fact, the underlying values of men and women largely contribute to the differences in how we communicate, solve problems, and manage stress. These differences often lead to assumptions and judgments by the opposite sex, which ends up leading to friction at work. A little awareness about these subtle differences can go a long way in reducing workplace stress, and building a respectful unified team.
Values are behind it all.
If you can remember this simple truth about values, it will go a long way in helping you understand the opposite gender’s motivations and actions. Most men primarily value results, the bottom line and achievement. Most women primarily value the quality of their relationships and working environment.
A few years ago, the New York Yankees won the baseball championship despite some heavy infighting on the team. Most men would agree that they had a successful season. After all, that is why we play baseball. Women on the other hand would probably judge the season differently. If a woman’s baseball team had won a championship and yet the year was filled with relational strife, they would be more inclined to view the year with very mixed reviews and some would see it as an outright failure.
Trust is a must.
All relationships hinge on trust. In my leadership seminar, I talk about the Trinity of Trust, which is Character, Competence, and Caring. A good manager must demonstrate all three in the workplace to win the trust of those he or she leads. But it turns out that men and women put different weight on each of these elements. While Character is a foundation for both men and women, Caring means more to women in trust building and Competence means more to men. These sources of trust are important to understand because, when linked to our values, it creates completely different ways in which we interpret events. Let’s talk about communication for a minute.
Speaking of Communication.
Men speak for usually one reason, to convey information. In fact, a man will mull things over in his mind and when he is ready to make his point, he will speak. A man will not use many words, and if he does it may be a sign that he is unsure about what he is talking about. This is why on some level when a man uses a lot of words in communication, other men may subconsciously question his confidence and therefore his competence, and if a man is not competent, other men will wonder if they can trust him.
Women on the other hand communicate for many more reasons than just to exchange information. In addition to this, women communicate to build relational bonds, manage stress, and sort out emotions. Remember that a woman is concerned about more than just the bottom line. She also wants to build harmonious relationships along the way. Therefore, women will use inclusive language containing words like, “We might want to try this…” or “I wonder if this might be an alternative to consider…” In a man’s world, this kind of language demonstrates a lack of confidence so when a women speaks like this, some men will be tempted to doubt their abilities.
Now it’s not that women can’t get straight to the point. In fact, they can but they tend to do this when they do not care if there is any relational bond at all with an individual. So when men communicate in a very direct manner, some women can mistakenly think he doesn’t care about them. Since caring is an essential element of trust for a woman, she might be tempted to trust the man less.
You can see how both sides misunderstanding each other can erode the bonds of trust that are essential in productive relationships. Therefore, when it comes to communicating at work here are a few tips that can help build the bonds of trust that make relationships work.
Remember that when women speak the will often use more words and inclusive language. This does not mean they are not confident; they just want to make sure you feel pulled in.
When you communicate with women colleagues, try and not be so direct all of the time. Make time for small chat and use a little more inclusive language yourself. They will not think you are unsure of yourself, but rather will be encouraged by your efforts to include them in the discussion.
Remember that when a man speaks he may be direct but it is not because he does not care or that he does not value your opinion. Try to get to your point a bit faster without filling in the entire picture. He will appreciate that.
James Robbins is a leadership trainer helping organizations build workplaces of full engagement and low turnover. His keynotes and workshops inspire and equip managers to face today’s leadership demands. To find out more go to http://www.ontothesummit.com