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January 6, 2007

Working Well with Men



It's almost impossible to talk about gender issues without crashing into all the stereotypes about work-obsessed men, overly sensitive women, and the nasty label that gets attached to assertive women in the workplace. So let me say this from the get go: Each sex has its strengths and weak spots, and the issues we face when we work together are the result of these strengths and weaknesses. The more we understand about the relational dynamics between men and women, the more effectively we can work together.

Here's what every woman needs to know about working with men:

Get to the point. Women are wired for relationships. It goes against our nature to pop into someone's office and ask about that report we needed two days ago without stopping to get caught up on the kids and that problem with the in-laws or the latest celebrity gossip. Men, however, ask for what they want then move on to the next thing. We can respect this difference by keeping conversations short and pertinent.

Don't take this personally. Keeping point #1 in mind, we have to remember that when a male co-worker pops his head in the office and asks for that report he needed two days ago, he's not being rude; he's just trying to get his work done. As one man I work with told me, "Just because we tend to get straight to the point doesn't mean we don't care about your emotional well-being."

Be respectful. Another male friend works for a large manufacturing company. In that male-driven world, women who want to be taken seriously have to take the men seriously as well. He says, "The guys in the head office and the guys on the plant floor all respond to the same thing: respect. Maybe we don't all deserve it, but it's what we need." Women need to make sure we never mother or belittle the men who work for and with us.

Know your value. We bring all kinds of unique gifts to the workplace - sensitivity, the ability to multi-task, compassion, creativity. Smart men know this and value our insight and perspective. A female executive I deeply admire once told me, "If you're the only woman in a boardroom filled with men, you've earned your place." There's no shame or sin in believing you're an asset to your workplace. God gave you talents, strengths, and passion. The real sin is to hide those gifts under a cloak of fear and timidity.

Know when to be assertive. Men have a very different discussion style than women. They talk over each other; they have side conversations; they interrupt. If we want to be heard, we need to be prepared to jump in, make our point, and be ready for others to run with it. At the same time, we need to resist trying to rule the room. One friend who works primarily with men said, "Don't get sucked into the competitive, aggressive back-and-forth that can develop among the guys, but be prepared to drop in your strong ideas so they effectively punctuate the discussion."

Know your role. It's terribly difficult for some women, myself very much included, to stop tending to the needs of other people once we leave home and get to work. But while I live with small people who actually need me to help them solve life's problems, I work with big people who can solve them on their own.

Establish clear boundaries. All women, married and single, need to be wary of tip-toeing across the line that divides professional and personal relationships. That means no talking about marriage (his or yours), non-work related insecurities, or anything else that feels like it belongs in a more intimate relationship. And even when we know everything's on the up and up, we need to be aware of how a friendship with a male co-worker might look to others. Limit one-on-one meetings and always, always, always, keep the office door open.

Comments

Great insight! I'm glad I'm not the only one that understands males move a lot different than we do. It was reassuring to get confirmation on how I should respond when working with men.

I must remember if God called me to minister, I must minister to where those who hear can receive in love! Thanks for sharing!

“Don’t get sucked into the competitive, aggressive back-and-forth that can develop among the guys, but be prepared to drop in your strong ideas so they effectively punctuate the discussion.” As a former business consultant, I think this advice will not serve women leaders well. Men's ideas get presented, critiqued, defended, refined, and adopted through this "competitive agressive back-and-forth," and men's discussion of a strong idea merely "dropped in" by a woman who refuses to enter into that back and forth is too often the means by which her idea is remembered by the group as having come from one of the guys. Note, too, that punctuation works with what is ALREADY on the page -- or the conference-room table -- and serves to clarify, order, and otherwise strengthen that content. If we do have a strong idea, we need to place it into, and keep it in, the discussion with as much forthrightness, air time, and, perhaps, "aggression" as our male coworkers do their own. Otherwise, we may find that although we have a place at the table, our voices are not heard and/or remembered as our own.

While men and women are different I think often too many assumptions are made about the ways 'women' manage or lead. I know and have worked with a number of women (both reported to, worked alongside and had report to me) in leadership who don't fit the 'mold' of what seems to be the stereotypical women. I've worked with men who are definitely men but constantly get sidetracked with small talk and women who don't, who are also relational but focussed. I do think that some of these traits may seem to more often appear in women than in men but sometimes reading articles like this it gets me wondering ... who am I? I know I'm relational but I also tend to be focussed and don't get caught up (at least not often) in small talk every time I delegate a task. In fact, I probably tend to have developed certain habits with certain staff like not making eye contact and continuing with my work while giving a respectful but 'how may I help you' greeting to someone who has a tendency towards small talk any time they speak to a staff member. I am comfortable being a women in leadership and like to think I've (imperfectly) learned to lead having benefitted from the models of strong male and female leaders I've worked for in the past. Certainly men and women are different but not so different that they can't learn from each other as leaders and at the same time be what God made them, men and women. Good leaders are good leaders with some common character qualities like respectfulness, graciousness, compassion, honesty, boldness, courage, strong work ethic, an ability to trust and release others to be the best they can be ... gender doesn't affect being a good leader, being Christ like does.

I am finding it very difficult to find any resources or women speaking on the issue of sexual harassment in church staff situations. Do any of you think that it is because the issue is so far behind the times in the church, that women report less because of the unique shame that surrounds this issue in religious settings, that less occurs in church staff relations, or other reasons?
Personally speaking, because of my unfortunate experiences, I have decided that I will never again work in leadership in any Christian or secular organization that does not allow or actively hire women to work in the highest levels of the organization. Neither will I attend a church that does not have at least one woman pastor.

Little condescending to women-too much about how to "fit in" in a male world. I too have worked with both good male and female leaders. Have seen both men and women bullies, rudeness comes as equal gendar fault, etc. Try to maintain focus on being me with my strengths and weaknesses-not trying to imitate men.

This article reads too much a like a reinforcement of social mythologies that are made up in Hollywood.
Please, the guys are just as bad a gossips as any woman, and they're less focused on the job than they are about A) What they did last weekend, and B) What they're going to do this upcoming weekend.
And the funny thing is that women and the men often times act alike...so, maybe this article is written for a few women, but it is totally impractical for anyone I know of.

Looks to me like 'it is a man's world.' Not much has changed in our culture.

I appreciated your article but was somewhat disappointed. I think you describe a typical male/female. I am a woman leader who processes more like a man, especially as I read your description. While I am appreciated by many male leaders (those confident and secure in themselves) I have recently learned that I am intimidating and a threat to others. I realize I am in the minority for women, but I think there are lots of women leaders like myself. It would have been more helpful to me to learn how I can offer my leadership to my church without appearing as a threat, or coming across intimidating. A man can be praised for assertiveness, but the same actions by a woman are often see negatively as aggressiveness. HELP

It is surprising to me how many women do not understand that men do not multi-task as women. As I multi-task I sometimes appear to be "all over the place", yet am doing exactly as I should and am able. I used to find myself frustrated with my co-workers and husband alike because they could not focus on more than one task. I know better now and do better. What I know has just increased again. Thank you

This looks like an article I would have read in Working Woman magazine back in the 80s. I can't believe it's 2006 and women are still having to adapt to men in the workplace. My work is not my marriage where, yes, I do adapt to my husband. When will we start seeing articles for men titled "Working Well with Women?"

It seems to me that these distinctions have more to do with the "feeling/thinking" distinction in MBTI and similar personality tests, than with sex (male or female).

What a consistently frustrating debate!! I am a loving, relational, but entirely task-oriented woman. I don't even like to chat while doing the grocery shopping! And I simply cannot multi-task. I have developed wonderful relationships because I make priority - or 'project status' - of my marriage, my motherhood, my ministry, and my friendships. And it works very well. Conversely, my husband is chatty, he meanders around a point, he is rarely forthright with his opinions, and as a brilliant multi-tasker he is an exceptional administrator. I thank God several times a day for a husband who doesn't require me to squeeze myself into a size 8 model of womanhood; I'm really a 16 :).

Wow. I feel like I'm in a time warp. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to W. Grudem's new book, which I gather puts women getting out of their God given role as the problem behind today's church. Then we have this article/area of CT aimed at women in leadership, and I am just blown away. How does one reconcile all this? It all seems to me like a creation broken beyond repair. I mean, these two things seem to symbolize that cadre of oughts that pull in too many directions until the rag doll is no longer anything but a rag. Sorry, -- I'm speechless.

Excellent article Carla, but the "always, always, always keep the door open" directive is not a point I can endorse. For starters, our offices have floor to ceiling glass panels next to every door and secondly, on occasion, I have encountered men and women who have unwittingly stumbled into confidential HR conversations because a door was left open that should have been closed. Your overall point is well taken, but the never-ever counsel is a bridge too far. I am sure that someone, somewhere once said "always, always, always avoid conversations with women of questionable moral character at wells."

Good article for a number of clear reasons.

It’s from a perspective of a male, not a female. And that’s what the article is all about. All too often we have had the inevitable put down of men by Christian women who tell us how we should be acting and reacting, and sharing with all how allegedly poor our communication skills are.
Now it is time for a level playing field.
I'm both astonished and disappointed with the poor reaction from females on this blog who have missed the point in favour of protesting their rights to be female in a “mans world”.
In the past, it has almost smacked of arrogance to assert that only the female communication techniques were the correct God given way of exchange between men and women.
The test is: are you comments divisive or constructive?
There are some fine books i.e. “Wild at Heart” & the “Venus and Mars” series that give solid backing to this brave article.
Intelligent and caring women are now taking some time out to read them and are fast tracking great business communication – and creating some wonderful friendships as well.

I am surprised by some of the criticism of this article. I work in a practice with several Dr.'s, all not Christians. The points stated in the article are areas my bosses have tried to articulate to our (all female support) staff, but point was never clearly made. Namely the need for respect (that is not a sin) and the need for understanding that they do care about us as people but business is business. This article helped to articulate so much of what goes on during a very busy work day that is unspoken. Just putting it into words has given me confidence to fill the position God has given me with a little more of a heads up. I am planning on forwarding this to my Jewish boss. I know he will appreciate it.

I too am suprised by the criticism's of this posting. I am a man, and yet I learned some valuable things from this posting. I work in an office with only women on my level of authority. I have nothing but men over me, except for one HR women, who is not a boss. I have seen where many of these practices are put into play around here. I live in a world that is both a "man's world" and a "woman's world". I interact with woman on projects, tasks, etc., but get the marching orders and do a lot of collaboration with men. I have to battle both sides.

But all that to say that I definitely see where a lot women today do not give men, especially the one's over them the respect they need or deserve. I have seen many women belittle their male bosses, treat them in a motherly way, gossip, etc. and yet when the tables are turned they demand strict respect, etc. I am definitely saying that not all women are like that. The ones I work with will let the men, myself included, when we have a meeting to sit around the table to decide on the course of plan. The men on the other hand, knowing that we have a lot of women here, respect that they are emotional creatures and we allow room for displays of emotions, and we include them in on the decision process, especially when it is their area of expertise.

I think a lot of the issue is that both men and women need to respect each other. Men, we need to respect that women are emotional and are relational beings. But we need to learn how to use that to build solid working relationships. Women, men need respect and also need to be one task oriented sometimes, respect that. As brothers and sisters in Christ we are called to love and honor each other. Let's stop with the whole "male dominated" world derision. God placed man in head of the home, the church, and in politics. But women bring so much more and we need to learn to respect each other so that we ultimately accomplish the work of the Kingdom.

Blessings,

I appreciated the article on some level, but it's leaving me with a deeper question: when will we ever learn to relate to each other as individuals, without pandering to "guys act this way, girls act that way" stereotypes? What ever happened to looking at each person as an individual, who may or may not fit generally accepted norms? I think the article is making one too many assumptions about how women and men will act, forgetting that each person has her/his own strengths and weaknesses, and might not fit the mold. That's what's so frustrating about stuff like this.

PS to Jeanine: Good one! I can't help but wonder when that's going to happen!

The generalisations may have been a bit, well, too general. I have worked with women - some in a supervisory role, and also in the reverse. Some are confident and assertive, but are sometimes peculiarly sensitive. So any rejection of an idea or hesitation to embrace a proposal immediately is seen as a personal "attack" or a falling back into a victom role - "it was not accepted because it came from a woman". Some of the more assertive ones too sometimes fail to appreciate the importance of leaving people to do their jobs and holding them accountable rather than wanting to "interfere" to have things done their way.

Although this article may seem out dated and a 'step backward' in the progress of womwn in the workplace, particularly in leadership positions, it is a very true reality. I think many who commented took the article in a very negative way. The fact is that men and women ARE wired very differently. We as women have to have to be very aware of that in the workplace. If we ignore this fact then we are just as square as men are. I think knowing these things empowers us as women. Using what we know (ie, that men just get to the point, men don't like it if we overstep certain boundries) we can stan as equal partners. Men...whether it's your father, you husband, you co worker, your son, or your brother, all need to feel respected...or simply have their ego stroked. Once they trust a female with their ego they are much more pliable and able to listen to a woman AND take her seriously, with respect.
I am a woman in a leadership position of a major company. These facts cannot be avoided. just as we hope for men to understand how we are wired, we must remember how they are wired also. This article will never be outdated. This is the way things are and it is empowering to be reminded of these things.

Ironically most of the advice given to women here are precisely things I would want to tell my colleagues.
I work in a very male dominated environment. I am actually the only other female at the level of my skill set. My frustrations include the inability of my male colleagues to "get to the point". Meetings are constantly dragged on for longer than necessary because they all have to say pretty much everything and nothing even when an issue is resolved after the first half hour. I constantly have to suffer attempts to pull me into "small talk and gossip" when I just want to get on with my work. When diplomatic efforts to stop this failed, I simply resorted to being direct and assertive which earned me a name. In my environment, respect to a man appears to mean the female is expected to smile shyly or sulking quietly while they crack rude jokes at her expense. To respond in like or voice disapproval would mean the female is belittling them, is rude, uncivilised or just too uptight. My colleague could not understand what I was unhappy about when he announced by teleconference with a room full off others for me to "get my butt" into the meeting. Hearing them talk disparagingly about their wives/partners gives an idea one of the factors that might influence their disregard for women. I believe most are yet to resolve the clear distinction between the women who agree to sleep with them and the ones they have to work with. I understand that the author of this article was trying to be helpful but I would caution against setting male/female stereotypes that encourage women to see themselves as outsiders that need to fit into a man's world or encourage men to fit all women into the same mold. One of the most disheartening conversations I have had recently was with my female colleague. A rather rude comment about her physical appearance had been made by one of the men at a meeting. Even some of the other men had been shocked by this. Now I am aware that as a Christian we are to be slow to take offence but when I later asked her why she had said nothing her response was that it is a man's world and she had not felt her saying or doing anything about it would have achieved much. For someone at her level to have taken that stance surely sets a negative trend that other women below her will suffer. It is just the sort of attitude that encourages such obnoxious behaviour. It wasn't the first time such rude comments will be made and it certainly won't be the last. What is interesting is that I don't hear men being so blatantly rude to themselves. Why should women put up with it? I agree boundaries have to be drawn and it should start with re-educating such men about work ethics especially with the increasing need for more women to contribute to the work force.

I am afraid that I will have to agree with the consensus of comments about this article. Unfortunately, the stereotypes live on and now the article espouses buying into those stereotypes. There is a measure of fitting in that has to be done, but this is not a gender-specific activity. These considerations need to go both ways before true communication can happen. Respect in the workplace should be afforded to everyone, not a bigger measure to the men, just because they are men. There are, of course, professional courtesy and business/professional behaviors that should be followed regardless of the position you hold and regardless of the gender of your co-workers.

I think the blanket generalisms are part of the problem with the communication snafus plaguing men and women.

Once again the burden is placed on women to 'fit' in with men as if the 'male' norm was the absolute standard of the way things should be. There are far more commonalities than differences between men and women and as others have noted, many styles of relating and working are not gender-based, but personality based.

The advice is helpful in general, but is applicable to everyone, not just women

Why can't there be an article directed towards women about how to relate to men in the workplace without women getting bent out of shape? Honestly! As a man, working with women all day long, I am constantly bombarded by both secular and Christian "stuff" that tell me how I am supposed to relate to my fellow female office workers. This is one of the few rare ones that I have ever seen where women are asked to consider how they treat men. And yet, many women in this post have blown it out of proportion and say it is a slap back to the stone-age!

No! It's something we all need to read. Sometimes women need to see that men are people too!! I see too many in here that think that a few bad guys represent the whole man world. We, especially Christian, men are trying to figure out the whole women's lib thing and are adjusting to women in the workforce in the senior levels. But far too often women, some in these comments, want to nit-pick, blame, criticize, bash, etc. and yet will not listen to us. We are not perfect just as you are not. You have completely missed the point of this article.

It showed that women are making strides and doing well, but that women also need to learn to act professionally with men. We are different than you! We do things differently, not wrong, but different. If women can't take a bit of advice on how to relate to men in a reasonable fashion, than I say they can't handle the workforce and need to go home!

Blessings,

AMEN BROTHER.

Very good information. I have to wonder, though, if I'm odd because I identify more with men with respect to the first two points "Get to the point" and "Don't Take It Personally". I think too many times my co-workers (male and female) assume that I want to "catch up" rather than get right to the point. I don't mind - and actually prefer - the pop in and pop out rather than the personal chit chat.

Truth Seeker = Bad case of male PMS.

Wow.

My business experience has been mostly with small companies, partnerships and even a missions organization. For the most part, I agree with the writer. I am very "task" oriented and have never fitted into the "mold" of women (or men for that matter)who like to chit-chat or gossip - and I've even discouraged it with my former co-workers.
It is my belief that women in the workplace should be the "help-meet" to those she is working for. It is a very comfortable place to be, which leads the working woman to be in-valuable. Women with this type of work ethic never have to be concerned about some of the issues that came up in this article.
In addition, I have found that many women who step out of this role and take on roles that should be held by men are tougher to work with than men. It's as though they have to "prove" something and the repercussions are too wide to discuss here.

Dee,

Thank you for proving my point.

Blessings to you!

Truth Seeker: The posts were intelligent, and reasonable and honest in tone, even the ones I didn't agree with. Until yours when you unloaded your little emotional tirade telling women to go home. That was neither reasonable nor intelligent.

Dee,

Thanks for your response! However, I must disagree with you. There were plenty of emotional responses from women, yet you chose to ignore their posts. Please show me, I am willing to listen and to observe, how my posts were of an emotional tirade compared to others here. Again, I am willing to listen. If you had read my comments you would have seen that my comment for women to go home was directed towards the unprofessionalism that I have seen here. But please inform me of where I have erred.

Blessings to you!

Dee,

Thanks for your response! However, I must disagree with you. There were plenty of emotional responses from women, yet you chose to ignore their posts. Please show me, I am willing to listen and to observe, how my posts were of an emotional tirade compared to others here. Again, I am willing to listen. If you had read my comments you would have seen that my comment for women to go home was directed towards the unprofessionalism that I have seen here. But please inform me of where I have erred.

Blessings to you!

I agree with truth seeker, when will we finaly see each other as individuals who as christians, are left on this earth for ONE PURPOSE..(remember the Great Commission Matt 19 )and that is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ...I think the sooner we get over these steroytypes and focus on the task at hand, the better off we will be, and if we just give GOD the control, instead of us trying to take control, in whatever it may be we are called to do, the world and wherever it may be are called to "work", would be a much better place...of course this world will never be perfect, but we as christians must try to find a balance somewhere...and to the writer of this article...good article, I learned alot about men, and how to respect their differences as well, and I realized some areas I need to work on for my relationship with the "man" in my life..my Husband, thank you!

If only we (myself included) can only get this: that even within the genders, there are differences. The article was adressing generalities, giving women general tools to working with men. though we belong to the same gender (women), we are different. There is something called temparament, which plays a big role in the general make-up of a woman or man. Just because you do not exhibit ALL traits of female-hood doen't mean that someone else is being unfair, trying to describe you in ways that do not appply. You are different. Take what can help you or appllies to you and leave the rest to someone else.
Baraka (Blessings in Swahili)

i found this article quite interesting. but also notice, women can be qquite hard for a male to react to, as well as men are also hard for us women to react and connect with.

The last paragraph of this article makes me really angry. Always, always, always keep the door open? Are you kidding me?
Are you in a workplace or in high school?
In a workplace, confidential conversations are a fact of life - whether between women or men. If you're going to make a rule to have the office door open with men, then you need to carry the rule over into every meeting - even with all women. By making specific gender rules, you are, in effect, putting men on a different level than women. This is discrimination whether you're doing making this rule as as a womsn or if someone else is as a man.
Get real. This is why Christian workplaces are full of gender discrimination issues.

Except for always keeping the door open (My job required comfidential discussions with the door closed.) I agree with the "rules" posted above. However--they are are rules for everyone in the workplace--not just the women. If you are a woman and new to the workplace you may not know these rules--however--they are how successful MEN have always behaved at work. I'm 56 years old and just retired from 29 years working in a very male workplace. Now I'm devoting my time to a leadership role in my church. I'm finding it quite different. Men in the church seem much more "afraid" of working with women than those at my old aerospace company.

After reading all these comments, I'm not sure what the article was about anymore! I was quite struck by one near the beginning. Someone said that a woman needs to jump in to the discussion like the men, so that her voice is not only heard but her ideas and opinions remembered, I suppose so that she gets the credit. If that's all that my work is about, I don't want to work anymore! I have a friend who's a missionary. He told me once that he often brings ideas into meetings with nationals and lets them think they are their ideas because that way, they run with it and something actually gets done. He doesn't care if he gets credit or not as long as something is done for the Kingdom.
In a similar vein I was talking with my guy this weekend. He was sharing how tired he is of going to job interviews or working at places where how you advertise yourself is more important than what you can actually do. "Qualifications" are more important than the ability to work. Whatever happened to an honest day's work? Are we more interested in how we come across, how we look, etc than in actually doing something productive to earn the money we are given at the end of the month? Is getting credit more important than getting the job done? Just call me naive....I like recognition too but I also think I need to do something for it.

GOD created us differently. Rather than being divided we must learn to embrace our differences (men and women) and celebrate our strengths. We can complement one another's strengths and weaknesses. I see that even in my marriage of almost 17 years -- we are blessed that one can support the other in their areas of weakness thereby making us a very strong couple.

As men and women particularly in the work place and even in ministry, I think at times we pay more attention to the ways we are different and the annoyances of that rather than finding ways to work together to accomplish the task/assignment or vision at hand.

We both have great things to offer as men and women of God.

God bless you all.

Men and women can work together you just have to know your own limitations.

Be willing to speak up if you need to and guide gently the situations. Without a me attitude, but more of a helpful attitude to get the goals accomplished.

The goals have to be important to the women or they will not see the big picture.

Have we lost our minds? Posturing, back-biting, criticizing...perhaps it is not gender equality we should be concerned about, but instead the problems which have plagued Christian communities for over 2000 years, which the Apostle Paul addressed in his letters.

Consider:
Romans 12:10b, outdo one another in showing honor.
Ephesians 5:21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Galatians 5:25-26 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Ephesians 4:1b-3 ...lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

If we are mindful of these instructions in all areas of our lives--especially in the work place, whether we work with men, women, Christian or non--perhaps we will find the mutual respect we are all looking for. (Let it be noted that I have had a difficult way finding a workable relationship with my pastor/boss. Had it not been for both of us working to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" I would not be working at my church. I know from whence I speak).

"Finally, beloved, whatever it true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellece and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

i am woman working with men, i learnt from the article.I think as women we shoud accept to be taught and take what helps in our working with men.They too have alot to learn on how to work with women, maybe the writter should adress that too.

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