You already know from John Gray that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but do you know how to promote interplanetary cooperation at the office?
After decades of striving for gender equality in the workplace, you’d think the tough questions would be answered. You would be wrong.
According to a terrific new book by the two gurus in the field of male/female relationships, Barbara Annis and John Gray, there are eight gender “blind spots” between men and women in business. “Work With Me” addresses the issues that create tension between the sexes at work, resulting in misunderstandings and miscommunication that affect success and satisfaction in both their work and personal lives.
I recently invited John Gray to address a group I was hosting. He spoke very specifically about the differences between the two genders. I thought I was pretty advanced in my thinking prior to hearing him speak. Now I realize I still have plenty to learn!
So I was eager to read about how these differences affected business. This book is eye-opening, to say the least. I’ve witnessed a sea change in business relationships during my long career. Turns out, there’s an ocean of awareness that we’ve barely dipped our toes into.
Annis and Gray interviewed more than 100,000 male and female executives at 60-plus Fortune 500 companies. Their research led them to identify “how truly blind men and women are to each other’s intentions and expectations in today’s workplace.” Inappropriate behavior exists, but they conclude that much of it is “unintended – the result of misinterpretation and miscommunication between men and women, who have little idea why the other gender thinks and acts as it does.”
They cite the importance of “gender intelligence,” which they define as “an active consciousness that views gender differences as strengths, not weaknesses. It is an understanding that both nature and nurture play a significant role in a person’s life.”
Because we’ve been conditioned to believe that men and women are the same, they contend, we often expect the other gender to think and act the same. And without gender intelligence, they write, “men and women will never truly understand and appreciate each other’s authentic, complementary nature.”
In a nutshell, these are the eight blind spots that they have identified:
Do women want men to change? “The traditional business model we work in today . . . is based on a male model of work and a male code of behavior,” the authors say. “We have to stop fixing women to act like men and then blaming men for acting like themselves. . . When we understand our differences, our language begins to change and our expectations become grounded in reality instead of assumptions.”
Do men appreciate women? “While men thrive on recognition for their results, women feel most appreciated and validated when they’re acknowledged for the challenges they faced in attaining those results,” they write. “Men don’t realize that for many women, a collaborative work environment, peer and supervisory support, and building sharing and reciprocal relationships are as important as money, status and power.”
Are women being excluded? The authors conclude that “inclusion is not generally a top-of-mind issue for men. As a result, a woman may misread a man’s behavior in team meetings as being aloof and indifferent, which tends to amplify a woman’s feeling of exclusion.”
Do men have to walk on eggshells with women? Annis and Gray say “men say they often feel they can’t express their ideas or be their natural, casual selves without the fear of inadvertently saying or doing something that may upset a woman.”
Do women ask too many questions? Women generally ask more questions than men, according to the authors, but those questions are intended to stimulate an exchange of ideas, discover what’s important, and arrive at a best possible outcome.
Do men listen? “One of the leading ways men sabotage their success in working with women is by not taking the time to show that they are listening and, in the process, demonstrate their care and concern,” they write.
Are women too emotional? Generally, the authors say, men are just as emotional as women but tend to conceal their feelings except to people closest to them.
Are men insensitive? “Many men today make an effort to be more actively conscious of the people and events around them,” they say. “Nevertheless, being sensitive is not a natural and effortless response for men.”
Mackay’s Moral: The battle of the sexes should have winners on both sides.