WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR MALE COWORKERS
It’s 2017 and women are still getting the short end of the stick. Is there something the men we share an office with know that we don’t?
Take a page from their book.
Quick question: What qualities or traits do you associate with great leaders? I’ll give you a minute. Here’s a follow up: When you imagine these things, who do you picture? Chances are you rattled off a list that includes qualities like intelligence, drive, ambition, strength, and confidence, and that you pictured a man.
Don’t turn your feminist card in just because you thought those things, though. You are far from alone. For decades, if not centuries, we’ve been told that men make better leaders for possessing, sometimes even supposedly having a monopoly on, these qualities. This is despite several studies proving that women are just as—if not more—capable than their male peers. With all that conditioning, we’re inclined to believe the myths of commanding men and timid women that we’re fed.
A sweeping generalization, for sure, and not the gospel truth in any case. The time of “Think Manager, Think Male,” is coming to an end, with companies shifting to a more transformational style of leadership and putting more stock in more traditionally “feminine” traits like compassion, warmth, and gentleness. How to be an effective, successful leader, after all, is acquired, not something you were born with, and it is most definitely not dependent on your gender. However, every great leader knows there’s always more to learn, so we’ve run down some traits commonly associated with men at work, and the steps you can take to integrate them into your own working style...assuming you’d want to. Because who’s to say that one person, regardless of gender, can’t be all of these and more?
en are more open about their ambition.
When was the last time you asked for a meeting with your boss to talk about where your career is going? Unfortunately, ambition in a
woman is still frowned upon, and considered contradictory to her role as nurturer and caregiver. “Women are naturally raised to be people pleasers and to express more ‘feminine’ traits—to be nurturing, helpful, kind, caring,” says life coach Aurora M. Suarez. “When a little girl is loud, expresses her opinion too strongly and prefers to play with the boys, she’s called a tomboy or asked why she’s so sassy. But when a little girl is playing with her dolls and tea sets, when she asks nicely for things, when she keeps her legs crossed, she is praised and given positive reinforcement.”
While there’s truly nothing wrong with being any of those things, Suarez says, “This makes it more difficult for her to show her ambition which requires speaking up, asking for what she needs, contradicting others, and not agreeing with the status quo.” She adds, “An ambitious woman goes against the image of what a ‘proper woman’ should be.”
What this does, then, is create a professional who, despite her skills and all the hopes and dreams she’s fostered, is afraid to express her desire to climb the corporate ladder for fear of being trashed. But men aren’t born wanting more than women, and we have every right to want the same success, so we need to flip the switch in our heads that tells us we can only openly want so much. In truth, expressing our ambition and our accomplishments does more than serve the single purpose of personal achievement. There is no better role model for a female junior member of a team than a woman who has beaten an often difficult path to success, so going for your goals and being open about them could just be the inspiration a younger coworker needs.
Men are More direct.
And we don’t just mean about where they want their careers to go. Whether it’s negotiating compensation, benefits, or even time off, men typically have an easier time expressing their wants and needs from a company, and are willing to go the extra mile to get what they feel they deserve.
Leena Nair, Unilever’s global head of human resources, says, “Half the men who talk to me [about compensation packages] ask me ‘Can I also get my lawyer to speak with you?’” It’s a seemingly minor question, but it speaks volumes about the lengths we’re willing (or unwilling) to go to when trying to get what we want and feel we deserve. We believe we’re lucky to even have the jobs we hold, and while that holds true for either gender, we should also realize that the term “compensation” is an accurate one in that it must reflect the work we do and how much we contribute to a company—which could be more than we’re acknowledging and accepting.
Men are also typically much more open at meetings or presentations, sharing ideas (great or not), whereas women are more inclined to remain silent—even when they have excellent strategies or have constructive criticism—for fear of being challenged or starting a conflict. We’re scared of being seen as intimidating, of rocking the boat, of hurting feelings, and even of being disappointed by the reaction our words are going to garner. But being direct and letting your voice be heard is one tenet of building your “executive presence,” a quality integral to career success. Staying silent, while seemingly a safe decision, hurts the perception of one’s ability to lead in the long run—strong leaders are able to voice out their opinions not only to make things happen and protect their interests, but their teams’ and their companies’ as well.
Men are More confident.
We are all riddled with insecurity. We worry about whether we look professional, whether we’re doing a good job, whether we’re being too much or not enough of something. Men, however, rarely let these insecurities show—in fact, they’re shown to be more confident in their skills and performance, leading them to explore new ideas, go for their goals, maximize their networks to get the results they want, and even just keep trying even in the face of adversity and failure.
Granted, it may be easier for a man to be confident in an environment that has historically favored one gender over another, but this shouldn’t be a reason to fall victim to your demons. In fact, what you might be insecure about now could be the very things that eventually lead you to success.
“I believe in using your strengths. And there are strengths in your womanity,” shares Suarez. “Your charm can be a source of power. Your nurturing skills will make others want to help you. Your resourcefulness can lead you to achieve your goals. You don’t have to give up your authentic self to compromise your ideals or your dreams.”
She adds, “Compromising who you are—your strengths, values, ideals—is the biggest disservice you can do to yourself and to the people who hired you. It sends the message that you are not enough, that you are not worthy, that you need to change who you are to be accepted. And if your current work environment cannot accept you for who you are, then you might want to consider if it’s still the right place for you.”
“We’re scared of being seen as intimidating, of rocking the boat, of hurting feelings.”