Magazine article Supervisory Management

Managing Gender Differences

Magazine article Supervisory Management

Managing Gender Differences

Article excerpt

Managing Gender Differences

THE WAY MEN AND WOMEN EACH COMMUNICATE reflects their experiences from the moment someone said, "It's a boy," or "It's a girl." Gender-based misunderstandings can cause anger, frustration, and resentment and, over the longer term, undermine trust and collaboration. Acknowledging the problem exists may be the first step to making communication between the sexes in the workplace clearer and more productive. Because men and women speak the same language, we assume they should be able to understand each other. Not so. The obstacles in cross-gender communication are often greater than those between foreign cultures. The differences that arise in the way men and women each attempt to communicate go back to how they are treated from the moment someone exclaims, "It's a girl," or, "It's a boy!" Despite a quarter century of feminist progress and the many changes in gender roles in society, at a most basic and unconscious level, men and women consistently continue to be: --Talked to and talked about

differently. --Touched and approached

differently. --Dressed and dealt with out of

role assumptions and

expectations that are significantly


Male and female realities

In the business environment, the different male and female realities can sometimes throw us into seemingly inexplicable conflict. The reality of each sex is made up of what we say and do, what we feel and want, and what our work means to us. The conflict sometimes looks like this: --She thinks he doesn't tell her

enough; he doesn't tell her

certain things because he

doesn't think they are

important. --She finds a conversation

insulting; he finds it humorous. --He finds her either too slow

to participate or too

stridently aggressive; she finds it

impossible to speak and be

heard and feels constantly

interrupted. --Both she and he find each

other's emotional states

irrational and a nuisance. --He is uncomfortable with her

and doesn't promote her; she

is uncomfortable with him

and avoids confronting him.

The differences we encounter in foreigners' attitude and behavior can annoy us and unnerve us. We usually start out believing that their ways are wrong and try to change them. But eventually we learn to accept and work with other cultures.

In gender-based misunderstandings, we tend to automatically withdraw, avoid, blame, or punish the other person rather than acknowledge that valid cultural differences might be at the root of our difficulty. This can be done on the individual level, or it can be done in a broader way against the group we see the person representing. Anger, frustration, and resentment can often erupt or, worse, go underground and undermine trust and collaboration.

Ground rules

If we accept the fact that we speak different languages as men and women, we can start to move away from these reactions. Men and women can work together effectively when they: --Distinguish expectations

about each other as men or

women from commitments

they have made to each other. --Ask each other the types of

questions that encourage the

other person to paint a fuller

picture of what they

understand and mean to

communicate. --Offer fuller pictures to

others of how they see,

interpret, and talk to themselves

about the issue at hand. …

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