In the Workplace, What Men Can Learn from Women

I often find myself frustrated with the “what women can learn” genre of career help books and articles. I’m not saying we don’t have a lot to learn…we do. Being more assertive, giving ourselves credit where credit is due, and making sure that our superiors know our career goals are all skills that would generally benefit women.

Here’s my problem: this genre is almost entirely based on the assumption that we should be more like men. It holds maleness as the standard for professional.  This makes sense, of course, because men have always been the standard of profession.  But what’s the old adage? Oh, right… if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get when you’ve always got. And let’s be honest, what we always got was sexism and wage disparities. So you’ll have to forgive me, but I just don’t want to be more like a man. You know what my girl Audre Lorde says about master’s tools.

After reading this article over at Huffington (which I actually think is very good) I couldn’t help but wonder…what can men learn from women…and why aren’t we all talking about that? So here is a start to a list that I hope will continue to grow.

Learn to Be Emotional and Identify Emotions in Others

Think about the best supervisors you’ve ever had. The ones you called for advice even after you moved on from the job. What made them great? Chances are it wasn’t just that they were knowledgeable about the work. They were good supervisors. Which really means that they were emotionally intelligent. The work place is about more than billable hours and crispy clean work product; it’s about getting along with others, knowing what they need and how you can best communicate with them. Leadership in particular is about more than barking orders, it’s about inspiring people to perform their best. Don’t take my word for it though, go read about it here and here.

Be Inclusive

When women are asked how they accomplished something they often include the contributions of others in their “acceptance” speech. Men often talk about their own achievements. Sure, under our currently model one needs to highlight his or her strengths. But imagine what the workplace might look like if it were more cooperative. Ludacris, I know, but give it a try anyway. If we work together rather than competing we’re able to capitalize on all of our strengths while getting support where we are individually weak. And here’s the (sometimes inconvenient) truth: none of us got where we are without others helping us. You might as well give those folks credit. They’ll like you better, you’ll feel more honest, and if we weren’t all so focused on getting ourselves ahead our team will actually accomplish more.

Show a Little Leg

Ok, I’m not being entirely serious. But it’s the advice we’ve been giving women for generations, so there must be some truth to it, right?

I’m not actually encouraging men to come into the office scantily clad. What I would encourage; however, is that we all keep in mind the advice we give to women.  Look nice, but not snooty. Look “professional,” but not masculine.  Age appropriate, but not sexy (and of course, it’s the gawkers, not the woman, that defines sexy). What would it be like if men had this much pressure every time they chose the day’s attire? Given the choice between the morning identity crisis that is getting dressed and just showing up in ones underpants… I think we’d see a lot of underpants. So, before commenting on or giving to much credence to what your female coworker is wearing, it is worth keeping in mind the complicated spot she’s in. It is probably also worth giving some thought to what we can all do to level this particular piece the proverbial playing field. 


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