Gender in the Workplace: An Analysis of Miscommunication Scenarios

This week and next week will be focused on gender and communication in the workplace.  I recently read an article entitled, “6 tips for bridging the communication gap,” which was published by a writer for Microsoft®.  The story identifies six scenarios for miscommunication between the sexes and offers advice for handling communication. The full story can be accessed at this link: http://tinyurl.com/35beqg6

I decided to chose three of the six scenarios and elaborate on them.  Below you will see a scenario listed in the story following by my response.

1st scenario: Power Plays
Her way: Women tend to ask lots of questions before beginning work. His way: Men simply roll up their sleeves. The result: Men assume women aren’t up to the job. If they were competent, reason men, then women wouldn’t be asking so many questions. But in fact, women typically verify and validate data before starting tasks, sometimes to improve their performance.  

My response:

I think women tend to ask a lot of questions before they start a project because they don’t want to be wrong.  They don’t want to make a mistake.  Women in general do not have as much self confidence as men.  They seek the reassurance before they begin to tackle the task or project.  Once they have the information they feel they need, they are completely capable of finishing the job effectively and on time. 

2nd scenario: Command Conflicts

 Growing up, girls tend to establish relationships. His way: Boys usually vie for leadership. The result: Men and women impose authority differently. Each often finds the other’s style ineffective or insulting. Women see men as ham-fisted or insecure when they come on so strong. Men think women lack confidence or conviction because they work hard to get buy-in.

My response:

Many of the problems between men and women–whether at home or in the workplace–stem from the fact that the two sexes don’t understand each other very well.  In reality, men and women view the world differently, communicate differently, integrate feelings and happenings differently.  One of the things I like to do, when given the opportunity in a group coaching assignment, is to facilitate greater understanding between men and women.  I like to help people to see and celebrate the talents and gifts in each other.  Unfortunately, there is too much criticism, which I believe is rooted in women’s desire for men to be more like women and men’s desire for women to be more like men.  It is truly a wise person who can appreciate the strengths, styles, and approaches of both him/herself and the opposite sex.

3nd scenario: Emotional Exchanges

Her way: She tends to treat male colleagues like her husband or boyfriend. His way: He often handles women associates like his wife or girlfriend. The result: A subtle and tricky gender miscommunication. It’s also one that people are loath to examine. Typically, men and women bring into the office some version of the sexual dynamics they have at home.

My response:

Because people are emotional human beings before they are professionals with job titles, they tend to bring emotions into the workplace on a regular basis.  Keep in mind that individuals feel an emotion FIRST in every event, every interaction, every conversation.  Unless they have learned to manage those emotions, they will respond to everything with an emotion before they get to the place where they can reason.

Further, it is not uncommon for a man to view women in his office similarly to how he views his wife or partner.  And vice versa.  If that man sees his wife or partner as weak and fragile, he tends to see his peers–even his female boss–as weak and fragile.  If a woman has a verbally abusive husband or partner, she tends to assume the men at work will abuse her, and she puts up her guard.

All of this creates real and perceived problems in the workplace.  While the office is not a therapist’s couch, it is reasonable for all of us to be aware of the baggage we and others bring to the job.

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