Let’s stop being trapped by political correctness. Do men and women need gender related management training? I think so
This post was originally written as a guest post for Tanveer Naseer, a business coach who works with small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop new strategies for growth and development
A number of spin off issues came from my recent research on bullying by women in the workplace – but several were particularly interesting.
Workplace Mars and Venus
One of them was that both men and women alike, shared the need for management and organisational training with a specifically gender related thread. A sort of Mars / Venus for work place skills. This wasn’t specifically just about sexual harassment, but basic communication, conflict resolution and managing expectations. This flies in the face of the common corporate gender-neutral, one-size-fits all management training, that exists in most organisations today.
Jane Gunn, The Corporate Peacemaker author of the book “How to Beat Bedlam in the Boardroom And Boredom in the Bedroom suggests that “ difference is the starting point for adding or creating value. What is needed most is to understand the value that each gender brings to the workplace and how each gender can learn from, rather than feel threatened by, the other”.
Differences are not negative. They’re just different.
Shouldn’t we just be acknowledging the existence of gender differences and recognise that we all need training on how to deal with them, rather than assuming as we do now, that we can all slip into business (gender) neutral on our own.
Or worse, assume that the traditional training methods found most successfully in male dominated environments work one hundred percent across the board, when all evidence indicates to the contrary. This is amusingly and somewhat extremely illustrated by a bemused Professor Higgins in the song , A Hymn to Him, when gender differences were clearly not perceived as positive!
It would seem from the people who contacted me at least, that there are indeed issues in all gender combinations in the work place, except almost predictably, in male dominated environments (men managing and being managed by men). This actually shouldn’t surprise me. Men have had centuries of experience. Outside a domestic situation, all male teams and organisations were historically and culturally the norm: military, sports, male clubs, politics etc, where clearly defined structured hierarchies were in place and communication lines were usually prescribed and evident.
In a historical perspective, it was only comparatively recently that women have either been included or allowed full access to most business environments. So it’s hardly surprising that no one is used to dealing with women in these situations. And as they join the corporate world in ever increasing numbers, equally women are not used to dealing with each other either! There simply is very little historical precedent to call upon. In brief, men and women lack practise in dealing with each other at work which is intensified as women climb the career ladder and assume positions of responsibility .
So when I think about it, it’s almost to be expected that there should be some blurring of both expectations and behaviour within organisations. Perhaps the real surprise should be that any of it comes right at all, given this real lack of experience in the overall scheme of things.
Both men and women enter the workplace with their academic and professional qualifications and experience, but also with engrained behaviour patterns and expectations derived from their separate chromosomes, cultural socialisation, personality types and relationship role models developed in lives and interaction outside a work situation.
Many women claimed that men needed special training relating to them in a business neutral way, believing that men are used to dealing with women as mothers, sisters, partners, daughters and less often as business peers and even less frequently as superiors. But conversely the same was said by the men about women! Jane Gunn also amplifies “Almost every instance of conflict or dispute at work is the catalyst for, or is mirrored by, conflict at home. In the same way relationships at home have a dramatic impact on our ability to create a productive and harmonious work life.”
The real issue is perhaps how do we all let go our socialized gender stereotypical behaviour and communicate in a business neutral way when we enter organisational life, when they can be so removed for many from the roles we play in other areas of our daily lives? The answer seems to be with difficulty. Every indication would also suggest that support in coping with this dichotomy would be useful. But recognising differences doesn’t mean unequal treatment as it once did.
Much is written about dealing with other types of differences in an organisational setting: cross cultural, personality (extrovert vs introvert) high achievers for example. So why is it now de rigeur, or worse still, politically incorrect, to acknowledge that gender differences require special attention in an organisational context?
Ashanti A, Change Manager in the Hi-Tech sector in Los Angeles, shared this ” As a female manager the biggest challenge in managing men is gaining the same respect and willingness to be a direct report that would be given to a male manager. As basic as it sounds – by nature no man wants to be told what to do by a woman ”
Ashanti also suggests that women need to be mindful not to fall into the “subordinate female co- worker role”. So women instinctively pour coffee, arrange parties, bring cakes and act as the “carer / facilitator/plactor” Ashanti elaborates. “Oftentimes because these statements aren’t aggressive or sexual in nature, they’re not deemed offensive or inappropriate- yet I would argue the latter”
For me, as women enter organisational life in greater numbers than ever before, there is a clear need for a reveiw of current training practises to make them more inclusive. Gender related management training is needed more than ever so that women can thrive in male coded environments. Historically, we have been inclined to “fix” women as some pundits generalise, but the real problem that needs fixing is the workplace. This means that men have also to have training and understanding around their position or privilege and the biases that are embedded in our workplace cultures.
What do you think?
Selected by Wally Bock for Top Independent Business Blogs ” Dorothy Dalton is one of the best writers on the web when it comes to raising and analyzing gender issues in the workplace. Don’t read this post to find an answer. Read it to gather ideas for the answer you will develop for yourself“.