Management Consultant Mediates Battle of the Sexes in the Workplace
Speak up, but don't go for on for too long. Whatever you do, don't get too emotional.
That's the advice for women trying to thrive in a male-dominated workplace from management consultant Shaunti Feldhahn.
The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misconceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace is the latest in her series of field guides that aim to teach people how best to understand members of the opposite sex.
Her writing style is conversational, and she uses a combination of chatty anecdotes and scholarly references to back up her arguments. As a result, she has made learning about a potentially dry subject generally enjoyable.
For Feldhahn, many of the differences stem from brain chemistry.
Ever wonder, why many men react strongly when a woman expresses her emotions? Feldhahn explains that "When a man must deal with emotions directly, his adrenal system kicks his brain into a higher gear to handle the instinctive demands and anxiety of experiencing, thinking and talking about those emotions."
Feldhahn doesn't suggest that women hide their emotions altogether. Instead, she recommends that they get a read on their male counterparts and figure out how best to channel their emotions in a way that won't alienate them.
She also tells women how to handle themselves in light of the fact that men are less sentimental than women and more likely to differentiate between their work and home lives. Call it the Michael Corleone approach to workplace decision making: "It's not personal. It's business."
She also discusses how the tendency of men to speak concisely and not tell too many details often causes them to clash with women, who often prefer longer, drawn-out story telling techniques. She notes that there are advantages and drawbacks to both approaches. For example, by using a "just the facts ma'am" approach, men often fail to anticipate the long-term implications of certain decisions. By contrast, when women go into great detail about something, they sometimes can't see the forest for the trees.
Much of the book is filled with common sense recommendations that might have readers saying to themselves "wow, that's obvious." But that seems to be the secret of most management books: Tell readers many things they already know, just do it an innovative way.