Most will agree that men and women are simply different. Not good or bad, better or worse, right or wrong. Just different. By understanding and accepting these differences, we can often avoid many of the misunderstandings and frustrations that can affect how well we work with one another.
Below are a few of the different approaches men and women commonly take with professional relationships. Not all men follow the “masculine style” of managing relationships, and not all women follow the “feminine style.” Don’t worry if as a woman you find yourself working more like men typically do, or if as a man you find yourself falling into the feminine category. The important thing is that we learn to recognize where stylistic differences create conflicts or disconnects, and that we adapt our own approach to overcome these barriers.
Women place a great deal of value on relationships and tend to build them on a personal level. This often leads to greater trust, understanding and loyalty. But it takes time and energy to focus like this, and it can sometimes result in getting dragged into personal situations and drama in the workplace. Men, on the other hand, tend to focus more on the tactical side of professional relationships, and keep interactions about business. This can be more efficient but can mean that bonds with colleagues aren’t as strong.
Men and women also often communicate differently with one another at work. Women tend to use communication as a tool for maintaining connections, whereas men often only reach out when there is a specific reason to do so. When was the last time you received an email from a male colleague with the subject line of just wanted to say hi? Many men don’t see the point in reaching out or getting together unless there is something specific to talk about, but many women see value in simply spending time with a contact.
Another example of the communication disconnect between men and women is demonstrated in this statistic: research shows that men on average say 7,000 words per day while women say 20,000. While I’m sure you know plenty of very talkative men and just as many quiet, concise women this does demonstrate how stylistic differences can cause problems. Think about it – you can successfully adapt your own approach with a coworker simply by changing how much you do (or don’t) talk.
Let’s have one last example of how men and women differ with professional relationships. Women tend to build and maintain cliques in both their personal and professional lives, while men tend to keep their networks more open. It makes sense that women are naturally drawn to cliques, as we value long-lasting and close relationships. But in order for a professional network to thrive it must be open. Ladies, this is where we can learn from our male colleagues – challenge yourself to spend lunch, happy hour and conferences with a wide variety of colleagues rather than those individuals you are already close to.
I encourage all of you to understand and appreciate the differences you may have with colleagues, and to learn to slightly adapt your own style to overcome those differences.