Gender Issues in the Workplace

7 July 2016

One of the keys to leadership is good communication. According to the 2011 Catalyst Censuns: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors, Executive Offers and Top Earners, women held 16.1% of board seats in the United States. This statistic contradicts the fact that women are excellent communicators. The contradiction of this statistic suggests that women communicate differently than men, which has huge impacts on women advancing up the corporate ladder. For a woman named Tanya at my workplace, differences in way men and women communicate leave her feeling insignificant; more importantly, she has been passed up many times for a promotion. Describe the situation

In my department, there are five male managers. I hear their constant picking on Tanya. They ask why she gets up from her desk to talk to technicians. They avoid conversations with her in the hallway for fear of being “chatty”. They don’t invite her to meetings that she should be part of. She has been passed up for promotions by men who have been at the company for a shorter time. All of these behaviors are due to Tanya’s extremely friendly communication style and lack of assertiveness. Tanya is the customer liaison for our department. When customers have a problem, they go to Tanya. She is excellent at communicating with upset customers. Her communication is reflective of Wziatek-Staceko’s theory that women use communication to make stable contacts and cooperation to reach a common goal (2008). She has a way of making friends with the upset customers.

Gender Issues in the Workplace Essay Example

They enjoy working with her because together they reach the goal of completing service requests. Tanya is a breed of her own in the male dominated department. Not only is she good with customers, but she is also good with the technicians. When someone on the team has not completed their tasks, she uses open communication to understand the problems. This is supportive of Mueller’s theory that women make decisions based on subjective values, allowing emotion, sympathy and the desire for harmony to enter in the equation (2007). Meanwhile Mueller states that men prefer logic, objective values, and standards in making a decision (2007). A male would be far less understanding about someone not completing a task on time.

However, Tanya is open to hear teammate’s issues. This evokes a collaborative team environment where technicians are not afraid to tell Tanya if they are running behind. She then works with technicians to find a solution. Everybody except managers feel comfortable talking to Tanya. The very trait that makes her effective at being an amazing customer liaison sets her back from getting higher positions. Tanya, like most women, has a soft voice and high pitched tone. Buttner explains the high tone of a women’s voice is perceived as a submissive quality to men (n.d.). In addition, Tanya, like most women, does not use powerful language. Women tend to speak more politely and use more tag questions (Lakoff, 1975).This is why people are comfortable talking to her. The managers view nonassertive communication as a sign of being inferior and submissive.

This is due to the fact that men and women use communication for different things. Men use conversations as a means towards establishing power and dominance (Maltz & Borker, 1982). Women use communication to restore unity and reduce tension (Sterkel, n.d.). Because the manager’s view Tanya’s communication as a sign of being inferior, they shun her because they know she won’t respond assertively. They exert dominance and power by locking Tanya out from being a future manager. By mimicking the fact that she talks to technicians rather than emailing them, the managers are using communication as a means to downplay Tanya’s role and increase the power of their own role. Simply not using assertive language has plagued Tanya’s rapport with the male managers. The managers demean Tanya by telling her to “Go get those people!” referring to employees who may be slacking on their tasks. This makes Tanya feel like she isn’t doing a good job. It makes her feel like they don’t appreciate all the good liaison work she does. The emotional response from Tanya is even further viewed as weakness by the managers.

According to Wziatek-Stasko, female emotionality is perceived as not only a weakness, but also a lack of professionalism (2008). Because the male managers speak more assertively and Tanya speaks more tentatively, it gives the impression that she is not confident and capable as a leader. This is contrary to the fact that Tanya enables the smooth operation of services provided between the customers and the IT Department. If the customers weren’t kept happy, and technicians were not happy working for the customers, the whole operation would fall apart. Essentially Tanya is already managing technicians and their work output for customers. It just goes unrecognized and underappreciated due to her interpersonal communication style. Analyze the differences in communication, problem solving, and leadership styles of the men and the women in the situation. The leadership style of the male managers is very dominant and conquering. It seems as though leadership is a competition to them.

They take every opportunity to outsmart others or down play other’s efforts, even when it is for the good of the team. According to Wziatek-Stasko, men perceive people via prisms of positions (2008). This stems from behaviors learned in adolescence. Typical males played sports growing up where they learned how to be aggressive, play to win, strategize, and mask emotions (Norton, n.d.). The leadership style that Tanya displays represents a flat feminist style; she protects employees by negotiating differences and seeking win-win situations. This is known as a “flat” leadership style (Norton, n.d). Tanya’s emails tell employees if they do a certain action, she will help them with another task. Because Tanya attempts to equalize power, the men take this an opportunity to seize power leaving Tanya without career advancement and not viewed with management potential. When it comes to problem solving, Tanya asks team mates what they think the best approach would be. This creates a team atmosphere where everybody is willing to help solve the problem. Meanwhile, the male managers tend to dictate. When someone does not do as they say, this is a sign of being insubordinate.

While neither problem solving method is more right or wrong, it does not absolve women from understanding the hierarchical communication approach from men, not does it relinquish men from learning the communal communication style of women. According to John Gray’s book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, the reason for such communication differences is due to the fact that women and men have different needs, goals, and values from their communication. According to Mr. Gray, men are goal-oriented and their sense of self is defined through their ability to achieve results (1992). Meanwhile, women are relationship-oriented. Therefore, they use communication to establish relationships and create win-win situations. Differences in what men and men value create differences in how they communicate. Identify best practices.

By employing some best practices Tanya could dissolve her soft image and gain respect from the male managers. Tinsley, Cheldelin, Schneider & Amanatullah suggest that women work within the core feminine stereotype to capitalize on society’s stereotype of the nurturing female (2009). One suggestion is having customers and team members praise Tanya’s accomplishment to the managers. This avoids the backlash that could occur if Tanya self-promoted herself. Another tool Tanya could use is reframing her position during dialogues as one on behalf of the larger group. This makes her role seem more important and is consistent with the nurturing stereo-type of women. As Tanya becomes more assertive in her role, it is important that she explains where the behavior is coming from so that this “out of the norm” behavior is not seen as emotional or erratic behavior. With a little more assertiveness, teammates that promote her, and re-positioning herself to represent the entire team, Tanya can re-define her position and shed her previous un-important image. Displaying masculine communication techniques in combination with feminine communication techniques is known as being “androgynous”.

Using a combination of both gender communication styles is promising for women (Kent and Moss, 1994). The balance of typical gender behaviors is important. This is based on the fact that stereotypical male behaviors are considered important for leadership roles. According to Wziatek-Stasko, the following communication behaviors are masculine: talk to give information; focus on facts; use assertive language; user order, rules, and structure (2008). By employing some of these male behaviors, Tanya will reduce the image that she is a typical female which will help her to gain rapport with the male managers. Identify challenges and differences.

The challenge and differences of gender communication styles lies in the premise of biologically determined character traits. Gender is simply a predecessor of behavioral traits that affect communication. Due to biological differences, women are brought up differently than men. Young ladies play dolls where they learn it is never good to be the “boss” doll or to boss people around. Young boys play sports where they learn to play their role in the hierarchy by obeying the coach and conquering other teams. The behavioral tendencies due to sex-differentiated experiences at a young age eventually effect why genders communicate differently. Studies show that women tend to interrupt less and weaken their statements (Thorne & Henley, 1975). These actions derive from the fact that women perceive themselves to be of a lower status than males.

The reason is also attributed to the fact that women are afraid to be wrong. Women attach their emotions to the conversation while men remain unemotional. Because men are less emotional, they take more risks in being dominant. When resolving a crisis, men create solutions while women give unsolicited advice (Gray, 1992). In the business world, this increases the opinion that women are inferior to the solution-driven male. When faced with a difficult situation, men are more prone to withdrawing themselves; women want to talk about their cause of stress (Gray, 1992). This communication difference furthers the stereotypical opinion that women are emotionally unstable. Interesting, communication between males is centered on doing something; communication between females is created for the sake of communication and intimacy (Tannen, 1990).

According to Szell & Thurner, women have more communication partners than men, but this does little in the hierarchal corporate world where respect and power are needed for advancement (2012). While men live in the world of status and women live in a world of connections, it is no wonder men easily climb up the corporate status ladder. Stereotypes seem influencing behaviors of the women and the men Stereotypes influence the way performance is perceived, interpreted, and evaluated. Traditional sex stereotypes depict women as deficient in the attributes necessary become a leader (Martell & Block, 1995). Long standing stereotypes of women are that of a care giver, not a manager at an important cooperation. Traditional stereotypes of men include being the primary bread-winner for the family, dominant, independent, and emotionally stable (Chapman, n.d.). These stereotypes drive actions which further embed believes. Because it is stereotypical of males to be leaders, females often feel subordinate from the stereotype alone.

All of these pre-defined beliefs are grounded in biological differences and long standing history which have programmed people to act out stereotypes. By age 4, children understand the attributes of their gender and try to abide by these roles (Eddleston, Veiga, & Powell, 2003). This is why girls play dress up, and boys play war. Because gender roles are embedded at such a young age, by the time people reach adulthood stereotypical gender roles subconsciously control how people communicate and behave in the workplace. According to David Scheider, stereotypical characteristics for females are affectionate, emotional, and sympathetic (2005). Typical traits for males are aggressive, dominant, rational, and unemotional (Scheider, 2005).

Because the stereotypical feminine characteristics do not match up with common leadership trait, there is an underlying belief that persists in society in which women are deemed unfit for leadership positions. Women and men both belief the stereotype leading to women communicating in a submissive manner to men. The biological and physiological gender differences in communication enhance the stereotypes for men and women in the workplace. Develop recommendations to strengthen the behaviors of both the women and the men. The key to effective communication is listening. Both genders need to understand what the other person is saying before they reply. A good rule of thumb is waiting 3 seconds after someone else is done before responding. Although interrupting is viewed as a masculine behavior aimed at increasing dominance, this behavior is not a practice of good communication. Being clear and direct on the intent of communication is another recommendation for both genders. Rather than managers telling Tanya to “Go Get Em”, they should tell her all technicians are to be accountable for their actions. Being clear and direct ensures the receiver understands the intended message. Lastly, both genders need to stay positive. When a manager says something upsetting, Tanya should stay focused on performance and long term implications rather than getting upset.

The managers also need to focus on being positive in regards to Tanya’s performance. Listening, being direct, and staying positive will strengthen communication of both genders. Identify three to five personal action plans that you will implement to strengthen your behaviors in the workplace. I have already implemented masculine characteristics in the work place to exhibit more androgynous behavior. First, I am more assertive. Instead of saying, “Shouldn’t all service requests have a ticket?” I say, “All service requests should have a ticket. If there are any questions, please see my manager.” The ability to be more assertive stems from the fact that I no longer see myself as a subordinate to males. Second, I use my relationships with people to gain rank or influence. When an issue arises with a male, I get other managers on my side to respond rather than me responding directly. This indirectly increases my rank and increases my value to male manager who are happy to be my dominant voice. Thirdly, I am more goal-oriented. Instead of waiting for someone else to take the lead on a project, I gladly take charge in an effort to accomplish goals like improving processes.

Finally, I am flexible in my communication style. I use both male and female approaches to communication. In one meeting, I will give information and collect information. I thrive on competition and relationships simultaneously. I am assertive, yet still cooperative. I understand and empathize. By using a combination of communication improvement techniques, I have already strengthened my place in the workforce and accomplished many new projects.

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