Build or burn?

Men and women

In the workplace, men are fast learning many of the feminine skills.  Women, on the other hand, are probably not investing the same effort in developing some of the masculine skills because, let’s face it, they’re not very edifying.

Take multi-tasking.  Both men and women can be equally single-minded in pursuing an objective that’s important to them.  Where there is a difference is that men seem more prepared to sacrifice other important objectives, even to the extent of harming personal relationships at work or home.  This is selfishness bordering on rudeness.  It is the unopened e-mail, the call not returned, the deadline ignored and the family event missed.  If women are better at multi-tasking it is because they are less willing to display these behaviours than men and better psychologically equipped to put the present task to one side and attend to another.

However, let’s be honest.  While not particularly admirable, this masculine skill is an effective strategy to get things done.  In certain circumstances (eg a tight deadline), this type of behaviour is a useful skill to achieve more at work.  If autism can be characterised as ‘extreme maleness’, prioritising the way people feel above getting the job done can equally be characterised as ‘extreme femaleness’.

Women have better social skills than men, particularly in terms of building relationships, communication skills and empathy.  The more people are attracted to you – in the sense of enjoying your company – the more they want to help you achieve your goals.  Building alliances is a great strategy for improving your chances of successful outcomes.  Such feminine skills are extremely valuable in the modern workplace.

Given the range of personalities between people, the differences between sexes are not particularly significant, but there are some.  I think of gender ‘skills’ in the same way as any other skill that is not natural to you.  It can still be learned, it is just more emotionally draining when ‘in use’.

The business world has changed quite a bit and can’t be too far off becoming a genuinely gender neutral environment.  That is welcome news but feminine skills on their own are not enough to make your mark.  Both sexes need a mix of masculine and feminine skills.

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