Have you ever had a 6′-6″ 270 lb man come into your office and just explode all over you?
That seems like a really intimidating situation for any woman. But it isn’t – if you understand what is really going on.
Like us, men get frustrated. But unlike women, many men don’t go running to each other to talk about their feelings or what is bothering them. They tend to bury it and keep it inside, letting little bits of their frustration periodically out.
Some men however, have learned to keep it all bottled up inside. Then at some point it builds up and they explode – they yell and scream in a long expletive filled rant. This is their coping mechanism.
For women, being at the receiving end of the rant can be nothing short of traumatic. It can (and has) driven many women out of the male-dominated workplace because we don’t know how to handle it and take it personally.
To cope with this situation the first thing we have to recognize that many men work in high pressure jobs where the finger is pointed at them to make things happen or risk losing their job.
“You have to win this contract.”
“You have to make $X in revenue.”
“You have to fix this problem by X date.”
Even men who aren’t under this kind of pressure can still have the perception that they cannot fail because of the way they were raised. They wind up putting a lot of unnecessary extra pressure on themselves.
In either case some men just have a hard time dealing with the stress and pressure of their work environment.
That is how we should view these rants – as men trying to cope. It is about their frustration, stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.
Women are often at the receiving end of these rants because men typically pick out “the weakest person” to unload on. They don’t think “the weak person” will fight back. They don’t want the person to fight back. They just one directional rant where they can release the emotion.
This is why we shouldn’t take these rants personally or believe they say anything about us. They aren’t about us, they are about him. They are about his stress and frustration.
I’ve learned to see all of these rants as a cry for help.
As women we are in a unique position to provide that help. We can go to the man and say “What do you need to get done and what help do you need to get it done?”
Contrary to what we are taught, men are much, much, much more receptive to opening up to women if women just ask the simple question “What do you need help with?” They like having a woman, they can trust, who they can be vulnerable with. They like having a Girl Friday to whom they can say “I need X done” and she replies “I’ll take care of it.” That task can be trivial or it can be significant.
This opens up a goldmine of opportunity for women especially since it is usually our boss or a manager who needs help. We can use it to get our foot in the door, work on issues above our pay grade, give us exposure to the Bigger Picture and build a key relationship. It is an advantage of being the woman in the room that we should take advantage of.
We should also consider that sometimes men unload on us because of issues in their personal life. They need someone to talk to. The man I mentioned at the opening of this article, screamed at me because he was working away from home and his wife just called him to tell him she had brain cancer. His outburst was a huge cry for help.
Women who don’t work in a predominantly male environment, may be surprised about how much men open up and confide in a female colleague about their personal lives. When there are more women in the workplace, men can find a woman to talk to and the number of the emotional rants decrease. It’s another advantage of women in the workplace.
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