Women are taught to think of men as tough and aggressive. But then we work with men and discover that most men hate conflict. They run away from it…literally.
Have you noticed that Trump, in spite of his tough, confrontational television “You’re fired!” persona, fires by tweet?
It’s because he is conflict-adverse and firing someone is about the biggest conflict you face in the workplace.
He is far from alone in this. I’ve seen men get physically ill at the thought of firing someone. I’ve seen men who had to fire someone, not show up to work that day.
In one of my workplaces we needed to fire someone on my project team. I watched the man’s direct and technical supervisors as well as their boss gather together in a secret off-site meeting to discuss and develop their plan on how they were going to do it. I was shocked by how whimpy these otherwise manly-man were. When the time came to meet with man being fired, the boss was nowhere to be found and the technical supervisor suddenly had an important phone call. In spite of “their plan” it was the most bungled firing I ever witnessed….
Except for the man who was supposed to fire a woman from her position, met with her and completely chickened out. Two weeks, the woman got in trouble for authorizing work she supposedly was no longer allowed to authorize. In her disciplinary meeting we discovered that she was not fired.
I’ve experienced men’s fear of conflict first hand many times. I was called into the conference room because my workplace wanted to change my role. They knew I would not be happy at the news so when I walked in there were 5 big men sitting around the conference table. Yes, I was mad, really mad, but I laughed every time I thought “It took 5 of you to tell me?!”
I’ve known many men who get very aggressive in conflict but the underlying reason why is because they fear it, dread it and hate it so much that they only way they can get themselves through it is by being aggressive. When you figure these men out, you discover that the biggest grizzly bears in your workplace are actually the biggest teddy bears.
Why do men hate conflict so much?
It’s because they are afraid of the reaction – the pushback.
Men aspire to be Autonomous. They want to work in an environment where they can pretend that their actions only affect them. They don’t like feedback or pushback because it reminds them that they aren’t Autonomous and completely independent in their actions.
When there is a reaction to their action, men then feel the need to react to that reaction. The other man then has to react to the reaction of his reaction. It goes back and forth and suddenly things go off course and get really complicated.
Men don’t deal with complicated well.
But women do.
Women aren’t afraid of the reaction, feedback or pushback. We expect it. It is a natural part of our group dynamic.
Women don’t feel the need to react to it – we feel the need to consider the response and what it means.
Therefore, we aren’t afraid of conflict. Heck we don’t even consider it conflict. To us, we’re just talking things out. We’re figuring out how to make things work for everyone within the group.
As women in a male-dominated workplace this is one of the most important transformations we can help our workplace make – we can help men learn to talk to each other and become comfortable with reactions from other people.
If you work in a project environment like I did, you can turn this skill into an opportunity.
On a project team there are always disputes and disagreements between team members from different functional areas because they each have their own objectives. They want to believe they can work independently in the best interest of their functional area without negatively impacting the project.
But they can’t. It’s not the reality of how a project works.
As a woman and team member you are the one who is best equipped to step forward and resolve these conflicts. You can facilitate and coordinate communication.
However, don’t think of yourself just as a facilitator or communications specialist. Those are soft skills that put you in a support role.
Recognize that you are stepping up and leading your team through its coordination issues.
Therefore, you are a leader.
Empowered Women Lead Their Workplace Through Conflict
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