The Man’s Guide to Corporate Culture: A Practical Guide to the New Normal and Relating to Female Co-Workers in the Modern Workplace by Heather Zumarraga

5. Building Relationships Across the Gender Divide

  • Your goal is to be comfortable working with women and to make them comfortable working with you. People skills are generally more valuable in the workplace than technical skills. Small talk is a necessary way to build relationships. Talk about your family, hobbies, and interests, and ask about these items when talking to others. Don’t focus on yourself too much and think before you talk. Never talk about negative opinions of others, your sex life, relationship drama, religion, politics, or illegal activities. And keep it clean. Gossip is bad and men do it too. Say nice things behind people’s backs and you will see a positive return. If you say something hurtful immediately apologize.
  • The effect of a smile is powerful. Smiling floods the brain with happy hormones and helps relieve stress so smile for selfish reasons even if you are faking it. Dining out with colleagues or customers is common and is a wonderful way to forge relationships. Sit across from each other and allow the person who did the inviting to pay the bill regardless of gender. As for avoiding awkward situations, if it feels wrong, it probably is. Heather includes a no-go list here.

6. Surviving and Thriving with a Female Boss

  • First you need to know how she likes to communicate. How often and in what circumstances does she text, email, call, or have face-to-face meetings? Don’t hesitate to ask. When you need to communicate a problem, be sure you also have at least one solution. It doesn’t have to be the right one. When you get feedback thank her. When you first see her act like you are happy to see her. Smile! As for any touching such as handshakes, let her initiate. Compliment her performance rather than her appearance. It’s fine to hold doors, but don’t go overboard. Be considerate and empathize with her situation be it at work or something at home. Be honest and diplomatic. Don’t interrupt. Avoid “checking her out.” Eye contact is good, body contact is not so good. Admit your mistakes, be a good listener, and keep your word. Try to make all of this habittual.

7. Communication Is Your Key to Success.

  • Most importantly, don’t make it all about you. Use the word I sparingly. It’s important to compliment others often, but compliment them on the quality of their work, not their appearance. Your tone of voice may matter more than what you say. Praise people in public and criticize them in private. Heather provides some specific compliment tips here. (Doug: Teachers should do this too.) Women are likely to speak in an indirect manner so what they say may need some translation. There are examples here. Since texts and emails contain no tone of voice only use them for the most routine communications. They are also not private. Don’t text or email something you wouldn’t put on the company wall.

8. What Women Wnat at Work

  • The basic goal here is to make women comfortable when you are with them. Many ways to make them uncomfortable should be obvious like telling raunchy jokes, unwelcome physical contact, any sexual advance, talking about sex, or asking about someone’s sex life. Engage in active listienint. This involves paraphrasing what someone says to show that you understand them. Eye contact is also important. Never look at your phone while someone is talking and don’t overdo it so it becomes a stare. Most women appreciate attention. Questions like “is that new?” or a statement like “that’s a nice color” should be acceptable.

9. Romance in the Office

  • Your best advice is to avoid it. Most romances don’t last so if you become part of one at work, chances are you will soon be working with an ex-lover. A lot of people do meet their spouse at work, however. If you are in a relationship DO NOT engage in public displays of affection at work. If you are looking for love try online dating. The big no-no is being in an affair with your boss or a subordinate. Many organizations don’t allow it and if it happens they will transfer one party so that the situation no longer exists. Many have also banned employees from dating altogether. It can be really bad for morale. Remember that the HR department exists to protect the company, not the employee. Just asking for a date or a phone number can be considered sexual harassment. Also, don’t be surprised if you have to attend training on this subject.
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