In my years of being in relationships at work, socially, and at home, I have come upon an observation that seems to stay consistent over time. Gender perspective fascinates me, and I’ll be curious to read if you experience anything similar. Warning: sexism is alive and well in these viewpoints; I painted with a very broad brush.
In the world of work, I and other women often say, “The work will speak for itself.” Our hope is that if we work hard, exceed expectations, and show initiative that reward and recognition will follow. We don’t want it to be about whom we know, because that is fraught with landmines, from sexual harassment, to gossip and misunderstandings, to favoritism. We don’t want to get ahead for any of those reasons.
Outside of work – we focus a lot (a LOT) on relationships. Relationships fuel the majority of our conversational topics, our reading, our movie choices, and the books we read. Relationships make our world go round. Slightly exaggerated, our life outside of work can be summed up in this graph:
And when we want to talk to our significant others about “The Relationship” he can be caught with some version of eye rolling or we’ll hear a mumbled “Please, no not the talk!” escape from his lips before he can pull it back. There is not much “letting the work speak for itself” on the home front. The relationship’s ups, downs, foibles and missteps will be discussed, debated, examined and scrutinized, if we have our way.
However, at work, do you find, as I have, that guys tend to take the opposite view from us: at work, they focus on THE RELATIONSHIP! (And we thought it was called politics).
Guys don’t leave their careers to the off chance that someone will notice their hard work and reward them. They initiate. They make sure to have time outside of office hours to connect in a way that doesn’t always happen in the task-oriented office environment (the business lunch, for example, our couple’s equivalent of date night). Men and their bosses often share hobbies together: skiing, golf, mountain-biking…they find the common connection and they schedule time to do it. They SCHEDULE TIME TO DO IT. (This is women’s “you never plan anything with me” talk, #147). The other observation regarding the focus on relationships at home vs. work is that it can’t sustain evolution and time.
It’s obvious that the landscape is changing and has to change as the numbers of women in leadership roles grow. As I said earlier, we have adopted this no-nonsense approach to business relationships because we don’t want our intentions to be misunderstood. We therefore become idealists who hope that we can keep it simple: work hard and our work will speak for itself.
The move to the middle happens when both sides shift from their extreme. Maybe women can bring a little more of our focus on relationships into the business world. It would serve us well, because it IS all about relationships. We can take time to relate to our co-workers of either gender and engage fully in the moment. We pride ourselves in being great at multi-tasking, but thinking about the next thing while doing the current thing only means we aren’t really present. People can sense that.
And for the guys reading this who are really good at business dinners and networking breakfasts and coffee meet-and-greets would probably do well to give equal effort to the important relationships that don’t happen over spreadsheets and email – the important people in our private world who make life really worth living.