Understanding the Game

In accordance with my quest to read one non-school book a month (no easy task as a doctoral student!) I will be writing a series of blog posts about the ones that have a particular connection to our work in higher education.     

I recently finished “Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success that Women Need to Learn ” by Gail Evans.  Her books posits that women are inherently disadvantaged when it comes to knowing and understanding workplace dynamics.  She even offers a personal anecdote of the differences between her newborn sons and daughter as an example of the way we are wired from birth.

Evans says that when she nursed her two sons, they acted in the same manner—they ate quickly until they were no longer hungry, burped, had their diaper changed and promptly fell asleep.  It was a very transactional exchange—they needed something, they filled their need and moved on.

However, she had a different experience with her daughter.  She would eat a bit, close her eyes, nestle, open her eyes, rest a bit, and eat some more.  It was clear she was craving more than simply a biological need.  Evens muses, “She wanted to know who I was and where she was.  The boys just wanted to get their fill.” 

While neither way is right or wrong it does demonstrate how men and women may view accomplishing a goal—even one as simple as eating a meal!

With this understanding in mind I considered how her words can impact our work.  Here are my take-aways from her book. 

The Object of the Game: Understand the directions first.

Evans believes that women are not naturally gifted at understanding the unspoken rules of the workplace.  She asserts that we often guess as to what the next step should be when dealing with navigating the workplace.  However with few female allies to assist us (especially at the upper levels of an organization), we often end up on the losing (or uninformed side) of the issue.

Evans says that she hopes that readers of her book will never have to think/utter this phrase again:

 “I didn’t get what I deserved today because, as a woman, I didn’t know how to play the game.”   

Do you understand “rules” of your department?  Who can help you understand the things that aren’t readily apparent to you?


Toot your Own Horn: Don’t assume that you will be rewarded for your hard work if you don’t make it priority to self-promote your work.

Do you ever  find yourself thinking:

“They know what a good job I am doing.  Why don’t they just reward me for it?

This way of thinking, Evans writes, is completely opposite to how men approach the workplace.  Men (more often than women) will be direct about their accomplishments and will clearly demonstrate their value and worth every day to their colleagues and supervisor.  What women perceive as “bragging” men view as “informing.” 

Do you resonate with this concept?  How do you seeing this playing out in the workplace?


Make your Presence Known and Sit at the Table:

There is a whole dynamic in meeting rooms and Evans advises to fully understand the dynamics of it. 

Do you come in a few minutes early to socialize with people and build relationships or do you dash in 5 seconds before the meeting begins?  Do you take your seat around the table or do you sit in the chairs around the periphery?  Leaders need to make their presence known and claim your space (perhaps physically and mentally) in order to feel like an equal, contributing, recognized member of the team.

“Make your presence felt…come to work every day fully present,” Evans advises.

Evans writes that women don’t think these kinds of things “matter,” when the reality is that these are the little things that add up to creating a complete picture of who you are as a professional.

What are the barriers to doing this?  How will you make your presence known?

 Evans advises women to re-frame their work environment in ways that will support their overall knowledge of the office culture and be helpful to their career progression.

How did you come to learn the unwritten rules of your institutional culture?  How will you help a new employee  to thrive in your workplace environment? 

 Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

About annmarieklotz

I write about all things education, personal & professional development and growth. Once is a question, twice is a discussion and three times is a blog post! Born and raised in Detroit Michigan but currently calling the Pacific Northwest home. I work at Oregon State University and belong to a fantastic community of higher ed professionals around the globe! Lover of theater and the arts. Live your best life!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Understanding the Game

  1. Not sure if you’re familiar with Joan Acker’s work but you might be interested in reading her stuff on gender and organizations. She would argue that we shouldn’t spend our time trying to teach women the “rules” but rather challenge organizations on why they create rules that favor stereotypical male behaviors.

    One of my faculty members studies this and found that when presented with the scenario of men colleagues golfing on an afternoon and female colleagues golfing on an afternoon, that men labeled the men golfing as “networking” and the females golfing as “socializing.” Good reminder that those who create the rules often get to change them!

    Thanks for the book review! I look forward to reading more of them 🙂

  2. Thanks Stephanie! This was a question that some of us who attended WLI 2011 also asked–is it about teaching the rules or about creating new systems where these kind of rules no longer existed? We asked this of the faculty and a few seemed to think that we need to do both–currently operate in the system while also working to dismantle it. Quite a challenge to say the least but it doesn’t mean we stop trying!!

  3. Lisa says:

    RE: Self-promotion. I hear so many women (me included) say things like, “It doesn’t matter if I get credit for this idea. The students will still benefit from it.” But it DOES matter. Yes, a good idea is a good idea, wherever it comes from; however, if we want to be invited to the table because we bring a particular strength, others need to see a record of accomplishment and recognize it as ours. I’ve found that some people are happy to claim our work if we let them. Recently I was advised to put my name on all reports I generate and to submit them as pdfs. Easy enough. It’s a start. Thanks for sharing your readings with us!

    • Lisa, I totally agree. What I struggle with sometimes is how to to”self-promote” without sounding arrogant. That is important to me, and (I am sure) to many women. I will continue to work on this area-good for you for making strides, too! Thanks so much for reading!

  4. Thanks Ann Marie! I am so impressed you are reading a non-academic book a month in addition to your doctoral work. I am not reading that many, and they are just for entertainment so I am glad I read this post and plan to get this book. Your point about tooting your own horn hits home. Somthing to think about.

  5. MHaberman says:

    I love the point about making your presence known. We sometimes have large meetings around a huge square table. There is always a second row of chairs behind those that are at the table. Too often I see women sit in the back row at meetings. Let people know you are there and that you have something to offer!

    • Melissa, I know what you mean! After reading that section of the book I will be much more attuned to who is on the inside circle and who sits on the periphery. Real change occurs when we recognize that small adjustments like this can result in real wins. Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s