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?
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