Yes, this is a story about a personal betrayal. But it is also a story about women’s friendship rules crashing into the norms of a “man’s world” where a friendship between two women is destroyed by behavior that is expected between men and rewarded by the organization. A lot has been written about the ways that most workplaces favor and reward masculine workplace values and discourage feminine workplace values, which are described in the table below.
Alice, who worked in an engineering environment, would have found herself right at home in a study conducted by Joyce Fletcher. Fletcher found that the relational practices (which include collaboration, teamwork, coaching, and empathy) preferred by the women engineers in her study were discouraged and undervalued by their organizations, even though the engineers produced good results. She observed that work environments in which engineering is highly valued are often characterized by autonomy, self-promotion, and individual heroics—where self-promotion is essential to being seen as competent.
|Table 2. Comparison of masculine and feminine workplace values|
|Masculine workplace values||Feminine workplace values|
|• Task focus||• Community/team focus|
|• Isolation/autonomy||• Connection|
|• Independence||• Interdependence|
|• Competition—individualistic competitive achievement||• Mutuality—achievement of success through collaboration|
|• Hierarchical authority||• Collectivity/flat structure|
|• Rational engagement (focus on task, logic, and the bottom line—leave personal matters at the door)||• Emotional engagement (notice body language and process, encourage relationships, share feelings and personal information, show empathy)|
|• Directive leadership style||• Supportive leadership style|