Masculine and Feminine Workplace Values

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
  Alice’s story, then, gives us an example of women’s friendship rules of unswerving loyalty, trustworthiness, and equality clashing with masculine workplace values of autonomy, self-promotion, and individual heroics. The masculine values get rewarded: Alice’s coworker got promoted. And let’s notice that Alice says that men compete for promotions through individual heroics all the time. They just go out for a beer and move on, but Alice and her coworker were never friends again.   An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (]]>

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