<![CDATA[Let’s take a look at how these rules can clash with workplace norms through a story from the research. Alice, an Asian American engineer in her fifties, told the story of a woman coworker who was a very good friend and how their relationship did not survive: We were the only two women on the team for two years, and we were each other’s support system—and we were friends. I told her I had an idea that I thought would solve a problem our team was dealing with, and I told her I was depending on her to back me up on this. Then, when we went into the meeting, before I could say anything, she pops up and says she has a great idea! But it was my idea! It floored me! I was devastated. She could at least have said, “Alice and I were talking,” and included me, but she didn’t. Everyone thought she was great, and she got a promotion out of it. I was so upset. Afterward, I tried to ask her why she did that, but she wouldn’t talk to me. I think men do that to each other all the time and they just let it go and move on. We never talked again and she was never my friend again.
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|
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