#WorkTrends Recap: Helping Men Become Allies in the #MeToo Era

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Note: I was honored to be interviewed by Meghan M. Biro, of TalentCulture, for her #WorkTrends podcast recently. We discussed the importance of helping men become allies to women in the workplace. This post is republished with Meghan’s permission.

In the age of #MeToo, how are we creating equitable workplaces for women?

This week’s #WorkTrends guest, Melissa Lamson, has been working on this cause for years. She is CEO of Lamson Consulting, founder of a popular leadership program for women and has consulted on management for companies like Space X, LinkedIn, and SAP.

She shared how men can proactively work to understand how the sexes communicate differently, and how they can work with women to build a more diverse culture at work.

Listen to the full podcast below, or keep reading for highlights from our conversation.

Gender Parity Requires Work from Women and Men

“If men and women don’t work together in organizations, they really won’t achieve gender parity,” Lamson says. “There has been a lot of emphasis on what women need to do to advance their own careers — networking, mentoring, training programs. The onus has been on women to support their own development.” But, she says, women can only go so far in creating more gender balance at the top of organizations. Companies need to enlist men to support this goal.

Most men are happy to contribute when they realize what’s at stake, she says. “I don’t believe that most men intentionally keep women from advancing today, but they don’t know what they necessarily could be doing to help.” So, she’s worked with companies to develop workshops for men. Through those workshops, some men say they realize their KPIs were gender biased, or that they never knew what women on their team wanted. Opening a conversation between women and men in the workplace is a good place to start.

Men Often Don’t Perceive the Problems

Lamson says that the men in her workshops often have no idea that their behavior or language could be perceived as hurtful or even sexist. “When men have a conversation, they will do that in a really competitive way. That’s normal; they’ll challenge each other and interrupt each other. If they do this with women, it’s perceived as being disrespectful, and they get labeled as unsupportive.”

But Lamson says that’s not what most men want. “In my experience, men really want to be a hero. In my workshop, men will literally start writing down everything I’m saying. They’ll ask for exact phrases they can use with women to show support. They want to make women happy at work. They want to promote them; they want to work with them on teams and collaborate with them. They just literally don’t understand that there’s an issue.”

But, after her trainings, most men start to understand what their female colleagues are facing at work. They buy into the idea that we’ve all been socialized to see things in certain ways — and we can do some things differently to collaborate at work more effectively.

Understand Different Communication Styles

In her workshops, Lamson teaches about five communication differences between men and women. While everyone is, of course, different, she’s learned that some gender stereotypes often ring true for many groups, and understanding these can help teams learn how to work with one another better. She calls one of these communication differences “Status-First Recognition.”

“The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the more important and powerful. In contrast, women seek recognition, reward, and appreciation. So, they want to be appreciated for a job well done and all the hard work that they’re doing.”

Those different motivations lead to gendered behaviors that can leave us at a mismatch. For example, women will thank men a lot. They’ll say, “Thanks so much, we really appreciate it.” Behind closed doors, women will tell you they’re trying to stroke men’s egos. But that doesn’t actually work with men, Lamson says. They don’t want to be thanked — they want to feel important and powerful.

On the other hand, men will interpret a female coworker’s silence as a non-problem, when resentment could actually be brewing. “Men assume that women are totally fine and feeling good about working with them unless they express that they’re not. That’s not a correct assumption.”

She gives groups this tip: If a man and a woman are talking in a meeting and the woman suddenly gets quiet, a man should notice that and start re-engaging her by asking questions.

“Men aren’t programmed to ask as many questions,” she says. “But if they can pivot and start asking questions, they’ll get the engagement back on track.”

Gender Diversity Drives Business Results

Lamson points to research from McKinseyCatalyst, and others that having more gender balance in an organization, especially at the top, actually affects the bottom line positively.

Catalyst research found that companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams experienced better financial performance than companies with the lowest women’s representation.

But that doesn’t just mean adding one woman to an all-male board. Research shows that when one woman joins a group of men, she’ll adapt her style to theirs. When two women join, there still isn’t a substantial change in the group. But when there are three women, they have the power of a group — and will influence change.

4 Ways Good Managers Handle Conflict

When Ann Coulter went to Twitter to share her outrage at Delta Airlines for changing her pre-booked seat, Delta fired back, and a fiery conflict ensued.

Was this the best way to handle conflict? Maybe, if you want a bunch of bad press.

However, when it comes to managing a team, bad PR is the last thing you want. You need productivity, efficiency, and results.

Here are four easy ways to handle conflict, so you never have to deal with the stress of it again.

1. Get drinks or go for a walk.

When you’re putting together a team, the first order of business is to bond. Spend time together and get to know each other on a personal level. Because, when you build relationships, you build a strong foundation of trust so that when conflicts inevitably arise, you’re equipped to handle them.

2. Assume the worst.

Know that conflict is going to happen. It will. So prepare by establishing strategies for how you’re going to work through them. Some teams I work with bring in a third-party to mediate disagreements and handle conflicts.

Other teams have set times on a regular basis to air issues. Others have managers that tell team members to bring them the big problems if they can’t figure it out amongst themselves.

3. Poke the bear.

This may sound a little nutty, but teams actually want conflict. That’s because a difference of ideas and opinions is often a catalyst for growth. The enemy of innovation is groupthink.

So, aim to surface conflict by asking provocative questions such as, “what are three things you’re unhappy with?” or “what’s the worst idea this group has ever come up with?”

Then, facilitate the conversation in a productive manner in which you break the team into small groups, talk about issues, report them out, and then find solutions together.

If you can’t do this successfully, consider using an outside facilitator.

4. Don’t ignore it.

If a situation starts to get heated, don’t shy away from it. Dive right in and address the problem directly. Put in play the conflict management strategies you previously outlined. Bring the parties together, have them discuss the situation, and then challenge them to solve the problem.

Give your team a clear reminder of its overall goal, everyone’s role in contributing to that goal, and how members benefit individually. This will help keep the conversation productive.

When addressing conflict, many people aren’t equipped with the right way to do so. They are overcome with fear of offending someone or being vulnerable. Many people are too nice, and others just explode. But really, it’s a question of semantics.

To help, here are some phrases you can use to jumpstart a constructive conversation:

  • From my perspective, I see it as X.
  • You’re right about X. However, to address X, we need to Y.
  • It seems like things aren’t running as smoothly as they could and I would like to discuss this with you.
  • We may have a misunderstanding, so, I want to be clear on where I stand.

It’s also essential to address conflict directly, face-to-face when possible (as opposed to over email, text or phone), and have measurable objectives that give a backbone to your point of view.

Diverse cultures may handle conflicts differently, using other strategies or words. You may need to adapt your style or language. But my advice is still the same, address conflict head-on before it becomes a crisis. And, if you need help dealing with conflict in your company, contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: Wavebreakmediamicro/123RF

 

The Positives of Having an Explosive Bully Boss

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The fiery feud between MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough, and President Donald Trump was disturbing. Complete with name-calling, accusations of plastic surgery, Twitter sparring, and op-eds, it’s perhaps one of the most public examples of bullying in history.

Sadly, many of us can relate. Bullies are everywhere–in schools, behind computer screens, and in our workplaces. A few of my friends and colleagues struggle with an explosive bully boss or colleague–someone who calls them names in meetings, tells them their ideas are dumb and makes inappropriate comments that border on sexual harassment.

I wish bullying didn’t occur anywhere, but especially at work. The U.S. employee spends an average of 47 hours a week at work. That’s a good part of our lives and we should spend it in a positive and productive environment.

However, if you are the victim of bullying–there may be an upside. Consider these points:

It can elevate your image.

If you happen to be in a situation where your bullying is made public, like in Joe and Mika’s case, then, pretty much no matter what your response, it will be heralded as nicer, smarter, even more eloquent than your bully’s actions.

People will want to side with you and thus they will look at you through a more favorable lens.

It can give you a platform.

With this attention, then you automatically have a sympathetic and captive audience.

People will be expecting a response from you. Thus being bullied can create an opportunity for you to champion a cause or send a powerful message–like the need to stop bullies in their tracks.

You can set an example for others who are being bullied and help them to turn their situation around, too.

It can make you a better person.

In a lot of cases being bullied can make you more empathetic and can raise your emotional IQ. Traumatic events can even make you stronger. It can give you grit. Many people use them as motivation to persevere and pursue their dreams or goals of being a better person or achieving success.

It isn’t always the case that bullying gets revealed and made public. In a way, Mika and Joe have it easier that way.

I understand how serious an issue bullying is and how difficult it can be for someone experiencing this awful and paralyzing situation in the workplace.

My advice to those who are being bullied and need help? Try these three tactics. And, if you feel like you need more help, or would benefit from some individual coaching, contact me.

1. Get talking.

Go to human resources, your in-house health department or someone you trust, and talk with them about the situation. Learn their policies in handling it and discuss options to diffuse or eliminate it.

2. Start writing.

Start documenting incidents. And, formulate a firm yet emotionally neutral request verbally and in writing to the bully asking them to stop. Ensure that you have follow up, and be sure to record their response. Documentation will be the first thing HR or legal asks you for.

3. Get moving.

If all else fails and you feel like you can’t manage the situation, get out. Don’t let an explosive bully boss knock your self-esteem. Utilize your network to find another, better position or project. I don’t mean to say run away but if you are miserable where you are, then there’s no need to tough it out. Something better is out there.

A version of this post was first published on Inc. 

Image: L’Échappée Volée, CC 2.0