Consider Nontraditional Careers
For decades now, women have, appropriately, been encouraged to consider all careers rather than just those traditionally held by women. Similarly, men should consider the full range of career options. Some traditionally female careers can be unusually rewarding: librarian, teacher, editor, nurse, and graphic designer, for example. A real man chooses a career that feels right for him without worrying that it’s not a “manly” career.
Use the Power of Deep Connection
Women, on average, are better at connecting with people than men are. They start young. Walk into any kindergarten and you’ll see most girls playing together cooperatively, while most boys are playing by themselves or in very uncooperative ways: pushing, chasing, and terrorizing. Fast forward a few years and, in most households, while boys are staring at a TV or computer game, girls are on the phone or instant messaging their friends. Fast forward to adulthood and you’ll find nine zillion women’s organizations – the ultimate networking opportunity – and barely any for men.
Guys, you gotta recognize the power of deep connection. When you talk with another man, ask about deeper things than his new car, techno-toy, or the score of the big game. I’m not saying you have to “process deep feelings,” but guys care plenty about their careers, health, looks, finances, maybe even feelings. Find out what the person you’re talking with is most concerned about, and discuss that. Then share a concern of yours. Be careful, however, not to give unwanted advice, particularly to women. The stereotype is generally true: Women mainly want to be heard rather than to have their problem solved.Because men do, in general, appreciate advice and don’t just need to be heard, when you’re talking with a guy, you may offer each other help that solves problems. That’s likely to bond you enough that you both want to help each other’s careers.
Temper “Male Energy”
Workplaces used to deify “male energy”: aggressiveness, competition, individualism. Today, in many workplaces – especially those with a number of female higher-ups – to survive, let alone thrive, men usually must temper male energy. That may or may not yield better business results, but certainly, in recent years, the pendulum has swung to give women’s ways of being more respect than men’s. The unvarnished truth is that in today’s typical workplace, men must usually accommodate to women’s ways, not vice versa.
Do you talk too much at meetings?
Rule of thumb: In a meeting, talk no more than 50 percent above your share of time. For example, if you’re in an hour-long meeting with six attendees, your share is ten minutes. Your maximum talk time: 15 minutes. And that assumes that you have more of value to say than the other attendees. Normally, you want to talk less than that.
A no-holds-barred approach to achieving a goal may win the battle but will probably lose the war. For example, one salesman wanted to become the head honcho when the boss retired. To put himself in line, he did the following:
– Hyped product strengths, downplayed product weaknesses, and pushed customers harder to “make the commitment.”
– Unfairly complained about fellow team members to the boss.
– Dominated the weekly sales meeting. Although six people were in the room, he talked half the time.
This salesman sold more machines but, not surprisingly, didn’t get the promotion. Why? Because he pushed some customers so hard that they complained to the boss, and his complaints about co-workers and his dominating meetings were seen as the ploys they were.
Drive is often key to achieving excellence, but please, don’t cross ethical lines. And even when ethical, always ask yourself whether the side effects of being aggressive might outweigh the benefits.
Be Tactful and Listen Well
Another form of excessive aggressiveness: bluntness. Many men think of bluntness as a positive: “I’m direct, a straight-shooter.” Fact is, if the bluntness decimates your listener, the price may be too great. Women, in general, are better at criticizing tactfully. You can be tactful too.
Occasionally, to shake a person’s undue complacency, you must be blunt. But do that often, and you’ll probably be viewed not as a straight-shooter but as insensitive. When you must criticize, do it in the most self-esteem-preserving way. For example, “I noticed (insert your concern) and wonder whether there’s something I’m not understanding.” When the person explains, even if it’s an imperfect explanation, try to accept it, knowing that you planted a seed — he’ll probably make the necessary change.
Poor listening is among aggressiveness’s most insidious manifestations. The aggressive person is so eager to prove his point that he listens poorly to what the other person is saying, thereby losing opportunities to find common ground, let alone to have his mind changed. Above all, learn to listen well.
Controlling unbridled aggressiveness is particularly important if your boss is a woman. Many female bosses worry about being steamrolled by male energy, so you’ll get lots of brownie points if you temper your aggressiveness with good listening and tactfully made suggestions.
If you find yourself unable to consistently follow my advice to temper your maleness to accommodate to today’s typical workplace, you may be more likely to find success in the handful of remaining fields in which male-centricity remains the norm – for example, aerospace, construction, transportation, energy, agriculture, and manufacturing.
Mind Your Health
Men die six years younger than women, and it seems that more men than women in their mid- to late- 50s show significant decline in physical and mental capability. That, I believe, partly explains why Boomer men are having a harder time finding jobs than are Boomer women.
Because men are at risk of earlier decline, it’s especially important that you take precautions to forestall aging and disease. Perhaps this is a wakeup call to get serious about controlling your weight, not smoking, drinking no more than moderately, and getting regular, moderate exercise. Science is finding that your mother may have been right: Walking may be the best exercise.
Flirt with Your Antennae Out
Flirting is fun, but, in today’s workplace, it’s risky, especially for men. Women typically have the power in such matters: If you flirt and she perceives it as unwelcome, in most workplaces, her perception is presumed valid unless proven otherwise, which is hard to do. And if you flirt again, you’re on the road to a sexual harassment claim. Telling a woman three days this week how great she looks may be innocent to you, yet it can be perceived as “persistent unwanted advances.” At that point, no matter how trivial you say your comments were, many HR departments would initiate an inquiry.
Don’t Date Your Direct Report
If you’re the type who can keep a personal relationship from affecting your work life, the advantages of dating people you meet at work outweigh the liabilities. If company policy doesn’t prohibit it, do not date someone you supervise. Your supervisee may agree to go out with you only for fear of hurting her career if she says no. Is that the basis on which you want a date? And if things go wrong, urrggh! The supervisee often claims the boss abused the power relationship, which can cost you your job. Or what if she threatens to make that claim unless you promote her or let her get paid full-time for part-time work? Even if you dodge those bullets, having to supervise your disgruntled ex-lover won’t be fun. And just imagine if you wanted to fire her! Even when the relationship is working fine, higher-ups may make you pay. Esteemed Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher was fired simply for having a consensual affair with a Boeing employee.
Be Proud to Be a Man
In the appropriate attempt to redress past and lingering discrimination against women, society’s mind-molders – schools, colleges, and media – are empowering women, but too often at men’s expense. The schools and colleges continually trumpet the contributions of women, while accentuating the evils of men. It’s easy to see why, today, women’s self-esteem, on average, is higher than men’s, and why only 1⁄3 of the college graduating class of 2007 is male.
Despite what society’s mind molders may say, all men are not killers, rapists, slackers, and dolts. In fact, in the five decades since the women’s movement began, 97 percent of science, 92 percent of literature, and 100 percent of economics Nobel Laureates still are men.
Turning to the lower rungs of the work world, almost all people who do such grungy, dangerous, life-shortening work as fumigator, prison guard, coal miner, steelworker, and sewer maintainer are men. And 99 percent of American soldiers killed in Iraq are men. And the only gender required to register for the draft is, you guessed it, men.
The fact is, most men are hard working, goal-oriented, and straight shooting. The world needs both men and women. Don’t forget it.
Of course some men (and women) are an embarrassment to their gender, indeed to the human race. And, in my view, you have an obligation, not only to yourself but also to your fellow-men and women, to use traditionally male attributes – aggressiveness, drive, and a protective instinct – to positive ends. Indeed, in and out of today’s workplace, you have ample opportunities to use your maleness for great good. Many men do. You can too.