by Gray Graham
I took some time to speak to business women across the country about their professional lives and their experience working with men. They shared their thoughts, views and concerns in the workplace. This is a summary of the points that they made and a guide to help those men that have concerns about what is expected of them in today’s workplace.
The first thing that was made clear to me was contrary to what you hear stated often on social media and hence the news media, men should not treat women exactly the same as they do men. They do not believe that the workplace or work environment needs to be gender neutral.
This doesn’t mean that women are less than men just that the average man and the average woman will have behaviors that are different. Women in the workplace want to be treated with respect and like they have something to offer. The problem in the workplace is not that women need to act like men but that traditionally the thoughts of women were minimized and considered insignificant.
Second point made was that the workplace should not be viewed as a place to get together. It is not a place where people should be looking to start a romance. The goal of work is to work and nothing else. Their advice was that men should remained focused on work and work only. Office romances are a big no.
Third point our business women wanted to make clear to men is that many women are flirtatious by nature. These women want to be looked at, desired, and admired. They are not fixing their hair, wearing perfume, and dressing in sexy outfits just so they can admire their beauty when they look in the mirror on break. They want people to notice them and offer them comments. They want to catch the attention of the right guy. Their advice to men is to avoid and never participate in flirting at work. It is too easy for it to go wrong. Keep it completely professional at work.
The next point again is something that is going to go against current wisdom, they advise that men should never be completely alone with their female coworkers and only be alone if it is necessary. All other times make sure that someone else is present. Group meetings will help relax all parties and make sure that everyone is on the same page as to why you are meeting. When you have to meet with someone in private make sure that it is in a location that others can observe you and keep the door open.
While you might be a really nice guy, understand that most likely your female colleagues have had to deal with sexual deviants at some point in their lives probably at an early age. Those experiences rightly are going to make her cautious when dealing with other men throughout her life in a work environment. The overwhelming majority of women I spoke to have experienced sexual harassment or been sexually assaulted at work.
Most women understand that men and women are attracted to each other. It is human nature and completely natural. We don’t stop being men and women when we go to work. Women and men working in the same work environments is still a fairly new thing. Older people might have a harder time with this than younger people.
A lot of older women still want to be treated like a lady, so they expect a man to hold the door open for her, let her get off the elevator first, and pay for lunch and dinner when you go out in a professional setting. It is a hard adjustment for these women that in the workplace today women might be the ones holding the door open for men and picking up the tab for the meal.
There advice to men is that women are people just like men. Reasonable women understand the difference between being polite, flirting, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. The problem is that you don’t know which women are reasonable and which ones will have an issue with an action that you take. This is why in the workplace everyone should respect their coworkers to create the best work environment possible.
Women are unique individuals and there are no simple guidelines that you can follow that will make everyone happy. Many very smart people have tried and failed to do just that. Just focus on doing your job and being respectful to others and you should be just fine at work. Keep in mind whatever fear and anxiety you have your female coworkers probably have a lot more.