A career girl’s guide to mastering gender dynamics.
This all started as a chapter in Men@Work that I almost didn’t write. The whole Sex@Work thing is a big hairball, the elephant in the room, the thing that everyone knows is there…everywhere (like pee in a public baby pool:))…but no one is quite sure how to talk about it. By Sex@Work, I don’t mean actually doing the dirty deed. I’m instead referring to the sexual dynamics that are inevitably at play between men and women. More than anything at work, it’s the force you have to reckon with and figure out how to navigate – both on its own and then as a thing that pervades everything. It’s part of every interaction, no matter how professional.
“If I can’t eat it, drink it, drive it, or f*k it, it’s not relevant to me.”
Early on in my career, this is how the most gentle-man I know tried to coach me on getting past my repeated frustration with men at work. He explained that I had unrealistic expectations and was misreading them. He said I failed to play my cards right, communicate the right point, and take the right tone because I assumed the guys in the conference room were thinking about the world - people, places and things - the way that I do. He calmly and frankly underscored his points with “never underestimate the power of the penis,” clarifying the motivator for most things men do.
Meanwhile, as humans, we are inevitably attracted to other people, have crushes on other people, and may even fall in love with people - whether we want to or not. It’s completely involuntary and just happens all the time throughout our lives, even when people are old or married or seemingly beyond their sexual prime or all sorts of other things. People that are drawn to each other for one reason or another aren’t necessarily trying to be bad. It just happens.
Like all of the seven male archetypes characterized in the Men@Work book, this whole Sex@Work thing is characterized by complexity and ambiguity and danger and fun and happiness and success and failure and agony and ecstasy. If you assembled a bunch of women in the room in their 50s who’d stuck it out, particularly on the sales side of things or as executives, you’d get a pretty darn good collection of stories about how they’ve handled gender dynamics and turned what could have been a disadvantage into a competitive advantage. It’s a tightrope or high altitude balance beam you have to walk (hence the Men@Work book cover art), so it’s best to get ahead of it, take control, and make the whole thing work in your favor.
So how should you read and respond to all the inevitable gender dynamics at play in the workplace? How do you get men to like and respect you? How do you forge relationships without crossing lines? How can you be one of the guys, but maintain a healthy distance? How do you put yourself out there without seeming too desperate and like you’re trying too hard? How do you get them to include you? When you do show up and engage and when is it better to avoid or disappear?
These are the questions we’ll explore here with the hope of providing a framework for how to see various types of male/female relationships at work and guidance for how to take risks and seize opportunities. This book is meant to complement Men@Work, sort of serving as an off-shoot of what’s covered there. If you haven’t read about the 7 Types, I recommend spending a little time with that first before diving in here as you’ll have better context around how to consider all of the points and guidance.
Let me know your thoughts! If you have a good story to share or advice to pass along, let us know. If you have a dilemma or question or need guidance, I hope you’ll be in touch about that as well. This is an interesting topic and starting a conversation around it could help all of us navigate the tricky world of gender dynamics in the workplace.
Work-in-progress pieces are the beginnings of new books on topics that we thought would be of interest to working women. We’re eager to get your thoughts, stories, and questions on any or all of them as we build them out into full-fledged guides.
We’ve established Facebook groups to facilitate live, ongoing questions, answers and conversation around this topic
If you’d prefer not be so public and social, but have a story to tell or advice to impart, I hope you’ll complete a survey – staying anonymous is totally fine.
Finally, if you’re looking for quick, quiet advice, I hope you’ll send me a note and I’ll be happy to do my best to provide guidance or connect you with someone or something that might help.