Project manager in a company for project steering in the construction sector
Bettina, you have many years of experience in working with men. Do you see a difference in working with men or women?
Men do not expound the problems of something. The often have excuses. It doesn’t matter whether you are their colleague or their boss. Men need structure and control. You have to control everything they do, not because they have no idea of what they are doing, but they may not do what you’ve told them. They need clear orders and a fix time limit and in the end you need to control the outcome. Because they prioritize differently.
Women do see the overall context and fell more responsable for it. They are more reliable. Men often put just forward their own interests.
If men don’t do what they should, how do they react if they are caught red-handed?
They don’t think it’s a problem and don’t feel guilty. They just make excuses like: „I will do that later anyway, It’s still on my agenda.“ Women in the same situation feel guilty and doubt themselves and their expertise. Men do never doubt themselves and can even push through things which are wrong. They are more assertive.
But if they push through something which is wrong from an objective point of view, do they do that in spite of knowing it?
Sometimes they don’t know it, but even if they have the slightest doubt about it, they will do it anyway. It’s their idea of how things should be. If a woman or a man in a weaker position would raise concerns, they will be brushed-off, because they would put the competence and authority of the man into question. A woman instead would be immediately in doubt about herself because of any interposed question.
I’ll give you an example: A boss gives 10 task to a man and 10 to a woman. The man executes 5, the woman 8 tasks within the time frame. Both present to their boss what they did. The man says: „Well also the time frame has been very challenging, I finished 5 tasks!“, and he’s sure, he’s the best. The woman regretfully says: „I only finished 8 tasks, I’m really sorry!“ and she will definitely doubt her own competence. Women do sell themselves worse than men, while men learn to show off as a boy already.
What do you think is the reason that men don’t doubt about themselves so easily?
It starts with education in families, school and society. Of course there are also different men and women, but not many. It’ a matter of self-confidence, everybody can work on that!
Who do you think are better bosses, men or women?
Both have their strength and their weaknesses, it’s a question of the character. I myself do prefer men because they speak out things clearly. Yes, there is a risk of being to cut down to size in public, but often it’s not ment to be harmed. The person might apologise afterwards. If you are self-confident enough to get through that, than it’s much easier with men.
I often experienced men in meetings who advised others in a deprecating way without having a clue of the topic themselves – not only women but also men in weaker positions, How should a woman behave in such a situation?
By directly addressing the person: „I will consider your tips but I’m the expert in this field and not you and I and know exactly what to do. But maybe you better think the way you’re speaking to me“.
Men normally sort out through eye contact, who’s in the lead. Or a contest for the first places will start, kind of verbal arm wrestling. Five minutes later everybody will know who is in which position for the moment. With his advising behaviour a man starts this contest to check out how far he can go with you. No need to be afraid of, it’s just a show-fight.
So it’s important to react immediately. But isn’t there a risk to be called bitchy?
Not if you stay calm. Men call it „defining the standards“. If you say: „You know I control the situation. I appreciate your help but in a constructive way, please“, that will mostly work out. The power-struggle is just a mechanism men learn as children already. For ex. when they play football, one is stronger, the other one weaker, the hierarchy has to be settled. If you accept that you’re dominated once, the other one will do it again. That’s totally different among women.
What do you recommend to women working in a male dominated environment?
Listen carefully, speak less, pull the strings in the right moment. If you are verbally attacked answer with few words and precisely, don’t talk much. Don’t explain or justify yourself. But stay polite and charming, that’s the best weapon of a woman. If you smile, don’t giggle but give them a superior smile. If you are in doubt, don’t admit you don’t know it, strike a pose, smile and get your information afterwards!
Thank you Bettina for sharing your experiences!