Jobs 2018: In era of 'Me Too', here's a step-wise guide on how to be a better teammate without getting into gender biases
In recent times, "Me Too" has come back to bite many people much sharper than they ever thought. Some of them are heartbreaking stories and a few stink of accusations without any base.
In recent times, "Me Too" has come back to bite many people much sharper than they ever thought. Some of them are heartbreaking stories and a few stink of accusations without any base. A male colleague in my office made a comment stating that he would not offer a carpool to women team members from now on. With a sorry expression, he was clear in saying that when even he was afraid of a possible backlash from an old vendetta.
An interesting part of all women development management program is 'How to tell women what to do, right from how they should dress up to how they should lead their teams, network in business events and so on.' The initiative of women-focused programs is solely based on changing women. In India, there are hardly any initiatives at the organisational level for men on 'how they can be inclusive with women without being intrusive.'
To begin with, male colleagues have to learn that building a relationship with women at work has to come from a basic psychological understanding. Men are considered to have more advantage in gender-based perks globally. The salary disparity is a global issue being discussed, which has somewhere resulted in showing unnecessary power muscles at work, sometimes even unintentionally.
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A senior HR official of a multinational company recently told me an interesting fact. "Women tend to take for granted the male colleague who is soft-spoken and helping. They make fun of him yet keep loading him with extra work." That aspect is never talked about.
Here's a basic step-wise guide on how to be a better teammate without getting into gender biases.
Empathy, not sympathy: Listen to a female colleague as much as you would have done for a male. Just remember, not to compare notes. Do not start giving suggestions or jump onto a sympathy boat. Everyone needs unbiased listening. It helps and fosters healthy relations as long as you know the boundary wall.
Different understanding levels: Do not generalise women. They too come from different upbringings. Further, there could be a stark difference in the families they get married in to. Single women may not wear the tag of superwoman. A common mistake both genders do is generalising gender-based behaviour. A woman at home is a totally different behaved person from one at her workplace.
Handle discomfort: If you are a good teammate and have earned the trust of female teammates, then you need to be comfortable with listening to them. A lot of them have professional discrimination stories and it may feel like being pushed in a corner. Do not take it personally. Some of them indeed are horror stories.
Keep it straight: Most women respond well to compliments at work as long as they are not being hit at or compliments don't have sexist undertones. I was once called to counsel a senior official who was used to complimenting women as, "Good work done. You look good too. See, how that combination works for you, Sad, That does not work for me." It was difficult for him to get that it was not seen as encouragement at all.
Proxemics: Be careful as not to breach the personal space of a person. Sometimes, men cross a line just by being physically close in an encroached space. Our spaces are shrinking by the day so it is more important than ever to take note of not getting into close proximity to others.
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Workplaces, globally are working towards reducing gender disparity, making more gender inclusive environment. It is true that women do face emotional and physical harassment across the globe and that brings a very sad and dark aspect of work life in the bright light. Yet, there are more men constantly working with women as good allies, teammates and fair friends. We need to make safer workplaces by fostering trust and safety. After all, both genders make the world work the way it does.
By: Rama Moondra
(The writer is strategic advisor and premium educator with Harvard Business Publishing)