Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: The Male Factor

In December 2009 I read "The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace" by Shaunti Feldhahn.

"The Male Factor" is based on a statistically solid survey of 600 men, plus dozens of interviews, and details how men think at work. The point of this book is for women to understand how men think at work (not at home or in relationship, but when they are in their `work' box) so that women can decide how/if they want to make adjustments in the way they act/talk/dress so that men will perceive them more accurately. The author says, "We can be skilled, talented, highly educated, mentored and networked - and yet trade all of that away by unintentionally undermining ourselves in our interactions with male colleagues." Yes, the business world still has its own set of rules, that were invented by men, and so you must decide how you will play in that world...will you understand and adapt to the rules, or not? Not to worry, the corresponding book to train men is under development.

"The Male Factor", the expanded edition for Christians, has a little bit of biblical reference scattered here and there, but you might miss it in general. The main difference between a secular version and this version is an additional chapter that provides the perspective and advice of Christian women in leadership positions in business or ministry.

Why should you read a book like this? Because you need to understand all the factors at play in your career. "Generally, especially as you rise through the ranks, no one is incompetent - so it falls to other factors. It's not just talent, because everyone has that." So what are these other factors other than talent? That's what you'll learn in this book. The author makes another analogy ... if you were engaged in international business, you would want to learn about that other culture so that you didn't sabotage your work... men are simply a different culture that you must learn about so that you can decide how/if to change anything in your control.

Men typically compartmentalize, so they have a Personal World and a Work World. Each of these has different rules and expectations. The way you interact with your husband in Personal World is NOT the way you may interact with a man in Work World. So chapter 3 explains the differences in these worlds; and chapter 4 explains the basic rules of the Work World. Then chapters deal with particular topics like emotion in the workplace, fear and insecurity, and how women's clothing can completely derail a guy. Do we need to wear a burqa? No, but men perceive figure-fitting or revealing attire to be intentionally eye-catching and inappropriate, not simply stylish, and they think a woman is less competent ...that she's intentionally distracting them from seeing her job performance flaws.

The Male Factor is pretty easy to read, and probably pretty valuable to any woman who wonders why her career doesn't seem to go anywhere. The information can also be pretty aggravating, but until the world is perfect we all have to learn to get along.

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