Recently I’ve had a couple of encounters at work that made me realize, once again, the different expectations we bring to bear when dealing with women and men. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to go into details in a public space. I also want to acknowledge that I made mistakes in both cases as well — in one case by not making a phone call when I should have and in the other, by not doing enough to make someone feel appreciated (although honestly, I’m not sure I could have in this situation, but I do admit that it’s a weakness that I need to continue to work on strengthening).
However, it strikes me in both cases that the real underlying problem was that I treated relationships that the other parties viewed as personal as business relationships — that I brought a “let’s get this job done and if we’re not, let’s rethink this particular relationship and move on” mentality to these situations. It also seems to me that that is what has allowed things to get to the point where we can’t keep a cordial relationship, despite my attempts to apologize. Most importantly, I think that if I were a man, this more “business-like” attitude would have been accepted, that what’s really going on here is that folks brought gendered expectations to bear on our relationship and when I didn’t fulfill those, were disappointed. I am not trying to say that one can have business relationships without building personal relationships as well — but I do think that people bring different expectations as to how women and men will foster those personal relationships — and that women (men, too, but this hits women harder) are punished when they fail to live up to those expectations.
So, readers, here’s my question for you: what do you do in such situations? Do you try to change your behavior to fit the expectations people have for women? Do you try to talk to people about it? Do you just say “c’est la vie” and let it go? And finally, do you think this is true? Do people expect different things from women when it comes to building relationships in the workplace? Do they expect women to provide more personal interactions and support than they do from men? Share your thoughts in the comments!