A man and woman who work together are going to a work lunch. The man holds the door open for the woman. This is (a) chivalrous, or (b) sexist?
According to a survey of 2000 American men and women released earlier this month, the man holding the door is chivalrous. Only three percent of the men and women polled felt the man holding the door open was sexist. Esquire Magazine and Cosmopolitan teamed up to conduct the survey, asking participants how they feel about everything from first date behaviors to sexual harassment.
Here’s another interesting tidbit:
Did you know that when it comes to sexual harassment both women and men agree on the definition of it, but most men only say they only hear about it, as opposed to most women, who have experienced or witnessed it?
Honestly, I found the results of the survey fascinating for several reasons, but what stood out the most to me was the common percentages regarding what men and women deemed appropriate (or not) in the workplace. I would have thought there would be a larger margin, but turns out, we’re more on the same page than we think!
Superiors, Colleagues and Compliments
There was one particular question that really caught my eye, primarily because I’m a business owner. This question involved female or male bosses complimenting their employees on their appearances.
Here’s a segment from the article:
A female boss tells her male employee he looks handsome with his new haircut. This is:
Nice and perfectly okay
Not a big deal, but not okay
A male boss tells his female employee she looks pretty with her new haircut, this is:
Nice and perfectly ok
Not a big deal but not okay
Notice there’s very little difference in the responses. It seems it doesn’t matter if it’s a female or a male boss handing out the flattery, a strong percentage (just under half) of the respondents still deem it to be “not okay.”
Work and Life
This got me thinking. One of the biggest problems I see is the gap between the sexes when it comes to dating and finding love. While we absolutely must take certain issues (such as sexual harassment) seriously, we also need to understand that we spend a major portion of our day in the workplace, and the dynamics between men and women still need to, and still do, exist.
Do we need to have appropriate behavior at the office? Yes, of course. It’s important to feel safe and be able to do your job well.
However, you do not stop being a woman just because you are at work. If you’re not able to have a male/female dynamic during your work day, it’s even more challenging to switch gears after work and reclaim that part of you. Being a woman isn’t something you turn on and off.
Basically, if you shut down essential elements of your femininity or your beauty to get ahead at work, you’re not the one getting ahead, it’s some pretend approximation who is. And it’s not necessary. It is possible to graciously accept a compliment about something not related to your work, and simply enjoy knowing that a part of you was recognized by someone else. And of course if you’re being yourself, it’s possible (even likely) such compliments will come your way.
And to look at it from the other side, if a healthy and natural male/female dynamic exists in your workplace — because a good percentage of the people there feel at ease and respectful of each other — you may find you also want to offer flattery or compliments now and again to the men around you. That’s a positive sign.
Intentions and Intuition are Key
I’m a business owner, and although I primarily have female employees, I also have male consultants working for me, and of course all of my matchmaking clients are men. Until this article came out, I hadn’t even considered how a compliment I might give to a man could be considered negative or inappropriate in any way.
There’s probably a reason that it hadn’t occurred to me. I think it’s because myself and my staff offer compliments only when they come from a place of authenticity, and without any kind of hidden agenda. We are not complimenting because we’re aiming for a certain outcome, but because we feel genuine warmth and friendliness toward the men we work with.
And if the men in our workplace compliment us, it’s for the very same reason. When compliments from either gender are offered from a place of warmth, appreciation and respect, they are simply a recognition and enjoyment of our differences. Can people cross the line? Yes. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Valuing and enjoying the differences between the sexes, yes, even at work, makes it possible for us to be ourselves in the workplace as we are anywhere else.
What Do You Think?
What’s your take on this? I’d love to know how you handle male/female dynamics in your own workplace. Let me know in the comments, including what kind of work you do and how you feel about the men you work with! Let’s discuss!