Just for grins, I asked my Facebook community what would be different if women had invented the business world. One of the participants was reminded of a response by Paul Rodriquez, a comedian. He imagines the British Prime Minister calling the U.S. President (who happens to be a woman), “Ma’am, we have detected the launch of several dozen nuclear missiles aimed at our capital . . .”
“Yes, I can confirm that,” replies the President.
“Well, can you tell us why you would do such a thing?” he asks.
“Oh, I think you KNOW!”
While you might be chuckling, I suspect you know exactly what I’m talking about. How many times have you heard a girlfriend or female acquaintance say,
- “I just can’t forgive _____________ for doing ________________.”
- “I’ll never trust _______________ again.”
- “That _________ she/he did ______________ and I’m going to ___________.”
And she’s not talking about her significant other but someone at work? She then embarks upon a relatively covert campaign against the offender. She won’t speak to that person (unless she must). Coffee or lunch is out of the question (unless others are present). You need access to her skills. Forget it…unless she is under the threat of some disciplinary action. She has taken her dolls and gone home.
The relationship has gone from friendly to cool in no time flat. Ten years from now she will be able to tell the story and relive the emotions just like it was yesterday. Jane or Jim may realize that something is wrong, but they have no clue what they have done to offend her. This is one of our less endearing traits in action. Woe unto the man or woman who transgresses.
Why can’t we just let it go? The men seem to do it easily. We don’t. The answer is partly our nature and partly our socialization. We are relationship oriented. We are friendly and we develop friendships, a deeper more intimate relationship. This makes conflict and injury personal for us. When a friend didn’t play nice or hurt us deeply, we could just quit playing with them or apply “pressure” to bring them back in line. That solution doesn’t work too well in the workplace.
While relationships are everything for us, men on the other hand, function somewhat independently making conflict and competition mostly impersonal. Don’t misunderstand, men do invest in relationships. However, they choose to be friendly rather than “friends” operating with 3 basic rules:
1) Don’t burn your bridges. You may need to cross them again someday. Men can engage in combat (vigorous debate and disagreement, fist-a-cuffs, whatever) and then go have a beer together when they are done. Staying friendly means later requests will likely be honored.
2) Maintain your bridges. You never know when you will need them. Men can create, access and maintain much larger networks of resources with much less effort than we do. For them, an investment may be coffee or the occasional phone call just to check in…no strings attached.
3) Many bridges represent multiple options in difficult times. This allows them to make difficult decisions that impact others with more ease knowing there are more options available. That doesn’t mean they don’t wrestle with those decisions, but in the end logic will win out over their emotions.
Considering that we are supposed to be the gentle, caring, relationship-driven gender, we should probably take a cue from the men. Our inclination toward developing friendships often creates an obligation from our perspective of which the other party might not be aware and later results in hurt feelings on our part. Two more lessons from the guys:
1) All relationships have value. Therefore we should try to maintain them rather than abandon them. Avoid the nuclear option at all costs.
2) At work, it is OK to be just friendly with people rather than friends.
 The concept of friendly versus friends was first identified by Pat Heim in her book, Hardball for Women.