How to Avoid Emotional Collisions with your Male Co-Workers

How to Avoid Emotional Collisions with your Male Co-Workers November 29, 2017

1 conflict in the workplace Shaunti Feldhahn

Say you just got out of a big meeting where one of your male co-workers got frustrated with you and you had no idea why. It all started in the middle of a meeting where your team was trying to land a big contract, and he was presenting his strategy to the group and your boss. A couple of times, you politely asked why he came to a particular decision and if he could explain it. Of course, you felt like everyone would benefit from the clarification. But the last time you asked why he did something, he bluntly cut you off! How rude, right? You felt embarrassed in front of the group — just for doing the right thing and trying to get clarity. So now both of you are ticked off. Sound familiar?

What was going on? Well, let me put it to you this way: How would you feel if I rolled my eyes at you right now after hearing about what happened? Embarrassed, challenged, demeaned? Well, that’s pretty much what your co-worker felt. Because in his mind, believe it or not, you weren’t asking a question for clarification purposes-you were challenging him about his reasoning in front of not only the team but (ahem) his boss. As much as I want to be all girl-power, the fact is, in the above scenario, you sent a damaging signal without realizing it.

Now, of course, your colleague was in the wrong to snap at you in front of the team, too! But since you can only work on yourself, and if you want a good go-forward relationship, it will help to understand a few key ways men are wired. This will help you to see how a guy (not just your co-worker but many of the other guys in the room) probably perceives that type of situation — and what to do about it.

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  • You’ll be amazed at the difference that will occur if you simply ask the same question in a different way. “Dave, help me understand how you came to this particular decision; I’m still not clear on it.”

    And afterwards, assuming you were satisfied with the response, make confirmatory noises of some sort to applaud that answer.

    You did mention this, but I’ll just repeat: this is important for working with female coworkers, too.

  • The overt sexism in this article is unfortunate. I have observed, many times, the very type of male reaction from…women coworkers and supervisors. All the dynamics, the “emotional collisions” to which you refer are just as prevalent among women. The insecurities, the posturing, the politics are just as real among and from women as men. Perhaps if we could ever move beyond the obsession with labels and learn to appreciate that PEOPLE (female or male) may respond differently than I or my group does does not mean someone else is wrong. It means they are different. It presents an opportunity to learn, about who they are and who I am. It means it is an opportunity to grow as a person of which gender (or whatever grouping some deem necessary) is but one part of life.