Jean on the Job
Following the Steel Magnolias label for women last week, I want to talk about the vulnerable men who stand as tall and steady and dependable as Oak Trees, but who also get damaged and ill and delicate now and then.
Men are supposed to be strong. No Company in Silicon Valley asks us to do Empowerment Groups for Men. Oh, they ask for Stress Groups or Type A groups or giving Critical Feedback or something tolerable we can label our men. But the notion that power does not come naturally, that it can be sabotaged or robbed or beaten out of an executive man is not imagined.
Men are vulnerable when they believe they have fallen off the pedestal. A man who has been a winner everywhere, in college, in sports, in grad school, in his company, is suddenly demoted or passed over for the coveted partnership or vice presidency. This man is devastated and does not know how to handle his loss or his loss of confidence. The vulnerable Oak Tree sways, but generally does not fall over.
Men are vulnerable when they think women beat them out. It seems worse to let a woman get your sale, your job, your possibility. It also seems more shameful to have a woman order you around. Men seem terrorized that they will appear to be emasculated. When a woman demands a task from a man publicly, it seems much more strident and offensive than when a fellow man does.
Men feel vulnerable when they are wrong. It seems harder to apologize or admit being wrong at work, or maybe anywhere, for a man. As women climb the corporate ladder, they also tend to tighten up about being wrong. Both sexes forget how courageous it really is to admit you forgot, lost it, miscalculated or used poor judgement.
Men fear combat. When the full range of emotions is available to them, they might be able to show anger appropriately. Unless we are trained that there is a difference between rage and anger, some men still stifle their feelings for fear of letting out how badly they really feel.
The new era executive, and in fact, the new era man, can show the whole range of emotions. Oak trees do get disease. They are vulnerable to draught eventually, or even over-watering. They do need light and nutrients eventually. They even need Oak Tree doctors periodically. So does our stable, steady, dependable, strong man.
Jean A. Hollands, CEO, Growth & Leadership Center, was voted Business Woman of the Year in 1986 and 1996. Write to GLC, 1451 Grant Road, Mountain View, 94040.