Ways Men Undermine Themselves at Work – and What Women Can Learn from It

Posted April 25, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

Let’s not mince words. Sometimes men do things in business women will never….ever….understand. If you’ve ever seen the movie American Psycho, you know what I’m talking about. There’s an iconic scene with Christian Bale and his equally strange “typical male Wall Street types” pass their business cards around the table reacting to fonts, card weights and even colors. “Eggshell? No. Ecru.” What they don’t show you in this scene is the smart, savvy woman in the corner rolling her eyes. But things are different today than they were in the world American Psycho showcased – 1987 on Wall Street was a man’s world, and women were smart to keep their eyes forward, focused on the next step if they wanted to get ahead.

Today, those rolling eyes are a little more acceptable, and it’s clear to women everywhere that men are making some pretty big mistakes in the office. The QuickBase Blog from Intuit recently published an article, “3 Ways Men Undermine Themselves at Work,” finally admitting that men make grave mistakes in the workplace, mistakes that frankly, make women crazy.

Among other things, QuickBase Blog’s writer Anita Bruzzese talks about men who dress badly, cuss loudly, and can’t stop talking about ESPN. The list goes on. I’d like to highlight what I see as a the greatest mistake men make at work – it’s their reliance on the old Frank Sinatra mantra, “I did it my way.” Men, historically, and in business, are terrible at compromise.

What, then, can women learn from the mistakes of our male counterparts. Try this on for size:

  • Dress impeccably. I saw a woman on the street a few days ago wearing a power suit and tie. She looked like a major player, and she walked like it too. And while you don’t have to match a man’s wardrobe piece for piece, know that when a man shows up with his tie tied haphazardly and pants too short, you have the opportunity to immediately look more professional.
  • Speak with respect, intelligence and grace. Swearing at work is, without a doubt, a male constructed norm. But over the last few years, I’ve noticed more and more women (myself included) who are dropping f-bombs in the office. Set yourself apart by being the individual who avoids this norm, and instead speaks with a vocabulary that matches her credentials.
  • Be feminine, but be brief. Just as men can sometimes spend all day talking about sports in the office, women when in a pack can tend to talk makeup, clothes, shoes, cosmetics, etc. I absolutely hate when two women meet and immediately compliment each other’s shoes. How about a discussion about passions, values, credentials? It’s ok to say, “great bag”, but then move on and be professional.
  • Compromise and showcase your flexibility. Sure, men can be seen as rigid and pig-headed, but you don’t have to match those traits to be successful. Your teams will respect you for your willingness to compromise and provide flexibility to them and in your own life as well.

We can all undermine our authority and skills in the workplace, genders aside. Learn from all those who commit these business sins and rise above to become stronger, smarter, and more respected.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."