Saturday, June 4, 2011

Project Social: Water Off a Duck's Back

When I proposed we write about gender differences for our next blog post my project social partner Dave was less than thrilled: ‘I’m a white guy in HR.  I can’t write about gender!’

He didn't actually say that but I bet he thought it.

So I’m flying solo this week but be sure to check out Dave’s latest post on talent management and stay tuned for Lyn's guest post here at working girl.

So, gender.  What is it good for?

The other day an assertiveness coach was on the radio talking about how hard it is for women to say no clearly and firmly.  One reason is that women are more empathic than men and therefore more likely to feel guilty for offending or inconveniencing another person. 

Hmmn.  Maybe.

About a year ago, I had the following day planned: Yoga in the morning, work through lunch, product demo in the afternoon, pick up the kids from their play date, drive my husband to the airport, make dinner, put the kids to bed, work some more...

The product demo ran late.  I drove and my husband called the other mom who’d collected our kids from Kindergarten, taken them to gymnastics, picked them up, brought them to her house and fed them a snack - and who expected us an hour ago.

From my end their conversation sounded like this (only in German):

'Katja, hi, it's Ralf. . . yeah, I know, I'm sorry. I'm really really sorry. What? I know, I'm so sorry. I can't say sorry enough times. We just couldn't get out of our meeting, they nailed us to the. . . what? I know, I'm just so sorry. Yes, totally our bad. We're on our way now, we'll be there in. . . what? Yes, I know, you're right, we'll be there in 20 minutes. Right. Yes. Thanks a million, we owe you big time. I know. Sorry.  Bye!'

Now, there’s nothing very gender specific going on here - if I'd been the one to call we'd probably have had about the same conversation.  Possibly a tad more abject but only a tad.

But here's the thing:

I felt guilty after this conversation and started thinking of ways to atone, such as inviting her kids over on the weekend or bringing her a box of chocolates.

Whereas my husband hung up the phone, smiled easily and said, 'See? No problem. It's totally fine.'  Then he started playing with his iPhone and apparently forgot all about it.

Gender difference or just an iPhone thing?  You decide.


  1. You are wrong I did say I am an old white guy in HR and I can't write about gender. I would default to the age old toilet seat issue, having rasided two boys.

    Ok I love your piece, and I love Ralph and I have never met him. So you ruined thier evening and your kids trashed thier house - life goes on. You can return the favor sometime, it all works out in the end.

    This is the difference in gender, women hold on to those things and somehow feel compelled to balance the score card. Guys not so much, you just have one coming.

    And if I dwell on in, which I won't, I supppose there are some other gender differences.

    Just out of curiousity you will have to tell me what happened.

  2. Thanks, Dave, I think you two would hit it off. Nothing much happened - I opted for chocolate. Chocolate heals all wounds.


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