How men and women communicate differently in the workplace

The modern workplace aims to be a balanced place where everyone can communicate openly and freely with the intention of being as productive as possible. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “NSW women’s participation in the labour force has increased significantly over time.” But are we really talking to each other in the most effective way? Are we really listening?

Maybe communication between the sexes is improving. The statistics point to some good news, “When we look at employment participation, the gender gap has reduced by 21 percentage points in 1978 to 13 percentage points today,” the ABS says.

Men and women have to get along at work but there is increasing evidence to point to the fact that men and women have very different communication styles when at work. We’ve spoken to the experts and have identified the major differences.

#1: Men may not always want (or need) to ask for help

Simma Lieberman works with people and organisations and specialises in diversity and gender communications. This communication expert says, “Women are more likely to talk to other women when they have a problem or need to make a decision. Men keep their problems to themselves and don’t see the point in sharing personal issues.”


#2: Men believe that all communication should have a defined purpose

Psych Central explains, “He believes communication should have a clear purpose. Behind every conversation is a problem that needs solving or a point that needs to be made,” and that excess chat is counter-productive. “Communication is used to get to the root of the dilemma as efficiently as possible.”

#3: Men prefer to receive individual acknowledgement

One expert feels that the male hormone testosterone is the cause of this phenomenon. “Men experience a tremendous release of testosterone when they take credit for something, so naturally want to be the stars of the show,” says Lisa Evans of Fast Company. She says that women, on the other hand, are satisfied to be congratulated as part of a team.

#1: Women use more physical cues to show they are engaged

Lieberman explains, “At meetings, men only nod their heads when they agree. If a women is speaking and she doesn’t see his head nod as he listens, she assumes he either disagrees or is not listening.” Women use these physical cues to show the person they are communicating with that they are listening, and that they care.


#2: Women use talking and language to sort through issues internally

“Men prioritise productivity and efficiency in their daily lives, and shares only those details that they deem essential to the point of the story,” explains Psych Central. Whereas a woman will, “use communication to explore and organise her thoughts — to discover the point of the story.” These verbal cues are important and help to form part of the conversation itself.

#3: Women are very concerned with fairness

Job seeking experts Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, and Roz Usheroff say, “Women try to maintain an appearance of equality amongst everyone,” favouring making sure everyone is heard. “They are concerned with the effect of the exchange on the other person, and want to make sure everyone feels like a worthy contributor.”

Can’t we all just get along?

By identifying these social and verbal nuances, we can more clearly understand our colleagues and alter our own behaviour to get the best results for ourselves and our wider team. Success at work depends on many things, and being good at the core functions of your job role is only part of the picture.

You need to be able to work collaboratively, stay on the right side of “office politics” and impress the right people. Learning to communicate more effectively is an essential skill for anyone looking to get ahead in their career.

Have you ever had communication issues at work based on your gender? Tell me your story (and don’t forget to mention which country you’re from)!


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