The Man’s Guide to Corporate Culture by Heather Zumarraga Book Summary
The Man’s Guide to Corporate Culture, A Practical Guide to the New Normal and Relating to Female Coworkers in the Modern Workplace by Heather Zumarraga
The gender equality movement has fundamentally altered the work environment. Companies are now hiring and promoting more women – notably, in upper management positions traditionally dominated by men. Many men feel uncertain about navigating these developments. Wariness of sexual harassment allegations can make some men shy away from working closely with female colleagues. Others find themselves questioning their longstanding attitudes and behaviors. In this must-read manual, Heather Zumarraga offers compassionate, yet challenging advice for men on how to avoid workplace pitfalls. Her approach isn’t flawless, but the topic is so crucial, men and women alike can benefit from her guidance.
- The rise of women in the workforce changes the rules for men.
- Women have proven their merit as leaders.
- Sexual harassment threatens women’s safety and security.
- To avoid trouble, men should follow a clear set of guidelines.
- Unfounded accusations damage reputations.
- Casual dress code or not, appearance still matters.
The Man’s Guide to Corporate Culture Book Summary
The rise of women in the workforce changes the rules for men.
As women make progress toward workplace equality, the issue of sexual harassment has moved to the forefront. Sexual harassment allegations have wrecked the careers of many prominent men, as the reality of sexual harassment has harmed many women. As a result, some men are wary of accusations of inappropriate conduct, and may struggle to understand the new rules of workplace engagement.
“For us women, the dark ages have passed. We are living in the Renaissance for aspiring professional women.”
Many men need to learn better ways to communicate and collaborate with female co-workers. Those who deny that workplace culture has changed and resist forming productive relationships with women at work will never maximize their career potential.
Women have proven their merit as leaders.
Companies benefit from the presence of more women in the labor market. According to an International Monetary Fund survey, the contrasting skills and viewpoints of men and women boost organizational growth and productivity. Studies indicate that adding women to corporate boards improves their companies’ financial performance. Though men still run most Fortune 500 companies, the corporate world has more female CEOs now than ever before. In 2020, Jane Fraser became president of the Wall Street banking giant Citigroup – the first female CEO in the corporation’s history.
Despite the many positives of having more women in the workforce, a joint study by SurveyMonkey and LeanIn.org found that six out of ten managers feel uncomfortable engaging in typical office activities, including mentoring and socializing, with women. Sometimes, male managers, fearful of being labeled a sexist, hesitate to give female employees negative feedback or low scores on performance reviews – a choice that hurts everyone.
“False accusations, or even misplaced suspicions, now have absurdly powerful repercussions.”
Women are far more vocal about sexual discrimination than men – though according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, one in five people who reports being harassed is male.
Considering the destructive ramifications of sexual harassment, avoid commenting on people’s physical appearance in the workplace. Assume your co-workers will be sensitive to remarks about how they look.
Relationships are the cornerstone of business. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Make Friends and Influence People, believed that 85% of financial success depends on personality and leadership skills. You can’t expect to get along with everyone at the office, but male and female colleagues must co-exist. Being labeled as hard to work with can damage your career.
Forging a relationship begins with the art of casual conversation. Find common topics to discuss with your co-workers. At work, avoid controversial subjects, such as sex, religion, politics or personal drama. Avoid gossip. Never bad-mouth your colleagues or your company. Do not give shoulder rubs, hugs or head pats. One in four adults say they steer clear of a specific co-workers because of how they greet others; some 75% of employees favor barring all physical contact at the office.
Sexual harassment threatens women’s safety and security.
In this era of heightened sensibilities, many males feel insecure about the way they talk and act in the workplace. Part of the problem may stem from a failure to understand exactly what constitutes harassment. Offensive actions include telling off-color jokes and sharing questionable photos, staring or gesturing in a sexual manner, physically blocking someone’s path, and discussing a co-worker’s sexual history or preferences. All employees need to feel safe and secure at work. If you make people feel unsafe, you’ll never develop trusting and productive working relationships.
“You can influence your workplace culture to reflect different behaviors that make everyone feel included.”
Workplace romances often are unavoidable. Roughly 20% of married couples in the United States met at work. But a romantic relationship with a colleague can affect your productivity and even threaten your job. Most organizations have guidelines concerning office relationships. Some companies prohibit supervisors from dating their direct reports. Asking for a transfer to a different department may be the best way to avoid problems.
Remember, human resource departments exist, primarily, to safeguard the company. Ultimately, you are responsible for protecting your job and reputation.
To avoid trouble, men should follow a clear set of guidelines.
Men’s concerns about unfounded charges of sexual harassment affect corporate culture. The SurveyMonkey-LeanIn.org survey revealed that senior-level males are much more hesitant to meet privately with a junior female colleague than with a junior male colleague.
“Never hesitate to report any form of bullying to your boss, a trusted colleague, or the human resources department.”
The main rule of thumb is to be consistently respectful, well-mannered and professional.The following “Secret Rules” can help you avoid potential problems:
- Communicate as a professional – It’s never appropriate to send sexually explicit images to colleagues. Carefully consider the language and content of every email and text. Others may find your idea of humor or sarcasm offensive. If you have any doubts about what you’re sending, don’t send it.
- Be aware of everyone’s personal space – Fist bumps, high-fives and handshakes are acceptable forms of touching, says Jodi Smith, founder of the Mannersmith consulting firm.
- “Give neutral compliments” – Refrain from commenting on anyone’s looks or clothing. Keep compliments job-oriented and refer only to someone’s work.
- Introduce the highest-ranking person first – Mention individuals with the highest position first, regardless of gender. If a man and woman have equal positions, introduce the woman first.
- First think, then talk – Exercise discretion and common sense. Avoid locker room talk, even with fellow males. It’s difficult to deny if you’re overheard. Besides, you have no idea if your words will offend anyone. When in doubt, shut your mouth.
- Dress professionally – Though the trend is toward more casual clothing in the office, wearing a suit sends a strong message about your professionalism. Clothing affects how others perceive you and influences your opportunities for promotion. If your profession or workplace allows a more casual look, enjoy it.
- Make your handshake consistent – COVID-19 has dramatically altered this timeless business custom. No one knows whether hand-shaking will make a comeback. Offer the same firm, consistent handshake to both males and females.
- Be an active listener – Paying close attention to the other person without offering advice or passing judgment generates more productive conversations. You want the other person to feel heard. Be patient and understanding.
- Seek mutual respect – Common decency means being attentive and courteous. Mutual respect builds a strong corporate culture. People are more likely to leave a company if they don’t feel respected.
- Look for common ground – Be proactive in getting to know your co-workers. Ask simple questions such as where they live or what college they attended. Most people like it when others show interest in them.
Unfounded accusations damage reputations.
False accusations of harassment or sexism make worklife even more difficult for women who have genuine complaints. The push for gender equality in the workplace means new guidelines for women, as well as men. Tasteless remarks and actions that result in reprimand or dismissal may not qualify as harassment in a courtroom, but they undermine corporate culture. The law states that the so-called harasser must act intentionally and repeat the behavior several times. Even if the accused does not suffer legal consequences, his reputation could suffer considerable damage.
“When in doubt, if you wouldn’t do it with a man, don’t do it with a woman.”
Be aware of what you say and do. Don’t give anyone a reason to suspect you of sexual harassment. Yes, the rules have changed, but practicing professionalism, courtesy and respect are unquestioned standards.
Casual dress code or not, appearance still matters.
Years ago, men wore suits and ties and women wore dresses and skirts. The casual Friday movement that started in the 1990s has expanded to include every workday. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon dispensed with a policy that required the company’s investment bankers to dress with elegance every day. Google, Facebook and Twitter fully embrace the business casual philosophy.
“The best way to combat workplace sexual harassment is to reduce gender inequality and promote women in leadership positions.”
Dress properly even in a relaxed environment. Research a company’s culture if you’re a job candidate. An inside contact can tell you how people dress.
Etiquette applies to both speech and manners, and to both men and women. Say “please” and “thank you.” Keep your ego in check. Acknowledge other people’s accomplishments. Managers and subordinates have the power to influence a company’s culture through positive attitudes and interactions. While the modern workplace offers considerable challenges, your best strategy is mutual respect.
About the Author
Heather Zumarraga is an economic and financial correspondent for several national TV news outlets.