Difficult Colleagues 2 – Gender Behavioral Differences

This week’s Possibility is a tough one, fraught with triggers that may not be true.


Possibility 2 – Gender Behavioral Differences

From @Katie Gaebel, “A factor that contributes to Difficult Colleagues is our bias on how people with certain identities/attributes “should” or “shouldn’t” be. It isn’t uncommon for women to be perceived in a negative way and men in a more positive way when exhibiting the same behavior.”

For any number of things, including work behavior, men and women are expected to act differently.

  • Men are seen as self-confident, right fit, extraverted, aggressive/assertive, competitive, ambitious, imposing, demanding, insensitive, strategic, mentors, loud, self-promoting, competent, better leaders than women
  • Women are seen as emotional, too sensitive, caretakers, need mentoring, passive, naïve, soft, nurturing, weak, critical, needy, quiet, afraid to speak, less abilities, self-effacing, worse leaders than men


Our families gave us many of these beliefs or we sensed them growing up. When these expectations clash in real life in an employee or manager, we make judgment calls dismissing our colleague as Difficult without thinking about our own biases.

Biases harm everyone. They don’t allow us to accept our or others’ natural talents, fully express ourselves or allow others to express themselves, state our own or accept others’ true emotions, or live up to our abilities. They rob us of our potential good attributes and instead, we focus on other’s views of us. They rob us of genuine connection, of seeing and being seen, and rob our organizations of creative experiences that produce innovation.

This gets worse as we add the biases of transgender, gender-neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and other kinds of gender bias that exist simultaneously.


How did we start dismissing others based on gender qualities no one has?

  • Men dare not have emotions at work, cry, care, be sensitive to others, be mentored except for power positions, be introverted, accommodate others in work they do together. And they still can’t be too self-confident or too ambitious – ‘too’ any of the other “male traits” – if so, they are now Difficult Colleagues.
  • Women dare not be too self-confident, extraverted, loud, assertive/aggressive, competitive, ambitious, demanding, independent. And they still can’t be too emotional or too nurturing – ‘too’ any of the other “female traits” – if so, they are now Difficult Colleagues.

As much as I liked the Barbie movie; we now need a Ken movie because we desperately need to have Balance finally come home. Balance accepting ourselves and others without labels as Difficult Colleagues; just colleagues we haven’t known well yet. We dare not still live inside old biases we learned when young. We are human beings needing each other inside our great kaleidoscope. Value each other’s brilliance, brains, care, and compassion. But let’s quit labeling and move on.