When companies have a good balance of masculine and feminine strengths, they are better able to serve all customers and employees of every gender thrive.
Did you know that companies (like people) are masculine, feminine or a blend of both? As male/female partners working in leadership and gender, we believe that companies with a sensible blend of masculine and feminine energy outperform those that don’t. When companies have a good balance of masculine and feminine strengths, they are better able to serve all customers and employees of every gender thrive. However, many companies, even those with good gender diversity, end up with a culture that is either too masculine or too feminine.
This article is part of a broader conversation to help you determine if your company is too masculine, feminine or a healthy blend of both. We assert that stereotypes (men are masculine, women are feminine) undermine gender balance while archetypes (masculine and feminine applies to all) support gender balance. A good first step is to understand the Masculine and Feminine as archetypal energies that can be cultivated independent of gender.
Companies with a strongly masculine culture have many desirable qualities. Such companies value brand, efficiency and accountability. However, some of those companies also resist feminine ways of operating such as being inclusive, organic and thoughtful because they equate those attributes with lost time and productivity. In those companies the culture prevents full exploration of creative alternatives and performance suffers.
If you suspect that your company is off balance, it can be helpful to determine the nature of your company’s leaning. If you lean toward the masculine side of the equation that is fine, as long as you don’t shut down the feminine side. Some companies are just too masculine for their own good. Here are 5 signs that your company may be over the line:
- Death by PowerPoint. Masculine energy is all about being up front, and on top. These are excellent values. But when companies are too masculine, meetings and events become overly “top down” and instructional. Meetings become a place to showboat expertise and knowledge. This in itself is not a bad thing. But when back-to-back presentations crowd out rich exchange of ideas they become boring and stale. Open discussions, if any, are tightly controlled. If your company leans this way you will see presentations crammed with facts, small fonts, few graphics and agendas packed with no time to discuss key decisions. Introductions are superficial and no time is given for emergent ideas to bubble up.
- Teambuilding = games. Masculine energy is all about competition so teambuilding and bonding happens in the context of games. “Work hard, play hard” is an expression of this belief system. While games can be fun and generate team insights it seldom allows for deeper conversations about team relationships. If your team is avoiding conversations that address team dynamics, they are missing a key piece of building a high performing team. Good teambuilding addresses feelings, personality clashes, attitudes and emerging dysfunctions. When these conversations are not held regularly resentments deepen and fester.In overly masculine companies you also often see teambuilding happening around drinks at the bar where people are often more real with each other. But these conversations held in pairs seldom addresses the collective team dysfunctions that ultimately stack up when unattended. When this attitude reaches toxic levels teambuilding events become wasteful “boondoggles” staged to stroke the executive ego. When this happens line employees lose hope of being heard or that any thing will ever change.
- Silos. In a masculine company, structure and titles are highly prized. Both preserve the order of the hierarchy making it clear who is in charge. But in companies that are too masculine divisions become fiefdoms competing for resources and hoarding customer relationships to gain power. Cross-organizational collaboration is limited to only what the job requires hampering the innovation that comes from serendipitous discoveries of cooperating teams.Sometimes the company itself becomes so insular it becomes it’s own silo. All outsiders are distrusted. Outside hires are marginalized and consultants are held at arms length. Rather than tapping into the power of potential partnerships, siloed companies tend to build a taller wall to hold on to market share.If politics and having to “watch your back” is an every day worry than this is a sure sign that your company has masculine energy un-balanced by feminine energy.
- Burnout. Strongly masculine cultures have a “tough guy” mentality. In such cultures hard work and long hours are a source of pride. Taking care of business is the only imperative and burnout is the norm. This problem is often exasperated when globally distributed teams stretch the work day across many time zones with no regard for sacrificed family time or employees working beyond their productive limit. If you are reticent to ask your boss for personal time to address your personal needs, your company is probably too masculine. When this kind of culture takes over you often find people pretending to work while subversively surfing the Internet and searching for a new job.
- Status Quo Rules. Does your manager cringe if you bring up new ideas or veer from the “plan”? Do you often hear “that’s just not how we do things around here”? Masculine cultures value order and stability. New ideas that upset the normal course are viewed as impeding progress. In strongly masculine cultures you often see processes become entrenched that don’t allow for variation or exceptions to the rule. “Yes men” (and women) are rewarded for their loyalty and ability to play by the rules without exception. People that are inventive are often branded as renegades that don’t fit the culture.
When taken to an extreme, an overly masculine company feels like a mindless machine where employees become mindless cogs. While mindless machines are extremely efficient they lack the ability to respond to changing markets and can quickly become “dinosaurs” at risk of becoming obliterated by the next disruptive technology.
If you are scoring 5 for 5 on these signs, don’t despair, there are solutions. The most obvious one is to hire for gender diversity. But, diversifying the workforce alone is not enough. Overly masculine companies often disenfranchise women leading to eventual attrition.
Ideally, company leadership intentionally embraces the value proposition of balanced masculine and feminine energy and allows it to be fully expressed by both men and women. In doing so, companies can accelerate movement towards not only a more harmonious workplace but also a more profitable one.
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