I was recently sitting around the kitchen table with my wife, her mom, three of her mom’s life long friends and a couple of their daughters. Their ages ranged from late 40s and early 50s to early 70s. They were discussing an investment club that many of them had belonged to about a decade ago and how it dissolved due to disagreements and distrust.
Further, they commented that the investment club was destined for failure because it was an all-female group. I was perplexed, “Ladies, help me understand why you would believe a group like this is destined for failure?” They responded that women can’t disagree or do battle with each other and walk away like nothing happened.
Women take things personally.
Wow! Women of HR, help me out.
Working in a human resources, a profession that is significantly occupied by approximately 70% female practitioners, does this gender dynamic carryover to your working world? ]Does debate create fissures in your organizations? Is the investment group an isolated case? Is it generational given the ages of the participants?
In his recent post Assorted Musings, Ben Casnocha wrote:
After I expressed detailed disagreement with another person’s ideas, the guy I was talking to said, “Ah, I didn’t know you didn’t respect [Person X.]” In fact, my hierarchy of respect is that if I don’t respect a person I’ll rarely expend the energy to issue detailed disagreement. It’s a sign of respect to engage in thoughtful disagreement. I think about this when I find myself routinely disagreeing with certain bloggers I read. And yet, I’ve been reading them for years, so on some level I respect them more than other folks with whom I may agree but don’t bother to read.
I love Ben’s perspective. Respectful disagreement and dialogue (at times, battles) will often generate bigger and better ideas and solutions. Passionate debate must exist in an organization if it is to grow and thrive. But, an organization will die and be destined for failure if the participants can’t then embrace the results of that debate, not take it personally and move forward together.
If, as the women around my kitchen table stated, this dynamic is difficult for their gender to embrace, how are you dealing with it?