As my household has been preparing for the NFL season (Geaux Saints!), it struck me that there has yet to be a sports analogy post on Women of HR. And because so many of our HR blogging friends who write about HR, recruiting and leadership discuss sports, I found the missing topic somewhat intriguing.
Granted, the Women of HR site is still relatively new, but why the lack of sports related posts? Is it because sports, as an analogy to work/life/the world/anything – remains a male domain? It’s not like we’ve been talking about purses and lipstick and manicures here. Is it because sports-talk is a non-HR domain? Well, I consider that pretty doubtful… see here, and here, and here.
Sports analogies within business and HR are alive and well and certainly applicable and I even wrote a guest post myself. I always find these comparisons fascinating. I enjoy thinking and talking about acquiring the right talent, executing at key moments, attributes of managers/coaches, and the need to deliver results and WIN! I may even, occasionally, get passionate about “killing,” “annihilating,” and “crushing” the opponent. (I admit to using those phrases during SB 44…while sprinkling in a few choice curse words.)
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Years ago, I attended various workshops where we talked about ‘toning down’ the sports analogies at work. This was necessary, we were told, because it perpetuated a climate of exclusion against an entire subset (gender) of employees. We were informed that the manager who insisted upon ‘huddling’ with the team or ‘going on the offense’ might just be indulging in subtle discrimination because his female employees had never had the opportunity to play football.
But maybe the concept of exclusion is no longer a relevant topic. Does talking about sports at work, or in a business context, still exclude women from key opportunities or decisions as much as it did in the past? The passage of Title IX in 1972 finally provided girls with the opportunity to participate in sports as much as the boys and laid the foundation for a workplace where lack of participation in a competitive spo
rts environment was no longer a barrier for entry to the C-suite or the boardroom. It means that most women under the age of 50 have probably had the opportunity to fully participate in sports.
But then I wondered – when individual females move into middle management and upper management positions, is it still possible that their career path remains blocked because they DON’T get to attend the outings on the golf course, or the after-work trip (with dinner perhaps) at the squash or tennis club? A friend of mine, a Senior HR Manager, was recently invited to join a team for a charity golf event (scramble), playing alongside 3 of her company’s top executives. However, her boss later DIS-invited her when a male counterpart became available.
Full disclosure here – my first thought upon hearing the story was, “well, good for her! At least she got invited!” Almost immediately, however, I mentally slapped myself and thought, “Holy crap! She was DIS-invited? WTH?”
Ultimately then, it brings me around to asking – when managers or leaders at a company (or even co-workers for that matter) engage in sports talks or sports activities, does it promote an exclusionary culture? And if so, of course, it’s more than a male/female issue. I know lots of men who could care less about sports.
I guess it’s still necessary to be mindful that sports-analogies or sports-activities will not resonate with everyone in the workplace. The manager who discusses talented employees acting like Brett Favre-esque prima donnas, may not find that her point is understood by all team members. I would imagine that our view of work, management, and the employment experience would be different if we used the language of crafting or art or literature rather than sports. And if Joe CEO and his Executive Team conducted business at a gallery opening rather than on the 19th hole, we may have a whole different concept of business deals and networking.
So let’s just embrace scrapbooking as the next great workplace analogy – assembling the right materials, using one’s creativity, putting things in the right place with a heightened sense of artistic composition.
I bet scrapbooks probably last longer that golf scorecards.
p.s. For the record, I wouldn’t know how to scrapbook to save my life!
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