You Are Uncomfortable? Good. A Question of Empathy for the Men.
Either in casual conversations, or, the more formal type of which I get paid, I hear men talking of their discomfort and confusion around women in the workplace.
I empathise. I occasionally have those feelings too.
The discomfort stems from being not sure what to say or do around women; the risk of being offensive, awkward, misinterpreted, castigated and judged by an act or omission.
Gentleman, our discomfort is to assist our empathy.
Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.
As far as I can tell, for many decades, women have been uncomfortable and not sure what to say or do around men in the workplace; the risk of being offensive, awkward, misinterpreted, castigated and judged by an act or omission has been ever present.
She wonders and experiences discomfort and disempowerment about:
“Shall I laugh at that coarse joke, or risk being seen as uptight or no fun?”
“How on earth do I deal with that boss or colleague who has just patted me on the arse at this work function? Do I say anything or do I let it slide and pretend it didn’t happen?”
“Do I mention the culture of laddishness, or just pretend I’m OK with it and pretend to be one of the boys?
“Should I mention that my leaders constantly refer to the staff as the ‘lads or the boys’ omitting the fact that the females seem to be invisible?
“Do I call out the day-to-day casual sexism, or do I bottle it up and seethe in silence and why are all the work activities male orientated – spare me another boys Golf match!?”
“How do I deal with it when a man takes credit for an idea that I have just said in a meeting but no one heard me?”
These are everyday questions, creating everyday moments of discomfort and awkwardness for women. Not pleasant.
Women have been dealing with this awkwardness since they entered the workplace and now men are complaining that they can no longer say what they want without thinking.
The least we can do (and I do mean the least) is to feel our own ‘newly found’ discomfort and start making it a fairer and healthier workplace for everyone.