Cover image for The male mind at work : a woman's guide to working with men
The male mind at work : a woman's guide to working with men
Swiss, Deborah J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Perseus Pub., [2000]

Physical Description:
ix, 240 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Reading Level:
1070 Lexile.
Format :


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HD6053 .S886 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Knowledge is a powerful tool. The Male Mind at Work answers troublesome and intriguing questions about how men behave on the job. This thought-provoking book shatters myths about what really goes on in the male mind while confirming for women the realities about gender differences that have always existed. It offers clear strategies for women who feel frustrated and confused because male colleagues speak a different language or play by different rules, and contains valuable truths about the male psyche so that woman can more effectively operate in the workplace.By looking through this gender lens, a woman will gain a better understanding of the male perspective in order to network with men, manage a difficult male colleague, boss, or subordinate, and compete with confidence. The Male Mind at Work arms women with the power to use this knowledge effectively-without sacrificing their own identities and personal strengths.You won't find this unique and surprising information anywhere else-it's gleaned from firsthand interviews and original research. The Male Mind at Work reveals surprising insights from male CEOs and executives and presents very specific advice women can use to enhance their careers including: o How successful men approach and handle power struggles with their female colleagues o What some prominent male CEOs view as their most effective business traits and how they use their gender to cultivate them o How men are able to put on a game face to conceal guilt and channel emotion o Ways men enjoy working with women and how female colleagues make them furious o How women can learn from the achievements and missteps of men without sacrificing their own feminine identity

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

What could have been a breakthrough book for working women who want to hone their skills for success turns out to be little more than a lackluster attempt to interpret and explain men's attitudes toward women in the workplace, one that won't generate much word of mouth despite its compelling subject. Swiss (Women and the Work/Family Dilemma; Women Breaking Through) interviewed 52 successful men in a range of professions and influential positions to elicit candid opinions about their experiences with female colleagues. Most of this group assembled by Swiss, a management consultant on gender equity, are singularly unenlightened men who focus on women's lack of confidence and reluctance to take risks or make mistakes, and who emphasize the importance of competitive sports in making team players; these men also clearly feel (and resent) the need to be careful in their language and behavior. Although she does a fine job extracting and cogently organizing the essence of their thinking, the results will dishearten most readers. To help women map their career tactics effectively, Swiss supplies a series of "code breakers," or brief strategic suggestions ("Act self-assured, even when you're not") and familiar advice ("Choose your battles carefully"). Unfortunately, her examples lack color, dimension and insight. Not all of her subjects regard women poorly, but by the time she gets to "the top 10 reasons men like working with women," most readers will have given up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Obviously aimed at working women, these two books explore how women manage to hold themselves back in the workplaceDand how they can change such counterproductive behavior. But the books approach their topic in vastly different ways. Kafrissen, an organizational psychologist with Fortune 500 clients, and Shusman, a counseling psychologist and clinical associate at the University of Pennsylvania, posit that women tend to bring the roles they grew up with to the workplace. They identify six rolesDthe Peacekeeper, Maverick, Pleaser, Caregiver, Survivor, and EntrepreneurDand explain the pluses and minuses of staying in these roles once one has left the family. The authors include worksheets so that readers can decide how their roles are inhibiting or advancing their careers. They also provide some cognitive and behavioral exercises that readers can use to help break out of the negative aspects of their roles. Management consultant Swiss (Women and the Work/Family Dilemma) has a completely different focus. She interviewed 52 men to find out what they really think about working with women. Some men gave repulsive answers, such as those who still propagate double standards (e.g., he's "got balls," she's "a bitch"). Others offered surprising views for the 21st century, for example, the 34-year-old who said he would "rather there were not women working here." All of the answers were fascinating, however, and Swiss does a great job of weaving the quotes together to make broad points. She also gives hints, which she calls "codebreakers," on how women can get ahead with the information she imparts here. Both these books are recommended for any public library. Swiss's book is particularly recommended as a sociological study of the "old boy's club," although it lacks a bibliography of all of the books that she mentions.DPam Matthews, Gettysburg Coll. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One The Confidence Game Adding Swagger to Your Step "Women need to swagger," announced Eric Stephens, a vice president in the biotech industry. When I heard these words, I tried to put aside the first image that sprang to mind: a tough-looking woman striding into the conference-room doors with six-guns strapped to her hips. Shouldering aside a couple of men, she slaps the dust off her chaps and mutters: "Let's get down to business." No, Eric meant something quite different.     During a performance review with a woman he ranked as a star among his 150-person staff, he voiced only one criticism: "Jean, you need to swagger. You need to be more self-confident because you're better than you think you are." Using a specific example, Eric pointed to Jean's recent presentation capping off six months of sensitive negotiations and a signed business contract. "It was very earnest, but there was absolutely no swagger. There are times when swagger is called for." In Eric's view, a swagger expresses confidence, self-esteem, steadfast faith in yourself, a position that inspires others to take you seriously.     In Eric's mind, by adopting what he deems a weaker posture, Jean failed to project significant confidence to convince her audience that she fully controlled the situation. Eric's viewpoint boils down to packaging, rather than substance. "She is incredibly well-qualified, has excellent business judgment, works very hard, and is very competitive," Eric insists. "She is typically better informed and better prepared than most people. But she needs to do a better job of making that information known to everybody. She gave a presentation today in which she took the senior management of the company through an excellent summary of a major business development deal--very sensitive negotiations that she handled extremely well. The only thing missing was that she didn't broadcast more of a sense of assurance." Eric says the predominantly male group did not fully grasp Jean's exceptional competence simply because she did not transmit self-assurance in a way they would understand.     Eric's advice for Jean says a lot about how men evaluate business associates. If women dominated the management team, would they measure confidence and competence the same way? Eric's observation that Jean is better than she thinks she is opens up an interesting line of inquiry. When it comes to judging a person's ability, how significantly does style weigh into the equation?     When a man enters a business meeting, he usually encounters a majority who basically look and act the same way he does. A woman, on the other hand, often enters an environment where the majority look and act differently. The men measure both the man and the woman with the same yardstick. The more swagger they see, the more respect they feel. For men, swagger can include bragging and touting accomplishments in order to form bonds with other men, while for women, such showing off may get in the way of establishing interpersonal connections with other women. Eric's judgment about Jean echoed a theme I heard from many men. In their eyes, women do not always clothe their solid substance with a style men applaud and understand. In fact, some men went a step further when musing about women and the confidence factor, bluntly asserting: "Women need more self-esteem."     Joe Leghorn, an attorney who has mentored many women and men, obsbrves: "I think a fair number of women have self-confidence issues. I encourage them to believe in themselves, reminding them that men tend to bluff their way through anything." Mark Kramer, a college professor, says: "I see more confidence in men than I do in women." For some men, believing in yourself matters as much as the quality of your decision. In Mark's view: "It's OK to be wrong. I'd rather you be confident and wrong. At least you're taking a stand." Several men readily admitted that they believe a man can get away with more mistakes than a woman can, partly, it seems, because a mistake does not take the swagger out of a man's stride as much as it does a woman's. Why? Largely because, as men told me, women are often held to a higher performance standard.     Without a doubt, bluffing your way through a situation can serve a man well. A career counselor once described the phenomenon beautifully. Men, she said, feel perfectly comfortable applying for a job for which they possess only 50 percent of the requisite skills. Women, she said, only feel comfortable if they possess 70 percent of the necessary skills. In the course of conducting interviews for this book, I ran across one man in the midst of a job hunt. His strategy? Go for the jobs that he most wants, even if he lacks some of the stated requirements. "I'll go ahead and apply for the job. When the time comes, I'll grab a book on the subject and figure out what I don't know." That's another example of swagger: marching confidently into the bullring without a sharp sword. And why wouldn't men swagger, when their behavior is reinforced by unwritten rules that reflect the male code?     Work culture certainly plays a leading role in defining which communication styles will draw the most attention. Eric and Jean work in what he calls a "verbal food fight" culture. "There is a high noise level, and in order to play in that," he explains, "you have to be a little rough-and-tumble." Swagger helps. "You don't have to have the answers, but you have to be ready to dish it out. That qualifies you to be part of the crowd."     A supremely secure woman, however, may feel no need to flaunt her talent, adopting instead a less aggressive posture. Even as young girls, many women learn to act modestly about touting their abilities and accomplishments. A good girl just lets her talent speak for itself.     Concerning the typically male style of projecting assurance, Leslie Brody, associate professor of psychology at Boston University, cites twenty years of research that has consistently found that girls and boys view their accomplishments differently: "Boys--from elementary school through high school--rate themselves as more confident even when their actual performance scores on a test are the same as the girls'." Other studies, Leslie says, have examined how men and women rate the effect of boasting. "The women all felt that other women would dislike them and judge them as being smug." In marked contrast, Leslie observes, "The men didn't have any of these feelings and, in fact, they felt that the people they were boasting to would like them more. Men have no trouble saying 'I did this' and being proud of it." Of course, men expect other men to do likewise.     If a woman understands why men act the way they do, she can use that knowledge to diffuse the effect of objectionable workplace behaviors dictated by the male code. For example, once a woman acknowledges that men welcome verbal dueling among colleagues, she need not feel challenged by behaviors she might normally deem ridiculous.     Ever since Eric conveyed his learn-to-swagger advice to Jean, she has adopted a new perspective on the verbal games at work. Eric now observes: "Jean is much more comfortable challenging people when they come back to her with faulty arguments." While her level of inner confidence may have always been high, Jean now sees more clearly what it takes to reach her primarily male audience. With Eric's blunt feedback, Jean developed a style to showcase her talent, more effectively asserting herself among the noisy boys. Noisy Boys One eleven-year-old girl with an affinity for math described what she observed in her sixth-grade class: "The boys are jumping up and down raising both hands. And then they start yelling out the answers--which usually aren't even right. It's really annoying."     Bill Winn, a psychologist, suggests that from childhood on, girls confront the challenge of making themselves heard above "the noisy boys in the classroom who are encouraged to verbalize and assert their opinions, rightly or wrongly." This challenge, he says, follows many women into the workplace: "To the extent that this behavior continues in the office or board room, it may be seen as immodest, uncharacteristic, or unfeminine for a woman to assert herself--so she's hit by a kind of double whammy." If she remains quiet, no one hears her. If she imitates the boys and becomes too noisy, others may dismiss her as too pushy.     Many women feel like outsiders in the world where men practice their age-old rituals for proving their power. As I observed a young boy, probably seven or eight years old, heading toward a baseball field full of boys, I could not help but speculate how he might behave years later in a business suit. With arms swinging widely, chest puffed out, head held high, the boy jumped right into the game with a look that did not question, for even a second, his right to belong. In marked contrast, I have often seen young girls move cautiously, taking care not to disrupt the group and invite their disapproval. In a male-dominated setting such politeness sometimes becomes a liability, but just how far should a woman go in the direction of assertiveness?     Regardless of our degree of self-assurance, most of us let signals from our peers boost or erode our confidence. The words "rough-and-tumble" that Eric used to describe his workplace also fit one of the male cultural stereotypes. Even at a young age, boys compete with each other both as a way to bond with one another and as a way to establish relative positions in the boy hierarchy. Girls, on the other hand, try to equalize the status of all group members. As psychologist William Pollack observes in his book Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood , "Boys tend to engage in active, competitive games. Girls, on the other hand, tend to play cooperatively in smaller groups." For boys, he says, "taunting, boasting, and jousting with one another is part of the fun."     Pat Heim, a gender consultant, describes scenarios like this as "verbal chest beating." Men, she says, engage in this behavior as a means of establishing their position among other men. "The misconception comes when women label this as inappropriate behavior, not realizing that if you live in a hierarchy, you'd better do some chest beating or you end up at the bottom of the pyramid. And that's not a comfortable place for a man to be."     A hierarchical male culture emerges early on when young boys play together and forge friendships. Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey, authors of We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues Between Women and Men , observe that young boys focus on their power over, rather than connection to, others. "Groups fall into little patriarchies and hierarchies, with up-down, power-over rules and orders." Women, on the other hand, often rely on what Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don't Understand , terms "onedownmanship" to develop and solidify their relationships. By avoiding a game of oneupmanship, by evening out rather than asserting power, a woman establishes what Tannen describes as a symmetrical connection.     According to the male code, when men talk to one another, they expect interruption--in fact, they welcome and even value it. In contrast, suggests Tannen, interruption for a woman may signal impoliteness or a lack of control, stifling collegiality. Ironically, in a man's view, interruption equals control. In staff meetings, Ray Ingalls, a business manager, sees a consistent pattern of men ignoring or talking over the few women in the room. "Women are easily overlooked if they don't speak out," he observes. "If women don't offer their opinion, no one is going to ask them, but men will ask other men." To make herself heard, suggests Ray, a woman must overcome her resistance to interrupting and speak out forcefully, symbolically beating her chest, if necessary.     Many men never outgrow the habit of using noisy interactions to test each other's mettle. As Eric explains: "You have to be willing to go toe-to-toe and get very argumentative." Half the time, he says, the other person does not want to express a strong conviction as much as he wants to see what you're made of.     At the beginning of our conversation, Eric told me that he rates the women in his department as top performers: "The women have star quality. The guys are only working on it." Why, then, did he urge Jean to develop some swagger? To level the playing field. As Eric knows, less qualified men can project more confidence than more highly qualified women. The Mask of Invulnerability Do boys generally receive more early reinforcement about the value and power of confident behavior? According to psychologist Leslie Brody, they do, partly because they have enjoyed a position of gender superiority since the first time they played with girls on the playground. When I asked Leslie to comment on whether men actually possess more confidence than women or whether they simply act that way, she responded: "Both are true. Men probably are more confident than women, and they also are better at masking any fears or doubts they may have."     Early in their lives, little boys become fully schooled in what it means to command power and status. Leslie explains: "Girls learn very early on to believe that they are viewed as lower status and less powerful. That undermines confidence." In part, this happens through the physical dominance that boys usually exert in their play.     From about adolescence on, a girl may experience varying levels of belief in herself and her abilities. In contrast to this experience, Barry Walker, an attorney, says: "I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't fundamentally secure about what I was doing." Barry also admits: "Walking into new circumstances with new people, with new duties and responsibilities, you always have some level of doubt. But then your natural being comes out and you have enough faith in your mental acuity or your articulateness or your leadership skills to overcome the angst that is created by a challenging environment."     By the time men enter the workplace, the "I must carry myself confidently" strategy has become second nature. Many men point to their junior high years as the pivotal point when confidence began to play a crucial role in their behavior. Eric comments, "In junior high, boys get schooled in affecting more self-confidence than the girls, even if you don't have it." To win the boys' game, at work and at play, you need confidence, whether based on substance or not.     Confidence spawns a sense of control, both over self and circumstances. Even when it comes fairly late in a man's development, it serves as a dominant factor in social interactions. Paul Meyers, a thirty-two-year-old CEO, described his experience of lacking confidence in middle school, then acquiring it later in life, as something that drives him today: "I was absolutely not confident growing up. I was a fat teenager who had the crap beaten out of me in middle school." He does, however, take great pride in the fact that he has managed to achieve overwhelming success in his career.     Paul believes that at some level men suffer fears about success and achievement, even if they don't show it. The differences in how they handle fear, he thinks, result from cultural expectations about behavior. "By the time boys hit middle school, we figure out that if you show your true feelings, somebody is going to beat the hell out of you--or torment you psychologically."     As someone responsible for a $50 million company, Paul now appreciates the usefulness of masking feelings of fear and self-doubt. When, for instance, he was engineering a major business deal, Paul needed to engage in some behind-the-scenes maneuvering or risk losing the contract. Throughout the process, despite a certain amount of anxiety, he strove to convey confidence to all concerned, especially his employees: "Part of my goal was to keep the troops in line, and in that effort, it becomes incredibly important not to panic and show fear," he says. "No matter how panicked the sales group got, I kept saying: 'OK, we're going to work through this. I am going to help you take care of it.'"     When telling this story, Paul likens himself to a pilot winging his plane through extreme turbulence: "You figure you're going to crash and the pilot may have wet his pants, but he sits there and calmly says: 'Don't worry. This is normal.' The pilot may be going berserk, but if he's cool, it takes some of the pressure off and you're cool." That mask of invulnerability represents a critical leadership skill, says Paul. "No matter how scared I am, or how much I think there is no way in hell we're going to pull this one off, I can't let my people feel that."     One business owner and former marine described that leadership skill in terms of a battlefield experience: "You can never let the enemy detect fear. If you doubt yourself for even one second, you could lose your life." In other words, skills, without confidence, mean nothing.     In answer to the question "Do men feel more secure or do they just act that way?" Barry Walker responded immediately: "We appear to be less woundable. We're great actors. Absolutely wonderful actors. We are no more secure than a woman of equal position. We just make it appear that we are. And part of the time we convince ourselves that we are."     For boys, the appearance of control also determines whether they succeed socially during their first interactions with members of the opposite sex. Paul remembers: "The guys who had the most success with women were the guys who had confidence." From an early age, he equated confidence with power: "There is something about confidence that is palpable in people. It sometimes gets mistaken as charisma, but there is a level of confidence that must be anthropological in nature."     Eric, recalling this defining period in his own life, talks of the adolescent days when nothing mattered more than peer approval. A quest for acceptance fueled his intense drive to act cool, confident, and in control, even when he felt exactly the opposite. For him, bragging provided both power and protection. As William Pollack, the psychologist, points out, bragging amounts to little more than "a façade of confidence and bravado that boys erect to hide what they perceive as a shameful sense of vulnerability."     Although external bravado may signal more internal vulnerability, standing your ground and steadfastly holding your own becomes an early measure of manhood. "Men have been taught to act more secure because you have to carry 'attitude' when you're playing sports or hanging out with a bunch of guys," Eric says. "If you sit there betraying your insecurity, there is a pack impulse that takes over."     Eric recalls a boy, desperate for approval, who overtly showed his vulnerability to the in-crowd. "Let's see how far we can get him to twist himself," became the group's refrain whenever this boy tried to join them. "After this happened three or four times, people had totally lost respect for him." In this context, a mask of invulnerability might have shielded the boy from derision and prompted greater acceptance.     Insights like Eric's offer clues for women about how and why men so fervently hide any hint of insecurity. By understanding the mask of invulnerability, women can learn to look beneath it for true male feelings, and they can even borrow it to succeed in situations when that stance is required. The Shield of Confidence Would men bother with projecting a secure demeanor if doing so didn't get results? Jim Barnes, a senior vice president at a brokerage firm, answered that question succinctly when he said: "Confidence is a huge issue when there's $20 million on the table." Referring to potential clients who size him up carefully when it comes to turning over their money to him, he says: "We listen to them, but we are also very definitive in making recommendations with great confidence. We don't want them walking out the door wondering 'Geez, is what they're recommending OK? I'm not sure they think so.'"     Whenever Dean Mechlowitz, a sales manager, walks into a meeting, with his boss or a client, he somehow always projects an aura of authority with few words and no noisy bravado. Having watched Dean in action, I asked him directly: "Do you ever doubt yourself?" He immediately responded: "No." Then he added with a knowing smile: "Never."     After Dean described his career history, I asked him, "At any point in your work life, have you said to yourself 'I can't do this', or 'I'm not sure I can do this'?" Again, he answered with a definitive "No." Throughout our conversation, Dean displayed a level of self-assurance that summarily dismisses fear, sponsors boldness, and reinforces the strong positions he dares to take.     Early in our interview, Dean alerted me that we might be interrupted by a call about a big telecommunications deal. When the phone rang, I could not help but note how he responded to the potential customer: "I hear what you're saying, but here's what we're able to do from our end. Call me back at three and we'll talk again." He sounded so confident, I might have bought swampland in Florida from him. (Continues...) Excerpted from THE MALE MIND AT WORK by DEBORAH J. SWISS. Copyright © 2000 by Deborah J. Swiss. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1 The Confidence Game--Adding swagger to your stepp. 7
2 Nothing Personal--Putting on the game facep. 35
3 The Double-Edged Sword--Balancing feminine and masculine traitsp. 67
4 Excess Baggage--Maneuvering adversity and adversariesp. 97
5 Insult and Inquiry--Mixed signals and the great gender dividep. 125
6 Reality Check--Top-10 reasons men like working with womenp. 159
7 Good Men at the Top--Secrets of strong leadersp. 183
8 Conclusion--Opening the gender lensp. 205
Notesp. 227
Indexp. 231