How Women Can Create Support from Male Colleagues in the Workplace

Here’s an interesting story that I recently read in the Huffington Post. This real-life experience in the workplace created support from a male supervisor for his female direct report. Their experience developed from an e-mail error that they decided not to correct for a few days for the purpose of learning. Any pair of female/male colleagues could try this kind of experiment to see what happens. Here is the story:

One day the male supervisor, Martin, sent an e-mail to a client from the e-mail account that he shared with his female colleague. The client sent a rude and dismissive response, which surprised Martin. This same client had never been rude or dismissive to him in past communications. Then he noticed that, by mistake, he had sent the e-mail to this client using Nicole’s signature. When he told the client that he was Martin, not Nicole, the client became very respectful and receptive to the information Martin had shared.

This change in attitude surprised Martin, but not Nicole. They decided to switch their names on e-mail signatures for two weeks to see what would happen. Repeatedly, clients questioned Martin’s knowledge and experience. Martin took twice as long as Nicole to complete client consultations. In the meantime, Nicole, writing as Martin, breezed through her client calls because she did not have to convince clients that she knew what she was doing. Shocked by how clients had treated him during the experiment, Martin realized that, as a man, he has an “invisible advantage.” He then stood up for Nicole to their boss, who had complained that Nicole took too long to resolve client issues. Martin now understands what Nicole often has to deal with and is an ally.

Could you use more support at work from your male coworkers? Perhaps you could run a similar experiment for a few days, creating awareness and support from a male colleague or two. As women working in predominantly male environments, we need all the support we can get. If you give this a try, let us know what happens.

Anne Litwin, Ph.D. is an Organizational Development and Human Resources Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together.’

Originally published at annelitwin.com on April 17, 2017.

Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together', OD Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Workshop Trainer