Five Errors that Martians Make in Motivating Venusians in the Workplace - and What to Do About It
By Dr. Robert Schwarz
If you have read the title of this article and you are open to reading more, you have already conquered the first problem that men sometimes have. The first problem is admitting that there might be a problem where the accountability is in the man. The dominant culture of work is Martian. The influx of women into the workplace is still a relatively recent phenomenon.
Since the work culture is Martian, Martians tend to think that Venusians need to learn Martian customs. Furthermore, there is the propensity to believe that Martians are not responsible for the inevitable problems of miscommunication between men and women.
Many Martians do not even realize that there is a problem related to gender differences. Women do need to learn some of the customs on Mars. Nevertheless, the wise Martian who is interested in learning leadership skills comes to recognize that he can increase his personal effectiveness, the effectiveness of his team and company by learning the needs and communication styles of Venusians.
Before we get into the meat of the matter, we must make a few distinctions between Men and Martians as well as Women and Venusians. Men and women each have Martian and Venusian sides. Martian refers to masculine energies. In terms of Eastern ideas, it is the Yang of Yin and Yang. Venusian refers to feminine energies, the yin side of the equation.
When you read this article, you will be thinking of various women at work. In the work world, many women have learned how to develop their Martian side. The ideas presented here will not appear to fit as well with a woman who has developed a strong Martian side. The ideas being suggested here will appear to apply better to women who are still on their Venusian side.
Furthermore, the ideas being presented here will also work well in certain situations with Martians. This is particularly true with the skill of listening. The deeper message of this article is that he who has the most flexibility and understanding in communicating will be the most successful. As a reader of this article, your job is to think about how to apply some of these ideas to solve specific difficult situations in your work life.
The 5 errors are:
Error #1) Thinking that there are no gender communication problems. Or if there are any problems, it is not the responsibility of men to help solve them.
Error #1) Thinking that there are no gender communication problems. Or if there are any problems, it is not the responsibility of men to help solve them. I have already pointed out that if you are suffering from this problem, you probably have not even gotten to this point in the article. If you have gotten to this point and you are basically critical of this premise, you probably do have some of this problem. So let me speak in a strong Martian dialect. This mistake is going to cost you or your company big time. There are significant productivity losses due to low morale and stress. Certain companies in the United States are in major lawsuits about gender diversity issues. The potential direct cost of legal loss for a single incident is back pay and up to about $500,000 in fines. The potential indirect loss can be much higher due to a tarnished image that can turn away customers, potential business partners, or potential or current talented employees.
Acknowledge the problem. Deal with the problem. You and your company will be more successful.
Error #2) Not knowing how to listen to a Venusian. The single biggest mistake that men make in work and their personal relationships is the failure to listen well and gain rapport without solving problems right away. Let me say this again: The single biggest mistake that men make in work and their personal relationships is the failure to listen well and gain rapport without solving problems right away. Two of the great leadership skills are knowing how to motivate people and teaching people how to solve their own problems. Learning how to listen is one of the key skill sets of all great leaders. Listening works with both men and women.
When people feel heard and understood all types of previously closed possibilities open up. The big mistake that a Martian makes in dealing with a Venusian is that he will listen for a few moments to the problem being described and immediately jump into giving solutions. This can be in terms of internal problems or even making a sale. The more you interrupt and solve problems without letting a Venusian finish describing the problem the more you will be adding to her stress rather than reducing it.
By listening without interrupting and without solving any problems a Martian will be scoring valuable points with a colleague, staff member, or customer. In situations of stress in the office, when a Venusian is complaining, most times she simply wants to feel heard and validated. Simply saying, �You are right this really tough deadline � is gold to a Venusian under stress. You do not have to do anything else. She will perceive you as supportive and helpful.
Another important point to learn is that Venusians generally do not tell you the most important issue first. So even if you solve the first two problems you will not find out about the deeper more important issue. Ask a few short questions that elicit more information about the types of concerns that the person has. These can be as simple as �What other concerns do you have? Or, are there other things in the office that are getting in your way? �
Even if a woman is upset and asking you to do something, before you go ahead and respond to the doing end of things, you and she will be a lot happier in the end if you make a statement such as, �Before we decide to do something, I think we should talk more about what is bothering you so that I can really understand. � Then you listen more. There are few guarantees in life. You are guaranteed to win more by listening more.
This even applies to sales. Refrain from immediately telling a prospective customer how well your product will solve her problem. Ask her about her problems. Listen to her concerns. Demonstrate that you understand those concerns. Only after you have done all of this do you say how your product will solve the problem. (The bigger the ticket price the more likely the customer will be on their Venusian side, male or female.)
Error #3) Focusing too much time and placing too much value on tasks and not enough on relationships. This particular Martian error is more prevalent in the high-speed fast-paced American world than in the Orient. Anyone who does business in the Orient knows that there is a cultural difference along these lines. The same issue applies to the cultures of Mars and Venus. Building and managing relationships are becoming more and more important in the work world. Managers who are leaders understand this. Taking time to listen (correction of error 2) about relationship concerns is a key way to keep Venusians motivated.
The current concern of balancing work-life issues is another iteration of the Mars (masculine/Yang) Venus (feminine/Yin) dichotomy. Even if a man does not complain about long hours, his wife and family will complain. Companies need to help Martians give enough attention to the relationships in their lives. If they do not, both the company and the Martian will lose out (not to mention the family). Sooner or later that man is going to be a less motivated employee. He certainly is going to perform more poorly as his family life falls apart.
Another variation other than listening is to comment or do something that is not task-oriented. If a woman comments about her sick child on Monday, it is a good thing to ask how little Daniel is doing on Tuesday. The main problem for some Martians is that they will think that the time spent on listening or maintaining a good relationship could be better spent focusing on the task at hand.
While you cannot focus on relationships to the exclusion of getting the job done, it is not a zero-sum game. By consistently spending small amounts of time on the relationship productivity goes up.
Error #4) Assuming and expecting that if a woman is unhappy about something at work she will come to you without being asked. The culture on Mars is that if you have a problem or issue or need you either take care of it yourself or decide to ask for help. The culture on Venus is that you take responsibility for making sure that others are OK, with the expectation that they will do the same for you.
On Venus, if someone in your team does not take the time to make sure that you are doing well, this is taken as a sign of lack of caring and concern. On Mars it just the opposite. It would be taken as a sign of lack of trust and disrespect if a team member checked up too much on another person.
A Venusian will wait to tell her colleague or boss that something is a problem or that she is unhappy until she is asked, �How are things going? Are there any problems? Can I help you with something? � Until that happens she will either just keep on working, until she gets sick or decides to leave. Or she may make some minimal hints that something is wrong that most Martians will not even notice.
To make matters worse, even if asked if there is something wrong, a Venusian under stress will sometimes not say much about what is bothering her. She expects that if you really want to know you will pick up on the minimal things and keep asking her questions and draw her out. A Martian boss hears that there is nothing wrong, and thinks that this is great, and then goes about his business.
If it is a small thing he hears, he offers a quick solution and then gets back to his work. The Venusian comes to believe that she cannot really say what is on her mind. Over time her motivation and productivity will diminish.
One of the ironies is that a woman who is trying to fit into the Martian way of being will be the one who tries to say that nothing is bothering her. After all, that is what men do. She does not want to be perceived as needy or whiny. The problem is that for many women this backfires. After a period of time the pressure builds up and then some small thing happens and they explode with all this feeling and angst. The Martian response to this is exactly what she fears.
So, there are 3 steps that a manager or colleague can do to help in reducing the stress of a Venusian and increase productivity. First, make a clear statement such as this, �Mary I want to know if you have problems or concerns that prevent you from doing your job well. From time to time, I will be checking in with you about this. Of course, if something is bothering you before I check in with you please come and tell me. �
Second, do what you said you were going to do. You can ask Mary what would be a good frequency for checking in, once a week or once a month. If there is an intense job the frequency could be once or twice a day. Third, when you do ask how things are going, make sure you do it in a way that is not rushed. Use the listening skills described above.
Error #5) Assuming and expecting that like a man, a woman will underline her own accomplishments, and if she does not proclaim her own deeds then she did not really do much. At a talk I recently gave, a woman in the audience came up afterward and thanked me for helping her understand something that drove her crazy. She was a partner with her husband. She would refer to clients as �our clients �. On Venus, everything is shared. He would refer to them as �My clients �. On Mars, accomplishments are perceived as done by the individual. She tended to feel slighted and undervalued. So one obvious thing to do to improve morale is to make sure that credit is shared with the Venusians involved.
In work, a woman assumes that her male boss or colleagues will notice the details of the things she has done. So there is no point in bragging. The problem is that if a woman does ten things to make the office function better, her boss is not likely to notice this, precisely because there was no problem. He assumes that she would tell him about all the things that she did to improve productivity because that is what he would do.
He will tend to undervalue her accomplishments if she does not tell him about those accomplishments. Over time, she will be less motivated to excel at work. There can be increased tension and bickering rather than cooperation.
To rectify this situation, a man can do the following. A) He can commit to paying attention to the things that Venusians do around the office.
Not every idea here will apply to everyone. Pay attention to the gender communication styles in your office. You will discover, which of these ideas apply to you and your colleagues and staff. Take one week and work on even one of the issues in a concentrated manner. You will discover for yourself that your effectiveness as a communicator and as a manager or leader will increase.