Two colleagues are shooting the breeze before a meeting. One says, with a mischievous grin,” Hey, are you going to give us an update on that special project of yours that’s limping along?” Somewhere else in the building, two other colleagues are wrapping up a meeting, one points to a fresh stain on an otherwise pristine shirt and says, “You’d think I would know by now how to eat in a meeting without getting it all over me. I mean, really!”
No, this isn’t the setup for a joke, it’s a little quiz. In which scenario were the two participants women and in which scenario were they men? Easy, right?
In a recent discussion I facilitated with a women’s network leadership team, about acclimating to their “very male executive culture” one of the participants, Beth, said that her internal client group, all men, often took “little jabs” at each other, putting each other down in a joking way. While she viewed this as competitive and mean-spirited, soon enough she found herself poking fun at these guys in the same way. She continued, “So, in a way I was adapting to the group’s culture; but I wasn’t using this kind of humor to put anyone down. I was using it as a way of connecting with them, being one of them.” Then Beth added, “I feel uncomfortable though because I don’t want to tacitly condone their behavior. I would never even think of using this kind of humor with female colleagues.”