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business likeA key driver of differences in masculine and feminine workplace behavior is in what relationships mean — and how we view relationships at work. The masculine view of relationships is represented by the prototype Max. The feminine approach is represented by Fran, also a prototype. (Both Max and Fran can be either a man or a woman.)

Because of differences in brain structure, Fran shares intimacies with friends. Because of the hormone oxytocin, a bonding hormone, she experiences deep bonds. At the unconscious level, relationships are a matter of survival. As a result, Fran expects close, personal relationships, including at work.

Because of differences in brain structure and having more testosterone than oxytocin, Max is more comfortable talking about things than feelings; and he bonds with his buddies more through competition than talking. Because he tends to think more hierarchically, he bases workplace relationships on a person’s role more than on personal connection.

There are both advantages and limitations of both approaches. Max’s approach is good at work in that he need not like someone to work with him or her. Max can separate business and personal issues. He tends to take conflict less personally and get over it faster.

Fran’s approach is warmer and builds engagement and trust. Today’s younger generations prefer a workplace that has a sense of community, an outcome of Fran’s approach.

On the negative side, Max’s approach can seem cool or superficial. He may miss real and important personal aspects of a business issue. Fran’s avoidance of co-workers whom she does not like is a real limitation. Sometimes personal issues do not belong at work. And taking things personally can get in the way of normal workplace conflict.

Inclusive leaders who value gender diversity understand and appreciate the strengths of both approaches.

What strengths and limitations of the two approaches would you add?