Are you saying women don’t already know that?”
The businessman sitting next to me in first class looked at me in disbelief. I was flying home from speaking at a women’s conference, and we were only a few minutes into the usual “what do you do?” airplane conversation. Then I shared something that apparently stunned him. I had explained that I was a financial analyst by training, had worked on Wall Street, and was now, unexpectedly, an author, researcher, and speaker on relationships.
“I spent several years interviewing and surveying a few thousand men,” I explained. “My last book, For Women Only
, identifies ways men think and feel that women tend not to know.” He folded his arms across his chest and chuckled. “Okay,” he said, “hit me with one.”
So I shared one of my findings about men: They need respect so much, and find inadequacy so painful, that they would give up feeling loved if they could just feel respected. When I confirmed that even the most astute women may not know that particular truth about men, his amusement turned to disbelief. “That explains something!” he said finally. “You see, I’m a corporate trainer and consultant. Fortune 100 corporations bring me in to help with leadership
and strategy at the highest levels of the organization. And all too often I see skilled and talented women sabotage their careers because they treat the men they work with in a way that no man would treat another man.” He looked at me with awakening interest. “But from what you’re telling me, these women probably don’t even realize that is what they are doing.”
I already had out my notebook and pen. “Can you give me an example?”
“I’ll give you an example of something that just happened a few hours ago.” For the next few minutes, he told me his story (which I’ll relay in a later chapter) and concluded, “I was so puzzled why this female executive would shoot herself in the foot like that! But perhaps she simply didn’t understand how her actions would be perceived by her colleagues—colleagues who were mostly men.”
WE DON’ T KNOW WHAT WE DON’ T KNOW
After eight years of researching how men think, I’m still surprised at how much we women don’t know about men—and how much this knowledge gap is affecting us at work and at home. As Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Lang memorably put it, “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And, because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how our failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”
That’s why I wrote this book. I want to show you those unwritten, unspoken, but very real male expectations and perceptions (including misperceptions!) that affect us every day at work, but that we would never otherwise know. As the opening conversation reveals, even as smart, experienced women, we can find ourselves being tripped up by obstacles we don’t know are there. Or perhaps we simply aren’t as influential as we could be, or aren’t experiencing
the rewarding, positive relationships that all of us want in the workplace. Based on my nationwide surveys and interviews with thousands of men, I can tell you that those dynamics are far more common that most women realize.
Whether you put in long hours at a Fortune 500 corporation or are a part-time volunteer in a ministry environment, the eyeopening insights you’re about to encounter have the potential to transform your approach to relationships on the job. Proverbs 24 says it is correct knowledge that fills the key places in our lives with “rare and beautiful treasures”—and I think you’ll find a correct understanding of men significantly improving not only your workplace
effectiveness and influence, but also your personal fulfillment.
HOW I GOT HERE
I first realized the need for this new understanding in 2001 when I was writing my novel The Lights of Tenth Street
; trying to figure out what my main male character would be thinking so I could put thoughts in his head. Talking to male colleagues or friends, I would describe a given workplace or home-life scene in the book, and ask, “What would you be thinking if this was you in this situation?” I was often stunned at the vital importance of what the men shared—and that after years of marriage and years of work in the male-dominated finance industry, I was hearing most of it for the first time.
I began a multiyear project to investigate and write about the vital surprises that we most need to know. The first book in the series, For Women Only
, focused on the personal-relationship side of things—and hit a nerve, selling one million copies in twenty different languages. Other research-based books for men, teens, and parents followed. But during that time, I continued to investigate the workplace application of the inner lives of men, eventually interviewing
and surveying more than three thousand men to get their candid impressions. I would strike up a conversation with the anonymous man next to me on the airplane or subway, or schedule interviews with high-level executives in whatever city I had a speaking engagement that week, guaranteeing anonymity in writing to ensure I heard their candid, unfiltered perceptions.
To quantify the results, over the years I also commissioned three nationally representative surveys of men of all ages, races, stages of life, and backgrounds—including one major survey specifically for the workplace—teaming up with the nationally respected companies Decision Analyst and Analytic Focus to ensure I got reliable data. (Chuck Cowan, the founder and president of Analytic Focus, and the former chief of survey design at the U.S. Census Bureau, has been my primary survey-design consultant for all my books. He explains the workplace survey’s methodology in appendix 1.) The complexity and depth of this long-term research process involved not only me but an entire team of staff researchers, specialists, and outside advisors.
The end result is this book, released in two editions that are similar in core content but different in title and audience. The primary, general-market edition is a large hardcover version titled The Male Factor
. When I speak at companies like Coca-Cola or Earthlink, that is the version I bring. (Take a look at The Male Factor
, or my main business-market website, www.TheMaleFactorBook.com.) But this edition, titled For Women Only in the Workplace, speaks primarily to readers looking for a Christian perspective, whether working in a secular or faith-based environment. Bonus features in
this edition include Discussion Questions for readers’ groups and an extra chapter, “Putting It in Perspective,” which provides practical insight from experienced Christian women who have navigated these issues for years. To achieve the unique perspective of this edition, and make space for the extra material, I edited, trimmed and rearranged some of The Male Factor content, judiciously edited some of the men’s quotes for space, and moved one of the chapters
(about big-picture observations from my research) to my website for this book, www.ForWomenOnlyWorkplace.com.
Excerpted from For Women Only in the Workplace by Shaunti Feldhahn. Copyright © 2009 by Shaunti Feldhahn. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.