Danger! Men at Work

Danger! Men at Work

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As if men weren’t difficult enough to deal with in our personal lives, we have to figure them out in the office, too. Of course, we can’t fight like we do with our guys, or pout our lips when we want something, but there are ways to get through the workday with the impossible men we work with. Pam Sackenheim, a Cincinnati-based professor of Human Relations, tells Cincy Chic how to weather the testosterone cloud looming over you.

Professional, Friendship or More?

Having friends at your place of employment can make the work day pass more quickly, but what about that one guy? He might be the co-worker in the office next to you, your break buddy or a term better known from King of Queens, your "work husband." How exactly can you decipher when he just wants to help you out or is looking to ask you out? Sackenheim offers some simple advice: "Professional relationships stay at work. Talk is about business, there is no relationship outside the workplace. Friendship on the other hand carries over outside the office. Talk is less serious and covers a wide variety of subjects."

So you know when things are strictly professional and how to keep it that way, but what about when you want to have a friendship and nothing more? Sometimes it can be hard to form a friendship without leading the guy to think you want him. Sackenheim says to avoid talk about home and personal problems at all costs and to keep the talk light. She suggests talking about subjects that are "neutral territory," such as sports, favorite restaurants or hangouts.

Keep Out!

There is nothing more frustrating than going into 2008 and being treated like its 1950. It’s wild to think that men still act and feel as though they are superior to women; but once again, that testosterone comes into play.

Sackenheim feels that the top three barriers or conflicts that women face with men in their workplace are:


  • Most men do not like women to be "better" than they are. It's a natural competition
  • Men like to be in control and have subordinates come to them for solutions
  • It is difficult for men to let women into the "good ol' boy's club"

Another frustrating thing is when guys have athletic teams or betting pools that don’t include women — never mind the fact that women are slowly becoming half the fan base of many sports leagues. (We all love our Carson and Chad, don’t we?)

When the men in your office start planning their teams and placing their bets, Sackenheim suggests organizing a woman’s team or your own pool. "The men may see that there is some competition on the ‘other side’." "Remember," says Sackenheim, "men like to compete and they like to win." My suggestion: If you aren’t competitive and are just looking for something fun, try something more tame. Organize a book club or scrap booking session and leave the competition for the board room.

*It's Not Easy Being Beautiful

Being a woman certainly has its advantages. We got off of the Titanic first, we get to tee off a hole of golf about 25 yards ahead of the men’s mark and we live longer. However, while climbing up the ladder of success, some men use the fact you are a woman to step on you on their way to the top.

Men are competitive and want to win, and women are easy targets. Like women, men talk, too. Sackenheim agrees that women are seen as inferior by men, and that we are judged on our female characteristic rather than what we know or our abilities. "In talking, comments are made at the expense of women such as their dress, femininity, demeanor and physical attributions." Her tip for women on this: watch your performance appraisals for inappropriate comments which may limit movement in the company.

Five Tips on Setting Boundaries

Sackenheim suggests these tips on keeping relationships clear with the guys you work with:


  • Stay away from discussing home and personal problems; This invites them into your personal life.
  • Watch what subjects are discussed
  • Watch gestures, movements, and eye contact (aka "the come on look")
  • Don’t tease
  • Set the limits of your friendship

Sometimes guys just don’t get the hint, or they blantently cross the line. Sackenheim says its time to report or go to Human Resources for:


  • Repeated remarks about dress, physical assets, etc.
  • Inappropriate sexist remarks
  • Discrepancies in pay related to gender
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Inappropriate remarks made on performance appraisals
  • Inappropriate e-mails
  • Anything which makes you uncomfortable, but make sure you have solid proof

Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Location: Fischer Homes Lifestyle Design Center
Models: Missy Scalia, Matt Reinhardt