3 Ways Men Undermine Themselves at Work

Are you one of those men who favors the use of sports analogies to explain everything from giving birth to taking over a third world country? Do you find nothing wrong with the fact that you chew your nails, tell dirty jokes and leave the toilet seat up?

If so, you may fit right in with the 12-year-olds at soccer camp, but in the world of work,you stick out like a foul-mouthed, ragged-nail, thoughtless slob who should never be put in charge of anything and certainly never worked with closely if it can be helped.

It’s something men don’t often realize: Their personal habits are often just offensive enough that women will avoid working with them. That means any great project spearheaded by a woman may omit such a man. Any female boss is likely to think twice about sending a man wearing a tie from 1985 and too much Aramis to meet with an important client.

While the majority of leaders (64%) are still men, a recent Zenger/Folkman survey found that women are ranked higher when it comes to what are seen as the competencies of top leaders: inspiring and motivating behavior; a talent for building relationships; and an ability to collaborate.

Many of those top competencies are because women often are more aware of how their personal behavior – from body language to grooming habits – affect those around them. While they are sometimes too attuned to others and squash some of their own assertiveness, their ability to put others at ease and encourage conversation are qualities more men should try to emulate.

For example, men may believe they’re doing nothing wrong when they crack their knuckles – or some other body part – in a meeting and don’t see why clipping their nails at their desk is such a big deal.

But every crack…crack….snip! is recorded by a woman. She notices smells – whether it’s your onion breath or the backpack that smells like the bottom of a gym locker – and that doesn’t encourage her to stop and chat with you about a big new project. She thinks that leaving the toilet seat up in a unisex bathroom signals disregard for others, so does she want you on her team with a big client?

If you’re a man, it’s time to get a clue about all the “no big deal” things that are definitely a big deal and may be stopping you from getting ahead. Among them:

• An inability to tie a tie. If your tie is uneven with a knot as big as your fist – or barely a knot at all – you need to get yourself to a department store where the guy in the suit department can give you a lesson. If your colleagues at work feel you can’t even tie a tie, they may wonder what other task are you unable to fulfill. And while you’re at it, make sure you keep your wardrobe updated – wearing a jacket not seen since Starsky and Hutch hit the streets may make you seem out of touch and worry higher-ups who expect you to keep abreast of current trends in the marketplace. Shoes are also a big deal. Bad shoes mean you’re clueless. Enough said.

• Cussing. Profanity may be part of everyday office life, but it’s one thing to utter an expletive when you accidentally staple your finger, and it’s a completely different thing if you sound like Robert de Niro in “Goodfellas.” And never, never, never call a woman the “b” word. Or anything else that is a derogatory name for a female. Not even if you believe she is the biggest one on the planet. While it may be a double standard that women can call other women such names and get by with it, you will automatically be labeled a jerk and top brass may see you as unfit to have a position of authority.

• Relating everything to sports. Lots of people love sports, and fantasy sports teams provide fun times in the office. But talking about Tim Tebow, Tiger Woods and Albert Pujols every time you want to make a point makes you seem one dimensional. Remember, one of the reasons women are seen as good communicators is because they give the impression they’re relating to their listeners. Some people could care less that you think Bubba Watson embodies a life lesson on persistence, so keep your audience in mind.

Finally, don’t be afraid to show more of your true self at work. (No, not the new tattoo you just got of Bubba.) But if you’re moved that colleagues remembered your birthday with cake and ice cream, don’t try to cover it up with some neck cracking and a few choice swear words. Let them see you’re touched, and you’ll have forged a bridge that will help overcome that tacky tie.

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  • Benicio

    Great topic and useful information. I didn’t think of that point of view before, it makes sense.

  • Anita

    Thanks, Benicio. If you think of anything that could be added to the list, feel free to do so!

  • Anonymous

    This is timely, relevant…and should be seen, I fear, by a much wider audience! Well-done!

  • I had a boss who used to, well, grab his crotch. Constantly. I’m quite certain he didn’t realize he was doing. But it was so noticeable that a very important client once asked me if my boss was trying to intimidate her. When he was out of the room she leaned over and said she thought about calling security because it felt like an odd form of harassment. Really guys, cut it out. 

    • Stephen Gemmell

      This fellow who touched his genitals was sending out an unconscious signal that he, despite appearances to the contrary, was feeling very insecure and grabbing himself was of course an unconscious way of reassuring himself of his maleness.   I wonder if he was working in a traditional female field or was surrounded by female colleagues?  It is interesting to note that females misinterpreted this as a subtle sign of harassment.

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  • Jnorow

    I think you could look at the opposite sex as well as there are as many female characteristics and hygeine that they could show improvement.  

  • Anita

    Thanks for the kind words — let’s hope it helps save some careers!

  • Anita

    I thought only baseball players did that. Wow…that’s just one more thing to add to the list.

  • Anita

    I did address many things women do that hurt their careers in this post and that’s why I thought it was fair to examine male behavior, also. http://tinyurl.com/c39epcf 

  • Jess Day

    Some men can be so clueless that their personal habits are the culprit.  This is a helpful article and hopefully the guys will not get so defensive and start attacking all the negative things they see in women.  I hope they see this list as a helpful guide to change their attitude so that they can improve their careers.  Cheers! http://www.resumelines.com/24hr.html

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