HEADQUARTERS, NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — Imagine how difficult work would be if you spoke a different language than your co-workers. Yet this happens every day – because men and women use different communication styles.
To help employees appreciate these differences and understand their own communication styles, the NAVAIR Women’s Advisory Group (WAG) Diversity Action Team hosted a video and panel discussion with a theme of “Talking 9 to 5: Improving Communications in the Workplace,” Aug. 23.
The event centered around the findings from the national bestseller “Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work,” by Dr. Deborah Tannen, who maintains communication differences, which start in childhood, can make it difficult for managers to lead and cause misunderstandings that hurt teamwork and morale.
For example, Tannen explained in a video that while men often issue direct orders, women use indirect language to get things done. Men in the workplace make small talk to report on their hobbies or accomplishments, while women make small talk to establish a rapport. And, women have a tendency to engage in ritual apology — often saying “I’m sorry” — while men engage in ritual opposition, saying, “I’m just playing devil’s advocate,” for example.
After the video, seven panelists from different areas of NAVAIR offered their thoughts on communication differences between genders and generations.
As the youngest sibling with four older brothers, Laura Kruse said she had to fight to have her voice heard growing up and has taken that approach into the workplace.
“Being that little sister has allowed me to know when to speak up,” she said.
Marilin Perez, who said she struggles being heard, advises employees to “be confident, concise and precise when you talk.”
Kimberly Priest said she has had to learn to work on giving orders and is cognizant her approach may be too soft for the workplace, while, in contrast, Ryan Daniels said his time in the U.S. Marine Corps “taught me to yell,” and he had to learn to soften.
“Focus on the things that always work [when communicating], and you will be successful,” advised Kelli Gass, listing talking respectfully, smiling and joking when appropriate.
The WAG, a subgroup to NAVAIR’s Executive Diversity Council, was founded in 2012 to make recommendations to senior leaders on topics such as family friendly workplace policies, women in the military, women in non-traditional roles and barrier analysis.