Welcome to the Chinese Year of the Earth Dog! Earth dogs are communicative, serious, and responsible, especially around work.
However, some alpha males, especially the human kind, seem to take their responsibilities and powerful positions so seriously that they figuratively walk all over the rest of us.
As a result, those less powerful can feel disrespected, demeaned, and annoyed by the extra work that falls on our shoulders.
The goal for everyone in the workforce, especially leaders, should be to balance out the power differences and ensure better working conditions and improved work performance for all.
So how can we make alpha males more aware of their privileged status?
Maybe sending them to the doghouse? During this “time out,” they could reflect on how their gender gives them a sense of entitlement at work and what they could do to help others?
Or is this too much to ask since they may not be conscious of their privilege? After all, they may take their situation for granted.
Instead, are there other ways to get them to understand that thanks to history, traditions, and systems long in place, alpha males enjoy certain advantages over others?
While many alpha males – as well as other groups – often find it easier to work with “people like me,” research and organizational results show that diverse teams perform better. They are able to pool their skills, collaborate to get things done and achieve higher performance.
Since the workforce has become increasingly more diverse, alpha males especially need to realize that it’s mission critical to work better with others.
To alert alpha males that they need to play well with others, what about taking these actions? (By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve road tested all three actions, which work in the short-term. But it’s too soon to know whether they will result in sustainable change.)
- Apply peer pressure through other men. For example, I’ve been complimenting non-alphas who are considerate toward others including me, such as giving air time to talk, crediting individuals for their ideas, and being more inclusive in their actions. I explain why their behavior is refreshing and helpful, and suggest that they encourage other men, especially the alphas to mirror the behavior.
- Point out the bothersome behavior and explain how it’s a productivity problem. When an alpha male recently informed me that none of the dates and times I offered up for a meeting worked for him after he requested me to provide him with workable dates, I called him on his behavior. I explained that if he had told me his “best and only meeting option” first that would have saved us both time and energy. Plus it would have preserved good will toward each other.
- Decline to be complicit. “You weren’t on my calendar” were the first words another alpha male told me. Via e-mail, he had asked if he could call me at a specific time, but didn’t bother setting up a meeting invite for our calendars. When the scheduled time came and went, I called him and got this twisted retort. Nonetheless, I persevered with the conversation. Our mutual connection had told me the alpha male was writing a book and interested in intelligence about my publisher. But the book’s topic was unknown. So to put him at ease and to satisfy my curiosity, I asked. “Abrasive leaders,” he responded. With that, I decided to cut the conversation short and point him to the publisher’s website, which includes information on how to submit book proposals. Since this publisher strives to make the world a better place, I’ll let the publisher decide if dealing with abrasive leaders aligns with its mission.
With the momentum of the #metoo movement and its success to date, now is an opportune time to speak out and #RaiseYourVoice about the day-to-day downsides of alpha male privilege in the workplace. At the same time, to paraphrase my publisher, we need to strive to make the workplace a better place for all.
What’s your take? And if you have other methods for being brave and insisting on more equitable and respectable treatment, please share your techniques here.