Q: Why does it take 1 million sperm to fertilize ONE egg?
A: None of the sperm will stop to ask for directions.
We're all familiar with the popular stereotype that men prefer trial and error to actually asking someone for directions. Well, a recent study found that women are more likely to ask people - friends, family, the guy at the store - for advice on retail purchase decisions, while men are more likely to go it alone or utilize impersonal information they found online or at the store.
Now, I'm as likely as the next guy to call gender stereotypes BS. But I have to admit, in terms of decision-making, this does resonate with my own experience with executives who, all-too-often, make high-risk decisions on limited information. And wouldn't you know it, the vast majority just happen to be men. Hmm.
Blogging in Psychology Today, Mark Goulston - bestselling author, psychiatrist, executive coach, and FBI hostage-negotiator - offers one possible explanation for why he is personally reluctant to ask for directions:
- To ask for directions is to admit I am lost.
- To admit I am lost is to feel both anxious and incompetent.
- To feel anxious is about wondering if not knowing about this is dangerously close to fears of doubts about many things.
- To feel anxious and incompetent is to feel less than and not worthwhile especially when I compare myself to other competent men.
- To feel less worthwhile than other men is to feel vulnerable to their negative regard and even scorn (to match that which I am already feeling towards myself).
- To ask other men who I project might be feeling as judgmental towards me as I feel towards myself is to invite ridicule and humiliation.
- To risk ridicule and humiliation from others for being inadequate when I am already feeling that is too much and it's easier to just fumble around and figure it out myself.
- To avoid dealing with this, perhaps it's better to just get a GPS in my car.
So now I'm beginning to wonder if some common corporate failure modes might not have a gender bias. The particular modes I'm referring to are the ones where, as I said earlier, critical decisions are made on limited information. God knows I've seen loads of companies fail because executives took big risks thinking they "knew it all."
Well, thinking you have all the answers slams the door on collaboration, debate, and perspective, the cornerstones of objective reasoning and effective decision-making in the corporate world. I usually chalk that condition up to leaders being narcissistic, having an overinflated ego, or putting too much pressure on themselves to have all the answers. For lack of a better word, they're dysfunctional.
Now I'm wondering if that's more or less a guy thing. Even if it is, it doesn't necessarily mean that women are better decision-makers, since men likely have other characteristics that weigh in their favor. Nevertheless, it is one potential pitfall that male managers, executives, and leaders should be aware of, whether the correlation is conclusive or not.
In any case, I'm curious: how does this fit with your experience? Do you think women are more collaborative in their decision-making than men?
Also check out:
- 10 Workplace Rules of Engagement
- Trouble Making Decisions? Are You Sure?
- 10 Things That Good Bosses Do
Image CC 2.0 via Flickr user akeg