OK, we are back with part four in our series that was instigated by a review of the research paper “Defining the Code” by Steelcase. In this next piece, we’re going to look at an aspect of workplace culture that’s sure to stir up some debate: Masculine vs. Feminine.
These terms can mean a lot of different things. The way they are used in the paper linked above is as a generalization about how people work together in society. It doesn’t imply that “all men are like abc” or “all women are like xyz”. Instead, it’s just shorthand for talking about certain behaviors. A masculine work environment is one where competition is steep and performance is oriented toward achieving work goals at all costs (think Glengarry Glen Ross). In contrast, a feminine work environment is one where cooperation and collaboration are highly valued with an emphasis on relationships and good work/life balance.
Expect a Mix at Work
There can actually be more than one of these workplace cultures operating in the same company. For example, many sales departments are dominated by the masculine work mode while Human Resources has long been viewed as a “pink collar” department. Each type of work style has its pros and cons. We won’t try to say one is better or worse than the other since that’s definitely outside the scope of this blog post!
What we do want to consider is how each work style might be best supported with the use of panel extenders or privacy panels. Here are some initial thoughts (we’d love to hear your ideas in the comments):
- In a highly competitive work environment, employees may like to show off their abilities. For example, in the sales scenario, employees might enjoy ringing a bell or celebrating in other ways when they close a deal. Being able to see and hear what others are doing may spur each employee on to greater achievements of their own. However, the masculine environment can also bring a certain territorial attitude which makes having panels to separate work spaces a plus.
- In the more collaborative work environment, a central or communal area for exchange of information and pleasantries can be ideal. But each worker may like to be able to retreat to a more private setting for focused work individually or in pairs. So, cubicles with high walls surrounding an open meeting area could work well.