Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn

book cover

The Male Factor
Expanded Edition
by Shaunti Feldhahn

Hardback: 336 pages
Publisher: Multnomah
First Released: 2009

Official Book Website
Publisher Book Page

Source: Review copy from publisher.

Back Cover Description:
Millions of women gained eye-opening insights about the inner lives of men through Shaunti Feldhahn’s best-selling book For Women Only. Now with The Male Factor, Feldhahn brings her innovative research approach to the workplace to help women understand their male colleagues. Based on a nationwide survey and confidential interviews with thousands of men whose anonymity was guaranteed, her book reveals the private thoughts and attitudes that men rarely disclose but every woman needs to know.

Never before has an author gotten inside the hearts and minds of men in the workplace—from CEOs to nonprofit managers, from lawyers to factory workers—to discover what they commonly think about women on the job, what their expected “rules” of the workplace are, what “managing emotion” means, and what factors improve or harm a man’s respect for a female co-worker.

Among the little-known but critical insights The Male Factor reveals are:

o how men, with rare exception, view almost any emotional display as a sign that the person can no longer think clearly (as well as what men perceive as emotion in the first place)
o why certain types of trendy attire may actually sabotage a woman’s career
o which little-known signals ensure that a man’s perception of a strong female colleague is positive (“assertive and competent”) instead of negative (“difficult”)

Even women who have navigated male-dominated work environments for years have expressed surprise at these and other revelations in the book. Some readers may find them challenging. Yet The Male Factor delivers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for women to understand how male bosses, colleagues, subordinates, and customers privately think, and why they react the way they do. These vital insights enable each woman to make informed decisions in her unique workplace situation.

In this expanded Christian edition, Feldhahn builds on the same research and information as in the general-market edition, but speaks directly to the interests and questions of women of faith, whether their workplace is a part-time ministry or a Fortune 500 corporation. This edition of The Male Factor also delivers invaluable advice from senior Christian women who have broad experience in dealing with these questions, understand and share the reader’s values, and want to help other women achieve the best possible work relationships.

I've read several of Shaunti's other books (For Women Only, For Men Only, For Young Women Only, and For Parents Only) and loved them. I'd highly recommend those books. As I read them, I'd say, "Really? Wow, but that does explain..." and feel enlightened. I also felt like they gave insights without pigeon-holing "all men" or "all women" as being a certain way. The survey questions also opened up dialogue with my dad and my boyfriend-of-the-time and helped me learn which points applied to them.

So I was excited when I was offered the chance to review The Male Factor...even though I've been self-employed most of my adult life, and I've never had trouble dealing with men in guy-centric situations.

After reading it, I think the women who will most benefit from this book are those who were moving up in a company but now feel like they've hit the "glass ceiling"--they're being passed over for promotion or leadership responsibilities or are feeling like their input is being deliberately ignored. The information in the book can help them understand how their actions may be perceived by their co-workers (and not always just by men) and what they can do to fix the situation.

Unlike her previous books, very few survey questions were actually shown (the exact question with the results), which disappointed me. Instead, especially in the first half of the book, each chapter was mostly references to problems she heard mentioned frequently by men and the real life examples they gave to illustrate the point. Shaunti usually tied this in to how men are geared differently than women and thus behaved differently in the workplace--or were at a loss of how to deal with women who act differently in the workplace. At the end of each chapter, she gave excellent and do-able advice on how to deal correctly with those situations.

I really enjoyed chapter 12, the "Counsel from Experienced Christian Women." I also thought that chapter 10 had information that all women, working or not, would benefit from reading.

However, I found some sections and chapters--especially in the first third of the book--more confusing than enlightening. Often the issues raised weren't really male-female differences, and I'd agree that the behavior in the example wasn't appropriate work behavior (for men or women). Other times I was ticked at the guys because the woman in the example picked up on something "because she was female" but lacked experience in dealing correctly with the situation. If trained how to do it correctly or allowed to learn from the experience, she would have become a real asset in the same situation in the future. Yet the men assumed that the mistake was also inherently "because she was a female" and gave up on her instead.

These sections left me feeling frustrated and depressed. Why? Because I didn't feel like this book was intended for or could be used to open dialogue and clear up misunderstandings in the workplace. The book was intended to help women change their behavior (if they choose) to avoid triggering these misconceptions.

So, as I said, I think The Male Factor would definitely be helpful to women who are "stuck" on the corporate ladder. Women who work in a male-dominated field and who want to learn how to get along better with the men at work will also find the book useful.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
“Are you saying women don’t already know that?”

The charismatic African-American businessman sitting next to me in first class looked at me in disbelief. I was flying home from speaking at a women’s conference, and we were only a few minutes into the usual “What do you do?” airplane conversation. Then I shared something that apparently stunned him.

I had explained that I was a financial analyst by training, had worked on Wall Street, and was now, unexpectedly, an author and speaker about relationships.

His inevitable question: “What’s your main topic?”

“Men.” I grinned at his wry expression. “I spent a few years interviewing and surveying a few thousand men. My last book, For Women Only, identifies ways that men tend to think and feel privately, that women tend not to know.”

He folded his arms across his chest, and it was his turn to chuckle. “OK,” he said, “hit me with one.”

So I shared one of my findings about men—one that I will share with you in the following pages—and that is when the amusement turned to disbelief.

When I confirmed that even the most astute women may not know that particular truth about men, I could see that suddenly, his thoughts were off in a universe of their own.

“That explains something!” he finally said. “You see, I’m a corporate trainer and consultant. Fortune 100 corporations bring me in to help with leadership and strategy at the highest levels of the organization. And all too often, I see skilled and talented women sabotage their careers because they treat the men they work with in a way that no man would treat another man.”

He looked at me with awakening interest. “But from what you’re telling me, these women probably don’t even realize that that is what they are doing.”

Read the rest of chapter one.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Nice review, thank you. Joseph, http://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/