Women Leaders in the Agri-Workplace: Communication from the Farm to the Firm – Part I

"You're not the boss of me!" My cousin Heather, would say as I tried to convince her that my suggestions about Saturday morning play time were always in her best interest. At the ripe old age of 4, I was simply trying to guide her through life with my expert one-year older opinion on how "we" should operate. Watching the theatrics of wrestle-mania TV, playing outdoors on the swing set, and then creating our own dramatic reenactment of a musical fairytale with homemade props sounded like a schedule that I thought two young girls could get excited about.

lauren80s

Lauren, back in the 80s!

From the time young children learn to socialize, gendered differences in communication begin to form as we unintentionally learn societal norms and expectations of our life-roles by watching personal models around us and tap into our genetic wiring.

Women and girls tend to use communication to build societal connections and foster relationships while men and boys tend to speak to exert dominance and to achieve a tangible outcome. Women normally strive to be more social or value togetherness, while men tend to value their independence.

Psychological differences in gendered communication are a heavily studied area of academia and it certainly plays into the perception of women in leadership roles.

Communication with a top down approach, or the I'm at the top talking down to you approach associated with a more masculine style, does not send a message of personal investment and compassion to today's employee base. While formerly managers could say, "JUMP!" and their workers would ask, "How high?"… There is a new attitude emerging among workers that calls for mutual respect and power sharing of goals and ideas; this paradigm shift in the workplace lends itself to appreciating a feminine approach to communication and leadership.

As women, we can channel our value of togetherness to motivate our team to buy in to our organizational goals, which will provide a healthier company mindset in the long run. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your communication style by asking your team what areas you excel in and what you could improve upon. Then, experiment by making adjustments to your style.

Whether "bossy" or "bewildered" or somewhere in between, being aware of your management style and trying new ways of communication will flex your leadership muscle and help you find your most effective voice to be in sync with your team.

Stay tuned for Part II.

 

Dr. Lauren Ledbetter Griffeth, Extension Leadership Specialist

University of Georgia

LaurenLG


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