Female Coworkers Can Make You Better at Your Job

At first glance, German females seem to only know success: If you can negotiate cleverly, you become one of the most powerful politicians worldwide (think Chancellor Angela Merkel). If you’re sporty and keen in soccer you could play on world’s best team (our female squad won the last five European and the last two World Championships). And if you look cute and are a fashion-victim you might become one of the most successful supermodels (Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum, for instance).

And yet, in the German corporate big leagues, few women manage to reach the top rungs of the career ladder: Only four percent of board management in the “Dax30” (Germany’s stock index of the 30 biggest companies) are women.

This is a pity, since -- were they allowed to achieve their full potential -- German women could really help turbo-charge German companies. In fact, observe the natural skills and abilities of the women coworkers around you right now, and you could really learn something. That’s right: Your female coworkers can actually help you get better at your job just by setting some great examples. Here’s how you should be like a woman:

Be a juggler
“Learn to multi task -- that’s a special female competence”, says Ute Zahn, owner of the Berlin based management agency Artist Network, which boasts clients like internationally-known German artists Thomas Kretschmann and Clemens Schick. “One of my new artists (it was a man!) hung up his mobile because he came to the till in the supermarket. He only said: ‘Sorry, but I can’t pay and talk at the same time.’ Women are the better multi-taskers -- in daily life and business.”

If men mastered this female ability, they’d simultaneously solve another problem, Zahn complains about: organization of daily trifles. “Who books the dinner table in the restaurant? Who orders new coffee capsules for the office? Every time women do!”

Get organized
Okay, maybe you like women ordering the coffee and dinner reservations for you. But what if there’s no woman around to do this for you? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do it for yourself and not mess up?

“It is proven that organization is a primary female competence”, says Susanne Heidelberger-Heidegger, a psychologist and management coach who -- for 20 years -- has analyzed gender role-models in business. Because of the traditional female role as mother and head of family during the day, “Women learned to organize lots of details at the same time and take responsibility for more than just themselves.” Therefore men could benefit a lot from the women around them, the psychologist concludes.

Communicate with feeling
“Many men stubbornly issue commands and think they’ll work,” Heidelberger-Heidegger explains. “But nothing works if you only think about the facts and not about the people who work for you.” The psychologist stresses the importance of empathy as a success factor in business communication. “I coached a lawyer and she achieved many goals her boss had failed, since he had not included the fate of coworkers in his thought process. Even the soberest topics should be discussed between humans. If you simply impose something on somebody he’ll oppose it.”

In particular, keep this in mind when you’re dealing with conflicts, advises management author Dr. Reinhard Sprenger. “In such challenging situations, you’ll be more successful if you understand your opponents’ emotions,” he says. Many men ignore them, since they don’t accept counterarguments. Women, on the other hand, “usually aren’t as bossy,” adds Heidelberger-Heidegger. “Therefore they’re smarter when it comes to solving conflicts.”

Coffee talk
We all know the stereotype: Women always seem to know all the office gossip. Seeing as how knowledge is power, how can men entangle themselves into the office grapevine? “It’s very easy”, Heidelberger-Heidegger answers. “Avoid any cynicism, prejudices and lack of respect, and show honest interest in your female colleagues. Since many men ignore these rules, do this, and you’ll be the cock of the walk.”