Gender in communication: Micropolitics at work

Year: 2002

Author: Peters, Carole

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Although interpersonal and relational skills are clearly relevant to successful performance in many jobs and roles, there is evidence that these skills are not valued in the same way as technical skills (Cleveland, Stockdale & Murphy, 2000) or the skills of self-promotion and 'managing up'. The label 'women's work' is often linked to interpersonal competence with an accompanying negative impact and devaluing effect. In this paper I look at some of the themes emerging from the literature on gender and communication as part of a small project to develop a series of workshops on communication within a university workplace. Difference discourses, conversational and leadership styles, a peak masculinist culture and socialisation patterns are discussed. Traditional values and perceptions of merit are questioned. My search and interpretation of the literature was influenced by the insights I gained through interviews with twenty-one women who chose to leave leadership and management positions in a large educational bureaucracy (PhD research in progress). The stories of their experiences, interpreted from a feminist perspective, revealed the micropolitical processes at work as they disrupted a management hierarchy embedded in tradition and comfortable with 'the way we do things around here'.