September 23, 2018

That Really Bunches My Panties…by Brendon Marks

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Team Building…

Whenever two or more people get together for a meeting, it is rare that some social conversation doesn’t take place, even in the strictest of business environments. Many companies encourage social interaction and refer to it as “team building.”

I recall one point in my employment history when I worked for a few months on a particular project team where women outnumbered men about three to one. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I observed a strange phenomenon: a penchant for discussing bodily functions. I cannot attribute this behavior to women in general; I am only reporting what happened in this particular group.

The dominant age group was in its thirties, but the overall range is from late twenties to late fifties, and was ethnically diverse. Although none were what I would call senior citizens, I would classify the group as quite representative of the business professional working population.

Here is what happened: Whenever we had a meeting where I was the only male in attendance, sooner or later the conversation would turn to some bodily function. This was not an isolated incident; it happened a lot. But it never happened when there was at least one other male in the room. I can’t explain it. Maybe they feel comfortable enough to discuss these things in front of me or maybe it’s something simpler, like the testosterone level in the room had dipped below a certain threshold. I don’t know why I was allowed to enter this circle, but I chose not to analyze this particular point too much.

These were not in-depth conversations, but have included topics such as nail-cutting, breast-feeding, nose-picking, bed-wetting, cramps, bloating, and virtually every aspect of child-care that involves a liquid or semi-liquid. In most cases they reported they were “grossed out” by the activity, but it did not seem to limit the conversation.

I am not a delicate person. I have tackled plumbing problems that reminded me of why people are willing to pay plumbers so much, but there were times when I waited for a lull in the conversation before taking the next bite of my lunch. I saw no indication that it affected any of the women in the same way.

I cannot recall ever having similar conversations in meetings that were predominately male. There may have been demonstrations of expectoration, flatulence, or belching in all-male gatherings, (usually confined to outdoors), but unless someone scores a direct hit on an innocent bystander, causes watery eyes, or a gritty taste in the teeth, rarely does it invoke any discussion beyond a brief comment on proficiency.

A man may trim his finger nails while leaning against a fence discussing the gear ratio in the differential on his new pick-up, but usually does not say things like, “Man just look at this hang-nail, that’s going to smart when I get paint thinner on it.”

Another obvious difference is that a man will never stand up a table in a restaurant, announce that he’s going to the restroom, and invite several friends to go along. If a man makes any sort of an announcement regarding a visit to the restroom, it is solely for the purpose of discouraging anyone from following, not the opposite. This is true whether the company is mixed or not. And he never discusses his success when he returns.

Overall, that project team experience taught me one thing: there may be a limit to this “team building” idea.

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