communication and management

Arleen Feng ez043419 at
Tue Jan 23 14:42:29 EST 1996

I've been following both the "getting heard" and "management styles" 
threads with great interest (and as a long-time lurker, I'd like to 
celebrate those of us who've been "provocative"--I think it's in the 
spirit of ongoing discourse) and have another book suggestion:

Deborah Tannen.  Talking From 9 to 5.  (There's a long subtitle about 
conversational styles in the workplace, and it's fairly new, last year or 

I haven't actually read either this or her other popular book, "That's 
not what I want", but she works professionally in linguistics and I heard 
her talk about the new book on the radio (non-commercial station).  
I gather these discuss both specific language and speech 
differences (like speed, use of interrogatory rather than declarative 
statements) as well as social contexts.  She focuses a lot, but not 
exclusively, on gender issues.

Two things that she said impressed me, and relate to the above threads:

1.  She doesn't advocate everyone trying to play the same game, whether 
"hardball", one-big-family, whatever.  It's important to recognize that 
the different styles exist;  people should be conversant with more than 
one if possible, and at least be able to negotiate agreements that are 
workable for all.   Treating others the way you want to be treated 
doesn't guarantee that they will respond exactly as you would.  

2.  Part of a manager's responsibility is to understand this process and 
keep it going, since the power differential makes it harder for the 
supervisees to speak up when things are going badly (as we've all seen).  

You can start with your own style as a default approach, but say to each 
person, "this works well for me because _____, but if you feel you work 
better if I do x or say things to you like y, let's talk about it".  This 
may involve discussing personal issues or just modifying specific behaviors.

I'm back in grad school after working for many years, and find the 
academic milieu to be if anything less conducive to changes in 
management techniques;  maybe it's because of the tenure system.  Not to 
say that all innovations in business management are good...

Arleen Feng

More information about the Womenbio mailing list