Every office has at least one mansplainer. Though women will recognize him instantly, that doesn’t mean other men are off the hook here. Unfortunately, mansplaining is a negative aspect of workplace politics that we all have to deal with. After all, the one mansplaining and the one being mansplained to aren’t the only ones who have to deal with this dynamic. The wasted time and mounting tensions can drag a whole team down. Calling out the office mansplainer is everybody’s job, and with a bit of preparation and a few quick tips, you’ll find yourself more than prepared to work together and shut him down.
What Is Mansplaining?
Contrary to what some aggrieved males believe, mansplaining is not simply any man explaining something to any woman. Men and women can easily work together, and there are times when they will be required to explain things to one another. The point here is not to prevent us from communicating but to ensure that our communication is always helpful and effective.
If you’re seeking to recognize mansplaining, look no further than this list of three factors involved in all mansplaining incidents:
- No one has asked for an explanation. An unsought explanation could very well be an unneeded one, particularly when it’s given by someone who’s in no position of authority and is not a recognized expert.
- This unrequested explanation is based on unfounded assumptions of knowledge and intelligence. You can’t tell what people know and don’t know just by looking at them. Without knowing it, you may very well be talking to an expert in the very field you’re rambling about.
- The need to position oneself as a leader is rooted in bias. Gender bias is well documented: there are plenty of men who assume women don’t know things based solely on their appearance, particularly if they are young, attractive, speak with an accent, or are a member of an ethnic minority.
Now that we’ve established what mansplaining is and is not, we must evaluate the mansplainer himself.
Characteristics of a Mansplainer
Mansplainers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages; and they hail from all socioeconomic backgrounds. However, there are several characteristics all mansplainers have in common.
- High opinion of themselves
- Tendency to interrupt
- Dismissive of others’ perspectives
These characteristics are not set in stone, however. Sometimes mansplainers are otherwise “good guys” who have simply adopted bad workplace habits, and it’s important to note that some men who have been guilty of mansplaining behavior simply do not know any better.
That doesn’t mean their behavior is acceptable, however. In fact, even well-intentioned mansplaining has an undermining effect on the workforce as a whole.
Mansplaining may seem like a trivial issue in isolation, but how we communicate tells other people how much or little they are valued…Humans feel better, work more effectively, and behave better when we feel valued ourselves. (Entrepreneur)
Now that we know who the mansplainers are (and aren’t!), we can work together to shut them down when necessary.
5 Bulletproof Tips to Shut Down Mansplaining at Work
Not every approach works in each encounter; however, keep these tips in your back pocket and pull them out as needed.
Tip 1: Keep your cool.
Sometimes it’s difficult to keep your cool, particularly if the mansplainer has insulted you in the process. Or perhaps, like most of us, you’ve found this pattern repeating itself so many times over the years that each fresh occurrence has you wanting to tear your hair out.
While it’s okay to show some emotion and bring a little heat when dealing with an office mansplainer, holding on to some emotional equilibrium will help you stay in control of the conversation and communicate more effectively.
Tip 2: Don’t give him a free pass.
Sometimes, something as simple as a hand wave and a comment such as, “I know how data mining works, Bob,” can prove sufficient.
Tip 3: Ask a challenging follow-up question.
Sometimes the best tactic to take is to give the mansplainer a lot of line, letting him get all the way on the hook before reeling him in. Let him ride on his high horse as long as he likes. Then, when he’s finally done talking, ask a challenging follow-up question that he won’t be able to bluff his way through.
As the true expert on the topic, this will be quite simple for you to do. And it’s quite satisfying as well.
Tip 4: Ignore him.
This is an especially effective technique if you are leading a session. When a mansplainer attempts to hijack the flow of the meeting with an unnecessary explanation, and you want to show that his input has accomplished exactly nothing, you have two choices.
- If his “mansplanation” has been brief, let him finish. Allow a beat of silence to pass. Perhaps raise an eyebrow. Then continue your presentation as if the interruption did not even warrant your attention. Ignoring someone’s unsolicited input is one of the best ways to signal to him (and the group) that his comments added no value.
- If his “mansplanation” is highly disruptive or promises to take up a lot of time, simply continue the meeting as if he weren’t talking. Using physical cues such as putting up a hand to ward off his interruption and turning your body from him to signal your complete lack of interest go a long way toward communicating that his interruption is clearly out of turn.
Tip 5: Train allies.
While women most often work together to support each other in these situations, anyone can learn to advocate against mansplaining in the office. Whatever your gender identity, you should not only educate yourself on the issue but also train others to speak up.
It’s important that we all work together on this. Mansplaining can have a major effect on an organization’s culture, poisoning everyday work and causing needless tension among coworkers. It’s crucial for employees to know how to deal with mansplaining, and even more important that we work together to put office mansplainers in their place.
Looking for a workplace in which you can thrive as a woman? Visit Lensa’s job search and discover your dream job — no mansplanation needed.