Experiencing "Mansplaining" in the Workplace

Young people face many challenges when breaking into the work world. As a young woman in particular, I’ve had a few. Throughout my college career I’ve had the opportunity to work a few odd jobs here and there and, while they have all been growing experiences, not all of the events have been pleasant. I’m no stranger to the term “mansplaining” (basically when a man explains something, most often to a woman in a condescending manner), but I have not had to deal with it until college.  

My first encounter occurred at my very first job. The summer after my freshman year I worked as a cashier at a fast food restaurant. While it wasn't the most glamorous job, it was a good way to make a little cash before school started up again. Since I only worked for 3 months, most of my time there was spent in training. Both female and male staff members trained me and it was incredibly interesting to notice the differences between the two, especially in the way they spoke to me. The male staff members often spoke down to me or assumed I knew less as opposed to the female staff members who were more patient. Now I understand learning the ropes and taking directions from authority, but a lot of the men were often disrespectful and rude. They spoke to me as if I were incompetent and not a new staff member.  

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I found myself getting frustrated with the lack of approval. I’d let the rude comments affect my confidence, which would in turn inhibit my work performance. One day one of my bosses had snapped at me during a super busy lunch rush. I calmly walked to the restroom and then I lost it. I could feel tears silently running down my face as I sulked in disappointment. As I brushed away the traces of my tears, one of my fellow coworkers came in and saw me. She assured me that I was doing a great job and told me not to worry about the boss because he was a jerk.  

In that moment I realized I needed to get a grip. Sure, this guy was a jerk, but I wasn't about to let him ruin all of the progress I had made. I was finally feeling comfortable performing all of my tasks and interacting with customers. I used my frustrations with him to better myself and my work instead of inhibit it. After all, this job was temporary and I was going to make the most of it.  

While this job tested me in ways I didn't expect, I can honestly say I walked away with a new perspective towards working and life. One very important lesson I learned is men and women communicate differently and this is no different in the work place. I don’t believe my coworkers were intentionally rude to me – they were more direct without thinking of how their words could be interpreted. This seemingly obvious resolution has helped me in all of my following work experiences with learning how to communicate differently to different people.