Task Orientation

One of the most blatant differences in how men and women approach work is that more men tend to be results-oriented and more women tend to be task-oriented. Once understood, you can harness this difference to your advantage.

Simply put, task-oriented people take a job and immediately break it down into specific tasks. Then they complete the tasks, one by one. They are likely to make lists of things to do, and they take great pride in checking off the list. Although completing tasks is a part of work for everyone, task-oriented people tend to see the tasks as ends in themselves.

When asked to describe what they do at work, task-oriented people are likely to give a detailed explanation of activities. They measure each day by their ability to complete as many tasks as possible in a given time period.

Results-oriented people focus on the desired outcome. The number and nature of tasks involved are often unknown to these people. To results-oriented people, tasks take on three forms:

When asked what they do at work, results-oriented people are more likely to say they made an important decision or completed a report. The decision or the report might have included dozens of tasks, done by the person and others, but it is the outcome that matters to the results-oriented person.

One difference between "men's jobs" and "women's jobs" is that men's jobs are more likely to be results-oriented. The goal is defined: bring in $400,000 worth of new business this fiscal year; create an advertising campaign that increases sales of the product by 10 percent; increase productivity by 20 percent; reduce the rejection rate to 0.03 percent; maintain an inventory that minimizes overstock, but allows us to ship 90 percent of our orders within 3 days. The process for achieving these goals is at least partly undefined and must be authored by the person doing the job.

The kind of work that women do can usually be defined in terms of the tasks performed: type a report; change a bedpan; correct mistakes on an order form. Of course, men complete tasks and women make decisions, but you can observe this distinct difference in how our jobs are defined and measured.

To get to the other side of the camp, women must learn to live with these job descriptions, we must learn to work toward accomplishing goals. The completion of tasks is important, but not an end in itself. We must learn to design the job ourselves, to create the tasks that best lead us to our goal. This involves taking risks, trying things we may be unsure about, and making mistakes. We must learn to delegate tasks, abandon unworthy tasks, and present our accomplishments in terms of goal achievement, rather than completion of duties.

The skills of both results-oriented and task-oriented people are critically needed in the world of business. Generally speaking, however, the jobs and career paths that are task-oriented are lower paying.

You can use this to your advantage, if you can change your focus from tasks to results. Learn to reduce a goal to its various tasks and begin completing them. The results-oriented men around you may still be weighing different alternatives, discussing the end result. In this way, task orientation can be a bonus, as long as we do not lose sight of our goals and do not see the tasks as ends in themselves.


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