Mars and Venus in the Workplace:
A Brief Introduction
By Robert Schwarz

According to a 1998 USA Today training industry report, an estimated 30% percent of employee downtime is due to relationship and communication problems with co-workers and supervisors. Managers consistently report that one of the most difficult parts of their job is to create harmonious work environments. Chief among these challenges is knowing how to work effectively with bosses, peers, and subordinates of the opposite sex.

People must communicate well and understand one another clearly in order to reduce or eliminate the kinds of distractions and conflicts that can interfere with efficiently and effectively getting the job done. Employment satisfaction is high among the values that people place on their jobs today. They make every effort to choose to work where they are both prospering and are happy


How does a man define his sense of self?

A man defines his sense of self through his actions, his ability to achieve results at work and in the world. In the workplace, they are always doing things to prove themselves and to develop their power and skills. Martians value power, competency, efficiency, action, achievement, and accomplishment. They experience fulfillment primarily from achieving results and doing an excellent job.

How does a woman define her sense of self?

A woman's sense of self in the workplace is defined primarily by the quality of her work relationships. In the workplace Venusians respect efficiency and achievement, but values like support, trust, and communication are more important. They are more interested in quality of work relationships, personal expression, and mutual support, than on Mars. They experience fulfillment by sharing, collaborating, and cooperating in the process of achieving greater success.


Men & women solve problems differently. A recent research study compared men and women solving a mathematical problem. The MRI of brain function showed that both groups solved the problem correctly in the same amount of time, but used completely different parts of their brains.

One of the biggest differences between men and women in the workplace is how they approach solving problems. When faced with a problem, a man's first reaction is to go to his cave and solve it on his own, but a woman's first reaction is to reach out and include others through talking about it.

Solving Problems On Mars

On Mars, a man will first assess a problem by considering how he can solve it alone. Having to depend on others, when it is not necessary, is a waste of his time and energy. To minimize this stress, his tendency will be to lead or to follow. Either he wants to do it all or he will get out of the way and support another in doing it. Collaboration is not his comfort zone.

It is natural for a Martian to seek credit, and this is particularly true in the workplace. Problems may get solved, but if others don't recognize that you were responsible then you don't get the credit. Salary increases, job advancement, increased market share, and increased sales all result from the accumulation of 'credit' for your achievements. You can be one of the leading experts in your field, but if no one knows, you don't get the opportunities you deserve.

Solving Problems On Venus

On Venus solving a problem is an opportunity to demonstrate sharing, cooperation, and collaboration. From a woman's perspective, if one can do the job then maybe two can do a better job. On her planet, all those capable of offering competent support to solving a problem are included in the process. Even if a woman feels she is capable of solving a problem alone, she will still respect the needs of others and include them. Women demonstrate respect and appreciation by being inclusive of others in the process of solving a problem. To exclude another implies that they are not respected as equals or are not considered competent to offer assistance. When others are not included in the process of problem solving, it is easy to take it personally or feel offended. By sharing a problem with another, she is in no way implying that she could not come up with a solution on her own.

Her focus of attention, unlike a man, is not wrapped up in proving she can get the job done. Instead, she wants to give coworkers, managers, or employees the opportunity to become involved in solving the problem.


In the workplace, when a man is stressed, he focuses. The same guy who was chatting and joking yesterday, may be quiet, distant and pulling away tomorrow. Women should not take this behavior's not about you. The man is under stress, he is focusing on a problem, ... he'll be back.

When a woman is under stress, she tends to expand. She sees all the problems around her. She will tend to become overwhelmed. She may talk about all of the problems with which she is dealing. To a Martian she sounds like she is complaining. Men don't exactly know what to do when women share negative feelings, because when a man gives his opinion he prides himself on the solution. He may hear that her work is too much for her, and not realize she is simply releasing stress. His job is to listen with empathy
Men must learn to listen without giving advice, unless it is asked for, and give more personal acknowledgment and less objectivity. They need to really try not to take her words personally.

The Do's and Don'ts for managers:

To Manage Martians: DO
Do allow them to work on their own
Do motivate them by appealing to their ability to get the job done- the hero factor
Do praise and reinforce them by appreciating the TASKS
Do manage their stress by allowing 'cave time' and /or simple and quick criteria for what needs to be corrected.
Do act as if you trust he will succeed

To Manage Martians: DON"T

Don't offer unsolicited or too much advice/help
Don't focus too much on fleshing out all of the potential problems of a situation
Don't manage stress by asking him to talk about it
Don't act as if you do not trust he will succeed

To Manage Venusians: DO
Do allow for more collaborative work
Do motivate by appealing to ability to help the group
Do praise and reinforce by emphasizing importance to group/organization
Do manage stress by listening
Do pay attention and positively comment on the 'little things' she does.
Do build rapport by asking appropriate non-work related questions

To Manage Venusians: DON'T

Don't solve problems too quickly (listen first)
Don't focus exclusively on Tasks and ignore the relationship
Don't wait for Venusians to bring up problems-ask about their concerns
Don't withhold positive feedback

This article is adapted from Mars and Venus in the Workplace by John Gray
(Harper 2002)