How To Deal With Mansplaining At Work

How To Deal With Mansplaining At Work
Facebook may have decided that you shouldn’t see the news, but we think you deserve to be in the know with Lifehacker Australia’s content. To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, hacks and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Lifehacker Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a fix.

The term “mansplaining” is relatively new, but the concept is an old one. If you aren’t familiar, the term refers to when someone (most often a man, thus mansplain) explains something to someone (typically a female) in a condescending or patronising way. If you’re a woman, then chances are this happens to you on a weekly if not daily basis. However, figuring out what to do about it can be a bit challenging.

Image credit: Pexels

About 10 years ago, I worked as a barista part time as an excuse to get out of the house and to satisfy my coffee addiction. I was a pretty successful writer already at the time, but I loved the human interaction on a regular basis (working from home can get lonely!). One day, a regular customer came in and started to explain a new web app to me, and had gotten an important detail wrong. When I politely corrected him he explained to me in a condescending way that I was wrong because he had read an article in PC Magazine about it, and pleasantly suggested I should “see if my dad had a copy” because I “seemed interested in tech”. I had written the article.

When I bought up that fact, I won the argument (and consequently every tech argument with that particular customer for all time). However, it’s remained my favourite mansplaining story, because in this case the man was literally trying to explain to me something he didn’t understand by telling me to read an article I actually wrote in a magazine he implied I would need to get from my father.

Confronting mansplaining can be hard. Debra Bednar-Clark, former Head of Business Strategy and Growth at Facebook’s Creative Shop, and now founder of the career and style coaching form DB+co, recently spoke to Inc. about mansplaining in the office, and how women should deal with it.

Her advice? Confront it straight on.

I know I’ve been in dozens if not hundreds of work situations where a male coworker was being disrespectful, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach the problem.

Bednar-Clark suggests confronting mansplaining behaviour when it happens, even if it’s happening in a large group. Rather than be combative, she says to maintain a professional tone and approach the problem head on. Firmly explain what the issue is, and offer a solution on how to solve it.

“Being kind, approachable and strong are not mutually exclusive,” she says. With her coaching clients, she helps develop “scripts” that they can use in situations that happen often. Going in with a plan of what you’re going to say can ensure you don’t get flustered in the moment.

She says that explaining firmly why you’re upset with the offending person will often correct the issue for good, and when it’s done in a group setting send a message to everyone else in the room that the behaviour is unacceptable as well.

Doing it right then, rather than in an email or conversation later, helps that person realise exactly what they did wrong. In some cases, the mansplainer might not truly realise they’re doing it.

It can also help to think about what might be causing the mansplaining behaviour. In many cases, the men that are doing the mansplaining are doing so not because they think someone needs to be talked down to, but because they themselves are insecure.

Once you figure out the root of an issue, it’s much easier to figure about a way to confront it.


  • Someone has to be wrong, and whoever is wrong obviously doesn’t think they are wrong, until its explained to them. Your best example, as you put it, is one where someone admitted they were wrong and knew less than you.

    We should be forever fearful of explaining things to people because they may actually know more than you (and we could get more knowledgeable in the process), and they be offended.

  • People are wrong all the time and make mistakes.

    What happens if you cut off someone “mansplaining” and then make a mistake?

    How well will an employee fare if they can’t deal with anything being explained? It’s a deluded fantasy that won’t end up with that person being a bad employee, bad at their job who won’t last long. Regardless of the genders involved.

    This whole concept is based around always knowing everything, never being wrong, not making mistakes and not needing reminders.

    In your example, what if you were wrong? The person thought they were right. You corrected them. Are you positing that in a conversation whenever there is a disagreement of fact. One side should automatically conceded to avoid being disrespectful and condescending?

  • Such appalling sexism. But that’s ok as long as its women being sexist.

    I hope to never work with a woman so arrogant that she believes she knows everything, and so sexist that she refuses to listen to men.

  • “Womansplaining” – When a Person (usually a woman) explains how “Mansplaining” is a terrible thing in an ironically condescending and sexist manner.

    Seriously, as others have pointed out, condescension is nothing new and shouldn’t be attributed to a particular gender, if the person is being condescending, they’re being condescending, end of story, no need to make up some crappy new term to add a sexist edge to it.

  • The idea that Mansplaining is an offence primarily committed by men towards women sounds to me like the cry of someone who has not witnessed men Mansplaining to one another. Usually quite freely and without the other taking it personally or getting upset.
    It’s just a man explaining some stuff.
    It becomes Mansplaining when his efforts are frustrated.

    Do you know how hard it is to explain something to another who has personalised your tone, jumped to a conclusion, had an emotional response to that conclusion and is now overwhelmed with feeling & is seemingly unable to absorb the information being communicated?
    Add to this the frustration of dealing with someone who believes your frustration is a personal attack and an attempt to condescend them because of their sex. This belief excites the emotional center of said individual to the point where they are capable of bending laws of context, logic & physics in order to maintain a reality that validates their emotional experience.
    Guys do not do this to each other and so can Mansplain amongst themselves for hours with narry a bother.

    The term “Mansplaining” was birthed by women’s media. The same group who, through their glamour photos and diet plans, tell you you’re not good enough on a daily basis. They’re pulling the wool in a big way so that you’ll blame men for your feelings of inferiority.
    And yes, I’m explaining and I am a man.

    The best way to deal with Mansplaining at work is to remember it isn’t all about you, it certainly isn’t personal. Your feelings of inferiority are yours, try not to let your internal chatter get in the way of communication. It has nothing to do with your sex and maybe, just maybe,
    you’re Womoaning about nothing.

    Men and women are beautifully different. From the obvious to the way our minds are wired and even the very way we experience things. It is something that should be celebrated and embraced.

    But come on girls, we are pretty good at explaining aren’t we 😉

  • In all seriousness now, YES, confront it head on. Correct the person.
    Real men, men who aren’t fragile, quivering egos, can stand to be corrected. In fact they should embrace it. And I know girls often love to keep the peace and not make others feel uncomfortable but sometimes you have to be direct and tell it like it is. If he’s a baby about it then at least you know who you’re dealing with and you can adapt your conduct accordingly in future. Or just totally avoid the douch.

    I love the tale about writing the article that they guy tried to correct you on.

    But at the end of the day it has nothing to do with sex, it was just a man being wrong.
    And real men should be able to handle that graciously.

    Great article.

  • You know, I’ve never bee ‘mainsplained’ anything in a workplace, but I have been womansplained something and let me say that they had to womansplain it a few times because it usually made no sense whatsoever. I’ve also never been manbullied but you can bet money that I have been womanbullied, more than a few times.

    This deflection of females to have us look the other way is backfiring and all it’s doing is having us focus on the nonsense being peddled and lies being told and their often atrocious behaviours in the workplace and anywhere else, leaving me gobsmacked that they think they could get away with it.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!