An Interview with Bonita Banducci
Julia Mighlets (JM): A major portion of your talk at the summit had to do with the clashing of individualistic people (who work better alone) and relational people (who work better with others). How do you tackle the differences between women with their relational lens and men with their individualistic lens?
Bonita Banducci (BB): It's interesting that you use the word "tackle." I think of myself more as a teacher, and I think that's probably the way I tackle the differences.
One thing I always advocate for is turning a difficult situation, perhaps a conflict at work, into a teachable moment. As a teacher, I encourage people to analyze their problems and to teach one another.
JM: Have you ever had to be the mediator to harmonize the different ways that men and women work?
BB: When I was an entrepreneur, and just out of college, I was the manager of a store in Union Square. The store was also a restaurant, and we sold and served healthy foods.
At a certain point, I had to sneak into my store to figure out how to turn it around because I couldn't talk to my boss (who was also my husband) about my opinions. He would always play the devil's advocate.
I snuck into my store to figure out how to get more customers. I brought in more tables, I reprogrammed our cash registers to help speed up service, and I found out that our food scale was inaccurate and that we were giving away food at half price. I turned the business around, but because I had no idea how to communicate with my boss, I had to do it in secret.
JM: Do you have an experience where there was a cultural barrier that caused workplace conflict? How do you resolve those conflicts?
BB: People from international cultures have so much respect for authority that they do not communicate their issues. People tend to tell their authorities what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.
I had a student who had a difficult time communicating with his manager. He didn't get a promotion, therefore he didn't get a raise, so he didn't get the stock options that he had been counting on. He was upset about it and began to take out his anger on his family.
By the end of my class, he was able to turn it around. He discovered the power of communication. He got the promotion, the raise, and the stock options.
This man found the courage to tell his boss exactly what was wrong with his management style in the right way. The man went on to graduate with his master's degree and attain a successful career.
JM: How do you create a balance between your own work style and the work style of someone from a different culture?
BB: It does come down to being able to have conversations about expectations and communication. As I said before, people from other countries have such respect for the hierarchy that they are hesitant to communicate bad news.
You need to help them realize it is important to be able to point out when something isn't working out. Part of what makes the people of this country successful is that we can communicate and discuss our issues.
Bonita Banducci teaches Gender and Engineering for Santa Clara University's School of Engineering Graduate Program Core Curriculum, Engineering and Society. She was named a Silicon Valley Woman of Influence 2014 by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
Julia Miglets is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She studied Professional and Technical Writing and wishes to pursue a career in editing.