Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tips on How to handle a female boss

What is it about female bosses that makes them trickier to handle than their male counterparts? Read the worst types and dishes out some potentially career-saving advice

At the outset let's get one thing clear: top women managers are hard done by. There is no sisterhood of women in the corporate workplace -those at the top won't stand for someone younger, smarter or better qualified inching upwards.

Add to that insecurity the fact that every successful top female manager would have had to work twice as hard and sacrifice far more than a male colleague to prove herself worthy of her position. Top this with copious amounts of guilt and self-loathing over missed PTA meetings and kids who love the nanny more. Oh, and let's not forget the pressure of always being judged by her appearance - it takes a person of extraordinary mental calibre to keep up with the nail and hair appointments while the dark clouds of recession hover over the business. The hormonal shifts don't help either.

Why should it be a surprise then that the vast majority of women at the top can be neurotic, manipulative or prima donnas, loathed equally by both genders?
Experts tell us this is a sad phenomenon that will ease off in years to come, when more women will be better represented in the top echelons, and the scarce few who are at the top will not feel so threatened, misunderstood, or persecuted on account of their gender. Until that happy time, here's our guide to the worst types of female bosses to work for and how you can emerge unscathed from the experience.

The Meredith
No this one isn't named after adorable Dr Grey from the TV series Grey's Anatomy, but the vixen played by Demi Moore in Disclosure - someone who uses her power to sexually harass her subordinates.

Now this can be a sticky situation, especially if your boss looks like Demi Moore - after all, what man can resist a woman who comes on to him and can give him a salary rise as well? But with a supreme act of will power, this must be rebuffed. History teaches us that no good ever comes from flings at the workplace, not only could you be in breach of corporate ethics but also the law of the land (you could be jailed even if it's consensual and whether you are married or single).

Disarming comments like she reminds you of your younger sister can help douse the flames in a non-threatening way. Pointing her attention to other eligibles in the workplace can even make her your new BFF. She may suspect you're a little odd, but that's OK.

The Smother-in-law

Poster child for the nurturing female boss, the smother-in-law cooks for her brood, always has a box of tissues at hand and is scarily au fait with everyone's troubled life stories - from Ali's credit card debts to Suzy's boyfriend woes.

At first the warm fuzzy feeling of being part of a matriarch's posse can feel quite nice actually. (There is that niggle about the constant micro-managing, but nothing you can't handle.)

Very quickly you learn why five-year-olds want to grow up as fast as possible. Being told what to do, how to do it and "don't ask me why, but do tell me what you were up to after work" can get pretty tiresome.

When you are dealing with the smother-in-law, armed resistance is futile. You have to let her down gently, with lots of tea, sympathy and emotional communication.

The Wastafarian

More likely to sport a nice head of smooth coiffed hair than dreadlocks, the Wastafarian is usually pretty. Pretty clueless that is.

You may have often wondered how a person without the requisite experience or qualifications has reached where she has. The answer will usually lie in the little pink book that sits within the latest It bag dangling from her arm.

Well connected, with friends in high places and a significant other in a powerful role, the Wastafarian has been able to shimmy into a wholly undeserved position of influence, from where she proceeds to either rise to her own level of inefficiency or lands another dream gig where she will get paid for doing nothing.

The Wastafarian is easily manipulated, easily impressed and may actually be the easiest of the lot to manage, once you get over your self-righteous indignation.

Let's face it, life isn't fair.

The Nutcracker

She does what it says on the tin. Anecdotal evidence shows that most people's first female boss is the dreaded Nutcracker. (Or it could be that workplace newbies bring out their boss's inner Nutcracker.)

Much like Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha, this is the female in whom the milk of human kindness has permanently curdled. With this type of female boss, what you see is what you get, and if you don't like it, hard luck. Underneath the tough-as-nails surface is the wizened careerist who won't let anything or anyone stand in her way.

The Nutcracker will teach you about being competent, always being on your toes and only speaking when spoken to. You just have to up your game to survive.

How to keep a female boss happy

Compliment her kids: Describing them as the sweetest kids you ever saw isn't insincere hyperbole, it's called investing in your career. However smart a woman may be, she will actually believe you.

Be detail-oriented: Most women managers think details are everything. Embellish ideas and proposals accordingly.

Don't try to change the person, change your reaction: Sometimes the only thing we can control about a curved ball is our response to it. Anger is self-destructive, and angry emails are most certainly corporate hara-kiri.

Play to your boss's weakness: If she is vain, pile on the compliments, if she's egoistic, make your ideas sound like hers, if she needs to be needed, pull on the puppy face and ask for advice on home decoration issues.

Show her you can juggle those balls: It's a given that at any point a woman manager will have several balls in the air. Hence she naturally sympathises with, and will even like, someone in the same predicament. Tell her you cook, clean and babysit and you'll have earned several brownie points.

Be communicative: The No 1 gripe that widens the distance between Mars and Venus is men's refusal to talk about their feelings. Choose an appropriate time, rehearse what you want to say, then say it - you will find women bosses care far more about their subordinates' emotional well-being than male bosses.