But are these depictions accurate? Do female bosses deserve the reputation they have earned as cold, heartless and impossible to work with, or for?
When you think of a woman, you normally think of cuddly feelings; maternal, kind, caring, nurturing, yet firm. Having a leader endowed with such qualities would make for a much sought after work environment. And yet that’s not the image we often have in our heads when we think of a female boss. None of those cuddly words come to mind and instead, we are mostly thinking of words like tyrannical, evil, heartless, insecure, likes to make others cry… yes, you are the thinking of the Boss Lady!
So who is this Boss Lady and what is her driving force?
According to Boss Lady
According to Boss Lady, getting to the top is not an easy feat; she has had to endure many barriers and prejudices as a small fish in a big male dominated pond. However, she is finally seated at the head of the boardroom table.
Some ‘small fish’ make it by shear stamina, guts and brain, some hitch a ride on a fast moving current, while others just happen to be at the right place at the right time. Whatever helped Boss Lady get to the top, the sharks are always circling! Boss Lady always feels she has more to prove than a male colleague in a similar position because she is expected to fail by virtue of her being a woman. She expects to be taken advantage of, undermined and disrespected.
So what does she do?
She removes all association with the characteristics that would create an impression of weakness. The smile that used to appear on her face with no effort has become extinct and her face has fossilised into a mean, no-nonsense expression. She cranks professionalism to a whole new level and is callous and unforgiving. Her staff scurries through the corridors in fear and her assistant shares similar qualities to Cerberus, the multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld.
This sort of behaviour is, after all, acceptable coming from men and since she is now in a typical male role, she must fulfill it with the same iron fist wielded by male bosses.
According to Boss Lady's staff
But things are much different according to the staff of Boss Lady. When Boss Lady was appointed, a warm fuzzy glow came over everyone as they imagined the fluffy atmosphere they would now work in. Of course, others thought they could now get away with murder, but they never thought they would actually be treated like murderers! In solitary confinement! In a maximum security prison!
Her staff thinks Boss Lady (Ms Boss Lady, if you’re nasty) is paranoid; she does not take kindly to those extended chats at the water cooler or long lunches in the cafeteria, and everything has been reduced to military precision with office jokes a thing of bygone days. Her assistant aka Cerberus spies on staff and anything that could be considered a jibe at Boss Lady’s efficiency leads to staff being hauled in front of a disciplinary hearing and having their knuckles rapped!
Female staff members who view Boss Lady as a pioneer paving the way for women in senior positions have their fingers stepped on by Boss Lady as they endeavour to climb the corporate ladder; she berates their eager attempts to reach her level and instead of giving them advise on how to get there, she warns of the perils of such attempts.
What of the male staff? Well when they’ve finally had enough and resign, she will give them back the balls she took from them!
When staff hear the announcement that, “All staff are asked to attend a meeting”, the bewilderment and fear in their eyes is as if they have just heard a shout of “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” in ‘Clash of the Titans’ style! Devastation and mayhem follow.
RELEASE THE KRAKEN! She's on the loose! (Photograph courtesy www.thenegroqueen.com)
Now, it’s not that Boss Lady is doing anything Mr Boss Sir wouldn’t do, but everyone expects Mr Boss Sir to be mean and neither warm nor caring like Boss Lady should be. Is it wrong for us to expect Boss Lady to be gentler? After all, if Boss Lady is genuinely a kind nurturing individual, this – plus her skill and intelligence – might just have been the reason she was given the job in the first place. Remember, personality plays a big role when a person is chosen for a job.
On the other side, we could ask; are all women the natural nurturers we make them out to be? Is that just a myth and are some women, just like some men, cut out for lives of heartless slave driving?
Regardless of the reasons why Boss Lady is how she is, it is usually the case that Boss Lady loses focus on what her role really is as she is too busy cracking the whip. She doesn’t notice that her ship is in fact sinking because no collegiality exists between her and her staff; staff might even allow said ship to continue taking in water without bringing it to her attention and, in effect, sabotaging Boss Lady.
When Boss Lady fails, she doesn’t see that she brought it upon herself by not being a good manager, team player and an all-round nice ‘guy’, but instead blames the male dominance of the industry, lack of respect and insubordination of staff.
Fortunately, not all female bosses are like Boss Lady and there are some women who do not feel the need to overcompensate for being women, but in fact embrace their femininity and their role as nurturer. They do the job at hand and use skill, good management and firmness over intimidation, divisiveness and force.
Women should not believe emulating the boorish behaviour of men will win the fight for equality. Men will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.
And that’s the worst kind of stab in the back!