IAN FERGUSON: If you're a woman and the boss think about this

by Ian Ferguson

Men and women work side by side, tackling the same business problems, sitting through the same meetings and walking the same hallways. On the leadership front, however, that is usually where the common ground ends. Men and women experience very different workplaces, ones in which the odds for advancement vary widely and corporate careers come in two flavours: his and hers.

Women perceive career advancement a steeper trek to the top. Some would claim that generally speaking, promotions are awarded fairly or that the best opportunities go to the most-deserving employees while others might say gender has been a factor in missed raises and promotions. Even more believe their gender will make it harder for them to advance in the future—a sentiment most strongly felt by women at senior levels.

Only in a perfect world are men and women on an equal footing in the workplace. Even when the woman is the boss she faces different obstacles than her male counterparts.

Along the way many women in charge sometimes overcompensate. One common mistake is they tend to act like men. They try to be friends with male employees to even the playing field, sometimes using aggressive male tactics like severe discipline or verbal intimidation to be taken seriously.

Today we provide basic tips for female supervisors and leaders who are charged with the responsibility of leading men:

  1. Act like a woman. Use your femininity in positive and constructive ways around the office. There is lots of power in that. A woman’s intuition is never to be underestimated and should be leveraged even in boardroom decisions.

  2. Don’t become motherly. Women can invite too much emotion into their relationships with employees, blurring the line between boss and friend. Such blurring can go along for a time and it can feel cozy and wonderful, but it inevitably backfires when circumstances require the “friend” at the top to institute a strict workplace rule, for instance, or deliver a tough message about performance.

  3. Don’t date or become seduced by your subordinates. Sad but true that many hardworking female bosses spend lots of hours at work and may feel like they hold the cards at having their pick of handsome, available male employees. This breeds disorder and jealousy. Don’t do it! Kindly turn down proposals for dates. A woman in power is hot. Don’t abuse it, but be kind when you turn down offers.

  4. Guard the manner in which you communicate. Men and women communicate differently at work. If not exactly two separate languages, but you may need to use alternative ways when giving men direction. Don’t communicate the same way with male employees like you would with female employees. It is a scientific fact that men process info and details differently than women. Learn how men communicate. Understand their short, curt answers or lack of providing every detail is not laziness or a personal vendetta against you, but just that men and women respond differently to the same information.

At the end of the day, you not only want to be a good boss but an effective one who can rally her troops to success.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at iferguson@bahamas.com.