Saturday 3 January 2009

I've got a question for you


What do you think about this?

Apparently women who like to be on top aren't necessarily so hot when it comes to the workplace.

Researchers at the University of Toronto Canada say that female bosses are more painful for other females workers than male bosses. It's called the queen bee syndrome where successful women don't like to be surrounded by female competitors.

The research team studied the health and stress levels of 1800 US staffers in three situations: working for a male boss, working for a female boss and slaving for one of each sex. Those working for a woman had more trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing, depression, anxiety, headaches, neck/stomach/back pain and heartburn.

I've given a lot of thought to this topic over the years. And, as much as I really don't want to agree with it, I believe it is true.

One of my worst bosses was a male and one of my best was a female but overall, I've found women bosses to be more competitive and less likely to want to mentor female staff.

I've also managed staff for a long period of time and have often found it easier to manage male rather than female employees. For a variety of reasons. I would hate to think it was because I feared some competition though.

I've always found women in the workplace to be highly productive and committed but I think we often can be high maintenance, no matter where we sit in the hierachy. Perhaps it's because many of us have less confidence compared to some of our male counterparts. For example, from my experience, if you asked males and females to assess their own work performance, males would write their report in more glowing terms (regardless of their actual performance levels) whereas females would downplay their abilities and performance. Many men seem to come equipped with the 'I am worthy' chip and many women do not. There are many reasons for this but it often means that bosses need to communicate more, provide greater encouragement and engender confidence in female employees.
So perhaps there are some great female bosses and some who have self esteem problems and feel threatened by other competent women. And perhaps there are those who are not prepared or equipped to give their female staff the amount of nurturing and support that they need. Simply because they are too busy focusing on being more analytical and systematic and less empathetic, communicative and caring.

So, what is your view -

Are women more difficult to work for if you are a female? Do we have different expectations of our male and female bosses? What do males think, do you prefer a male or female boss?


  1. Very interesting topic! The absolute worse bosses I've ever had were women -- almost without exception. I finally had gotten to the point that I simply wouldn't accept a position if I was going to have to work for a woman. I know that isn't true of all women bosses, but it was true in my experience. They were more competive, more up tight, suspicious, distrusting. I never understood why. I had a very close friend that moved up in the company that we both worked for and she wanted me to come work for her in her department. I did, reluctantly, but the only reason that we were able to remain friends was because a month after I took the job with her, I was offered another one and I knew it was the only way we were going to remain friends. She was a terrific person outside the office, but a totally different personality in the workplace.

  2. Lilly, what an intriguing question. My observation, of course is based on my observations here. While what you say is generally true here too, what is really curious , is that it seems to be a function of the level of "spohistication" of your job. The higher that level, the more the jealousy, cribbing and illwishing.

    This inability to get along/mismanage your female subordinates isnt so obvious, in say, someone like the lady who works as my household kitchen help; say, when she is thinking of another lady who comes in daily for the lesser considered cleaning work. (The latter looks up to the former....)

    Methinks, that in general what you say is true, of a certain section of the population....though not the way the pink queen bee seems to be lording over the meek others, in the picture.....

  3. While I haven't had that much experience in the work sector, I do think that women can be their own worst enemies. I used to be a resident assistant and the manager and my co-workers were women and were bloody hard to work with/for. I think it was the bitchiness which you rarely get with men. Sucks, doesn't it? But then again, not surprising.

  4. I remember my second job I begged my supervisor to hire a male. We were all woman and there was so much drama and backstabbing.

    I do agree that working for a woman is more stressful, course, all my bosses have been women, so what do I know.

    I disagree with this statement "They also seemed to have the whole life/work balance happening which we females naturally find more difficult to achieve."

    That is because they don't normally have as much responsibility as we do. Females that work are typically expected to still have the house in tip top shape and kids to all their activities and so on. I think Men are more relaxed because they normally don't have a lighter load.

  5. I've worked for 1 male and 2 female principals. I found it easy to work for the male principal because he probably seemed like a different animal from myself. The 2nd principal, being a previous female teacher seemed to know us too well and couldn't quite decided if she was our friend and colleague or our boss. I liked her though. The last was always trying to further her career and making everybody miserable until she settled down a bit... but that was after I left.

  6. I have always liked working for a male more than a female. Females seem to get to jealous if you outshine and too mean if you don't.
    (This is some - Not All)
    What a great topic. Visiting from SITS

  7. I definitely agree! I am a very easy-going, self-sufficient, diligent worker and always struggle with female bosses. My last boss was a nutcase who craved power so much and it drove her batty when I knew something she didn't! I always tried to present any of these situations in a diplomatic manner, but she was never good at accepting my being right. I refused to back down if I was 100% sure I wasn't in the wrong about something and that would send her on a research mission to find some way to prove I was wrong...even in the smallest capacity. Strange, but true!

  8. I have found that women who work for me are less polite, less cordial, less effective than the men.
    That is really sad. They enter with a chip already on their shoulder. I don't think I put it there, or that I add to it. I still don't understand it.

  9. From my experience so much depends on where you are in the hierarchy.

    As a corporate public relations manager there was a need for me to report directly to the CEO of my huge organisation. And yet I was regarded as middle management.

    These were early days when there weren't many such people around (especially female ones). Australian companies just didn't know how to deal with us!

    This meant that I often had informal power greater than my bosses did. They couldn't access the CEO as I could.

    Boy, talk about little green-eyed monsters! And this was the case with males AND females, although I must say the men were particularly sensitive.

    These days most corporations realise the problem and things are different. But at the time I had huge difficulties with characters who couldn't get their heads around the realities.

    Me as a boss? Generally I was pretty lucky with both males and females.

    June in Oz

  10. found you at sits...

    A question that I've actually discussed with people several times. Most of them (male and female) hate female bosses. Me? I really think there's a certain cattiness to all female relationships in which one is going to be more "dominant" than the other. This doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing to have a female boss though if you're a female or vice versa. It's all about balance in how you view things and how personally you take your professional life.

    As for my experience, it's 6 one, half dozen the other. I don't mind working for female bosses--although I certainly have had a few who came it with an attitude issue.

  11. Yippeee, this gives me the chance to bitch about my boss, a female. She is driven and I think expects more from her female staff then her male staff. WTF?

    I do not know what the reason is or why suddenly females 'turn' when they get into management positions. Perhaps their bosses do not give them support. Perhaps there are fewer females in managerial roles and they feel they had to work hard to get there so they act differently. Who knows but can I send my boss this post anonymously, LOL. I mean do not get me wrong I am supportive of women and equal rights but not supportive of ambitious bitches who treat other females poorly, especially when they let the boys get away with murder. OK, OK I am bitter, he he.

    I need to find a new job, clearly. How does one deal with an aggressive female boss? Anyone?

  12. Really interesting post Lilly, though I must admit that I haven't had 'much' experience in working with a female boss. What experience I have had made me prefer working for a male boss. I feel that to be able to work amiably with a female boss would still take a 'tremendous amount' of give and take - too much for me anyway. I used to have a great amount of even tempered enthusiasm give and take and the capacity to work hard, not now of course ('cos I'm an ancient menopausal nutter now) but in the dim and distant past I did .

    Seriously though, I think that we women are still our worst enemies and it would probably take another generation before folk could say honestly that it wouldn't matter whether or not their boss was a man or woman.

    Cheers Peers, Kate x.

  13. @ Sylvia - I wonder why it is and the worst thing is I used to have 100 staff and I wonder did they see me the same way. Its not a nice thought. And as you say, women make great friends but sometimes make dubious bosses. Thanks heaps for your comment.

    @ Ugigh - My ex partner runs restaurants and believe me it was the same in the kitchens, at the bar and for the waiting staff. It probably gets nastier up the hierarchy though as you say. What would it be like in a tertiary institution? The same? Thanks for your comments - I like to know how things are in your part of the world.

    @ Psych Babbler - mmm the bitchiness factor. I guess it's no surprise you see it in the schoolgrounds with little girls so I guess the workplace is just a bigger playground. I find it fascinating. I am interested in organisational psychology. Are you studying anything similar? Thanks for your comment.

  14. I have had a reasonably long career and the only female boss I ever had was in my first summer job in a Caravan Park Shop in St Andrews. She was great until things went wrong.

    From the male boss gene pool, I have had my fair share of good and bad bosses from complete tossers to very agreeable.

    But they are bosses, regardless. Wouldn't it be good not to have one. Oh I forget I will still have my wife. She is and always will be the boss of me.

  15. For me it doesn't really matter if it's a female or male boss. It depends on how personable they are and how good a people manager they are. There may be some truth to the fact that women do not like female bosses and males do not care either way. It will be interesting to see at the end of the comments.

  16. I have mostly worked in situations where I was the only female doing male type jobs, (Lumber co, paint dept, hardware store, prop maker at Paramount Studio, etc.) my problem was making sure they knew I could do the job as good or better than them just because I was a woman. When I have worked where my boss was a woman, I was treated like an equal and had no problems. But I'm very agressive and even most bosses were a little afraid of me..I always acted like I wouldn't take any crap and didn't. I had one female boss who was determined to help all women get better jobs under her..she was a great mentor. But I would rather work with a male boss than a female as it cuts down on the bullshit.

    ps..thanks for stopping by and saying howdy at yellowdoggranny's.come by anytime..jackie

  17. I read your question and just had to dive in with this one. If I had to pick I'd say hands down MALE. I've had a ton of different jobs over the years and only ONE boss that was female who didn't get all nasty over stupid things. For myself I have found that men can keep it together much better and not get emotionally over the top.

  18. I've had plenty of both. It actually didn't matter to me what their gender was but who they were as people.

  19. unfortunately I agree!too many experiences to write about :(

  20. I think the worst people ever to deal with are those who are convinced their "opinion" is the be all and end all, and that happens equally between men and women. Opinions are one thing, and facts are another. So on that note, I'd say that each person commenting here has their own set of facts according to their own experience, but it may not be an experience shared by any of the others. In that sense, it's not possible to say what is right and what is wrong: it's dependent on the individual how they deal with others and what qualities they can draw out of another. I have had to deal with extremely bitchy and envious women, but have won them over. If I let my own bitchy female side out, it's a lose-lose situation. So I don't think it's a surprise that women have these just takes a little something extra to be able to deal with them and see it for what it is. It's not impossible to deal with. If you have an *individual* who is impossible to deal with, that's different. But it's never the entire "species" that's at fault, is it? :)
    As for women/men bosses/employees, personal experience has shown me that the individual personality is the deciding factor in most relationships, but I think with women you need to really assess the individual personality more than you would with men, either working for them or over them. Possibly because of the emotional factor that women bring into their dealings and their thinking; men are mostly devoid of that in their general dealings, and especially in the work place, so things are a little simpler, but not necessarily 'better' because of it.
    As for the hierarchy thing, I disagree with the comments about that: I've found that the higher you go, the easier it is to deal with women. But again, that is my personal experience, and it depends on a lot of different factors. I have worked in top levels of management in large and small corporations, and as middle management, and a regular worker bee: as far as I'm concerned, it's the ones lower on the rung you have to be careful of, but in the end, it's their upbringing and personality that dictate to them how they'll treat people. One commenter said those who are beneath others, they "look up to" their boss. But that's only if they've had an upbringing where they're taught respect. I also have hired help and my maid Anjana is an absolute gem and a dignified woman, but is considered "low class" in India, whereas there are those I've come across who are supposedly higher social scale who are horridly envious of others' success and are not nice people at all. They treat people like absolute crap and are stuck up nobodies who think they're superior to all. Truly, it's the individual personality that counts in the end: that's how I deal with everyone, whether I work for them or they work for me. Gee that was long-winded :))

  21. I know that my female boss is much harder on her female subordinates than she is on us guys. But that's just one current example. My previous supervisor - a man- was a weasel in his own ways.

    I prefer a fair boss, one who doesn't try to divide and conquer. Gender makes no difference. Just give me FAIR.

    Nice blog, by the way.

  22. I think there are a lot of variables --I've lead female workplaces and what I found is that if I walked into a place that had been discordant prior, then that "vibe" was hard to flush out. I mean, there was an expectation that things were going to be the same, and frankly in one instance it took the departure of a few people (the backstabbers and gripers), and the addition of others to bring about a good sense of positive energy and open exchanges.

    I have seen women, though, lead as though it were a big girl's club. Where no matter how good you were, they wouldn't let you in to some weird secret inner sanctum --as bad or worse as an old boy's club. In fact, in some places I've found men to take women a lot more seriously at times.

    I often wonder if women who lead like this --the girl's club, aren't as likely to have close friends --either male or female, outside of the workplace. I sometimes think these are the women you see at church, who show up unaccompanied, leave unaccompanied, and later die alone.

  23. Lilly, I have only worked for women. Not on purpose, just coincidence.

    They have all been fair but extremely competitive, confident, type A personalities. Since I am such the opposite I always admired them but was, at times, a little intimidated by how direct and curt they were. I would just silently do as they asked, without question, like a little worker bee.

    Here's a little something though.They all confided in me. They let me in on little bits of their lives that I never shared with anyone. It used to make "middle bee" female co- workers green with envy. I have to admit that I secretly enjoyed that.But soon I was excluded from "middle bee" after work get togethers and other stuff.

    So I guess I would say That I really never had problems with the queen bee, it was always with the ones waiting in the wings.

    Peace - Rene

  24. I preferred working for a female boss. I do think that generally there is more 'sympatico' between the sexes, rather than a same-sex situation.

    Is it a co-incidence that male bloggers tend to attract female comment and vice versa?


  25. I've done all kinds of jobs, over the years, worked in restaurants and an independently owned pharmacy. I've had some male bosses who ran their business with their johnson's, and one family business that came complete with a psychotic daughter-in-law. Enough said there.

    My current supervisor is a female, but I've worked for the same program manager (a male) for 8 years. They are both great.

    The worst experience I've had working for women came when I completed an internship in a nursing home, about 15 years ago. The women working in this nursing home did not trust one another, and the woman director was unstable. I called it a bitch factory (privately, of course).

    Luckily, I was not an employee, and my college adviser was very supportive. I sure was glad to get out of there!

  26. I am a female boss! I don't think it's the gender as much as the management style... we have a no tolerance policy for gossip which allows for clean communication and a cohesive work place.

    We also run a business based on fun... which attracts wonderful people.

  27. Hi. Love your blog!

    Good question. I believe women have a stronger tendency to sabotage other women. Not sure why but that's been my experience. Sad, isn't it?

  28. I think it depends on the woman. I hired and managed men and women during most of my career. I never (well except for one totally dysfunctional woman) had a problem. And, found great satisfaction in mentoring them.

  29. I like Stefan's comment and think I agree with that. I've had a wonderful female boss and a bitchy one so it boils down to the individual and they type of person they are. And Lilly, I'm sure you were a wonderful boss, no question about that!

  30. I will NEVER work for a female boss again. With one exception, they've all been nightmares. Women bosses (by nature) take their jobs too seriously and expect other women to play the work game like they do. That career ladder the female boss is climbing is only going to a place I don't want to be. They don't understand that I've never had a better day at work than at home.

    Personally, I hate to work, period, and so do only because I'm between husbands. (I could single-handedly take the women's movement back a hundred years!) My grandmothers watched soap operas all day and went out to lunch their girlfriends, and as long as the house was clean and dinner was on the table, all was well. Sounds good to me!

  31. I never had problems working for both, male and female, but I always worked for company-owners, and I think that can be somewhat different. I am self-employed now, but before that, I was ‘the boss’ as a managing director of mostly females. Even though I employed males, they never lasted; they couldn’t deal with the pressure – my bunch of strong-minded women just wouldn’t accept any cocky and “I am worthy” behaviour if the result didn’t match. They all stayed with me for these 10 years I worked there – but again, I had to report to the company owner directly. The ‘high maintenance thing’ is something I experienced with women as well. They wanted to talk ‘things through’, and even though that can be somewhat tiring (I am terribly realistic-minded), it was necessary and the result was an excellent atmosphere.

  32. My worst bosses have been women. One woman in particular was a real beotch to work with. Other women in my office felt the same way and we were told that it was because she was one of the first women in our department. She had to scrap and fight her way to the top and pay her dues. She didn't want us younger women having it easy.

    I felt that she had a real opportunity for mentoring and fostering a female support system. All of the women in the department eventually left citing her as the main reason why. She is now the only female there. Just the way she likes it.

  33. Yes, very interesting! I've had some STINKERS of male principals in the past, one over twenty years ago and one twelve years ago, well, the two of them were downright horrid.

    What kind of man says out loud, that he will not be employing any more female teachers over forty, as they all go off and have hysterectomies and have to take time off. I hope God gets that man. And do you know, that was one of the nicer things he said.

  34. Hi Lilly,
    In my experience, both men and women bosses have been fair to me. However, I am more connected with my women bosses. I think it's because I have no aspirations to advance to the supervisory level. I'm very happy and content in my "workabee" position. In essence, I'm not a threat to them.

    My hubby is in the management, and his staff (men and women) love him and think very highly of him, which they have expressed to me each time we have get togethers here at our house. Of course, that makes hubby and me feel very good. He really has excellent managerial and people skills. However, I would not work for him. He's a perfectionist and, as a family member, he'd be less forgiving to me, I think. Hehe. Not that I don't strive for perfection with my work, I just don't think that, me, working for him would work out.


  35. I think it depends on the industry. I've only worked for men, so I can't say for sure. But I think if you worked for a small shop or a non-corporate enviroment, it could be ok. But in a corporate enviroment, the majority of women are bitches. I had a girlfriend who was actually in my wedding and works at my husband's company try to sabatoge my husband by telling people he abused me and terrible things about me and him. But I've also seen independant artists who own small buisnesses who are very communitive and kind.

    Tommorow, you can learn why Wade punched the wall!

  36. Well, I have never worked for a female boss, but I have worked with females in high positions. I can't say they were any more difficult than males, but I didn't work FOR them.

    I tend to agree with what most of the commenters have said, however, because it seems women do tend to make things harder on other women. It may just be society in general, where women are used to being "second status" for so long that it is still difficult for them to get the mindset that they are just as capable of being leaders as men.

    It's like everything else, Lilly, it all comes down to each individual. Taht's why i detest these kinds of studies, because people put too much stock in them when all along everything comes down to each person's unique situation. You are what you make yourself out to be. I never seem to fall into any of the categories that these studies come up with. But, maybe it's just me! ha-ha

  37. hate to say it but i have never had a boss. always worked for myself.
    BUT my husband has terrible luck with female bosses, not sure there is one i can name that we liked.
    they make his job very hard and advancing nearly impossible.

  38. I've only had ONE great female boss. And the qualities that come to mind that I admired about her were that she was fair, hardworking, and a fantastic communicator. She was very eager to mentor both males and females. I hate to say this but she was an exception to the rule. Unfortunately, those qualities are something I never found with other female bosses that I've worked for/with. The above mentioned boss was single with no kids.

    I really agree with WheresMyAngels. Most women in the workplace are wearing several hats in and out of work. This is definitely why they aren't as relaxed as male bosses. I read an excellent article last week about the "Alpha Female." I believe it was featured in Women's Health. I'll get back to you on that, but it really drove home how most of these women are spreading themselves unbelievably thin trying to be Superwomen. And how this ultimately brings out many undesirable qualities at home and at work. Obsessive behavior, micro-managing, lack of patience, perfectionism, etc...

  39. I think what Summer says is so true. Spot on and I would like to get that article too. Women still have it much harder than their male counterparts. If you are a mother than you have a full time job at home and another at work. Men do not have the same responsibilities and I do not care what anyone says. There is no such thing as Superwoman and that makes me sad because when you have kids you do have to make a choice or otherwise you end up being nothing to anyone by trying to be everything to everyone. Rarely have I seen it work unless you are so rich you can afford nannies. Then you risk your kids being f'd up big time. If any woman out there believes they can do it all I would love to hear what you have to say and how you are managing it, truly!

  40. Well my boss, who is a woman, sucks. I don't know whether that's to do with her being a woman or not though.
    I normally prefer working with male bosses because they aren't so competitive!

  41. I agree with that thought. I have a female boss, and it's pretty much hell.

  42. Whenever there's a problem boss or a poisonous work atmosphere, I have found a lack of managerial structure and policy that does little to foster both confidence and team work with its employees.

    A healthy workplace does have to start at the top, and leaders have to be willing to examine current policy, make changes and implement it. Often, there is a rough patch and some people will have to be let go.

    But, if the structure changes and a better atmosphere is created, more often than not a happy workplace can also lead to a more profitable one as well.

    I think one thing we can do as parents is to instill the importance of assertiveness over aggression to our kids, and especially the importance of female friends to our daughters.

  43. It's a well known fact that women who get to the top no longer fight for women and become more and more like men in order to remain at the top (look at Margaret Thatcher, for example).

    I think that women can be more sympathetic and easier to talk to, but - by god! - they can also be much bitchier! Men are more direct and do not take things personally as women can do, so I much prefer having a male boss for those reasons.

  44. How we view bosses can raise our awareness about how we view ourselves. As I reflect back on my life experience, when I have felt intimidated by a boss, at times it was female, at times it was male. The individuals who seemed the nastiest or most difficult to work with from my view were often very insecure, overly-determined to prove their competence and superiority at their jobs and underneath it all, focused on comparing themselves with others. I learned more about negative energy could affect me and also how I could evolve to move beyond it. I grew to realize I felt more comfortable in other settings. This was not because I wanted to escape discomfort. Rather, it was because I was learning to become more discerning and to make more deliberate choices after raising awareness and learning valuable lessons. I was learning to trust myself.

  45. My best boss ever was a female.

  46. My worst bosses were definitely women. I always got along with them because I was smarter than most of them. I had one tell me she would go along with anything I said because she did not otherwise know what to do. Another one, almost drove me crazy and she was eventually told to retire or get fired. I'll take a man boss anyday.

  47. I'm a Nursing Assistant so my bosses have almost always been women. So I don't know. However, it does seem to me that female bosses don't tend to support their staff workers like they should.

  48. Found you through SITS! ;)

    Great thought-provoking post... In all my many years in the Corporate World, I have only been lucky to have one absolutely wonderful female boss. The other ones were on a major power-trip and felt threatened by every other female in our company. By the same token, I have also experienced a couple of really horrendous male bosses as well.

    So I guess it all boils down to ego level, management skills (or lack thereof) and personality traits - if those that are horrible managers had to fight and kick their way up the ladder, they may feel they have to be a tyrant to remain on top of that same ladder.

  49. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    All of them were detailed and you all offered some great insights from your own experiences.

    It would have been more interesting to get some more males replying because I don't think they see the issue. In the same way we females do.

    I like the thoughts that some of you have presented about women having to fight to get their positions in what is often male dominated workplaces so they act aggressively to stay there.

    To me its all about self esteem because when I think we feel confident and in control and sure of ourselves we have no fear of anyone.

    I also like the ocmments from mothers who say that its hard to achieve it all and spread yourself so thin. Something is going to give. And that is so true as well. Its hard to do it all. And do it all well.

    I wonder how we, as females, can change this so we have the opportunities to do what we want to in life and not have to sacrifice careers or motherhood to do so.

    I would like to explore this issue in other posts in 2009. Thanks again!

  50. I worked on the fire department with 80 men. Woohoo! I had the best of bosses, and one major mental case. And through it all, I was still happy that I wasn't working for a woman. Although my "mental" boss was erratic, that seems to be the ABnormal among men. With a female boss, it's the NORM.

  51. That's an interesting study, of course you caught my attention right away with your second paragraph. I won't say what picture was dancing around in my head, LOL.

    I have had only one female boss, and she was in her 50's. I think she was more down to earth and pretty intuitive when it came to dealing with her employee's. I can say that I have seen many women in positions of authority who seem to think they need to prove something to all who cross their path. Perhaps it comes from the fact that many women are still not paid commiserate to their male counterparts, yet seem to get more done.

    I do agree with many of your commentator's, there can be far too much drama with the women in the workplace.

  52. I must admit I can agree with the stats. I have worked for many types of bosses. Over half of them are women. They tend to be overly "motherly" and talk down to their workers. I know that most of them don't even mean to or know they are doing it. Try working with nothing but women. I have done that as well.... and that is an estrogen/hot-flash train wreck waiting to happen. We are emotional, temperamental. hormonal, and involved. Because we are all that plus relational we are great at what we do and INSANE (many of the women anyway) as bosses.

  53. Thanks Dana, Eric and Nette, well seems like we are all in agreement which is not a great thing for women I guess. Shame!

  54. Lilly, only just saw your response to my comment. I've studied educational psychology...basically working with kids and adolescents. But researching something like this in an organisation would be very interesting!


Thanks for your comments.