Advanced search

To not believe that female boss = bitch

(97 Posts)
justwondering72 Wed 12-Feb-14 05:22:36

Yesterday, while doing the ironing, I watched a Ted talk of Sheryl Sandberg talking about women in business. One of the things she spoke about was how men and women getting ahead are labelled differently ie that men are labelled as assertive, ambitious etc and women - while displaying the same types of behavior - are labelled as bossy, selfish etc. I nodded along.

Then I spoke to some people about it and was regaled with story after story of how mean and bitchy female bosses are! My SIL being bullied by two female bosses, a friend who felt that her female boss deliberately held her back to 'serve her time' in a position, while her male bosses were pushing her forward. Then to top it off, I went to a talk last night given by the ex-head of communications for a large EU body, a woman. Her attitude was that to get ahead she was 'one of the boys'. I asked her whether she felt it was possible to get to her very high level without being one of the boys... Her depressing answer was that she enjoyed working with teams of men and that most of the women she worked with at that level were unpleasant, difficult and seemed to feel that they had worked so hard to get where they were, they were not going to make it easier for anyone else.

So AIBU to agree with Sandberg, and to believe that women getting ahead in business are not 'bossy bitches', but rather they are labelled as such because they display ' male' characteristics of being ambitious and assertive?

Shesparkles Wed 12-Feb-14 05:31:53

Based on my experience in separate organisations I have to disagree. IV been victim to, and have seen others be victims to female bosses. The amount of bitchy behaviour, backstabbing, sneakiness which has come form only female noses is astounding. In my experience, men don't display these characteristics, which I'm convinced are borne out of insecurity.

VivienStanshall Wed 12-Feb-14 05:43:39

It's way too sweeping a generalisation.

As a bloke I have had men and women bosses and been fine with both.

I have however encountered a significant number of women bosses who treat their female staff badly, borderline bullying, as your SIL has experienced.

At one company when the extent of bullying was discovered one manager was sacked, and the other managers (myself included) were amazed. She had always seemed so nice and talking to her staff afterwards, several of whom I knew, they said that they hadn't previously spoken up (or even mentioned it when chatting) as they assumed that we all knew and were ok with it - very much not the case!

I can think of four or five cases of bullying by female managers of female staff in the last few years occurring where I work or to friends but none by male managers. This is possibly because I'm in an office environment, maybe the male bullying happens in physical jobs.

I don't have an explanation for it but it is real and I'm surprised that more cases don't make the press.

nooka Wed 12-Feb-14 05:54:16

I've not personally noticed much difference, but then I'm very anti stereotyping by sex so I'm not really looking for it I guess. I have worked with supportive and assertive bosses of both sexes. My only preference work wise is for a mixed team. The times I have worked in just female teams there have sometimes been some very difficult dynamics, and I've also seen all male teams behave badly. I'm relatively high in management terms (public sector though which has it's own dynamics) and have never felt inclined to be anything other than myself.

I'm not very feminine but I'd not describe myself 'one of the boys' - it's a bit of self negation really, likewise putting women down in a way that they are presumably not applying to the men they work with is a bit concerning. I think that both happen if you feel you are in a minority, safer to identify with the majority perhaps?

MrsTerryPratchett Wed 12-Feb-14 05:54:49

I've only had one genuinely terrible boss and he was a man. Tell you what... let's make half of all bosses, CEOs and heads of everything female, just to check, and see what happens.

As long as there are so few women in positions of power, we will never know what a normal balance looks like.

whereisshe Wed 12-Feb-14 06:11:55

Tell you what... let's make half of all bosses, CEOs and heads of everything female, just to check, and see what happens. grin Yes! As my one of the guys I work with points out, we've been promoting incompetent men for years, let's promote some incompetent women as well and balance things out.

I do think this is a classic example of male privilege - a rubbish male boss is typically seen as an individual. A rubbish female boss is seen as representative of her entire sex.

I've had fabulous female bosses and I've never been subjected to this kind of "bitchy" behaviour people talk about. I've seen bosses hold their staff back, but both male and female, with the worst political self-centredness and subjugation coming from men.

BratinghamPalace Wed 12-Feb-14 06:22:14

Most jobs I have had have had males running everything. Two times I have had female bosses and they were brilliant. Exacting and I learnt more from them than anyone.

VivienStanshall Wed 12-Feb-14 06:24:36

Is the post about competent / incompetent bosses? I thought it wasn't, if we're moving onto that then for the record I've encountered a higher percentage of incompetent men than women bosses. This may be a result of discrimination whereby women in the past have had to be better than men to get to the same level, I'm sure the lack of discrimination these days will level up those incompetency stats :-)

If it's about treating your staff badly then it's more the case IME with women bosses than men, and particularly women bosses to female staff.

Totally agree with nooka about single sex teams, again IME they are not good environments. I always build mixed age / sex teams as I find that they are best.

VashtaNerada Wed 12-Feb-14 06:31:01

It's sexist nonsense. I always challenge people who say they hate having a female boss. For the record, I'm a female manager and am very lovely indeed grin.

Christmas2013 Wed 12-Feb-14 06:32:16

I must be very fortunate - this is the 1st time in 5 years that I've had a woman anywhere in my management line and she's certainly not a bitch. She's not the best manager I've had for various reasons but I'm pretty sure her intentions are good.
I've also had lots of support from senior women via mentoring circles and similar - although I suppose the sorts of people who volunteer to do these are not the ones who want to pull the career ladder up behind them!
I have seen awful bitchy behaviour among women at my own level though. Fortunately not in my team so I was able to side step it but definitely worse than I saw among the equivalent men. In contrast the best and most effective, tight team team I've ever worked with was dominates by women. I think we tend to be more relationship focused so when the relationships go well the dynamic can be awesome, when they go badly it's hideous.

KeatsiePie Wed 12-Feb-14 06:34:25

Tell you what... let's make half of all bosses, CEOs and heads of everything female, just to check, and see what happens. I like this plan.

Tbh. I think female bosses often feel like they have more to lose, or are more "noticed" -- i.e., I think they feel like their not-great decisions stand out more, their bad moods stand out more, their personalities stand out more. I can see how this could mean that they might therefore be more tense, less friendly, less relaxed about mistakes, less comfortable to be around, and that could read as bitchy pretty easily at times when everyone is stressed. I don't know whether any of that's actually true, just thinking out loud.

I do think though that my best male bosses have had a really solid combination going on of being very on the ball and expecting the same from others, but quite calm, collegial in a relaxed way, etc. That is something I have seen less with women in high-up positions. And then I think well why not? The men's positions probably feel more secure to them; they probably feel less noticed, and b/c they're men, they probably in fact are a little more secure and less noticed.

Back to your Q, I think YANBU to think that directly assertive behavior stands out more in a woman.

Hexbugsmakemeitch Wed 12-Feb-14 06:39:11

"a rubbish male boss is seen as an individual while a rubbish female boss is representative of her entire sex"

^ This
Damn, I wish I'd had this line at the weekend while my FIL was talking about women politicians.

RalphRecklessCardew Wed 12-Feb-14 06:42:12

Yanbu, of course.

twofingerstoGideon Wed 12-Feb-14 06:48:30

The worst boss I ever had was female. She drove 3 of her 32 staff onto long term sick leave of almost a year and pushed two more into early retirement. However, I wouldn't attribute any of this to her being female. She was just an malicious, incompetent, bullying arse who thought that making other people look bad/useless made her look good (which, of course, it didn't).

Procrastreation Wed 12-Feb-14 06:52:54


I don't think you can dismiss it as sexism. It is definitely a 'thing'. Actually - I swore to never work for a woman again after a dreadful, petty boss who seemed to see me as an extension of her nanny. Then my next boss was female and lovely!

In total, I've had

NaffOrf Wed 12-Feb-14 06:58:13

My manager is female, and she's terrific. My last manager was male, and he was appalling. Go figure.

Sexist crap, in my book.

CoffeeTea103 Wed 12-Feb-14 07:29:37

I've had not so good experiences of both men and women being my boss. I can definitely say it's much easier having a male boss.

ApocalypseThen Wed 12-Feb-14 07:37:53

I think a problem for women is what we're allowed to express, socially. People are far more forgiving of all the bad behaviour we dislike and attribute to women - such as what people are calling bitchiness - in men. And it's not rare in men. It may be seen slightly more often in women as displaced anger though, because men also have permission to be angry, but women certainly do not.

whereisshe Wed 12-Feb-14 08:12:05

I can definitely say it's much easier having a male boss.
Interesting. A leader-follower pairing is successful when both parties are comfortable with the dynamic. Perhaps female managers suffer partly because we're all conditioned to expect power figures to be male?

nicelyneurotic Wed 12-Feb-14 08:12:55

I've had some amazing female bosses, present one included. I've also had just ok ones of both sexes. However, the worst two have been male.

I hate generalisations but in my experience the women bosses have been more supportive and willing to pitch in in an emergency. I think I've been lucky to have worked in some nice teams though.

WorrySighWorrySigh Wed 12-Feb-14 08:31:37

I am both a female boss (however I have only 1 report!) and have a female boss (she has 2 female reports).

One of the problems I have found is of female bosses (my current one and previous) wanting to be friends and then not being able to handle disagreement. I dont want to be pals with my boss. I want to be able to have professional disagreement and not have this seen as some sort of breach of a friendship.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Wed 12-Feb-14 08:36:43

Some of the nastiest people I have ever worked with have been women. I have also worked for a few shitty men.

IMO men tend to be obvious in behaviours. You see the snake in the grass coming. The women were duplicitous, underhand, Machiavellian often using personal conversations as ammo. Men just decide they dislike x and deal. Women seem more mean as it was not obvious that that women was the one out to get you.

Otherwise yes I do agree women are bossy not assertive etc.

Bonsoir Wed 12-Feb-14 08:43:24

I think there is some truth that women in positions of power are often more manipulative than they are leaders.

Leadership skills and personalities often emerge very early and are clearly visible when DC are in their teens.

Orangeanddemons Wed 12-Feb-14 08:48:26

I've had loads of female bosses and loads of male ones.

The female one win hands down every single time. Without fail. I have found all my male managers to be pretty clueless, competitive and often just plain nasty.

Whereas the women are supportive, considerate and fair.

This may be sexist! But I would avoid working for a male manager whenever possible

pointythings Wed 12-Feb-14 08:52:28

I've had two dreadful bosses and they were both female, but I sincerely think that is a pure coincidence. Out of the remaining 8 excellent bosses I have had, 4 have been male and 4 female. There's research that shows that people in leadership positions are more likely to display traits of antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders - perhaps these traits are what it takes to reach the top for some? So my suspicion is that it's being a boss that goes to some people's heads and leads to them behaving like prats, nothing to do with gender. Power corrupts and all that.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: