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Anyone else manage an all-male team and have had this sort of problem?

(10 Posts)
mantrouble Thu 03-Sep-09 20:01:56

I'm a regular but have name-changed.

A little while ago I was appointed in an almost exclusively all-male department to manage an all-male team.

One of the team members also applied for the job and didn't get it.

The department as a whole has significant gender issues - very few women there and quite a non-PC environment.

Initially I kept my head down and didn't comment on the sexist remarks, which haven't been directed at me but generally disparaging of women and disabled people.

But I have started objecting recently (without making it formal), and there hasn't been any repeat in my presence.

Now I'm finding that there's sniping going on behind my back which is going back to my boss, with the suggestion that I'm not up to the job - but there are no concrete examples, just moaning.

My boss is superb and is giving me full backing - he was the first to suggest that he thinks the sniping is down to jealousy and and quite likely a gender issue - i.e certain individuals don't want a woman boss. He's pleased with my work and is having no truck with the sniping - he knows the team is a tricky one to manage and that I am competent.

I don't want to make anything formal because that would cause hassle for him and he's the most supportive boss I've worked with.

Most of the time it's been fine and the atmosphere is great - I'm happy to join in banter, but am now putting a stop to it when it goes too far - some of the comments have been extremely offensive and I've taken people aside to tell them it's been inappropriate.

Has anyone else encountered a similar situation? How did you manage it/resolve it? What tactics did you use?

rookiemater Thu 03-Sep-09 21:39:08

Until very recently I managed an all male team for a number of years.

It is difficult because I do think you have to work harder than absolutely necessary to gain respect.

Also at first I would probably recommend not joining in with banter, you may be giving mixed messages by going along with it up to a point and then coming down when it goes over the line. Big generality here, but I find guys aren't that hot on spotting subleties so it is hard for them to get why you are laughing along with them one minute and then coming down on them the next.

Great book I love is " Dealing with People you can't stand" gives insight into working effectively with people who come at things from a different angle than you.

It's great your boss is supportive, have faith in yourself and just don't listen when they are being idiots, their sniping and inappropriate comments show that they aren't capable of stepping up to a management role, whereas you clearly are.

nouveaupauvre Sat 12-Sep-09 20:45:40

i sympathise: i've been the boss to older men a couple of times, which is doubly bad as they resent both your gender and your being younger. i found it helped to develop a certain ruthlessness, grit my teeth, and cover my back. it really helps to have a supportive boss, foster that relationship for all you're worth - for a while i didnt have that either which that really does make life hard!
my husband pointed out to me advice i didnt like at the time but which turned out to be very useful - don't aim to be liked, aim to be respected. for men, the latter tends to lead to the former. but for women it's often the other way around.
as for the banter it depends - do you think it is a symptom (they are annoyed at having to work under a woman so they get back at you any way they can) in which case the underlying attitude you need to tackle is their lack of respect for you? or a cause (they used to have a nice time all blokes together and now here you are spoiling it all) in which case you might have to put up with a bit of random sexism until you all settle down together.
one other piece of advice: find if possible another mentor in the company, if possible a senior woman. they'll have all sorts of invaluable advice and will make you feel you're not alone. good luck!

mantrouble Sun 13-Sep-09 22:32:19

Thanks both, excellent advice.

I think the banter is a cause - I can tolerate most of it, but there's one comment which has been repeated which would be offensive to most women. It was repeated recently, and I took the man aside(he's not on my direct team, but I'm senior to him) and pointed out how offensive it was and asked him not to repeat it. If it happens again, I will make it formal - my boss would support this.

I'm actually quite good at separating undesirable behaviour from the person iyswim - the book suggested sounds excellent and I'll read it.

Noveau - your husband's advice is excellent.

I was already thinking I could do with a senior mentor somewhere in the company - I'll discuss this with my boss - he's having executive coaching and his coach might be able to suggest someone.

LadyStealthPolarBear Mon 14-Sep-09 13:32:47

I would hope your boss would tell anyone with a problem with you to take it back to you (unless it is a formal grievance)!

mantrouble Mon 14-Sep-09 21:07:59

Yes, LSPB, I know my boss would, and does, tell anyone with a moan about my decisions to take it up with me - he gives them very short shrift in fact.

He thinks there is an underlying gender issue, but, like me, knows that it's incredibly difficult to prove that. It's not a situation either of us have encountered before.

The gripes are more subtle than complaints, I have the backing of senior people, and if the problem-makers think I'll be going anywhere, they're mistaken.

I think I've been a bit too soft with them and probably not direct enough - I'm now focussing more on respect rather than "like" and will see how that goes.

fridayschild Tue 15-Sep-09 13:50:00

I was in an otherwise all-male team for a couple of years, as junior manager. I'd moved with my boss from a PC environment to a very macho one, and he lost some of his PC-ness straightaway, which wasn't great. I just kept working hard, using humour to diffuse the banter when I was able to think of something witty quickly enough, and eventually (6 - 9 months) things improved as I won respect for being good at my job and a hard worker. Ultimately we merged with another company where there were more senior women, and our MD went - that changed the culture quite a lot.

It would have helped if I could have had a half sensible conversation with the others about football I think, but DH is as bored by it as I am so I din't even have any second hand views to pass on. At least that would have given us something to talk about that wasn't work.

branflake81 Tue 15-Sep-09 16:14:24

what was the comment?

<<nosey>>

mantrouble Tue 15-Sep-09 20:06:59

I can't tell you what the comment was I'm afraid - it would risk identifying me.

But, believe me, you would find it unacceptable.

Your experience is interesting friday - especially as the boss who moved with you adapted to their culture rather than try to adjust it.

It's not that I having nothing in common with the men around me - I like sport and join in the football conversations.

And I had a chat to another manager in the department today (male) who also finds the culture unacceptable and thinks we need to do more in order to retain women.

He's been there some time and observed that what has happened in the past is that women have come in (at a more junior level to me), started becoming more macho and bolshy themselves, like the men around them, but are then "marked down" by those around them and don't thrive there. So they move on.

gallery Wed 16-Sep-09 11:01:59

hmm, very interesting posts. I work in a hugely male environment and rarely have had females working for me. I have not really had the issues mantrouble mentioned. I have to say, I never joined in banter so perhaps avoided the comments thing because I never heard them. I did have one man who struggled working for me and could not accept I was in a position of authority over him- he ended up on a disciplenary. All I can suggest is I kept any social interactions on the level of family and kids- so any banter was aimed at reminding them of relationships. This is because with so few women in my field, I always want to make it clear that I am not 'available'. I never talk football (don't watch it),tv (don't watch it) but do talk shared hobbies (I used to play some a lot of sport). My personal approach is friendly but firm and some topics are off limits with me

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