By lawblogger • June 22, 2008•Other Career Issues
Lately, I’ve started to wonder if women are more likely to be ineffective managers than men. I think, after mulling it over for a few days, that women (who we already know have to work harder to get into positions of power) might have perfectionist complexes that go past the objective and into the subjective, which might make them difficult to work under.
For example, I have a friend who has been complaining to me about his boss (a woman). He says that she likes to be kept “in the loop” on everything he does, including minor emails, and that she will often correct him in front of others or send clarifying emails following his emails that mostly say the same thing he said but in different words. (i.e. he’ll send out an email that says “We’re meeting in the conference room at 10. Please bring your case materials” and she’ll send an email that says “Just to clarify, all the members of the team will be meeting. Please bring your drafts of the memo.”) He can’t stand his boss. At first, I thought he was just chafing to work under a woman or that, if anything, this particular woman was a bit of a micromanager.
I had the issue in my head though, so I started noticing things around my own office. Last week, I had to get a few documents approved by one of my female supervisors, and she made me go back and forth with several minor, subjective changes (i.e. I wrote “individuals” and she wanted “people”). I thought of my friend and started to wonder whether female supervisors feel the need to vouch more for their employees than male supervisors, which then leads to a painful degree of micromanagement. In my case, the document was not that important, and I was actually signing my name to it, so my supervisor wasn’t publicly linked to it at all. Why, then, the need to have me make several superficial wording changes?
I don’t want to say that all women are like this as managers, but I though it was worth blogging about because as a woman who hopes to someday work my way up to a position where I’m managing others, I have committed this experience to memory. I know now that if I want to be effective at managing people (men and women), I need to learn, at some point, how to leave my subjective perfectionism--about things that aren’t wrong but which I would prefer to see changed to the way I myself would have done them—at the door. I think successful supervisors are able to foster growth in their employees by developing the employee’s particular style, and I fear that as a woman, my own fierce pride in getting into that supervisor’s chair or my need to assert myself to know that I’m taken seriously or my certainty that my way is the only right way will prevent me from being a great manager of subordinates. I’m not sure that this issue is a gender issue though. I’d be curious to hear about other people’s experiences.