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Would you prefer a male or a female boss? - November 03,2007
It is the never ending water-cooler talk – do women make better bosses than men? Given the choice, who would you rather work with? Some men prefer women bosses, as do some women whilst there are men who swear that they would never ever work for a woman. There are of course the women who will never want a female boss. And then there are the cynics among us who damn both sexes to hell, claiming no difference in the quality of torture they endure during the work day at the hands of either man or woman. Everybody has their preference and I have my colleague Heather F. to thank for the trouble this topic will cost.

I read somewhere recently that it was funny how many bosses think their subordinates are moving on because of dissatisfaction over what they are paid. Wrong, says the article. “A study in 2001 involving some 20,000 exit interviews found that the Number One reason people leave jobs is "poor supervisory behavior." In other words, bad bosses. And one of the biggest factors cited in "poor supervisory behavior" was . . . poor communication skills. People too often are promoted for their workplace accomplishments, without any assessment of their communication skills.”

Occasional vapid stare
I am going to take the liberty of boiling the issue down to the question of who more effectively utilizes their communication skills. This will perhaps lead us to understand why either sex is preferred or reviled by their staff. From my experience (and contrary to popular opinion I am not a know-it-all) how you relate to your boss is more likely than not, linked to how successfully he uses his communications skills. Believe it or not there are bosses whose ‘storehouse’ of communication skills consists of a grunt and a nod – and that is to tell you ‘Good Morning’. Later on in the day as things get busy you might get the occasional vapid stare if you dare to ask them questions for which they might not be equipped to answer.

For the record, whether male or female these are some of the communication issues that managers need to be able to handle:

• Answering tough, touchy, sensitive questions;
Responding to emotional issues and problems in the workplace, as well as emotional employees;
• Establishing an environment of two-way communication between manager/supervisor and workers;
• Understanding the communication dynamics of an organization, and how that knowledge can foster better relationships;
• Delivering bad news and using communication techniques to provide low-key but high-power recognition for employees.

What women bosses’ do better as communicators

Some women bosses tend to empathize with employees more than do the men. They are likely to be better equipped to respond to emotional issues and problems in the workplace, as well as emotional employees a little better then their male counterparts. This can work against them in the workplace. Let me explain myself. As a female manager you will find that you are more likely to be approached for the occasional day-off/hour-off or afternoon off from employees who very often have a ‘long-bag’ of sob-stories to tell you.

Granted many of them are true and you always must give them the employee the benefit of the doubt in cases of emergency. But there comes a point when one has to wonder how many ‘uncles’ or ‘aunts’ a particular employee has in their family, because every month s/he has a funeral to attend. Male bosses tend not be as approachable and are more task-oriented, compared to the relationship oriented woman who will perhaps spare the time to listen. This is not to say that there are no male bosses who will not do this. In fact this is the reason that some women will prefer men as bosses because they really do not want to hear the intricacies of why you have to have to go to the doctor (again) and will just ‘llow you.

What male bosses do better as communicators

Some male bosses tend to be more straight-forward in their communication with their employees. Again, let me explain myself. Some male bosses tend not to beat around the bush, they will tell you like it is without really wondering how or where the verbal blows will land. They might not even consider whether or not the employee can take it. There are of course some women with the ‘testicular fortitude’ who do the same or worse, depending on how you look at it. In their communication with you, with regards to your work, your average female boss will perhaps be more diplomatic in her overtures and might want to soften the blows. Some male bosses neither have the time, interest or maybe communication skill. I have barely scratched the surface with this topic. I only get so much and no more space to write. Nevertheless, tell me what you think.


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