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Labo Daniel: Who Says Women Make Bad Bosses?

Labo Daniel

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It is often said that we women are our own worst enemies, because we often judge each other based on looks, age, hair (permed vs team natural soul sistas) shoes, bags, complexion (too many bleaching trolls) and everything in-between which builds unhealthy competition among us.

Will a female boss not promote her female subordinate because she wears human hair, is prettier (I believe this is a very relative adjective by the way) than her or owns a Hermes Kelly bag?

Several women believe she won’t… and this view is one of the reasons women prefer male bosses. They claim that female bosses:

“Have issues and hate their female subordinates for no just cause”

“See younger women as threats”

“Are difficult”

“Do not mentor”

“Are passive aggressive”

Now, what was interesting about the views of some of these women was that it was prejudice, because they had never worked with women. They just made assumptions without any prior experience or facts.

Truth be told, I was one of those women when I started my career about 9 years ago.

I was an investment banker in my rookie days and I remember the sigh of relief I heaved when I realised on my first day at work that I was the only female on the trading floor. There was just one other female in the entire investment bank. As time went on, it got really lonely in there and to my utmost surprise, I was happy to have a few other females join the team, though my bosses remained male.

Fast forward to the time in my life when I realised that as much as I loved crunching figures, I loved people more and when you love people, you make even more money (Well, maybe not initially, especially when you leave investment banking :)). Thus, my sojourn to advertising began.

My first interview for an advertising job was with the Marketing Director of a bank, Celine. Since I had no prior experience in the industry, I went the extra mile and some, to prepare. At the interview, I appraised the brand, presented my fact finding on a few inconsistencies about the brand, proffered solutions and ultimately brought my value A-game to the table. After the initial 1 hr interview, we had an extra 15 mins personal chat about her journey to her current position and I felt an unusual bond with her I never had with any of my male bosses.

I was invited for a panel interview a week later and I can’t explain what happened, but I flunked so bad and I could see the disappointment in her eyes. I sent her an sms expressing my disappointment in myself and to her. She responded, saying she would give me a 2nd chance. I never got to work with her, because she moved to the CBN almost immediately after but not before she taught me a life lesson

‘You never get a second chance after a bad first impression but you can get several chances after a good first impression”

And that was the moment I really began to view female executives in a different light.

A few weeks later, I started a job in an advertising agency (Whoop! Whoop!!) which was male dominated (again) . I was given my first assignment which entailed sending emails to 53 Marketing Directors. I was new, hadn’t built a reputation for myself yet so it was no surprise I didn’t get any response from all but one Marketing Director and yes, she was female – Lola , GM, Marketing of another bank. The deal didn’t come through but she gave this nervous, ‘I may lose this job’, newbie a ray of hope and inspired me to keep going no matter what.

And keep going I did. I started getting my own accounts and worked with several female executives like Hannah , who was a Marketing Director at a multinational and so many others (I’ve listed too many names already so I’ll spare you the rest) who have gone on to become mentors and strong pillars in my life.

I’d be lying if I said it’s been all rosy working with female executives. Besides, working directly with a female boss in an organisation is different from a female executive client right?

Well, after several years in advertising, I realised that not only did I love people more than figures crunching, I also wanted to help bridge the gap between the rich and poor in my own little way and that landed me a job (of course you know it didn’t just fall on my laps right?) in African Development Aid and not only did I have a direct female report, I had 2 female bosses.

Initially, I struggled with one of my female bosses who interestingly was located 6 hours across the ocean from me, because there was a lot of micromanagement which I wasn’t used to from male bosses in previous roles and it was almost driving me out of my mind.

Over time, I came to appreciate her attention to the fine details of my work as grooming and mentoring and this change in perception brought out in me a level of perfection I never knew I had and made us work in perfect synergy. In fact at some point she would ask for my feedback on her own work

From my experiences (Trust me this is not even 10%, there’’s just no space for extra), I’ve realised that contrary to what social stereotypes propagate about female bosses, the women I worked with did not :

“Have issues with me for no just cause”

“See me as a threat”

Neither were they “difficult” or “passive aggressive”
Were they strong and assertive? Yes, in a way any leader should be regardless of gender.

Anytime I relate my experiences to support female bosses (that we’re also becoming). I get the eye and I’m always reminded of just how lucky I’ve been! But hold on, one, two, five, seven? Surely that can’t be luck? Or not?

Before we go back to pointing fingers, can we take a minute and look in the mirror and ponder on the possibility that our dislike for female bosses could be because they don’t cut us any slack when compared to male bosses? And have we considered that male bosses may be easy on women because they don’t expect much from us? Whereas, a female boss expects more from us because she drives herself and expects us to do same?

Have we also considered that there are several of us women who think our only value is in our beauty so we spend all our time on getting our make-up and clothes right and none on developing our intellectual capacity and then try to bat our eyelids out of assignments? And because female bosses won’t let us hand in half-baked work we think they are bossy?

Besides, I know several women groups such as WIMBIZ who have mentoring programs where women support each other and even programs like the Access Bank’s W initiative who also celebrate female bosses so it can’t be that bad or is it?

Have I really just been lucky?

Are the social stereotypes of bad female bosses true?

What have your experiences been? Pray do tell.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Syda Productions

Labo Daniel’s quest for knowledge and adaptability to new and diverse environments has seen her transition from capitalism through everything in between to socialism and most recently, she acts as a gate keeper between both worlds. She has a penchant for discussing social issues as an avenue for finding inclusive lasting solutions. She can be reached at [email protected]

34 Comments

  1. Chi-e-z

    November 16, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Not to be stereotypical oh but one my worst boss was a female Nigerian at that… Menh woman scared the crap out of me MOODY I just think its a matter of personality. Like I always get scared and never take the naija professor class b/c I feel they’ll be harder or chastise me more than other professors but so far the ones I’ve taken have been tolerable.

  2. Ocean Beauty

    November 16, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Give me a male boss anytime, the older the better for me. Maybe it’s because I work in a male dominated field for a while now that I’m comfortable with them. I have never had a female boss though.
    This is the conversation between me and a former employer’s wife who we call madam. I have never sat to discuss anything with her.
    Her: I heard you are dating your boss (not her hubby). It’s not bad a bad thing sha
    Me: ma, I don’t understand.
    Her: I’m not saying it’s bad but I heard some other guys in your team are interested in you. There is no harm in trying others so we can continue to get the contract from these guys (that is the guys on my team). If you need any advice on how to go about it, just come to me and see me as your big sister from today.
    Me: okay, thank you ma.
    So this woman is not even interested in my work life and progress. No wahala.
    I am afraid of having a female boss because i might not be comfortable with her. Then don’t forget to add that some female bosses are good with sending ridiculous errands non related to the job.

  3. Beebee

    November 16, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Women make bad Bosses, am still battling with one right now.Am just praying to God for Financial breakthrough before next year,I will quit to start a business. I have worked with a lot of males but they never gave me any cause to worry.How can your female be complaining about your hair just because u bond it together?mind u,I just loose the hair and wash it. Another time,she called me “WILLIWILI” in front of my male colleague( I fixed my hair)can’t she call me aside and tell me she does not like the hair than disgracing me? When I told my friends,most of them were just angry asking me if she pays me Hair allowance. ( Lol). She calls u stupid girl or boy,u are mad and all sorts. I heard most of her staff don’t stay long becos of her attitude.

  4. lucky you

    November 16, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Labo, you’ve been very lucky. Women are the big B word. Where I wan take start sef?

  5. Cherry

    November 16, 2015 at 9:39 am

    You’ve definitely been around several industries. Can you please write an article on how you crossed over successfully? I want to leave banking to work in an NGO and they keep telling me I don’t have the experience whenever I apply.

  6. Kelechi

    November 16, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Many people have bought into the stereotype that female bosses are horrible. This is a lie that has been told many times and it is now looking like the truth. To make matters worst, it is now a cliché for ladies to flaunt and appraise the fact that they have male bosses, the most annoying is that ladies are so eager to tell me that they only have male friends (WTF isi adikwa gi nma?).

    What you are basically telling me, as a man is that you can’t get along with my mum, sisters and female acquaintances. The truth, when I use to work at my family business,I preferred to stay with my dad, not because I don’t like working under my mum, but because my dad was more complacent with day to day activities. My mum plays strictly by the rules in terms of standard and regulation, and most things I learnt from the business was from her. One thing most of these ladies fail to understand is that the reason why your male boss treat better sometimes is because they are trying to hit it (Emphasis sometimes), if you are really interested in knowing how a business works, I actually think Female bosses are best for mentorship, not taking anything away from the male bosses (Ikuku kuo afu ike okuko).

  7. Puzzles

    November 16, 2015 at 9:49 am

    in my opinion, when i work with male bosses, they easily cut me some slack, but with all sincerity, my best results were done under female bosses. believe me, they expect the best from you and would push you to give it because they don’t give themselves some slack.

    I think women, and even worse, men generally don’t like being given orders or being told what to do by a woman, especially if she is single.

  8. Anon

    November 16, 2015 at 9:52 am

    The problem I have as a female boss is that once I start being nice to subordinates they think I’m their girl friend and start yapping about bags and shoes instead of work. I’m your boss, silly not your friend. Don’t get it twisted.

  9. Anne

    November 16, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Labo, you are so very right. A lot of the people who complain about female bosses have never really worked under any. Another truth you shed light on, is the fact that because these women drive themselves to produce results, is the same reason they will not accept mediocrity from female subordinates. I think we women folk should be more patient with each other and cut female bosses some slack in the bad-mouthing. Remember that one day you could be a female boss and given a task to deliver – imagine if you have sloppy females working under you..). it would drive you nuts)).. No doubt some female bosses can be out-rightly mean, but this is not to say that we do not have cool female bosses.

  10. bibieki

    November 16, 2015 at 10:09 am

    ponder on the possibility that our dislike for female bosses could be because they don’t cut us any slack when compared to male bosses? And have we considered that male bosses may be easy on women because they don’t expect much from us? Whereas, a female boss expects more from us because she drives herself and expects us to do same?….. word

  11. I can kill my present female boss

    November 16, 2015 at 10:17 am

    I can kill my present female boss, if i have my way!

    I hate all the female bosses i have worked with (except one) with passion

    If you are having a problem in your family, must you bring it to the office?
    Bcos you are single, does that mean you shouldn’t allow the married one go cater for their kids?

    bcos your family is not with you, does that mean every staff must stay till night b4 they close?

    bcos your husband didnt give you feeding allowance, didnt sleep with you, giving you emotional stress, must you come and vent it in the office?

    must you show your inferiority complex by trying too hard and showing you are strong, only to cover your insecurities?

    must ever office work be attached to your own emotions and feelings?

    If i wasnt a xtian, maybe i would have considered going to a herbalists house or lace her chair/tea with some jazz—

    All this is to show you how evil she is!

    I hate female bosses with a passion!. If it was one now, would say maybe i am too sensitive. Not one, not two, not three!

    • The real Ibinabo

      November 16, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      No disrespect but it seems like you have changed jobs quite a few times (assumption based on the number of bosses you claim to have had). You may need to examine yourself those bosses may not be the issue.

    • I can kill my present female boss

      November 17, 2015 at 8:40 am

      how old are you?
      just finished school right or just serving?
      what does this one know

  12. mimimi

    November 16, 2015 at 10:21 am

    I am a female boss. No I am not a bitch, Yes I will push you and expect the same level of engagement and deliverable as a male boss would. Yes we may talk about hair and bags occasionally but when it’s time to work, please let’s just be professional and do the work we are being paid to do, no sentiments. Being female does not mean I have to accept mediocre work or cry with you if you come with your sob stories as to why you didn’t meet your timelines. Truth is a female boss is always judged harshly. I have a male colleague who threatens to fire people or kick them at the slightest offence and no one calls him harsh yet I refused to allow an employee backdate his leave dates so he could take extra days off which is actually falsifying records and I was called harsh? Seriously?

  13. Full Names

    November 16, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Celine Loader @ First Bank
    Lola Odedina @ GTBank
    Hannah Oyenanjo @ Glaxo smithkline

    I know you didn’t include surnames not to invade their privacy but I took it upon myself to add it and the Companies. We need to let the world know there are good female bosses out there. And it’s imperative to personify them.

    You’re welcome writer.

    • Debbie

      November 16, 2015 at 11:06 am

      As in seriously. The moment I saw the names, I figured who they were.. She would have done well not to put their real names..

    • Jess

      November 16, 2015 at 11:46 am

      I love love love love that she put names so we know she’s not just conjuring fiction stories. Thanks @ full names for doing Labo the honour.

    • Labo Daniel

      Labo Daniel

      November 16, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      @ Full names, you clearly don’t play 🙂 Thank you for doing the honours. It’s a well deserved roll call for these great Boss Ladies.

  14. mimimi

    November 16, 2015 at 10:27 am

    By the way, my worst boss ever was a man. He was incompetent, unprofessional and spent all his time doing office politics and causing confusion to cover for his olodoness.

  15. Iphee

    November 16, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I can identify with a lot of aspects of your story @labo. My first boss was a woman and she taught me a lot about work ethics… I owe a debt of gratitude to her ( Rita Udogu continue to rest in the arms of Jesus)
    Women just like men can be good or bad bosses. I currently have some subordinates and realise that a woman has to work twice as hard because
    1. Most people will want to allude to the fact that you slept your way there or you are there out of the largess of “one Oga” ( aka all female ministers in the pdp were mistresses???)
    2. Take it or leave it most men don’t want to be under the authority of a woman. I have heard the phrase ” I get your type for house”. So they give you all shades of attitude in the workplace
    3. Some girls have been brought up to believe more in feminine wiles as a way of life ( tears, Damsel in distress) which will work when they use it on men but not with a fellow woman.
    One way to overcome all this is to be on top of your game – know your work so well, lead by example, not give anyone anyroom to do any shakara for you becos you can DIY and most importantly treat everyone with mutual respect

  16. I can kill my present female boss

    November 16, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Labo, dont try to cover up by giving excuses of why they are like that

    Can you kill sum1 and give an excuse to justify your action?
    Can you go rob a bank and give excuse to justify your action?
    Can you go steal and give an excuse to justify your action?

    Stop giving excuses for what is bad.

    Abuses at work, going out of the office schedule, personal errands including go to the market, go to the bank, in fact come wash my undies, shout at staff, insult staff, all manner of nonsense

    90% of the female folk are bad bosses!

    You see them with house helps, last week we saw ow one battered the house girl/boy. Cutting with blade and adding pepper.

  17. C'est moi

    November 16, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Not too pleased with Frau Merkel at the moment!

  18. Cindy

    November 16, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I love girl’s girls. I was once in the team ‘I only have male friends’ because I was brainwashed to think it would make me one of the cool kids on the block. Growing up, I have realized that it is all bullshit. Female friends over male ones any day anytime. Have I been hurt and betrayed by my female friends? Yes. But so have I by my male friends. Meaness, bitchiness, betrayal and wickedness are not gender specific. Let us stop the stereotype please. Name a woman that is a mean boss and I will name 10 men who are mean bosses too. On the issue of women sending their subordinates on personal errands, can we please cut them some slack. A man at work is at work. He is not bothered about what the family will eat for dinner or picking the kids from school. A woman at work as to do her job and at the same time worry about these things. Sending you to buy her pepper in a nearby market if you are a junior staff is really not a big deal. What you guys are not saying is the part where she might dash you small money for the stress sef. Women should learn to uplift one another instead of pulling one another down. Men have been pitting us against ourselves for centuries and we always play into their hands, that’s why they keep winning. When I hear a female say things like ‘girls have problem’, I automatically delete her from my friends list and relegate her to the position of an acquaintance. I don’t need negative people around me abeg. It just makes you feel superior and really you are not all that just because you relate more with guys. Why do you seek so much validation from men, inferiority complex at its peak. I have a female boss right now and she is just sweet. Same thing people say about female lecturers but it is just because people generally look down on women that anything she does wrong is immediately looked at from the perspective of the gender ‘it is because she is a woman’. The only place I agree that a woman might a be a tad bit emotional is when her hormones are at work, you know when it is that time of the month.

    • Ocean Beauty

      November 16, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Continue buying pepper and okporoko and be content with the 200 NGN change that comes out of the errand.
      Only a FEW female bosses care about their subordinates’ career progress. There is a lady in my office who is an assistant manager by title only. She cannot even order a regular worker around except the cleaners and the likes. The first question she asked someone who just resumed is “do you know how to play office politics?” You can imagine that kind of person being someone’s boss.
      Thankfully I am the only female in my team now with more than 50 guys and I am extremely grateful for that.
      Or is it a popular kids’ clothing shop in Lagos that is owned by a female where the workers are not allowed to sit down during working hours which is from 9am to 6pm. And it’s not like they are attending to customers all day. How do you wrap your head around having that kind of boss is if she even denies you the option to sit down for 8hrs excluding lunch break hour.
      If we start this gist today, we won’t exhaust it.

    • tee

      November 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Chai that Nike Ogun…… is a winch.

    • Alem

      November 16, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      You were making sense until your statement of ‘Sending you to buy her pepper in a nearby market if you are a junior staff is really not a big deal’. I am sorry it IS a big deal. Except I am a personal assistant to the said female boss or an office assistant, I personally will take exception to that. As long as I was hired for a professional purpose in the office, I have no business running anyone’s personal errands and will definitely take it up. A female boss tried that with me and I politely told her its not in my job description.

    • Beebee

      November 16, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      So my job specification is to be going to the market for a female Boss?House help don finish for Nigeria abi.

  19. Segi

    November 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I’m a woman and damn yes, some of us do make terrible bosses. In my 8 years working, i got my very first female boss 5 months ago – she is Caucasian, seats thousands of miles away from me but still bitch up every other time we communicate. Seriously, I miss all my male bosses, in comparison to this Cruela de Vil, they were angels! I get the part where we feel the need to be EXTRA to survive in the Boyz Club, but not to the point of being obnoxious ke!

  20. Meah

    November 16, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    I only have one advice for all those females saying female bosses are bitches; wait till you become a boss and lets see how well you deal with male surbodinates who think they dont have to take you serious because ‘ they have your type at home’ and female ones who give an attitude when corrected. As HOD, I used to be so torn between getting my team to work efficiently within timelines and being careful so as not to be perceived as a bitch. It was not worth the trouble. The first thing a new guy on my team asked when he resumed was my age. I calmly told him my age and added that it didnt make me less of his boss. People will push at your boundaries, believe me. And management is not interested in excuses. As earlier mentioned, dear females-who-only-love-to-work-with-males, wait till you have a team to lead and then lets hear their opinion of you. Then we can talk.

  21. Benbella

    November 16, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    The funniest thing is that I have experienced 2 ends of the spectrum. The best boss I ever worked for is a woman, and one of the worst ones I ever worked for is also a female.

    The “good” boss was a very hardworking intelligent person. She had very high standards and was very tough on me, which I liked as I learnt a lot from her. When I left the firm, she even called me once to send me a recommendation for an oil service firm’s opening. I am still in touch with her to this day.

    On the flipside, I also worked in a law firm somewhere on the Island where one of the partners was a very difficult woman. Sometimes, she could be heard from her office upstairs shouting at staff on the telephone, when she could have simply called them up to her office.

    Her pet peeves were spelling mistakes in reports or write-ups or even slight punctuation errors. She would rant and complain about a lawyer’s writing style or the format for the letter for hours, even making one particular associate re-print a letter up to 15 times. She employed Word spell-check and a large Oxford dictionary to catch out offenders. She monitored every single correspondence with clients handled by her associates, even refusing to entrust some senior associates with up to 15 years experience with some ordinary tasks.

    It was not uncommon to see workers spending hours formatting an internal report for a 30 minute meeting just not to run foul of Ms. Boss from Hell.

    When she chided a staff member via email, she copied all the staff. She also blasted staff at meetings in front of everyone, regardless of the erring staff’s position or level of seniority in the office.

    She once shoved someone away for leaning on the Venetian blinds in the over-crowded meeting room.

    Her method of laying off staff or getting rid of workers was through a process similar to the Japanese ancient traditional act of hara-kiri.

    In feudal Japan, where a warrior was disgraced or defeated, he “lost face” thereby feeling extreme shame. As a result, to assuage the shame he performed an extremely painful act of ritual suicide called “hara-kiri” (disembowelment) where he cut open his abdomen with a short blade.

    After giving the erring associate a public reprimand, she would ask him to resign by turning in a letter. This involuntary act of resignation absolves her of the one month’s notice requirement and also gives her a kind of moral legitimacy. Well, you jumped, I didn’t push you to your death; I just watched.

    Sounds just like Pontious Pilate.

  22. tunmi

    November 16, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    I have had male bosses and female bosses. All of whom were and are excellent. I hate painting an entire group of people with a broad brush, whether good or bad. So what I can say is that my Igbo male boss, my white American male boss, my Yoruba female boss, my Black American female boss, and my Sierra Leonian male and female bosses have been tremendously supportive.

  23. Beebee

    November 16, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    That insult is even the worst,the only thing left for my Female boss to do is slap or insult my mother, if she try it ehn,Na that day she go know say small Craze they my head.

  24. Weather

    November 17, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Article on point! Sometime recently, I started acting out towards a younger lady because I thought she was too exposed for her age and I was trying to put her in her place. It later occured to me that I really was envious.

  25. Weather

    November 17, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Immediately I realised this , I halted it. It just wasn’t me.

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