When I first entered the workforce, there were not a lot of women in the technology field or the hard sciences, and our numbers in positions of Leadership were severely disproportionate to our male counterparts. In 40 years, a LOT has changed and sadly the types of women in Leadership positions haven’t changed that much.
My mom was an OR nurse for more than 30 years and worked with a wide variety of people of differing backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages. In the early part of her career the one constant she observed and told me about was this: Female surgeons feel like they must be twice as good as the men to just be thought of as equal. Of course, a lot has changed in that time, but does this ring a bell for you? Is it the same in your industry?
Here is a VERY tongue in cheek snapshot of the types of women in business that I have witnessed. Do you recognize yourself or anyone you know?
Like Me Linda
Also known as Polly Pleaser. Linda wants everyone to like her. She knows everyone’s birthdays, their kids’ and pets’ names, and little details so she can endear herself to everyone on her team. That sounds great on the surface, right? But because Linda is afraid of anyone being mad at her, or not liking her, she lets team members get away with everything. Oh, you’re showing up late? Don’t worry, Linda won’t mind. You didn’t finish the project objectives on time? Don’t worry, Linda will cover for you. You overspent on your per diem? It’s ok, Linda will approve it.
Linda is problematic for several reasons. The team’s work that needs to get completed often falls on her shoulders because her department is ineffective. She ends up doing a lot of it herself because she doesn’t want to appear like a weak link in the chain of command. In her efforts to create a happy workplace, she creates more work for herself, doesn’t recognize potential leaders in her midst, and because her team is ineffective, doesn’t have much opportunity for advancement of her own. By the time she realizes exactly what kind of culture she has created, Linda feels like there is nothing she can do to repair it.
AKA – Control Freak Carol. Patty is the one who always seems to have it together and expects her team to be the same. She seemingly blithely breezes through life with the luck of the Irish and everything appears to be going her way. She expects when an objective is given, to have it accomplished with no obstacles, no interruptions, and few problems. Yeah…right…
The problem with Patty is that her team doesn’t like her at all. They feel no connection to her, and many are in fact jealous of her. She lives by the mantra, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” thus she has poor delegation skills. She does nothing to create a culture of belonging. Many of her team members are unhappy with their jobs because they are expected to show up, keep their head down, and just do their job. Many are afraid to speak up when there is a problem and they just KNOW that there is little opportunity for advancement for themselves when Perfect Patty is so…perfect. No one can measure up. Additionally, Patty doesn’t share credit for jobs well done, accepting all the praise for herself. She’s the team leader so all success is her fault, and all failings belong to the team. And because her supervisors think she can handle everything, she is given even more work to accomplish. There is an old adage, “Excellence is punished” and Patty, and her team, get “punished” by having even more work thrown their way.
What her team doesn’t see is that Patty is afraid of looking weak as well and frequently is like that duck on the lake. Calm on the surface and paddling madly beneath the water. Yes, everything gets done on time, but at what cost and to whom?
And then there is Elizabitch
You all know her. “My way or the highway,” is her battle cry. Elizabitch equates “Boss Lady” to “Bad Ass”. She doesn’t delegate, she orders. She doesn’t council, she berates. When things go wrong, and she is called on the carpet by her supervisors, Elizabitch accepts no blame and says that the team is impossible to work with. She is famous for setting unrealistic expectations, coming in late, leaving early, screaming, shouting, and general toddler like behavior.
Elizabitch is the one I feel most sorry for. She feels like she must be tough, mean, or twice as good as her male counterparts to be seen as effective. She has never had a good mentor or role model, so she doesn’t realize she is a horrible boss.
Sadly, her team is afraid of her. They have poor job satisfaction and there is often in-fighting on the team because they are all trying to curry favor with her. Team members become snitches on co-workers, there is an over abundance of office politics, and while work might get done on time, it’s generally not a group effort, or anyone’s best effort.
Did You See Anyone You Recognize?
For all of you on a management track at work, you don’t want to be one of these bosses. And now is the time to take control of YOUR training, growth, and skills! Assess yourself and ask, what can I do better? How can I improve? Where am I headed and how do I get there?
If you saw yourself in one of these women, it’s ok! It’s not too late to learn new skills. It’s never too late to learn to LEAD instead of “boss” people. Take the time to find a mentor, ask for guidance, or admit to being at fault. Everyone appreciates someone willing to change for the better.
And guess what? We can ALL change for the better!