Slowly but surely, women are breaking the glass ceiling and entering the management ranks in increasing numbers. Though still few in number, women do make it to executive positions and even the C-suite.
Now this brings us to another colossal frontier: managing men working under women and even older ones at that – many of whom would rather be working for a man any day (a harsh fact corroborated by a recent Gallup poll)! Sexism still rears its ugly head as some men not only have a problem taking orders from a woman, but also prefer to turn to other men for guidance and decision-making.
The complexities in cross-gender superior-subordinate relationships intensify as it is not only men who have a problem with lady bosses; even some women admit to feeling uncomfortable when it comes to supervising men. What's more, not only men but even women find it easier to accept male authority.
A recent Internet study observed that men and women alike would rather be pulled up by a male boss than a female one!
Again, though no empirical research has addressed this directly, it is an unfortunate fact that male employees fail to trust their female managers and are reluctant to put in best efforts under them.
Vikas Ahuja, working for a Delhi-based computer publication, echoes this chauvinistic attitude with, “Personally, I feel that female bosses are not very professional and being overly emotionally inclined, it also affects their supervisory judgement.”
Overcoming the gender dynamics
Top researcher Dr David Maume comments, “The popular press and many studies contend that women make better managers than men because they are more supportive leaders, delegate more responsibility and foster the careers of their subordinates…”
Yet, gender still plays a detrimental role in manager-subordinate relationships. And while women cannot really control their subordinates' attitudes, they should be savvy enough to bring everyone on board and develop the most productive team possible.
But, this is not easy. There are a plethora of challenges and women managers have to put in greater effort to manage subordinates of the opposite sex.
They are bound to face both prejudice and resistance at some point or the other which is further compounded by the fact that their managerial styles will differ from their more ‘acceptable' male counterpart's.
To succeed as a supervisor, you first have to be a good manager of people. That is to say, ensure that you adopt successful leadership traits that are the hallmarks of an effective manager - like fairness, understanding, openness, integrity and consistency.
Maintain a competent and professional demeanour with open and accurate communication as you define tasks, facilitate work and provide regular feedback. Provide job-related support and show that you are always there for your team - to assist, guide, coach and bring value.
Apart from this, you have to carefully watch what you say and do to ensure that male subordinates can never compromise your authority. Be confident and assertive – the I-know-what-I-am doing poise – without going overboard or becoming overly aggressive.
You may be fighting stereotypes yourself, but ensure that you are always open-minded and unbiased in your dealings with the team.
Research says that men are less driven by the personal management style and just want to do their work while women are keener on deriving a sense of belonging. So attune your management style accordingly. Also, ensure that you keep a lid on your emotions at all times.
Another tip for winning over male subordinates is to encourage them to contribute their ideas/opinions and appreciate them for the same. Also, do not pretend to be a know-it-all – unhesitatingly seek subordinates' help/advice in areas of their expertise, solicit input for decisions and show that you both consider and value their points of view.
On the other hand, do not hesitate to reprimand erring male employees either. As Ms. Dilys Dias, Assistant Manager L&D in a leading ITES provider in Bangalore, advices, “If an issue needs attention, be direct and let them know that this is the point.
Feedback should also be given directly. If there is resistance or it doesn't work, you may refer to a male colleague in higher authority.” She further goes on to add that, “If possible, be two steps ahead of them. Anticipate their next move and be ready with answers to issues that may arise.”
To sum up, keep your gender out of the equation and manage with tact, authority and panache even as you bring sensitivity and empathy to your workplace.