When it comes to bosses, I've already made my preference clear: "I'd Rather Work for a Man.


That said, I've worked for women along the way, and one of the more common questions I get
from men is how to work for a female boss.

What they're really asking me is: How do I, a man, work for a female boss? And that's not
so easy for me to answer, as a woman.

Here are a few things I've learned over the years that do and don't work when the boss is a lady
-- whether you're a man or a woman.

TIP #1: Let her wear the pants.

Ah, power. It's so very, very complicated. And that's what we're really talking about here, right?
What do I do when I, a guy, am technically subordinate to a woman? What's my play here: mani-
pedi meetings, pretend she's a man, watch what I say? Sometimes, giving your female boss all
the perceived power can make you feel, well, powerless.

Here's the thing: Who cares. She is your boss. She is more powerful than you. But it doesn't have
to be any more complicated than that. It's one sphere of your life: work. Get over it. She's
holding the cards, you're not, and now that you're in that situation, it's up to you to figure
out how to work it to your advantage. Sound obvious? You'd be surprised how many men can't
get past this simple first stage and get forever stuck in a power struggle that gets them nowhere.

Think about it this way. For all intents and purposes, I may as well be a man at work. I'm
aggressive, competitive, and outspoken. You think it's easy for me to work for a woman? You
think I like subjugating myself to a woman more powerful than myself? I don't.

The bottom line is that it doesn't really matter if you like your female boss or not, if you think
she should have the job or not, if you have a problem with her or not. The only thing you need to
do is let her know you know she's the boss. In the end, it may behoove you to remember that she
may not be looking for power at all, but respect.
TIP #2: Don't be her BFF.

This is the trap many young women fall into: befriending their female boss. They think the
workplace is a social club, and it's their job to align themselves with the girl who has the most
cake. They bond. They work late. They get dinner. They go shopping. They regale one another
with breakup stories. They go on a yoga retreat together. They act like sisters.

They're not. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If the "sisterhood" and "women supporting
each other" is supposed to be the path to women getting ahead, how come decades of telling
women to do it isn't working? You're a woman making less than your male peer? Maybe that's
because you're trying to be everybody's friend, and, as a consequence, nobody sees you as a
serious competitor.

Becoming your female boss's best friend is tempting. It feels right. I mean, we're all just
girlfriends, and this is the circle of trust, right? In reality, it's a loser's move. It doesn't make you
better at your job; it makes you better at making friends. It doesn't advance your career in the
long term; it makes going to work in the short term more fun. It doesn't teach you anything
about career advancement; it makes you a professional brown-noser.

TIP #3: Play to her weaknesses.

This strategy isn't exclusive to women bosses. It's applicable no matter the gender of your boss.
What does your boss suck at? Writing? Communicating? Meetings? Numbers? Traveling?
Planning? Budgeting? Hiring? Strategizing? R&D? Creativity? Managing? Firing?

What's your boss's number one fear? In many cases, it's losing their power. It's getting fired. It's
anyone else finding out that maybe, just maybe they're not 100% sure of what they're doing.

That's where you come in. If you're lucky, you're already great at what your boss does poorly. If
not, you better figure it out quick. The single best way to climb up the ranks, to get the queen bee
who replaced the alpha male in the corner office to promote, mentor, and reward you is to make
yourself indispensable to her. Do that, and gender goes out the window.

Email me. Follow me on Twitter. My personal blog.

Handling a Female Boss

At the outset let's get one thing clear: top women managers are hard done by. There is no
sisterhood of women in the corporate workplace -those at the top won't stand for someone
younger, smarter or better qualified inching upwards.

Add to that insecurity the fact that every successful top female manager would have had to work
twice as hard and sacrifice far more than a male colleague to prove herself worthy of her
position. Top this with copious amounts of guilt and self-loathing over missed PTA meetings and
kids who love the nanny more. Oh, and let's not forget the pressure of always being judged by
her appearance - it takes a person of extraordinary mental calibre to keep up with the nail and
hair appointments while the dark clouds of recession hover over the business. The hormonal
shifts don't help either.

Why should it be a surprise then that the vast majority of women at the top can be neurotic,
manipulative or prima donnas, loathed equally by both genders?

Experts tell us this is a sad phenomenon that will ease off in years to come, when more women
will be better represented in the top echelons, and the scarce few who are at the top will not feel
so threatened, misunderstood, or persecuted on account of their gender. Until that happy time,
here's our guide to the worst types of female bosses to work for and how you can emerge
unscathed from the experience.

The Meredith

No this one isn't named after adorable Dr Grey from the TV series Grey's Anatomy, but the
vixen played by Demi Moore in Disclosure - someone who uses her power to sexually harass
her subordinates.

Now this can be a sticky situation, especially if your boss looks like Demi Moore - after all, what
man can resist a woman who comes on to him and can give him a salary rise as well? But with
a supreme act of will power, this must be rebuffed. History teaches us that no good ever comes
from flings at the workplace, not only could you be in breach of corporate ethics but also the law
of the land (you could be jailed even if it's consensual and whether you are married or single).

Disarming comments like she reminds you of your younger sister can help douse the flames in a
non-threatening way. Pointing her attention to other eligibles in the workplace can even make
her your new BFF. She may suspect you're a little odd, but that's OK.

The Smother-in-law

Poster child for the nurturing female boss, the smother-in-law cooks for her brood, always has a
box of tissues at hand and is scarily au faitwith everyone's troubled life stories - from Ali's credit
card debts to Suzy's boyfriend woes.

At first the warm fuzzy feeling of being part of a matriarch's posse can feel quite nice actually.
(There is that niggle about the constant micro-managing, but nothing you can't handle.)
Very quickly you learn why five-year-olds want to grow up as fast as possible. Being told what to
do, how to do it and "don't ask me why, but do tell me what you were up to after work" can get
pretty tiresome.

When you are dealing with the smother-in-law, armed resistance is futile. You have to let her
down gently, with lots of tea, sympathy and emotional communication.

The Wastafarian

More likely to sport a nice head of smooth coiffed hair than dreadlocks, the Wastafarian is
usually pretty. Pretty clueless that is.

You may have often wondered how a person without the requisite experience or qualifications
has reached where she has. The answer will usually lie in the little pink book that sits within the
latest It bag dangling from her arm.

Well connected, with friends in high places and a significant other in a powerful role, the
Wastafarian has been able to shimmy into a wholly undeserved position of influence, from
where she proceeds to either rise to her own level of inefficiency or lands another dream gig
where she will get paid for doing nothing.

The Wastafarian is easily manipulated, easily impressed and may actually be the easiest of the
lot to manage, once you get over your self-righteous indignation.

Let's face it, life isn't fair.

The Nutcracker

She does what it says on the tin. Anecdotal evidence shows that most people's first female boss
is the dreaded Nutcracker. (Or it could be that workplace newbies bring out their boss's inner

Much like Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha, this is the female in whom the milk of human kindness
has permanently curdled. With this type of female boss, what you see is what you get, and if
you don't like it, hard luck. Underneath the tough-as-nails surface is the wizened careerist who
won't let anything or anyone stand in her way.
The Nutcracker will teach you about being competent, always being on your toes and only
speaking when spoken to. You just have to up your game to survive.

How to keep a female boss happy

Compliment her kids: Describing them as the sweetest kids you ever saw isn't insincere
hyperbole, it's called investing in your career. However smart a woman may be, she will actually
believe you.

Be detail-oriented: Most women managers think details are everything. Embellish ideas and
proposals accordingly.

Don't try to change the person, change your reaction: Sometimes the only thing we can
control about a curved ball is our response to it. Anger is self-destructive, and angry emails are
most certainly corporate hara-kiri.

Play to your boss's weakness: If she is vain, pile on the compliments, if she's egoistic, make
your ideas sound like hers, if she needs to be needed, pull on the puppy face and ask for advice
on home decoration issues.

Show her you can juggle those balls: It's a given that at any point a woman manager will
have several balls in the air. Hence she naturally sympathises with, and will even like, someone
in the same predicament. Tell her you cook, clean and babysit and you'll have earned several
brownie points.

Be communicative: The No 1 gripe that widens the distance between Mars and Venus is men's
refusal to talk about their feelings. Choose an appropriate time, rehearse what you want to say,
then say it - you will find women bosses care far more about their subordinates' emotional well-
being than male bosses.

If it's a truism that women and men are from different planets, it follows that a female boss is a
different breed of leader than her male counterpart.

"Men might feel intimidated by female coworkers or bosses because they don't speak the same
language, and men are worried that they might say the wrong thing-or the right thing in the
wrong way," observes Mary Blair-Loy, a professor of psychology at the University of California at
San Diego. "They'll be afraid that the same problems they run into in their personal lives will
happen at work-they'll be accused of not being sensitive or thoughtful enough."
David Habbel, a professor of communication arts at Utica College, concurs. "Men might feel
conflicted about who they're supposed to be, both at work and in social situations," Habbel says.
"It's highly likely that female employers are going to value the job skills that they themselves
exhibit-the ability to listen well, work as a team, communicate with other people's feelings in
mind. The guys who are able to show that they have those skills will have more luck securing

When the person calling the shots is a woman, keep these points in mind:

1. Women are more comfortable with cooperation than with hotdogging.
"Women are much more into networks of connections and involvement," says Karen Lawson,
Ph.D., president of her own management-consulting firm in Philadelphia. "They want input, and
they're often interpreted by men as being indecisive, when that's not it at all. They're just being

2. The boss may nod when you speak, but it doesn't mean she's down with what you're saying.
"She's indicating, 'Yes, I'm listening,' " and encouraging you to go on, but it's not to be
interpreted as agreement," Lawson says. "She'll listen more and talk less in the boardroom, but
don't take advantage of her silence," because she's simply taking account of opinions and
"weighing all options before verbalizing her own opinion."
3. If she talks about what happened on the golf course last weekend, don't think she's dropping
"Women often draw on personal experiences to illustrate a point or explain an idea," says
Lawson. Don't take it to heart.
4. Be careful about how you oppose her.
"Women tend to get defensive when challenged because they see it as a personal attack on
their credibility," says Lawson, "whereas men see challenging as a sign of respect and equal
5. When she says, "I'm sorry," it's not necessarily an apology for wrongdoing-she just may be
showing that she understands.
"Women tend to say, 'I'm sorry,' to express empathy or shared feeling, and men often interpret it
incorrectly," Lawson says.
6. If the boss comes to you and presents a problem that needs solving, don't dole out advice
until she finishes.
"She's using the man as a sounding board, and when he begins to tell her what she should do
or how to handle the problem, she gets annoyed because she just wants him to listen, not solve
the problem," says Lawson.
7. She's not NECESSARILY a stickler for protocol.
"Women will ask for team and individual input, with relationships and impact sometimes more
important than rules," says Marilyn Manning, Ph.D., president of The Consulting Team, in
Mountain View, California. "A man prefers to decide who's right and wrong, winner or loser, as in
all sports games."

The contemporary corporate world is being increasingly penetrated by
women and finding female bosses has become quite common.
Some men seem to find it highly challenging to work with a female boss. The
following tips are geared towards resolving such apprehensions in an easier

Let Her Know That You Get Her Perspective

For starters, you need to understand that women managers have usually had
it rather tough. There might be the few exceptions of women who were easily
allowed into the top hierarchy but usually most women have had to sacrifice
and bear a lot to attain such profiles. You can use this fact to your advantage.
Try to sympathize periodically, not often, about issues such as how women
struggle to achieve a deserving pedestal at workplaces and even in their own
household. This can help you to strike the chord of sympathy in your female
boss. You can go to the extent of cribbing a bit about the corporate world
being un-adjusting and cruel to hardworking women. Expressing such
opinions is most likely to make your boss think that you understand her

Nurture Your Way Into Her Books

Most women have a very palpable nurturing side that is often referred to as
their ‘maternal instincts'. You can make yourself being liked by your female
boss if you can tap into this sensibility of hers. This means trying the puppy
face pout every now and then to project yourself as someone in dire need of
compassion. Women like to be acknowledged for their emotional support so
never forget to thank her repeatedly for having “helped” you out an emotional

Play The Tune Of Her Weakness

If you find it challenging to genuinely like your boss, you need to at least act
in a manner that exudes a feeling of appreciation. Rather than complimenting
her on the obvious things like a new dress or a recently tried hairdo, observe
her weaknesses and try to praise her for the same. If she is desperately
trying to lose weight but cannot resist chocolates, tell her that chocolates
are a cruel joke from God and are meant to torture people, particularly those
who are “sincerely” trying to lose weight.
Seek Her Advice Even If You Don't Need It

This might sound be too manipulative but you shouldn't feel guilty of doing so
since it poses no harm. Women are naturally inclined to having an opinion on
most things. Topics where most women believe that they possess the best
judgment include fashion, hair, home décor, health tips and grooming. Keep a
note of these topics and often, seek your boss' advice on the same. Listen to
her opinion, don't argue and make it seem as if her advice helped a lot.

Decode Whether She Is Networked Or Not & Play Accordingly

While women usually have a sense of sisterhood, those working in the
corporate world are usually competitive, each one more likely to be jealous
of the other, since premium, female-oriented profiles are restricted. Thus,
women bosses are least likely to have a group or pool of friends (non-
networked). Tap into this weakness of her by being her friend, accomplice
and her confidant. If she has somehow managed to sustain a close-knit group
of friends (networked lady bosses), ensure that you develop some degree of
friendship with the members involved. This is vital since many women are
likely to sketch observations about people based upon how her group
perceives that individual.

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