June 2010

He Says / She Says: Male Vs. Female Boss

Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton | Photographer: Photography By Anne

HE SAYS: KEITH KELSON

The modern workplace can be a relatively pleasant place, or it can be a battlefield with landmines scattered about waiting to detonate with your every misstep. I’ve had some wonderful bosses, and I’ve had some horrible ones. Now, when it comes to the horrible ones, the choice is clear: I’d much prefer that the terrible boss be a male. Why? Well, because when you’re fed up with his shenanigans, you can boldly say, “Let’s step outside and settle this like men.”

Now, in the real world, most of us just suck it up and continue to punch the clock and not the boss. We’ve got bills to pay, and it’s just not worth it for that one moment of bliss you’ll get by turning his lights out. But we’ve all been there.

I can vividly recall, during a performance review, a former male supervisor complimented me on being a good worker, but he wasn’t thrilled that I was always reading. I was getting “too smart for my own good,” he said. Needless to say, at the first opportunity, I found another gig; but my right hand yearned to punch him square in his schnozzola.

It’s also best to have another place of employment in mind just in case you have to actually clean the clock of your soon to be ex-supervisor. Most of those guys tend to hold grudges after a subordinate knocks them out (which is just unreasonable, if you ask me). Part of being a jerk means that one day you will get your comeuppance and someone will turn your lights out for you. That’s what’s wrong with the modern world: too many jerks walking around who aren’t willing to receive a good punch in the nose.

But to answer this month’s question, I have to admit that women generally make better bosses. I polled my friends and asked them who was better at running a business and being in charge, and the answer was women—not by a landslide, but by a sizable margin in my unscientific poll. I have to admit that most of the women I’ve had to answer to in the workplace were okay bosses.

I’m tempted to say that it’s probably because of their innate maternal instinct, but that would be wrong. When a man is a good boss, no one says anything about his paternal instinct, and we all know guys who are terrific fathers. No, those women were good at their jobs and good with people. They just had the magic touch.

I also have to point out that I’ve known some guys who went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to looking out for their fellow employees. I remember working at Bi-Lo as a teen, and one of the assistant managers bagged as many groceries as we did every day he worked. When I asked him why he was down in the trenches with us lowly bag boys he said, “I was a bagger when I first started working here, and I know you guys get swamped sometimes.” In other words, he wasn’t above getting his hands dirty, even though he had a nice air-conditioned office that he was almost never inside.

Unfortunately, he was the exception to the rule as far too many of the men I worked for not only needed their heads examined, but also needed their clocks cleaned. I’m tempted to say it’s a testosterone thing, but it would be wrong to blame an innocent hormone for the misbehavior of a few jerks. I’m hoping that some scientist discovers the “jerk gene” and finds a way to turn it off. At the very least, I hope modern science will make the jerks accept a good punch in the nose.

The jerk gene theory may also explain why women are better bosses than men. While some women do possess the jerk gene, most of them don’t have it turned on in the workplace. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I’ve yet to work for one.

Most women just don’t have a need to bully or humiliate people like some men do in the workplace. The editor of CH2, Maggie Washo, is a perfect example. She’s always been cooler than the other side of the pillow when I needed a little more time to get an article done. She also never complained about the charges to the magazine during my impromptu trip to Vegas; and she was cool about paying for my divorce from a showgirl named Cinnamon.

The time I borrowed that black Porsche the magazine was using for a photo shoot and drove to Columbia to hang out with Gamecock head coach, Steve Spurrier, she acted as if nothing had happened. Show me a guy cooler than Maggie Washo and a better boss, and I’ll work for him in a New York minute.

Kelsey Grammer, Bill Cosby, Smokey Robinson, Sylvester Stallone’s brother and that guy who danced on Solid Gold —I met these guys while working for CH2. Thanks to Maggie, I don’t have to pay any of those guys the sizable chunk of cash I lost during that wild, all-night poker game during the Heritage last year. Who knew Bill Cosby would play seven deuce offsuit under the gun?

Sorry, fellas, but the women win this one hands-down. Besides, we all know women really are in charge. The workplace is just more fertile territory for them to conquer. Any man who disagrees had better not do so publicly. Oprah and her legions of fans will find you, and it won’t be pretty.

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SHE SAYS: JEAN WHARTON

“A good boss makes his men realize they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could.”
—Charles Erwin Wilson

My first job was as a waitress at a retirement community—a popular job for high-schoolers in my hometown, because you reported for work at 4 p.m., were paid well over minimum wage and were clocked out at 8 o’clock. My boss was a middle-aged man whose potential managerial skills were squandered in the monotonous rhythm of overseeing the buffet line, filled with easily digestible food, and checking for the proper level of salt and pepper shakers in the senior citizen-filled dining room. This is not to say that he wasn’t a good boss, but as my first experience with both the working world and the employee-manager relationship, he was a bit lackluster.

I also held a mall job. I scooped ice cream under the watchful eye of the owner and namesake, Mrs. Ritz. As bosses go, she was the classic mix of complimentary and critical. When you did something right, say measured toppings for a sundae, refilled the napkin dispensers or worked a double, Mrs. Ritz said nothing. When your hair wasn’t neatly pulled back or you spent too much time talking with your friends, she’d suddenly appear from the back room with a broom-oriented task that needed your immediate attention.

To compare the two jobs and bosses, as a high school student, I wasn’t equipped to fairly assess the pros and cons. While working at the retirement center was easy work for good pay, I was tipped in shampoo samples and coupons; being at the mall was clearly more “glamorous,” but under the watchful eye of untrusting Mrs. Ritz, my friends rarely benefited from my employment in extra toppings or discounted rates.

My foray into the workforce during my teen years afforded me two very different bosses and an understanding that not all jobs or bosses are created equal. There are benefits to having either gender as your boss, depending on your chosen career.

Of the numerous waitressing jobs I had over the years, I never worked for a woman. I think that says something about both me and the restaurant business. In the restaurant business, I would prefer to work for a man. Being a waitress is hard work, physically and mentally. Restaurant patrons are oblivious to the behind-the-scenes drama that occurs in a kitchen and dining room, both during and after hours. Working for a man, just cuts that commotion in half; it certainly doesn’t eliminate it entirely, but in my experience, male managers participate less in the theatrics and thus make the daily grind of waiting tables a bit more tolerable.

My professional experience in the business world was in the public relations and advertising industry in New York City. Gender roles are very fluid in NYC, and I had both male and female supervisors. The women in positions of power, albeit over menial PR assistants, had at least one of the following complex combinations in their personality: compassion and ambition or loyalty and determination. The men I worked with and for showed very little compassion or loyalty but more than enough ambition and determination to go around the office.

Grossly stereotyped in movies and television, women in business or positions of power are often portrayed as cold and heartless, with their ambition outweighing anything else. In my experience, a balanced female boss can be both, whereas a male boss cannot. No one is encouraged to conduct business from a perspective of tenderness; it’s business, and matters should be treated as such. However, men in power are more often rewarded, through pay and promotion, for their steadfast determination and focused enthusiasm than for their kindness and humility.

I really don’t think it matters what gender your boss is. There will always be some aspect of your life as an employee that you are simply not going to like or agree with; having a male or female boss is not going to change that. The true challenge is to find work that matters to you.

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