Do women make bad managers?

I don’t know if anybody’s noticed yet, but it seems most people I know — including women — prefer male bosses. In my own personal space, my worst bosses have mostly always been female. Why do you think that is? For all the talk about women being more “people-friendly” than men and of men supposedly being insensitive, overly-competitive, verbally-inept, testosterone-driven brutes at the office, my own experience with female bosses have nonetheless embedded a profound aversion to them.

Perhaps the very traits that make women the supposedly top-notch managers they can potentially be is what makes them the psychos they turn out to be in practice. I once had a female manager who was just too empathetic. She’d ask me about my workload before assigning new tasks to me. I’d tell her: ‘Boss, just pile it on. Leave it up to me to manage my time and your expectations’ — ten thousand times a day. Or I’d come to work with one of those pesteng ahems stuck in my throat and she’d ask me if I am sure I didn’t want to take the rest of the day off for a rest everytime she’d hear a stifled cough coming from my cubicle — 500 times a day.

‘Boss, believe me, I’d rather be home right now than sitting here listening to you asking me if I’d like to go home every couple of minutes.’

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Or there’s that other female manager I had a few years back — also supposedly a “people person” but with said “skill” applied towards the other direction. She’d be a hit with the big guys; perceived by the powers-that-be, her boss, her bosses peers, etc., as the busy-bustling-bee sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice bundle of pleasantries. But when dealing with her subordinates she’d turn into the Dragon Lady — going mental when her baffling instructions or requirements are not followed to the letter, hanging her staff out to dry when things don’t go too well, and taking full credit when things do go well. She’d look or would in fact be busy all through her 10-hour day — always on the phone, coming in and out of meetings, walking to and from colleagues’ cubicles. But try looking under the covers and you’d be hard-pressed to ascertain exactly what she actually achieves in a typical workday of hers that matches her bustle. Ask her what specifically she is stressing about and she gives vague replies: “Oh there’s just so much going on,” or “I just get so many emails…”

I tell you, under the watch of a female boss, I really learn to appreciate the ‘Just get on with it’ attitude of male managers. John (not his real name), the best boss I ever had usually asks just a couple of simple questions whenever I come to him with a bucket of dramas.

“Who’s standing in the way of you meeting your objective?”

Now I I’ve learned to be careful when answering that one. John would be on the phone within a minute with that person getting to the bottom of why he or she had been identified as a “roadblock” to our all-important projects.

“What can I do at my level?”

I’ve made sure that there is a purpose to coming to him with project issues. I’ve found that failing to answer this question convincingly makes it look like the problem actually could’ve been solved at my level.

Am I overly-generalizing? Just because the best boss I’d ever had is male and the two worst ones were female perhaps makes me a bit unfair. But then I’ve also had many other managers besides these three and I can pretty much say most of the bad ones were female. Being female myself, I aspire to be like John as a manager — results driven, quick to filter the irrelevant, and disinclined to “get involved” in stuff for the heck of it.

35 Replies to “Do women make bad managers?”

  1. I wouldn’t say it in general. From experience, I’d say half-and-half. Not all women make bad managers. Not all men make good managers either. The worst manager I had is actually male. I think it’s based on approach, style, and grasp. And from how I see it, if a manager gets too friendly and empathetic with his/her subordinates, he or she is joke. Plain and simple.

  2. Yup overly generalizing and completely biased. You mention working for 2 female bosses. That is a poor sample size to be making such big claims about an entire gender of humans. There are hundreds of women who run successful corporations, but since you aren’t one of them, how would you know what women bosses have to do to get workers like you to do their jobs properly? Be a better writer, please and stop adding to men vs women claptrap that passes for journalism. Thanks.

    1. @canadian: Well, at least I have a sample to work with. You on the other hand only have an assertion that there are “hundreds of women who run successful corporations.” For that matter, I did not dispute women’s ability to make it up the corporate ladder. In fact, I know women who could be even more cuththroat and ruthless in their ascent to the top than men.

      So, in short, you miss the point. The article is about the experience of having a female boss and NOT the ability of women to get to the top.

      Big difference there.

      I’ll write better, perhaps, if you promise to READ better. 😉

      1. Kate , in America and Canada the PC crowd, and womens rights groups hold businesses at gunpoint. Promote unqualified Females to a higher position or else you go to Federal Court. The females in the West want to dominate men because somebody told them somewhere down the line that men were holding them back. If you look in the US Government this is prevalent. Just think of Homeland Security in the US. Plain as day. Janet Napolitano and some of her female friends were busted big time for Work Place Discrimination against men. American women and Canadians also think the wonderful world of men owe them something and they use the system to their advantage.

        1. The same is true in the case of black American movement. A certain percentage is reserved for them at universities and I am not sure, but in some government agencies as well? I believe this is a highly unfair system. Everything should be merit-based and you shouldn’t be given something for nothing just because you a black or a woman.

          It is very disturbing that white or Filipino students who scored 95/100, for example, would get no university placements just because..say 30%.. of all placements are reserved for African-Americans who might have scored 65 or 70/100 in the entrance exams. They got in simply because of their race. NOW THIS IS RACISM.

  3. In my previous employer, this is what I always observed:

    Female boss to an inquiring colleague –

    “Discuss it with MY engineer, he/she’s around.”

    Male boss to an inquiring colleague –

    “Discuss it with *name of engineer*. If he/she’s not in his/her station, look for him/her in the production line*.”

    On the other hand, if the female boss is the business OWNER, based on my observation again, it’s totally different. I find them very accommodating to subordinates.

  4. I’ve noticed that in the medical field as well. As a psychiatrist i’ve have come to believe that women have this inherent need to overcompensate for something. notice how this behavior is more prevalent in fields that are dominated by men. the more men there are in a certain field, female bosses are sure to be more b*tchy.

    1. Isn’t it this blog is a personal one, for the blog owner, that most of the times is discussing politics?

      They are idiot commenters here who think that they can just post comments as if they own this blog. They don’t want any counter comment.


  5. There is so much context to any work environment that you can’t really make a general conclusion about just one aspect of it. I have had bosses who were fantastic and bosses who were utter retards on both sides of the gender gap, but if I really think about it, I can’t honestly say that whatever made Jeannie Y. an amazing manager and Debbie S. an assclown had anything to do with their gender.

    It may have, but here’s the thing: You’re the other half of the equation that determines what your judgment of your manager is. In other words, you just may work better with men than women. Which is perfectly okay if that’s the case, because at least if you are aware of it you can adapt, compensate, or take advantage of it as needed. In my case, I have always been extremely impersonal (which admittedly makes working in Asia more difficult for me), so gender only mattered to the extent that it was relevant to performance, which is to say, not at all as far as I was concerned. Your results may vary, however.

    1. A friend of mine said that it could be because I am a woman too and that women managers normally get along better with their male subordinates probably because male subordinates are less inclined to be too argumentative with female bosses or with females in general.

      But then if that is the case, then male managers who anecdotally aren’t likely to have problems managing male AND female employees are still at an advantage as managers.

      There is also the angle by the commentor Nebulae who I acknowledged above and will quote again here:

      As a psychiatrist i’ve have come to believe that women have this inherent need to overcompensate for something. notice how this behavior is more prevalent in fields that are dominated by men. the more men there are in a certain field, female bosses are sure to be more b*tchy.

      … which I tend to agree with.

      Maybe women get too emotional with work. But think about it though… it is just work. Perhaps men get that more than women do.

  6. My experience?
    Male bosses tend to be more logical in their approach, but at the disadvantage of being too simplistic.
    Female bosses are more humanistic in their approach to things, but at the disadvantage of easily slipping into emotional overdrive (especially when its that time of the month…sorry but thats just how it is!)

    I’ve loved it when I’ve had both male AND female superiors both equal in rank that had common goals and worked TOGETHER towards the mission of the company.

    Sometimes it DOES take two to make magic.

  7. Maybe you impressed upon your female bosses that you are much more intelligent and capable than them thus you’re a threat to their survival. Male or female, they’re going to freak out. Change your strategy. Work on their ego. Try the tried and tested “sipsip na, mahusay pa magtrabaho”. Going to work will never be a struggle.

  8. @ Kate N

    Subjects like this are as relevant today and should elicit more responses if GRP would have women visiting this site. Subjects like “Sex in the Workplace” are as juicy as Angel Locsins 36D-26-38 frame. You know what I mean? So what do you have? 12 “macho” commenters whose brains are as old as the relic found by NASA on planet Mars. I think you can do better.

    1. Are you saying that Kate and Ilda are not females? Isn’t that Libel??? LA702 you win the moron award for this week…

  9. I think it all boils down to the culture. What does Philippine culture do to both men and women, and what does it make them do when they become bosses? I guess the usual effect is, it tries to make them emotional, violent, egoistic, spoiled and shallow. Unfortunately, some give in to this. Perhaps women tend to give in more, because under the Filipino cultural context, they are obliged to just follow without question. Well any Filipino is.

  10. I have a theory about sexual differences between men and women. I believe men tend to focus on getting things done no matter what, they want things finished quickly. Women on the other hand tend to focus on the feeling an experience gives. So even when something is not yet finished, women tend to relish more the feelings they get while working it. Men ignore the feelings, they think it’s all work, and the better to get it over with. Lemme know what you think of this. hehe

    1. Have you read “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” ? It explains the difference between man and woman in all aspects.. and what you commented is one of them.

  11. Women tend to be more vulnerable to succumbing to crab-mentality. I used to have a female boss who worked her way up internally. When I joined the organization, I was immediately perceived as a threat because of my background and education. So behind my back, she started rumours that I was arrogant and became childish, even imitating my actions. I am shocked about this when I found out seeing as I hardly even talk to her.

    Another one of my female bosses pretend to be helpful in front of your face, but when you look at the results she did “for you”, it would be full of problems or errors that need to be fixed. Or else it would be you who is in trouble. So female bosses are definitely bad bosses from my experience in the Philippines. I wonder if the trend is the same in other countries.

    1. More reasons to apply for international companies, despite your nationality. Actually, crab mentality not only observed around Filipinos. It is also observed among Europeans when dealing with Europeans, Americans among Americans, etc. Most cases is whenever they deal with people of the same race. The thing about international companies (at least the international portions) is that the people in HR and managerial positions there have encountered some psychological examinations; just to weed out the crabs and the managerial psychopaths. So the people you would face in those companies would not drag you down, but instead encourage you to climb up your career ladder; benefits, vacations, and all.

      Personal experience from internship.

        1. Thanks for your insights. What you said is true. Looking back now, I guess I made the mistake of joining the wrong company. Putting myself on other people’s shoes, I now actually see that their response was understandable, even if the way they translated that was very crude and unbecoming.

          It was that company’s culture to promote from within. So some of the bosses there are actually not that highly educated compared to me. I also speak about 4 languages and have a variety of other skills in my resume even though I don’t show it so I understand that I must have been a threat now. Just haven’t thought of that when I accepted the offer. Well, lesson learned.

        2. So if you perform too little, and you might be thought of as unqualified. But if you perform too much, you might be thought of as a threat?

          So as a lesson to yourself, you don’t show some of the skills as you indicated in your resume. Correct me if I’m wrong, but assuming that you dumb down for them to get along, have you ever thought that by doing so, you’d look like a charlatan to them?

          Still, I keep wondering how other people handle their resumes after experiencing work relations same as yours. God, I hate crabs!

        3. I do not get along with crabs. They will pull you down NO MATTER WHAT. I meant lesson learned to do further research on the company culture that you are joining next time.

          Most crabs have a mind that is too small to understand anything and they are too emotional. The problem with the company I joined before seems to be the culture that allows this behavior to prosper (there were a number of well-qualified people before me who quit for the same reasons). It was a fight that was not worth fighting and I quit.

        4. Yeah, crabs are only good to eat, not good to get along.

          I hope you have a good job with no insecure colleagues and bosses now. 🙂

  12. And no offence with transsexuals (even the ones who kept their dicks): I believe that gay men (not the macho one, but the artsy, she-male one) USUALLY make worse bosses than women. It’s something in their aura that since the homophobic world is out to get them (when in fact the homophobic world is just a dwindling part of the world at large), they will have to crush anything and anyone that will crush their new-found femininity. And who else to crush than women? So is managerial psychopathy, which is seen among emotional women and openly misogynist men, the transsexuals’ way of saying that “Mas maganda ako sa iyo!” or “You’re just a fucking slut.” ? This looks like a scapegoat and a bitch-kill-bitch situation in the corporate setting to me.

    Notice the word USUALLY. I am not saying that all transsexual men treat women like this. I have transsexual friends who treat me well and who never back-stab me (I know because I ask around all the time). So for the trolls out there, spare me your vilification against my homophobia–I ain’t even afraid of them.

  13. For the record, half of the companies I have worked for over the years have yielded female bosses for me.

    Of those, I noticed one distinct pattern: Older women bosses are quite possibly the toughest to work for and the easiest to respect, both at the same time. The one who essentially made me the person I am today was in her 60’s and she was TOUGH. But I learned more from her about how to survive in a workplace than anyone. From simple things like email etiquette to how to detect a C-level personality and have a counter for it that makes you stand out.

    In my experience, it’s the young female bosses – 20’s, 30’s, even 40’s – where there’s an issue. There’s this sense of them trying to overcompensate for a weakness that isn’t really there; like they have to prove they’re worth the job by breathing down your neck about little things and really not benefiting you professionally. With the very young, it’s like they think because you’re a man, you’ll hit on them, so they act standoffish unnecessarily.

    1. “There’s this sense of them trying to overcompensate for a weakness that isn’t really there…”

      This is how I think of Filipinos in general.

  14. It seems to me that in my experience, it’s the younger female managers that are hard to get along with.

    I’ve worked under a few women in the past, and the older ones have generally been more reasonable and businesslike, whereas the younger women (in their early to mid twenties) that I had to work under, were awful.

    They used to make inappropriate demands, acted like they felt a need to assert their authority all the time, and used to play mind games with me (e.g. withholding information, setting me up to make an incorrect decision, and then secretly telling my boss). One of them even flat out made a blatantly inappropriate, offensive sexual remark to me after I emptied her wastebasket.

    I stumbled upon this article because I was trying to figure out if this was typical or if I was just unlucky.

  15. I wish I worked for your male bosses you describe. “Who is standing on your way from you meeting your objective?” This is a typical response I got when I worked for my best boss I ever work with (male). Plain & simple I will give him problems and solutions to fix the problem and he would immediately use his power to make sure it gets done. My last two bosses have been female. They would never ask me that question about who is standing on my way from the job getting complete. Mainly because 99% of the time it was my female boss that is preventing the objective from being complete. Either they didn’t have any real power to make sure something gets done or she would just look at me clueless. Bringing up problems and solutions to my last two female bosses was like talking to a wall. I know this is not the case with all female bosses, it is just my experiences. It could be just the last two female bosses are just completely incompetent.

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