Stanley Bing

Ask Bing: Should I work for a woman?

A career is all about melding, mutating, getting with the program no matter how it changes, and keeping your self and your sanity while doing so.

Email | Print    Type Size  -  +
By Stanley Bing

I recently interviewed with a company for a spot with a team of five women that's led by a woman. I am a man and my concern is that I would not fit in. Furthermore, I have heard recent statistics that a high percentage of the population would rather work for a man.

I work for a company now where it's good 'ole boys...I can golf, go out for drinks, swear, etc. in a corporate setting. Am I setting myself up for failure by taking a job in an arena dominated by women? The reason for change is 100% salary based.

Yeah, Studly. If you keep up your old doggy ways you certainly are. Unless, of course, the corporate culture of the essentially female organization has morphed into a bent version of the macho style you're used to. This is possible.

During the early years of my career, it was unusual to find a woman in a top executive position, and the ones who rose to the top were forced to dress like men (it was then called "Dressing for Success" and produced all kinds of fashion crimes), curse like men, and drink scotch straight from the bottle, sort of.

Over the years, the executive ranks have become much more down the middle, at least in my business. We have quite a few female presidents, for instance, and the style of those departments, as is true in those run by men, is set by the character and style of the executive, not by gender.

I think you will find two things, if you move: 1) you will have to amend your way of doing things to fit in with the prevailing corporate culture. This is always true with a new job. If you adopt the same way of doing things in any new venue, you will fail. Being a success in any operation -- from the Army to the Church to IBM (IBM, Fortune 500) -- means dressing, talking, working and playing the way people think a successful person does in that environment. If you have a problem conforming to standards you may not be cut out for a business life. Perhaps you should be a poker player, where you can golf, go out for drinks, swear and etc. in a corporate setting, as you say...

And 2) women who hang together can be just as tough and raunchy as your good 'ole boys. They may just do it a little bit differently. Your real challenge will be not to be, quite literally, the odd man out. You sound like you have your head in the 1950s, dude. If you're going to thrive in the new environment, you're going to need to change that act pronto, if you can. If you can't, you're doomed.

Come to think of it, anybody who can't change their act is pretty much doomed at this juncture. A career is all about melding, mutating, getting with the program no matter how it changes, and keeping your self and your sanity while doing so.

If the money is right, I'd say take the job and get set for a bumpy transition. That's what getting a new gig is all about anyhow.

My boss doesn't listen and doesn't know what I do even though I update her daily on my activities verbally. I have tried to update her through email as well as follow-up conversations with email. A few months ago she told me not to email her anymore because it can now be public record. I then tried to update her via written notes and memos, but they sit on her desk and then get other files piled on top - she is not organized nor does she want to be.

Well, I had my performance evaluation and it was full of contradictions. One sentence I'm a thorough, efficient employee who communicates well and then the next sentence says that I don't follow through and need improvement with communication skills as in that I do not inform her of important issues. Even when I tried to discuss this with her she has a way of turning words around and nicely saying that I am the one with the problem. Well, I do have a problem - her! What do I do since my hands seem to be tied? I love what I do and the people in the organization and do not want to leave. By the way, there isn't anyone I can talk with since she is the HR Director.

Why is it that so many people who are bad with people end up in the department dedicated to the job of being good with people? Maybe it's that in some organizations HR is the lowest function and all the loose marbles roll there. I don't know. It's a question for the ages.

As for yours, I guess I'd say this: most certainly, do not leave. Your task, as you move forward throughout life, from kindergarten to the old age home, is to manage people who are insufficient in some way. If you give up on them and move along every time you meet a numbnuts, you'll be on the road every couple of years, looking for a Holy Grail of competence, consistency and fairness that exists only in your dreams. Hang in there and solve this person.

Keep a file of the things you send her. Over-communicate verbally on important issues. Be respectful and polite at all times, but persistent. When she says, "Write me a note on that," you say, "Actually, Doris, this will just take a minute. And frankly, I heard what you said at my performance review and I want to address some of those issues." After a while, she will get her mind around the fact that you seriously intend to pester her until she cries Uncle.

If you choose, now and then, to do things in email or paper, make sure you copy a few people, including yourself, and don't commit words to paper or screen unless it really has some kind of action point that needs her to engage. Then follow it up. "Did you get my note on that?" you can ask. "Which one?" she will say. "On the Hollister requisition," you will reply. "What's that about?" she will inquire. And you will tell her, and then you will have communicated.

Horrible communicators always accuse others of being horrible communicators. Disorganized people always feel others are disorganized. We see our faults in others and hate them. Take control of this boss as you should all others. That's the nature of the beasts.

Help - our company is instituting BHAGs for 2008. That's Big Hairy Audacious Goals... this is above and beyond our 2008 "regular growth," beyond our "stretch growth," and getting into the unrealistic realm... any thoughts?

Budgeting is a dialectical process. They say they want $10 from your function. You offer $5. They say $11. You say $3. All right, they come back, we want $9 for sure, no less. Okay, you reply, I can do $6. And so it goes. Back and forth. Eventually, you give them a number you believe you can do in a stretch and, if they are smart, they accept it.

If, on the other hand, they are stupid, they do not accept it, and they start yammering about Excellence and Changing the Game and BHAGs. And then, if you are not stupid, you say, "Look, Charley. You're the boss and I respect you. I can't make that number. But if you make it a condition of my employment, and tell me that you're going to heave me through the plate glass windows into the ether 40 floors above the street, unless I comply? Then Darn It, Boss, I'm only too pleased to March to Greatness or whatever nonsense you're telling the Board will haul us out of this mess we're in. I'm on board! A billion dollars in revenue it is!"

Then when December rolls around and you haven't hit your numbers? Maybe there are others in the same boat, don't you think? Who knows. If nobody hits their targets you may all be safe. At least you'll live another year.

Those who don't get on the train when it's heading out of the station, however, are immediately left behind, and you don't want that. So hop on the crazy express and enjoy the ride. And you know... TRY to get close to that BHAG. Sometimes budgets are like horseshoes. Close can count.

What do you about a boss that does not come to work? She lets her personal life control her job schedule. We had to cut two jobs due to budget cuts, now I'm left doing the two other jobs plus helping her, when she waits to the last minute to meet a deadline.

When people call for her I take a message, but when they ask will she be in today, I usually have no clue, because she never tells me. Who do I talk to about this. I don't want to lose my job. If something doesn't change this place is going to shut down.

I don't know enough about your organization to tell you whom to talk to. If there is an HR person close to the big boss of the place, you could try there, but I'm not hopeful. I'll be there are people above you, however, who have also noticed. How many times have they called to find that your boss is hors de combat and you have no idea when she will return? Maybe things aren't as bad as you think. Does she have a BlackBerry? BlackBerrys allow a completely dysfunctional person to feign competence and presence. That's why they're so popular.

You could also try -- and I tremble when I say this -- to talk with her. Maybe she has real problems. I had a boss once who stayed behind her door all day for more than a year. It turned out she was getting a divorce and crying back there for eight hours at a stretch. Don't be bad or unkind. You might just say, "Linda, I've noticed that you're sometimes completely out of reach and I don't know where you are. Is there anything I can do to help you with something?" Maybe those are not the right words, but a little human outreach here may be more effective than a squeal to higher-ups.

In the end, however, this woman has her destiny all mapped out. Perhaps she drinks. Maybe she's having an affair and her mind is on monkey business instead of the more serious kind. You will have to endure the situation, knowing that it will end only one way, as they all do: with her destruction. Many an employee has outlived that kind of craziness and gone on to better things.

Can you help with people who use "feel badly"? I'm afraid it's going to become correct English!

No. English is decomposing at an alarming rate. Everybody now uses "impact" as a verb, as in "That impacts our first quarter very dramatically." This drives me crazy. People also say "impactful" without smirking now. And the New York Times routinely splits infinitives. Nobody cares.

The good news is that this has been going on since 1066, when the French came over to England and junked up Old English with their Gallic tongue, and I'm sure even before that. Language is a living thing and it's not perfect, and it's always evolving and, in a way, becoming richer and more complex while at the same time increasingly "wrong."

My personal opinion is that it's the job of people who love language and want to use it for purposes of expression and communication to fight for the rules, for the most part, without being prissy about it. As I've learned from my occasional forays into the subject in this space, nobody likes what they refer to as a Grammar Nazi. At the same time, there's no reason for us to talk like ignorant slobs, is there? Unless, of course, we want to for maximum impactivity? To top of page

Ask Stanley Bing
Having a problem at work? Tell us your workplace dilemma and get Stanley Bing's no-BS advice in his weekly "Ask Bing" column. Submit your question below or e-mail them directly to Your name is optional, and although your e-mail address is required, it will remain private.
Your name:
* Your e-mail address:
* Your city:
* Your state:
* Your question:
Tell us about your crazy boss
Is your boss heading for a self-made disaster? Scared of his own shadow? Just plain weird? Share your insane workplace story.
Executricks The central question of every hardworking person's career is how to work less hard while still being able to buy an expensive bottle of wine without trembling. The answer is simple: Retire while still working! (more)