Management Issues

Dawn Cohen dcohen at cs.pitt.edu
Thu Jun 22 16:51:32 EST 1995


Allison Treloar writes:

>As for women supervising men...you *must* accept that men just deal
>with situations differently then women do.  

>In my own experience,  there are 4 basic tenents for supervising
>anyone:

     I've never been a boss, (but I've worked for some :-), and I'd
     like to add some comments to this list, which I think would
     have helped some unpleasant management situations.

>1.  Your people must respect you (they don't have to like you, but it's
>a plus of course.).

     I think this is a place where a lot of women have a hard time
     achieving balance.  I have worked for several women bosses, and
     I have observed some common themes here.  Often a woman boss is
     kind of torn between wanting to be a friend and nice, nurturing
     leader on the one hand, and wanting to be a *boss* on the other 
     hand.  Personally, I really like this style, and have gotten
     along really well with my bosses who have exhibited it.  However,
     I have also observed that for the most part, it drove the other 
     people who worked for them crazy -- I think they felt that they
     didn't know how to respond to the boss, as a friend or as a
     worker, and so resented the friend for making demands and the boss
     for intruding in their lives.  It also drove the bosses
     themselves slightly crazy -- they were frequently neurosing 
     about why, since they were being so nice to their staff, the
     staff weren't reciprocating by overworking.

     I don't know why, but I haven't observed this kind of behavior
     on the part of men bosses.  Even those that I have really liked 
     on a personal level seem to have always remained very much the 
     boss, and did not try to be a friend or father to their staff.
     Not that they weren't friendly or concerned...maybe just that
     they kept the issues apart.

>2.  Treat everyone evenhandedly, have respect for their outside life,
>and stick to your own rules.  

     Don't chew them out in front of other people.  This is
     humiliating for the person who is being scolded and 
     embarrassing/demoralizing for the people who are listening to 
     it.  And it leads to great resentment, which is unproductive 
     in the long run.  If you've got something to scold someone about,
     do it behind closed doors, unless it is about a mistake that 
     *everyone* makes, and everyone should learn from it.

     And don't set people up against each other.  Some bosses (I've
     seen this in both male and female) seem to believe in the 
     divide-and-conquer approach.  The pattern seems to be
     suck-up to one employee, gain his/her confidence, get info 
     about the other, and repeat on the other.  Another pattern
     is complaining about one employee to another.  I know this is
     a temptation, when one employee seems more responsible/helpful/
     understanding/hardworking than another, but this is a serious
     conflict of interest.  It gives an employee inappropriate power 
     over others, without the accountability of being a boss.  
     It is also embarrassing to the employee, and may also make 
     them wonder what the boss is saying about them to other people.  
     Also, bosses who do this don't seem to realize that the 
     employees share this information among themselves, and sometimes
     hold it agains the boss.

     Then there is the Teacher's Pet syndrome.
     Don't put 100% faith in anyone, especially to the point 
     where if it is that person's word against someone else's, you
     automatically believe that person.  I've seen otherwise good
     bosses dogmatically follow their "pet", even when everyone else
     could tell that the "pet" was wrong or not as good as the boss
     thought.  I believe that this arises when the boss is too busy to
     make all decisions, and leaves a lot up to the "right hand man".
     It is ok to rely on such a person, so long as you are willing to
     put some serious thought into things, when another person has a
     difference of opinion with the "pet".  If you don't do this, the
     other employees feel that they are just tools, and are not 
     expected to carry out their duties thoughtfully.  Also, you
     may figure out on your own that the "pet" is not so great as
     you thought, and this can be a *big* psychological let-down.
     I've seen it happen.

>3.  Let your people know exactly what is expected of them.  This is
>something that is not commonly done in academia except in a really
>broad sense (more of a  research goal really).  People need very
>specific, reachable and *written* goals.  Periodic review of progress
>gives you a handle on problems early and gives your people a sense of
>direction.  

     Decide whether your criterion for judging performance is that 
     the person works for X hours per day or that the person 
     accomplishes tasks A, B, C.  

     I have known bosses who are unhappy when they see their employees
     working fewer than the maximum number of hours per week worked by
     any employee, even though their employees are accomplishing all 
     their tasks.  Bosses in academia are particularly prone to this,
     and I think it is extremely unfair.  Especially when they want 
     people to come in weekends or stay late.  It breeds resentment from
     the really good workers, who can do stuff fast.  They figure,
     "how come the others only have to do half of what I do?  If I
     have to put in the same hours I'll just take my time about
     stuff".  It is good to challenge the good ones, but not to the
     extent that they feel penalized -- they should feel some benefit
     of being good.

>4.  Document, document, document.  This will cover your behind in case
>things turn sour.  It doesn't have to be extensive - just an objective
>synopsis of whatever happened - good or bad.  You'll need something to
>back up promotions or firings sooner or later.

Just my observations.

--Dawn




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