Sex and the office: Employees across sectors increasingly prefer a Male Boss

Sunday October 17, 2010,

17 min Read

Sex and Office

Believe it or not, employees in India generally prefer male bosses more than the female bosses. Staff members ranging from public sector, private organizations to entrepreneur setup, BPOs, IT, Advertising agencies, media, aviation, bank, insurance and entertainment sectors among others, would like to remain as subordinates to men rather than to women managers. The trend is on the increase of late with the growing number of multinational organizations and companies diversifying into various ventures with increase in the number of employees.Interestingly enough, not only women employees, the male employees too, given a choice, would prefer to work under men as their superiors than the women. Survey revealed that employees in general are more comfortable working under male bosses, as according to them, male managers understand their problem better than the women. A section of women working in a nationalized bank here aver that it is easy to explain the exigency of the situation to the men and seek their permission, even if they do not understand the mensturation and other women- related problems. On the other hand, it is difficult to address similar problems to the women bosses in a clear and convincing manner, as they might look at it in a different/probing angle.

A female journalist here confessed that considering her tight schedule at office and domestic work at home, she could relate her problem freely with her Chief Reporter or the General Manager. According to her, she could make herself comfortable while confessing her problem to them as they listen to her passionately and try to solve her problem to the maximum extent possible. What problem does she face in confessing her problem to women chiefs as they are no less human with warmth and affection than the men? The scribe reluctantly asserted that she cannot expect her woman boss to leave the benefit of doubt to her as there will be a lurking suspicion beneath while listening to her grouse.

A group of women working in an airline and residing in a hostel here were candid in their utterances when they said the women are generally of more suspicious nature and tend to disbelieve each other often. “It is not fair on our part to accuse our gender, as we ourselves do not believe other women totally when they express their problem and seek assistance from us,” says a woman. Then how come she could trust men, who could be more gullible, dishonest, self-centred, shrewder and what not, than their female bosses? The women laughed and asked does not the women also possess similar shortcomings and went on to add that it is easier to tackle male bosses and impress upon them, however cunning they might be, as the men in general are more warm-hearted than the women and understand the agony, which the women undergoes more than the pretending women bosses. Damaging statement indeed, but the concerned women would stick to their points without mincing words.

A few women copy writers working in some advertising agencies echoed their sentiments and said male bosses generally do not indulge in petty squabbles and are more liberal towards women employees. Moreover, they do not expect them to stay at late hours, bearing in mind their mind-boggling work at home. The reason, according to them is simple - men finds domestic life disturbing, as they are often sandwiched between their mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law squabbles – the male managers find welcome relief more in offices than at their residences and could look at the problems of women-folk sympathetically. Moreover, as a woman staffer of a renowned airline here reasoned that women could address their problems to male bosses confidently and in right earnest with favourable results.

Malathi, a Public Relations Officer, attached to a famous hospital here said it is easy to approach male administrators and convince them about her method of approach to a particular work than the female officials. Women employed in software companies and BPOs are favourably inclined towards male bosses for the reason that their superiors believe their ability to catch deadlines during crunch situations and are inclined to assign them more assignments with more than adequate power to enable them to derive confidence whenever the situation warrants. “Male Managers are ready to pardon the mistakes of their subordinates and will not make mountain out of molehill”, says some of them enthusiastically, adding that their male bosses provide them ample opportunities to brush up their abilities and for sustaining their growth in a phased and fine-tuned manner.

“There is always a room for improvement when you work under male bosses,”  Kamala Krishnan, working in a post office here says with conviction. Women get enough freedom to work under male Managers, as long as they do not try to outsmart them by taking advantage of their good nature, asserts Mrs. Krishnan and said it is imperative on the part of women to realize that glamour and charisma will attract men only to some extent and they do not want the women employees to take them for granted in the working atmosphere and its surrounding environment. Her colleague Gomaathi Swaminathan concurred with her views and said male bosses, exceptions apart, prefer sincere and hard-working and feminine-looking women, focusing on their assigned work. “Cordial relationship exists more with the male bosses, as they are of an easy-going nature and do not exaggerate the goings-on in the office outside the premises,” Mrs. Swaminathan voices her opinion vociferously.

Interestingly enough, the male employees are also willing to work under men than of women. If the women opts for males bosses, it could be due to gender bias, but what really prompts the men to prefer working under male managers, as the women bosses are not expected to harm them and only to reward them, if they come out with flying colours in the task fulfilled to them? Murugesan, a sales representative in a Pharmaceutical company here said that he has nothing against women in general, but he would like to work under male bosses, as some problems related to men and their families could be addressed only to another man, who could understand his plight better. Moreover, Mr Murugesan claims that male bosses will rise to the occasion in maintaining confidentiality and they can be relied on preserving secrecies concerning the individuals in organizations.

Sriram, a Chartered Accountant echoes the views of Mr Murugesan and said male bosses understand the financial constraints of his subordinates better than the female bosses and take steps to redress the grievances of the employees to the maximum extent possible, whereas the women managers often do not cross ‘Laxman Rekha’ to please their subordinates. Venkatesh, working in a stock exchange broker firm asserted that women are tough task masters and experts in budgetary-savings, but are not well-versed in share-market predictions. Too often, women at the helm of affairs in financial markets has created fear in the minds of investors with their unpredictable predictions, says Mr Venkatesh and added that he could impress upon his male bosses about his candid views on the bubble bust in United States and its adverse effects on the country’s financial scenario with telling effect more than the female directors. The female bosses tend to go over-board, says S Venkataraman, a financial expert, but he hastened to add that women are more cost-conscious than the men and preserve the records of accounting transactions in a phased and orderly manner than the men.

Shyamala Parthiban, a woman executive associated with a courier company said, men generally avoid working as subordinates to women, unless the situation forces them. It is quite natural, as according to her, the male employees suffer from inflated ego and inferiority complex. Many of them are under the impression that women have attained their coveted posts through pulls and pressures and backing, which is not true, she said, adding men assumes many things on their own and their mind-set does not allow them to accept the harsh reality that women work hard and with utmost dedication and sincerity to reap the dividends. Little do the men realize, says Ms Parthiban that women are no less accountable to their organizations than the men and they on a number of occasions outwit their male bosses in rising to the crunch situations and remaining loyal with honesty and integrity to their chosen profession. But when reminded the executive about the answer to the relevant question, the lady who refused to mention her age, shrugged aside and said that given a choice she would love to work under a male manager, though she may not have aversion to female bosses. When asked, despite pointing out so many plus factors of women and shortcomings of men, how come she could opt for a male boss, Ms Parthiban concluded with a twinkle on her eye: “ Men normally do not shout at women in the working arena and opposite sex does not create much room for suspicion.”

Some male employees in a transport company, however, rue the fact, that their bosses attach importance to their female colleagues under the impression that weaker sex should not be given tough jobs and lashing tongue should not be used at them to malign and rattle them. When asked, had women bosses would have recognized their achievements and be of help to them,  Vadivelu, a senior supervisor of the company said, he was not sure whether the woman manager, would have recognized their skills, but at least she would have kept their female colleagues in check and ensured that they also share the burden of the male employees to a great extent. Another employee Sridhar, an office executive concurred with the views of his colleague and said a woman looks at another woman from psychological point of view and, hence, the women staffers would think twice before taking advantage with their female bosses.

Male staffers working in a reputed television channel here have a grouse that one of the directors use uncharitable words when they report for duty even five to ten minutes late. But, if the women staffers enters even half-an-hour late, the concerned director smiles at them and talk to them nicely. The pity, according to a cameraman of the channel Murugavel is that, considering the pressure situation in their channel and its round-the-clock working hours, they invariably leave the office at late hours to catch their transport to far off residences, whereas the women staffers, who departs the office in time and reach their homes at near-by areas in time are not questioned when they are behind schedule. The problem, however, is that even a woman employee of the concerned channel, who refused to mention her name revealed that they feel sorry for their male colleagues, but they are helpless.

According to her, if they try to plead their cases, they may be looked at with suspicion and could be treated indifferently by their superiors. Coming to the main question, she remarked that inspite of umpteen problems, female staffers in the organization would prefer to report under male bosses. When asked why and how women managers would not provide justice to their ventilated grievances, she said being a woman she has nothing against another woman, especially, if she is her superior. But the moot point, according to her is that whatever may be the grievances of women staffers against their male bosses, they are more in comfort zone with them than of their female superiors. The chemistry with male managers work out better than the female bosses, she added with a mischievous smile.

Ms Madhumathi, Deputy General Manager of a Freight and Forwarding company, agree to disagree with the views of comfort zone pointed out by many women employees. She is of the opinion that unlike men, women in general do not mix-up personal relationship with professional relationships. Yet, the women managers do share their domestic upheavals with their women subordinates and have lunch and snacks with them, but there ends the matter. When it comes to the interest of the organization, more so, in generating revenue, the women bosses leave no stone unturned in fulfilling the targets set by the proprietors. “Human gesture should not be construed as weakness towards women,” Madhumathi said, adding, women staffers, who are pregnant needs maternity treatment with a caring approach and motherly affection and under such circumstances, certain privileges and concessions are expected to be dished out to them. Hailing the official on her sensitive approach and assistance to her own sex, would she, however, opt for working under a man or a woman? Pat came the reply from Madhumathi that she did not get an opportunity to work under a woman so far and she would not prefer to answer hypothetical questions, but ended up with “opposite sex relationship works wonder not only in personal relationship, but in professional relationship, too”. There lies the answer. Had A F S Talayarkan, the famous commentator been alive, he would have ended up with either “do you get me steve? Or “samajgayana”. The popular film actor Dev Anand would have added “wahi purana and tera bahana”.

Employees, who are asked to report for night shifts in essential services do face problem time and again. Male workers are the victims again, says an employee who is constantly asked to report for night shifts by his employers at the airport. The disgusted employee, Venkat Narayanan has murmured that his male bosses are making his life miserable. When asked for the reason he said, since the female employees are barred from doing night shifts by the employers considering their sex, it is the male employees like him, who are bearing the burden of the airline by working on night shifts for not less than fifteen days to twenty days in a month, which is indeed tiresome and taxing and takes a heavy toll on their work and efficiency.

Mr Narayanan further averred that even if some women employees are willing to report on night shifts, why should the Management prevent them from doing so. “When we talk about equality, why should special treatment be meted out to women,” asks the 30-year-old young man. Fair enough, many companies do not have sufficient vehicles for pick-up and delivery of the employees and the lack of facility poses more constraints on the women employees than of men, says a management representative. Moreover, most of the organizations, including software and BPOs have become cost-conscious after the bubble bursts in America , he added wryly. Does he imply that a woman bosses would have solved his problem, to which Mr Narayanan asserted that it is grossly unfair to expect and opine that the woman manager would have solved his problem, as she, too, is compelled to function as per the directive of the management and norms and regulations of the company. The man, however, had the last straw, when he said, despite problems compounding, he would prefer a man as his superior, as at least he would be in a position to ventilate his frustration and anger on him, albeit in a disguised manner.

Call Centres, police and media and tinsel world face similar plight. The problem, especially in new agencies aggravate, with the subscribers demanding round-the-clock services from them. The agencies, despite demanding and arduous task, are manned with inadequate manpower. They normally do not engage women employees and staffers on night shifts and the mantle invariably falls on the male staffers and non-journalists. Considering the gravity of the situation, they are expected to sacrifice quality-work to meet the quantum requirements of their subscribers, as the agencies, unlike dailies, consider every second as a deadline to cater to the needs of their clients. Moreover, they are expected to surge ahead than their competitors. They should even be prepared for verbal assaults from some disgruntled subscribers and are expected to shoulder more responsibilities than the newspaper and magazine employees for a meager remuneration.

The agencies should also be prepared for the switching over of their staffers to dailies or periodical, fortnightlies and for greener pastures for better prospects. Considering the daunting task ahead of them, a section of news agency employees, averred that keeping in mind round-the-clock working hours, they would prefer a man to carry the mantle on his shoulder, as it would be unwise to ask any woman boss worth the salt to keep awake for long work hours and be prepared to get up at midnight to monitor and keep track of the flash news with the  domestic work awaiting her on the following morning.

An employee working in a renowned daily narrated an interesting incident when he said that a senior woman journalist with her style of functioning at odd-hours, could not engage any personal assistant to work under her for a long time. She used to call them at untimely hours to report for duty, which had terrified them. For instance, one of his former assistants claimed that though the scribe is good natured, he was terrified to find a call from her at 1130 at night when he was watching a night-show film with his wife. When the assistant hurried up to her chamber in haste, he was vehemently criticized for committing some typographical and grammatical errors in her article. When he politely reminded the scribe that instead of asking him to come at late hours to pin-point his mistakes, she could have either informed him over phone and admonished him, or could have asked him to be careful in future when he reported for duty on the following morning.. When asked that was the one reason for him to resign from the organization with a conclusion that male bosses are reasonable and tolerable than the women officials, he said, he never meant that way, but at least he could have ensured that the male bosses understood his genuine grievances and felt guilty during the course of time, but as a subordinate he is not expected to shout at his woman boss in queer pitch and see reason for her short-sighted approach towards him.

Likewise, despite women film directors doing their best, employees prefer to work under male directors, a floor-coordinator succinctly puts it. The reason, according to him, it is easy to be accessible to male directors and other co-artistes to put across his views and explain his day-to-day problem in totality. He, however, hurriedly added that not all women directors are inaccessible, but it is difficult to predict their mood when the workers face them to explain their confronting problems A film actor of yesteryear nostalgically remembered, how the late actor-director Savitri was generous enough in treating them, though the entire unit was scared of her temper and eccentric behaviour at times. The noted actor Hema Malini was an exception, as she did not find the male-female syndrome affecting her during her directorial ventures. A few upcoming women directors here, however, felt that men still hesitate to work under women, as they tend to disbelieve the capacities of women directors to come out with box-office hits.

Dr Manas Fuloria, co-founder and executive vice-president, corporate development and strategy, Nagarro Software Private Limited, points out in a leading daily here that both the men and women should possess team management skills, a knack for quick decision making, aptitude to address critical situations tactfully and effective listening ability. However, according to him every leader should be equipped with empathy, a necessary attribute of a great leader, which is applicable to both male and female bosses. A woman scribe from a renowned daily, once during an exclusive interview with the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked her whom does she consider as a better leader, men or women? To which Madam Gandhi, with her smile on her face and in her own inimitable style quipped: “Some men are good, likewise some women are good”. Not satisfied with her answer, the journalist retorted” “I thought you would say women are better leaders than the men”. The Prime Minister once again laughed at her. Your guess is as good as mine

Study conducted by senior journalist K V Venugopal, who is based out of Chennai

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