My–Female–Bosses are Intolerable

This is Kai writing from Toronto, Canada.

I am a male, currently in a confrontational struggle at work. I just transitioned to a new position in another team in the same company, but I am finding it really hard to get along with the three managers and one director above me, who are all women.

I just cannot stand the way they’re talking to me, even my wife never talked to me like that. I feel anger and I sometimes argue with them. It may be my personality, but I am just tired of working for women who are so demanding, rushed and worried all the time. I am perfectly fine working with women or with women working for me.

I like this company since I have been here six years. I am not sure if I should change my job or stay. I am not happy working in this job, I have no passion at all.

I appreciate your time.

Kai

Dear Kai,

From your letter we can’t tell which of the following scenarios is closest to the truth:

  1. Your female bosses are difficult and unpleasant employers, possibly with a prejudice against men that reveals itself in how they interact with you.
  2. You are uncomfortable with serving under the leadership of women and are becoming a difficult and unpleasant employee.
  3. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Although it is wildly unpopular in today’s culture, there is a little-known fact which might make you feel better although it is not of much practical help.  This controversial fact is that it is perfectly normal and perfectly natural for a man to feel uncomfortable being issued directions by a woman. In many cultures, men have been indoctrinated to believe that this feeling is a primitive throwback to tribal ancestry and that it must be firmly suppressed.  Nonetheless, it is real and will undoubtedly eventually create serious problems in the modern military and in other hierarchies in which women occupy high rank. It is possible that this lies at the root of your unhappiness but, as we say, it is irrelevant. You are going to have to find a way to function or your employment there must surely terminate.

If your bosses are not asking you to do something inappropriate and are not speaking to you in a way that goes against company policy, we don’t see that you have any recourse. We assume that requesting to transfer back to your previous position is not viable. What we can say is that the status quo isn’t working.

As we see it, your only option is to change your reaction or change your job. As we are sure you have learned in other areas of your life, you cannot change others, you can only change yourself. If something doesn’t change, you may not have the luxury of deciding whether or not to seek a new job as you will be demoted or let go. If you are fired, you will be in a poorer position to find a new job than if you proactively search for one while still working.

While it is somewhat possible that the only reason these women are in their position is because the company needed to show women in management, that isn’t very likely. There is probably a great deal you can learn from them if you allow yourself to do so. What can you admire about their skill set? Focus on that rather than on the style that upsets you. Not only will you get a feeling of satisfaction at attaining new skills, but you will be more employable should you decide to search for work elsewhere.

Kai, we would encourage you to broaden your self-analysis. Anger is a common and an understandable reaction when we face disagreeable situations. However, it isn’t a very effective response and usually backfires. Walking into work each day expecting to spend the day full of resentment leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Is it possible that you are dissatisfied in other areas of your life and that is making your work interactions more toxic? We were perturbed by your statement that they speak to you in a way that “even” your wife doesn’t. Are you accustomed to a lack of respect from your wife? Do you treat your wife with respect? Would it be useful in general for you to learn some new techniques for dealing with difficult situations?

Having worked successfully in this company for six years, this must be a frustrating and disappointing experience. It is up to you to adjust and make it work in the best way possible.

Wishing you future joy in work,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin


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23 thoughts on “My–Female–Bosses are Intolerable”

  1. I worked in “high tech” for 25 years. During that time there was a strong drive to push women into management roles – to show that “we support women in high places”. As a result I had a women over me about 85% of the time. Because I am skilled at dealing with those I don’t agree with I did well. In my opinion companies have gone way too far in aggressively promoting women. They are NOT BETTER managers. They are DIFFERENT managers. They are usually less effective and cause chaos and confusion. They want everyone to like them. When they must make a tough decision they are petty and will do anything to avoid responsibility. Women are not designed to be leaders. Society has said “women and men are just the same ergo you must have lots of women managers”. It has been disastrous. Nearly every company with a woman CEO has suffered tremendously.
    There are roles women generally do well. Such as project managers. Meaning they track projects and make sure all the small tasks get done. But in that role they are not leaders. They are assisting a leader.
    If you choose a job where you have to work with a woman manager you must find a way to deal with the frustration. I focused on making my female managers look good. Just as I would a male boss. Because I succeeded in that the women were tolerant when I made decisions they did not like. I made such choices because I put project success above company rules and processes. Women are very uncomfortable with anyone who doesn’t “follow the rules”. Which frequently leads to a project making poor progress and going over budget. So I focused on showing them how to make projects successful and within budget. Even though it “broke the rules”. That was the only way I could maintain my sanity. Because projects were successful the female managers were rewarded. So they allowed me some leeway. Male bosses generally could care less if you follow the rules – they want success. In my opinion that exemplifies why women are NOT designed to lead.
    I can only suggest that you look for a way that will bring satisfaction to you and will also bring success to your female boss. I’ve shown you my way of accomplishing that. There will not be an opportunity to put society (or your company) on a sane path. The only other option is to leave and seek a new opportunity. (I eventually left the industry and have now worked for myself for 12 years – never been happier.)

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Don–
      Thanks for such an informative letter. I can’t help wondering if you’re not generalizing just a tad too much? “Women are very uncomfortable with anyone show doesn’t follow the rules” All women? “Women are not designed to be leaders” Really? All women? See what I mean? Sweeping generalizations tend to make writing appear a bit less thoughtful and I know you are a thoughtful person. But your story was interesting to hear.
      Warmly
      RDL

      1. Dear Rabbi-
        You have valid points. It is necessary to generalize unless we are going to write thousands of pages to close the specificity gap. My experience with women managers was uniform not only over my own managers but also those of other work groups. Yes, a sample of ~100 is admittedly small. The question, however, is does it have any information for us? There are always exceptions. Should you train yourself only for exceptions? On the question of leaders I have consumed your content that states women are not designed to lead (be in a position of authority). It is prevalent in many ancient teachings in Judaism and Christianity but also exists in other places. That does not mean women are not valuable. It does mean they have different skills and applicability than males. The rare exception good female leader does not each us anything about women in general. Females serve a limited leadership role in the family. So it is also a question of scale.
        Perhaps you have learned to generalize in a wiser fashion than I have. I worked most of my career with about 75% women because I was able to work productively and effectively with women. Many of the men were not. I appreciated and valued their contributions. So I claim to have valuable personal experience. I remain friends with most of those women, and include their husbands as friends. But it was always clear to me that their strengths were different than my own and different from men in general. I don’t see that as conflicting with what you teach. Likely the only way to reach agreement would be a discussion we shall never have the opportunity for. I don’t think we are on different pages, we just have different ways of expressing the thoughts.

  2. I have worked for good managers, and awful managers… some were men, some were women… In my opinion this guy needs to find the root cause of the female boss’s bad behavior. I would find out that the bad female boss was constantly under pressure and the bad behavior of her boss and had little to do with my job performance. Sometimes there was marital strife and she would go on a tear that would destroy a productive Monday morning staff meeting. I only survived because she knew I was always looking out for her and the best interest of the company. Eventually she got promoted, and believe it or not we are facebook friends today, and can laugh about all the hardship. The “good” female boss was nothing fancy, just pleasant and did everything by the book. A great experience and even wrote a recommendation for me when I changed jobs. I guess you just play the cards you are dealt. I was a quality control officer and not so good with people. I believe if I can do it, anyone can do it!

  3. As a female boss was almost a decade of experience over hundreds of people, I find this so interesting. Actually when I first started my current position, the boss at that time warned me people are more likely to complain or refuse to work with a woman, and I should not take it personally when that happens. He was absolutely correct

    In my experience, People expect to hear a yes when they ask a woman to do some thing. Regarding subordinates,Women are more likely to be insubordinate to a female manager but when men are insubordinate, it is far more dramatic and inappropriate. For example, a woman will ask the same question over and over again because she wants a different answer. You finally just have to tell them to stop asking; it’s already been answered. What’s interesting here, subordinates with no experience will expect to direct their female managers despite not knowing anything about the subject matter. By and large, men are more likely to follow orders and expect that the buck stops with me. With men, you rarely hear anything from one of them until the shouting. I’ve had a man yell at me that he doesn’t think he should have to come in and do his job because I was at the office.

    I’ve read some literature that states that men are used to hierarchy based on competency, where as among women the only hierarchy is age Or matriarchy.

    The best way for me to deal with this so far has been to take a teaching attitude, assume that the person does not understand the situation and review it with them. It takes a lot of time but as a manager it builds relationships. it also teaches people that there is a well thought out plan behind what you’re asking them to do and make some less likely to constantly question.

    If the writer wants to stay in his current job, he may benefit from some of the literature on managing up. How can he help his managers work more effectively with him? Less micro management? Does he need deadlines With the freedom to organize his days? Does he need more frequent feedback? Does he need better instructions on how to do his job? How can he ask his managers for these things? If he can stay calm and collect his thoughts, it may help him to meet with the most immediate manager and review what his duties are as well as how he works best.

    Best wishes,
    AP

  4. Even women don’t like women bosses ( there are exceptions of course , there are occasional great women bosses) They generally have a huge ego and want to micromanage every move anyone makes , play emotional games with their employees and think they can also read your mind , after a long time of this treatment they CAN actually read your mind…great men bosses are more common , being clear about their expectations , and not playing emotional games at being ” friends”, while accusing you of disrespect . men spell out exactly what they want , and clearly let you know when you need an improvement . ( there are occasional bad male bosses of course) …I would bet this man doesn’t have a problem taking orders from women , he probably has a problem taking orders from game players…my 30 years of working for women bosses makes me think this…

    1. HI Karen,

      I agree with you. I’m a retired woman engineer and the majority of co-workers that were female that I interacted with were more into the office games and trying to be the male boss(es) favorite. Turns out there were a couple other women in non-engineering positions that shared my view on that. We were in the office to WORK and make positive contributions to getting the product (i.e aircraft) out the door. In general, I prefer to work with males.

      1. All the work I have done over the years has been “typically male work” so I don’t I feel like ” women should just sew and cook” ,or some such thing . I really wonder if people denying this reality are just trying to be politically correct ??? Good for you ! It is a joy to do a job well every day with our talents !!

    2. Yes, as a woman in corporate I agree completely. I, myself have even said the same things this gentleman has expressed.
      Women leaders in the work place are out of control jezebels. They gaslight and play emotional games. I think unfortunately many women in the leadership are wounded and broken somehow and the unleash it in the workplace. They want to dominate the men and are threatened and jealous of other talented women. And yes, they many times cause chaos and confusion.

      1. Tanisha, it sounds like you have met some bad apples, but I do think you may be over-generalizing. There is a balance between recognizing trends and painting every individual with the same brush. I don’t think every woman in leadership is problematic anymore than I believe that every male in leadership is abusive.

  5. For the last 45 years I have done contract work (in IT) so have had the opportunity to work for many managers in many different industries. A manager who I would rank at the very bottom of those I have experienced was a woman. She had many issues related to insecurities and I left that position after about a year of tolerating the basis for those insecurities. The very best, by far, of all the managers I’ve had was an Ethiopian woman. I have never had a manager I have respected more and, as she was one of the earlier ones in my career, she became the standard by which all managers were judged. But, the lesson learned was, be tolerant and learn to work with what you have or move on. Both require self-reflection and honesty or you end up creating a depressingly repetitive reality.

    1. Back in the late 70’s, I worked in a chemistry unit for a state health department. Our supervisor at the time was a black lesbian. She was one of the best supervisors I’ve ever had. We all got along very well with her and as a result we were an efficient unit.

  6. Great response to a difficult question and situation. There are inevitably times when personalities clash, and it can be very hard to navigate. In keeping with Rabbi & Mrs. Lapin’s answer to this question, I would also highly recommend picking up the book ‘Extreme Ownership’ by former SEAL Jocko Wilink. It builds on the idea that we can’t control other people, we can only control ourselves. So when we’re in a bad situation, as tempting as it is to blame everyone else, we are better off ‘owning’ the situation.

    Thank you for your thoughtful, insightful, and compassionate thoughts as ever.

  7. Hi Rabii Lapin. I have the opposite question. I’m female manager in a technology company leading a team of many men most of whom are much older than me. I have to say that I’m lucky because the team is extremely motivated and great to work with and I work extra hard to be very very respectful at all times. Unfortunately I am somewhat demanding and always push on items with some urgency.

    God led me here to serve in this role for whatever reasons he has. My only question is, can you give any tips on how to be a great leader and serve the men who work with me?

    1. Hello Dee,
      I am a 50+ male working in IT for 25+ years. FWIW, most folks really don’t care if you’re male or female. I’ve had excellent female bosses and some dreadful male bosses.
      If there is anything I would recommend is that you be their advocate. Your people must come first. If you make that a priority, then you’ll be fine. That doesn’t mean let them goof off, miss deadlines, etc. It means you are guiding them to building their careers. Your job isn’t to have them build your reputation; your job is to build them. A manager who creates an atmosphere of autonomy, who supports when needed and can communicate a vision for the team is far more valuable to the average IT person than their gender.

      Most people don’t mind a demanding manager either. I prefer a manager with high standards for work. “Always push on items with urgency” does need some clarification. Do you mean you’re always pushing for delivery of something before an agreed upon delivery timeline? In IT, there are items that come up that require immediate attention, especially production issues with serious customer impact. But if everything is pressed as an emergency and the work seems heavily reactionary rather than planned out, it can lead to unhappy people.

      That’s just my though. I wish you well.

  8. Dear Rabbi,
    I think you missed a point, Kai wrote “even my wife never talked to me like that”. This would indicate that he is no longer married, your answer refers to his wife in the present tense. I think that the fact that he is no longer married is relevant to the conversation.

    1. Interesting idea Kurt but we felt that English wasn’t Kurt’s first language (we tidied the question up a bit for comprehension) so we are not sure if you are correct or we are.

  9. I can sympathize with this story. The business model is out of the order of God. God over man, man over woman, woman over children. However such is the way of the world to rebel against God. Do not be angry, Men are supposed to be logical, not emotional. Anger is also judging and playing God. This was just a little something I learned from Jesse Lee Peterson.

  10. I began work in private-sector HR in 1978 and, throughout my career was devoted to enhancing the opportunity for women to advance in a very male-dominated culture (heavy manufacturing). Every woman who worked for me who was interested in advancement within the HR profession was promoted into higher-level individual contributor or managerial roles. Not solely because of my mentoring of course but due to their individual competence and motivation. It was therefore so very disappointing, as I neared the end of my career, that our female VPHR indicated by her behavior that she had little use for the males on her team. She once told me openly that she preferred females for HR positions. By the time I left, the HR team was almost totally female. A virtual reversal of HR gender culture in 1978 and every bit as discriminatory. I have worked harmoniously and effectively for both women and men over the course of my career and have generally felt that the women I worked for were better leaders as they didn’t feel the need to display their “dominance” as male leaders are often prone to do. The best leaders, male or female, were those who consistently modeled commitment to high performance standards and practiced fair and equitable treatment of the people working in their organization. I believe that the most effective business teams are comprised of generally equal numbers of women and men as this creates a balance of values, perspectives, skills and behaviors that is missing when one gender or the other is dominant.

  11. I sympathize with Kai. I am a woman in IT. 98% of the managers I worked with were male, only 2% were female. Both were really good managers.
    However, I noticed the behavior of most (not all) female in management in all 7 companies I have worked at. They were highly ranked feminists.
    “As we see it, your only option is to change your reaction or change your job”.
    3 and half years ago, I took the option to change my job b/c I did not like the manager I worked with. It was the best decision.

  12. Dear Kai,

    According to, Kipling:
    “… Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
    For the Woman that God gave him isn’t his to give away;
    But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the others tale —
    The female of the species is more deadly than the male.“

    I write not to endorse such sentiment, it might help, however, by way of fortifying one’s mental resolve; as might attaining a copy of the poem, “ if “, also by, Rudyard Kipling.

    At school we were forced, reluctantly, to learn this epic by rote – What a blessing this has been, is all I can say – and still is.

    Some situations are difficult for men to share with others – this seemingly innocuous situation may be orchestrated, couched in sinister undertones.

    Be strong, stay honest and keep your integrity and ask the opinion of your significant other.
    Women can run rings around man in so many, often undetectable ways.

    The wonderful, intelligent, deeper understanding of human nature and motivation is the expertise of, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, and Susan – A priceless boon and a blessing to myself and family for which I am continually grateful. Their wisdom is where I so often seek comfort, help and guidance.

    Solace in prayer can work wonders you know, especially combined with a warm bath followed by a sound night of sleep.

    Rabbi Lapin is a true, ‘man of the World’ and oozes integrity, sincerity and high intellect.
    My personal thoughts serve only to assure you that you, Kai, are by no means alone.

    Loving thoughts and kind wishes I humbly proffer to all –

    Ade

  13. This is Kai, Thanks Rabbi and Mother Susan for kindly answering my question. I admit that I was not in a good mood when I wrote the question.
    Things are getting better as I am more familiar with the new work and I get along with my leaders very well.
    A little bit about myself, I am in my early 30s’, married, and have two children, one girl and one boy. I have my best family and wife ever.
    This “Woman boss” topic is very popular in the world, but in my personal view or my Christian point of view, I still cannot convince myself woman is the head of man, maybe I put much of the family role into work. But one thing for me to take away, I should love the job that God entitles to me, and love the people working around me.
    Best
    Kai

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