Over the years, I have hired outstanding women – educated, intelligent and highly articulate. Yet, I am exhausted. I have become profoundly tired of being a therapist and a babysitter, of being drawn into passive-aggressive mental games and into constantly questioning my own worth as a manager. I have had several women who quit to stay home to “figure out what to do next”. No, not to stay home and care for children, but to mooch off a husband or a boyfriend while soul searching (aka: taking a language class or learning a new inapplicable skill that could be acquired after work). Incidentally, I have not had a single male employee quit with no plan in mind.Some women are excellent employees. Many women are useless, unproductive drama queens. The challenge is to learn to tell the difference between the two. And the problem is that there isn't much leeway in current employment law to dismiss someone for simply being a distraction and a pain-in-the-ass.
I have had women cry in team meetings, come to my office to ask me if I still like them and create melodrama over the side of the office their desk was being placed. I am simply incapable of verbalizing enough appreciation to female employees to satiate their need for it for at least a week’s worth of work. Here is one example to explain. My receptionist was resigning and, while in tears, she told me that although she was passionate about our brand and loved the job, she could not overcome the fact that I did not thank her for her work. It really made me stop in my tracks and so I asked for an example. “Remember when I bought the pictures with butterflies to hang in the front? And you just came and said ‘thank you’? That is a perfect example!” – “Wait”, I said, “So, I did thank you then?” – “Yes! But you did not elaborate on what exactly you liked about them! Why didn’t you?” She had bought them with the company credit card and I actually did not like them at all, but I digress.
I have developed a different approach for offering constructive criticism to male and female employees. When I have something to say to one of the men, I just say it! I don’t think it through – I simply spit it out, we have a brief discussion and we move on. They even frequently thank me for the feedback! Not so fast with my female staff. I plan, I prepare, I think, I run it through my business partner and then I think again. I start with a lot of positive feedback before I feel that I have cushioned my one small negative comment sufficiently, yet it is rarely enough. We talk forever, dissect every little piece of it, and then come back to the topic time and time again in the future.
But most of the difficulties here are caused by men who don't hold women accountable. If you are babying women and treating them any differently than your male employees, you are part of the problem.