I recently had a very negative experience starting a new position, where I felt very unsupported by my female manager. I am calling out her gender for a reason, because time and time again, I have faced discrimination and mistreatment in the workplace by other women superiors.
She had zero desire to help me succeed. She told me outright that she had no desire to be my mentor and I needed to figure out how to do my job with no help. It was sink or swim, and in this particular case I sank hard and was forced to resign before my 90 days were up.
Though I’ve never been fired before, this experience was not unique for me. I have worked for many cutthroat female managers, who had no desire to help me succeed. Why though? Why are women in middle management roles trying to break the spirits of the women below them? This toxic culture of women holding other women down in the workforce needs to end!
Why is it that when women succeed in their careers, they think that they need to adopt typically male characteristics in order to maintain respect and control? Why not instead, bring more typically female characteristics into management to change the system. I get that they feel like they had to work hard and swim against the tide to gain their success, but why do they feel the need to challenge those below them to do so? If we are trying to break the glass ceiling, shouldn’t we be empowering the women below us to succeed without causing them trauma along the way?
I don’t care for the “Devil Wears Prada,” mentality in business! Women in management need to stop mistreating the women below them. We need more female managers that want to build up, mentor, and help their female subordinates especially women of color who face even more challenges with upward mobility.
I have worked for such heinous managers that screamed at me, ridiculed me, and put me down publicly in order to humiliate me at work. Every time I have a manager like this, I am fearful to put myself back out in the workforce. In the job previous to my most recent one, I actually had one of the nicest most supportive managers I’ve ever had and I still started that job off with so much anxiety from the PTSD my previous manager caused me. I literally could not sleep for a whole week, I was so fearful of failure in my new role. Luckily, my manager was kind, supportive, and understanding. That sort of empathy goes a long way in helping your staff succeed.
Managers who mistreat their staff, especially female employees and make them earn their trust through berating them, embarrassing them, and making them feel small do not deserve a place in management. In the end, they cost the company more money in turn over and can cause lasting negative impact on those women who choose to resign due to stress or are fired for not living up to their manager’s high expectations.
Nowadays we talk about what is called EQ or emotional quotient rather than IQ. Your EQ tells a lot about your management style and your emotional maturity. Every manager should have to take EQ training, because unlike IQ it can be improved and taught. It looks at your level of empathy among other things and most importantly assesses whether you are creating a Psychologically Safe environment for your staff.
Psychological safety is of utmost importance these days (and was before but we didn’t talk about it), because it looks at whether an employee feels safe to ask questions, make mistakes, voice concerns, and make suggestions for improvements. If an employee doesn’t feel safe doing these things in their work environment it negatively impacts their ability to succeed at work. When I worked in the Outback in Australia on a Cattle Ranch/store, my manager was verbally abusive towards me. She treated me like Cinderella. She asked me to scrub the floors, and when I did it, if there was a missed spot, I had to do it all over again. If I misheard her instructions, she asked if I was deaf. If I found a more efficient way to do a task, than the way she told me to do something, she called me lazy or told me I was cheating.
I became so anxious and afraid of her, that I started becoming clumsy at work. I broke things by accident, because I was nervous and shaky. This just made the whole situation worse for me. My immediate manager under the boss, also mistreated me instead of making sure I could succeed under our tough boss. She literally body checked me on my second day for making burgers too slow. I cried every night when I went to bed. I barely ate for the three months I lived there. I still have nightmares about this lady.
My next manager back in the states, wasn’t a whole lot better. The only reason I survived the almost three years working for her, was because of my experience in the Outback hardening me a little. Everyone at work was afraid of her. People were even afraid of complaining to HR, for fear of retaliation. The toxic managers need to be rooted out of the workforce or retrained to improve their EQ. As a result, of this repeated abuse, I am so insecure in myself that I tend to make mistakes at work out of fear of asking questions of my managers. Then in my most recent job, I asked questions and was told I needed to figure it out on my own and not ask questions. How am I supposed to succeed in these environments?
Part of me worried that it is something I am doing that attracts these type of women to have it out for me. I was bullied a lot as a kid especially by other girls, and I’ll admit my self esteem is rather low. I am an extremely hard worker though and sometimes try to hard to please people as a result of all of the bullying. I was a straight A student all through school and I’ve succeeded in most of my jobs, but still the more and more I experience these female managers who want to hold me down I start to question myself.
Can we please flip this switch on female management? Can we as women agree to help empower each other to succeed? I know that you think you need to be ruthless to survive in a man’s world, but how about empowering the women below you to succeed and then we can change the world so that it is more female!?
When I mentor students or volunteers that have worked for me, I try to be empathetic, caring, supportive, and show a deep interest in their success. I don’t want people to fail, who work for me. I think that is a reflection on you more than them. Your job as a manager is to help your team succeed!
So..women who are managers, please can you stop being abusive! If you were mistreated by past managers, change that story for your staff. Don’t go on to be an abuser. Make sure your staff feel psychologically safe so that they can succeed and even make mistakes. Be human and admit your own mistakes and that will make your staff feel safe to grow and learn without fear of mistreatment. If we want women to stay in the workforce and move up in their careers, we need good managers. Without managers that are willing to be mentors, we will never break that glass ceiling or those who do will be very lonely at the top.