I once had a Latina boss that greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek in private. But in public she was stern and non-emotive when speaking to me. I deemed her bipolar, because, why the contradictory behavior? Rather than continuing to make assumptions about her, I gently raised the topic and explained how I felt she was inconsistent with me. What I learned was that she wanted to connect by showing some authentic emotion towards me but she needed to guard her power when we were among other subordinates – men and women – of different races and cultures who would have assumed things about the friendly behavior. So go ahead and have that conversation, negotiate and gain clarity on how to relate to her. It will bring you much needed peace of mind.
Paraphrase Interactions Often
In the workplace men and women speak different languages. For example, a woman may more often say “I’m sorry” because she’s generally more empathetic and understanding (men think folks should suck it up). Women nod a lot when others speak to indicate that they are listening (not agreeing) and generally ask for advice because they value input, not because they are indecisive. To this end, actively paraphrase and kick back critical conversations to ensure you are both speaking the same language. For example, “To be clear what I heard you say is…..and what you need from me moving forward is….” or “what I got from this conversation is that I need to…” This will demonstrate that you are honoring her position, are putting the control back on her, creating a space for clarity.
Knowing how to work for a female boss is a necessary skill. Not only will you survive but you can thrive with these tools in hand. And if you surrender to this fact and man up to your reality you will be promoting gender equality and possibly, yourself.