“Rebecca, do you have time for a call today?”
I received a message from my superior at 3 pm on a Wednesday afternoon. I was on a week-long medical leave, recovering from Covid. Later that day after our call, I found out I have been promoted at my job.
This promotion has been something I have been working towards for the past year. It was a relief to finally get the confirmation, as if I could have done something along the way to sabotage my career progression.
But the basis of the promotion was a valid one, I knew that I had grown in my capabilities at work and it was evident from the higher complexity tasks that I had been given the past 2 years.
Much more than the status of my new position, what I looked forward to was the pay raise and the extra monthly income I could have for my family. Apart from that, I was now in a position that could influence decisions at work, that was a perk.
Lastly, although I was an engineer, my new position meant that I was now a manager.
That meant I legally had subordinates directly reporting to me.
Now, this is where I had to be careful, I reminded myself.
A voice in my head whispered to me “Will I become one of those feared lady bosses from my past?”
I hope I do not sound sexist, in my concern for being a lady boss.
Because I knew how it felt like to work under a difficult lady manager in my first job and in my early years as a junior engineer or young executive.
She micromanaged our work and had a temper when the work didn’t go her way. She was emotional and unreasonable at times, making it difficult for me and my colleagues at work. When she was away, I would hear gossip about her ill-treatment of us and we shared tips on how to work under her without getting the brunt of her wrath.
Funny thing was, outside of work, she was actually a really nice person.
Just, not so much at work.
Thankfully I managed to find my way around to work along with her, and tip number one was of course to do well at my tasks and not screw up. Another method was to predict her views and how she would react to situations and be proactive about things before matters escalated. At times, because she had bad blood with the other lady managers at work, we had to become the in-between persons between them in order to get things done.
This was when I realized that there was some truth to the saying that women leaders are difficult.
Not to say that men are free from this pitfall, but in my observation and experience in the workforce, there were more difficult women managers than men in my line of work.
Although, I must say there were good lady managers as well, some of which I had the benefit of working with and reporting to in the past. They were more empathetic even, compared to their male counterparts, and that was a pro I observed for females in the workforce.
So where does that bring me?
I too am driven at work, not only to get things done but to get them done well. To achieve the goals and outcomes I desired and thought best for the team.
I noticed too that I had a tendency to micromanage the work of those under me to a degree, from my experience with my past interns to those few juniors that I mentored and lead at work. This was even before I was promoted.
There’s where I needed to check myself, right here.
I knew if I did nothing, I might end up being a difficult lady manager, and I did not want that.
There are ways to get things done reasonably, without being difficult, without micromanaging and raising my voice at others.
This is a skill, more useful than force.
I told myself that I would listen to and understand others’ views, from those whom I managed and also towards my peers, instead of having the tendency of pushing only my own ideals.
Intentionally putting in the practice to periodically check on myself, and when I feel I am veering towards the edge of being difficult, I will reign myself back into reason.
For there is power in knowing one’s weakness and putting in the guardrails, and brakes before matters, and in this case before my own attitude goes downhill.
Prevention is vital and it is better to acknowledge potential outcomes early to avoid adverse outcomes.
Wish me luck, better yet, wish me the strength to have patience and to be level-headed at all times in my new role.