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Do you prefer a male or female boss?

  • Story Highlights
  • Women have overcome many hurdles to be taken seriously in the workplace
  • Assertive female bosses can be deemed by employees as mean and ruthless
  • "I have found them to be more relatable," says one employee of female bosses
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By Anthony Balderrama writer
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Male and female bosses can be perceived and treated differently by some employees.

Male and female bosses can be perceived and treated differently by some employees.

A famous George Carlin observation goes, "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"

You can find this mindset at work. Double standards aren't anything new to the business world, and neither is sexism, for that matter.

Women have overcome many hurdles to be taken seriously in the business world and to achieve roles as leaders. The downside to this success is that echoes of past prejudice can still be heard in conference rooms today.

A female boss who is every bit as assertive and goal-oriented as the archetypal businessman will be deemed by some employees as mean and ruthless. If she's not as aggressive as the male stereotype, she's an emotional pushover. Essentially she can't win.

But times are changing, and the youngest generations of today's work force grew up in households with two working parents. Female bosses aren't new or distracting to workers these days. But are they more or less preferred than their male counterparts?

A creative side

Neil Gussman works in communications at the Philadelphia-based Chemical Heritage Foundation and has experience with male and female bosses. In his experience, he has found women more qualified for the specific roles as leaders of a communications team than men.

"In communications, the women I know in the top jobs get there through the creative route -- being an artist or writer who is also a leader -- whereas men get there through the account exec route, bringing in the money," Gussman says. "I prefer to work for a boss who knows the work and appreciates creative talent, so I have come to prefer working for women."

Therefore his preference for women isn't related to gender as much as it's related to answering to a competent leader. Like Gussman, Rachel of New York, has also found a better creative vibe among women than men. She prefers female bosses and has a better time relating to them.

"I have found them to be more relatable, more kind and generous and better to brainstorm with (because I feel more comfortable with them)," she says.

The good, bad and ugly

BJ Gallagher, author of "Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Other Women," doesn't have a gender preference for her bosses. She worked full time at the University of Southern California before becoming a full-time writer. During her time at USC, she worked under three female bosses, each with her own personality and work style.

Her first female boss was Sharleen, a boss who Gallagher refers to as "the very epitome of evil." What did she do to deserve such hyperbolic condemnation?

"She ran her office like Stalinist Russia -- keeping her staff at odds with one another by planting seeds of suspicion and doubt in each of our minds, instilling a fear that others in the office had been complaining to her about us," Gallagher recalls. "She encouraged tattle-tales, back stabbers and gossips."

On the flip side was Terry, Gallagher's next boss and the antithesis to Sharleen.

"Terry was bright and talented, and she was also kind, caring, thoughtful, gracious, compassionate and a good listener," Gallagher says. Perhaps most importantly she cared about her staff and demonstrated it through her actions. But Terry was not a weakling, either. "She was also firm and had a definite vision for where our organization was going. She was no pushover. She had principles and integrity."

Unlike the nightmarish Sharleen, Terry had the respect and trust of her employees, men and women alike.

The third boss, Liz, was somewhere between the previous two, which meant a new set of pros and cons.

"Liz was a good person -- she had worked for many years with the Girl Scouts of America and had that nice Girl Scout kind of energy -- perky, peppy, outgoing and friendly," Gallagher remembers. "She was a wonderful person, but a lousy boss."

While Liz had the skills to address any issues after the fact, she lacked the foresight to prevent them from happening. Liz also laments, "She rarely took the time to provide coaching or feedback to her staff, as she was always running off to some meeting somewhere. She was very frustrating to work for!"

No better or worse

Gallagher's experience proved to her that blanket statements about anyone, female bosses included, aren't accurate.

"Just as there are many kinds of male bosses -- the good, the bad and the downright ugly -- there are many kinds of female bosses." In Gallagher's opinion, when employees have a definitive stance on whether female bosses are better or worse than male bosses, she thinks they're being too presumptuous.

"I think Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel summed it up nicely," says Gallgher. "'Whether women are better than men I cannot say ... but I can say they are certainly no worse.'"

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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