Dear Dr Royes
I don’t understand my boss. She (yes, it’s a woman) has no sympathy for her female employees. When our children are sick or we have to pick up a child after school, she doesn’t want to hear about flexi-time. Even though she has children herself, I have found her to be very prejudiced against women and their special needs. I have even heard her say that she should hire more men in the future! Is there any way that we can persuade her to be more understanding?
Dear Frustrated Employee
I am afraid that there are in fact some female bosses who are not understanding of other women. Usually they are women who have had to fight their way through a male-dominated workplace, and who have become even harder than the men, in an effort to fit in.
I would start off by giving my female boss a gift. It’s a book by Susan Estridge called Sex and Power. A great book for female leaders and career workers, although it speaks of an American scenario, it also talks about the responsibilities and needs of female employees with families.
Next, I would try to persuade the other female members of this boss’ staff to have a meeting with her to discuss the issue. Surely there are other people who will join you. If you stay silent and resentful, it will affect your work negatively. There is strength in unity, you can remind them. If such a meeting should occur, make sure that everyone has something pre-arranged to say. Otherwise, if you become the spokesperson, the others might back off, and you will be left hanging in the wind! I do think that gentle persuasion is better than confrontation, so try to present your case in a gentle way. List the facts and the difficulties, as well as the problem with the current situation at work.
It might be a good idea to invite her boss, if he is a male, to attend the meeting as well. Make sure that he understands what the meeting is about ahead of time, and is fairly sympathetic to your cause. If your supervisor is the only boss there, she can bury the whole problem and is more likely to retaliate. Do you have a union or a staff association, by the way? If so, can they help you? Can their representatives attend the meeting also? I think it would be a good idea to spread out the representation.
I would start out the meeting with compliments to the boss for the good job she is doing. I would make sure that other members of staff have a chance to compliment her as well. Then, I would go into the matter of your need for a more flexible situation, NOT by attacking your boss, but by mentioning generally that it would help. Act as though you know she will be understanding, and do not criticise her in any way. She would never forgive you for embarrassing her, especially in public. It should be stated that she is an excellent boss, and that you all know that as a mother she will understand how weighty the responsibilities of motherhood are. Have someone else put forward some written suggestions for dealing with the situation. These can be taken from another (competitive) company’s employee policy manual, so that it can be clear that other companies are putting these progressive measures into practice.
Good luck. And if all else fails, start looking for something else.