Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bossy Women

Lately, I find myself being rather bossy.

I use the word intentionally: it's been in the media a fair amount, and I'm finding that as I find my professional stride and start really growing wings and flying (ohhhh that's a silly mix of metaphors, but picture a Pegasus running along the ground and launching into the sky, and maybe it works?!), I'm getting feedback that boils down to the fact that I'm being bossy.

My boss hired me to change things at the organization.  I am, first and foremost, supposed to find them more money.  Secondly, I'm supposed to bring in more people - potential donors - to the organization.  I'm supposed to find higher quality sponsors.  I'm supposed to upgrade our events.  Bigger, better, and more is the order of the day, and I'm fine with that: it's my job description, and I know what has to happen to make that work.

But every time I said, "Okay, I think we need to do (this)" and suggest a change from the way it has been done before, my boss resists.  If I lay out a case for the change, he resists.  If I ask questions, he resists.  Sometimes he tells me to stop asking questions because everything is fine the way it is.  He has raised his voice to me and said, "We did just fine before you were here, we're a professional organization, and some things are better left alone!" before stomping out of my office.

Our big event was last weekend, and I killed it.  Everything that was my responsibility went incredibly well.  I upped attendance by 21% and revenue by 28%.  Over and over I heard that this was by far the best event that this organization has ever thrown.  The board is absolutely in love with me, and told me that I could have whatever I wanted to grow it to the next level.

My boss has been rude and sullen about it, and I think it's an ego thing.  This is "his" organization, and he has received all of the praise up until now.  Not only that, he majorly screwed up several things on his end that were nearly dealbreakers at the event, and I spent the whole night fixing his problems.  (I did not sit at the table with my friends who had paid to attend the event, and fought his fires instead.)  I spent the last week fixing those problems.  I'm not done.

Monday, I had to say, "Look - for months I've been hearing "Why don't you trust us?" and "We did fine before you got here" and "Stop trying to change things!" and "STOP ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS!" and you've told me that it's all under control.  It is not under control, and it came to me to fix things.  You gave me all of the responsibility without the control, and I will not work like that any more.  If you are unwilling to change, I can not work here.  If you want to do things the way you've always done things, I can not grow your revenue, because I'll get the same results you've always gotten.  Everything I did, I did above and beyond.  I grew you more than you knew was possible, and I've proven myself.  So if you want me to stay, now you have to change."

I got a lot of apologies - how could he argue when I'd just blown things away?  But my work environment is tense.

And I think I've earned myself the label of "Bossy" as a result of these conversations.

I am not the little lady.  I am not a wilting flower looking for a man to rescue me.  I know what I'm doing, and I do it well.  I've had some good ideas, and I put in some 60-80 hour weeks to implement those ideas and make them succeed.  Hard work, good intuition, and professional knowledge, combined with good interpersonal skills with donors and sponsors, make me good at what I do.  When I say, "Here's a problem and here's a solution to that problem", telling me to stop trying to change things is a really bad idea.  Unless, of course, the organization wants to stay exactly where it is, in which case it shouldn't have paid me to come along and grow it.

So, my boss thinks I'm bossy.

I think that when he hired me, he thought that I was less than I am.  My stay at home mom years, coupled with my sad cancer story, might have made me seem weaker and smaller than I really am.  Perhaps he liked that part of my tale.  Perhaps he thought that he was hiring a yes-girl.  I can't tell - I am not a mind reader, but it does not appear that he likes strong women, or substantiated opinions.

Would I receive the same treatment if I was a man?

Would he ask me to type up his letters - not a word of lie - or book things on his calendar - no kidding - if I was a man?

I don't think so.

I think I'm dealing with an old fashioned man.  The Boss is the Boss, no matter what, no matter if he's wrong.  Ladies should not speak up.  There are men's jobs, and there are women's jobs.

But this lady - and I am a lady all the way, from my red lipstick to my high heels, to my career dresses that cover lacy underthings - is doing a man's job.  This lady is skyrocketing this organization, and expects a man's kudos.  This lady expects to be treated as if my ideas are something more than "cute."

This lady was hired to a do "a man's work", and I'm killing it.

This lady has been diplomatic, polite, and professional, and the consequence for that "appropriate" behavior was that I was steamrolled.  I worked twice as much as anyone at the organization, accomplished at least twice as much, and was rewarded for it with criticism and an admonition to be quiet, stop asking questions.

Irony: I was never given the budget.  I was not allowed to select the vendors - I was told "this is who we use, so just call them and set it up."  When I announced our record breaking revenue, the only comment I got was "That's nice, but it doesn't really matter until we account for expenses."  The expenses that I had nothing to do with, so don't try to pass that off on me.  If you want me to manage expenses, then you need to give me some control over them, and not give me blame for them AFTER the event.

So.  I'm officially one of the Bossy Women that the media has been talking about.  I am pushing back.  I am saying, "NO."  I risked it all and said, "I can't work under these circumstances," and because there was so much logic (not hysteria, not emotion, not moodiness) in what I said, they said, "Okay."

But it sucks.

It's horrible to pull of several miracles per week, and be treated like an obstacle.

It's horrible to treat others professionally, and not be treated professionally in return.

It's horrible to be hired to do a job, and then not given all the tools to do that job.

It's horrible to be shushed.

It's horrible to be treated as less than I am.

Nobody has ever accused me of being a bitch.  Mostly, I'm told that I'm "too" nice.  Friends of both genders have counseled me to take better care of myself, to stop giving until I bleed.

I like being nice.  I believe in compassion, integrity, kindness.  That is how I want to live.

But until further notice, I'm a Bossy Woman.

I am good at what I do, and I need to keep my career going.  I do not have patience left for people who stand in their own way and belittle me in the process. 

I won't be steamrolled any more, so now I'm Bossy.  I'd prefer to just be treated like a smart person who does her job well and considers others in the process, but perhaps because my organization is dysfunctional or perhaps because it's a man's world or perhaps because of both, I have to fight harder to be heard, and my boss looks at me like I might go off at any moment, now that I've spoken up (and proven that I'm right by the work that I've done).

I never wanted to be bossy.  It doesn't suit me.  Strong, capable, flexible, intelligent, open, hard working - those are labels I'd like to own.  I am a good leader.  But if I need to be bossy, well, so be it.


I'd like to hear from other Bossy Women.  How did you find yourself in that role?  How do you fight for what is right and still maintain relationships with those who, for their own egos or other senseless reasons, would prefer that you stay quiet?

Six more months before I think it's appropriate to start looking for a new job.  I will give it my all until the day I walk out the door, and I will be focused, and I will try to do my absolute best for this little organization before I leave....but I hope that I can find a way to get rid of the bitterness that I now feel.

Bossy women, please contact me!  I want to hear your stories, and I want to give you my empathy.  Stay strong! xoxo

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