On being a female program manager at Microsoft
Donna Malayeri

You know, this too assertive/aggressive thing with women keeps coming up.

At some point, women would be advised to start paying attention to this.

Having been in tech (large company and small) for 33 years, I’ve seen plenty of managers at all levels, and women in management positions were far more authoritarian overall (as well as the biggest pushovers).

It always seemed to me that many women were compensating for an insecurity or two.

One PM I worked under, and had known for 30 years, well before she was a manager of any kind, was without a doubt and self admittedly quite bossy, and even advertised herself as “I like to boss people around” to get the job… BUT, she had no insecurities. This made all the difference. It comes across as a firm hand… not a backhand. ALL of her team were men… and she won their respect and appreciation. She proved to me that even being bossy can work, if it comes from the right place.

Women in management tend toward intensity and conflict for some reason. They seem to think that barging headlong into conflict is the “manly” thing to do. It’s not.

The very worst case I had ever seen was a triple-whammy of a woman managing a manufacturing team. Female, black, and lesbian. Holy shit. The place was in shambles in no time… she wasn’t a good manager, first off. She was like a chess player thinking zero moves ahead… holding the piece in her hand and zooming it around the board trying to decide where to put it, then slamming it down hard. The organization lurched this way and that, allocating and reallocating resources as she was repeatedly side swiped by things anyone else could see coming at her from a mile away. And yet she was the most assertive and confident (acting) manager ever in human history… it got to the point of people faking ergonomics injuries just to get out from under her iron fisted rule. We’d NEVER seen high emotions in that department… now we had it all, from tears to shouting matches… not just with her, but with formerly agreeable workers toward each other.

She was removed. Sanity soon returned.

I think it is more than coincidental that her extreme style came in a black/female/lesbian package… which I chalk up to large accumulated insecurities related to each.

Do women understand the subtleties of being resolute vs stubborn as well as men? Do women feel they can display cautious indecision like a man can? A manager that defers a difficult decision until they are ready to make it, if done occasionally, comes across as thoughtful restraint. Do women think this makes them look detrimentally indecisive… causing them to forge ahead when they ought to take a moment? These are the kinds if things I’ve noticed. Oh, and they take things too personally, in my experience. They seem prone to lack necessary detachment.

Then there is the unique problem of deciding it’s not them, “it’s the toxic culture”… and pushing one’s flaws onto others is uniquely ugly. Not that it’s never been the right call… but far too often it’s the handy and wrong one.

Of course generalities have the flaw of being generalities… we get our excellent managers where we can find them.

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