Do you often feel that no one sees what you are worth? That you work hard but just no one seems to notice? That what you contribute seems to be invisible and totally undervalued?
Worse, you may even feel excluded. Everyone else seems to be in on things, and respected for what they do, but it doesn’t feel like that for you. Perhaps you are the butt of jokes, or singled out because you are a woman. It’s tough when you are not one of the boys. The old boys club can seem impenetrable.
If you do feel like that, it may be nice to know that you are not alone. In fact in research women mention that the main reason they opt out of work is that they feel excluded and undervalued.
There’s no need to opt out though, there is so much more you can do and it’s not even that hard. Most of it is about managing your boss.
Men and women are different
Before I can explain how you can manage your boss, you need to know a bit more of why you feel like that. Why can’t they just include you? Do you just imagine it all? Should you perhaps man up?
No you are not imagining it. See, men and women are different, and you need something different from your manager than most of your male colleagues. Line managers aren’t aware of any differences, so you are just not getting what you need. That is where those feelings come from; your manager is just not giving you what you need to feel included and valued.
Of course you could blame your manager for this, but that’s not really fair. Most people don’t formally learn to manage. The way they learn is by looking at others; role models. Most managers are male, so both male and female managers pick up ways of managing that work for men.
Line managers also learn about management in training programmes, from books and articles. Interestingly though, almost all of this research in business schools is based on test groups of males, and results are not differentiated for males and females.
No wonder then that line managers are not aware that you need something different, and you end up feeling undervalued and excluded.
Managing your Boss – How it’s Different for Women
Of course I don’t know what it is that you need, as each individual is different. However, it can really help to know some ways that men and women tend to differ, so you can reflect to what extend you are like that.
- Women often prefer to involve others when grappling with an issue, and then be rewarded for their input as well as end-results. Men tend to prefer solving the issue on their own, then being rewarded for the end-result. What do you like to rewarded for?
- Most women like to be given airspace in a meeting, whereas men find it easier to just take the space they need. What makes it easier for you to add your views in a meeting? What can someone else do to support you?
- Women usually prefer to be encouraged to go for a new job role, whereas men may put themselves forward on their own initiative (regardless of whether others think they are ready). What can someone do to encourage you to aim higher?
Managing your Boss – In Practice
Now that you know how men and women differ, reflect on how you like to be valued, rewarded, receive feed-back and challenged to progress in their career. What works to get the most out of you? What does someone need to say or do? Perhaps you remember someone in the past who did this well, a teacher, coach or manager.
– What did they do to motivate you?
– What helped to make you feel valued?
– How do you enjoy receiving feed back, and about what?
– What really works to challenge you?
Look for ways to communicate those insights to your manager. You can do this in a formal conversation, or just by informal positive reinforcement. Sometimes it’s enough to just mention in a subtle way that a certain approach worked well for you or that you value a particular remark. You can even use humour.