Does not Accept Me As Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a male subordinate who does respect her as boss:

I have a subordinate who I feel does not treat me like his boss. I believe there are multiple factors 1. I am female,  2. Have equal educational qualification.  He sometimes talks to me as though I am his friend. For instance on his first day of his job, he was asked me what’s my background. I guess he was trying to assess how come I am in a superior position. Another instance was when, in front of many people, he motioned with his his fingers signaling me to come to him. Seriously i did not liked that and thought to discuss his behavior with my boss but later declined this thought.

He is not professionally groomed and not  from a good university and used to live in village. He has a laid back attitude. Although he was appointed only a month ago, every now and then he tells me that he is applying for another government organization, and I personally feel that it reflect his behavior very negatively– This looking for where he can get the highest wage rather than not seeking professional growth.

I am from aviation industry (a private airline) which is considered as best. Yet he fails to realize that he is in a best place. I need help to guide me what should i do in this situation. P.S. I am from Pakistan, so kindly consider the cultural and other environmental factors before replying to my questions

Signed, Not A Boss To Him

Dear Not A Boss To Him:

I have modified the wording of what you sent in order to clarify your question. If I have misinterpreted that, I apologize. It is clear that you raise a number of factors that can affect your superior-subordinate working relationship with this newly hired man: female-male, socioeconomic class difference, ethnic relations and attitudes within your country about power distance, the culture of your particular company, and your own feelings about what it means to boss.

Rather than cause you to read though a long explanation on these topics, I offer these suggestions for your consideration:

1. Don’t allow feelings that you should be boss prevent you from focusing on the various tasks you are assigned and that your male subordinate must do for your private airline.

2. Talk with your own boss about wanting to manage this new employee in keeping with the guidelines of your company. Explain that because of his background, he comes across as less professional than you think is expected, and you want advice that will help him fit in and add value to the company.

3. New employees will adapt when expectations are spelled out. You do that by how you communicate. If you are casual, your new employee will assume a casual demeanor. If you come across as serious and all business, your new employee will be also. This is demonstrated in your dress, grooming, posture and gesture as well as in your face and speech.

4. The central issue you raise concerns openness. The respected communication scholar, late Fredrick Jablin, stated that an open communication relationship differs from a closed relationship by the reactions and types of feedback given, not the message itself. In the US, subordinates in a closed communication relationship with their superior are more likely to respond negatively to the superior’s feedback than those who have more open communication with their superior. Supervisory messages are preferable for both superiors and subordinates when they are encouraging or reciprocating, rather than responses that are either neutral or negative.Openness in message receiving requires a willingness to listen to the message without jumping to conclusions even when the message is not what you wanted to hear. (Jablin, Fredric (November 1979). Psychological Bulletin 86 (6))

You set the tone for the degree of openness you want in light of your culture, sex, and company guidelines as to use of authority. In your particular situation, you can have a friendly demeanor without disclosing personal information. If your boss suggest it is consistent with your culture and company culture, I recommend you collaboratively establish communication do and don’t rules with subordinates, such as:

-Each week we meet on Friday morning to review what has been going well and what needs improvement.

-Each morning check with me about assignments if clarification is needed; those assigned to projects are invited to discuss them before and during their accomplishment. Post progress of them on the board next to my office.

-Suggestions and discussion of assignments are welcome in end of week sessions. No one should monopolize.

-Bring serious complaints to me, but work through minor ones. Don’t gossip about others, saying things about them that you have not talked with them about first.

With these general guidelines in mind, I will discuss the topics I mentioned in my first paragraph. Each of them has required a chapter in some books, such as in Culture’s Consequences by Geert Hofstede. When I taught in Belgium, I took two trips to the Netherlands to interview Mr. Hofstede. His research has served as a benchmark for his further research and other researchers. (At the close of my reply, I have listed other works you might consult.)

Your culture has a large female-male power distance. Pakistan is not considered a culture in which status of male and female is equal. Mrs. Shaheen Bhatti, Co-founder of KhudiCenter, gives a sorry picture of the status of women in your country: “The word ‘woman’ in Pakistan is synonymous with ‘endurance.'” She is simply forced to accept certain bare facts of life once she grows up to be a woman. Be it on streets, or for that matter in restaurants, a woman is first and foremost required to be alert. It is best to try and not be noticed, women are told. According to Hina Jilani, Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, “the right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions.'” (…/status-women-pakistan)

Obviously this profile doesn’t precisely apply to your situation because your company has placed you in a position of boss. You likely are much more sensitive to the cultural impact of the past and present than I can ever be as an outsider, but you will need to adapt to your company’s protocols for how you should manage as a woman. Your frustration about how your new hire appeared to reverse roles in his motioning you to come to him indicates that you feel there should be a big gap between you and him; that you are boss and rather should be the one to motion for him to come to you. Such thinking arises from an accepted custom of “keep your distance”; I am boss, you are the bossed.

I expect that because your company is progressive enough to place you in a position of authority it also will have or soon will shape a company culture that shortens the distance between superior and subordinate. In short this probably means that although you are boss, you are not to be bossy, as an officer might be in the military.

Socio-economic class difference, interethnic relations and attitudes within your country determine power distance. Although your subordinate’s predisposition toward communication probably is more important than his ethnic identity, it is evident you are aware that this new hire is different from yours. Therefore, you may understand more about his behavior by learning to know his ethnic culture and class. You might find of special interest a recent study on ethnic influences on boss-bossed relationships within your country: “Interethnic Culture Orientation of Business Managers in Pakistan” by Saqib Shamim and Abdus Sattar Abbasi, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, November 20, 2012 (Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research, Vol. 12, No. 5, pp. 632-642, 2012). I’ve provided an excerpt from its abstract and you can download it if you like

This research examined how different ethnic groups in Pakistan behave in several dimensions of culture orientation at the work place: Punjabi, Muhajir, Sindhis, Saraiki, Baloch and Pashtoon business managers in a wide range of corporate Pakistan. Results of the study indicate meaningful difference in terms of culture orientation among managers with different ethnicities and in different parts of the country. If you understand what is the ethnic culture, that should help you appreciate and/or tolerate his nonverbal “come here” gesture and if you know of his less than sophisticated background, you should then understand his prioritizing money over professional behavior.

The culture of your particular company apparently has tried to minimize the wider power distance of your country. This is to recognize that one’s culture springs from national and local identities, but it is also true that one’s place of employment shapes one’s identity and modifies one’s culture. The research of Hofstede found that to work within a company such as IBM shapes employees’ culture as much or more than did their national or local identity. Intercultural communication apprehension predicts dissatisfaction with superior. Also one’s ethnic identification with a superior predicts of satisfaction with supervisors. What motivates job satisfaction is a superior’s nonverbal behavior that he/she is present; that he/she is present to listen and be supportive.

You need guidance. You sent this inquiry to Ask the Workplace Doctors because you don’t feel confident as a superior of this particular man, but probably also because you are fairly new to your role as a superior. Learning how to manage is an on-going process. You are uncertain about how to manage this particular new hire. That’s natural. You learn by doing. You discover what works and what causes problems and dissatisfaction. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to carry yourself in a way that causes a subordinate to fear she/he might displease you. You will learn so be patient with your subordinates and with yourself. My signature sentence that you surely saw if you scanned even a few of our thousands of Q&As suggests that working with others in an interdependent process that goes best when we seek good results for our employer, our subordinates, and our selves: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

What follows are more resources. Scholars have addressed the cultural dimensions that Hofstede unearthed in his original research that collected data from IBM plants in 60 different countries: Global Leadership Assertiveness: The concept of assertiveness originated Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) Research from Hofstede’s culture dimension of masculinity versus Program (1992-2000). This research was a study of femeninity (House et al., 2004). In masculine societies, men leadership and organizational culture of 825 countries are supposed to be assertive and tough and women are organizations located in 62 countries [14]. The GLOBE supposed to be humble and tender. In contrast, femeninity research has the following dimensions, which included pertained to societies in which social gender roles. Those five dimensions proposed earlier by Hofstede. Ere, M. and E. Gait, 2004. A dynamic multi-level Organizational Culture and Organizational model of culture: from the micro level of the Performance) International Journal of Business and individual to the macro level of a global culture. Rev Social Science: 1(3). Int Psychol Appl., 53(4): 583-598 Hanges, P.J. and M.W. Dickson, 2004. The 15. Kluckhohn, F.R. and F.L. Strodtbeck, 1961. Variations development and validation of the GLOBE culture in Value Orientations: NewYork: Harper & Row.

Follow Up: Thank you for your reply. I really appreciate it and I am very much satisfied with your answer. Your analysis and suggestions will help me to play my role as a manager effectively. I would like to consult you for guidance in the future as well. Reply from the Workplace Doctors: Please do.

William Gorden