My Mom’s New Woman Manager

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a new woman manager: How might she adapt to this woman with a different style than she is used to?

My Mother works at large financial company and is having a hard time with communication between her new manager and the entire department. She works in a small department of benefits, where she leads a team of six other people. They handle a lot of paperwork of people retiring and awaiting benefits. They also handle a lot of research for their clients to monitor and make sure that their checks are being handled correctly.

They have recently received a new female manager who is completely new to the company. An issue that is occurring between my mom and other women is understanding her communication styles. For example, my mom was working a little bit over time before she left on medical leave and the new manager walked up to her and tapped her watch and said, “It is 5 o’clock shouldn’t you be leaving?” My mother was not sure how to handle that situation because normally the managers do not manage when they are there.

Your help on how to effectively communicate with another strong business oriented woman in the work place would be greatly appreciated. Being a woman in the work force is hard, and my mother has been with the company for nine years. This is a new situation and needs advice on how to communicate with her in an effective way. Thanks.

Signed, Confused Employee

Dear Confused Employee:

The one example of your mother’s new manager commenting on her working beyond normal quitting time is not something to worry about. It could simply be interpreted as thoughtful recognition of her dedication to her job. Your mother might understand how lucky she is if she were to scan the dozens of complaints about bosses sent to Ask the Workplace Doctor–just look at the Archives under the section on Bad/Weak Bosses.

This said, I understand how transitions can be difficult, especially when you have been with the company for a long time and a new boss arrives. In solution to your problems, I am going to offer you a couple of options to suggest to your mother:

1. Give your new manager some slack; if she is new to the company she may just be trying to figure how your department works. Try to study and learn her nonverbals, so that when situations occur you can better be prepared with a response. Give her some time to learn the ropes before you judge whether or not you will get along.

2. If the situations are making you feel uncomfortable then talk with her about it. It is better for you to go to your manager and be honest, than to go to your coworkers. Ask her what she means or what her intentions are. I feel that this will give you an “in” with her because you are asking and not just assuming or judging what they do.

3. Politely decline, you if you really do not want her advice; you can always politely decline. However, this could potentially hurt your relationship. She probably doesn’t mean any harm or disrespect and truly wants to see you grow in the company. Consider taking her offers, but always remember you can politely decline if you feel necessary. Remember, working for an organization is not just about you but about the company as a whole. Look at it from the perspective of how you can better the company. Sometimes it isn’t always what we want to do, but if you do what is best for the company you can get very far in your career.

As is suggested in the first paragraph in our reference to other Q&As in the Ask the Workplace Archives, you might recommend your mother look at the language she might use when speaking with the boss. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Your mother’s positive attitude can help her new boss to feel wanted and that those she manages want her to succeed.

Guest Respondent Weni Watkins & William Gorden