All my life, I have been called bossy. Told I should ‘rein in’ my personality at times because it might ‘rub people up the wrong way’ or make people, not like me.
‘Bossy Boots’ was a nickname I became quite accustomed to and to be honest, it never really impacted me too much until I became a boss in 2018 at 18 years old. Suddenly, I was extremely conscious of people thinking ‘the power had gone to my head’ and that I was ‘too demanding’ when requesting for specific work tasks be completed.
But WHY was I thinking this? Leadership had always been something I was involved with. Since Grade 6 (to be exact) where I was a semester year level house leader every year until I became one of two house leaders in my final year of school. Through my degree, I also requested the Account Manager or similar positions in group work to ensure I knew what everyone was doing and to enable me to learn more about leadership.
So, it makes sense that management is a field I have always had an enthusiasm for. I am innately passionate about management and leadership practices that promote growth in both the leader and team members. Along with being fascinated with the exploration of applying different management frameworks in various situations to maximise the effectiveness of company functions.
I also love the challenge of management. The constant demand and requirement to keep learning and need to stay connected to ensure I can empower and guide my team is exciting to me.
I also like how focused management keeps me. I quite literally can not be selfish or singleminded in leadership situations, and I love that.
However, as the second year of my management position rolls around, I have been reflecting on my management practices but also trying to reflect on how I have grown as a leader. And what has blown me away is what I have learned about the #girlboss movement through personal experience with staff and customers while trying to establish myself as a ‘worthy’ leader in a male lead workplace and with an at-times challenging and confronting customer base.
Being someone who tends to struggle with stress, anxiety and social anxiety as well as being a complete Type A personality who continually strives for the unattainable level of perfection in everyday life and work. Being in ‘control’ through leadership roles has allowed me to apply this energy into something beneficial to a community or workplace. However, after once being told to ‘leave work at the door’ I was faced with the reality that my mind wouldn’t let me.
Things affect me, and although I try my best not to show it publicly; I am incredibly vulnerable. Situations get to me, I work myself up so much I feel physically sick, I get shaky, I cry, I get angry, I second guess myself, my breathing increases and my head spins. I feel ashamed when I show that something has impacted me in a management situation, I think the only way to be taken seriously is if I am a brick wall and keep it cool. Acting like I can quickly shake things off and move on once I leave the shift, especially after an aggressive customer or other serious incidents.
Furthermore, I second guess myself in the way I ask for tasks to be done and tend to feel a sense of annoyance or judgement when I (respectfully) execute my managerial role to get staff back on task or deal with customer’s issues.
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where any emotion is a ‘female weakness’, instead of being interpreted as an individual working hard to maximise their workplace through their leadership skill.
In a recent work incident, I was put in a situation where I felt threatened and felt the safety of my staff, myself and the workplace was at risk and working through this issue was hard. Trying to hold back the fact that my stomach was flipping out and I was covered in goosebumps from my adrenaline was not easy.
And while I stood there, talking to the perpetrators, my mind was questioning everything I said. I felt that if I raised my voice and made my tone sterner, it would only worsen the ongoing situation and cause a more aggressive reaction from the male I was trying to deal with.
The condescending and derogatory way this male and many other people in the past have treated me while in a management position is shocking. I regret not writing down all my experiences so I could share them with you.
I became a manager in my workplace when I was 18 years old. Midway through my university degree, with chubby baby cheeks and a severe issue with second-guessing my decisions in and out of the workplace. I was forced to deal with customer commenting on my ability, age, gender, looks and more. Being questioned as to why I was wearing a blazer instead of the work uniform to being spoken to like it was my first day on the job was and still is a very regular occurrence to me. I couldn’t tell you on how many occasions I was met with a puzzled face from customers when the manager was called out the front, and little ole’ me came out of the office.
I had a discussion with my sister recently (who also works in a position of management) about how not only is the perception of women in leadership positions consistently condescended but also how vastly their road to promotion varies from their equal or lesser male co-worker’s journey and access. I look at males in similar or the same positions as me and see how easily they were accepted and integrated into management status. And how although I am there striving to always better myself, I still feel I am two steps behind with my ability to establish authority to staff and customers.
How about instead of judging someone’s leadership ability on their gender, let’s look at their skill set and ability to inspire and empower a group of people to reach their individual potential that promotes team growth and company success?
I have been fortunate to grow up with strong-minded females both in my family and friendships. Additionally, going to an all-girls school since my early school days exposed me to major #girlboss vibes throughout my whole upbringing.
However, I still grew up in a world where to not be reserved and accepting as a female was not the norm, where I was surprised to see females in management positions and where the glass ceiling was still very much existent.
Unfortunately, despite being very grateful for my private all-girls education which exposed to a high level of opportunity. At the end of the day, my school was a religious school that strived to ‘keep us in line’ when it came to the way we expressed ourselves physically and verbally. And I do not want this statement to be interpreted as me saying a level of respectful behaviour is not necessary! I think EVERYONE should learn how to be courteous and polite to one another and themselves. However, I believe these ingrained practices need to be reviewed to try to lessen the overt inequality that is still inflicted onto females in this modern age.
So, if I am still experiencing this level of inequality in 2020, do I feel optimistic that it will change?
Yes, I genuinely do. When I feel particularly defeated or low on my leadership ability or persona, instead of being pessimistic I make the active decision to fill my mind with powerful #girlbosses who show me that there are plenty of us out there fighting a patriarchy that is slowly breaking down, with shards of the glass ceiling slowly beginning to crack away.
I am a person whose mood can be significantly impacted by my surroundings, so taking the time to fill my mind with inspiring people helps me to refocus on my job and goals when it comes to management.
So, where am I going with this post?
Well a) I just wanted to express my feelings and experiences as a #girlboss. But b) I wanted to provoke thought about this topic and to inspire some other girls out there to know their leadership worth and ability. And c) hopefully, in the long run, I can make someone rethink their view on managers and how gender has NOTHING to do with one’s ability to lead a team to success.
So, can’t we create a world where a manager is a manager? Or even better, a person is a person, and we all speak and treat each other with respect and equality.
Being in front of house for a company turns you into the face of the company, and I think people need to learn that that does not negate basic human to human respect. You are not superior to the person behind the counter, desk or phone and vis versa. Nor are you superior to a different gender, age group, race, sexuality or personality type.
Just because I am a 20-year-old female does not negate my ability to be a BOSS who knows what she is doing and who is willing to lead a team to success and empower the people around me.
And I am not just saying this for other people, I am saying it for myself. Because change starts with one person, and I believe with confidence being key, my mindset and hopefully, this post will inspire me and you to think harder about how we view different genders in leadership positions. Or how we could work together to break that glass ceiling a bit more. Because all we need is a crack to start an explosion and for the #girlboss movement to gain further positive momentum; leading to a more supportive and empowering leadership industry.
What are some management or leadership barriers that you have had to deal with? Let me know! I would also love to hear your advice or thoughts on ‘the glass ceiling’ and the #girlboss movement.