Rose Colored Glasses
I read a Harvard Business Review blog post by Anne Kreamer about female-dominated workplaces and how they won’t fix everything. While the blog does offer up more studies than not about how women handle tough situations differently than men and men tend to understate workplace problems, I found it interesting the first two comments she received on her post were from men who for some reason felt it was necessary to talk about nannies and two-person working families and how some families can’t afford nannies! Apparently, these two men only read the part of Ms. Kreamer’s blog that said, “How will I get my work done when the babysitter calls in sick?”
Hmm…skimming through the blog (I’d say) on the part of these two men. Fortunately, others did read Kreamer’s blog and commented appropriately. Kreamer does offer up many scientific studies (I’m not going to list them all here; you can read her blog on your own as there’s a link in the references section below) on why women do handle tough workplace challenges better and gives statistics on how many women are taking on entrepreneurship, etc. At the end, she disappoints me a little because she drops the ball (in my opinion) and in essence says we work better together—men and women.
What about the human resource department? Should that office be full of caring, understanding, organized, sympathetic yet firm women? Aren’t men a little too insensitive when it comes to things like pregnancy or female (or male) surgeries or yet another missed day due to a kid’s problems at school? I think so. In fact, it’s not so much insensitivity as it is embarrassment.
I can use my own husband as an example. At our business, if a “female” had an issue, he’d call me because he couldn’t deal with it and in turn, I’d call the female and talk to her. Passed the buck so to speak—he was embarrassed and he didn’t want to get sued for saying the wrong thing.
He’d call me: “Can I send home Linda for the day? She’s got a big hickie on her neck!”
“Sure, Linda’s the cashier, people may find it offensive,” I say. “Or, you can ask her to go home and put on some clothing to cover it up.”
So, I’m here to tell you that an all women HR department is a necessary must. You can agree with me or not, but before you disagree, let me state my case.
Women Are Tougher in HR
Believe me or not, I do think women are tougher when it comes to facing HR problems. Let me give you a real-life example. I was once the HR Director for an apartment construction and management firm in Arizona. Each time the VP of Construction had to fire a bulldog of a man working at one of his sites, he’d call me:
“Hey, I gotta let go Andy, he’s a brute and he just got caught stealing again!” He said.
“When is it going down?” I replied.
“He’s on his way over now to see you. I told him HR needed to see him.” He tells me.
“Thanks” I mumble because I know this VP will be nowhere near my office when it’s time to let the 250-pound brute Andy go. He feared confrontation. Or, maybe he was actually afraid brute Andy would have punched him in the face if he fired him.
So in comes Andy—and he already knows what’s coming (in the earlier phone call the VP already gave me Andy’s hours due so I’ve got his final paycheck and termination form ready).
“Sit down Andy,” I say.
“I’m being fired aren’t I?” He asks?
“Yes Andy,” and I place three past written warnings he’s received for stealing job supplies in front of him. “We can’t condone this. We offered you a chance to pay the money back for stolen items and you are still taking company property from the jobsite.”
“I got a wife and a kid on the way,” He starts to tear up.
Here’s where women are tougher. I just sit there; hands crossed and let Andy have his say. He complains about the VP, he says his wife puts too much pressure on him. He says he has an ulcer and isn’t in good health. He tells me the company is unfair. He even tells me his mother-in-law hates him. When he’s done, I offer his final paycheck and termination form.
“If I could get you to read this termination form, provide any comments and sign the form..” I trail off.
Andy reads the form, makes no comments, signs it and takes his final paycheck. He rises to leave and I say, “You’ll receive a COBRA notice on your health insurance in the mail.”
“Thanks,” He mumbles and the session is over.
In the above scenario, I truly believe if it were a man firing the brutish Andy, shouting would have ensued because men have a hard time listening without reacting and that’s the key behind being great at terminating someone—just let them have their say and don’t react. No matter what they say. If you do react, the chances of name-calling or fisticuffs come into play and then follows the inevitable 9-1-1 phone call.
The Brain Game
Thank goodness, we men and women are different! I would hate to think about the world if we were all unisex in thoughts and actions but when it comes to running or working in an HR department, the softer sex does seem to do a better job with listening and people skills.
Sure, we can get just as angry that John’s back is hurt every fishing season and back injuries are hard to prove. We can also tear up with a fellow co-worker if they lose a loved one and aren’t embarrassed, but we can also be strong and offer up the blank emotion when appropriate. Men are reactive in HR, women not so much.
In fact, dare I say more men I know wear their hearts on their sleeves than women do and with men being so reactive to uncomfortable situations, the chances of lawsuits rise from current and past employees.
Many HR professionals out there who are men (and some do write for Bright Hub) may not side with me on this issue but I really think an entire HR department staffed to the hilt with the fairer sex is every company’s best option.
It’s not just about terminating or listening either. It’s about organization and forethought. The organization skills needed in HR are an absolute must. The forethought of what ifs and what nows are also key and women are simply better able to handle and tackle these needs.
Men wait for something to go wrong before they plan for and implement an action plan. Women in HR discuss, guesstimate, wonder, and even plan for not just the problems but necessary HR functions such as recognition and reward programs.
Men in HR tend to drop the ball when policies are set, forgiving one and not another for the same offensive. Why? Men in HR leave it to the women in HR to handle the resultant consequences of their faulty actions.
Well, I’ve garbled on a while now and while I’m sure many of you will disagree, I do hope some agree. My personal proof came as soon as I read the comments on Ms. Kreamer’s article—about nannies—because the blog post wasn’t about nannies. You men who felt it necessary to comment at all; it was about female characteristics, male characteristics, and why both, when blended well, make for a better working environment.
What’s your take? Do you agree an all-female HR department is the best way to go? Drop me a comment and let’s discuss this query at length only not with fisticuffs, but words. Those of you who disagree and want to leave me a nasty comment just because I’m a woman, that’s okay too. I feel your pain.
Kreamer, Anne – Harvard Business Review Blog Network “A Female-Dominated Workplace Won’t Fix Everything” October 17 2011.