Oh snap, I’m going there. These are merely my observations, along with some examples of incidents. The dialogue of such incidents may not be 100% accurate due to human error and lack of recording device (or right to use such device).
I have noticed a distinct difference in how the male supervisors handle employees when compared to the female supervisors.
The male supervisors are more likely to praise and educate.
Example: My second ever use of the registers I was with a male supervisor. He had walked me through one transaction and then stood beside me to watch me do another. When the customer left he said, “Great, you did everything perfectly, except what?”
I paused. “Oh shit! I forgot (insert promotion here)!”
“You did, but that’s ok. Remember it for next time. You did everything else perfectly.”
Compare this to my first ever use of the register with a female supervisor.
“Can you watch me do my first transaction?” I asked.
“Sure, I’ll be over here if you need me,” she says as she walks off to do “go-backs.”
The difference in the two interactions is key because the first time I try a new skill I am met with resistance to my request for assistance. I had admitted at the start of my shift that I was uncomfortable with the registers as I had never used them before and in my first attempt my concerns were essentially ignored. With my male supervisor I felt comfort knowing that he listened to my concerns and created a learning moment out of his observations, making my register training more thorough. (In saying “thorough” I mean he was close enough to observe if I was doing everything correctly on screen and off, rather than walking away entirely.)
Another difference is how the two handle visits from higher-ups. I’ve observed all four supervisors react to visits from superiors on multiple occasions and each time I have noticed the same responses. When on the floor during inspection the male supervisors tend to lean toward positive reinforcement with the sales team. The female supervisors participate in corrective interactions with the sales team when in front of their superiors.
Example: Visit One
I was on the floor helping a customer with a question about denim jackets. As I raised my arm to point out where the jackets were located the supervisors and their superior were just coming to my section and paying close attention to the interaction. Without waiting for me to finish my explanation to the customer my female supervisor interrupts and tells the customer that we don’t have the product she is looking for, but have something similar in a place opposite from where I was about to direct her.
I walked the customer over to where the female supervisor had pointed out the product would be located. I was fully aware that the information my supervisor had given was inaccurate, but being watched by her I followed through with her directions. The customer asked (again) if there were any other locations for denim jackets. I told took her to the place I originally pointed out, before being “corrected” by my female supervisor, and found multiple styles of the item she was looking for.
My male supervisor did not make any attempt to correct my behaviors, or any other sales staff that I observed. (I am indicating that I did not observe the entire interaction.)
Example: Visit Two
I am replacing items from the dressing room to their place on the floor. We are having another big visit from the superiors. A male and female supervisor are on the floor while the superior is there. My male supervisor stops me and asks me to (please) recover (i.e. tidy up) a messy table before returning to my assignment. He follows up by saying he wished I worked again the next day because I was so on top of things.
My female supervisor stops me while attempting to complete my shift-long assignment and tells me what I should be doing instead, despite her telling me to do that very assignment in the first place. Though my male supervisors have lavished positive comments upon the sales staff all shift I did not hear one positive comment from either female staffers. I only hear corrective comments, sometimes I feel they are unneeded.
This brings me to a concluding thought. I have heard in classroom discussion of studies and statistics that women in power often feel they must exert that power in ways men do not (and do not feel they have to). I have never before encountered such a distinct dichotomy. I love women in power, I think it rocks and I’ve been lucky enough to have two strong female bosses that I am still very close to.
My theory is that the female supervisors partake in corrective commentary because it is a sign of power, they have the status and education to determine when others are not doing an operation correctly and tell them to change behaviors. The male supervisors more often turn to positive comments before bringing up incorrect behaviors. They nestle the corrective comment between positive statements.
This is a topic I wish to elaborate on continuously throughout the holidays. I find it fascinating that between the four supervisors (two female, two male) there is a very predictable pattern of behaviors.