Dear manager,

We need to talk about her. You probably know who. That analyst, designer, writer, engineer who has been at the organization for just a year or two and is already doing the work of someone several levels above her current pay band. Or maybe she's not even on your radar, because she's the dependable one who always delivers on-time and under budget, without any drama.

Despite this woman's outstanding contributions, you haven't promoted her or given her a raise. It's not fair and you know it.

So begins Jason Shen of Etsy in "An Open Letter to Managers of Women." It reminds me of this other advice for managing women, from 1943:

1. If you can get them, pick young married women. They have these advantages, according to the reports of western companies: they usually have more of a sense of responsibility than do their unmarried sisters; they're less likely to be flirtatious; as a rule, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it -- maybe a sick husband or one who's in the army; they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Most transportation companies have found that older women who have never contacted the public, have a hard time adapting themselves, are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. While there are exceptions, of course, to this rule, general experience indicates that "husky" girls-- those who are just a little on the heavy side -- are likely to be more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.



Shen's advice focuses more on the fact that he expects managers (which, he assume will be male) are so incompetent that they cannot see the potential in female employees, or worse, they can see it but are so sexist that they don't want to promote an employee.

He assumes these (male) managers make decisions behind closed doors so that the female employee "won't make as much of a fuss about it."

Egads man, why don't you just hire "husky" girls who are more even-tempered? Then you don't have to worry about them making a fuss.

I'm not sure where Shen gets his ideas that this is common place. Maybe it is at his business. But, in general, businesses want the best people in the jobs, and most managers couldn't give a flying fig about the gender of the person who can do that. Is sex discrimination real? Absolutely. Do we fight this by telling managers not to be scared and they can handle it when women flip out on them? Umm, no. Talk about perpetuating stereotypes.

Is it true that men are different than women? Of course. Gender differences are real, and sometimes you need to approach things differently with different people, but don't get so caught up in the gender differences that you forget you are dealing with individuals. If you notice that Karen is a really hard worker who doesn't talk about career advancement much, it makes sense to talk initiate that conversation with her, just as you would with Joe. It's not the gender that matters here; it's the personality.

Here is my advice for managing humans--which, surprisingly--includes women.

Look at performance above all. This is the most important aspect in your employees. Who is getting the work done? Who is most productive? Who brings in the most sales? Who is the most accurate? That's the person who gets the rewards.

Don't reward the drama. Some women are drama queens. Some men are drama kings. You know the adage "the squeaky wheel gets the grease?" Stop doing that. Don't reward people for whining or complaining or begging for promotions. Don't reward the braggarts who take credit for things they didn't do. Just stop it and look at performance.

Ask about career goals. Did you know that many women prefer flexibility over pay? You probably did. But if you assume Jane doesn't want that promotion because it will require increased travel, you're the problem. Find out what your employees want. You may be surprised to find out that your assumptions are all wrong. Or, you'll find out that they are right. Regardless, you'll be putting the right people into positions instead of building your department based on stereotypes.

Managing women isn't any different than managing men. It's about managing humans--which means you need to vary the things you do to fit the actual personality of the person in front of you. If your turnover rate is higher than average, you're the problem. Fix yourself.

Published on: Aug 22, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.