"Boss is a four-lettered word, "says Jo Foxworth, who has been one for roughly 30 years. "And Boss Lady is tow of them, double jeopardy and almost a contradiction in terms."
From the avenging God of the Old Testament to Dagwood Bumstead's Mr. Dithers, the boss, she says, is traditionally a male who exercises more control over the lives of his employes and their families than anybody -- including the boss himself -- likes to admit.
"Biblical excesses discounted, the boss remains a negative entitiy," contends Foxworth. "Nobody wants one. He decides who gets booted out, who gets a salary increase and who get the secretary with the British accent."
Is this any job for a woman?
You bet it is, concludes "Boss Lady," Foxworth's witty, no-nonsense guide to life in the executive suite. The president of her own New York advertising agency who gives her age as "older than fungus," Foxworth chronicles her rise to the top and offers advice to others seeking entry to boss land.
"Being a boss is the only way I can think of not to do the bidding of dummies," says Foxworth, adding that the only way a woman can really have power is to own the company. "It is the only way that you make all of the decisions that make life nice."
Foxworth began writing "Boss Lady (Warner, 256pp., $$2.50) last year in response to the current deluge of career-advice books aimed at women.
"I was totally ------ off -- you'll clean up my language, won't you? -- at some of those books that say women should act the way men do," she says. "I think they're very, very phony, and any woman who does some of those things will get her head handed to her.
"So many of them are written by academics who have never spent a day of their lives in a business office, and others are written by men who never spent a day as a woman.
"For instance, that book that says women are supposed to wear a 'power suit' is terrible," she says, patting the sleeve of her cherry-colored knit suit. "Women can make it in business as women . . . female people with another dimension of intellect, knowledge and experience. I earnestly believe business needs both sexes.It doesn't make sense to go on killing one whole gender withoverwork and boring the other sex to tears with underwork."
The secret to sucess, she says, is "pleasing the people who can promote you and raise your pay. So many women hang back in the bushes and don't want to rock the boat."
Noting that while more than 40 percent of the work force is female, women hold only 6 percent of managerial positions, Foxworth says that women are beleaguered by both fear of failure and fear of success and are conditioned to look to men for strength, leadership and domination. "If you want to catch the big brass ring in business," she says, "the first sexual prejudice to get around is your own."
One of a woman's biggest problems when she achieves bossdom, acknowledges Foxworth, is dealing with the men and women who don't want to work for a female.
People of both sexes want to work for whoever is going farther, faster, in the company, and that's usually a man she says. "It's a matter of status, and they figure 'when he goes up, I'll go up.'
"Then therehs the stigma of 'second sexism' that causes men to feel marked down when they go striding into work and report to a mere woman. Also, women have looked me straight in the baby blues, assured me they had nothing against me personally, but said they'd rather work for a man."
Women, says Foxworth, have been her best and worst bosses. The best solved Foxworthhs writer's block by responding, "Oh pooh -- why don't you run over to Bonwit's and charge clothes?"
The worst, whom she calls "Jaws," considered herself the company's "Great Mother" and treated all her employes like "naughty, runny-nosed brats about to disgrace themselves by puddling on the carpet."
Foxworth was engaged for seven years, but never married because "the man I wanted to marry didn't want me to work.
"When I came along 30 years ago, women really had to make some hard decisions. I couldn't do it all, but today I guess it depends on the person. d
"But I do think it's terrible that a lot of the media tries to give us a picture of superwoman who excells at everything -- mother, wife, and businesswoman. Nobody can do all that."
To deal with employe resistance to women bosses, Foxworth offers these reminders:
Reminder that the reluctance of men and women to work for a women is more traditional than personal.
Don't hire people of either sex who are openly hostile to the idea of reporting to a woman. It's self-defeating to burden yourself with converting a non-believer.
Do not bring your maternal instincts to the office.
Because people will be expecting you to "act like a woman," avoid any behavior that can be labeled as such. Men can get away with tears and tantrums on the grounds that they are concerned human beings. Women can't.
Do not give orders when it is possible to arrive at a plan of action through discussion. Everybody balks at arbitrary decisions -- especially when they come from a woman.
Respect the talents and even the eccentricities of your employes, and the're more likely to respect yours.